Sat. Feb. 12, 2017
Woke up and cried today for no particular reason; been five days since I was released from the emergency room -- my second trip to the ER for depression-related breakdowns in the calendar year. The Marquette Police broke down my apartment door and brought me to Marquette Hospital, where I was put in a secluded room and watched by an attendant nurse. After one snowstorm-cancelled flight on Tuesday, a pit stop at the Indian River compound on Wednesday night (I miss you, Joel), and a whiteout in Northern Michigan on Thursday morning, my Mom and I finally made it home Thursday afternoon. Home to the only place I've ever truly been happy in this two-horse world -- the place where I spent my boyhood days exploring the woods along the Rouge River.
After filling my Lexapro prescription at the corner CVS where we used to buy sodas as boys, I decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and get outside -- forty five degrees feels like summer to this yooper, now. I hit the trail at the end of Millwood Street and set forth into the woods where the Millwood boys came of age; I still know the trails like the back of my hand. As I traversed the muddy, icy banks of the river, I thought about my grade school best friends Matt and Jim, both whom I've sadly lost touch with over the years (depression has a way of making you lose touch with everyone, I thought), and when I reached the Blue Bridge -- where we literally used to have pissing contests into the river, its waters browned by the chemicals dumped from the auto factories -- I reflected on how often I've found myself returning to that River Rouge at my lowest moments during my adult life. I'd come here after getting arrested in Ann Arbor, after bad college breakups, when I walked the depths of hell going through alcohol withdrawals (hallucinating coyotes), after all of my hospitalizations. I suppose that river's one of the few friends who I never felt abandoned me.
The trail to the old sandlot is a walk down memory lane. At the Nankin Mill, that old relic of Henry Ford's automobile empire, I pondered the personal and historical implications of the mill, how my Dad had struggled through the automobile industry crash of the aughts, how that had forever scarred me; I chuckled to myself as I crossed the "haunted bridge," which I used to tell my little brother and cousin and friends was the sight of a fatal prom night crash in 1959, now haunted by the ghost of a teen girl in a prom dress; at the hill at the end of the old dirt road, where the old red barn stood, I shuddered at how we had always lived in fear of that barn as boys due to the local legend that a farmer had once hanged himself from the wood beams of the barn (there was still rope in a tree there); and I shed a few tears at the old sandlot, where I spent the best summers of my life in the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 -- where the overgrown weeds seemed the saddest metaphor my life has ever known.
Drove my parents to a cancer fundraiser at a Dearborn bar. On the way, Mom pointed out the spot where the old Cherry Hill High School, her alma mater, used to stand -- just like she used to when my brother Patrick and I were sitting in the backseat. The house to myself, I hung out with my dog Rudy while watching the Red Wings game (woof) and reading my "Anatomy of a Murder" library book ("I paused, wondering why I didn't go to Detroit and lecture in night school. That way, too, I would be close enough to go see all my old school's home football games. 'Hail to the victors valiant. . .'" Traver writes). It makes me so sad to see Rudy getting older, because he's been there for me through so much. He was the first one to greet me at the door when I returned from the hospital for alcoholism almost four years ago now, and he was the last one staring out the window when I left this summer for the Upper Peninsula, bags in my car and tears in my eyes.
My cousin Frank, who happens to be my best friend, got out of work late and called me over. He's not exactly on top of the world right now either, and we both lamented the general trajectory of this round blue ball across this senseless galaxy, wallowing with a certain candidness that we reserve only for each other. Who in the world would I be without my cousin Frank? It probably wasn't the best idea for us, then, to watch "Papa," a Hemingway biopic focused on my beloved hero's final months in revolution-torn Cuba (filmed on location, I recognized many of the bars and buildings in Havana from the vacation I took with the ex and her family last winter), when the writer was deeply ravaged by alcoholism, trauma and mental horrors, but that's just what we did. It was deeply personal watching Hemingway explode into violent drunken outbursts in one scene, crying and apologizing in the next, and then holding a revolver in his mouth in the very next.
Visions of Hemingway's madness dancing in my head, I drove home through a rain storm around closing time, then got into bed around three a.m. Through the window, I listened to the rain patter on the trees in back of the house, and then I heard it -- the tugboat "choo" of the night train, that old iron horse hissing steam in the night. It's a sad, sad world, sometimes, but whenever I hear that distant "choo" of the night train, wherever I am, it takes me back to my childhood, restless nights, the magic and the wonder.