Monday, March 15, 2010

Detroit, There and Back Again

On Saturday, my friends Rachael and Ashley and I went to the Detroit Public Library (main branch) to see one of our writing and knitting favorites, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (a.k.a. the Yarn Harlot).

Stephanie is always hilarious. Rachael and I had gone to see her on two previous occasions (Chicago and Carmel, IN), so we knew it would be worth the trek. Ashley hadn't ever been before but was eager to join in. Jennifer had even planned to go, but her loyalty to the MSO's dress rehearsal for their Mostly Mozart concert won over. She has great self control.

We determined that we needed to leave from North Manchester at 7:00 a.m. to get to the library in time for good seats. I packed up some Sun Chips and gulped two Starbucks espresso and cream things, and we were off.

I am a country girl. I live in the middle of nowhere. And though I have driven my car around in the Griffith area and all the traffic that entails, I had never gone on an expressway or interstate of any kind. I am a county road kind of girl. I am used to dodging falling bales of hay, not maniac drivers.

In addition, when I Googled the library's location, I discovered it was in the middle of Detroit, surrounded by all the metropolitan chaos I associated with an urban area.

All this goes by way of saying: I panicked.

On Friday, I frantically messaged Rachael on Facebook, begging her help in driving. She agreed to give me a hand, but I still stared up at the ceiling for the majority of the evening. I imagined us getting lost and ending up in Canada. I imagined my car unexpectedly exploding in a parking garage due to an unforeseen mechanical issue. I pictured an insane driver running us off the road, or our not getting home until Sunday morning, exhausted, because we'd had travel issues I didn't even know existed.

I obsessed.

Finally, I slept for two hours in one block. Then I got up, dressed, and drove to Rachael's house.

We left.

Now, I had imagined handing over the wheel to Rachael the instant we hit traffic. The second I began to, in short, freak out.

But that didn't happen. In fact, there was almost no traffic at all.

Before I knew it, we were at the scary part of the map, the spot that made me sure I would get us all killed. And then it was over.

I am proud of myself.

I didn't hand over the wheel because it was a nice, relaxing drive, though. I kept driving because Rachael knew how to use the temperamental lender GPS unit. She also can read a map.

I can do neither of those things. Or, well, I can. But sometimes I end up in other states than the one I expect to be in. And that isn't a good thing.

After the talk, we decided to go to City Knits, which is a Detroit-area yarn store we'd read about online. They also happened to be at the library, giving us a sneak-peek at their wares. We liked what we saw. It was two miles away. We decided to drive it.

As we went along, the largish old buildings melted away into what I would consider to be, unsavory area. I sensed it before I saw it. This feeling hit me, saying, "The yarn store will not be here" and I started thinking we should turn around. Finally, the GPS woke up, recognized it's signal form whatever forsaken satellite it talks to, and it ordered us to turn around.

City Knits was located in the Fisher Building, a location that either advertised tons of plays or presented them. I think it was the latter. It was a neat old building with mosaics, intricate ceilings, and little shops all inside. Including the Girl Scouts. Yes, they had a store.

The yarn store was packed, as you might imagine. They were handing out coupons, and knitters can't turn down a yarn sale, especially when they get to enjoy it at a new store with as-yet-unseen yarns.

I think, though, that their buyer might well have been allergic to wool. I saw cotton, alpaca, hemp, linen, etc. But I didn't really see any wool. As far as sock yarn went? Not so good. It was actually kind of depressing. I'd hoped to leave with a hank of sock yarn at the very least, but nothing City Knits had was different enough to my LYS(s) to inspire me to wait in the line to buy any. And frankly, if I'm going to buy sock yarn just to be buying some, I'd rather support local industry through my compulsion. Really. Where was the wool?

By then, starving, we got back into the car and waited for Mr. GPS. It was really trying. Unfortunately, it wasn't succeeding. We grabbed the worst McDonald's of my life, and it still wasn't working. We pulled into a CVS pharmacy. Not working. Finally, I ran in and grabbed a map. I corralled an employee and begged them for help. "Where are we?" I asked. "Can you show me on the map?"

Now, directions and I don't mix. The last time someone told me how to gets somewhere when I hadn't yet started driving, I ended up in, well, the wrong place. This is because I don't really know what street names are until I've driven past the signs, I can't go around a block without getting dizzy (and therefore lost), and I really, really don't know which ways north and south actually are.

So, say you tell me, "Go north on Lexington Avenue."

I will hear, "Something-something-something L-something Street." This is of no practical use. None.

Especially if, moments later, it becomes this: "Go something on that street named for that one battle, you know, the one from the Revolutionary War." And, moments later, "Go something on that street named after that city we kept peace in back in the 90's in Yugoslavia."

This is, of course, not what that person told me. And I end up in Ohio. And, right now, I don't really know anyone who lives in Ohio. This would lead to the correct assumption that I didn't actually aim to go to Ohio, no matter how nice that state may or may not be.

Rachael, growing more and more frustrated with the GPS, waited in the car, planning ways to destroy it.

Ashley waited in the backseat, holding her new yarn, perhaps even visualizing herself safe, far, far away from the now-crazy people who invited her on this doomed voyage to Detroit. Didn't she know better, going to Detroit with The Crazies? Or was she crazy for just going to Detroit in the first place?

This, of course, is totally conjecture. Ashley was pretty invisible to me at that time, since I was talking with the CVS guy and staring at a map, then driving a car, and she was in the backseat being quiet. She could have been thinking about marmalade, for all I know. But I think she must have been concentrating on the yarn. I would have been, had I not been thinking about getting us all home, eventually.

Just as the CVS man told me how to get onto I96, the GPS sprang to life, telling me also how to get to I96. Since both told us the same thing, we followed the directions, weaving through construction on exit ramps until, finally, we were on our way.

Before we'd gotten out of the car to walk to the library, I'd informed the others that I would let them drive home. So why was I still driving?

Can you imagine me giving driving directions? Jennifer can, and it isn't pretty. I couldn't force my fellow country-girl, Ashley, to drive when she was in the same position I was (having never driven in the "big city" and close to panic-attack-levels of adrenaline). And I really couldn't force Rachael to drive and give herself directions at the same time. Not when I also expected her to keep both hands on the wheel and deliver us to North Manchester as alive as we were when we left. No, I was cursed.

It's a good thing, I thought to myself as I changed lanes; that Detroit has no industry and therefore no population.

After thinking this, I realized how depressing that statement actually is.

Because, indeed, there was no traffic. None going into the city, none leaving the city, not even any in the city. Even road construction didn't inspire traffic congestion. Driving by my grandfather's house is worse. Fort Wayne is worse. Carmel is worse. It was amazing. I blamed Detroit's dwindling industry, but it could well have been the rain that kept people indoors on a Saturday. It seemed only our fellow knitters were on the roads. I don't know what caused it, but I was happy.

And, despite the shocking lack of cheese fries, our drive to and fro was uneventful.

Oh, and the whole being in Detroit thing reminded me of take a look.

And this second one they won't let me embed...

Coming next: Stephanie, the library, and the market!


  1. Haha...this is too funny! I was thinking today that I wish I would've met you girls before this whole event- because I could have at least offered you a place to stay Friday night or Saturday night to make your journey a little easier. We have lots of bedrooms and my husband was even out of town for the weekend. Next time (not that there is that much going on in Detroit... and by the sound of your journey, I'm not sure you'll be back!)

  2. You know, armed with a working GPS unit, I would go back. A working GPS unit, though! Plus I have this great nifty map of Detroit that's all laminated and stuff. It would be a shame not to use it...

  3. You should come back. Detroit can really be awesome if you know where to go. Sorry you got a bit lost, but glad you made it home safely

  4. I won't go out of my way to avoid Detroit, instead I will go out of my way to get a nice GPS unit. One that loads when it says it's going to and recognizes its maps. Sigh...

    The architecture I saw was amazing. I think, on a day without that misty rain, it would be fun to go out with a camera!