Yesterday I had an errand in Monroe, Mich. A friend/colleague of mine grew up there. She describes it as “the home of General Custer and general boredom.” Got that one right — even the outlet mall is a sad affair. But it has a Gap, so I took Kate along and we bought a few things for the upcoming school year.
Having a child has rekindled my interest in shopping — it’s like having a big Barbie doll — and made me newly amazed at the wonders of the human body. Kate will be 9 in November, and as she got dressed for the pool the other day I realized she had been wearing that bathing suit for four years. No, five. She has two suits we bought early in 2001. They were a little loose on her bottom, but oh well, kids grow and this problem takes care of itself. By the following year, everything fit well. Since then, the space between the top and bottom grows by an inch or so every year, but only in 2005 have the bottoms started getting Daisy Duke-ish.
On the other hand, she can’t wear last year’s jeans. Too short. I think she needs a motto: Adding length but not circumference, since 1996.
So every year around this time we have a closet cleaning and reorganization, figure out what’s still viable and what isn’t. And we shop the outlet malls. I pulled a halter top from the clearance rack, an item of clothing I have been unable to wear in three decades, and you ladies out there know why. Watching Kate try it on, I was stabbed with jealousy, realizing how badly I’ve wanted to bare my back to the summer breeze all these years.
But my Barbie still has a few summers to enjoy a bare back, so I bought it. Besides — clearance.
“I can’t wear this to school,” Kate said. “They’re not allowed.”
“Yeah, but you have a bit of summer left. Enjoy it.”
We were going to tour the rest of the mall but recalled what our contact in Monroe said about leaving: “If you don’t get out of here by 3:30, you might as well spend the night.” She wasn’t speaking of an evil spell that descends over the place at mid-afternoon but the story of summer ’05 around here — road construction. Virtually every major freeway in southeast Michigan is being torn into riprap simultaneously, and traffic horror stories are standard small talk. I checked my watch as we left the Gap: 3:19. We burned rubber heading for I-75, and beat the rush by the skin of our teeth. Southbound travelers weren’t so lucky — it was bumper-to-bumper all the way into the city.
Just for the hell of it, I must note: I-75 may be the only interstate highway in the country that I have driven every inch of, from Sault St. Marie in the U.P. to wherever it ends in Florida. My favorite parts are in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan (Sea Shell City! The Mystery Spot!) and the Kentucky-Tennessee stretch that goes through the mountains. Noted.
I love Jack Shafer’s media writing in Slate. Today’s, Why does drug reporting suck?, does not disappoint. I tried to do a story once on why the so-called “street value” of seized drugs was so widely inflated, how two pounds of marijuana could have a street value equivalent to the GDP of a small western nation. The police basically told me, “because it makes us look good.” I think the story got buried inside.
Finally, a particularly wise line from the Tao te Ching today:
Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the master carpenter’s tools,
chances are that you’ll cut your hand.
Step away from those tools. More later.