SECOND LEVEL, GONE WIRED CAFE (FORMERLY RAUPP'S CAMP FITTER), MICHIGAN AND FAIRVIEW AVENUES, LANSING, MICH.--It wasn't entirely fitting that "Paradise City" came on the radio as I descended upon Ingham County on Saturday morning (the grass certainly isn't green this time of year), but its refrain of "Oh won't you please take me home" at least made me smile. I had flown into Detroit the day before, and was traveling at a responsible speed down I-69 in my rented PT Cruiser.
My host on Friday were the Jake and Bridget Cooleys of Grosse Pointe. We dined on copious amounts of meats, cheeses, breads, and whiskey at the esteemed Roma Cafe in Eastern Market, and were joined for the caper by Amy-Shane and Mandy-Brent, which ensured wall-to-wall riotous discussion. Happily for me, much of the convo centered on new beginnings as Mandy and Amy were joining me in embarking upon new jobs (congrats, ladies!). The evening ended, not surprisingly, sitting around Jake and Bridget's dining-room table, drinking homemade Bailey's and generally laughing our keesters off.
(A note about Jake and Bridget's house: It is unmistakably but unexplainably a Grosse Pointe house. The layout and interior design are wholly different from my grandparents' old place on Park Lane, but within minutes of entering, I could tell I was in a G.P. home. There was something about the smell, the way the light hit the windows, the presence of a front and back staircase [my grandfather later told me their first house on Pemberton had five staircases], the way the house hung well on you like a good suit.)
I woke up Saturday morning, enjoyed my second bagel and tea courtesy of the Cooleys, and hit the road for Lansing. I got home a few minutes before noon, just ahead of various siblings, siblings-in-law, nieces, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Naz Arandi will be happy to note that Ivie has grown even more beautiful at 3 years old. And now she's talking up a storm and banging around like a proper toddler: perfect. She, her sister, Elly, and cousin, Brianna, are in the early stages of composing a famous coterie of cousins; watching these kids grow up is going to be fun. I honestly couldn't get too caught up with brother Chris and sisters-in-law Sarah and Meghan since I spent most of the day holding Brianna, chasing Elly, and tickling Ivie. Uncle Craig considers it a fair trade.
The first wave of family left Saturday afternoon just as the second wave -- the Hays of Falls Church, New York, and Blacksburg (soon to be Charlotte) -- arrived. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Gordon look great, and it was a smashing good time seeing cousins Justin and Ian. Justin does IT for a financial firm in Manhattan, and he can expect to be buying me a drink and offering me a couch to crash on when I finally visit New York. Ian is about to graduate from Virginia Tech and take a banking position in Charlotte, and he can expect to bail me out with a major loan when this freelance thing finally goes bust.
We continued family time the next day at our grandparents' place in East Lansing, where we ate barbecue (excellent job, Ma), watched a couple forgettable football games, looked at pictures (way to go, Flickr), talked politics, and watched Musharraf and Clemens on 60 Minutes. After that, Sister and I introduced the Hay boys to the Peanut Barrel, where I was on my way toward pasting Ian in pool when I scratched on the eight ball (which Justin repeated, giving Ian two really weak wins).
And then the past couple days included work (no, seriously, I'm a freelancer!), a viewing of Enchanted (my expectations were too high), dinner at PT Chang's that included a happy encounter with the Diaz family (friends from high school), a visit to Sister's quaint new home in quaint old Williamston for a Flight of the Conchords marathon and a surplus of puppy love from Wryly the Lab, lunch at Woody's Oasis with Beth and Barry Cook, a round of tag-team editing with Pop, a few viewings of a classic family video featuring a piano medley by one Harold Gaines, and some choice cuts of steak.
Which brings me to the Gone Wired Cafe just a few blocks down from the original domicile on Fairview. This is now officially my favorite place in Lansing. The coffee is solid, the Internet is free, the booths are roomy, the vibe is local, the music is straight-up jazz, and then there's the chicken sandwich. While the olive burger is no doubt the official dish of mid-Michigan, the chicken sandwich at the Gone Wired Cafe is the perfect evocation of the Capital City, much like the Newsroom Cafe's avocado bacon chicken burger perfectly evokes Los Angeles. Where the chicken burger is bursting with flavor, the chicken sandwich is straightforward; where the chicken burger is piled with avocado, turkey bacon, and "pesto-tofunnaise," the chicken sandwich is dressed with a pretty red tomato slice and a slice of melted Swiss; where the chicken burger is best eaten on a sunny patio overlooking the boutiques and celebrity restaurants of Robertson Boulevard, the chicken sandwich is best eaten in a ramshackle former camping outfitter overlooking the rough storefronts of Michigan Avenue.
And so the Michigan-L.A. existence goes.
Thanks to Ma and Joe for a warm bed and lots of coffee and cinnamon buns! Hold tight, Los Angeles, I'ma comin' home.
And a quick note to Karis Eklund, the Official Archaeologist of Rocket Fever. She's gone off to bang around some of Earth's more exotic corners, and we couldn't be more excited for her. Everyone at Rocket Fever hopes her travels are safe, her bed is warm, and her eyes are open. Bon voyage!