The month had to be before October. October, I began a life of working three weeks in the Upper Peninsula and working one week from home. In October, I began liking the idea of living in two places, one wild as Alaska with touches of civilization. One wild and yet tame enough to need a new microbrewery to open every season.
It wasn't September. September I passed on the road, fishing in the Manistee, swimming in Little Traverse Bay, applying for positions and taking phone interview after phone interview. I picnicked for all three meals and slept rolled up snug in the hatch of my Subaru. Which is incredibly comfortable. Not everyone got it. I kidded a friend, "I'm going to buy a VW Bus like the ones camping during Buses at the Beach. Everyone understands a family sleeping like waifs in a VW Bus". September was all about freedom and choice and by October, I had a list of choices lined up. I took them.
The month had to be August. In August, I still was reporting to work at an employer who paid me well, lined my pockets with bonuses, even paid for a health policy from the Blues that covered unlimited massage. I have no idea what kept me from going daily. I scheduled an appointment every other week with a massage therapist who taught Cross-Fit in her spare time. After the first rigorous rolfing, I began to like her thumbs of steel. My massage therapist gave me discipline.
I had money in my pocket and I loved spending it. For eight years, I lived that life. Until it ended at the end of August. That life meant going to every business when it opened, meeting the owners, meeting the staff and buying dinner, drinks, enjoying spending my windfall locally. I had owners stapling my good luck dollars to their ceilings. I posted happy little anecdotes on the internet noticing all the bright details, all the entrepreneurial grace notes. A few owners printed my comments out and framed them. Framed and put up right next to the grand opening article from MLive, the local newspaper.
So I had to visit Dutch Girl Brewery, and I was happy to find it right across the street from Vander Mills Cider Mill. The brew pub is a love story. An energetic young man fell in love with a Dutch-American girl and he puttered with brewing in between work and time with his girl. Being a Dutch-American girl, she probably scraped and saved and put in extra overtime and encouraged him. So taking a risk on a brewpub, no big deal when the worst case scenario happens to be a continued marriage to a Dutch-American Girl. Either way, every day is as happy as Happy Swedish Day, a holiday invented by Saugatuck author, Wade Rouse. So I ordered my tall glass of stout from a woman who made me ask, "Are you the Dutch Girl"?
"I'm a married woman, you". And she laughed and smiled and laughed. Then wiped down the counter until it was sanitary enough for surgery.
I had a text chat going with a fine woman, not Dutch. The Dutch-Americans have no monopoly when it comes to being hardworking. This woman worked a lot, planned for bigger things, and still had time to sack an entire evening and go play on a Lake Michigan beach with her kids and friends until after sundown. I really couldn't puzzle out her ethnicity and had told myself to stop. We had bantered about going to Dutch Girl for a pint and conversation and it hadn't happened yet and I just couldn't put off my big arrival anymore. So I texted an apology, and an offer. "Sorry, I just had to have my big fat pint of Dutch Girl tonight".
I offered to fill a growler and deliver it right to her front porch and leave it sweating in the heat of an August night. Technically, one doesn't broadcast that. One just does it. The Dutch Girl filled the new growler for me, and she sealed the cap up with a tape. Ready to rock, ready to deliver.
Back in college, when we were all single and had yet to acquire crumb snatchers, a little aggressiveness worked. We didn't have cell phones. We didn't have email addresses. We didn't even have phone numbers. I just bicycled over, knocked on the door and hoped for the best and often, better happened.
That said, I must reassert that I had nothing to do with the Phi Mu panty raid during my senior year that ended up costing the fraternity house five thousand dollars to replace every bit of bottom undergarment in the house. Once the raiders had thrown the collected silks and satins into the air in the formal room like confetti, no amount of washing was going to make the dainty items desirable again.
And a lawyer in the alumni chapter negotiated that deal. And that deal was brokered before the rise of Victoria Secret. I was merely a patsy sitting on the couch with the chapter advisor, a friend, and the chapter president, holding a conversation about, of all matters, dating. Unbeknownst to us, a team of men were riffling through dresser drawers, knowing I could bore anybody in a rather undetectable and yet hard to shake off way. Funny, the advisor and the president still talked to me after the deal was paid.
I hadn't a glimmer of encouragement from my friend, and well, the decades had taught me a few ideas about boundaries and avoiding boundary crossing. I decided to take my growler, sweat beading on the brown glass, home. I slipped the growler into my refrigerator. What is the microbrewery equivalent of sexting? I sent her a money shot of the growler and texted, "All mine, toots".
And that great eight year span of wonderful came to an end. I was grateful it had brought me to West Michigan. I made many friends who I love to drink fresh beer with even now. Or coffee. Most days I just drink coffee. Maybe a wee beer at the end of the day. Plus, I saw my child grow from a 'tween to a matriculated member of the University of Michigan in that span of wonderful. The money made a difference in her life. I used some to buy her books; the rest I just spent on making her feel special. I pretty much knew that no one deserved to live that swell, and I looked for my next wonderful, knowing I had enough wonderful to keep me going until the retirement home. Those eight years felt like a lifetime, a happy one.
A few weeks ago, I realized my August growler of Dutch Girl beer waited for me in the rear corner of my fridge. I thought about giving it to my friends from work, David Hartman or Bill Curtis, but Hartman wouldn't drink it all and why would I give a good guy like Curtis potentially hazardous beer? Dumping it out would be as bad as dumping out all those bittersweet August memories. I took a poll on Facebook, and survey said pour it out, spare your health, wash it out, fill it up and bring it to my house. None of my friends are adverse to a free beer.
I worked ten hours at my new effort, and I stared into the fridge. I didn't have a corkscrew for my stack of bottles from Oceana Winery & Vineyard, purveyed to me at the Muskegon Farmer's Market by Renae Goralski personally. I had finished off the six of Corona given to me by my friend and land lady. All I did was shovel an ice storm off the sidewalk. The growler itself dared me to take a closer look.
I unsealed the tape as if I were unsealing an Egyptian scroll. I unscrewed the metal cap and took a whiff. It smelt remarkably like beer. I filled a small wine glass I had picked up last summer at Devil's Dive Vineyard and swirled it around. The carbonation made an effervescence that encouraged me to raise the glass. I drank.
My head filled with thoughts and I drank entire. I poured a second helping and sat down to chase those thoughts down, write them entirely.