"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Monday, June 1, 2009

6/1/09: Michigan

With the buildup and Internet conversation, Shelly and I had little to cover once I arrived. It was more of feeling out process to see how we communicated and connected face-to-face. She also had to work very early in the morning making it for early evenings, so we had spent Sunday night getting acquainted, making plans for Monday, and playing with her kitten, Timber. Shelly had discovered Timber in the debris of a fallen tree. She was still too young to survive without nursing, and Shelly had adopted and taken care of her well enough to become the rambunctious ball of energy she is today. They both became local celebrities in the process with a writeup in the local paper.

Monday, we dropped Shelly off at work in Wauseon, about 10-miles west of Delta, just before 7am. For those of you new to the party, I don't do 7am. This fact necessitated a crucial coffee stop. We noticed a little diner in Delta aptly named The Barn; aptly because it used to be one. We had the bottomless coffee and $3.75 breakfast special before driving north to Ann Arbor and the closest REI about 70-miles away.

It was a dreary, and wet as we a finally approached the Michigan state line and I quipped that we were quite accurate with our March prediction: that we'd be getting to Michigan around the 1st of June. Considering the events of the previous six weeks, it was dumb luck that we were entering Michigan on June 1st, and it seemed comically ironic that through everything, one of our "plans" had actually worked! Chris pulled over next to the big blue "Welcome to Michigan" sign on state road 109, and we took some pictures of me acting like I was pissing on it. Maturity to the end.

Rural southern Michigan's roads brought back a flood of memories. I began to see things that looked familiar as we drove close to Tecumseh, thru Adrian then eventually down US-12 to Clinton. When we crossed I-94 in Ann Arbor, it finally struck me that I was home. I wasn't sure what to make of that, but I was surprised to find myself rather giddy and even a bit excited; not the typical emotional response.

REI is easy to find, and my intention was to swap out the now useless Minimalist bivy for the Aurora I had returned in Santa Fe. The problem was that they don't CARRY that model ANYWHERE in Michigan! I was slightly pissed. The only bivy they carried in this impotent REI was the one I had. To top it off, the girl who was "helping" us was a complete Sea Hag; obviously annoyed that I knew what I wanted and presumed to inconvenience her to do her job and help me get it. I quickly accepted the idea that I was either stuck with this near-useless bivy, or I was getting one elsewhere. REI was quickly losing its appeal, so I inconvenienced her again-to give me a full refund.

It's ironic that "Sunshine", while not helpful to us as it pertained to REI, was helpful enough to send our business to some people who appreciated it. She suggested we try Bivouac Ann Arbor, an outfitter located downtown on State Street near the University of Michigan campus. I was astounded to find my backpack from last year IN THE STORE and ON CLEARANCE!! 40% off! Are you kidding me??? The hitch was the hip belt was too large. I need a medium, and wasn't sure they had a replacement that would work for my skinny ass. As I carried it upstairs to ask questions, we met Pam. She told me that she'd put the pack on hold for a week, and put a call into Gregory to see if they had the belt in stock. I figured it was unlikely this would work, but if it did would save me A LOT of money. Plus I was now looking forward to reuniting with REI's Sunshine so I could inconvenience her for another refund. We began to chat with Pam about the trip so far and discovered that we both liked her a great deal. She was about to make my Christmas Card list...and I don't do Christmas Cards.

I was already liking this store when I found Chris's Alpine bivy in stock and, to my utter glee, it was $20 less than it had been at REI and Pam let on that she would knock another 20 or 25% off the tag. Again, are you KIDDING me?? I immediately told her that if she'd make it 25%, I'd buy it. She agreed, and I had my bivy. A better one than I intended to get from REI, and I got it for $70 LESS! This was turning out to be a pretty good day! Then to top everything off, she said that if a hip belt was found, she'd knock an additional 10% off the backpack, making it half- priced for a brand new pack! Hell, YEAH! THEN, she'd have it shipped to my sister's at no extra cost. Double Hell Yeah!!

I was obviously quite happy as we left the store with my bivy in tow and the pack on hold. I decided that, since it was still early, I would try to contact a couple friends in Jackson about 40-miles west of Ann Arbor. I thought that it would be a good opportunity to see them, and/or take a quick drive past my old house, and stomping grounds. This worked out quite well as I was able to connect with an old baseball/drinking buddy, Todd. He and I were quite good friends and it was nice to chat with him at a coffee shop in Jackson.

It was still only 2:00 as we left Jackson for the sticks, and the old house I was raised in. In its heyday, this house was imposing. It was built in 1863 for loggers and had been added on to giving it a total of 14-rooms. Along with me, my sisters, mother, and grandfather had all either grown up or spent most of their lives there making it something nearly organic for us. I always make this pilgrimage when I'm in the area and have time, despite the fact that it's been abandoned for 15-years and is quickly being reclaimed by nature. It's a powerful practice in perspective. A physical manifestation of the passage of time on display before me. While difficult to see it disintegrating, it still has a centering effect on me. Chris and I explored the place the best we could, taking pictures and making sure we weren't stepping anywhere where the floors may collapse, as has the entire top floor on the west end. My mother still owns the place, and is unable to bring herself to see, or sell it.

We timed this perfectly as we had enough time to get back into Ohio to pick up Shelly with 20-minutes to spare. I had also received the hoped for call from Pam at Bivouac. The belt was found and already on its way. That meant the next morning, we'd be on our way back to Ann Arbor to return Elmo.