A few blocks from "The Big House"
Trip Start Oct 20, 2012
61Trip End Jul 11, 2013
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"Ole Red" didn't like that. Neither did Ole J [East Coast nickname that I can't explain]. The inevitable happened. I'm in the far right lane alongside a delivery truck in the middle lane, approaching an intersection with a guy in a Jeep in oncoming traffic waiting to turn, and the light turns yellow. I decided immediately that there was no way of stopping but the delivery truck locked it up which signaled to the guy waiting to turn that he could go. So I locked 'em up but didn't slow down at all, and he kept coming. In the next 1.7 seconds I had figured out all of the logistics of the imminent crash and the possibility of an extended stay in Chicago, but somehow I managed to swerve and he managed to stop and we were shaken but unscathed and back on our way.
In those same 1.7 seconds, in my Pollyanna world, as I saw the scene unfolding, I remember bracing myself on the dashboard, but KNEW in my resolute confidence and trust in Billy, I everything would be fine. I think I said something like "Holy Shit!"
Of course, we still had 10 miles of lights to go, and I became a bit unpleasant - imagine that. It couldn't possibly have been my fault and Mary was sitting right there, so for the next 10 miles everything that was wrong in the universe was Mary's fault. We got through that and outta Chicago, and life was good again.
We arrived in Ann Arbor on Thursday, November 8th (what would have been my parents 60th Wedding Anniversary).
We altered and faltered our arrival dates a FEW times, I'm certain driving Nancy & Kathy nuts ('cause they said so) but on the phone, in texts and emails they remained upbeat about our arrival. And I must say, having spent most of our Odyssey time in rural or suburban settings I was concerned about whether I had happened to mentioned the 18 foot trailer in our rear-view mirror…since Nancy told me they were "right in the city" of Ann Arbor. But alas, no concern….”you can park it right in front of the house.” (Turns out Ann Arbor it is a wonderful big small town.)
Some might say my priorities are a bit odd (hahaha.. a BIT!) but I think I even asked her “you mean you’re REALLY in the city? I could WALK to a coffee shop?” “Well… yes… but we also HAVE an espresso machine.” Oh my…. have I told you lately that I love you? Truth be told there were MANY, MANY, MANY HIGHLIGHTS of this stay but the espresso machine was one of them as well.
Ah… so Nancy was home for lunch, walking their dog, our new friend “Monkey” (or “Monk”) when we pulled up. Monk is deaf and mostly blind at 16 years of age.
They live in a charming neighborhood, lovely home and fantastic setting… bordering on 160 acres of accessible, woods and trails in their back yard, owned and shared by a neighboring private school. We’d been riding and sitting for hours so we joined Nancy and Monk for a lovely autumn stroll in the woods.
Our friendship is 42 years old and at the risk of sounding cliché, it was as if we’d seen each other yesterday… comfortable and easy. I love that. (I think we determined it was 2003 we were together last, when Nancy and Kathy visited us in Bigfork.)
So like MOST people, she wanted to know what our “plans” were and upon seeing both of us cock our heads in wonder and bemusement she realized “plans” were NOT something that had occurred to us…
We were invited, if we were interested, to a University of Michigan Athletic Recruit Luncheon the next day. Nancy’s sister Margot Culotta Norton (with whom I also went to Holy Child) and her husband Bobbie were arriving in the morning (after espresso) Nancy would pick them up at the airport and come back for us. Billy opted out so while Kathy is at her work, the four of us Nancy, Margot, Bobbie & I (after espresso) went off to The Michigan Club for the luncheon, tour and lots of Introductions.
Nancy first took us to her office “ MPACT” (Michigan Professional and Career Transition Program) the career development center for athletes at Michigan.
We met a great group of colleagues and interns including Nancy’s boss, Shari Acho who is a true dynamo and Haley Kopmeyer, “Captain, University of Michigan Varsity Women's Soccer Team, and All-Big Ten Conference “Goalkeeper of the Year” 2012 honors after leading the conference in shutouts (9) this season, with six in Big Ten play. The senior also ranked second in goals-against average (0.66) and save percentage (.854) in all games. Haley is seasoned beyond her years and an absolute delight. We were puffin’ our chests out quite a bit to be there with Nancy Culotta. They clearly LOVE HER THERE and is so suited to her position. My assessment of course but she knows everyone and everything! So Margot, Bobbie and I profiled and posed a bit that day (after espresso). Nancy had shared with us a surprise she had for Margot & Bobbie. Nancy, (knowing everyone and everything) had arranged for them to hold the Banner on the football field the following day when the Michigan Wolverines enter the stadium to play Northwestern University. How cool is that?
Aaaaaaand, Nancy (knowing everyone and everything) had scored Billy & I some tickets for the game!
Seeing the Stadium empty… was outrageous and hearing some of the stats were mind boggling. As a lifelong events manager/fund-raiser, I was stopped in my tracks when I heard the AD say that between $4 and $5,000,000 is brought in EVERY HOME GAME Saturday. (More about this in next entry) [Ok have to say this…at $75 a piece one could begin to calculate how they raise the revenue they do during football season. We were obviously elated but also a little (a lot!) gun-shy about this, given that this is a Gypsy Tour and all…. But Nancy said “we can just barter it off” of the work they had planned for Billy to do.] OK…. And how do student afford this?
Anyway, “The Big House” is amazing and deceiving from the environs because the highest rows of the stadium are just above street level. It’s built into the ground into a massive hole so there’s no way you can see its vastness and enormity until you are INSIDE.
We felt very much at home on Arbordale Drive with Nancy and Kathy. We laughed like there was no tomorrow about things real and imaginary. We used REALLY BAD language a lot and just enjoyed everything about the stay.
Nancy and Kathy had saved up 26 years of hospitality and we were the beneficiaries (after espresso)!
What’s Next? 112,450 rabid fans!