Saturday, December 10, 2016

On the Day Cellar 152 Celebrated Its Grand Opening in Elk Rapids, an Incredible Storm Struck Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties.

Sep 28, 2015 2:42pm
Cellar 152 Wine and Gourmet Market

In downtown Elk Rapids, River Street has commercial buildings built in the late Nineteen hundreds, and these two and three story storefronts have become convenience stores, breakfast joints, boutiques, interior design studios and even gourmet food and wine shops. I read bits of this and that compulsively as I walk a town, and Cellar 152 has a fascinating story. I had a freshly made quiche this morning at the wine bar and avoided the wine as it was hardly noon yet. The host had willingness and ableness to serve me a pour from an impressive wall of bins. She agreed to give me water instead. She asked, "How is the quiche"? It had a wonderful crust, just like a well-baked pasty. I answered, "As fresh as the establishment that served it". She laughed. A paper awaited a reader, a copy of a recent edition of the Grand Traverse Herald. The Business section praised the establishment for rebuilding the building and for making furniture out of wood reclaimed during interior demolition. The food and drink had pleased the writer too. I hoped I hadn't mucked up the copy the owners planned to frame for the wall! The grand opening took place on the afternoon of August 2, 2015. That day has already been celebrated in a crowd-sourced book on a storm's effect upon Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties, a book called Storm Struck. The authors are making the rounds of the Horizon Books chain. The storm couldn't upset the guests at Cellar 152 as the old structure had weathered the rain and wind of many decades. Now strengthened with steel pillars, the party inside went on fascinated and untrammeled.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Wilbo Asks Famous Poet, James Lenfestey, "Walter Mondale is honored by the Walter Blondale Ale, produced by Pigeon Hill Brewing Company. How Do We Inform Mr. Mondale?"

May 22, 2016
Dear James Lenfesty,

I have enjoyed our correspondence of the past few years, mostly about poetry at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Hoping to make your excellent programs, at least one, this summer. The Dorothy Parker program is of immense interest because just Thursday I was watching elementary school children playing during recess with a woman who performs a one-woman show as Dorothy. Sherri Slater and I were "floating guest teachers" together at Muskegon's Oakview Elementary, and I we chatted about the Algonquin Round Table as we kept an eye on the children. I'll make sure Ms. Slater and her husband know the date. Her husband knows the UP well, serving as a marketing agent for BOSS snow plows, if I understand correctly.

She often performs this evening as a benefit, as documented in this article:

I write to you today, however, concerning Walter Mondale, a leader from Minnesota. I am wondering if you are connected to Mr. Mondale through your tenure as editor of the Star-Tribune. My local pub, Pigeon Hill Brewing Company, has apparently a great regard for Walter Mondale, calling their first mainstay beer, "Walter Blondale". It's a fine beer, and the house promotes it with its own webpage and even has the beer running for President. "Walter Blondale for President" is the motto of this Facebook page. Posters have been promulgated and tee shirts silk-screened in support of this candidacy.

If that were the end of it, I probably wouldn't bother Mr. Mondale. However, their Walter goes on missions. To wit, Walter Blondale is mixed with different flavors, and so Walter has gone to Belgium and Thailand and a list of postings that would make any ambassador proud. This recalls Mr. Mondale's service as America's ambassador to Japan. Even once, Walter Blondale was mixed with Drip Drop Drink coffee to make, "Walter Gets Buzzed". We can be sure that the versatile Blondale will be called into service many times in the future by the master brewers.

It's a big request, but could you advise on how to reach out to Mr. Mondale to let him know of the singular American honor, to be the inspiration of a fine American beer? I wouldn't go out on the limb except the brewing team has done its civic duty during their two years in town.

Three times running, all the children of Muskegon have been entertained with an Easter Egg hunt, courtesy of Pigeon Hill.

The local running and cycling clubs all either begin or end their exertions at Pigeon Hill.

Plus, Pigeon Hill has become a museum for local history. Partnering with the Lakeshore Museum Center, the house hosted a sold-out event on Muskegon history lead by a historian recently. Historian often fall short of sell-outs; at Pigeon Hill, historians get ovations from full houses.

The house honored the local Fraternal Order of Police by opening their brewery to a "brewer in blue", and put the results on tap for all to savor, just one more fundraiser for a good cause.

Three vacant buildings, all historical, have been lovingly restored thanks to the PH team, including the Muskegon State Bank of 1888. This has helped kicked off the Muskegon downtown renaissance.

Best, the Hill stands next door to the AFL-CIO union hall, and has long opened the tap room doors for the Labor Day Parade so that the marchers can refresh themselves after marching through town. On that day, all of Muskegon's Democratic leaders lift a glass of Pigeon Hill.

Another personality from the Twin Cities, Garrison Keillor can vouch for Muskegon as a city that well receives its guests. Keillor has returned three times to perform his "Evening with Garrison Keillor" show at the Frauenthal Theater, all sold out evenings. I understand Mr. Keillor has been conveyed through the streets by fellow book store owner, Deb Lambers, who borrows a vintage Mustang convertible for the occasion.

I have copied Michael Brower, Esquire, on this note as he is part of the management team at Pigeon Hill and the creator of the Walter Blondale posters.

I wish you a good summer on Mackinac Island and even better writing on the island. I passed an entirely agreeable week in the Twin Cities in early April, and hope to return back soon.


Wilbo Thinks About Painting As He Watches a Paint and Drink Event in Progress at Vander Mill Cider Mill.

May 12, 2015

I am wondering when painting in bars, painting a simple image in a class where everybody paints the same image, will burn itself out. It's a beautiful idea and yet, I wonder if it arises in the vacuum of our school curriculums, which didn't require enough art classes. I didn't take a painting or woodworking class after middle school, and I'm pretty sure many men and women of my time missed out on the joy of painting. I remembered taking numerous office classes, learning accounting and how to touch type on a keyboard. Look at me now. I'm tapping out words on an iPhone keyboard, no touch typing required. So much for my touch typing education.

Tyler Loftis, the painter & son of Carole Loftis, has triumphed in New York City with his painting. With Chris Protas, he'll be teaching a drawing class in the Fire Barn Gallery, this coming Wednesday. Here at Vander Mills, hard cider is flowing from the taps and dinner fits on a tray under the easel. Loftis & Protas might remember to set out a pitcher of water and glasses. A few of the regulars with more experience in drawing classes, the one who go to Ox-Bow every summer, might bring a bottle of wine to share. Even so, all ten or twenty of the gathered students will draw like only drawing could save their lives. It will be a wild and maybe even a desperate fury to depict the model in a breakthrough way. The two instructors aren't going to give too much paint by number help in how to make a drawing look like the model. They are going to let page and pen teach the eye a few lessons that can only be learned while working. Then, all will go down to the Theater Bar and talk art and then will the glasses be filled with wine.

Ironically, Funny thing is a man who owns a silk screen company is here on the side of the action. He is eating a nice dinner and you can see him making mental notes. His wife, three years his bride, is dining with him. She knows painting because she has an art history degree. So I say to this artist both inspired and practical "So, are you thinking of trying this painting thing?" Of course this man and his silk screen company provides all the canvas for the Grand Haven Art Walk's family painting day. Dozens of kids and their parents get to paint on good canvas with fine acrylic painting for no money at all. And then this fine fellow and his friends hang the finished canvases on clothes lines hung between maples on the shore of the Grand River. And then another team of his friends serve up lunch of chargrilled hamburgers and potato crisps. No beer or wine is served as it is a family painting party. The irony! It's visceral just watching children attack the blank canvases with brushes dripping with paint. Jackson Pollack looks uninspired compared to them.

This class numbered forty students, all of whom paid forty dollars for a palette of acrylic paint on a disposable picnic plate, use of a set of brushes and an easel. That amounts to a big
payday for the company, which trucks around the equipment in a colorful van and employs two sons as assistants. The lead artist demonstrates technique on a taller easel and speaks into the kind of wearable microphone worn by aerobics instructors, stands in a portable spotlight. A friend teaches smaller classes, and usually at locations where women go for a measure of personal retreat, hair salons and yoga studios. Often she begins with an idyllic scene as a model, and the students wind up painting a ridge of birches and an angel of an idiosyncratic visage. It's quite interesting when the class of twenty pose with their wet canvases and each painting shows a different feminine angel. She gets a number of repeat customers who engage her for private study and then quit their jobs after completing a course in yoga teacher certification. Take a painting class, tune in, drop out, chant OM. It might unnerve her when a woman shows up sporting a similar hair style.

I know that a certain portrait painter maintains great friendships with all of his former wives. The last two he has taught to paint incredibly well. Seriously. The last two wives paint as if instructed over years at the Art Student League in New York City. The latest wife has long been his current bride and the two have taken to performing theater together, plays written for husbands and wives, "Love Letters" and "Old Love" and the sort. He has settled down. And it's a good thing. It's quite powerful when his mostly women customers show up for one class in his studio on the salt marshes of the Charleston River and walk out painting landscapes as well as any member of the Hudson Valley School. These transformed women usually meet some nice art collector at their debutante show, organized by the master, and become the second wife of a financier or an endocrinologist or the like. He's too involved in his portrait painting to notice, subjects putting up deposits a year in advance.

I could have taken heed in another century as the year nineteen ninety one belongs to a different canvas of time. I was walking to my favorite bar in Northville Michigan, hosted by a chef who immortalized his female bartenders by having them painted as Metropolis styled woodland creatures under the shellac of an antique pine bar. He would commission one every few years or so, and had begun a series of the daughters of his veteran bartenders. Rich men would stay for hours to be served by the daughters of women who had served them a first rocks glass of whiskey older than a year old. On the way, Caroline Dunphy had an illuminated window where she would post the day's watercolors, often set near the old schoolhouse on the Rouge River, a historical wonder moved their by the village men and surrounded by perennial flowers by their wives. All of these dailies of day lilies or the like would be sold and replaced by the middle of Saturday. In a nearby window, a man who had retired early from his post as a tenured philosopher would look over the shoulders of ten women he was teaching the decorative art of stenciling. He expanded his retail space twice while I lived near downtown Northville.

Take up the brush now and learn from love rather than pain?
 — at Vander Mill.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Wilbo Auditions for Muskegon Civic Theater and Doesn't Get a Role in Their Production of "The Drawer Boy". And is Still Content and Will See the Show.

Three men living in Muskegon heard good news today. I know two of these men. Adam Bell serves as a chef at Ryke's Bakery & Catering of Muskegon, now serving up great baked goods, soups and burritos in our town and Grand Haven too. Chris Beaman handles White Lake's medical needs, filling prescriptions. Kristopher Arnold came up in Muskegon, a twenty-something who fell in love with theater in high school and never looked back.

Today, the word went forth that the three were cast for The Drawer Boy, the hottest script off the great stages since the opening of Hamilton the Musical. Bell, an actor raised in Shakespearean tradition will play Morgan, a farmer working the land in Clinton, Ontario.  Beaman, so often the leading man, shall be staggered by the challenge of depicting Angus, a man with a traumatic brain injury that bestowed an odd gift. Angus's brain injury made him an architect, a drawer boy. Miles made friends with the two while touring Canada with an acting troupe, and he thought he smelled a play on the farm of Morgan and Angus, so to speak. This role as a mildly unctuous interloper has become Arnold's challenge.

Muskegon Civic Theater is a community theater with high production values. It's as close to pro as an actor can go without an agent. In fact, the troupe put a real, red Nissan Truck on the Beardsley Stage for Hands on a Hardbody, another hot script just off the Broadway boards. See it this weekend. The Red Nissan, nicely detailed, stood on stage as thirteen local actors contended with Bell, Beaman and Christopher for the shot at these roles. Although none of the sixteen would say the auditions were a fight. Far from it.

MCT opens auditions to all interested actors. On Monday and Tuesday of the week after Thanksgiving, hopefuls sat in the rows of Beardsley Theater, waiting for the director to call their name and put them in a scene. MCT doesn't require an agent to get that far. MCT doesn't even ask for a headshot photograph. One form is all it takes to audition. Watch the MCT Facebook group for notices.

It wasn't a fight among the men. Natalie Carmolli placed threesomes into scenes as Morgan, Angus and Miles, gave out scripts and a few directions. When she called action, the actors found themselves cast into a web of dependency. Morgan had to feed Angus the right kind of energy, gruff, rude and yet caring. Miles had to anticipate his cues from Morgan and Angus, hoping to speak at the right second. A missed beat could ruin the audition for all. Without the help of two actors bringing their best reads, an actor could not hope to shine in the director's eye.  With her "thank you", the chance faded and three different actors got their shot to rise up by raising one another up.

Now begins the hard work of making great actors and a great script add up to a great performance. The team has until January 20th of 2017 to find the magic when the show opens on the Frauenthal Stage in the black box format. The rehearsal schedule requires more than fifty nights, many hours up late for men with responsible jobs.

In the Black Box, the audience knees jut out into the actor's space. There's nothing more intimate than Black Box in theater, and that's why MCT sells this annual feature out yearly, often extending runs. The Drawer Boy is set in Clinton, Ontario, which is a farm town set near the eastern shore of Lake Huron. It will raise many comparisons to farm towns in Muskegon County, set near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

MCT keeps adding more chances for young people to act too, including a summer camp with several sessions. See the show. Follow the Facebook page for updates.

As for the thirteen actors who didn't get cast in The Drawer Boy? See their knees in the front row of the Black Box this January. You'll see them watching their fellow actors with careful attention, cheering the threesome on, as if theater were a spectator sport akin to basketball or mixed martial arts.

Thank you Fergus Grand Theater of Fergus Ontario for the Image.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Although Wilbo is Hardly a Religious Guy, He Stops by The Corner to See What Reverend Mark is Preaching in the Back of an Old, Defunct Church.

After morning services, Pastor Mark Miller hangs up his robe and sash at Central United Methodist Church and takes a short walk to the once lifeless chapel at Third and Muskegon. That's why the huge building is called "The Corner". At 11:11 AM, he dons his headset, and begins a service backed by a rock band and a tech crew of four, sound and projection pros. Pastor Mark has made Bob Marley tunes into church music.

It's not your Grandfather's Methodist church. People snack and drink coffee as he chats from the front. All the lyrics can be sung along with, making choir into Karaoke. Delivering sermons that bounce between YouTube videos of noodle shops in the Orient to discussions of Starbuck's cups, Miller is determined to lighten up the worship service while making it more real and more inspirational. The gathering of thirty locals of all ages and walks of life are here to have a down to earth Christmas this year.

Pastor Mark's team has stabilized the former home of Christian Science in Muskegon, and the City of Muskegon has blessed the plan to reopen the auditorium for the first service in years on December 9th. Called "Christmas at the Corner", the worship team plans to celebrate a Youth Unity Christmas Festival in the huge auditorium with almost sixty pews and a thrust stage that could host a Shakespeare Play.

This makes a great addition to the Third Street South district, which recently welcomed Hamburger Mikey and Third Coast Vinyl to the street. Keep an eye on the body shop because an investor from GR has announced big plans.

Friday, November 25, 2016

On Black Friday 2015, Wilbo Celebrated a Day at Home After a Month in the Wilds of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Hennessy's Pub.
November 25, 2015 · Muskegon, MI ·

Hey, it's good to be back home again. I have passed three nights sleeping in my own bed. I had a fresh blanket and a fresh set of flannel sheets and I remade the bed and it has been more cozy than any hotel bed where I had slept over the last five weeks. And I stayed at Holiday Inn Expresses and Baymonts and, my personal favorite, Super 8s. Super 8s are surprisingly upscale and beat the Holiday Inns & Baymonts and Magnussons one encounters. But for the last three nights, my bed has been the nirvana of bliss, my closets with my clothes and my refrigerator stocked with my growlers, Pigeon Hill and Dutch Girl and Heavenly Vineyards.

Today, I set up the laptop on the dining room table, plugged into the wireless from XFinity, put on my headphones and took meetings from Alaska to Florida. I had literally taken the curtains of their rods so I could see the sun arising on the old houses across the street. When the sun's glare penetrated into the room, I put them back on their rods. During a long lunch, I had my garage top off my oil, replenish my fluids, check pressure on my tires and replace a lightbulb, all of which done for free. The headlight was a warranty repair. Van's just offers all of these check up services free of charge. And that's why I made a point to visit them today.

To finish up my long lunch, I ate a sandwich on the shores of the Muskegon River near the sign that showed where all the monuments were located along the Veteran's Causeway. Over thirty monuments await the faithful from all branches of services and all conflicts, North Russian Expeditionary Forces to Iraq Conflict. Then back to the home office, still in blue jeans and a tee shirt. I'm not sure I could work in a normal office again after this short experience working from home. I'm going to need a coffee pot. I can't leave home for coffee until ten, which is too late for coffee.

I did go next door for coffee today, CityHub has a pot by the door and even gave me my own mug. I listened as Julia Miller and a customer talked about wattage as a measure of a cyclist's potential and I dutifully reported on the bicycle trails of Swedetown and Copper Harbor. I promised to bring the architect of the Copper Harbor trails to Muskegon for at least a lunch and learn. I had met him at a gathering for coffee one Saturday morning up in Copper Harbor, everyone gathered for a chat around the clerk's desk at the Gaslight Grocery Store. Just like us around the CityHub Repair desk. I see Aaron walking around the village with his dog, relaxing after building mountain biking trails all over the country from March until November. I wouldn't go anywhere if I didn't like bringing back news and ideas so much.

Tuesday, I remembered Market Day at the Farmer's Market and I was hankering for apples. So I went to visit with my usual vendor, Larry, who also drives truck and practices as an artistic blacksmith. Larry was happy to see me and he gave me a few Honeycrisp apples for free and then served me up a quarter pie slice of pumpkin pie. So I ate pie and shucked and jived as he chatted to customers about the quality of his fruit. And he has a lot to say about that.

I finished up the day late in my home office and drove over to Hennessy's to see if any familiar soul awaited in the friendly pub. I found Dane, who specializes in watching patients on the suicide watch at the local stress unit. He had grown a long a straggly beard and I said to him as he smoked outside with two waiters. "Dane, you look like Charles Hackley's statue at the Muskegon library". "That's right", he answered. "There's a look alike contest coming up". "That's what I'm aiming for," he answered. "You're going to win", I predicted. "May the best beard win", he said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wilbo Writes an Open Letter to the Muskegon Museum of Art Asking for Bike Racks and Benches.

Open Letter to the Muskegon Museum of Art:

Dear Director Judy & Lee Brown, international man of mystery.

Might as well add Marguerite, who disproves the musical question, "How Do We Keep them Down on the Farm after They See Paree"? I am sure Paris wanted to keep her in Paris forever.

I cycled over on my bike, which is quite a rocker to my mind. I awaited a friend inside at the Lehane film, which apparently had the security of a Lehane film set. I understand. Millions in painting and sculpture await eternity securely inside.

We have benches on Western with little to explain their location but adjacency to the bus station. The museum has two marble benches, but located on the main street side, which is an entrance for art crusaders. Locals prefer the back. And yet, only a concrete wall encourages Dreamers and potential donors to loiter. Parisian gardens surely give the French more time to ponder the wonders of art left by earlier generations? Should Muskegon regard its visitors with less than Parisian seating?

Let's not compare the MMA sculpture gardens to the bicycle friendly gardens of Paris. Let's compare to Carmen's. Not of Spain, but Muskegon. Carmen's has that lovely rack sculpted by Aeneis Design. The Frauenthal has a comedy & tragedy bike rack to its credit. My rocker would prove a nuisance if chained to the ramp rail. All must be artsy if not design aware outside the museum, oui?

Yes, seeing the need, I should just write the check. And this writer living & working in Muskegon will when the screen plays sell. Until then, maybe there is a section of the membership that thinks sustainability. It's the same group who applauded the energy saving new lighting.

As always, many kind regards,

 — attending Ahfest Film Series at Muskegon Museum of Art.

Miss Ruth Gives Wilbo Soul Food, a Good Conversation and a bit of Churching.

My friend Mal had posted a few endorsements of Miss Ruth's Deli at Getty and Apple. Today, I was shopping on Apple and I spotted the house on Getty where the owner, Miss Ruth, has served up soul food for thirty years. I popped first into the Mexican grocery store next door and looked at the shelves covered with staples, beans and rice and sauces. I loved how all of the produce, leeks and lettuce and fruit, reminded me of the farmers market with its fresh from the farm produce. I scanned the butcher's counter, noticing good deals on fajita meat and chorizo. To be honest, I had little idea how to turn all that good food into meals, resolving to look up recipes later. 

Over at Ruths, I had a choice between the rib dinner or the barbecue chicken dinner, each priced eleven dollars, paired with two sides. Mal had taken his feature, a blues band called Tre' and the BlueKnights, to Ruth's before the concert last week at his club, Dreamers Blues Bar. It looked like a good deal, but I had eaten a late lunch. So just to soak up some atmosphere, I ordered a slice of sweet potato pie, a full quarter of the pie! Miss Ruth kept me company as I nibbled and we watched Reverend Neil preach the good news on a gospel channel. I began to feel at home and ordered a coffee. The huge slice of pie had only set me back two dollars and fifty cents, so coffee was an easy pick.
 — at Ruth's Deli.

To Celebrate the Second Annual Burning Foot Beer Festival, Lee S. Brown and Chip VanderWier Sculpted the Burning Hop Tower.

Tomorrow is the last Saturday of Summer 2016, and more than four thousand Michigan beer lovers are about to celebrate Burning Foot, a beer festival at Pere Marquette Beach. Drink cold beer and keep from Burning your Feet in flip-flops. Meanwhile, sculptors Lee S. Brown and Chip VanderWier are planning to burn the everlasting hop. Seriously. Burning Man burns the man and Burning Foot will yearly burn the Hop. VanderWier and Brown are clearly the most active sculptors living and working in Muskegon, and it's Unruly and Pigeon Hill beer that keeps them working long into the night. Thirst quenched, desire unquenchable. Last night, Brown and I chatted during the opening of Nancy Crow's Bull's Eye Quilt show called, "Circular Abstractions". Brown talks the talk but he also sculpts the sculpture. He wanted to tip me off about the Hop Statue he erected with VanderWier. I was gratified that the man who prepared the Nancy Crow show in the great gallery had a moment to talk on such a big night.

I promised to go see it Friday afternoon. Now I'm disappointed I won't see it burning at night. The instant icon is surmounted by a hop blossom constructed of metal leaves, unmistakeable for an artichoke but similar. VanderWier has been obsessed with Michigan's newest artisan crop, shown by a series of four panels celebrating brewing. The four are given proud exhibition in Unruly's tap room near Rebel Pies. Brown transforms wood into fetish objects. His eight support posts, spear tipped, remind one of the ancient posts of the sundial at Cahokia Mounds, just off the Mississippi River near St Louis. Lashed to stakes at bases, this teepee like structure easily passed fire and safety inspection surely. Each post of charred cedar has been assembled of three lengths, secured by metal joints. Nothing is going to buckle so don't worry. Brown and VanderWier have teams of engineers and installers who do it right.

Thanks to the staff of Happenstance Art House, I studied pinch pot making with VanderWier last week for a song. There's a quiet team of philanthropists who fund the happenings at Happenstance. VanderWier had fourteen of us happily working clay successfully in minutes. He demonstrated techniques by transforming two pots into an orb. Then the orb became a cube in his playful hands and then became a dragon whistle with feet, ears and mouthpiece added. Both Brown and VanderWier demonstrate that relaxed playfulness that is the magic in a sculptor's hands. I'm glad the pair choose to play in Muskegon.

Wilbo Had Two Uncles, One Called Three Handed Cass and One Called Pinochle Louie.

Three handed Cass drove into the night towards Chicago, two right hands on the Caddy's wheel. Riding shotgun, Pinochle Louie taught the kid on the back leather seat how to play his cards right .... mostly by teaching him Pinochle, Eucre and Texas Hold'Em. Nickel ante, Louie handed back the coins each time he cleaned the kid out. "Hey, Louie, put "The Blues Brothers" on the iPad for the kid to watch. "Does that mean we are on a mission from God?" asked Pinochle Louie. "Make like Frank Zappa and eat that question", shot back Three Handed Cass. "Keep chumming the Yo, Louie. Keep chumming the Yo". — at Muskegon Rescue Mission.

We gave a lift to a man who has served his community as a Knight of Saint Casimir for fifty years. I was two or three years old when he accepted his knighthood. The lodge goes by a quieter name too, the Sixth Street Hall.

The painting of three handed St Casimir is considered miraculous, circa 1520. The original is in Saint Casimir's Chapel in Vilnius Cathedral. — at Sixth Street Hall.