Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I got to go back to Detroit recently. I love it there. It is the anti-Chicago. Or maybe it is Bizarro Chicago. But anyway, when you go back to a place you like, you go to the places you used to hang, and this is one of them, the John King Books just south of Nine Mile. The other bookstore I used to hang out at is now a pool hall. The clerk at John King said the owner of the other one sold at a good time and is "enjoying retirement." But then a friend I met in Ann Arbor that day said that no, he was forced out and is very sad about it. So I get to choose which story to believe and today I choose that he is happy.
I found these things at John King. I couldn't remember if I already owned the Donald Hall book, but I bought it anyway because I love that series of Poets on Poetry books and I wanted to be safe, just in case I didn't. The Jack Spicer book was a score, though, because I thought it was worth more than the $6 I paid for it and it turns out that decent copies sell for $80-$100. I won't sell it though because Jack Spicer is crazy as hell and I need that book. The Rexroth book I got just because I don't like to buy books in 2's.
I can't believe I did not buy this one though. The one that got away. I picked it up and saw that it was just transcripts of Bob & Ray sketches and I thought "why would I want that when I can listen to the recordings?" and then when I was driving home I thought "for fun Cath and I could be Bob & Ray and act out the skits," so now I'm a little devastated at my lack of foresight.
This was my first apartment after college, in the town I helped prepare for its eventual gentrification: Ferndale, Mich. I think the gentrification ended while I was away though. The balcony was ours, where we would try to play Yo La Tengo songs on our new guitar. It was a dumpy place, but I can only remember loving it.

It wasn't all great. The eventual wife and I were doing what some people would call "living in sin," but if we had talked about it at all, which we didn't, we would have said only that we knew that we wanted to be together. We felt this in the way that you know things when you are young and know almost nothing else.

The landlord downstairs would throw big parties where there must have been a rule that you had to smoke at least two cigarettes at once because smoke would pour through the heating grates in our apartment until the clothes in our closets smelled like other peoples' clothes. This happened like all the time.

And then after the parties, the landlord and her boyfriend would yell at each other. Once, he locked her out and then at 3:00 in the morning on a work night she was yelling to the neighborhood "Somebody please call the cops! I have been locked out of my house! Please somebody call the cops so I can get back in my house please!" I can't remember if I called the cops. I like to think I did, but it is also possible that I thought she needed to be away from her violent boyfriend for awhile and therefore didn't call.

Basically, 2-3 times a week, Cath and I would be upstairs listening to some kind of badness downstairs, asking each other "should we call the cops?" I really don't think we ever did. I really think that for us, we felt like outsiders and that maybe that was just a different kind of life that was normal for some people and who were we to call the cops on it? It would be like judging them, we thought, I think. When you are older, it is very hard to remember yourself when you were 22 and not be stunned at how much of an idiot you were.

Posted by Picasa


Dawn Potter said...

Have you read the Joe Bolton poem "Party"? If not, I will send it to you. It is about living in the house you describe.

Mr. Hill said...

No, I haven't--please do send it along because I couldn't find it online anywhere.

sarahjane said...

Sounds like you had a lovely little nostalgic jaunt. We were just in Detroit for a Tigers game last weekend, so no bookstores and the like for us. I do wish though because now I'm back in the mood for reading. Next time.

Mr. Hill said...

Tigers Games! That was my birthday present every year when I was a kid.

I have some other cool pictures of downtown Detroit I'm going to put up soon. I think Sufjan Stevens could have written an entire album about just that city, or maybe even just about Woodward Ave.

Hmmm? said...

On my last trip to Detroit, my friends and I planned to get to the city about 2 hours before our show started, but we ended up going the wrong direction on a toll road (40 minutes the wrong way) and then getting lost in the city because of all the construction. So, I think I need to take another trip so I can actually look at the buildings, instead of the GPS system.