weekend getaway

This weekend’s escape from the culture void that is East Lansing was an afternoon trip to Ann Arbor, the home of the University of Michigan. The main reason for this journey was to experience something both Amanda and I have been missing dearly since we left Boston. It is something that was a part of our everyday lives, something that we depended on, something that we knew we could not live without, and something that does not exist in or around Lansing, Michigan. That something is Trader Joe’s. With food supplies dwindling and money tight it was more of a necessity than a luxury. With a lull in the intensity of Amanda’s studies, it was the perfect time to go.

What is so great about Trader Joe’s you ask? Well first of all they have extremely cheap, vegetarian friendly, pre-packaged foods. Second, you aren’t hard pressed to find items that don’t contain stuff like high fructose corn syrup and various dyes and preservatives. The final reason is sentimental. Trader Joe’s was the sole provider of my nourishment when I lived in Boston and I became fond of the gaudy, island-style décor and the free shot of coffee.

In addition to picking up some groceries we also wanted to enrich our lives in another way. Since East Lansing is completely devoid of any artistic culture we thought this would be a great opportunity to seek some out. After searching on the internets, Amanda discovered that there is going to be a Polish Film Festival that very same weekend. What luck! We picked out a movie that sounded good (something about the Lollipop Gang Sisters) and printed out a google map. We were ready. With our hearts soaring and our expectations high we called some traveling companions, Emily (who is actually part Polish) and Larone, and hit the road.

Upon arrival we realized that we were very hungry. Larone suggested a place in town called Ashley’s that we could get some food and a beer. It was your typical college town sports bar but the beer selection was awesome and very reasonably priced. Amanda had a glass of Duchess de Bourgogne sour beer, which was amazing, I had some Piraat, and our friends each had a Unibroue, which to our astonishment came in a pint glass. The food was not that great. Amanda had a grilled cheese on challa bread and I had an overly-cheesed personal pizza while Emily and Larone shared a plate of pesto waffle fries. I would definitely recommend the place for the beer…but not the food.

After a quick walk through the U of M Law School courtyard, which was beautiful, we headed to the theatre where the 2007 Polish Film Festival was being held. We soon discovered that we were already fifteen minutes late for the movie. After a quick poll of the group we decided to see it anyway. Luckily a light bulb went out in the theatre and it took them a while to find the ten guys to spin the ladder while the other one held the bulb 😉 so the show stared a little late. I am not sure if we missed something important in that first few minutes or if it was just me but I couldn’t seem to catch on to what was happening. They were speaking in some other language, who knows what, the entire time and we sat so close that it was difficult to see what was going on and read the subtitles at the same time. I discovered that I could either read what they were saying or watch what was happening. Unfortunately before I could decide my mind thought that it was a good time to take a nap and, as much as I tried to fight it, I succumbed to sleep. It was a fun time. Amanda seemed to enjoy it, which makes it worth it, and our friends weren’t too mad that we made them sit through it. Next stop…Trader Joe’s.


You can probably guess what we did next so I won’t go into it in too much detail. We found most of the stuff we were looking for, with the exception of our favorite veggie burgers 😦 and picked up a few extra treats for our mental health (i.e. cilantro lime cashews). The drive back was uneventful and by the time we got home we were exhausted. It was really a lot of fun and since it was only about an hour’s drive, we vowed to return on a monthly basis.

… when you have a sister who’s a Harvard-graduated, Chicagoan lawyer. B and I celebrated my quarter-century birthday this weekend with Karen and Erik in Chicago. We ate and drank and talked and laughed and walked and looked for 24 straight hours. Our visit went a bit like this:

5:30 pm ~ B and I arrive after a quick trip. At least I thought it was quick – I had my nose in my school books, oblivious to B’s battle with traffic. Karen and Erik immediately introduce us to their new video game, Guitar Hero. I played once, was booed from the stage by my virtual fans and wouldn’t pick the guitar up again. B played once and wouldn’t put the guitar back down until it was time to leave the apartment.

7:00 pm ~ We proceed from Karen and Erik’s place to a shi-shi, windowless cocktail lounge, the Violet Hour, which is so pretentious it doesn’t even bother to put any signs outside, figuring its clientele will seek IT out. Which they do … as we did. It was superb, of course.

8:15 pm ~ After slurping down our drinky-drinks with the utmost snobbery, we headed over to our chosen dinner spot … the Café Absinthe. Yum. French cuisine. I believe B and I ate more fat in those two hours than we normally do in a month’s time. We decided to skip dessert and to exercise our swollen bellies and foggy wine-brains by heading down the street for … dessert and more drinks.

10:30 pm ~ Hot Chocolate is a haven for both chocoholics and alcoholics – as well as the rest of us residing along the spectrum. After a two-hour wait that turned into a two-minute wait (what luck!), we gorged on chocolate- embellished-chocolate, armed with snifters of cognac and sherry. AND, somehow my dessert came with a little extra “happy birthday” decoration …. Remarkably, after all we had consumed, we could still talk and laugh and walk, which we proceeded to do and headed back to Karen and Erik’s place to sleep it off.

10:00 am ~ In the morning, Karen made us all eat gourmet-style, home-cooked Eggs Benedict. After such an awesome breakfast – and lots of Erik’s strong black coffee – we were refreshed and primed to venture out again.

11:00 am ~ We made a beeline for the Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibit, Sympathy for the Devil – Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967, which was an intense two hours’ worth of brain and eye candy for us art and music lovers. And, we had to play with all the cool Alessi gadgets in the museum shop on our way out.

1:30 pm ~ We next jumped in a cab for our last trip across the city, back to Bucktown, to peek into shop windows and grab some coffee. The decision to window shop was finalized only as I promised not to buy anything. Which was a weak attempt at protecting me – super-broke and vulnerable to temptation – from the trendy shops I love and can’t afford. After a harrowing taxi ride we narrowly escaped, we arrived in Bucktown near Karen and Erik’s neighborhood. I managed to weasel my way into a hip little boutique at the first opportunity and picked up a pair of arm-warmers for $20. So stealthy.

3:00 pm ~ Our very last stop was a spontaneous visit to my new favorite Chicago ‘anytime’ restaurant – Earwax. Mmm, num … right? Anyway, tons and tons of veggie-friendly (and delicious, duh!) stuff on the menu and even Lapsang Souchong tea – my favorite.

4:30 pm ~ So, after eating our last meal, we all trudged back to Karen and Erik’s place, B and I dragging our feet with tears streaming down our faces because we didn’t want to leave Chicago. But, I did have an exam on Monday, so it was necessary to hit the road, straight back to the junkyard we reluctantly call home.

All-in-all, a most fabulous 25th birthday. I suggest that if you want one like I had, you’ll have to get a sister like mine first – and good luck on that one.