Tuesday, June 22, 2004

FROM THE EDITOR: Come on Vacation With Me

I haven't left the capital city since my January trip to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. I can easily count the number of times I have strayed past the Beltway since then: Three trips to the College Park Ikea; one trip to Calvert County, Md., for an 80-year-old's surprise birthday party; one trip to the Maryland side of Great Falls; and one Swiss-American society dinner in Carderock, Md.

It's time for a break. Thursday, I'm heading home for vacation for a week, and you're coming along. (Hold on, you ask, isn't Washington home? Even my closest friends are confused by my background. My father's side of the family arrived in Foggy Bottom in the 1860s. But I grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. Throw in some Latvian, Swiss, German and some English and things can get real confusing, real quickly.)

While I will be decreasing the amount of posting during my time off, please tune in next week. You may think that Grand Rapids may be dullsville, but like anyplace, it has stories. And I intend to tell them.

The saying "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much" is common in Grand Rapids. And the "V" section of the phone book is thick with VandenPloegs, VanDuinens, Vanderveens. It's the home of 6-foot-tall, blond-hair, blue-eyed Amazons. It's a city that has been hit hard by the economic downturn, but seems to be opening every franchise restaurant known to man and sprawling farther and farther out.

On my agenda: Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) launched her Michigan "Cool Cities" initiative, an effort to keep young people from fleeing the state by promoting the cities of the Great Lakes State. How does Grand Rapids measure? And what are twenty-somethings doing with themselves in Gerald Ford's hometown?

What makes a Yesterdog so good at 3 a.m.? Beer helps, but there is something else.

Will the late-night Taco Bell lady, who always looks so sad, tired and worn out, still be stationed at the drive-thru?

(Oh yeah, did I mention my high school inspired the "American Pie" trilogy?)

Also on the agenda is a trip back to Ann Arbor, where my undergraduate life unfolded.

A lot of the trip is yet to be sketched out. Who knows what else may go on ... there may be some dancing around a bonfire and maybe, just maybe, a trip to the Fish Ladder.

The Oculus leaves Thursday. Come along for the ride.


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