Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Somewhere Between Damnation and Retardation

Right. Lots of people talked about observing 6/6/06, AKA Devil's Day, National Day of Slayer, etc. But Steve and I actually did something about it. We went straight to Hell. And we enjoyed the ride.

The Road to Hell

I hope they serve beer in Hell!It was the culmination of a dream. In high school, we joked about going to Hell ("Go to hell!" "Hell, Michigan?"), as so many other Southeastern Michigan youths did and no doubt continue to do. Now, 20 years later, we weigh more and have less hair but are still essentially immature teenagers at heart. So when we heard about the whole 6/6/06 thing in Hell, we knew it was finally time to make the dream a reality. It took all of 24 hours from me emailing Steve about it to us hitting the road in his convertible, top down and blasting Slayer while giving the "devil sign" to one confused pedestrian after another. Ah yes, we were back in high school.

Hell's Idiots

We had a nice ride out into the country, me riding shotgun with a copy of Tucker Max's "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell," but as we got closer to our destination we noticed an increasing volume of motorcycle traffic. "Whoa, Hell's Angels?" we asked, then looked at the riders more closely. "Uh, no, more like Hell's Idiots," I said. I've never understood the biker thing, either the aesthetic or the "lifestyle." Nor had any idea how many of them there were in Michigan. But we were about to find that out, big time.
The road to Hell
When we drew near, the magnitude of this thing became clearer. Cars were backed up on the narrow road leading into town. People strolled in both directions, to and from, carrying coolers. Some of them had children in tow. ("Come on, kids! We're going to Hell to celebrate Satanic numerology!") The car in front of us had Georgia plates. We parked on the side of the road, smartly turned around facing the "bat OUT of Hell" position, and proceeded to walk toward whatever was waiting for us.

Dante, Call Your Office

In a word: Bikers. And a shit-ton of them. Motorcycles everywhere, whether parked or rending the air with their crackling, chugging wails. Men with scruffy grey beards, ponytails, tattoos, beer guts. Women with bleached hair and saggy boobs proudly displayed through low-cut tank tops. Not my favorite demographic, and definitely not what we were expecting.

The sceneBut hey, to each his own. There were also plenty of other types there. Parents with kids; ordinary "tourist" looking guys in shorts, dark socks, and Hawaiian shirts; old ladies; hotties; fatties; you name it. The place was literally crawling with thousands of people from obviously different socioeconomic circles, all united in the common goal of being involved in something really stupid yet undeniably funny.

To my great disappointment, however, there were precious few people in costume. I was hoping for more of a Mardi Gras feel, but it was still quite emphatically a Midwestern affair.

Downtown Hell

Hell's main drag is basically three buildings, Hell Country Store & Spirits (which is also the post office), Screams Ice Cream, and the Dam Site Inn, each of which had an enormous line leading into it. Steve got in the Hell Country Store line while I investigated the rest of the surroundings and took some pictures, including one of the inevitable fundie protestor/evangelist. In front of the Dam Site Inn, a comely but unfriendly lass was selling cans of beer. Of course, this being Hell, all she had was Bud, Bud Light, and Miller Lite. Even in Hell, I couldn't bring myself to drink Bud, so two Miller Lites it was.

The Devil made him do itThe evil influence of Hell took over, and Steve drank his first "beer" in more than five years. As we got to the front of the line, a sign warned us that consuming alcoholic beverages on premises was unlawful -- though apart from a couple sheriff's deputies and state cops, there didn't seem to be much law -- so we slammed the Millers. It took all the control I could muster to not throw up. Once inside, we saw the line snake through the store, around all the chips, wine, beer, grocery items, stupid souvenirs, and up to the counter. We decided on a bag of Snyder's of Hanover Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzel Pieces for dinner and two oil cans of Labatt's Blue. Now it really was like we were back in high school. I augmented my meal with a Slim Jim, and we also got two Hell fridge magnets.

Tea in the Sahara, Beer in Hell

The culmination of a dreamWe picked a spot in front of the ice cream place to have our impromptu picnic and watch the parade of dorks and weirdoes going by, speculating on where all these people came from. People walked around carrying six- and 12-packs of beer under their arms, monster trucks drove the main street back and forth, cans littered the ground, and a vaguely surreal atmosphere settled around us in the warm evening. Toward dusk, we decided it was probably about time we got the hell out of Hell. So, after stealing a cooler some kids left near me -- for safekeeping? They misjudged if so -- we headed back to the car, queued up the Dio, and peeled out of there, laughing maniacally. Or demonically. Whatever.

Back in Ann Arbor, we decided a "proper" dinner at the Fleetwood would be the perfect end to the evening. No fights broke out, but I still think our instincts were right.

The Moral of the Story

I don't really have any Tom Wolfe–style socio-satirical lesson to impart. Steve and I finally got to go to Hell. There, we saw a little piece of America that one usually doesn't see. A fact for which one is generally grateful.

Amen, brothers and sisters, go in peace -- and see more pics here.