Wednesday we spent prepping for the trip and packing. We got up @ six and were out of here by 7:30 and on the road. The faster way to Detroit is through Canada, but we had been warned of the border war between people crossing and the immigration people on either side. We did not want to take the chance of what happened to a close friend who was held up for two hours, had his body and his car thoroughly searched, etc. So we knew we had to drive across Massachusetts, New York, a bit of Pennsylvania and then halfway across Ohio and up to Detroit in Michigan. We spent Thursday night at the Marriott Courtyard in Westlake Ohio, just past Cleveland. We had a large, clean comfortable room. Woody watched the Thursday night football game until it got boring.
The next morning we left for Detroit @ 8 a.m. it was straightforward until we got into Detroit. We had directions, I navigated, but I would have hated to try to follow those complicated directions in the dark. We met the assistant to the head of Judaic Studies who showed me to the room where the supposed poetry workshop was to be held. I had told me I walk with difficulty, but no one in their low twenties understands. It was raw and windy and the building was a distance away. I stepped off a high curb and hurt my ankle, which made everything much harder.
The workshop itself was a complete boondoggle. Messages about the workshop had been sent to the Judaic list but not to the English Department or to the Writing Department. As a result, twenty people came but only two poets. I did what I could but it was a waste of their time and mine. I know there are poets in Detroit who would enjoy working with me, but they never had a chance.
My ankle was very swollen and I could barely hobble. I had planned to go to the Detroit Institute of Art that afternoon. I spent a good part of my free time in high school at the main public library and the DIA. I insisted Woody go without me. He did and was very impressed. He got take-out since I still couldn’t walk. By the next morning, the swelling had gone down and I could walk some. We were put up by Wayne at a ‘historic hotel’ that occupied four old fine houses. The public spaces were light and well furnished, the staff was friendly, the breakfast was good, but the room itself was cold, small and shabby. I had to spend more time in it than I would have willingly done.
I directed Woody on a drive around Detroit so he could see a good bit of the city. At 4:30 a couple of distinguished retired academics were kind enough to take us to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and then drive us for miles and miles to where the reading was to be held. I ws wary of the whole thing since it was to be in a private home. It turned out to be in Palmer Park. You approach Palmer Park through the devastated, bleak and extremely poor area of Highland Park, past ruined building after burned out hulk, past the wreck of the public library. Then comes Palmer Park, an area of extremely large houses. One huge house after another. The smallest must have twenty rooms. They have their own public but hardly police station right on the edge but that isn’t enough to protect the white mice who live there. It’s a maze. Every other street, every other block has a barrier so you can’t enter.
The people in whose house the reading occurred had a large room with chairs set in rows and room for overflow through the arch. It had a small stage. There were somewhere between 75 and 100 people in the audience. I gave what I think was a knockout reading although the light on the podium kept falling on the floor and I had requested bottle water but they gave me a glass of municipal water. It had explained I’m used to well water and chlorine hurts my throat. Every time I took a sip I had to cough and take a moment to recover. I’m sure Detroit water [unlike Flint’s] is healthy but I am not used to chlorine.
We got up @ 5 AM and were on the road by 5:50. I’d saved some of our Chinese supper in doggy bags so that we would not have to eat fast food on the road. We drove and drove and got here last night. I had taped the Saints Vikings game and sat down and watched part of it while drinking two bottles of water [tap water in old bottles] until the game became too lopsided and I was sleepy.
The cats were delirious with joy. Willow couldn’t wait for me to get into bed and climbed on me while I was still trying to climb in. Xena is inseparable. Dale and I are trying to work and multiple cats are all over the library table, rubbing against me. Some people say cats are not affectionate. Ours are super-loving. Janet took wonderful care of them. Xena approves of her. Even Willow emerged from her wall condo and permitted Janet to pet her.
It is great to be home! Maybe I’ll write more about my impressions of Detroit next week.
Part of the Havdalah service that followed my reading was a moving tribute to the murdered Jews in Pittsburgh. I am sure any Jews reading this are haunted by the resurgence of violence against Jews that has become almost common since Trump’s embrace of the Neo-Nazis and the white nationalist supremacists. I remember they carried signs attacking and threatening Jews. Gunning down people at prayer reminds me of the murders at the Black church in Charleston. It reminds me of the Nazis burning synagogues and gunning the people who had worshipped there