Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's why they call it Grand Rapids

“A little more to the left, I think, dear.”
Mr. Hall was struggling with his tie and cummerbund Monday night. He had been procrastinating getting dressed for yet another Eastern Star meeting and was now muttering under his breath as he fought with his collar. Mrs. H. was putting on her pearls when his pager, set to vibrate, began buzzing and hopping across the top of the bureau. “Did you say something?” she asked, from the bathroom.
“Hot dog! It’s a death call!” he whooped, and Mr. Hall set the land speed record for formal to khaki in 60 seconds or less. The black tie was still floating over the bedspread as he raced down to the hanger. Mrs. Hall looked out the window in time to see the big black car speeding around the corner. Flying solo again tonight, she sighed. So she was very surprised to see him slide in later and join her for cakes and coffee at the end of the meeting; and even more surprised to see him in good spirits. “Only two more days”, he whispered in her ear, giddily. “Two more days til Michigan!”
Indeed, Mr. Hall had been craving an infusion of Midwest hospitality for some time and it was with genuine relief he locked the doors of the funeral home behind him Thursday afternoon and pointed the big black car west again. Burning up the highways through New York and Canada, they arrived, seven hours later, parched but happy, at that Owosso hideaway, The Korner Bar. Their favorite bartender, Theresa, whom the Halls see but once a year, recognized them immediately. From their casual approach to spelling outside, to the relaxed and friendly atmosphere inside, the Korner Bar is always the Hall’s gateway to a great weekend.
Paul Arntz has been friends with Mr. Hall since they were toddlers growing up at Big Pine Island lake, and he and his wife, Jan, welcomed the Halls in style. It had been the custom of the Halls to meet them at their summer home in Paradise Cove Trailer Park, near Sand Lake, and take their boat/party barge out on the lake for a spin; but the Halls had been so late getting out this season, that the Arntz’ had already returned to their home in Hudsonville. Hudsonville is enjoying a growth spurt of late, riding on the wave of new development flowing from the vibrant city of Grand Rapids. After visiting Paul’s brother Dan, the little band took a tour of the Chapel in the Pines Campgrounds. They strolled around the lake, chatting with those few campers that were still left this late in the year, and ended up at the Gospel Music Barn, located just beyond the hook-ups with no water. The weather was gorgeous but after all that healthy air it was time for a change, so they headed over to the American Legion Post for a short beer. Smoking in restaurants has been a thing of the past for some time in NY, but the good folk of Michigan have not quite warmed up to that level of intrusion in their lives, and it is a matter of some small comfort to the Halls to know that walking into any given pub in the state, they will likely encounter that homey blue haze. Michiganers are enlightened enough, however, Mr. H. noted, to sell caskets at the local Costco.
The Halls did find time to take in some of the sights in Grand Rapids; the Amway Grand Hotel was delightful, the art museum was highlighting some early pieces by Saarinen père & fils, but the real fun was out on the sidewalks. Apparently the town had invited local artists to fill the streets with all manner of unscripted and spontaneous performance art, and the city was alive with music, dancing and rampant creativity.
The service called Mr. Hall later that evening, and plans for staying an extra day unfortunately evaporated. Putting the youthful exuberance of the city behind them, they dashed on over to the home of Mrs. Hall’s brother Rick and his lovely wife Gail, for an abbreviated visit. They always manage to squeak in time for good wine and even better food, and it was with true regret that the Halls had to cut short enjoying the hospitality of two of Brighton’s most lively and informed hosts. Sad (but full!) they waved good bye from the cockpit window, sped on home again, and returned refreshed to their labors.

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