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20 Monroe Live

March 15, 2018
  • 11 Ottawa Avenue NW
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • (844) 678-5483
  • Website

I grew up in the 80’s & 90’s and when I say I watched a lot of MTV, I don’t mean I watched a lot of Teen Mom.  MTV was still actually Music Television then.  I used to sit in my living with my VCR remote in hand hoping to record my favorite videos but only if I could recognize them before the little graphic in the corner of the screen that identified it.

I was kind of in to hair bands in those days.  I’m still a huge fan of Bon Jovi.  I’ll be one of those guys still going to concerts (as long as Richie is part of the group) when those guys are in their 80’s and barely able to stand up.

The one guy that wasn’t a hair band that always made me click the record button was Weird Al Yankovic.  I loved his parodies.  I would wear out the cassettes in my Walkman listening to the Even Worse.

Fortunately, I never really matured and when the CD age entered, I wore out CD’s in my Discman instead.  Off the Deep End, The Food Album, Alapalooza, Bad Hair Day…..I think I bought second copies of some of these because I listened to them so much they scratched or broke.

Surprisingly, I have never seen Weird Al in concert.  I’ve had opportunities but they always involved me going alone.  My appreciation of parody was not one that was shared by many of my friends.

This past winter, Laughfest announced Weird Al would be a performer during their comedy festival.  I clicked on Facebook that I was interested and that popped it up in one of my friend’s feed from back home in Illinois.  He asked if I was serious about going and said he’d drive up here and join me if I was.

I figured it was time I finally saw Weird Al, so I bought two tickets for the show.

Weird Al is not really a sell out an arena kind of guy anymore.  The shows typically take place in smaller in venues.  In the past, he has performed at DeVos Performance Hall when playing in West Michigan, but there’s a new small venue in town and this would be my first chance to see a show there.

20 Monroe Live is on the corner of Fulton Street and Ottawa Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids.  It was built in the parking lot of The B.O.B. and opened in early 2017.  The 2,600 seat venue quickly became a go-to place for shows that would feel empty in Van Andel Arena across the street.

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Atwater Brewery in GR

March 14, 2018
  • 201 Michigan Street NW
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • (616) 649-3020
  • Website
  • Menu

It’s not very often I do a night out with friends.  I don’t have a lot of guys that I really hang out with and do things with in Kalamazoo.  Having not grown up here, most of our friends are either co-workers or parent friends.

The guys I grew up with back in Illinois have all kind of spread out.  Some  have stayed near home.  Some have went south towards St. Louis.  With the help of Facebook, I’ve managed to stay in touch with most of them.

There were two guys growing up who I’d consider “best friends.”  One of those guys I see once a year when we go to a White Sox game.  The other I see occasionally when I go to visit my parents.  Up until recently, he still lived in the town we grew up in.

That friend was in to a lot of the same wacky stuff I was growing up.  We’d go see shows no one else would go to just for the experience.  We saw a lot of independent wrestling in college just for the hell of it.

Late last year I saw a Facebook event for Weird Al Yankovic at 20 Monroe Live.  I marked that I was interested in it and right away, my buddy asked if I was going.  He said if I got tickets, he’d come up for the show.  I’d never seen Weird Al so I said, “What the heck?” and got the tickets.

The night of the show, we got to Grand Rapids a little before 6:30.  We had time for dinner but I knew the restaurants in the heart of downtown would be packed.  I headed for City Hall instead and parked in the municipal lot underneath the city and county building.

We walked over to Atwater Brewery in GR for dinner.  The Detroit-based brewery is on the corner of Michigan Street and Monroe Avenue in the newly remodeled Rowe Hotel building.  They’ve been open since the fall of 2016 on this highly visible corner.

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Rocket Fizz (Kalamazoo)

March 12, 2018
  • 125 S. Kalamazoo Mall
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • (269) 888-2588
  • Website

Candy and soda pop…..are there two better treats?   Candy for the kids.  Pop for me.  Sounds like a perfect combination.

This past Saturday, we went to Old Dog Tavern for the first time in quite a while on Saturday morning.  We always love the brunch and the children’s entertainment provided by Benjammin.   We’ve been so busy on Saturday’s that we just forgot about it, but while planning our weekend last week, J brought it up.

We did the brunch thing and the music thing then started to run a few errands.  Before heading back to the west side of town, J brought up the new candy shop downtown.  I can always use more Cola and the kids never say no to candy.

Rocket Fizz is a chain of candy stores based in California.  The Kalamazoo location opened up late last week and is one of three in Michigan.  There are locations in both Wyoming and Novi in addition to this one.  The Kalamazoo store is on the Kalamazoo Mall next to The Union where Plata y Oro once was.   Read more…

Sir Pizza (Vale Street)

March 12, 2018
  • 198 Vale Street
  • Battle Creek, MI 49014
  • (269) 963-5553
  • Website
  • Menu

I spent a pretty long day in Lansing one day last week for a conference.  We were fed “lunch” at this conference but it was a pretty thin turkey wrap and a piece of chocolate cake.  I was still pretty hungry after that and since I was leaving at dinner time, I decided that it would just be a pizza night for me.

There are a lot of pizza options in Lansing but I don’t remember anything being fantastic when I had to live there.  The one place I did like also has a location in Battle Creek so I decided to order from there so it wouldn’t be totally cold by the time I got home.

Sir Pizza is a small mid-Michigan pizza chain that has ties to the larger Sir Pizza and Pizza King franchise out of Lafayette, IN.  Their corporate structure is really odd and hard to follow.   The Michigan locations are just in Lansing and Battle Creek but they don’t seem to have a relationship.  There’s also another Battle Creek location that seems to have nothing at all to do with the location I stopped at in Emmett Township.

I picked the Sir Pizza on Vale Street and Columbia Avenue to order from.  This shop is both a sit-down restaurant and a carry-out spot.  The building sits right on the corner of the two streets but the original entrance faces Vale Street which is why it has that for an address instead of Columbia Avenue.

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Cravings Gourmet Popcorn (Downtown)

March 9, 2018
  • 109 S. Washington Square
  • Lansing, MI 48933
  • (517) 803-2782
  • Website
  • Menu

I always feel bad when I get home later than normal from work.  J understands why I’m late but it still cuts in to the very little time we have together and it shortens the already short time I see my kids each day.

I was in Lansing for a conference earlier this week and I thought maybe I’d still make it home by the time I normally get home.  One of the speakers went long and it pushed back my departure time.  I knew I was going to be late so I decided to bring home a treat that would make everyone forget that I was a half hour later than normal.

I couldn’t find a parking space near the Lansing Center so I ended up over near the Capitol.  This worked to my advantage because I had to walk down Washington Square to get back to the ramp.  On my morning walk, I noticed a popcorn shop and my family loves popcorn.

Cravings Gourmet Popcorn is on Washington Square in downtown Lansing.  The small shop is sandwiched into a much larger building that has retail at street level and lofts above it.  Before it was a popcorn shop, it was Ernesto’s Hideaway General Store which closed in 2013.  Cravings opened in 2015 and it’s now one of two locations in Lansing.   Read more…

5 Lakes Brewing Company

March 9, 2018
  • 1638 142nd Avenue
  • Dorr, MI 49323
  • (616) 359-9555
  • Website
  • Menu

There are so many breweries in Grand Rapids that we haven’t been to that it’s always hard to choose when we do make a rare trip up north.

After spending the afternoon at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, we started to head south to find something to eat.  There were many options in the City of Grand Rapids, but I had my eyes set a little further south back in Allegan County.

5 Lakes Brewing Company is on 142nd Avenue just under two miles from the US-131 interchange on the east side of Dorr.  The brewery takes up the west end of the shopping center and shares space with Brewhouse Lanes Bowling Alley.

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Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

March 6, 2018

  • 1000 E. Beltline Avenue
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49525
  • (616) 957-1580
  • Website

Cabin fever is setting in.  It may not be with the kids but it always does with me this time of year.  I would love to just sit around and watch Netflix all day but the kids need stimulation and if we’re cooped up in the house, that stimulation is usually using daddy as a jungle gym.

I decided it was time to start venturing out on weekends again.  We need to do some exploring and just get away from the house for a while.

This past weekend I noticed an event in Grand Rapids I thought the kids would like so after swimming lessons, we headed north to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park sits on 132 acres in Grand Rapids township just off the I-96 and East Beltline interchange.  The park opened in 1995 after the Meijer family donated the land to the West Michigan Horticultural Society.  The Meijer’s also donated their entire sculpture collection and contributed financially to get the park up and running.

We pulled in to the parking lot just before noon on a Saturday afternoon.  The lots were packed.  We ended up having to park quite a ways away and walk back to the main building, but the whole point was getting out of the house and walking anyway, right?  The lot we found with empty spaces was actually right in front of the Amphitheater which hosts a pretty good line up of musical acts throughout the summer.   Read more…