Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Diana Ross stopped in for the day (The McMickey Reunion Part I)

My mom's side of the family, the McMickeys had their biennial reunion in Detroit this year. Considering the way the recession has affected the auto industry, Motor City wasn't exactly on the top of my vacation destination list.

image from

I'd planned my flights perfectly around when Mom and Dad were arriving and leaving (since I knew they'd rent a car for the long drive from the airport). Unfortunately, the most reasonable (read: the only direct) flights were out of LaGuardia. And if you're familiar with NYC, you know that "LGA" should be changed to "El D. Lay" because your ass will never leave on time.

As usual, I was cutting it way too close to my flight. My 4 o'clock flight began boarding at 3:20. I got off the bus at the terminal around 3:18. I'd already checked in (my boarding pass was a QR code on my phone!), and the line at security was short.

. o O (Is she's stopping my bag? What the fuck! There's nothing unusual in there. Please don't let them have to inspect all my shit!)

The TSA woman walked over, a slight smirk on her lips. In her hand: my 8oz bottle of Wet Platinum lube that has been through at least 4 airports. Now, for those of you not familiar, Wet Platinum is a silicone-based lube. This bottle probably cost about $18. I'm not going to say it's better than water-based lube, even though it is but it's certainly my preference.

TSA: "I'm sorry, this is over the size limit."
Me: "But I’ve take— you know what: it’s not even full. I have a smaller container I can transfer it to."
TSA: "Okay, but I'm gonna need you to step back through the scanner."
Me: "Really."
TSA: "Yes. Any transfer of containers has to happen outside security."

Y'all, I sat there and stared at that bottle for at least a full 3 seconds, racking my brain as to the possibility of my needing lube that weekend. But did I really want to throw away that much...

Me: "Don't worry about it."
TSA (almost tauntingly): "You sure?"
Me (already walking away): "Thank you."

I rushed to my gate to realize that they hadn't started boarding yet. And they wouldn't for another 20 minutes.
Yes, my 60-something-year-old mother texts!

After sitting on the runway for 2 hours, returning to the gate to refuel (and watch the later Detroit flight leave before us), we finally took off, landing at 10 rather than the scheduled 6 I was hoping for. The worst part: I had nowhere to charge my phone that whole time except for 20 min in between de-planing and re-boarding, so I had to sit another half hour in DTW while my phone charged.


Front Desk: "Greektown Casino Hotel!"
Me: "Hi, I have a reservation with you guys, and I was wondering the best way to get there from the airport."
Front Desk: "You'll want to take a cab. That should be about $40-$50."
Me (recovering quickly): "Okay, I guess you guys don't have an airport shuttle for guests or anything."
Front Desk: "No, sir, we don't."

Cab Rep: "Hi, do you need a cab somewhere tonight?"
Me: "Yes, I'm going to the Greektown Casino Hotel."
Rep: "The one downtown? I have a car available right now!"

Downtown?! You mean to tell me I'm spending 2 nights in the very heart of the scariest urban center in the nation (I'm not counting suburbs, so sit down, East St. Louis and Watts).

$52 later, I was walking into a structure that looked like it had been plucked from Atlantic City, spit-shined and plopped in the middle of a revitalized urban village. It was actually a really cute area. But a very strange place to have only 1 casino.

It was an uneventful Saturday night. Saturday was the family BBQ at Bell Isle Park. It's huge and beautiful and has a water park that none of us made the effort to find.What DID happen was the cracking open of Smirnoff Ice drinks at 12:02pm. Did I mention our ancestors’ slave masters were Scotch-Irish? Yeah.

This was the reunion where I was thinking about inviting a friend or guy I was seeing just to find out how my family extended would react. The younger generations would certainly be welcoming, but the older generation would be pure comedy. Especially if the guy wasn't black. Especially if the guy were white. 

While I didn't end up bringing anybody (I wasn't seeing anybody I seriously in May when dues were due, and the boys tend to be difficult to coordinate with), I did find some encouragement at the cook out. One of the Elders had married a white woman (long enough ago that their daughter was out of college), and I met her for the first time as an adult. Now, I'm not sure what happened the first time he brought her around the family or who was talking shit when she arrived that day (because McMickeys love to talk shit). But she was comfortable enough to show up and stay for most of the day. And while she didn't seem particularly included, she didn't seem explicitly excluded either.

Burgers, hot dogs and chicken breasts cooked on the grill, and a DJ, who was wholly unfamiliar with mixing or transitions, spun an eclectic mix of old-school soul and current hip-hip. Family-inappropriate selections included Solo's "Where Do You Want Me To Put It". Hippy Cuz marched over to the booth, giving the kill-this-song-now sign when the speakers started to chant "Freak Beats" continually. I was curious to see where this song was headed, but I could understand how she was uncomfortable in front of the Elders.

And then there was this song:

One of the Detroit Elders grabbed the microphone to bless the food. Why they didn't get Uncle T, the retired preacher, to do it: I don't know. Said Elder started out well enough, but after about a minute, the possibility that he'd been indulging in the Smirnoff Ice's as well was pretty undeniable.

"...And Lord... help Obama... uh... dag, well, I forgot! Y'all know what I mean!"

Everyone lost it at that point! People were turning to whomever they were holding hands with like, "Are you serious!" Then, rather than wrapping it up with an "Amen", he tried to go back into prayer mode for another full minute!

After we ate and took the traditional family portrait (tall people were in the back, so nobody noticed that I didn't have a reunion tshirt), a few cousins from my generation dipped out to see the Motown Museum. I'm really not one for museums, but creating my own music was a driving force in my life for years. I kinda had to go.

Cousin: "Oh my god! Is that... Diana?!"
Other Cousin: "Or LaToya."
Cousin: "Well, I'm telling everybody back home that Diana Ross stopped in for the day and led our Motown tour!"

The woman who did the intro to our tour really did look likea light-skinned Diana. Especially with that wig and the layer of makeup!

Not-Diana told us all about how Barry Gordy eventually bought all the houses on the block to run different departments of Motown Records and how he had 13 labels with only 1 team of songwriters (I was just talking about "Heard It through the Grapevine" was by Gladys Night and by Marvin Gaye). But the most intriguing part for me was seeing the hole in the ceiling where they achieved the echo for the snaps and claps on their tracks. Actually, that was second. First was definitely being in the same recording studio where countless artists had recorded some of my favorite songs. Seeing the original instruments and fixtures really got me itching to get back into songwriting and producing again.

Check out some of my music on my YouTube Channel.

After the tour, we were waiting in the hallway for Mom to finish up in the gift shop.

Tour Guide: “And what are these two pretty young ladies names?”
Grandmother: “Tell him your names, girls.”
Girl 1: “Chanel.”
Girl 2: “Cliché.”
Tour Guide (pausing): “Well… I ain’t mad atcha.”

My cousins and I didn’t even make eye contact with each other til the family walked outside and the door closed behind them. I just hope they didn’t look back and see us falling out of our chairs, crying and heaving in laughter. These are two names that I did not change for the blog.

Me (in the car): "I don't think we want to… aaaaand we're on the Interstate."
Cousin: "Damn, [Cousin], the hotel is right there."
Me: "Please don't have us in [crap, what's the notoriously rough part of Detroit… besides the whole city…] 8 Mile Road."

Did I mention that it was time for me to take over control of the GPS? Yeah.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Click here to check out the McMickey family reunion in South Carolina *cue "Dueling Banjos"*

No comments: