Grand Rapids’ Surprises

On the day we drove from Northern Indiana back into Michigan, we had time to kill before we had to be in Kalamazoo. A few weeks before, we’d received an email from Bruce and Mario who run a gay café in Grand Rapids, an hour north of Kalamazoo, so we thought we’d check it out.

The thing is, we’d also received emails WARNING us about Grand Rapids. “Oh, thank God you’re not going up to Grand Rapids it’s a scary place!” “I’d be impressed if you braved grand rapids!” We were more than a little curious.

It’s been great spending so much time in Michigan, a fascinating state. It’s neat how Michigan has so many small cities an hour or so apart from each other – Kalamazoo, Lansing, Flint, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Grand Rapids – all so totally different in character. There’s:

Kalamazoo: artistic museum-filled cultural center.
Ann Arbor: liberal college town similar in character to New England.
Flint: once-great embarrassment of corporate failure.
Lansing: political and nightlife capital of the state.
Jackson: um… sorta creepy.
Grand Rapids: well, surprise surprise…
beautiful!

Every bit of architecture in this town is interesting and captivating. There’s so much money in Grand Rapids! The red brick streets as we drove into downtown, the angled layout of the downtown grid, everything caught our eye. Mikey’s friend Roger went to Calvin College here. There’s a lot of Dutch Reform influence and money in GR. We’d known it was a religious town. We hadn’t known it would be so classy.

We found Discussions coffee shop after only five minutes of driving around (some cities are WAYYYY easier to navigate in than others), a few blocks from the clubs and shops of downtown. A cute place with cool décor and a dimly-lit comfy atmosphere, we’d recommend Discussions to anyone. Check out www.geocities.com/discussions_cafe. Say hi to Bruce and Mario for us since we didn’t get a chance to meet them!

These first few days of the Midwest trip have been so rushed we decided to take a breather in Grand Rapids, getting a room at the Days Inn which sits over the rushing river that cascades through the city. After Kalamazoo, we drove back up to GR and went dancing at the best gay club in town, Diversions (www.gaywestmi.com). Sexy gay girls and guys, a mix of older and younger that was happy and fun, a huge surprise. We ended up in a huge gang of young queer people searching for an afterparty in the neighborhood streets – we’re talkin 40 or so rowdy gay kids in a caravan of cars driving around and around a residential area at 3AM. A far cry from the “creepy Christian town” people’d warned us about at Adultfrienedfinder app.

In fact – and this is something we’re definitely going to be exploring this trip – it might be long overdue that we stop equating Christianity with The Enemy. The Midwest is such a religiously rich part of the country. Christianity is a big part of MANY peoples’ lives. And the truth is, Christianity isn’t anti-gay, anti-gay people are anti-gay. Why waste energy being bitter and defiant? Appreciating the good things about Christianity – like everything – can reveal some pleasant surprises… as we discovered first hand in Grand Rapids.

By now we’ve driven : A LOT OF miles
We’ve listened to: A LOT OF ghetto-ass-bitches’ music
We’ve seen: A LOT OF people driving cars with “United We Stand” stickers who look like they’d beat you up without a second thought if you told them you were gay.
We’ve been to: A LOT OF places in the state of Michigan and we’ll miss it greatly. See you in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Love Benjie and Mike

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