Monday, November 30, 2009

Here are some things that happened when I went to Michigan for Thanksgiving.

1. My youngest sister, Lauren, picked me up from the airport. She is 25 and a newlywed; I am 35 and pregnant with my first occupant. Realizing I'd forgotten to pack my prenatal vitamins, I asked her if we could stop by Trader Joe's so I could buy some. We went inside, I found what I was looking for, and we headed for the checkout line. We were kidding around about some such thing and Lauren said, "Ugh, I am so embarrassed." The cashier (male) said this:

"Oh, MOM, are you embarrassing her?"


"Mom?" I asked.

"Uh ... big sister?"

"That's better."

Trying to recover, he said, "So! Are you excited for Thanksgiving?!?"

I gave him a look and said, "Not anymore," and left. Please remember that as this whole thing went down, I was buying prenatals. And I was mistaken for my 25-year-old sister's mother. And that roughly 12 hours before, while I was waiting outside my office building for my car ride home from work at 1 a.m., a limo full of inebriated, hormonal bachelor partiers leaned out of the vehicle window and pleaded with me to join them at a bar called Johnny Utah's where we would all ride a mechanical bull. I sent the car full of (mostly) women behind the limo off to follow them and bull-ride away in the name of the old pregnant tired lady.

Look: I know that I don't look like I could have a 25-year-old daughter. I know I look younger than 35. And I also know that That Little Bitch Lauren never lost her baby skin and will forever look luminous and 18. But really. I normally roll over these things, but man, I felt ancient.


2. I immediately felt better during our next stop: the Franklin Cider Mill. This is a place I had not been to since probably before I was 12, but it almost never changes. The dirt parking lot looks exactly the same. The grounds smell exactly the same. The doughnuts and cider taste exactly the same. The ducks waddling around the stream quack exactly the same. And then there was the calypso band and hula-hooping. These were new. Because nothing says Michigan in November more than island music and hip gyrations.


3. Monday morning, I met my friend Amy, her husband, Todd, and their two sons for breakfast at a restaurant that used to be called The Village Place but is now called The Village Palace. Yeah, I don't know either. So after we finished eating, Todd left with the boys to give Amy and meself some time to chat. It was fabulous catching up with her, and when we were ready to head out, she popped into the loo and I stood in the lobby watching the same fish swim around the same tank that I believe were all there when I was in high school. She met up with me in the front of the restaurant and as we got ourselves together, two older men, probably in their late seventies or early eighties, a tall guy and a shorter guy, walked up behind her. Amy's back was to them so the tall oldster said to me, "Could you please ask this lady to —"

I looked at Amy and said, "Oh! Move over just a little so they can get by."

She looked back and said, "Oh! I'm sorry!" and scooted out of the way.

The tall oldster hadn't finished his sentence, though: "— to get the hell out of my way?!?"

Amy and I stood there, stunned. But the men started laughing, totally kidding, and Amy said to them, "Hey! That's what I could have said to you over by the bathrooms! You were in my way!"

And then:

Tall oldster: That's not what you said last night!

Amy, gaping: It's a good thing my husband's not here!

Short oldster: Hey, you got together last night? Why didn't you call me?!?

Me: Me too!

Short oldster, grabbing my left ring finger: Because you got these on!

Amy: Hey, I have them too!

Short oldster, WAVING THE STUMP OF HIS MISSING FINGER IN MY FACE: I used to have one but it fell off.

There is nowhere to go after that. Even after two men in or near their eighties make threesome jokes with you, there is nowhere for a conversation to go once someone brings their finger stump into the mix. End scene.


4. Tuesday night, I slept at Lauren's house. We made dinner, and then a dessert that was maybe the best idea we've ever had: pumpkin whoopie pies. (Instead of the cream-cheese icing filling, we used vanilla ice cream. When we bit into them, we just started laughing hysterically. There was no other appropriate response to the deliciousness.) Apparently, our genius ended right there, because we then played the most pathetic game of Trivial Pursuit. I was feeling cocky after my random blurting of "duck-billed platypus!" earned me a wedge, but that was pretty much the high point for both of us. See, when asked which gulf lent its name to the 1991 Gulf War, Lauren guessed "the Yemen Gulf," and when asked which impressionist often featured his wife, Camille (and then tuning out the rest of the question because I thought I was awesome), I shouted "Bill Cosby!" This was wrong on many levels, the least ridiculous being that one should always wait until hearing the end of a question before answering, and the most being that when one hears the word impressionist, one should think of an impressionist painter and not a comedian who does impressions of his wife, Camille.

The correct answer was Claude Monet.

Also, Lauren and I watched The 40-Year-Old Virgin with the closed captioning on, in case we missed anything.


5. On Wednesday night, I went to my cousin Michelle's for dinner. After two rounds of Memory with her 4- and 6-year-old sons (they totally cheated), she and I spent hours chatting, and then went upstairs to tuck in the boys, who were reluctant to go to sleep. I leaned over to kiss Noah, age 4, goodnight. He'd just gotten out of the bath, so I said, "Ooh, you smell good. You smell so clean." Without blinking, he said, "You smell dirty. When you go home, you need to take a shower."

An interesting note: Both boys have decided that not only am I having a boy, but that said boy should be named Carlos Book. Carlos Book Banks. These are also the boys who decided their sister, Arielle, age 15 months, should have been named Cindy Flowers.


6. A benefit of having a partner who is not from the city you are from is that that partner, no matter how sad your home town or city, is always playing tourist. My entire life, until I met Josh, I never knew that Hitsville U.S.A. was in Detroit. I am embarrassed to admit this, of course, but it's the truth, and another truth is that I know almost nobody from Detroit who has been there. It's the home Berry Gordy bought when he created Motown and where Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 and the Supremes and the Temptations all recorded their first hit records. Josh has been begging me for 10 years to take him, and after a change in plans in which my mom couldn't join us, we finally went.

First of all, let me say this: After 11 years of barely driving, I now drive like a grandma. My native city is embarrassed for me.

That said:

The museum was incredible. They start you off with a 17-minute film narrated mostly by Smokey Robinson. Josh cried — this all hit home because in college, he started his own record label out of his dorm room — and the rest of us were pretty much singing through the whole thing. Then you go upstairs into the gallery where they have rooms full of photos and time lines and gold records. They have one of Michael Jackson's sequin gloves and a black fedora from his personal collection. They have a set of dresses worn by the Supremes in the late '60s. They re-created the living quarters of the house to show how the Gordys lived.

Basically, Berry Gordy Jr.'s father was an entrepreneur. He had several businesses, and the rule was if you didn't go into a family business, you had to get a job. So the Gordy children all went into one of the many business and became part of the Ber-Berry Co-op, a legal financial institution they could borrow from to help run and build the businesses. (Black banks ran fairly independently because they were not allowed to be part of the stock exchange, and back then, black people were not often accepted at mainstream white banks, nor could they open businesses in storefronts. All along the stretch of West Grand Boulevard where the house stands are private homes with businesses on their ground floors. The building next door to the museum has a funeral home that's been open since the '20s.) So when Berry Gordy Jr. came up with the idea for Motown, his entire family had to vote on approving the loan. If even one of them had voted no, he would not have been allowed to do it. Over time, he bought eight houses along West Grand Boulevard and used them for the empire; I imagine that when he brought the Jackson 5 from Gary, Indiana, they probably stayed in one of the houses while they recorded in Studio A (which was the main house's converted garage). Another house was used as a finishing school for the artists so they could learn etiquette before going on tour.

For me, the high point was going into Studio A. All the original equipment and instruments were in there, and we were all singing together. The moment the tour guide told us the piano in the studio was the one Marvin Gaye used to compose "What's Going On?" I nearly lost it. I spent the whole time smiling like an asshole. It was extraordinary. When the tour was over, Josh wasn't ready to leave, so we hung back and the two of us stood alone in the studio with the tour guide, asking a million questions and just smelling the place. I stared at that piano like a freak.


7. Just as we got settled onto the plane to head back home to New York, the flight attendants announced the copilot called in sick and we were waiting for another one to show up. Hm. You'd think something like that would have been arranged before we boarded, but ...



I don't know if Comfy was just out of sorts being away from New York or the baby missed Daddy, since Josh didn't fly to Detroit until Thursday morning, but the kid was kicking like Lloyd Dobler the whole time I was in Michigan. That is, until Thursday morning. And now, any time I try to feel around to sense if Josh can feel the kicks, the kicking stops. It's as if the baby is all, "MOM, stop testing me. I'll kick hard enough when I want to kick. Back. Off." There is no doubt this child is mine. And Comfy's father still has not felt a kick himself. What he does do is this: When I put his hand on my belly and press down, he waits a second and then says, "I don't feel anything." I think he hasn't quite put together that if the baby doesn't kick, I can pretty much figure that out too.

I am completely overwhelmed by the idea of registering for stuff. Interviewing daycare providers was less daunting. There's just so much, and I think I'm most irritated by how stupid the names of some of these products are. Just because they're for children doesn't mean the children will ever be aware of what they're called, so why name them things like Snugadoo and Bumblebooter and whatever else? Just call it a chair.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aretha Franklin never recorded for Motown. She is from Detroit, yes, but she never recorded for Motown. Ugh.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Marla said...

OK, so I made a mistake. Ugh. If you want to get really technical, Aretha Franklin isn't from Detroit either. She was born in Memphis. Moved to Detroit when she was little, yes, but anyway. I digress.

Berry Gordy and Aretha Franklin were childhood friends, and the mentions of her in the beginning of the tour for some reason stuck in my brain and that was my error. Anyway. If my research is correct, Gordy tried to get her to sign with Motown in the '50s. Instead, she signed with Columbia in 1960.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Amy Gers said...

Ha HA AHA HAHA!!!! FInger Stump!!! Trumps Ear Nubbins!

9:44 PM  
Anonymous The little bitch said...

So I'm a little bitch, eh? Sweet.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Marla said...

Amy: It took 17 years, but we finally found something that trumps the ear nubbin. Finger Stumps Reign!

Lauren: For as long as you have your gorgeous skin, you will be That Little Bitch Lauren. You're just going to have to accept it.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Warren, Jenny, Lincoln, Francisco cat, and Hula dog said...

Hey Marla! Congratulations! This is Warren's wife, Jenny. I completely feel you on the registering for STUFF!!!! I have a list of stuff that I put together complete with comments on what friends did and did not use if you would like it! Warren didn't get a kick until 20+ weeks, poor kid. Take care of yourself!

11:59 AM  
Blogger I'm Jen. said...

If it makes you feel better, I grew up IN the city and rode past the museum countless times on the bus. And I still haven't gone there.

11:48 AM  

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