Wednesday, May 05, 2004

dante is a scrub

There are actually some fine, fine things about being stranded in the wilds of southeastern Michigan. Namely food things, like the divine Steve's Deli in West Bloomfield, or La Shish, the equally-if-not-more divine Middle Eastern restaurant where we picked up dinner a couple of weeks ago, after meeting with the rabbi.

And then there's the Java Hutt in Birmingham, which is open... wait for it... all night long! Unlike the equivalent places in SF, Java Hutt is clean and friendly. The lights are not soul-sucking fluorescents that make you feel like an insect stuck in the zapper. You can get a sandwich at 4 am. There are plenty of power outlets, if you should happen to be there with a laptop, although they turn off the wifi after 6 pm.

And then there's Dante.

I was in this little heaven last night, and this morning, grappling with an article. It must have been about 2 am when Dante came in. He'd introduced himself the last time I was there; he'd noticed me writing, and figured I was a poet like him.

He's very interesting. African-American, with long skinny dreads tied neatly back. Impressive biceps. When we met he pulled up a sleeve to show me that he had a tone arm tattooed on his left forearm, and asked me if I knew what it was. I'm old enough, I responded, to recognize that.

Anway. I'm gnashing my teeth over in the corner, and he comes sailing in and takes a table in the other corner. The first thing I notice is that he's carrying a gallon jug of what appears to be water. Then he pulls half a watermelon out of a grocery bag and starts working methodically through it with a fork. Okay, I think to myself, that's a little odd. But then the last time I'd seen him there, he'd brought in a styro container from another restaurant and asked for utensils to eat this food he'd purchased elsewhere, so I guess the counter people don't enforce the no outside food rule that I thought applied most everywhere.

Of course, in Michigan, the label on the washroom mirror in restaurants just asks you nicely to wash your hands. It doesn't trumpet that handwashing is the LAW for restaurant employees. I don't know what to make of that either.

So here's Dante, with all his pieces of paper, and his jug, and his watermelon. And then the smell of the place changes. I look up and realize that he's burning a few sticks of incense.

Have to admire his chutzpah, that's all I can say.

The title on this post, incidentally, is a nod to De La Soul.