Sunday, January 16, 2011

High Elvismas in Gary, Indiana

Getting off of work on Thursday AM, Jan 6th, a whole new world was opening up for me. I was going to be off from that morning until the following Monday PM, Jan 10th. As I had been unlucky enough this year to be scheduled to work Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, a bit of celebration was in order. And January 8th, which happens to be Elvis's birthday, as well as mine and David Bowie's, was going to be that event. High Elvismas/Bowie New Year/Tom Day was coming up, and with a vengeance.

I had been warning Stony and Bruce Wayne, as well as some other folks from around the Indiana/Chicago region that I was planning a birthday trip to Gary, Indiana for about three weeks, still almost all, including those mentioned, were surprised that I had been serious. Peryton, just home from Arkansas with their family, knew better than to take my threats to vacation in Rust-Belt cities lightly, so she packed, but couldn't take the day off of work. So most of the day Thursday was spent sleeping and buying belated Christmas gifts. We were supposed to meet Cathal (Charles Fodel) on-line that evening, but he was under the weather, so we just did dinner out.

Friday, Peryton would not be home until late afternoon, so I pretty much slouched around the house, played Civilization and drank beer. When my partner showed up, as he watches the townhouse when we're away, he thought I wasn't leaving at all. But alas the woman showed up from work, I shut off my computer, dropped a tooth brush into a box with folded clothes, grabbed the gifts that people had been sending me over the last couple of gifts and threw everything into the car. Wallah we were ready to. And despite my laconic affect, Peryton being gone for a couple weeks had me used to not actually talking, I was raring to go.

The drive started late, and during the rush of Clevelanders rushing home to their escapes in the suburbs, and we were in the thick of it. And the weather wasn't going to be helpful either. As we hit Toledo, Peryton's tiredness from her workday was catching up with her, so she napped. The snow storm that was moving from west eastward greeted me with a smile, but at least traffic was dying down. I amused myself by finding the worst of the 80's on the radio and singing along, within an hour, I was happier to hear locally aired High School basketball games.

Somewhere in the landlocked portions of northern Indiana, the snow storm was turning into squalls. Peryton was awake, and not liking the trip one bit, but at least keeping her thoughts to herself. Just expressing things in that "attitude" that only husbands understand as they probably are the targets of it 99% of the time. She couldn't help but voice some concern when during total white outs of snow, I'd shut off the headlights to use the ambient lighting around us, to improve visibility. Visibility as to what was important, the truck'r tire tracks in front of us. I, myself, was in sailing mode. During a storm on the water there is not much one can do expect be prepared to react and keep your craft from colliding with something or capsizing from the swells. In a car this translates as seeing the drive lights in front of you, and avoiding piled up snow. I lowered the back windows a bit to hear the sounds around the car, and had so much blood rushing to my eyes and forehead that the ringing in my deaf ear stopped-- It was kind of nice. I found some classical music on the radio and would tease Peryton every now and then, to focus her emotions into annoyance at me not worries, of course.

Alas, right before we got to the hotel in a more affluent area of Indiana than Gary, Stony refused to get within 50 miles or so of that city's city limit sign, where we booked our reservation the snow storm abated into a slight dustings here and there, and all the traffic around us acted like they hadn't experienced a Stop sign before, let alone bad weather. In the hotel room, Peryton brow-beat me into ordering in, I had had my fun already and it was midnight local time. Checking my phone I had a few missed calls from people wishing me a happy birthday, and to decline my invitation to explore Gary, Indiana the day after Coptic Christmas.

After sleeping a bit, I spent the early-early hours of Saturday, January 8th, playing my mediocre Civilization scenario and waiting for the breakfast bar to open up. At breakfast, I was treated to a horde of dairy farmers with their Momma Grizzly wives and packs of ill-behaved kids, all nodding and shouting back at the Fox News morning show. The front page of the local newspaper, the "Whiter Edition" of whatever is the monopolistic news outlet is for Chicago these days, had the Mayor of Gary, Indiana photographed standing like a felony suspect before two white men in polyester suits and bad haircuts looking down on him as he asked to keep tax levels at their 2010 level in his jurisdiction. I drank my coffee while pretending to read the newspaper, listening to chorus of disgusted grunts whenever the words "ohBOMBah" or "liBerahaldemoKrat" was issued from the TV speaker. I did hear a lot of discussion on how babies grow up retarded without dairy products in all six to eight meals a day. Really not in my element at all, but the guy at the front desk, most likely not related to the dairy farmers filling up the joint, smiled a subversive smile at me as I decided to take the stairs instead of listen to more moaning as a bunch of tubby folks (with tubby kids!), complained about the elevators being too slow.

Giving Peryton her bagel and cream cheese breakfast from the "buffet" downstairs, had the desired effect of getting her out of bed and getting ready for some rust-belt exploration. And before noon, we went forth. Stony had called me "Mighty Whitey" on-line, so I was feeling kind of like Robert Falcon Scott at the North Pole, I know that he went to the South Pole instead, but we all know how well that went.

Gary was pretty much like East Cleveland, just a whole lot bigger. More money as well, because some has the money to tear down a lot of the abandoned buildings. While I enjoy doing some socio-economic talk on things, that really isn't the reason I do rust-belt cities. I do it for the massive sprawling industrial sites to be seen, the wonderfully intricate highways with hardly enough traffic on them and the harbors. I wasn't able to make it to the harbor of Gary itself, but I did find the steel foundries' harbor. It was isolated as I figured it'd be on a cold Saturday in the dead of Winter. I suppose I should go on more, but there isn't that much more to say.

On the way back, Peryton and I noticed a Scottish pub, of all things, just in front of the area where our hotel was. And in front of this pub, called the Tilted Kilt, was an assortment of SUV's and large pick-up trucks so numerous that I thought it might be a car dealership. When we walked inside, we discovered that kilts meant plaid skirts and attractive young women in school-type white shirts and black ties, arranged to allow viewing of cleavage and navels filled out the rest of the uniform.

"Oh it's a Hooters." Peryton said.
"Mom would love this place." I replied.

There were enough families to keep the place from being an not overly expensive soft-porn dive, so we had lunch and then went back to the room to relax.

As evening came on, Bruce Wayne had called to talk about where to meet up. In deference to my mother's taste in restaurants, I suggested meeting up at the Tilted Kilts. At about 6 pm Stony met us in the lobby of our hotel and it was good to see him. He being the former marine, couldn't resist my challenge to walk from the hotel to the restaurant. I had to make him and Peryton slow down, as they're both pretty fit and I am fat, dumb and happy these days.

Back at the "sports bar" once again, we got a large table and waited for more company. Bruce Wayne and his lady friend, Amy (Colts Gal), arrived. The waitress, having been trying to get our order the second we sat down, asked if we were going to staying for 'The Game.' It was then Tom Day party started coming together. The Indianapolis Colts were playing the New York Jets; Bruce Wayne and Colts Gal, were obviously for the Colts, while Stony a Chicago Bears fan, was for the Jets. Before that moment, the only thing else I had to offer was going up to the American Legion in Gary or Hubbard and checking out those sorts of places, of which I am now a member, so that my mother can get cheap beer and buffalo wings at one nearby her house, and see what in the heck they look like. Hell yeah, we were staying for the game.

The dinner conversation was fun, as was watching the football game. Lots of laughs and discussions, Stony is about the deepest literature person that I know, so I could pose as an literary intellectual every now and then. Peryton, Bruce Wayne and Colt Gal are no reading slouches either, and still we could get goofy.

As the second part to the celebration, we decided to head back to the hotel room and watch Jim Carey host Saturday Night Live in the room's very little living room. Before then everyone piled into Colt Gal's tiny and freezing cold car, and did a drive about trying to get more beer before it was midnight, because of local liquor laws. I felt like I was 22 again. While watching SNL, we shared a jug of weissen beer that Bruce Wayne had brought, and during the commercials, Stony had brought a bag full of classic RPG games and RPGS mags from the late 80's as a b-day gift, so we'd take them out one by one and pass them around reverently.

The party wrapped up about 30 minutes after whenever SNL ends. I was having the time of my life, and everyone else was smiling as well as we said goodnight. Elvismas was now passed, but all would be well into the rest of year, as we showed our hunka-hunka burning socializing in his honor.

Sunday morning was only preparing for the drive home. Had lunch at Hardee's with their awesome chicken sandwich! And spent a lazy evening watching the Clone Wars on the couch. Not a bad birthday weekend at all.

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