“I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know – unless it be to share our laughter. We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love. For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.” — James Kavanaugh, There Are Men Too Gentle To Love Among Wolves.
I left Cultivate reluctantly. Frankly, the only thing that could have persuaded me to leave such a romantic place – and yes, you can experience a sense of romance even in solitude – was Lake Michigan.
I love Lake Michigan. I grew up very close to the Atlantic Ocean; we spent about every other weekend in the summer in Cape Cod. I have wonderful memories of splashing around in the ocean and eating staggering amounts of its seafood.
But I don’t remember loving the Atlantic the way I love Lake Michigan. I can’t even imagine moving somewhere such that I wasn’t about an hour away from it. And that’s mildly ridiculous, that a lake would be that important to me.
I had never been to St. Joe’s before, but I’d heard it was lovely. Two of my high school teachers, married to each other with three kids, had been there a week or so before and posted the pictures on Facebook. I took one look and knew I wanted to check out St. Joe’s.
I drove along, making my way toward the Livery, a brewery in Benton Harbor, a small town right over the bridge from St. Joseph. The two towns have a storied and problematic history, with St. Joe’s being where the white people lived, so it was a much more affluent area that got more state funds, and Benton Harbor being a poorer, predominantly Black area that … didn’t. This blog post gets into it a bit, and is worth a read.
As I drove, I got closer to the lake, and eventually, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I pulled off onto the side of the road (turned out to be Lookout Park in St. Joseph) because I just had to take the time to admire the view. And honestly, can you blame me?
It’s a panorama, and I think it should convert to its real size if you click on it. But honestly, look at that gorgeous lake, clear blue sky, and all that greenery.
I don’t remember how long I stood there, but it must have been some time. No matter how many times I’m there, I’m always a little dumbstruck by Lake Michigan. She’s not so great on our side, in Illinois, but damn, in Michigan, she is pristine.
And I don’t know what it is, but Lake Michigan always seems to put my problems, my tensions, my anxieties, my worries, in perspective. Wallace Stevens once said that sometimes the truth depends on a walk around the lake. I don’t know which lake he was talking about, but I know which lake I’m thinking about when I remember that quote from the best and most representative American poet of the time, who spent most of his life as an insurance company executive.
Finally, I dragged myself away and drove through a few roundabouts, over a bridge, and I was at the Livery. It’s in a big square brick building with a great patio, and I headed inside (like the little mole I am) to see what they had to offer.
A varied selection, to be sure. I carefully considered the list as I selected my flight, listening to the beer gossip from the bartender and two of the regulars. Haymarket was going to be opening in Bridgman soon, they said, because one of the owners had a summer home there. A summer home in Bridgman must be pretty nice. I added it to my list of Wants for the future, a random, helter skelter sort of list I toss into the Universe now and then with no serious hope of being heard.
I ordered my flight and settled in.
Harbor Shores was an amber ale that I thought was balanced and pretty solid. Summit Extra Pale Ale was next, and it was all right. I wasn’t super into pale ales at the time, so it was hard to get excited about them, even though I love them now. Silver Queen was mediocre, and Butterfly Effect, their lager, was not good. But then again, I barely understand lagers now and I sure as fuck didn’t understand them then, so don’t let that throw you. I had the Rusty Ale, which I didn’t care for, and I didn’t like Old Man Mason at all, either. Slow Peach was pretty okay.
As you might have guessed, I wasn’t wild about the Livery. I have never been back and have no real plans to go back. It didn’t impress me at all. Maybe if I hear they’ve changed brewers or have gotten super amazing somehow, I’d check it out, but as it stands – I’m not going back.
(Sorry! Everyone was super nice, though!)
My itinerary told me that I would go to Paw Paw Brewing next, before they closed, en route to Kalamazoo, but that didn’t happen. I love, love, love the beach and I LOVE Lake Michigan, so I spent more time hanging out in St. Joe’s.
I never park in the parking lot at the beach; instead, I find a spot on the street (free!) or in the residential area, and then just cross the bridge to get there.
I find railroad tracks so romantic.
There are super cute little shops along the way, where you can rent kayaks and boards and stuff.
And then I bummed around the beach for a while, soaking up the sun and enjoying the sunset. Here are my feet:
By the time I left, it was almost sunset and Paw Paw was already closed. So I headed into Kalamazoo, sad because I thought I’d blown my itinerary and missed a great brewery. But it was warm and pretty and the apartment complex I was staying at was lovely, as were the hosts.
Irene and her roommate had a huge spread out to welcome me, and the room I stayed in was spacious and comfortable. They cooked me dinner and we watched some random movie about God taking on a human form and visiting some diner (it’s always a diner) in a total liminal space and even though I LOVE liminal spaces (or the concept of them, because in reality they can be terrifying), it was so fucking stupid.
So then we decided that we wanted to go out, and they wanted to show me around downtown Kalamazoo, which would have been awesome except we got rained out and the bar where we were going to go (I was told there was dancing and karaoke, both of which are terrifying) was closed, so it was kind of a bust. But I had a nice first evening, and when I got to sleep later, I slept like a rock.