Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Every New Years Eve is Different When You Are A Wilbo, and this NYE, Wilbo Goes Home to Muskegon.

Every New Year's Eve is different. Driving home from Traverse City, I blew by my usual stops, including the Meadery at St. Ambrose Cellars and the Little River Casino. 

Even without gambling and I prefer to gamble on my career these days, the casino fascinates, most arrivals showing up to take a single night ride on Fortuna's wheel. I must be revealing an adversity to risk that shows up as a handicap in my life for it seems the berserkers always come out all right, doubling down in blackjack and pressing up on their place bets. Tonight, the parking lot had cars filling the lot from US-31 to the casino doors, more than a quarter mile walk from the farthest spaces. The house must have shuttles working the cold parking lot, picking up guests before wallets grow cold. As anyone can join a crowd, I blew on by, knowing better places awaited as I drove south towards Muskegon. As for better people, I let a great person down for tonight as I was gulping antibiotics with cold coffee at Three this afternoon. Strangers I'm giving much more than social distance. Doctor at Munson said I wasn't contagious; even so, I'm in a personal bubble of a self-declared quarantine.

I had a notion of staying in downtown Ludington, tipping well-poured pints at the bar of the Mitten Bar. I called a motel that I like although I've only stayed overnight once. The Stearns Motor Lodge had booked all rooms, and that's the bar with the easiest walk to Mitten, Sportsman's and James Street Brewing. The town does have rooms, and these are closer to the Interstate and closer to one hundred dollars a night. Useless as one has to drive to reach them from downtown and can only sleep in them from 2 AM to 11 PM, check out time. If therapy is the fifty minute hour, the hotel room offers at most the eighteen-hour day. It's a realization that's making me look seriously at Recreational Vehicles. Walmarts from coast to coast offer to host any van or RV for twenty-four hours without question.

Ludington has plans to repeat last year's ball drop at the the corner of James Street and Ludington Boulevard, and a crane holds aloft the ball awaiting the assembly that will gather around the intersection ten minutes before midnight. Even downtown Grand Haven came up with an improvised ball wrapped with Christmas tree lights to lower slowly down on a pole erected before the Theater Bar. Muskegon might be alone in lacking a ball drop for the locals who chose to greet the New Year's at Third and Western. Muskegon doesn't lack ingenuity and skill, so this absence could be corrected in the four hours remaining to the year. That's probably where the New Year will find me. My home is within an easy walk of Unruly Brewing and Pigeon Hill Brewing Company. It will be Pigeon Hill's first observance of a New Year's Eve.

The Mitten Bar proudly served up a beer dinner to honor Pigeon Hill and Unruly the day after Christmas. It's easy to imagine Michael Brower and Eric Hoffman raising toasts to a full house of well-fed and properly lubricated admirers just last Friday night. It's the kind of evening that brightens the playwright's imagination, a city coming into a new golden age shipping kegs to an eager collection of brew hounds three major watersheds north. Today, only one keg of Unruly beer remains available to put on tap, the B.A. Crucible Stout. Both Pigeon Hill and Unruly grapple with a sweet problem, how to develop more brewing capacity on Muskegon's Main Street, Western Avenue. The country is fleeing Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon in droves and Muskegon has to be ready to fill growlers for the disaffected.

Could this year to come be the triumph of Muskegon in the imagination, with three brands already making a bold statement north of the north Muskegon County line. In addition to Pigeon Hill and Unruly, the Traverse City franchise of the Cheese Lady had lines queuing up at counter, the local Cheese Lady and her three apprentices making short work of the lines while offering samples and sharing cheese knowledge. The local Cheese Lady superior is known as "The Magnificent" around town, and we shared a thin slice of Prairie Wind Cheddar from Iowa, which she now procures by the wheel to save customers two dollars a pound. She also encouraged me to try a goat cheese called Feta, preserved in oil. I had loved feta when I discovered feta on Greek salads in Detroit's Greektown and on gyros in Hamtramck's Albanian restaurants. This feta had a creamy, moist texture that belonged on a tasting tray rather as a garnish. Imagine that. The revolution in cheese education began in downtown Muskegon.

Who needs a ball drop. I'm heading home to celebrate the work to be begun tomorrow.

Will Juntunen

No comments: