As I walked down the street, ready to be bombarded with bottle cap art and giant Gerald Ford heads, I passed a stripping mall style Buddhist temple of worship that blended in with coffee shops and the like. I tried to keep Stealing Buddha's Dinner separate from my head, but I kept looking for familiar street names, for traits of the city described in the book. Instead I saw Wealth SE (since when does SE come after a street name?) and a cast of a man dangling between two buildings with a "look up and vote!" sign next to a number on the sidewalk below my feet. There was a point where I descended into a building riddled with giant humanoid yo-yos hanging from the beams of the ceiling of the Bob, and I uttered a "too many white Caucasians" to myself, uncomfortable, and praised something when I noted a man who appeared to be of Indian origin. While walking down the street I ordered a bratwurst, which came with no seasonings but the sausage itself, and the very thick white-bread bun it came on. It made me miss my Mom's German Brats, simmered in beer brine and with love and sauerkraut. Towards the end of the day, our little K group muscled our way through people past giant sculptures of birds made out of spoons and a giant junk-art music box and traveling bus with multiple canvases slung on it's side while a band played organic metal to spur on the painter (is bigger better, or is Grand Rapids trying to compensate for something?). I disengaged, and went to buy a small cup of sorbet. It reminded me of my Father's, where we'd get Luigi's Italian Ice. I walk up and note a man whose heritage seems to be hispanic asking how hot the item I'm planning to order is. Before the girl can answer, before I can be deterred, I boldy say "Raspberry with Ghost Pepper please." As she slides it over, the man says, "Can I ask you something?" I nod preparing for some question about my daring tastebuds. "You are very beautiful." I probably turned the color of the food in my hand. I mumble a thank-you, my sass meter not high enough for me to think to say, "that's not a question" until I'm at the other end of the crowd, and I then check all my pockets and my purse to see if his compliment was a distracting ruse to pick-pocket me.
Grand Rapids surprised me. Not really sure how else to put it. In some ways it reminded me of Tony, the way he carried certain expectations for the places he visited, and was surprised when something equally out there or just plain out-of-the-blue occurred. As we drove home, and there finally wasn't any more raspberry to temper the ghost pepper, I enjoyed the bite on my breath, reminded of the time my Dad used homegrown peppers in a shrimp dish, and wished for some salt. Then I took the wish back, and let it ruminate.