A Reason to Celebrate

Fall 1997, Ann Arbor, Mi, I woke up on a different couch this morning. I usually sleep in the living room or on the back porch but this night I was upstairs in a bedroom on a different couch. The smell of sausage cooking woke me up. It wasn't pleasant. It was foul.

It was more my breath than the sausage. I must have gone three days without brushing my teeth. Consuming massive quantities of alcohol for the last 10 days led me to believe any bacteria that brushing my teeth would have removed had been disinfected by the drink. Incorrect.

It was no time for hygiene. There were football games to be won. This particular Saturday morning was interrupted by the chaos of tailgating. I wasn't a tailgater in college. I was hardly a student. I went to bed when tailgaters were arising and was lucky to make a 3.30 kickoff let alone a noon game. But this morning there were tailgaters at "our house" earlier than usual.

They were loud and unrecognizable. They had encroached on my turf and it wasn't even my turf. "Our house" was really their house but I was claiming squatter's rights and I had been building a case for two years.

I rinsed my mouth with whatever I could find, pushed aside the bottomless two liter of sprite bobbing in the sink, rinsed again and refilled the sink. I headed down the stairs, avoiding books and empty bottles of MD 20/20 to meet the cool brisk air that was billowing through the open doors, both front and back, wondering who could live like this? And yet all the beer cans had been recycled from the night before, plastic cups stacked by the sink, beer funnels washed and re-hung from the cat walk, floors mopped and kegs stacked and re-tapped. Who couldn't live like this?

More surprising however were the group of old men in the parking lot popping champagne bottles and drinking from the neck, the soundtrack was laced with Stone Temple Pilots, The Pharcyde and Lenny Kravitz, it was 7.30 am. One of my friends was outside pal-ing around with them. I was curious.

"Tuba!" I was being beckoned. "This is the Godfather." Come again?

I was just introduced to a man who was being affectionately called the Godfather and he had no recognizable features of any Godfather's I knew on screen or in real life. Not that I had valves on my neck or a brass bell for a head so I went along with it. "And this is Captain Michigan."

And it quickly made sense. These men shouldn't go by their birth names. They were more than a common reference, more than what they had been envisioned to be. To think of them any other way today would be challenging, equally as challenging however, as having conversations with them as a 20 year old after a two hour cat nap and a foamy Solo cup full of last nights Busch Light.

I wasn't impressed nor should I've been. They're presence was not for my approval. They were someone else's family and someone else's friends and I was in no mood for socializing at such an hour with anyone not named Mystique, Aura or Destiny.

I returned to the house and watched my roommates walk past me, enamored by the old men, clamoring for a sip of champagne or a shot of Puckers. Conversing as if they were prophets from the holy land only to find out their message was more poignant. They shared stories of camaraderie, and adventures from the road and both the hardships and joy of being a part of an extended family. Knowledge I had only experienced from one perspective. The new insight was much needed.

If they didn't impress at first it was my own shortsightedness, my inability to look out past my nose instead of straight down it. And thus a quick lesson was learned. Again I had taken from Michigan more out of time and place instead of reading and writing. The men had entered my life innocuously enough, even abruptly and disturbingly. But they quickly settled on my soul with little effort.

Men who initially were someone else's friends and family had, through speed dating efficiency, become just that, friends and family.

A happy birthday to Godfather and Captain Michigan, may we continue to celebrate your advancements with our own.