Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Wilbo Discovers Again That You Can Always Retreat to the North Muskegon Library and the Red Rooster Tavern, Out in the Middle of Awesome.

I drove away from today's assignment, gig of the day, and I wasn't ready to go home. Going home I was likely to wind up a snoozer loser on my couch. So I drove north out of the downtown and paused at the library in North Muskegon. The librarian there reminds me of the girl next door if the girl next door could run a marathon with one week's notice. Enjoying the friendly welcome, I took my cellphone out onto a porch and made a vital call.

The North Muskegon library always feels like a resort library because one has to go away from the city to reach its location on a bluff overlooking Lake Muskegon. I made all my necessary calls from the Ken Foster bench the sculptor made for AH Fest in 2007. I watched the squirrels playing under the old oaks as I asked all the necessary questions on the phone. I didn't dare use my cell inside because I feel like an insider at North Muskegon and insiders know the rules. I made a mental note to ask Librarian Dunn, "Do you always have cute baskets on silent auction? Last time we visited, you did. Or has it been a year since I had checked in?" Such is the timeless quality of the library by the North Muskegon High School.The library and the librarian are always there, steady as time flows around the building.

I was in a much better mood when my call concluded with a deal coming my way. An expensive deal and even so, much better than being caught with my pants down. Yeah, I bought a health insurance policy.

I was tempted to see if my favorite garden market had a full bag of washed mixed greens. I had yet to be out to the shed at Duck Lake and Scenic Drive. The Red Rooster popped into my radar because it made a natural retreat along the way to the corner. I pulled into the lot and searched for a place to park, futilely. People had taken to parking along Scenic Drive. I saw a man carrying an instrument case, a man who looked like a Hal Holbrook impersonator. I understood my good luck. Wednesday night has been a strolling rehearsal of folk musicians from Max and Ruth Bloomquist to members of the Oat Bran Boys Band. I have attended Wednesday night strolling concerts since 2008, and tonight was no disappointment. A new mandolin player had taken up with the group since last I visited, a woman who sang with a beautiful voice. A man who had traveled from Ohio on business played along on his squeeze box, the first accordion to play with the troupe, or as far as memory can tell.

As luck would have it, I sat next to a man who ordered one of the Red Rooster's most delicious choices, the Rooster Ribeye. He was busily uploading a picture of Max and Ruth Bloomquist up to his Facebook and I wonder how he took such a clear and colorful picture when my selfies and photobombs in that evening light showed up dim and murky. I guess the Bloomquists have an aura, probably Max Bloomquist practicing that deep and mystical Suomalainen magic in his background, deny it though he might. My bartop companion identified himself as the new owner of Pub 111 in Whitehall, and I congratulated him on the new banquet room he had built in the Noble Building, his last project. He loved what he was experiencing and answered all his questions. "They just show up"? " Yes, and they have just shown up for as long as I lived here, over nine years". I recommended he try for a Wednesday night Irish session, especially since there's Luthiers and fiddlers beyond count in the Oaken druid lands of the Manistee National Forest, Whitehall the gateway to those lands. We raised a wee glass to toast the possibility.

I saw a woman pack away her instrument, a violin hand made by the leading luthier of Big Rapids. She had begun her "sitting in" at Red Rooster Wednesdays as a fiddle scout, a folk music adoptee of Daniel Seabolt, and I remembered he had carved a Rooster at the very top of that fiddle for good luck, fledging his apprentice officially with the gift. One thinks of all the violins preserved from Renaissance Cremona Italy, and here's a fiddle at the Rooster that will defy time just as well, a fiddle in its first year of immortality. The Zielinski's had lulled me out of the flow of time and care again with hospitality, and I still had to drive up to Duck Lake Roaf, preferably in the sun.

The way out of the Rooster is never easy, and not just because the entourage was performing "Turkey in the Straw" before the main door. Past Sunday, I had heard a choir perform this Civil War standard at a concert in Fremont, all the choirs and band in Newaygo County massed to commemorate the war between the states. The musicians on stage at the Dogwood Center performed a fine version of "Turkey in the Straw", but very formally, all dignified. The Oat Bran Boys and their companions vamped it up as much as a song written for itinerant minstrels can be vamped. It's almost impossible to be over the top on "Turkey in the Straw", and the Boys were trying, pretty much gobbling like a tom turkey on the exclamation, " Turkey in the Straw"! I would love to see The Boys perform on a barge down the Mississippi, the hold laden with fine goods for market and plentiful vittles and casks of whiskey. The Boys would sing just as boisterously as those jolly riverboat men of yore, of the shores of St. Paul, we can be sure. And this is why I had no hope of leaving soon from the front door. And just as well.

About a month ago, I had attended the party of a century at the house of a couple who had once owned the Red Rooster. And of course they had made the Wednesday night scene. I say the party of a century because the couple had recreated an evening on the theme of Mid Twentieth Century modern, and we had all dressed up in the garments of Mad Men. I had a great time even though my martini glass was filled so generously, I had to hold it in two hands to keep it from toppling over. A family friend had given all the women beehive updos. Another woman who lives for Mad Men parties had let all the women play dress up in her closets deep with period attire. The husband looked as if he had walked off the stage of an Ibsen performance. The wife wore her Diane Vreedland glasses and conversed with the well-wishers, too many people for me to wait a turn to say hello. So I squeezed off a wink and then egressed through the back door to the twilight outside.

I heard the peepers singing, "Let's Spend the Night Together" in the marsh near Duck Lake, dark plumetting on Scenic Drive. I found my turn and pulled up to the house, lights dark, sign gone, shed locked and whitewashed. I wondered why. Had the people moved and discontinued their garden? The family had supplied a store at the corner of Duck Lake and Whitehall Road with ready-to-enjoy salads, but the store had gone up for sale when last winter's snow had melted. Or maybe a return later in the season will find the shed filled with buttery greens and fresh herbs, even watercress from the stream that feeds Duck Lake. This will probably entail more visits to Red Rooster for Wednesday night folk music. And that's a fine thing.

Open Letter

An open letter to Michael Brower and the brewing team of Pigeon Hill Brewing Company, and by extension, the brewing team of Unruly Brewing. Michael, it's great that PHBC and your family have doubled down on Muskegon, restoring homes & building a business. As I relax in the tap room with its cheery and amber lighting, I'm certain this will be one of the third places that will be my great indoors, between home and work. I've had chance to catch up with friends from Mia & Grace, the new owners of the Red Rooster and team members from the Michigan Irish Music Festival social media team. If Muskegon called for a community living room, Unruly and Pigeon answered the call with their tap rooms. Thank you all of you for providing a safe and warm environment for conversation and quenching thirst. Muskegon needed and deserved just this. Sadly, a chill in today's evening air made Whistle Punk's dough unruly, and I wasn't able to order one of their pizzas to savor at your fine bar counter.

I was listening to a Sam Adams commercial and the announcer was praising Kolsch beer, brewed by one of a conference of brewers who brew within sight of a famous cathedral. So all American beers that attempt the recipe must call themselves Kolsch-Style lagers. My thoughts turned to Muskegon next. Cologne is older than our city. Muskegon has less than two hundred years as a formal city, although the Native American presence reaches deeply into prehistory. Hence, one must speculate. Is there a beer style that could become our own, just as Champagne must be produced in the Champagne region of France to employ the name? I'm certain I am raising the conversation with a likely person as you have explored Muskegon's brewing past through book, lore and artifact.

The brand of Kolsch has made Cologne a beer destination since at least 1918, when the brewers agreed on the brand ideas. In fact, many of those brewers were devastated by World War II and arose from the ashes to produce the wildly popular Kolsch again. We need a Muskegon styled beer to prepare our resilience. This is a chance to put a recipe on the books for a millennium. See what you can create.



Picture of Hal Holbrook from the Wikipedia

Holbrook in December 2009

lukeford.net - http://www.lukeford.net/Images/photos4/071209/164.htm

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