TUES AUG 29, 2017 // A GIANT GHOST

YPSILANTI, MICHIGAN

It was Eric's birthday so Erica had a day full of activities planned.  First we went miniature golfing and hitting rubber baseballs in the batting cages at a park in Ann Arbor. I golfed above my ability. It was quite nerve wracking to concentrate as hard as was necessary to do so.  I'm aggressive by nature, and games that require waiting generally aren't for me. Erica knows this in her psyche, and so she relished keeping one foot firmly planted in the Instagram ghoul yard, making movies at every hole, brilliantly projecting the light of her disdain on my preference for the sanctity of competitive order.  Eric beat me by two strokes. Erica placed a distant third.

I fared a bit better in the batting cages.  My first three few tokens weren't the best.  I was out on my front foot and failing to keep my back shoulder loaded. I'd just begun to find my rhythm on my fourth turn and was hammering the park's fastest machine. It was only around seventy miles per hour, but it felt good to return to my body after so many years being drunk and fitting in with society.  For the moment, I'd refrain from stepping in that bucket.

Now my weight was back and my body uncoiled with a cold and deeply cherished violence who's focus and dexterity refined with each swing, and the inanimate rubber victims were sent flying in a line to the net behind the machine that gave them birth.  Just as I was finding this rhythm, the lady in the kiosk who gave us the bats and tokens froze the machine because she'd noticed I wasn't wearing a helmet. I'd refused to do so because if you're so stupid and ungainly as to not be able to avoid being hit in the head with a ball you're trying to hit with a bat, then why bother? Furthermore, the people who would accept the indignity of wearing a large plastic hat, and much worse, those who felt they needed one, probably weren't the best at arranging their day to find time to bathe properly.  So while I understood the park's concern over liability issues, I felt the park should respect my reverence for confidence in clear eyes, and the maintenance of a clean head.  

Erica was pleased that I'd been robbed of my wolfish joy, and punished for refusing to wear a woolen coat on a hot and humid day.  Eric, saintly and nervous on his birthday, was scared I'd make a scene. I didn't though. I charmed the lady in the kiosk by charismatically making fun of my anger and cleanliness issues.  She smiled, gave me my token back, and shook her head.  It began to rain.  We left the kiosk lady, walked to the car, and began the drive back to the house to meet Erica's parents for lunch. 

On the way we passed a series of signs hanging from lampposts on the side of the primary road that connects Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti.  The signs were black and white large format photographs printed in portrait mode on  pieces of vinyl.  The photographs were of attractive, conspicuously ethnic, young human beings, and under each photo were large black letters forming slogans imploring the observer to cherish diversity.

Erica commented that she liked the signs, but I sensed from her hesitant cadence that she was voicing a socially generous sentiment, and not what she felt in her heart.  Erica was raised in a loving household, and naturally is predisposed toward group oriented kindness and inclusion. It seemed to me that this default sometimes put her in a bind, and caused self loathing when the inevitable dark thoughts passed through.  Rather than acknowledge the darkness, she tried to color it brightly, and when she was unsuccessful in doing so, she resorted to punishing herself.  When I'm in an equanimous mood, I wish my friend would realize that she isn't responsible for solely generating societally acceptable ideas. That in fact her thoughts and emotions aren't even hers anymore than the weather is, and watching them pass, is a wiser strategy than trying to turn every scene into roses.  On the other hand, sometimes I'm hungover and irritated and I choose to entertain myself by making problematic statements. The ladder mode described my state in that car ride, and so I replied to Erica's positive assessment of the diversity sign campaign by saying: "I think they're turning me racist."

This made Erica laugh, and went a long way toward rescuing our alliance from the tensions brewed at the mini golf and batting cages land. She finds my venomous disposition exotic, and I like to think cathartic as well. Eric on the other hand, sometimes reaches his limit with being too often in the presence of a jackal.  I saw that he gripped the steering wheel a bit tighter as Erica and I enjoyed taking respite in evil.  I don't like seeing Eric uncomfortable, so I resolved to edit out my wickedness for the remainder of the day.

The effort began at lunch with Erica's parents.  I didn't eat anything, because I don't care for eating lunch ever.  This of course could be construed as anti social amongst a crew of avid lunchers at a birthday celebration no less.  So I aimed to deflect that perception by interviewing Erica's father John, who is a doctor, on the definition of a ketogenic diet. I don't really know what a ketogenic diet is, but I suspect my habit of eating only twice daily, and never eating bread, loosely maps onto the idea of what one is.  (I've heard the ketogenic diet's general parameters discussed on an insufferable self improvement podcast I listen to.) John answered my questions thoughtfully, and the meal went off with out a hitch.

After lunch Erica, John and Erica's mother, who's name is Cindy, presented Eric with his birthday gifts. They were all wrapped and thoughtfully chosen and included a hand made sculpture that looked like a topographical map of a city that was meant to diffuse unwanted sounds in a  recording studio, and a twelve foot tall ghost that blows up and hovers its hands comically over would be trick or treaters.  We plugged it in and blew it up outside the garage as a thunderstorm was passing over.  It was very enjoyable. I was reminded of a time when I had a family, and we had fun. We weren't so functional and loving as Erica's was, but there was an effort made at least.  And even when events grew toxic, I still felt as if I was a part of the world.  Now, I see, I do not.  I feel outside the world.  It's nothing to boo hoo over, just an observation.  

After the ghost inflation, Erica's parents departed.  I went outside and smoked under the tree as the thunderstorm dwindled. Erica rushed me to come inside because it was time to leave for Detroit. I almost didn't come a long because I nurtured some belief that they didn't want me to accompany them because I'm always a problem.  It occurred to me that this idea seemed suspiciously to resemble skeletons freshly released from an old closet, and so I decided to get in the car and successfully finish out the day. I was mostly silent on the drive to the city as we passed the lake, the airport, and Michigan's variation on the deciduous forest that's been around me for half my life.  We stopped first at a four story book store called John King Bookstore.

It was cluttered and musty, but mapped out well.  Earnest workers who were tattered in a way that matched the inventory, pushed over loaded metal carts up and down the narrow aisles.   Paper signs with the words hand written in magic marker black letters corresponded well with the maps available at the top of the stairs one ascends upon entry. I made my way up two floors to the music section and picked out two books about the Rolling Stones for Eric and hid them in a bag, lest he pass me and spoil the intended surprise.  Satisfied with these selections I wandered a while and picked up a one hundred year old post card with a penciled message from a dead man to a dead lady I intended one day to send to Mira.  Erica showed me where they kept old photographs of children in black dresses smiling eerily and we shuffled through them.

After the bookstore we went to the Third Man Records.  It was colorful and shiny and matched its owner's aesthetic to an authoritarian degree, which was enjoyable for me because I like it all or nothing.  I believe everything is all or nothing.  We looked at the record pressing plant in the back and at the merchandise on the shelves. Eric and Erica got their picture taken in the Photo Booth that had a polaroid camera that printed black and yellow photographs. They looked really cool.  We left Third Man and briefly visited the Shinola store next door, whereupon Eric became infuriated at the sight of a two hundred sixty eight dollar extension cord.  As we exited I decided to return to Third Man and take one of the polaroids of myself, again thinking perhaps I'd mail it to Mira.  I purchased a token from the two young women working behind the counter.  They were dressed in the uniforms that the assistants of an evil German futuristic doctor would wear. Both women were self assured, beautiful, and off handedly flirtatious. It was pleasant to make eye contact with intelligent human beings who I'd probably never see again after such an intimate day with people I saw often.  You know, like how when it's hot out for a long time it feels good to take a swim in the cold water.

My first attempt at a photograph failed due to the machine being out of film.  The ladies fixed it and were funny and very accommodating in doing so.  The second attempt worked but before the picture snapped a cheeky command came on the screen that I found annoying. I never react well to being told what to do, especially suddenly, and so the face of the person in the picture looks like that of a criminal who smiles thinly the moment prior to perpetrating an assault.  Alas, it would not do to send that to Mira.  I said good by to the evil Doctor's assistants, they smiled and said to come back soon.  I walked out the door into the spitting rain on my way to the site of our next errand which was Third Wave Music Store.  I liked seeing the old brick buildings, so forlorn and naked under the gray, late summer sky.

I bought picks and classical guitar strings while Eric played some of the keyboard instruments. The lady behind the counter was remarkably kind and patient.  There were two teenage boys playing jazz music really loudly like no one else was alive on the earth.   I like children and music but one of these two boys had absentmindedly left his iPhone earphones in while he was playing, a behavior I find patently humiliating to the human race, so I gave myself permission to leave immediately after my transaction was complete. (In general when I witness people who appear unconsciously to becoming a glow faced, rabbit peering into a hole on a screen that leads to their god the great slave-master, I feel anger and revulsion. The child failing to unplug his ears from his phone while playing music fell into this category.  Perhaps you're thinking I'm too easily angered.  I wouldn't disagree with that, and I hope it helps your heart hear me admit it.) I waited for Eric and Erica in the yard outside.

Soon they joined me and we walked to meet Erica's brother Isaac for drinks and dinner.  The food was good and Isaac told us about going to a techno music dance party at a synagogue.  He said the going out dancing scene in Detroit was great and I really should check it before I left.  He, like Erica, was kind, outgoing, and generous. The restaurant was dark and lit like a cocaine salesman's salt water aquarium. Everyone but me got fancy cocktails.  I think Erica was slightly drunk. Number one because she wanted to have a conflict with the waitress who was thoroughly innocuous. Number two because after we departed, while we were walking down an alley, she became very angry that Eric and I did not match her enthusiasm for the artwork that was stationed a long the alley's walls.  

It was a series of sculptures made of plastic flowers that look like the elaborate wreathes someone would put on the gravestone of a relative to overcompensate for being neglectful of the relationship to the recipient whilst he was alive. I found the colors gaudy, and also plastic replicas of any kind of flaura are on my list of items to kick off the face of the earth when I am ruler.  I didn't want to say any of this out loud of course, since I was trying to be a positive member of our society, so I kept silent. I don't know what Eric was thinking, but his mind was elsewhere and he too was silent. Erica repeated her enthusiasm for the false flower art in exclamatory statements of praise that grew in enthusiasm with each repetition.  After the last of which, she became frustrated at being unanswered and made a snide remark directed at herself.  It was quite mean and angry. I didn't like to see her this way, but I've learned that regardless of one's intentions any step toward codependency is the wrong direction, so I kept mum and led the way back to the car.  

Erica played music from Eric's ancient iPod on the drive home and soon the non verbal art argument was forgotten.  I looked on my phone at tinder profiles of girls who were artists and roller skaters and didn't talk. It felt hypocritical to be a phone face, but I didn't care. Eric spoke quietly about how Phil Spector recorded drums.  Ronny Spector sang about problems with love. The highway was lit the color of the inside of a jack o' lantern that made the sky seem extra black, and the factories on the side of the road extra useless and absurd.  I felt especially grateful for the company of my forgiving friends as the prospect of complete abandonment unrolled before me like the scroll of a player piano in an abandoned cabin on a lake much further to the north.

When we got home I had Erica hide the Rolling Stones books under Eric's pillow. This made her giddy, and Eric was quite happy when he received them a little while later wearing his immodest old man pajamas.  He expressed his appreciation from the bedroom and his voice sounded uncharacteristically serene while disembodied by the wall and hallway separating the person from the sound.  I was in the family room where the presents had been unwrapped earlier in the afternoon.  I went outside to beside the giant ghost.