Sunday, August 9
Based on nothing more than my glee, I have higher-than-usual expectations for the continental breakfast. And yet, it is delicious. The bran muffin - so warm and so sweet! The crumb is actually crumbly. Are these homemade? Dan and I are certain until I see a staff person schlepping a box clearly labeled “Otis Spunkmeyer”. To their credit, microwaving the muffins definitely makes them taste better. The French Roast is truly noteworthy.
Dan has set off on conference-related business, so I hit the streets alone, heading toward Chinatown.
It feels so good to walk around a city by myself, going my own pace. I would sometimes walk around Detroit alone, but those treks were carefully calculated to be as safe as possible (take busy roads only, bring the dog, wear headphones so no one tries to talk to me, dress like a freak for the same reason, etc). It's so great to be in a place where 1) I don't need to worry about that stuff and 2) I can actually enjoy the sights.
At this Sunday hour, all of the businesses are shuttered, but I still enjoy roaming the streets and checking out the vendors. Yes, even Chinatown has a falafel shop.
Some of this is familiar to me, because I stayed in this neighborhood with my mom 19 years ago. I recognize a pretty little park with a playground and a giant statue of a man named Sun Yat Sen. There are about a dozen elderly Asian people practicing martial arts. A floral smell wafts through the air and the sun is out. I'm so happy to be here.
I'm with my friend, who I will call Alex. Alex was my boss until a couple months ago (the best boss ever!), but he recently moved to San Francisco to be with his boyfriend... and to live in paradise. We've found a pleasant, mellow hotel restaurant where they serve a variety of Eggs Benedict and you don't have to wait in line for a table. I am regaling Alex with all of the awful workplace drama that went down after he left. Despite all the nutty news, we are constantly cracking up laughing. We drink a lot of coffee. Our slightly overattentive waiter eventually brings the bill but assures us that there is no rush to settle. He then asks, “Are you on your honeymoon?”
Alex and I laugh some more. “No, we're just friends!” But the waiter insists. “Maybe later?” Then he says something inscrutable about Obama doing the same thing. Frustrated, I point to my wedding ring for the first (and hopefully last) time in my life and say, “I'm married to someone else, so that would be a problem.” Alex adds, “There are a lot of problems.” I laugh so hard that my stomach hurts and when the waiter walks away, I tell Alex how funny his comment was. He shrugs and says, “Well, you know, I didn't want to give him a heart attack.”
Alex and I are hoofing about Chinatown, through the now crowded streets, up and down the hills. 90% of the merchandise is priced next to nothing, because it's all made in China. But if you care to spend $50 on 4 oz of tea, that can be arranged.
At the new hotel, Dan is prepping for his presentation. I slip out to grab some lunch from the retro 50's diner up the block. It's the first day on the job for the girl at the counter, so she keeps asking the senior waitress for help. The latter looks just like Johnny Depp's grandma in “Cry Baby”. Both of them are super friendly. That's a trend in this town.
Dan has presented his research on food acquisition in Detroit neighborhoods at a session on environmental racism. The woman hosting the session tells him “I was crying tears of laughter when I read your paper. Your style of writing is so deadpan and dadaistic” ? The other presenters respond to it very well. Dan's buddy from undergrad at Florida (I'll call him Trey) shows up, and we all head out on the town to celebrate.
Even on a Sunday night, we can't find a ready table at any of the nearby sushi bars. We head down to Dojima Ann (the place I spotted on the first night). Along the way I see a very angry man clenching a copy of Time magazine with a Dick Cheney cover story, alternately shaking a clenched fist and pointing at Cheney with a homicidal expression. I guess that some of the mentally ill people on the streets of San Fran can stand up to Detroit's best. We all instinctively slow our pace and let him pass.
Success comes to those who are willing to sit at the bar. As others wait for tables, I am feasting on the best agedashi tofu.
Sitting in Trey's hotel room, sipping Grey Goose, I feel like I'm in a Dashiell Hammet story, except that we are watching youtube videos on Trey's iphone. Trey shows us Hurricane Chris's “Halle Berry” and teaches us the dance – primp the hair, powder the face, check the compact.
We are singing karaoke at a Mexican restaurant. There are less than a dozen people here. The songbook is tiny and full of typos. Try to spot my favorite -
Mary Chapin Carpenter
I sing “Build Me Up Buttercup” and “The Tide is High”. Dan does Lauryn Hill's “Doo Wop (That Thing)” which is a barnstormer, as always.
Waiting for the restroom at another bar. A very average looking young woman emerges. Now that's something I like about this town – unlike New York, not everyone is super glam. You see all types here. When I enter the restroom, I notice that the toilet seat is up. Why, that was a highly convincing trannie!
Dan is sure that someone must be wanting to deliver us a pizza, but I... am... falling... asl...