an ongoing celebration, part two

November 17th, 2008

15 June 2007, 9 am EDT, Novi MI

So I wake up all of a sudden, red bleating alarm, bleary-eyed on a couch, not really knowing how I got there. A dog walks over from an adjacent room and starts slobbering on my face, and then it hits me: I’m in fucking Detroit. Kind of. Novi, MI is a distant suburb, thick with million-dollar houses and luxury SUVs, hot off the lot both, the downtown qualia of carbon monoxide and cramped alley a world away. My 20th century car looks strangely out of place here, its caked-on dirt and bug-smeared windshield a soiled and depraved antithesis to this sterile and silent designer town. Not to mention my own shall I say bedraggled appearance: driver’s clothes, slept-in jeans, a faded gray tee that was born black… I am anti-Novi.

I make small talk with Sean’s parents as the suspension on the car sinks lower and lower with new accoutrements. Bagged clothes, CDs burned, a blue cooler stacked with snack; the attainment of all things road. I am impatient to be off but remain polite, my fervent glances at the whitening sky the only giveaway. This is not the West. It is hot, HOT, hot, a preheated oven flat with white heat. Sweat rolls without motion caused. It isn’t quite ninety degrees when we at long last depart, but it is close. A/C, so frivolous in the Mountain West, is here a stark necessity.

I follow Sean’s wise-man local directions to the freeway, and we put on some thrash metal. The first song of the day is the travelers’ morning joe, as powerful as coffee. Wake up. Be real. Music is a catalyst for true understanding of the abstract concept of freedom. Even if you are not a musician, there is a song somewhere that was written for you, that will release you, that will make you free. It makes you not you, it makes you the only thing that matters. It makes you the only thing. It tells a story that only you can hear. So we agree on the rule to abstain from music before rolling on to the wide blue shield highways, the Interstate. It is a totem of freedom, this first song, a morning prayer to safe travel. A fine song wishes in the day with splendor. Ah, and the Eisenhower System, glorious in its web-like connectivity and fluid motion, the true blue highways, the speed corridors of America. The relationship of the words Interstate and Internet is not lost on me. If a Sunday drive on your local byway is a delicate waltz, each moment seen and fully realized, then blue travel is a mosh pit, in some ways predetermined but chaotic, whizzing by, unseen in its power of primal connection. We travel without moving.

It is between 10 and 11 am. We are to arrive in Boston this very evening. Sean drives most of the way to Boston; I take over at a Mass Pike rest stop just outside of Worcester, MA to do my own personal navigating on the home stretch. A fine high speed burn, the day passing like water under our stolid feet. Partially cloudy and bespeckled with sun. A rainbow greets our New England arrival, a harbinger of endless perfection to come. Not much else happens in the interim between MI and MA; we jam out to tunes, we tell jokes, we act like idiots. Exempli gratia:

“Ooh I like that part where the drummer is like dadakaBAMkaBAM!”

“Is that in five?”

*drumming on parts of car ensues*

“Dream Theater is always interrupting their own riffs to be progressive.”

“We should write a letter to Dream Theater about that….”

“…but interrupt ourselves in the letter to prove like a meta-point!”

” ‘Dear Dream Theater, Why do you always inter-Dear Dream Theater, Why do you Dear Dream Theater…’ ”

” ‘Dear Dream Theater, Why do Dream Theater, why do Theater, Theater?'”

*laughing to the point where it’s technically impairing the driver*

There’s a special kind of humor here which is hard to explain. Maybe it’s simply sheer delight at the world and all its strange idiosyncrasies. I don’t know. It’s like we’re children or very old people, wise and recursive, laughing just because we can. Related: there’s a game called Color Or Country which is played by a group of people, who take turns naming either a color or a country. The point of the game is to NOT name a country. If you do, you lose. The meta-point being that unless you intentionally lose, you can’t lose. So it’s not really a game, per se. But the intentionality of the game is the very thing that makes it fun. In some confusing and analogy-stretching way, the small kernel of truth that Sean and I manifest when together is the same truth that makes this game worthwhile. It’s the same truth that makes anything worthwhile. What it is I’m not sure I can express. It’s a feeling, a sense of things, something overwhelming. What it is not is a thing, an idea, an action expressed.

So earlier I briefly mentioned the intent to buy presents for some old friends I will be meeting at the apartment I used to live in in Boston. Five people, two presents each, one permanent and the second temporary. (I’ll also be throwing a special kind of party when I arrive, so just remember that fact and I’ll fill in those juicy details when the time comes.) The people are:

Evan. My brother, glorious in a dark and powerful way. He listens to exclusively metal and is a walking metal encyclopedia. I’d bet money that he could rattle off 200 metal bands as an involuntary reflex. He is the tightest rhythm guitarist I am aware of. Although fledging at the time, his taste for fine beers has since flourished and he prefers (when the $$$ is available) fine meads and ales over PBR. Also he likes obscure strategy games, talking in falsetto to kitties, and just being purposefully and intensely offensive. I love him. He got the short end of the stick when my parents divorced, and I hope that the rift between him and my mom will eventually close. Words can be sticks and stones sometimes. We can finish each others sentences and laugh at invisible jokes.

Gwen. His girlfriend. I hadn’t met her at the time, and had only briefly spoken to her previously. Gwen and Evan are two pieces in a 2-piece jigsaw puzzle; my s/o Beth treats Gwen like a sister-in-law, and I’m sure it won’t be too long until that legally comes to pass. She wears a lot of black and at the time, lived upstairs in the same apartment. Now they live together in a small cottage by the seashore, and simultaneously raise cats and try not to get so intoxicated that they (not the cats) forget how to eat. Beth knows her better than I do – I hope to remedy that.

Alex. When I was living in the dorms he became Alex2, one of four Alexi in the building at the time. Most persons still or at one point affiliated with that dorm (Senior Haus) still call him this. He’s the quirkiest person I know; his speaking voice varies between a lilting murmur and passionate screaming, ne’er to be averaged. He’s got this Pokemon thing. He likes video games the same way I like video games: an intersection of the mindless perfect attainment of high scores and cruelly sadistic difficulty. At one point we were best friends but distance is beginning to split us apart. Dammit.

Jess. Alex’s girlfriend, and Evan’s ex-girlfriend. She tends to be very silent, so I know her the least well. She, like Evan, also appreciates offensiveness for its own sake. She also likes creepy Japanese things like Alex does. I don’t know much else about her, but the fact that she can continue to be chill in the presence of an ex-bf speaks volumes, in what language I am uncertain. Suffice it to say.

Boyd. Boyd is a good friend of both myself and Evan, but mostly Evan. Evan and Boyd act like a married couple when together, always bitching and moaning. It’s indicative of deep empathy whose value cannot be overstated. Boyd moved up to Boston to get this apartment sight unseen, a decision which I both respect and fear. People tend to like Boyd; moreso than all of us, he is a people person. Between his easy-going nature and his empathy for all, he’ll be the most successful of us yet, just you wait. Like myself, many people have never seen Boyd angry. We both also share a hesitation to express our deepest of deeps.

Sean and Chris are the other heroes of this tale. They are novels unto themselves; I will crack that nut when I come to it.

So we’re outside of Worcester, Sean has just given the wheel to me. We plug in the new Slayer album and floor it, forced to maintain cruising speed of like 65 on this damned Eastern coast. Loud, luxuriant, windows down, Red Bull in hand. Metaphorically screaming at the night sky. It is 11 pm, pushing on midnight. The skyscrapers loom towards us, the city swells with white sparkling force. We are the great ones who choose all paths. We are the dreaming giants who exist only as percolating thoughts of the world-at-large, bubbling up for a brief second then floating back down to the vast sunless sea. We are, we become, we breathe as one.

Welcome to the city, it’s going to get crazy.