View our Main Site »

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The old man's day out, Part III

In the third and final installment, Steve & company eat fried chicken gizzards, they run into friends at Brewery Vivant, they eventually make it home in one piece...almost. (To read the first and second installments go here and here, respectively.)

I think the Road House is the name of the next bar we hit, and I think the road on which it sits is M43. I’m not really sure of either. The beautiful thing about road trips is that, while you might not know where you are at the moment, rarely are you ever completely and hopelessly lost. I knew we were heading west and I knew that anytime I wanted I could take a right at some crossroads and eventually find the freeway. But sometimes it feels good to be a little lost. Too often our lives are overly regimented—we always seem to be dragging the past with one step and entering the future with the next. Too often we forget about living in the present. Sometimes it’s good to have no clear destination. That’s why I like road trips.

Whatever its name, that bar was a good one. We drank PBRs out of cans. We ate salted peanuts out of cellophane bags. We sat suspended in time, not worrying about the past, not looking toward the future, enjoying for a while the peace-filled present.

Sam Up North, in his element

Sam had a long conversation with the fellow sitting at the bar next to him. I think this fellow was a farmer but I really don’t know what they talked about. I think Sam bought him a drink or two. It felt good to be sitting in an unfamiliar place, my wife at my side, my eighty-year-old dad enjoying himself, my future nothing more than the cold can of PBR sitting on the bar in front of me.

I don’t know how long we were there. It might have been an hour, it might have been two. When we were back in the car heading west again Sam got a little edgy.

“Where in the hell are we?”

“Don’t know, pop,”

“Are we lost?”

“Maybe a little.”

At the next crossroads there was a sign indicating that a place called Sunfield was somewhere to the right. “All right,” I said aloud. “Next stop Sunfield”

We drove north for a few minutes then saw another sign. I turned right again and saw huge grain silos rising over a small cluster of store fronts. In that cluster was a bar.

It was another good bar but I can’t tell you much about it. When you're existing in the present moment it's easy to ignore your senses. I know that I drank High Life out of long neck bottles. I can't tell you what Barb and Sam drank. I know we spent a good amount of time there but I can't tell you how long. I know that we talked to the friendly bartender, that we ordered and ate deep fried pickles and jalapenos, that they tasted wonderful and that just as we were leaving the bartender told us we should come back sometime for dinner. I decided to look at the menu again and another appetizer caught my eye—deep fired chicken gizzards.

“Hey pop, they have gizzards.

“Boy that sounds good.”

We ordered another beer and ten minutes later a huge plate of gizzards was sitting before us. They too tasted wonderful.

When we were back in the car I headed north, found the freeway, and parked on the side of the road. My fellow travelers looked at me. “I need a nap,” I said.

One of the things I love about Barb is that she always has my back. She wouldn't be much help in a bar fight but she's always willing to drive when I get sleepy. She got in the driver's seat and both Sam and I fell asleep.

When I woke I saw the bright lights of the freeway. “Get off at Fuller,” I said.


“Let's take the old man to Vivant.

Sam hadn't been to Brewery Vivant even though his grandson, Jacob Derylo, is the head brewer. He woke up just as Barb was parking.

“Where are we?”

“Brewery Vivant,” I said.

“Where Jacob works?”


“I'll be damned.”

Barb helped Sam out of the car and held his arm so he wouldn't slip on the icy sidewalk. Inside it was packed. There were no empty tables and there was no place to sit at the bar. We stood for a few minutes and just as I was ready to suggest that we leave the bartender got my attention.

“Dude down there wants to buy you guys a drink.”

I looked to where he was pointing and saw a young man wave at me. I had no idea who he was. I ordered the IPA for myself and Barb and a Farmhand for Sam. A few minutes later a man and a woman got up to leave and the man came over to Sam. “Sit down,” the man said.

Barb said she would stand so I sat next to my dad at the bar. A woman walked over and began talking to Barb. It was Kim, one of the Brewers On The Lake, a local homebrew club. She was with Brian, her husband, and Scott, another BOTL member. While Kim and Barb talked I walked over to their table.

“We just left your store,” Brian said. “I spent a lot of money.”

"God bless you," I said, jokingly.

“This is my wife,” said Scott.

“Pleased to meet you.”

When I made my way back to the bar Barb was sitting next to Sam. “Steve, I like this beer,” Sam said.

“Good for you, pop.”

I looked around the packed pub. It felt good to know all the people were enjoying my nephew Jacob's beer. I was proud of Jake. He had worked at the store during the lean years and was there when we first started selling beer- and wine-making supplies. I like telling people that I taught Jake everything he knows about brewing. It's a lie, of course, but I figure it's not really a lie when the person knows you are bullshitting. While I was feeling proud of Jake I heard a loud shout coming from my dad. “Heeyyy!”

I turned and saw my brother, Mark, his wife Barb, and Jeff and Robin Boorsma.

We left after a few more beers. I carefully made my way from the East side of Grand Rapids to the West. When I parked in front of Sam's house I helped him out of the car. I took hold of his arm but as we were walking on the sidewalk he slipped and fell face first into a snowbank.

“Are you okay, pop?”

“Hell yes,” he answered.

I walked with him into the house. My mother was watching television. “Where have you guys been?” she asked. And then, “Oh, Sam.”

I looked at my dad. He was bleeding from a cut on his nose. It was a small cut, not more than a scratch. Yet in the days ahead, on the mornings he worked at Siciliano's, it often reminded me of our trip to Lansing, and I couldn't help but smile.


  1. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story of what sounds like a great day out. I could hear Sam's voice clear as day throughout. "Why would I want to go to Lansing"

  2. Enjoyed the read. Sam is still looking great @ 80. I haven't seen that side of the family in quite some time; I can't recall when the last family reunion was.