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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Wish I Was Back in the City...

I don't think I'll ever regret moving to Grand Haven. Life has been alot more fun since I moved. That being said, after spending some time back in Grand Rapids the last couple of days, I realize there's some things in Grand Rapids that you'll never find in Grand Haven. I miss the old neighborhood, driving out of downtown Grand Rapids through the fall leaves & the streets lined with little ol' brick houses & passing the John Ball Park Zoo at rush hour was always a treat. It always gave you the feeling that everyone was going to work & coming home from work at the same time. Or some days, in the wintertime, if you drove down Walker heading east, you could see the tall buildings of downtown towering over the small, two story houses with small front yards. If you wanted to see how some of the nicer houses, you could drive a little farther west down Leonard & see the really old, well built, well established homes with fruit trees, fences, large gardens, & front porches with lights on, illuminating dining room tables with flowers on them.

On my street, I saw my neighbors' kids outside, playing with the dog, or the older ladies meticulously sweeping their driveways, maintaining their tiny little castles, or "Gert" who would walk by my house the same time everyday, huddled in her knit cap made of yarn & her decrepid looking blue winter jacket.

Here's some of my favorite places in Grand Rapids.

Immanuel Lutheran Church

Since I moved away from home, no church has made me feel at home like Immanuel. It started with Pastor David Davis, who was a fantastically warm speaker, who didn't preach at you, but who invited you along to study the word with him, & he interspersed it with personal details that you could relate to. Sound like anybody you know? Immanuel was without a paster until about a year ago, but they still maintained uplifting services with guest speakers, & with the youth minister & a retired pastor, two perfect opposites, filling in.

Vertigo Music

I don't envy too many people in the world, but I think I envy Herm, the owner of Vertigo records. He owns his own record store where he sells mostly the music he loves, to people who love it as much as he does. It's nestled downtown in the heartside district, keeping away the riff-raff. Herm knows his customers, always greets you by name when you walk through the door. He knows what kind of music you like, too, & makes recommendations accordingly. What more could you ask for from a store owner? He got me started on the Great Lake Swimmers, Nick Drake, Iron & Wine, & Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, & also hosted one of my favorite musicians, Bonnie Prince Billy, for a solo performance at his store. He also sponsored "The Decemberists" in concert at the intersection & does many other things to support local music. If you are a music geek like me, there's no better place. By the way, I stopped by yesterday for the first time in a long time. New Releases from the Decemberists, Beck, Bonnie "Prince" Billy & Los Lobos.

The Shawmut Inn

I spent my 21-26th birthdays at the Shawmut Inn, & alot of time in between. It's certainly not the classiest place, but once you've been their a few times, it feels like home. It's the traditional default meeting place for just about all of my friends, even those who've moved away still want to visit the Shawmut when they visit. I miss Carl (the bartender), Mary Lou & Jill, the friendliest folk you'd ever want to meet. Well, I take that back, Carl's not necessarily friendly in the traditional sense, but once he gets to know you, there's no better bartender in the world.

Vitale's Restaurant

Great pizza, great Italian food, great wine. It's the only place for Italian food in Grand Rapids, if you ask me. It's the kind of place you could imagine mobsters meeting at.

The Cottage Bar

Great food, not your typical bar fare, with great beers on tap. I could really go for a Cottage Bagel right about now.


We used to go to this greasy spoon called "New Beginnings" for breakfast every Sunday, until one day we tried Wolfgangs in Easttowne. I've never been back. I've probably been to Wolfgangs a hundred times & have never gotten anything except for a half order of Spinach Benedict, with Red Skin potatoes, no onions & hazelnut coffee. I've tried for several years to duplicate the potatoes from Wolfgangs, I guess the secret is adding Rosemary, but I've only failed miserably.

Marinades & Sicilianos

I discovered this place only a year before I moved, but a perfect night would include getting a specialty pizza from Marinades, a six pack of Newcastle from Sicilianos & watching an old movie in my cold, drafty back room at my old house, with one light on & one chair. Good stuff. By the way, the corner of Collindale & Lake Michigan Drive has everything you need to survive, a grocery store, a gas station, the Shawmut Inn, Sicilianos & Marinades.

There's plenty more places, including Little Mexico, the UICA, Schulers, Dillenbecks, but I fear I've bored you enough already.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

God's Small Song-Bonnie "Prince" Billy, the Letting Go

Think I'm In Love-Beck, the Information

The Town-Los Lobos, the Town & the City

Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)-the Decemberists, the Crane Wife

That Lucky Old Sun-Bob Dylan & Tom Petty, 1986

Happy Wednesday, friends!



Pam said...

Could it be that your longings for Grand Rapids could also have something to do with a certain someone that lives there?

By the way, your descriptions are inviting! How about forwarding this blog to the GR Chamber of Commerce?

Mary said...

Fun to read Andy. Matt will have to visit you and go to that store.
I never knew there were so many cool places in GR

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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...