Midnight Madness in Ann Arbor is always a game of Russian Roulette. It might be freezing and crowded, or just a little chilly and super crowded, or super freezing and only a little crowded.
This year, Midnight Madness was like a very festive apocalypse with the faint hint of roasted almonds in the air. Very pleasant, rather stressful, but so merry it was worth it.
(I may use the term “apocalyptic” a lot to describe large gatherings of people, but I’m going to give myself a pass because a) I get panic attacks in crowds b) I have yet to spell “apocalyptic” correctly on the first or even the second try, so clearly I’m not using it enough and c) I spent New Year’s Eve 1999 at Epcot with 80,000 of my closest friends all working together to block my view of the fireworks so I think I know what I’m talking about).
Stella and I got stuck in the crowd in the market area several times. We could not move and much like a pair of friendly sharks, we both get nervous when we can’t move. I checked out some lovely artisanal coasters, grabbed a single sample roasted almond and then we got out of there.
The stores were equally crowded but doable, and most of them offered drinks!
In our first store, Stella eagerly lined up for a free shot of Maker’s Mark (this store must be doing well!) while I got distracted by festive socks and asked a random woman where she’d bought her sweet light-up snowflake beanie (I have officially become my mother, part 1).
Then it was on to our favorite consciousness-expanding bookstore, Crazy Wisdom, where two elderly ladies were testing out sage by deeply inhaling it and I had a vision of my future.
I bought myself a book on medical facts (actual facts, that is, not alternative) and did some recon on chakra crystals for A. I lost Stella in the crowd at one point, but she’s easy to find.
“I knew you’d find me in the gut balance books,” she sighed, leafing through some kind of holistic guide to having a gastrointestinal system that doesn’t know how to do its own job.
Both of us got distracted at the same time by these beautiful Japanese bowls that I swear I pick up every time I go in any kind of store. Stella wordlessly picked them up as well. They were just so tiny!
“Why do I like these?” I said. “I don’t need them . . . or do I?”
“We both like vessels!” said Stella.
Then it was time to go to the Himayalan Bazaar, which every year advertises a visit from the Yeti (yes, the Yeti with a capital Yeti because they’re some kind of cryptozoological dignitary) and every year we miss it.
One year, we were too late, the next too early, and this year I thought I’d planned it perfectly so we were right in the middle, but no.
“I planned our entire itinerary around seeing this damn yeti,” I said.
Stella patted me on the shoulder and then bounced to try on some discounted yoga pants.
But who should find us at that very moment to lift my spirits! A!
“Is the Yeti here?” she asked.
“No!” I said.
“Darn it!” she said. “Ooh, they have chakra crystals here too! Who has the better deal on chakra crystals?”
I took a picture of the Yeti’s official rickshaw, which came here all the way from Kathmandu. Every year, I take a picture of the rickshaw and say to myself, “Next year. I will see that damn yeti.”
Next year, I will see that damn yeti.
We stopped at the Ann Arbor Art Center to check out their sale and partake of the free mini candy canes in the gallery area upstairs. Last year we saw some pottery that looked suspiciously like boobs (and cost three hundred dollars!), and as we headed up A asked me, “Will the boob pots be back?”
I started to say, “No, it’s boring art this year” and then I saw the pube sculpture.
“Is that real?!” yelled Stella.
Yes, some enterprising artist had made a rather inspired tribute to the fight for women’s rights. And that tribute was made of (someone typed this up!) “cast silicone, cotton fiber, pubic hair and cast aluminum” and it could be yours for the low, low price of $3,000.
The sculpture was a pussy hat surrounded by yarn, with a plastic vagina on top of it covered in a generous (and accurate!) layer of actual pubic hair.
I mean, where I would put it?
“And it would cost another $2000 when the cats ate the string,” said A.
Now, we are adult ladies and progressive souls and we all watch Game of Thrones so nothing fazes us, but something about seeing pubes where there should not be pubes as the Mariah Carey Christmas song plays in the background just rubbed us the wrong way. I grabbed a handful of mini candy canes and we booked it out of there.
“I took a picture but then I deleted it because I felt dirty,” said A.
“I mean, it makes up a little bit for not getting to see a yeti,” I said. “We still got to see something unexpected and fuzzy!”
Stella and A decided that we all needed to sit down.
Thank goodness the next coffee shop had a Midnight Madness hot chocolate bar! Thank goodness, because I hadn’t consumed any sugar for a few minutes. I made a very tasteful tower of marshmallows, peppermint sprinkles, red and green sprinkles, and just a soupçon of chocolate sauce. It was delicious and I have not gone to sleep since drinking it.
Stella and A got coffees without any sprinkles (lame). We enjoyed our drinks and then it was time for my favorite store, Downtown Home and Garden, where I checked out deals on those exploding Christmas crackers and birdseed (I have officially become my mother, part 2).
Every year, they have a little petting zoo and every year, we freak out like we have never seen hoofstock before. But they’re just so darn cute! And look at how well they’re all getting along!
“Can we get goats?” said A.
“The cats would murder them. And us.”
In a flurry of “How is it 11:30 already and how are we still awake?” AK got some presents at the fair trade store while Stella and I picked up all the small bowls and trays and then did not buy them (we love vessels! But we don’t need them! OR DO WE?).
The crowds were starting to get to me and everyone in the fair trade store looked like my sixth grade teacher so I said I’d wait outside . . . and then immediately got distracted by the possibility of finding boots on sale in the shoe store.
Right when I realized that I hadn’t told anyone where I was going and I should probably head out, Stella came up behind me.
“I knew you’d be here,” she said.
“How?” I said. “I didn’t know I’d be here.”
“Oh. I knew you’d head right here as soon as you left,” she shrugged. “Oooh, do they have these in my size?”
It was time to head home. The Ann Arbor Yeti had escaped yet again.
My plan for next year will be foolproof. Yetis love Reese’s Pieces, right?