Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Surprise Center of Everything I Miss

In just eight days, we'll pack two tons of baby gear and one baby girl into a rental car, drive ten hours north on I-75 and spend a week in our beloved, mitten-shaped homeland. During that time, we'll be lodged in exotic... stunning... Livonia, Michigan.

The first image on the City of Livonia's "Community Profile" page.

No kidding, I'm honestly geeked to be staying in this grid-shaped expanse of strip malls and post war subdivisions. Growing up in Dearborn, my primary association with Livonia was the old Ladbroke DRC where we'd go to watch horse races. That was the only reason I ever went there. But now I see it as a rather ideal locale, for several reasons:

Proximity to a slew of southeastern Michigan hotspots We've got must-see people and destinations in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Canton, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Detroit and Huntington Woods, not to mention a pair of dentist appointments in Bingham Farms. That's three counties, y'all! Livonia may be the most central location, which never occurred to me until we booked our room. Apparently, it's also a haven for traveling businessmen, as our hotel's complimentary breakfast includes "traditional Japanese items" - ooh la la!

There's a Costco there You may be thinking, "Costco? Ha ha! Tara has officially turned into a boring mom." Fair enough. I just recently became a card-carrying member, but I feel as if Costco and me were always meant to be. What's not to love about prodigious free samples and cheap, organic, frozen burritos by the dozen? I can get Dubliner cheese for six bucks a pound! The little cafe in the front sells giant, hand-dipped ice cream bars for $1.50. It's like Ikea for people who enjoy food more than furniture (though they also have furniture, and clothing, and car tires). I hate shopping, but I love going to Costco. We'll have a kitchenette in our room so being this close to one is rather practical. After all, we can't live on traditional Japanese breakfast items alone.

There's a secret oasis of bucolic grandeur there Our friend J is a longtime Livonia resident. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to hang out with her and her faithful Labrador/Chow mix, who looks just like a little black bear when he stands on his hind legs. She introduced us to the lovely hiking trails at Rotary Park. Those woods are quite serene. Right about now it's probably strewn with wildflowers. It's a cool respite on a hot, sunny day and a natural shelter in light rain. Once, I saw someone on horseback there. If you enjoy nature walks and find yourself in the vicinity, I recommend checking out this place. I foresee at least a couple jaunts with our baby and our dog.

It's Metro Detroit, and that's good enough for me I know my audience, so I'm careful to include the word "metro". People from SE Michigan bristle when suburbanites say they're "from Detroit", because everyone is so aware of the difference between the mostly African-American city center and its much whiter suburbs. But consider this - while the city population has dipped below 800,000, the metro area is about 4.3 million. That's a significant number of people in a specific area that I think we may as well call Detroit. Whatevs. Chattanooga's metro population is 500,000 and it's the biggest city within a one hundred mile radius. I miss the advantages of living in a more densely populated region. More so, there are quintessential Metro Detroit things I crave. Like, for instance, choosing from dozens of possible routes between points A and B. "Should I take I-275 to I-94 or just head down Ford Road or Michigan Avenue?" - you don't get all those options when you're surrounded by mountains and ridges. I miss the long-established immigrant enclaves, and eating delicious Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese and Mexican food. I can't even find good pizza around here. I miss AM 580, this funky Windsor oldies station that still plays pop tunes from the 1950s, as well as an inordinate number of Guess Who hits (to satisfy Canadian content minimums, no doubt). Now that I live far away, I realize that particular combination of things doesn't exist anywhere else. So it really doesn't matter where we hang in that vast cement grid where the mitten's thumb meets its palm. As long as we're with people we love and a short ride from a Coney Island, it's all home to me.

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