The last and longest day
*Warning! Longest post EVER…good gawd*
Saturday. The last day of Michigan.
The alarm went off. It was a good bit into morning: 0900–enough to shake off the “evenings prior” to elate the aches of typical “mornings after.”
At least, late enough for me, normally a forced early-riser due to my militant condition. Granted, most others plow through the day with dreams until the Sun runs downhill, but I was cool with enjoying the quiet while the rest of the block slumbered on.
Nikos was up north with his girl, Emily (more north than Michigan? Yes, it is possible, Google “Michigan UP”) and Sonny was still away in Spain, leaving me free reign of the crib.
I’d kick it with Seth and Sally soon-ish. No need to rush. We’d hit lunch or something, maybe a movie.
“What you in the mood for, ol’ Seth-y-boy?”
“Well, Sally just left for work, so I’m up for whatever.” Oh yeah, she worked through the afternoon on Saturdays. Guess it’d just be the boys for the matinee.
We had landed on the idea for seeing the new Eastwood flick “Flags of Our Fathers,” but not before quaffing some BW3s (that’s Buffalo Wild Wings for the newcomers, but old-school fans remember when BW3 was the name: Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck…keepin’ it real).
I spun off toward the miniature village that was Celebration North, a 25-screen terminal surrounded by all manner of coffee and desert shops, eateries and even an Armed Forces Recruiting center (stay away, kids).
I saw Seth’s Lumina in the lot (215K miles and counting, Chevy. Good job), went in and had some lunch. Talk turned to Iraq after a few and returned after seeing the movie.
For the “get to the *#&@ point” cats, was it good? Yes, I’d recommend it. It’s more of a character study on how everyone’s hero worship f*cks with our minds after we get back from war, rather than a pure “war movie.” I’ve seen a few conservative blogs saying it’s “liberal crap.” What movie isn’t? Yikes. Way to seriously serious-ify the issue, Repubs, just watch or don’t watch.
Anyway, evening rolled in with the slow, soaking drizzle that makes Michigan waaaaay better than every other place in the whole world, period.
Sally was free by then, so we jaunted over to the S&S crib to link up with her, the Lumina on point with the M3 providing rear security–sorry, still in Iraq convoy mode.
“What’s next?” I asked, now that we were all rip-roaring down the road in the BMW.
Back and forth cha-cha went for a bit and we smacked up a satellite branch of Kava House for some coffee before grabbing dinner at the next-door Uno’s (S&S had never been, so I figured it a good time as any).
Night was in the queue, that was for sure, now considerably darker than pre-Uno’s. Rain was queued too, it seemed, and things were settling in to a slow, cold evening. By the scant traffic, most were putting their hopes in Sunday, having one more shot at greatness for the weekend, but I had to move! It was the final day, by God. We’d push through and find “it,” for sure.
There were plans to hook up with our boy Billy, a friend of Sonny’s and Nikos’–well, my friend too dammit. Damn good guy, that one. A little loud when drunk, but otherwise a solid cat. Somewhere in town was a casino night to benefit a city charity. Billy knew the proprietor and extended the invite to Nikos, S&S and myself. Sally wasn’t feeling it, but wished Seth and I good fortune as we dropped her off and steered toward the city lights.
So newly formed “S&J,” formally of “S&S feat. J,” drove past the right turn a few times in the rainy city evening before finding Billy’s house “just next to the church, up the hill.” Yeah.
The boys already there included Gabe and Bob, with Billy hosting, leading the whole gaggle of us three houses farther up the hill to the venue.
“Uh, are we under dressed?” I asked, seeing the suits of the patrons and tuxedos of the dealers. Honest to God blackjack and roulette tables filled the house’s very large bottom floor. Poker was upstairs.
A foxy minx with a sleeveless tux shirt, superb skin and amazingly tight pants (dear Lord, help me not to covet my casino night’s host’s girlfriend) asked us what drinks we wanted, and we were let into the evening. Again, Billy knew the guys running the gig–a band of GR’s social elite that got together for little events like this now and again.
Uncle Jack was Billy’s main “in” to the whole scene. Uncle J was the former owner of the house, but now a permanent guest of the house’s new owner, Jim. Jim loved Uncle Jack so much after getting to know him, he couldn’t bear kicking him out (the house had partially burned down and Uncle J had to sell it to break even or some such, nearly being evicted from his home of decades). Now he was the social planner of these sorts of gigs and roommate of Jim.
Uncle Jack…dude, seriously one of the most awesome people I’ve ever met. He’s an older cat–he’d never say, but he was in the Air Force during the Korean war, so he’s getting up there. He was comfortably drunk, the kind of drunk you earn after your 4,000th evening past the legal limit, and was puffing down cigarettes every few minutes.
“Seriously, I don’t know why he’s still alive,” Billy said after introducing us. Uncle Jack was in the middle of another talk but, after a few seconds I was in the embrace from this slightly haunched, finely dressed man. “Thank you for coming! Thank you for coming to the party! Get a drink. Have fun! Win some money!”
The proceeds would go to the city charity, but you were allowed to cash out any money you actually made. The whole lot of us plopped down at a blackjack table and started in. $20 for me, to start, and in an hour and a half I’d trippled it. Wow.
“Josh, it’s 10:40, we’d better get going,” Seth reminded me over the fun. 10:40 p.m. is 2240 hours for the military cats still holding on through this epic.
“Where you guys going?!?” The encroaching intoxication of Billy forced a few decibels more than necessary out of the boy’s mouth. Out! Out demon! The power of Christ compels you!
“We have to get Sonny from the airport,” I said. “Sucks that we have to go, but we’ll give you guys a call when we get him.”
“Definitely! You guys DEFINITELY should give me a call. On my cell phone!! CELL PHONE!”
Seth and I cashed out: $60 for me and $28 for him. We couldn’t take money from charity, though, and just gave it back to the surprised cashier. Weird taking from a charity.
Zip-Zam-Zoom (insert “Snatch” movie U.S-to-England montage), and Sonny was picked up, taken home to change and given back the keys to his beloved M3 to whisk us again into the night.
Billy was still down, but the other cats had bolted for some ’80s cover band in a gig downtown. Our modified crew had time for one more round of blackjack before the evening was officially packed away and the monied cats sent away.
But that’s when we started having a blast. Jim and Jack let us stay afterward and just chill. We talked the whole night–about Jack’s time in the service; the times in Europe; his radio career; how he introduced the Beatles to Grand Rapids, “at 8:10 in the morning, on some day in the ’60s”; his love of jazz; our backgrounds; Seth’s graphic design job; Santino growing up in Spain; my Army stuff; Jack’s time in business; how the charities work; Sonny dancing with Kristen (formerly known as “foxy” and or “minx”) to the house jazz pouring overhead.
It was the sort of evening that changes you–the sort of soul-searching, old bequeaths knowledge to new, sipping on life and taking it in, God is in laughter, sort of evenings.
Jack said that he just likes being friends to people and loves the “long, full life” he’s lived. I sure as hell felt welcome after seeing him. He was a treasure.
Unbeknownst to us, turned out Jim was a fan of Nooma, Santino’s gig. I had Sonny come in and give a few diatribes about the state of things. Jack was super interested, especially in how the Flannel crew (the company that makes Nooma) was not trying to accomplish an agenda, but just trying to communicate with people.
We stood in the kitchen forever, just going back and forth on the heavier things of life–God, justice and all that. Jim cooked us some Philly cheese steak sandwiches and we stayed in that room for the final couple of hours before I had to leave.
Three airports and six hours later, I was back in Texas. It’ll be a long time before I get to Michigan again, especially if I’m the lucky winner of another year in Iraq, but I really hope Jack is there when I get back. Those are the kinds of people guys write movies about.