By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Now that you've all had time to celebrate my demise, it's time to get back to work. Natch, this week it's What I Did on My Summer Vacation (Part 1).
There sure is a lot of America out there, really a lot of Americas. We drove to Georgia, slept, drove to Lexington, Kentucky, and arrived at a motel at about 8:00, in time to catch the end of the Rockets-Knicks game. We signed in, and I ran across the street to a mini-market. I grabbed a cold six-pack and placed it on the counter. The prim woman looked at me strangely: "Sir, we aren't allowed to sell beer on Sundays." The next day we made it up to Detroit, where we hung out with my friend of more than twenty years, Ben Bank, his wife, Nancy, and their little son, Simon.
Downtown Detroit is just like downtown Miami, except it's all brick instead of all glass and there's a big river instead of a big ocean. We rode the Motor City's version of the People Mover (called the Mugger Mover up there), and it made me think our own elevated train ain't that bad -- the thing chugged and rattled like something from another century. The Fisher Building is tall and looks like something took a bite out of the top of it. GM Galactic Headquarters is a pretty big building, not overwhelming. Except for one thing -- there are four buildings that size composing GM's corporate hangout. We went to Detroit Race Course to see the horses run, but instead they had donkeys. Oh, okay, so they were horses -- $4000 claimers that hadn't won in a year. A mile-long dirt oval and an overall spartan ambiance -- really made me appreciate the beauty of Gulfstream, Hialeah, even Calder. But we won a little money, with Ben especially scoring a few nice cashes, and then we went back to his house and barbecued one of the losers.
When you stand outside the Joe Louis Arena or the Renaissance Center and look south across the Detroit River you see Canada (yes, part of Canada is south of Detroit, USA -- weird). You see the Windsor Casino, which offers a critical lesson for those states (ahem) considering the idea of legalizing just one megacasino. Doesn't work. You have to wait in line for a seat at the $25 blackjack tables. Sick. You have to wait in line to play dollar slots. You pay $25 to park at the casino. You have to pay for your drinks -- that never happens in Vegas, I can tell ya. Gambling at Windsor is tricky because first you have to change your real money into Canadian money (much like Monopoly money) and then convert that into tokens or chips at the casino. The coolest thing about Canada is that you can buy beer that's six, seven percent alcohol, more than twice as potent as American brews.
The centerpiece of the trip was the Mafia wedding in Muncie, Indiana, of Mr. Lenny "The Pro" Pronesti and the lovely (and really cool) Susie Grunin. Juan Casas (part of the family, as it were) rented a limo for the bachelor party -- Juan, Lenny, me, and the bride's brother, Greg, cruised over to Indianapolis. As soon as the limo driver found out Juan and I were outta Miami, he asked to hold the plastic. When we loaded up on beer, we walked out before collecting the 50 cents change. "That's okay, keep it, we're rock stars."
In Indy we hit a killer blues bar with a decent band, and I remarked that the place reminded me of a young Tobacco Road. Young? The Slippery Noodle, I learned later, was founded in 1850. Not 1950, 1850. Then, at some dance club, Lenny told me that the next time I saw Juan to tell him Lenny was waiting in the car. I spotted Juan rapping with three attractive young women (is that the politically correct way of saying "babes"?). I walked up to him and in my hoarsest semiwhisper said, "Mr. Pronesti is waiting in the limo." The three women bolted.
The wedding itself was beautiful -- nondenominational and summery -- and the reception was, of course, even better, although I couldn't persuade the DJ to play any Snoop Dog. Buying beer in Muncie is a mindblow. One place told me they didn't have beer -- "Can't you see the church across the street? You can't sell beer next to a church, you Miami idiot." They have a law that says convenience and grocery stores can sell only warm beer. Liquor stores can sell cold beer, but they aren't allowed to sell cold soda. Also, they have something in Indiana called earwigs -- bugs that bite, or as Ben explained to me when we returned to Detroit after the wedding, "Earwigs are centipedes with attitude." We don't have earwigs in Miami, thank goodness. We also don't have the placid ease of life in places such as Muncie, where nobody sweats nothing.
Not in Erie, Michigan, either, which is right on the Ohio border, next to Toledo. We spent a couple of days there, visiting Brad and Nancy and D.J. at a big old house on a big old lake. (There's a lot of water out there in America -- because Lake Erie bumps places such as Toledo and Detroit, you see marinas and boats and fish markets and bait shops. Just like Miami -- in fact, the water near Brad and Nancy's house is suffering some bizarre contamination for which scientists were testing and such. Dirty water is universal.) Brad's son, Chris, age seven, helped me fish the lake anyway, just for fun. (It was Chris who, about five years ago, when he was first learning to talk, renamed our cat Lenore by calling her "Norrs.")