A line of people at the door has been a constant at Brenda's Harbor Cafe since around 5:30 AM. How could I possibly know that, you ask? After all, at 5:30 AM, I was sleeping at the Sterns Motor Inn after staying up late enjoying the ambience of the Mitten Bar. A grandmother who was in line with me told me her grandson had to wait for a table at 5:30 AM. That's how. So not only is this a thriving business, generations of Ludington families show up on Sundays. At different times. Then phone one another to share their Brenda's Harbor Cafe experience.
I'm sitting by a wall of local lighthouses and steamships in cross-stitch. My waitress moves like a sprite from table to table, reminds me of Peter Pan, and looks like the love child of Julie Andrews and Mia Farrow, as if that were biologically possible. The desk clerk at Stearns suggested Brenda's. I was hoping to give the Old Hamlin a break, a favorite restaurant that has a Greek-American family at its heart. I love the Hamlin; it's just that I haven't gone anywhere else since stumbling upon Ludington on a car trip in 2005. A decade later, it's time to try a different brunch joint, off James Street rather than off the Main Street, Ludington Boulevard. Toni the desk clerk had praised the Eggs Benedict and I have become partial to that dish, lighter than an omelette and fancier than bacon and eggs.
The motto of Brenda's Harbor Cafe, "WE CARE", is printed on every tee shirt the waitresses, hostesses and bus staff wear. My waitress has a message on stroke awareness on her back. As she hardly slows down, my speed reading picks up the high points, a list of stroke warning signs. Time lost is brain lost. My father lost his life to a stroke, my cousin has fully recovered from a stroke, and my fit and active friend from the office had a minor stroke a five minute drive from North Ottawa Community Hospital. His wife drove him straight there after he couldn't stick his tongue out straight and the left side of his face went slack. Brenda's message of caring isn't lost on me. Coronary awareness and Lou Gehrig's Disease awareness are topics of the older editions of the official tee shirt. A children's immunization schedule printed on my placemat continues the theme of caring.
Rather glad the tee didn't add the rhyme, "Stroke's no joke". Winston Churchill suffered a stroke and he could make a powerful jest out of anything.
Seriously, I stick out my tongue and check if I can stick out my tongue straight every morning before brushing my teeth. My mirror would laugh at me if it had a soul.
At each table, a tray holds ketchup and hot sauce and jellies in those maddening little packets with a peel back lid, as much an aberration as honey in a packet that has to be snipped. Brenda has added a pump bottle of hand sanitizer to each tray. I had to meet Brenda, and she was wearing a purple tee shirt honoring the memories of two men who lost their lives to ALS. She started her cafe six years ago, still at the original James Street location. Her earlier customers worked as electricians in Ludington's factories, Ludington still very much an industrial town as well as a tourist destination. Two of her electricians are the names she wears on her tee. Her bus girl wore a message, "Memories Should Last Forever. Fight Alzheimer's". Brenda's cafe does care and doesn't seem able to forget a regular.
Ludington has murals on many walls, and a mural honoring Jacques Marquette has a place on the southern wall of St Simon's Thrift Shop. I like to call Pere Marquette the Peerless Peer as he's the only Catholic saint I really get, the saint that makes me wonder most about my atheist thoughts. Maybe it's just his life as adventurer and traveler that gets to me deeply. I am envious, envious of a saint, that he found a way in life that took him from France to uncivilized wilderness. I spent the time waiting for my Eggs Benedict, hardly a food for any man following the Rule of Saint Benedict, trying to affirm if Jacques reached the Gulf of Mexico or the land between Lake Ponchartrain and the Mississippi River than became New Orleans. One article had said he had explored just the Upper Mississippi River. I remembered differently. So where had his party turned around, started paddling upstream. And why would Marquette turn around having crossed the Atlantic Ocean to discover a world new to Europeans? He knew that wide river had to join to an even greater river or find an ocean.
Marquette's mural is virtually impossible to photograph with an ordinary camera. It's too wide. Many photographers, including myself, tilt the camera to the left or right after backing up twenty feet. The mural can be enjoyed across the street from Brenda's Harbor Cafe. The owner lady is probably not a Catholic and yet her restaurant makes a nice addition to that corner. Maybe twenty years from now she'll be honored with a mural. One honors a shopkeeper named Saputo. Another at the rear of the Old Hamlin honors a Protestant minister. One honors a band of clowns who march in parades in all the towns and villages if the Lake Michigan shoreline. "So many clowns. So many towns" is the motto of these musicians from Scottville, a suburb of Ludington.