When we walked out of Top Gun last night, we ran over to the marketing signage in the lobby to take a picture. A man was there with his family. He offered to take our picture, and we took a family pic for them. Everybody was laughing and trying to get next to “Tom”. We got a couple of pictures, and I felt a little taken aback at how all that transpired. Was that what the world used to feel like? Social celebrations and sharing joy with strangers at close range without a thought about it? . On the way home, I said a little prayer of gratitude that life as we once knew it may have returned. I also felt grateful for the silver lining of the pandemic that has made me very aware of how lucky we are. Sometimes we have to lose something in order to appreciate it.
I looked forward to this weekend all week. It’s been cold and Friday night I was wearing a coat to walk Ashok. But Saturday would be in the 60s, Sunday in the 70s and Monday in the 80s. It seemed that summer was coming and with it the glorious weather of Southwest Michigan. I even looked forward to parking issues due to the throngs of tourists landing in St. Joseph. Businesses would be awash in money and work and all of the summer activities will be in full swing. To celebrate, I got out early for a long run Saturday and said hi to everyone I met.
I headed down to the Farmer’s Market and bought some flowers from my friend Stephanie and a great cup of coffee from Brian at Forte Coffee. It tasted even better than normal after being dispensed in the sunshine on the bluff. I had no real plans for Saturday, so I packed up Ashok and we headed to Saugatuck for a walk around town. She was perkier than I have seen her lately and enjoyed the treats laid out in bowls from the local businesses. Later I went to the movie theater for the first time since 2019 and saw Downton Abbey: New Era. It was a great movie and it was such a treat to do something that I loved doing pre-pandemic. Our Celebration Cinema has those big reclining seats and I was in my happy place.
Saugatuck was hopping!!
I met my friend Becky for breakfast Sunday and we were talking so much we forgot to pay the check. Luckily she was shopping next door and the poor waiter had to confront her about it. She apologized profusely and paid him. I texted her when I realized it, and we laughed about starting a life of crime early in the weekend. I stopped by Home Depot to order some new countertops for my kitchen before heading to Kalamazoo to have lunch with my friend Liz and see Top Gun: Maverick. We were dying to eat at Los Brothers Taco Shop but were bummed to see that it was closed for the weekend. We were hungry and headed to the closest thing we could find – a Southern eatery called Ty’s Joint.
We asked for suggestions, and Tyrone (one of the owners) pointed out highlights of the menu. Like a good Southerner I chose a bunch of sides for a meal. Collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread dressing with chicken and fried okra made my mouth water. Liz ordered the perch and catfish plate for us to share and with the candied yams and corn as sides. You gotta have sides!! Tyrone said all of it was delicious, but the collard greens were the best. We had a mountain of food, and OMG it was perhaps the best food I have put in my mouth in awhile. My favorites were the cornbread dressing and candied yams. But the collard greens had a little spice that made them stand out from the ones I’ve typically eaten in the South, and the fried okra tasted just like home.
I met the family after we ate. Tyler and Nikki (his cousin) started the restaurant a year ago, and it’s been very successful so far. The neighborhood regulars are a huge support, and the delivery services have helped them get introduced beyond the immediate vicinity. Apparently Nikki has always loved cooking mountains of this yummy soul food, and she and Tyrone had always joked that they were going to open a restaurant one day. It wasn’t much of a joke because they’ve done it, and I’m so glad they did. Tyrone said they pride themselves on quality ingredients and won’t scrimp. “When people are used to eating this soul food they can tell when you cut corners,” he said. I will return and I hope soon. We were so full we missed the peach cobbler, but he said we have to try it. I’ll tell you about it when I do!
This morning I ran again. (I needed to after all that food!) I’m actually signed up for several races this summer and one in the fall. I’m happy to have had the break from running but am equally excited to be back racing. It feels good in my body, and it’s fun to plan destination runs with friends. I loaded up Ashok again intending to go for a walk at Holland State Park. The traffic was so snarled before I got to the park that we turned around and went to Sanctuary Woods, a Nature Preserve Liz and I discovered this winter. We were literally the only people in this beautiful little park and enjoyed a nice long hike in the woods.
I’ve had a hankering for a hot dog at the Root Beer Barrel in Douglas, so we stopped there on the way home. I struck up a conversation with a couple from Chicago who was driving through to go to the Upper Peninsula. I gave them some suggestions for their trip and ordered a New Yorker Dog which is basically a Reuben with a hot dog. Ashok got her own weiner, and she was happy as a clam. It was a perfect sunny afternoon, and all of the patrons were chatting with each other in the excitement of being at a hot dog joint in Southwest Michigan on a sunny summer day. Life just doesn’t get much better than that.
I hope you had a great weekend. I know there’s a lot to worry about right now, but we have to go on living and enjoying the simple pleasures we have. There are many people who made these freedoms possible by sacrificing their lives and the lives of their loved ones. We are honoring them and their sacrifices today in the only way we know how. Thank you for the gifts of freedom.