When I was asked to perform the impossible, I found the challenge unbearably difficult to refuse.  All my life, as an afficionado of effete avocations and proponent of Italian “mini-Wastrelism”, I detested, nay, abhorred the very idea of visiting Detroit. Its appearance from the aircraft that delivered me was that of an assymetrical growth of fungii in a Petri dish rife with plague, its unity broken only by occasional snake-like riverine shapes slithering through contagion all the while exuding foul emanations of disappointments yet to come. When I queried my stewardess as to how I could stay on the plane and go back to my native Alsace-Lorraine, she whispered something from Dante Alighieri- something about abandoning all hope.

To be honest, once I was on the ground and provided with a chauffeured vehicle, a GMC Suburban, I was surprised at how wrong my initial impressions were.  Detroit was even worse on the ground than from the air!  The image of disease the city imparted from the air was from my past as a student of biology at the Bucharest Academy of Phrenology where I received my degree Summa Cum Laude.  But the image of  societal decrepitude, venereal vapidity, uniformly ubiquitous unctuousness and mephitic malaise, was something felt in the depths of the heart.  It overwhelmed me.  I sensed the onset of Panic!!#$ and demanded that the chauffeur drive back to the airport and deposit me at the doorway to American Airlines. 

The chauffeur, as I learned later to my eternal chagrine, was one Ziad A. Fadel, Esquire, an Arab no less! who reminded me with an hint of reserved cruelty that I had signed a contract which, among other things, declared my acceptance of the “general grunginess of Detroit and its environs”.  He said he would take me to court, skin me, field dress me and feed my carcass to the denizens of the city.  With an exchange like that, I slumped back in my seat amidst a riot of old New York Times newspapers and prepared for the worst. I reached perfunctorily in my coat pocket and found my flask of brandy.  I took three deep draughts, an act that has saved me on a myriad occasions in the past. 

The SyrPer people arrange temporary lodging for me at some motel in Allen Park, something called the Welcome-Guru Inn, owned by a turbanned Sikh named Sandhu who demanded immediate payment for two weeks in advance.  He also demanded a deposit for “towel use” and informed me that “no soap or shampoo or toilet paper” would be made available, finishing his presentation by whispering: “this is not the Scottish Inn”.  I insisted that he arrange payment with SyrPer since they made the reservations.  That really set him off.  “What. Those brigands! They are towel thieves! Curse them. No way!”.  I reluctantly gave him my VIP PLATINUM PLUS,  DIAMOND ENCRUSTED,  SAFFRON SCENTED RUSSIAN EXPRESS CARD which, I despondently observed, caused the credit card machine to explode.  Sandhu was really miffed.

The sun was setting, and I was indeed a stranger in a very strange place.  When everything seemed to mass against me; when I sensed that I would be found in an old alleyway behind “Leo’s Coney Island and Grille” or sleeping in its dumpster, Sandhu espied in my hnnd bag a book titled: “The Grandeur of the Mogul Era:  A Study in Culinary and Sartorial Excesses”, and softened toward me. We chatted about India and I made up a thousand lies about a country I had never visited.  He relented and assured me he would take the money out of “that Arab’s skin”.

 I will not describe the horrors of having to sleep in the room I was rented. Yes, I will.  Only an entomologist could convey, technically, the varieties of vermin between which I had to lie down. Horrible, elephantine trumpets eructed from the plumbing whenever I turned the water faucet on to dilute the execrable whiskey I bought at the store across the street, a whiskey name “American Pleasure Classic”.  Efforts to contact my chauffeur and principal, Ziad,  met with repeated failure.  When I finally made contact with him late at night, he was completely incoherent, (somehow in another world),  and suggested I call the St. Vincent DePaul Society.  I assured him I would meet him in the morning to discuss strategy.  He slammed the telephone receiver down with some Arabic curse unknown to me.