“Being in the country is like being in a dream—one doesn’t quite know who one is. There is an anonymity to it all—that strange human creature that is me, one among all.” — Meia Geddes, Love Letters to the World
I left Millgrove and meandered about for a bit, enjoying the weather and the curious pattern of clouds in the sky. Clouds are one thing I’ve always wished I knew more about, but try as I might, and as good as my memory otherwise is, I can never keep the names straight.
Eventually, I made my way back onto the main country highways, driving through open fields. Saugatuck is out in the orchards, and it’s a pretty nice facility. It’s next to some giant furniture warehouse, right on the main road, and they’ve got a great outdoor area that’s super fun in the summers.
I headed in and my Brown sense tingled. Sure enough, there was a bartender at the bar named Abdul. He was South Asian, and, from his name, at least of Muslim heritage.
That’s the thing about being Brown: you’re super attuned to seeing other Brown people in White spaces, as craft breweries generally are, and when you see them you immediately size up where they’re likely from. As a fellow Brown, you can often tell. Sometimes you can’t.
There’s also a Brown tipping point. In busy metropolitan areas, like Chicago, there are too many Browns to encourage spur of the moment camaraderie. Like, if I walk into a bar or a coffee shop or a cafeteria in the federal courthouse in Chicago, and there are a bunch of other Browns, or even just one, 9 times out of 10, we will ignore each other. It is just the way of it.
But when I’m down in southern Illinois in Harrisburg, right by the Shawnee National Forest, which is a very very very White area, and the clerk at the front desk of the Quality Inn I’m staying at while I explore the state park is Brown, we become friends. It’s a way of saying, we’re both here in this inhospitable environment, I have your back and you have mine.
Chicago? Not as inhospitable to Brownness as downstate rural Illinois.
And so you’d think that among all the Whites of that town, Abdul and I would have exchanged smiles and become friends in Saugatuck Brewing Company. But that didn’t happen, and I had a hunch why.
Abdul was a bartender at a brewing company. I was a visibly-possibly Muslim girl at a brewery. We were both doing something we shouldn’t have been doing and may have been carrying around some Muslim-Guilt, which I think rivals even Catholic Guilt. It was just easier if we didn’t speak.
At least, that’s my guess. Maybe I had a booger hanging out of my nose and Abdul just thought I was too gross to talk to that day. But we did become friends the second time I was at Saugatuck, about two years later, although that’s a story for another time.
I headed straight to the bar and perused the tap list. Saugatuck has a TON of beers on tap, and it can be a little daunting if you’re still kind of learning, as I was then. I perused the beer list far longer than most people probably did, and almost gave up.
Then I started by weeding out the beers I didn’t like – barleywines, porters (boring), lagers (which I didn’t understand yet). I then went through and picked only one of the dark beer styles that I liked, because it was summer and did anyone really need 4 stout samples in the summer? I picked the pale ales next, because I tended to pick up the fruity notes in them better, picked ONE IPA because I wanted to force myself to try them and understand them, and called it a day.
I ended up with:
- Oval Beach Blonde – which I liked, because it was light and crisp and very subtly sweet
- ESB Amber – I think that’s what it’s called; my notes are sloppily written, but I liked this well enough for someone who’s not always wild about ambers
- Imposter Stout – loved it, didn’t care that it was 84*F that day and I was drinking a dark, thick, creamy stout
- Paradise Pale – I could really pick up on the fruit in it, which was nice to know because it gave me more confidence in my burgeoning palate
- Starburst Wheat – I was upset that it did not taste like Starburst at all
- Singapore IPA – not as bad as I was expecting an IPA to be, so I was pleasantly surprised
I left Saugatuck having enjoyed it, but not that much. It was a weird feeling, but I was kind of meh on the whole place, not so much because of the beer (which was fine, not super but fine), but more so because of the energy/vibes. My gut very much factors into how I negotiate the world around me, and I just didn’t particularly like the energy there. Last time that happened and I left a place because the vibes felt weird, someone was discovered dead there the next morning.
But maybe I just had indigestion at Saugatuck, who knows.
I left Douglas and drove to my AirBnB in Holland, which wasn’t very far away. Holland is an adorable little town, not very big at all, and I soon found the cozy ranch house I’d be spending the night at.
Bob let me in and I liked him immediately. He was an older gentleman with slightly long white hair, and he had the easy but active air of someone who probably a hippie back in the day and participated in a few anti-police protests and/or riots while soaking in the local music scene. His dog, Buster, had the weary air of an elderly beagle.
Bob was a photographer, and an excellent one at that. He took me on a little tour of his modest but very comfortable home, open and airy with beautiful hardwood floors, ideal for the summer. His photos were displayed prominently and I learned that he found the Great Lakes to be a source of great inspiration. We talked about his love of water, and the trip he’d made out to California to visit one of his sons.
“People in California are nicer,” Bob smiled. “I think it has to do with the ocean. The ocean has way of letting you know it’s in charge. I think people pick up on that and are nicer.”
As someone who grew up by the Atlantic in Boston, I could relate to the thought. But the Atlantic Ocean is cold, and choppy, and deep, and dense and salty. It sets people on edge, in my opinion, at least in New England. That’s why Boston is basically if a bar fight turned into a city.
Bob recommended the Holland State Park, and told me to be sure to see Big Red, the lighthouse there. I love the romance of lighthouses, so I readily agreed. He told me to check out Salt N Pepper Grill for a fabulous steak, and then gave me meticulous directions to it. I nodded along politely, pretended that I remembered, and just made sure to punch it into my Google Maps app later.
Thus armed with lots of local recs from Bob, I soon headed out to explore them – and some of my own. Holland has a couple breweries, and I was excited to try them out.