It’s a good thing that I’m emotionally dead inside, otherwise my trips to Detroit would depress me to no end. I return every year for my annual ‘shrink rap’ and tell him that if I weren’t already in town for therapy, I’d sure as hell need it after having driven north from the airport. It’s fascinating to me, however, that if one drives far enough north, eventually there rises like a desert oasis the most well-manicured mall I’ve ever experienced. How do I rate malls, you ask? Generally speaking, if there’s a valet service in front of the entrances, the place goes from the normal, ‘Yeah, nice mall’ to ‘Holy shit, are you kidding me?’. The existence of such a place in a city that’s recently endured seemingly non-stop knees to its collective groin seems a little strange to me. When I mosey through the place snorting in lungfulls of rarified air, I tend to answer innocuous questions from store clerks wondering how they can help me find something with, ‘No, thanks. I’m just here for the irony’.
Ironic also that I travel to a place so seemingly conflicted to try and de-conflict parts of myself. That I ever found this particular therapist in that specific city over all others everywhere else is a matter of profound improbability. It’s a long story that I’ll nutshell as ‘He was the right person available at the right time’. Twice weekly for one remarkably horrible year, I unloaded the entire narrative on him and did my own research into every issue that he mentioned in context with my struggles, reading countless books during that period and ultimately coming out on the other side better equipped to understand the more nuanced parts of myself along with what made one side of me tick and the other more neurotic side tock. Since then, a yearly ‘Howdy’ has been the extent of our relationship, with this year marking our fourth annual 2-hour gab-fest. In the past, he’s wondered whether I might be better served seeing someone closer to my current location, but the thought of starting over with someone else … God, I’d rather fling myself into a wood chipper. So, it’s back to Detroit I go.
There’s also, I think, something to be said for the effort required to return every year, which demands a commitment to something that’s already difficult to endure. You have to really want to engage in an activity that’s inherently uncomfortable, and want to do it for a very good reason. If I didn’t feel like there was still something worth talking about, believe me, I’d forego the air travel; I have no burning yearning to go to Michigan. For better or worse, however, there’s always something worth talking about. I’m self-aware enough to realize that I’ve almost completely lost the ability to be subjective about the person in the mirror. I see too much of myself in concrete terms and think too often in inevitabilities that I realize are mostly hogwash, but can still manage to easily rationalize. The problem of knowing yourself so well in such cases, is that you know yourself so well. So, his is the voice of reason that puts my inner monologue on trial. I may excel at self-analysis, but I’m way too harsh a critic to judge whatever it is I observe. Catch-22 anyone?
Also justifying the trip is the post-shrink dinner at Shields, which is totally worth the possibility of missing a flight. They make this artery-crushing deep-dish pizza that demands your full attention from the moment someone places it in front of you until you roll your fat ass out to the rental car and start cursing your decision to eat something so brick-like before squeezing yourself into coach for a couple hours. To complete what’s already one of the more backhanded positive reviews for a restaurant I’ve ever written, I’ll point out that the one that I go to is located in Troy on the corner of Crooks and Maple Roads. For the sake of a story that’ll make the fifth graders in the audience giggle like fifth graders, I’ll also point out that Maple Road is a block south of the unfortunately-named Big Beaver Road, which led to the following real-life conversation from last year:
Me: So, what’s the quickest way back to 94 from here?
Starbucks Dude: Take a left out of here and drive south for a couple blocks, then take a right which will bring you to 75, then take that south. It sounds like the long way, but trust me, you want stay off of Big Beaver this time of night. It stinks.
Me: Great! Thanks!
He didn’t really say ‘Cockpunch!’, but it would’ve been the icing on the cake had he done so. Had he also the ability to read my mind at that moment, he would’ve ‘heard’ me thinking, ‘Oh no he di’n't!’, to which he could’ve thought-replied, ‘Oh yes I di’! Cockpunch!’
So, for any of you planning on traveling to Detroit at any point, consider this a cautionary tale to keep you away from Big Beaver during high-traffic periods. Because it stinks. Cockpunch.
Sir @ December 20, 2009