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August 16 1998, Sunday


  worked much of the afternoon on a web project for a genuine paying client. I'm rather practiced at this craft considering how infrequently I do it for money.


n the late afternoon, Kim and I headed east towards Detroit on an excursion to visit her father and paternal grandparents. We stopped on the way at Matt Roger's place (his mother's place) mostly just to say hi and do our best to show we're not complete dicks after abandoning him at Friday's Slutty Girl Party.

The most interesting thing happening at Matt's house was the presence of two little socially-precocious blond kids. Somehow (it's all very complicated), these kids are related to Matt's housemate, a $7/hour-earning, Sport Utility Vehicle payment-paying working stiff. One of this guy's past girlfriends (the mother of one of the kids) was also present, and she and he kept erupting into fights, something the kids both handled in an exceptionally mature manner. As Kim overheard one of kids saying, "It's okay that they're fighting, because we can still have fun!" They were overjoyed by Sophie, whom they each tried to monopolize. I felt sorry for the little boy, who said he currently lives in a foster family. I had a normal childhood, with essentially no suffering and little uncertainty. Unlike this kid, I was unprepared for adult trauma like heartbreak and loss.


im's father, Bud, lives in a conventional middle class home in the tranquil downriver Detroit town of Trenton, near where the Detroit River empties into Lake Erie. Much like Wyandotte and other towns in this area, Trenton is very flat, the houses are tidy, and the streets are straight, tree-lined, and host a respectable population of children at play. Kim and I were a little late for a barbecue dinner, so we ended up splitting a plate of farm-fresh catfish, chicken, potatoes and a slice of egg plant. We chatted with Bud's schoolteaching wife Linda, as well as Kim's big, tattooed stepbrother and his plump girlfriend. Kim used to live in this house with all these characters in the 80s when she was just another big-haired teenage girl from Detroit.

Bud is a warm, funny, but nonetheless no-nonsense sort of man. He works as a High School Principal and he likes to see education put to good use. He wanted to know if I got a degree when I went to Oberlin. "Yes," I lied, avoiding a deluge of unnecessary, uncomfortable conversation. Bud expressed vaguely dismayed amusement that I was doing computer work with that sort of education. We later talked about the Internet, and I said that it had transcended computers and had become a communication mechanism, one that will soon be as essential as the telephone.

Down in the basement, Bud showed us his studio where he assembles stained glass projects (such as windows and lampshades) using a folksy abstract style.

Kim and I didn't stay long. We headed north to Bud's parents place in Wyandotte, the setting for our first act of sexual intercourse.

This time, though, Kim's grandparents were both there. Grandpa is a frail little man with persisting injuries on his arms in the aftermath of a recent fall. Grandma isn't as thin, but she seems just as frail. They walk around with the halting gait common to many people their age, the early 80s. But they're both warm, generous, mentally alert, humourous people. Kim and I had a second dinner of Chicken Caccitori. While the womenfolk toiled in the kitchen, I chatted with Grandpa. He mostly told me about the various physical difficulties that go along with aging. He said that at his age he can no longer scale flights of stairs without the assistance of a handrail.

A group of little girls were playing outside in the street as Kim and I ate our second dinner, and I was amused to hear Grandma and Grandpa talking about them as if they were birds at a bird feeder. For example, at one point Grandma said, "There were the usual three little ones and a couple big ones too." Grandma went outside at one point to lecture one of the little girls about the wisdom of not playing in the street. Earlier lectures to these same girls have included the lesson that trees do in fact have a need for their bark.

After dinner, Kim and I were absolutely bloated, and we accompanied Grandma and Grandpa into the living room, where we looked through recent snapshots, old family albums, and collections of Kim's childhood art. As a little girl, Kim spent considerable time with her grandparents.


n the ride back to Ann Arbor, Kim told me her grandparents had liked me a lot. That's good news. I seem to be having more luck with girlfriend ancestors than I did back in the early days. I guess it helps that I'm less pierced and tattooed than the girl they have to offer me.

Kim was playing the public radio show called Music from the Hearts of Space, an old show specializing in dreamy ambient music. The music tonight had a vaguely sinister feel and it went well with the visuals: dreamy airplanes floating slowly over I-94 down through the darkness to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. From a certain angle, the planes looked exactly like flying saucers. It occurred to me that perhaps the UFO myth was an outgrowth of humanity's guilt at the harm it has caused in devouring nature. If there really are UFOs, after all, then there is a force capable of countering our actions (if they'd only quit experimenting and start harvesting). The cityscape, even out in these suburbs, looked like something unstoppable except by extra-terrestrial intervention. (Perhaps the idea of "God" is also a manifestation of deep-seated human humility, even if a genuine Homo humilis was a species that, even if it ever existed, never thrived long enough to leave a fossilized trace.)


ack at Kim's place, I stayed up late working on my own projects while Kim went to sleep. AOL provoked outrage on several occasions, mostly by logging me out without warning. This massive clot of crash-prone bloatware seems convinced that it's a full-blown operating system, never content to rest quietly in the background like the lowly ISP dialer I use it for. It doesn't recognize that the internet data I'm sending and receiving from Netscape or FTP Explorer (an excellent FTP program) is genuine activity. So it logs me out if I don't occasionally do something using one of its glitzy lobotomized "functions." Can you believe there's no way to view source from the AOL web browser? Doing useful things using AOL "functions" is a little like researching a doctoral thesis in an elementary school library. The only good thing about AOL is that it conceals my identity as I carry out nefarious online deeds.

one year ago
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