Friday, February 29, 2008

GRAND RAPIDS: 'American Pie' Hot Dog Haven Escapes Gas Leak Destruction

USUALLY WHEN I GET NEWS from Grand Rapids, Mich., the city of my birth, it's about record amounts of snow. This past week, however, a building in the Eastown neighborhood, not too far from my parents' house, exploded due to a gas leak. The Grand Rapids Press video team incorrectly identified the building as being in East Grand Rapids — close enough though — and also as a "landmark" building. While I'm not aware of any particular historic significance, the building located at Wealthy Street SE and Ethel Avenue SE nonetheless anchored a key corner in a neighborhood that's often described as Grand Rapids' "Greenwich Village." (Though anyone who has been to New York would likely beg to differ.)

Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured and the explosion spared Yesterdog, the hot dog joint across the street that inspired "Dog Years" in "American Pie," the 1999 movie based on my high school. (It was in Dog Years where the Jim, Finch, etc. hatch their plan to lose their virginity by prom.) Anyhow, any self-respecting economically displaced Grand Rapidian will return to Yesterdog over Thanksgiving and Christmas to pound down a couple Cheddars, Yesters, Ultras, etc. after last call. Now, directly across the red-brick street, there is pile of rubble.

One can only hope that the void will be filled by some new structure that fits in with the nature of the neighborhood. While I can't say I have any particular attachment to the now-destroyed building, it would be a shame if the space is paved over to expand the Ethel parking lot. That would really leave a hole in Eastown aesteticly. Parking lots can suck the life out of a neighborhood. And that's the last thing Eastown needs right now.

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