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Grand Rapids: 13 June - 13 July 2019

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

Interviewing for possible residence.

1. Lodgings: Stayed at our Montague landlord’s place in the Heritage Hill section of GR (College & Cherry St SE). Semi-furnished one bedroom at the Hillmont Condominiums @ $1150/mo. Binge-watched Longmire, Peter Gunn (dig that Lola Albright) and Free Solo (the man is without fear).

Note: Grand Rapids has the most restrictive AirBnb listing requirements I have ever come across, basically you have to jump through numerous and costly governmental hoops and then can only rent out one room in your owner occupied home (owner to remain on premise - therefore you cannot list using the "entire home/apt option"). This drives up the price of both hotels and airbnb‘s. The optimist in me wants to thank the city for regulating rentals to ensure everyones safety, but this may have more to do with the safety of the Marriott’s and the DeVi.

Note: this map gives a good breakdown of Grand Rapids neighborhoods.

2. Coffee:

-Kava Casa: WTF is Kava?! To be honest I had no idea, and after tasting it, I just don't care. An indescribable, earthy tasting swill that is as expensive as it is unpalatable. The worst tasting thing I put in my mouth since I tried dried squid in Hong Kong. The proprietor Ricardo, who was from Bensonhurst (Brooklyn in the house!!), claims it provides him with energy, calmness, focus and inner peace. When I mentioned “that‘s what I drink liquor for”, he lambasted me for poisoning myself with toxins. When I left, I caught him smoking a cigarette out back. I was pissed. My wife wondered how the place managed to stay in business, to which I replied “it must be a front for the Mob”.

-Lantern Coffee Bar & Lounge: Epitome of the hipster coffee shop. I was going to make a comment about this place having nothing to do with the Green Lantern, but then I realized it may.

-Homewood Suites (downtown Grand Rapids): Free Coffee (Comprender Ricardo??)

-Common Grounds: solid coffee and economical (cappuccino, coffee, eclair, and cranberry muffin = $8.90). Old editions of Chess Magazine were available. I read one from 1988 that featured an article about “Chess on Air Force One”, obviously not a recent phenomenon.

-le bon macaron: A bakery, coffee, gift shop specializing in Fr$nch macarons. A charming space with fresh peonies at every table. Thoughts of Ladurée (New York Soho). 

3. Bars:

-Steelcat Bar: A solid bar located on the trendy West Side. The only bar I’ve ever visited that had a frost rail. One dollar domestic beer didn’t hurt either.

Note: the place also serves all its drafts at 32°. Only ran across that once before in Dublin with my buddy Patroclus.

4. Calder Plaza:

-La Grand Vittese (French for "the great swiftness", know locally as "The Calder"): Commissioned by the NEA in 1968 to be the lynchpin of the downtown Grand Rapids redevelopment. There is a 1/23 scale model located on Ottawa Ave (@ 200 ft southeast of The Calder).

-City Hall and Kent Count Clerks Office: Designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, but strikingly reminiscence of the Chicago Federal Center (designed by Mies van der Rohe). Am I the only one who has noticed? Enter City Hall, take the elevator to the 9th floor, enter the City Commission Chambers and look out the window on the Calder painting located on top of the Kent County Clerks Office.

-State of Michigan Building: This Brutalist building located directly northeast from The Calder reminds me of SouthWest Washington, DC.

5. Museums:

-Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum: a fine review of the achievements of our 38th President and more importantly a monument dedicated to a (recently) bygone era of presidential civility and integrity. BTW: he was a former Naval Officer.

Note: Of course the museum contains the Oval Office replica (which may be a presidential museum requirement).

-Grand Rapids Art Museum: Meets the contemporary art museum requirement of having a Calder, in this case a stabile (Blunt-Tail Dog), a mobile (Red Rudder in the Air) and a number of sketches. Also has a:

*Diebenkorn: "Ingleside"

*Bertoia: "Untitled"

*Close: forget the name of the exact piece, but it's one of those that he used his thumbprints to produce an incredibly realistic portrait of a woman.

*A temporary Maya Lin exhibit that had a piece that used pins to draw the Grand River Watershed. The points forming a figure reminded me of the work of a former colleague Amy Lin (no relation).

Note: Free Tuesdays and Thursday nights (5-9 pm).

6. Food: Downtown and East Grand Rapids are completely devoid of grocery store options. You will need to drive to buy your groceries:

-Great Giant Supermarket: despite the name, not a bad grocery store. Good selection, good prices and the biggest bottle of Hennessy‘s I’ve ever seen.

-Trader Joes: it’s the same every where: great service, selection (including wine) and prices.

-Bridge Street Market: Meijer’s first foray into smaller, neighborhood grocery stores (a new hip store for a new hip neighborhood). It contains a nice coffee shop "Mayan Buzz Cafe".


*Vito’s (see Misc: Not So Recommended Watching). Solid and economical pizza (12" = $5.24). It's not NYC pizza, but then again it's not NYC.

*HHP: higher price, but better pizza (14"= $12.50).

-Beer City (on 28th Street SE) for all your liquor needs. Three words "State Minimum Prices"

7. Restaurants:

-The Commons: Located in the first floor of the apartment building next door, is a bar/restaurant that will make you think you are drinking in your parents basement (tv consoles, cool art deco furniture, etc ) or Steve’s parents basement.

-Butchers Union: A solid version of the hipster cocktail bar/restaurant - these days there is at least one in every city. Our hipster bartender did a fine job with my Old Fashioned and recommended an outstanding Korean restaurant (see below), but then ruined the moment by suggesting that the wife and I go antiquing in Saugatuck.

-Seoul Market: Damm good, inexpensive (@$10) authentic Korean food in Grand Rapids!? ! They have all the classics: bulgogi, bibimbap, soft tofu stew, etc. After your meal stroll the shop for all things Korean: the largest jar of kimchi I’ve ever seen, a pound of dried anchovies, a bag of peeled, spicey garlic cloves, etc.

Note: "come sahmi da" = thank you, “ahn-yong hah-say-yoh” = hello

8. In the end it was decided Grand Rapids wasn’t the right fit, but its resume will be kept on file in case something develops in the future.


-The Grand Rapids Flag you see around town is actually the Grand Rapids Logo Flag: The field of the logo is yellow, representing the sun. Across the lower third of the field is a narrow, blue undulating stripe representing the Grand River that courses through the city. The red figure (a Calder Red pawn on its side?) represents the Calder sculpture.

-DASH: Free, fast & frequent downtown bus service.

-Not So Recommended Watching: “30 Minutes or Less” starring Jesse Eisenburg and Aziz Ismail Ansari (yeah that’s his middle name). Probably the best and worst movie ever filmed in Grand Rapids. I was going to do a DIY Tour about the movie, but then I watched it. If my wife ever meets Aziz she plans on asking for a refund.

La Grand Vittese

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