Sunday, February 15, 2015

Wilbo's Father Would Begin to Relax When He Reached the Grayling @PureMichigan exit.

There's something different about downtown Grayling. To begin to put my finger on the difference, I noticed that the Rialto, the old fashioned theater on Main Street, is screening Fifty Shades of Grey. Screening on a small, antiquated screen in Grayling. Screening that film on a Sunday right in the heart of the Archdiocese of Grayling. Actually, it's just a diocese and that's centered in the similar town of Gaylord about an hour north. Everybody confuses Graying and Gaylord and it helps to remember that the lord lives further north where the Elk begin to play.

I had a hard time finding parking, and I noticed a microbrewery, Paddle Harder, and even an art gallery with a sign out on the sidewalk, open on a Sunday. There's a second brewpub in town, closer to the freeway, and that's called Dead Bear Brewery. As Valentyne said, "The Bear has Xs on his two eyes". Seriously, my waitress has a name tag that proves her name is Valentyne and she worked yesterday on Valentines Day and all her customers thought she had made up a name for the day. Nope, as she has affirmed, "That's the name on my birthday certificate". What's in a name? 

Well, I'm clearly going into Paddle Harder after my coffee and bowl of Mulligatawny Soup served with a corn meal muffin. The new bathroom of this fifties themed diner shares those bathrooms with Paddle Harder, so drifting into the Brewey is easy. The bathrooms have real, heavy cut stone floors and knotty pine paneling, making visitors think of a country house for a wealthy family. As for the name "Dead Bear", I could recommend that the house borrow a character from the Pigeon Hill team, "Drunky Bear", who also could have the letter X on each eye and would arise and shine after binging on mead.

Valley Mist Vineyards, which makes its wine in Rose City, has a tasting room on the western side of Paddle Harder, and I can walk through the brewery to reach the wine tasting room. Last night when the temperature reached zero and the wind chill carried the temperature lower, this passage from the diner to the brew pub to the winery might have made the evening warmer. I am afraid I could lose this entire day of driving to an up north Sunday Funday.

Grayling has memories for me. There's two types of drivers in America. One blows on through small towns, avoids distraction, racks up hundreds of miles before stopping for gas, and everyone has to hold it until the inevitable stop for gas. My father, Edward, could be that kind of driver. He would take my brother and I up to a scout camp close to here and on Sunday, we drove straight through Grayling and hop right onto the highway, mighty Interstate Seventy-Five. He had to get home and do whatever he did before catching a few hours sleep and then driving before dawn to the Hydromatic factory in Warren, Michigan, a monster commute of eighty miles.

To make matters worse, he would slow down and point out landmarks such as the Fred Bear archery factory and museum. He would promise that we would stop and visit the museum. By the time I was driving and serving as a counselor at that camp, the Fred Bear company had taken the factory and museum to a town in the south. His father, also Edward, had that habit. One time, Grandma Corrine and he drove my siblings and I up to Marine City on the St Claire River. Grandma pointed out a few places to stop, one for antiques and one for ice cream. Grandpa merely smiled, pointed, and said, "It's nice enough to look at the store fronts". My grandmother never complained. Being old world, she never allowed me to protest and was incredibly good at catching my whining in the bud. She made the phrase "Not a peep", work magic.

Heck, the owners of Dead Bear Brewery would do better calling the pub "Freddy Bear", honoring the archery pioneer. Ted Nugent might even pay a visit although he sticks to Vernors Ginger Ale. How corny am I in my soul. I can't get through a bad rendition of Nugent's "Fred Bear" without getting misty. The record usually jerks more than a few tears. There's something deep seated about this mawkish response.

What is the second kind of driver. I am that type of driver. I stop and collect local color as if my bills could be paid with it. It's a bit foolhardy as I'll be driving after dark thanks to this stop. I'll have to make an extra stop for gas and probably an extra stop for water, buying a few bottles and leaving a splash in the loo. I write a story and post, just so I have something to show for my time. That and two dollars and nine cents will buy me a cup of coffee, which is what a cuppa at this antique counter cost me.

Father served in the Michigan National Guard and the guard had a camp on a lake just outside of town. So every business has a faint vibration of his presence as he was a soldier on a Saturday night pass in downtown Grayling. The Rusty Nail on the Ausable River that flows through town had to be a stop. The scoutmasters would slip out at nights, leaving one adult on watch, and I knew that's where the men would go. So I had a beer at the bar a few years ago after his passing, just to fill in a setting in his biography.

I get Déjà Vu at this coffee counter. It's probably a good habit that children check in on Facebook every place they visit. I have Déjà Vu rather than an online record that tells me we stopped at Dawson's Diner and enjoyed hamburgers together. If father ever stopped, he stopped for a hamburger. Not for a McDonald's hamburger but a hamburger broiled on a griddle before his eyes. I probably would need a hypnotist to bring back the details of the brief stop here. However, I still can remember his palpable relaxation at the wheel as we exited the interstate at Grayling, especially when driving to the camp. 

The Radio Shack across the street will probably soon go the way of the Ben Franklin that stayed open on this Main Street, becoming a museum of retailing before the days of Walmart.

Will Juntunen

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