Arriving at the home of The Matriarch and The Handyman, it was a relief to know that we would be able to spend a couple of days where we weren't speeding across the state or trying to get to yet another relative's house. We dumped out luggage and whatnot near our sleeping quarters and settled in for the evening. We spent the evening catching up with each other and getting reacquainted. The Handyman told us of his plans to renovate his kitchen, The Matriarch brought us up to date on family and friends, and even The Skater surfaced from his computer to grace us with his presence. After a while, burned out from driving, and ready for a soft bed, we turned in and called it a night. Plans for the next morning was big doings; a trip to The Detroit Zoo, dinner with the family, and visits to old friends.
The next morning, at my insistence, we had breakfast at The Original Pancake House in Grosse Pointe Woods. With locations across the country, they have raised breakfast to the status of art. They make a dish called a Dutch Baby. When you first see it, you ask yourself, "Do I eat it or pray to it?" It is a plateful of delicious decadence and well worth the trip. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and, now that we were full to the point of discomfort, we were ready to walk it off at the zoo.
The Detroit Zoo is one of the jewels of southeastern Michigan. First, the people in charge of the zoo wisely decided that the zoo most assuredly should not be in the city of Detroit. The reason being, back when the zoo was opened in 1928, the area was fairly unregulated and the presence of a finely landscaped zoological park was considered an improvement of the area. Nowadays, since Detroit has vanished, the Detroit Zoo provides a controlled environment for people to view exotic wildlife, as opposed to the uncontrolled environment that plays host to the wildlife that currently inhabits the former city. We also had the advantage of being friends with an employee at the zoo who was able to take time out of her busy schedule to give us an insider's view of the park. As a result, Diswan and Datwan were able to watch the penguins and the River Otter feed. She also gave us some tips on which animals would be active and which ones were hiding.
One of the best exhibits is their new Lion exhibit. Instead of viewing the lions from behind a wall and across a moat, the new exhibit has a glass wall approximately fifteen feet tall. This enables people to observe the lions while separated only by the glass. It is exhilarating to be within inches of a 300 pound cat, and a relief to know that they can't get to you. Of course, Diswan wanted to hang out in The Penguin House. Don't get me wrong, I like the penguins, but the place smells like a fish cannery. Our group could only tolerate a few minutes at a time.
Another favorite of the McWopski crew is The Reptile House. We have all become well acquainted with reptiles by virtue of being within driving distance of Reptile Gardens. Admittedly, Reptile Gardens is superior to the zoo, but to be fair, Reptile Gardens specializes in one group of animals while the zoo has examples of dozens of species. The budgetary considerations are less complicated and, Reptile Gardens being a for-profit business, the cash flow is a little more consistent. But the Detroit Zoo is an admirable facility, especially for a region that has seen as big a decrease of its tax base as Michigan has.
So, after the zoo, it was time to head back to my sister's place for our annual Birthday dinner. Traditionally, since no less than four members of my family had birthdays in May, we gathered at The Matriarch's house and had fresh lobster for dinner, complete with melted butter, baked potato, and whatever else struck our fancy. I was interested to see how Diswan and Datwan handled seeing live lobsters cooked. I thought that they might get upset at the idea of eating something that they had seen alive mere moments before. I needn't have worried; years of Discovery Channel and Animal Planet have taught the boys about the food chain and how some animals eat others to survive. I also explained to them that our ancestors did not scratch and claw their way to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables. When dinner was served, I cracked the shells for the boys and they dug in like a couple of good little carnivores. The carnage was admirable and the dinner table looked like a lobster graveyard when we were done.
Once dinner was done, I took the opportunity to foist my children off on to my sister and go visit my friend Pete. I've known Pete for a long time. We met while we were working in the Emergency Department of St. John Hospital in Detroit. He started out in X-Ray, and I was an ER Tech. Later on, Pete transferred over to the ER and Thank God for it. Someday, I'll post the "Employee Handbook" that I wrote for prospective ER employees, but for now, suffice it to say that the things we saw and experienced in the ER forged a bond between all of us that worked there. When the denizens of Detroit seemed like they were doing their best to flood our ER with blood, guts, and insanity, I had to look no farther than to my left or right, and Pete was right there next to me.
Pete is also a Cancer Survivor. Having beat Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, he has proven to be tougher than leather. Unfortunately, he has the great misfortune of being one of only two hundred people in the world to have to face it twice. For that reason alone I wanted to see him. It just so happened that my visit would coincide with his girlfriend's daughter's birthday. This required the purchase of an appropriate gift, thankfully handled by Central Planning, and a short trip to his house. I went alone so as to be mindful of his health, since he had just started a round of chemo. I should have known better; he was up and around and in good spirits. Lymphoma doesn't stand a chance against Pete.
I was there for about an hour, visiting with him and his family. They were all wonderful people and Pete is lucky to have such a support system. Especially Erica, the love of his life, since she consented to move in with him to help him through this time. I swear, when he comes through this, if he doesn't propose to that woman it will confirm in my mind that chemo causes brain damage.
After visiting Pete, it was back to my sister's place to retrieve Central Planning and head up to Cloverleaf Pizza to meet a couple of other ER cronies, Dee and Kim. Dee and Kim had started out as ER Techs, and then moved on to become Patient Representatives. The Patient Rep is the bridge between the patient's family and the staff of the ER. Without them, the family would remain ignorant of the patient's status until the patient either recovered or died.
In Dee and Kim's case, they did their job extremely well with an added flourish; they helped victims of domestic violence escape their abuser and get to a shelter. Generally, when a victim of DV arrived in the ER for treatment, they were accompanied by their abuser. The abuser would insist on speaking for the victim, be hesitant to leave her alone with staff, and become indignant when asked anything personal. The funny thing was, all of the things that they did in order to conceal their crime, were the very things that gave them away as the abuser.
Enter Dee and Kim.
Once it was determined that this was a case of Domestic Violence, the standard method was, one of them would find some pretense of separating the abuser from his victim while the other, having already contacted the shelter, would sneak the victim out the back to her transportation whereupon she would go home, pack, and go to the shelter. The abuser was usually none the wiser for at least an hour. By the time the abuser discovered that his victim was gone, she had already made it to safety. Dee and Kim had this routine down so well, I swear that they could have given lessons to The Underground Railroad.
We met that evening and sat, reminisced, and drank an ocean of coffee and diet soda; a far cry from the days in which we would party far into the night. It was gratifying to see them again; I hadn't realized how much I missed them. Concluding yet another day of pleasant company, good food, and good conversation, we packed up and headed for my sister's place. We had a long day ahead of us.
Next: Snickerfritz Takes a Wilderness Journey.