column: The last night on Earth in Ann Arbor
This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper - T.S. Eliot
This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, with backed up toilets at Melange and cosmic bowling — Richard Retyi
More than 30 schools in Michigan closed their doors for the holidays two days early, partly out of end-of-the-world fears. For a cool $12,021, you could have rented an entire floor of the Curtis Hotel in Denver stocked with doomsday supplies and a tattoo artist on hand to usher in the end. It got so bad that even NASA felt the need to post insights on the pressing issues of our times like “Will the world end on December 21, 2012?”, “Is Earth in danger of being hit by a meteor in 2012?” and “Is there any credible evidence that a giant water dragon will rise above the earth, vomit endless streams of water and drown us all?"
This isn’t March’s Rapture. The Rapture prediction was based on scratch-pad math from a retired civil engineer. The Mayan end of the world prophecy is a PROPHECY—based on super-old carvings made around 1,000 B.C. and the infamous Dresden Codex, with its neat little boxes, math (gross) and the aforementioned water-vomiting dragon beast.
I’m a huge fan of spectacle and speculation and theme parties, planting the end of the world squarely in my wheelhouse. With permission from my head-shaking editors at AnnArbor.com, I got permission to roam the streets of Ann Arbor on the last night on earth and see just how the populace was taking the news of the impending end. Win-win for my bosses. If the world ends, they don’t need to pay me. If it doesn’t end, hey, something to publish on Saturday morning alongside stories about how sweaty Brady Hoke looks in his polo shirts down in Florida during Outback Bowl preparations.
It’s 34 degrees outside and the wind whips and whistles through Mayans-know-what, since I’m in the middle of a giant parking lot. On the walk to my first stop of the night I pass a girl dressed all in red, complete with a giant crimson bow in her hair; a dapper gentleman wearing a sparkly red hat; and the sign to Ann Arbor’s new Skin Bar swinging in the wind suspended by a single carabeener.
Alley Bar is pretty quiet at 9 p.m. but I’m not the only solitary soul drinking away the last few hours on Earth. A guy with fingerless gloves and apocalyptically long hair drinks at the bar. An older gentleman with an expensive haircut sips a martini and cackles out loud reading a collection of New Yorker cartoons.
I ask the waitress about her take on the last night on earth. “I have an 18-month old daughter and I told her it can’t be the end of the world if the mamas and their babies can’t be together.”
First, how is an 18-month old aware of ancient Mayan prophecies? Second, I can’t make another stupid comment after that little bit of sweetness.
Fingerless gloves slips away into the night and expensive haircut pumps his fist after a particularly hilarious cartoon and ushers the waitress over to show her his find. I almost drink from the candle on my table and I’m not even one Manhattan in. It’s time to move on.
“Say goodbye to those bills,” she laughs. They’re having a great time. Three of the grads are single and looking for companionship. “We always have time for boys,” one laughs. “We’ll create time if necessary.”
It’s a shame that such cute and gainfully employed women will die alone. They moved to Rush Street after being ejected from Melange. A sewage problem.
“It’s the first sign of the end,” one jokes. “It’s coming from the sewers,” someone adds. “(expletive deleted)’s full!” and they all break down. The end of the world is pretty fun with pediatric dentists.
Every bar with a TV is showing the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl except the 8-Ball, which has a tribute to Eddie Murphy on one screen and HLN mystery detectives on the other. The 8-Ball is buzzing with an end of the world reunion show for the Pussy Pirates kicking off at midnight upstairs at the Blind Pig. The bar is full of tall skinny girls with tattoos and straight hair and tall skinny boys with tattoos and straight hair. There’s a smog river of witch hazel and patchouli hanging in the air. It’s worse than a river of lava.
If it’s to be the last night on Earth, I need to read the signs. A $5 cover at Circus. $4.99 Pillow Pets at CVS. Two stretch vehicles idling outside bars. People still doing stuff in Cherry Republic after 10 p.m.
Colonial Lanes’ End of the World Zombie Party is where it’s at so far. The lanes are packed, cosmic bowling is in full effect and, is that Skrillex? The Lanes is hosting a last night on Earth party with all you can bowl, drink specials and a prize for the best zombie costume, though I don’t see any zombies present. All this for less than $10.
Following the countdown and the non-end of the world, the DJ follows up with Kool and the Gang’s "Celebration," then Kylie Minogue, then Madonna. Do they have a camera in my shower capturing my playlists? These fellas really love their Madonna, or maybe they’re just really happy that the Mayans were just really lazy finishing their calendar on December 21, not predicting doomsday prophecies.
Random pro tip: Opening an interview with “Hey, you look like a doomsday prepper,” is a bad way to start any conversation. They never taught me that in not-journalism school.
I ended my evening at Ann Arbor’s most popular bar of 2012 --The Bar at 327 Braun Court. On the ground floor was an amazing gathering, the End of the World Masquerade Bash, a birthday party for Lindsey Leyland thrown by her boyfriend Mike and all her friends. Guests were dressed to the nines in suits, fancy dresses and masks, dancing and drinking and counting down Lindsey’s special day and the end of it all. I cornered the birthday girl outside and she offered her special insights on the end of the world.
“The past few days have been a little rough,” she says. “It can’t have anything to do with stress about life goals and ambitions. But I was born on the end of the world. Me and anyone born on December 21 will be okay. We’re going to inherit the world. All the plush beds and furs in the world!”
When I press her on why beds and furs are at the top of her list, Lindsey is very straightforward.
“I like soft things and my bed sucks.” Makes sense.
The party is amazing. A homemade Doomsday Clock hangs on the wall and Lindsey kindly offers me a glass of champagne and we toast the end. The clock strikes 1 a.m. and no lava or demons or planet alignments or water-vomiting beasts. I meet the sister of an NPR personality, watch a guy sleep in the corner of the bar and make eye contact with Jeremy Wheeler. It might not be the end of the world, but it’s a night to remember. I’m sure there will be another end of the world prophecy in the next few months and when that date is kookily predicted, I’ll be on the apocalypse beat once more.