Travelogues From Places You’d Never Visit Voluntarily: Suburban Grand Rapids

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By Joel Gillespie

The restaurant is too dark for lip-reading, our waitress is hearing-impaired, and the menu is in Comic Sans. We’re at Woody’s Press Box in Cutlerville Township, a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan. We picked the restaurant because the parking lot was full, but the dining room was barely a quarter occupied. “It’s a league bowling night next door,” at Spectrum Lanes, our server explains. But there’s Oberon on tap, it’s the Wednesday night two-steaks-and-four-sides-for-$11.99 special, and the steaks aren’t all that bad once you factor in your lowered expectations. We each have two beers, and the total bill clocks in at a hair over $30. No one is mad.

Cutlerville appears to be a standard working class suburb. None of the side streets have curbs or storm sewers, and there are a bunch of trailer parks in every direction. There’s an elaborate monument to Mr. Cutler, the town’s founder, in the park. It’s a big rock with a brass plate. I kind of forgot that trailer parks exist. That can happen when you live in the middle of a decent-sized city, whose pockets of poverty take a different shape. The frontage road of the Holiday Inn Express backs up to the entry of Holiday Estates, which has a sign that advertises “NEW 2015 HOMES JUST ARRIVED.” But on both sides, the J is backwards, which makes the JUST, LUST. I take an after-dinner walk, and a gunshot rings through the night. No lustice, no peace.

Since there are no interesting stores open during the portion of the day that I am not at work (8 p.m. to 7 a.m.), I thought I’d try to go to the closest liquor store near the hotel and score some sweet, sweet booze as a gift for my favorite lady. Holy shit, white-trash liquor stores are depressing. There was a display prominently featuring Wild Irish Rose in the front of the store. 80% of the bottles in this store are plastic. Mid-shelf stuff like Hennessy gets placed behind locked glass. Beam’s Eight Star is available, which is ‘blended and bottled in Kentucky.’ Fantastic. No gifts will be purchased this evening. Sorry, honey.

The Arby’s on 68th Street has a bit of a neon malfunction, and looks more like Arbus. There are a lot of hairy folk who are into that.

The continental breakfast features an automatic pancake maker which promises “Pancakes in about a minute.” I’m proud to write this dispatch from the future. There are a lot of UPS trainees at the morning breakfast, as well as those from Joann Fabrics. That seems to pretty much exactly match the vibe of the dead-end frontage road on which I spend my evenings. The last couple of days, there have been small groups of college-aged hipsters furtively smoking outside the fire exits. Why are you in suburban Grand Rapids, sneaky-smoking hipsters? I wonder whether they’re actually church youth directors going to some sort of training event. Jesus totally wants you to quit smoking, kids. Across the four-lane US Highway, there’s a Kmart, a Fifth Third Bank, a Taco Bell, and a bunch of random retail establishments: a smokes store, a Dollar Tree, and a Chinese restaurant. I walked into the Kmart to try to find a postcard to send to my Grandpa. That was the extent of my day that wasn’t work or sleeping or eating. Fuck.

I am in the Grand Rapids Airport, waiting for my flight three hours from now. That doesn’t sound good, until you consider the fact that I’m in the Bell’s Taproom, watching a world-class soccer game, and a baseball game featuring Sonny Gray and weak-ass Wade Miley. I’m on the company’s dime for a couple of hours, watching sports and drinking fantastic beer, and I’ll be in Minneapolis mere hours from now. I have my eight hours in for the day. I feel fantastic, and no amount of douchey conversation at adjacent tables can harsh my buzz. Even if the beers are $8.50 each.

Never mind: Fuck the false suspense of your fucking travel stories, random computer programmer stranger. I couldn’t care less if your flight to Baltimore finally made it there on time.

Seriously, why can’t the A’s put together any runs against Wade Miley? He’s terrible! Turrrrrible! That Eric Sogard, though, he’s really doing it for us nearsighted folk. .220 with a modest ISO is our ceiling, but our floor is really damn solid. Seriously, though: Wade Miley?

And Juventus took out Real Madrid with the points, at least, after tying? Jesus, Ronaldo, get it together, says the guy watching the game in the airport bar. You wince like a fucking dickhead, though, seriously. That Pirlo dude can be on my team any day, though. I would like to do one of those knuckleball free kicks more than pretty much anything.

I like Minneapolis.

Joel is a Bike Wrangler from Minneapolis.

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