after we saw Styx we got picked up by grandma and headed to the sticks

After spending a very bittersweet week perched above beautiful Lake Michigan in a log cabin with our various family we were ready to come home but oh no Delta Airlines had other plans due to “late arriving equipment” (landing gear parts? a replacement toilet seat lid?) and so our flight yesterday out of Grand Rapids was delayed. This set off a chain reaction of missed flights resulting in us being housed overnight in a depressing hotel on the outskirts of this city in western lower Michigan. While a very tired Diana elected to spend the late afternoon napping with Oliver, Adam and I called Grandma and asked her if she could please pick us up so we could spend a few diversionary hours at her house in the evening, it was about an hour past tidy farms and rolling hills that hint at orchard country, to get from the hotel to her place. It was very nice that we had Grandma and Grandpa all to ourselves. We wandered around the yard on this pleasant night that was less heat-hazy than usual but still reeked with humidity. I was a little nervous about being attacked by Andre the Rooster but Adam ignored my protestations and boldly collected eggs with Grandma (who fended Andre off with a rake). Adam went on a few three-wheeler rides with Grandpa (they rode back in the field a couple times and came back to herd chickens by motorcycle). We walked up to the old barn and snooped in the tall grass and poked around in the storehouse above Grandpa Donat’s old workshop, finally to be driven off by the alarming scent of a nearby lurking skunk.

This is one of the chickens in the yard trying to act casual. But you know when a chicken is following you, they don’t do casual very well. Every time I spotted a chicken I really liked, my mom would matter-of-factly inform me that they were not very highly respected in the chicken community and had been ostracized for one reason or another. And then Andre would come skulking around the corner ready to break up some sort of chicken squabble. Chickens, chickens, chickens- chickens everywhere. There must’ve been two dozen of them, but it was hard to tell the way they scatter about. I find chickens quite entertaining, it tickles my funny bone to watch their nervous, flighty antics and milling about.  It’s a pity they have to shit just about everywhere you step. But I do like them. I don’t particularly enjoy living next to them in the tight confines of Seattle where pollyanna-ish urban locavores indulge their pastoral fantasies, but they agree with me in more wide open spaces. They leave very, very green grass in their wake (but again, the poop problem). I took this picture, which I like because you don’t really know if it’s a flower picture or a chicken picture, while I was admiring my mom’s yarrow. I didn’t realize she had so much yarrow. Except hers is pink and purple- mine is all yellow.

About the inexplicable rock star sighting: While Adam and I were standing in front of the hotel waiting to be picked up, a couple of well-coiffed band members (Ricky Phillips and Tommy Shaw) from Styx trudged out to their shiny beige tour bus! They were on their way up north to Traverse City. I talked to a friendly fellow who was apparently their main roadie.  Earlier in the afternoon he’d ridden from the airport to the hotel with us. We sat quietly in the backseat of the van while he gave the hotel shuttle driver all sorts of rehearsed, practiced instructions about when (2:30 PM) and how to be ready to move some of the band’s baggage to the tour bus. I felt a little sorry for the band for staying in Grand Rapids, at the Crown Plaza. But I suppose it’s the unglamorous behind-the-scenes lifestyle that old arena rockers lead. The Crown Plaza is a yucky place but not in a dive-y sort of way. Yucky in the all too obvious we-have-a-nice-contract-with-the-airport-to-house-distressed-travelers sort of way. Our bathroom door (room 101) wouldn’t close unless we slammed it shut and the rest of the place had the telltale false veneer of luxury. Our view was of the 28th Street Burger King. A tattooed ruffian delivered a refrigerator to our room that looked like it’d been tossed out of an airplane at 30,000 feet. Oliver Fern had a horrible night trying to sleep, Diana had to snuggle with him in a lounge chair at the side of the bed. And despite the entire square footage of our king bed, Adam tossed and turned all night and I finally had to gird my loins with a huge throw pillow at 2 AM so I could sleep without getting kicked in the nuts. All of us, we were bleary-eyed the next morning. I was dumbfounded when I went to retrieve the luggage cart and was greeted by a few dozen Japanese waiting at the maxed-out elevator. What reason would so many Japanese people have for wanting to visit Grand Rapids? I really have no idea. It was once upon a time the office furniture capital of the world, which should be your first clue as to how dull a place it is.

When the evening was over, Grandma took us back to the airport the long way, bypassing main roads in favor of miles and miles south down their dirt road until it turned into pavement and passed orchard farms and a surprising number of above-ground-swimming pools.

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