Thursday, January 20, 2005

On the road, Part II: Relaxin' in the 'Zoo.

lakeview Originally uploaded by Siddity.
I'm a city gal, at heart. At least, that's what I've always believed. I love London, Paris, Boston, New York. I've always thought I'd settle someplace like that--crowded, lively, open all night, diverse. A place that teems with life, that you can feel breathing, a place with a pulse. Lately, though, I'm starting to think, six months into my stay in NYC, that it's not so much breath and pulse as wheeze and arrhythmia. Sigh. This town may be too much for me. Even so, I still believed myself a city gal, perhaps just meant for a different city. London's quite nice. And I've yet to see Toronto or Montreal, Glasgow or Edinburgh, Chicago, New Orleans, San Fran.... One, I reasoned, was bound to be my spiritual home. In fact, I figured I'd make it out to Chi-town on this trip, size it up, weigh it against the places I've been. It would be the highlight of my little "Midwestern Adventure." I thought. And then I met the 'Zoo. Kalamazoo. Ever been to Kalamazoo? The Kalamazoo "international" airport is about the size of a large house, and I deplaned using those little wheely stairs (Stairs! That was sooooo cool, even if the fact that the plane was so small I used a glorified step-stool to get off it was not). Population-wise, it's tiny, you need a car to get damn near a-ny-where, and it's in BFMI. What's for a city girl to like? How about this here view? This is my friend's (let's call her The Divine Ms. M, TDMM) view. Every morning, she gets up, and can look out across the lake, suit up, go for a run. For the most part, without fear of homicidal maniacs. And then come home, to this lovely, tranquil, less-than-the-cost-of-a-NYC studio/condo, three-bedroom home-y home with the fabulous lake view. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I think I developed a little crush on the 'Zoo--and, to be fair, it's neighbor, Portage, where Ms. M. lives--long before I made it to her wonderful house. She knows me so well--good friends, good food, good drink, and I'm sold--and when she picked me up from the airport, she took me straight out for a late lunch and drinks with her mom ('Twas her mom's birthday) at the LoDo Co. restaurant (153 W Centre Ave., in Portage). The LoDo Co. had really good food--like the crabmeat-and-artichoke dip appetizer we got to share, or the black bean burger I hoarded all to myself--poured a perfect pint of Guinnie, and, get this: after two rounds of drinks for three, an appetizer, and an entree, do you know what it cost me (I bought; it was the least I could do for crashing her mom's birthday)? Forty damn dollars. Fo'ty! Hot damn! I was smitten. I think the whole trip was an organized seduction. You know where TDMM took me next? The Meijer. The bleeding Meijer. Do you know what the Meijer is? It's what would happen if Target, Lowe's, Rainbow (or whatever cheap-o trend monkey fashion store you've got), your local supermarket chain, pharmacy, and a liquor store all got together and had a key party--which resulted in a couple of illegitimate children, who then went on to have an an illegitmate child of their own. Yeah, that's the Meijer. Un-be-feckin'-lievable. I went for a toothbrush, soap, lotion, contact solution--travel toiletries. Y'all, we rolled out with all of that, some new glassware and crockery, hardware for patching up her door, snacks, and a bottle of Bailey's, for like, $50 or something. Love, love, love. I got love for the Meijer (I got so much love for the Meijer, I got half of my NYE wardrobe there--a cute billowy black halter, a cropped raspberry corduroy jacket and matching fedora--for about $30, for real). I was in town maybe five days. I think we went to the Meijer, at my behest, almost every damn day. Did I mention that bitch is open 24 hours? Well, it is. She also took me to the nearest TJ Maxx and Marshall's, where I got the rest of my NYE getup--some lovely embroidered and sequinned ballet flats (besides the fact that they're adorable, TDMM noted, astutely, that I have nothing in my closet but flashy sneakers and heels, and nothing in between. Well, now I do.) and a super-cute slouchy leather Petusco hobo bag on clearance for $43. Amazing. Thing is, ladies in the heartland aren't working with big-city budgets, so when the fancy labels come to their local discount shop, it's still often too much money--and thus, still there for the likes of yours truly. (I overheard this conversation, about a beautiful buff-colored leather bag: "Isn't this a nice bag? But it's too much, it's $63." Bwahahaha! If only the NYC fashionistas knew, there'd be a stampede, do you hear me? I got my round-trip ticket for less than $250. For some women, that's lunch. But I guess, for those women, the discounts don't matter.) The shopping was good. And despite the fact that I'd long since convinced myself there was nothing of culinary merit to be found in "the heartland," I ate well. The Shawarma King (1441 S Drake Rd., Kalamazoo) serves the best hummus I've ever had. The best. Seriously. And the service was great, the portions huge (we had leftovers), all on the crazy cheap. I got lentil soup, spinach pie, and the veg platter (hummus, baba, syrian salad, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, pita) for about $10. And O'Duffy's. Oh, oh, oh, O'Duffy's. God, I love Irish pubs. I loved O'Duffy's. I want it to be my local, 'cept it's in Michigan. This is where I was introduced to Lambic, and black razzies. Where I again bought two rounds and dinner for under $40. Where I had the funniest rooftop NYE spumante toast with one of my best friends, TDMM, and a guy who clearly wanted to work the comic circuit and didn't make it--or tried, and failed--watching fireworks in the cold--did I mention the bit about being on a rooftop, in the cold drinking spumante in Michigan?--and had one of the most entertaining NYEs in memory. And I dug the London Grill, in Kalamazoo, our first NYE stop, where, at the end of a set, the bagpipe player got up on the bar and dropped it like it was hot. Well, sort of. He was on the bar, and at some point crouched on it while playing. No booty-shake involved, or anything. Er, forget I mentioned bagpipes and booty-shake in the same post, please. Excellent pub, great stateside fish and chips, with HP sauce (Ah, HP sauce. Tha's fookin' delish, man ;-}. Oh, watch Intermission. Which we did, while I was there, lol.) Yes, 'twas good, the London Grill. Even hanging out at the frigging Panera for three hours was fun. I just had such a good time. In this little place, with its open spaces and big, cheap houses with room for a pup and a kid or three, and chilly winds and megastores and funny bars and funnier patrons and. And, and, and. And that's just the superficial. I think what really made me fall in love with the place was the presence of a good friend. It really is who you're with that matters, and TDMM is just fab-a-licious. A really great friend. And I think I've missed that in NYC, my friends, who are just all over the feckin' place. Friends who I love and who are missed and who aren't in New York, so that New York doesn't feel like home and anywhere they are, does. Which is why I was probably so bloody maudlin when I came back, why I couldn't write about how much I enjoyed my time away for so long, and why I have to force it out, awkwardly, now. Eh. Enough with the--what do you call them?--emotions. Either way, I did really like Michigan, the 'Zoo, and the much more relaxed pace of life there, where not every exchange seems laced with ambition or commerce, like NYC. Enough that I may be back to scout out Ph.D. writing programs in the nearish future. I have to say, this trip was eye-opening, in many ways. Perhaps life in the 'burbs could be on the horizon for this miss. A lakehouse, a happy spotty-dog and fatty cat, a typewriter (or laptop, you know, whatever), brilliant kids and a genius hubster... Yeah, I can see that. Maybe. (I never made it to Chicago, well, except for a stop and connection at O'Hare. Didn't even miss it...but I'll get there someday soon...)


At 1/20/2005 07:48:00 PM, Blogger Mary said...

I love Chicago. I might have to live there for a couple years some time in the future but right now, you almost sold me on Kalamazoo. What?! Kalamazoo?! Sounds awesome.

I want a Meijer here in Phoenix. :(

I feel the same way after visiting my good friends. In order to make myself not think about it too much, I think: Well, if I lived there we wouldn't see each other that much. We'd be busy. And when I visit, we spend all kinds of good quality time together so its better this way.


I'm glad I already ate my cheese steak I had delivered earlier or might have to be mad about you talking about the crab/spinach dip. Hmph. But my tummy is full, so there. ;)

At 1/21/2005 04:56:00 PM, Blogger deborah said...

Great travel reflection. And you dont need to feel bad about not wanting to write about it. I have yet to write anything decent from my trip... I am trying to understand why I am having such a hard time doing so. Other than the obvious ofcourse.

And yes, totally understand "I am sick of where I am at now, and need to find another". I was probably where you are at now - nice quite palce in the burbs etc, before I visited NY. And now I have backflipped and am facing the opposite direction - cause my wanderings tends to be weird like that. What to do? What to do?

And ill stop writing an essay for my comments. Sorry.

ps. i love the flats. very cute!

At 2/07/2006 02:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did your friend tell you that Meijer used to call itself "Meijer's Thrifty Acres"? That makes it even cooler!


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