I should have known it would be a lousy night. The proverbial strong line of thunderstorms blew through the area late in the afternoon. When I showed up for my writing workshop at Wayne State, I was one of two (2) to do so. And it wasn’t a very productive session, either, even with a vastly improved student-teacher ratio.
I got disoriented leaving the library — why are college campuses laid out so oddly? I ask you — and had to walk halfway around a long city block, in the driving rain, to find my car.
And then it was out onto I-94 for the chariot race home, only things were moving slower because of the rain. But it was moving, and then the taillights up ahead started winking red for something involving police lights. This being Detroit, it could have been anything from a flooded dip in the road to a rabid pit bull firing a machine gun. I was slowing down in the center lane when the person behind me on the right did the quintessential D-town freeway move — the multiple-lane high-speed cutover in heavy traffic. I felt the crunch as s/he clipped my left taillight.
And watched as the offender sped off into the twilight.
I scanned my options for a moment and considered the correct one was probably the most ridiculous: Pull over, stop, call 911 and await further instructions for a no-injury, minor-damage accident during a howling thunderstorm. Or I could get proactive. Reader, an air bag of inspiration deployed; I gave chase.
Hit me and take off, will you? Well, we shall see about that! The vehicle, a pickup, was easy to track — DODGE in big white letters on a black tailgate. I gained on it, dropped in behind, flashed my brights in search of the plate number. At which point the driver felt an urgent need to exit, which fit my purposes perfectly; I could catch up the way a yellow flag bunches up a Nascar field. I got the license plate, scrawled it on my writing-workshop folder, and what’s this? S/he’s pulling over? Excellent. I pulled over behind the truck. As soon as we were both stopped, the driver laid rubber going away. I followed for a few more blocks of amateurish left-right-left-right shenanigans, then stopped and called 911. I didn’t need to get lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood at night. The man at the state police post was very nice. I have to go down today and file a report, at which point the system will yawn in my face. As much as I might hope for a CSI-style investigation, complete with flyovers with infrared scopes and Marg Helgenberger gathering paint chips from my bumper, this is a no-fault insurance state. No injuries, no complications, sign here and here and here and pay the $500 deductible.
So that was my night. How was yours?
It got me thinking later, when the blood had settled a bit. The last time I was in an accident serious enough to get insurance adjusters involved was nearly 20 years ago. I was sitting at a light at Creighton and Fairfield in lovely south-side Fort Wayne, Indiana when I looked up to see a driverless car leaving the gas station, approaching my passenger door at a 90-degree angle. It hit me hard enough to push me into the next lane. I got out and walked over to the car. Sitting behind the wheel was a smiling, gurgling, apparently unharmed boy of about 2. His father had left him unrestrained in a running car while he went inside to buy cigarettes or something. Guess what he said when he came out to discover his son had had his first fender-bender before he was toilet-trained.
“I told him not to touch nothin’.”
Well, at least I have amusing accidents.
Moving on, then. I see Brian got a little miffed at the “grave-dancing” in yesterday’s comments, over the late Rev. Fartwell. No less a pinko than Roy opted out as well. Fine, it’s a defensible choice. When someone dies, it zeroes the scales, or at least reduces them by 21 grams. Don’t speak ill of the dead, etc. At the same time, though, we have to give a dead man his due. I really don’t have an ax to grind with the guy — he existed in the realm of Ann Coulter for me — so I started thinking back, as dispassionately as I could, on the Rev’s public statements, trying to recall if, even once, he tried to be taken seriously, if he ever brought anything to the discussion to indicate he wanted to play fair in the fields of policy debate.
And I couldn’t think of anything. Tim Noah at Slate gives us the highlights. And let’s not forget his role in the Clinton Chronicles. I won’t say “good riddance,” but I will say: I won’t miss him. Oh, and thanks to Kirk for finding this YouTube clip from the breaking-news cycle that shows, as if you needed to see it again, how credulous too many journalists can be.
The iPod threw out a gem on yesterday’s bike ride — “It’s Madison Time,” by the Ray Bryant Combo. It’s the most complicated dance record in history, I think: Now when I say hit it, I want you to go two up and two back, double cross and come out of it with the rifleman. Later verses call for a “Cleveland box,” “Jackie Gleason” and a “basketball, with a Wilt Chamberlain hook.” What-ever. I first heard the song in “Hairspray,” original recipe. I figured it, like so much in that movie, was an obscure Baltimore reference, and thought of asking Ms. Lippman about it. Asked Google instead, and I’m so glad I did. Because it turns out the Madison started in…Columbus, according to William “Bubbles” Holloway, anyhow. (Warning: Really obnoxious embedded sound.) The scanned newspaper clip on that page shows a sharp-looking line of black folks doing the Madison at “the LVA Club on E. Long St.” Get out!
Let’s bring the bloggage full circle, back to Detroit, as we wrap up with Detroitblog’s report from the Cinco de Mayo parade:
The Freep mentioned the parade on its front page the day before, so I expected an influx of newcomers eager for a glimpse of the city outside the usual downtown radius most people think of as “Detroit.” Instead there was a mere handful, consisting either of pale hipsters exposing their pasty flanks to the climbing sun, or several odd academic types in their 50s, complete with standard professorial attire like a tweed jacket (seriously), whose confused demeanor suggested they came to observe this mysterious and heretofore unfamiliar phenomenon called Local Mexican People, who constitute nearly the entire population of this area.
The prof types near us looked slightly disappointed or bewildered as the parade plowed forward, as if they expected to see perhaps a solemn procession paying tribute to ancient Mayan roots, or marchers carrying effigies representing genocidal conquistadors imposing an alien culture on meek native peoples, the kind of scene that brings a flutter to the modern academic heart.
Instead they got chihuahuas, Virgin Mary tapestries, low-cut shirts, pit bulls pulling children in wagons, child boxers, tortillas handed out from floats, and hot rods galore, painted in varying levels of gaudiness and beauty. Their facial expressions suggested that they were seeing brazenly and merrily paraded before them the same supposed stereotypes they’ve likely lectured their students to avoid assuming.
But every ethnic parade is a host of stereotypes, or cultural icons, depending on your point of view. One person’s stereotype is another person’s “screw you, I actually do like hot rods.”
Me, too. Off to do battle with the insurance industry.