An Ace on the bench

Posted by jdg | Saturday, February 02, 2008 |

Every morning that I sleep past seven seems like the last, a gift, so it's cherished. I'm like a convicted white-collar felon embracing freedom for his last few days before showing up at the penitentiary door; I have a list of things that I want to do one last time, knowing it will be eons before I get to do them again. At the top of this list is sleeping. A lot.

When dropping the wife off for her last day of work yesterday, I realized, too, that I would no longer be able to just put the kid in the car and take her on the long, rambling drives we love around the city or out into the country, just the two of us. Instead of heading home that morning, we took Michigan Avenue west, the old pre-interstate Chicago road. Along the way I asked her again what she thought we should name her baby brother.

"Yagi-Yogi," she said without hesitation. This is her top choice among her five personal favorites, which also include Munja, Li-Li, Ace and Biddy-Bada-Boo.

"How 'bout Kwame?" I ask.


"I like Ace," I said.


"I don't know. He could be a quarterback."

She lets me stop to take pictures of old neon motel signs, those former beacons to weary travelers who'd park their DeSotos or Studebakers outside tidy little rooms, now dreary homes with low weekly rates for entire families who've been evicted or faced foreclosure, chainsmoking prostitutes, and other down-on-their-luck types. We pass trailer parks. Strip clubs advertising one-dollar chilidogs. Poverty that's the same as in Detroit, really, just a different color.

Our destination is the world's greatest thrift store, and it doesn't disappoint. I've hardly bought any clothes for little Yagi-Yogi yet, so the kid patiently follows me through rack after rack of tiny sleepers and onesies and teensy-weensie button-down shirts, taking seriously her role in helping me find clothes for her baby brother. I seem to always hit the motherload of early-eighties primary-color faded-label polyester goodness at this thrift store. Two hours and $76.42 later we leave with 45 outfits, five pairs of shoes, 15 sleepers, a bunch of toys, and three plastic bags full of books, including several lost bellbottom-age children's lit masterpieces such as Jennifer Jean, The Cross-Eyed Queen and About Handicaps:

I'm telling you, when I get done organizing the kid's library, we're going to have dewey-decimal subdivisions for hairlip-sensitivity fiction and illustrated polio memoirs.

After the thrift store, we take the dog for a long walk in a nature preserve I used to hike in all the time during law school. I check that off my list. We walk around Ann Arbor, stopping at Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger for a late lunch. She's no Blimpy novice: she takes a single patty with an egg, pickles, and mayo. She snuggles up next to me in the booth, shares her deep-fried broccoli. On the way home, she needs to pee. To prevent her whining about it, I tell her we need to be a team and look out the window for a good place to stop. "What's a team?" she asks.

"It's two people who work together to help each other out."

"Are we a team, Dada?" she asks.

"We are." I say. We were, I think, a really good team. We meander back down Michigan Avenue, stopping whenever we see something interesting, until we see the Detroit skyline in the distance. When it's five o'clock we pick up her mother at the old road's terminus, or its beginning, depending on how you look at it. She waddles out of her building and into the car. "Done with work," she sighs. "Now let's have this baby already."