Monday, July 26, 2010

He's Coming Home....For A Visit, That Is

  A photo of Van and Rich taken during Van's last visit to Flint

I can see it now. 

He’s counting down the days. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a  calendar set up at his home in Macon, Georgia and he’s using a big black Magic Marker © to mark the days off. 

30 days.  29 days.  28 days. 27 days.  26 days.  25 days.  24 days.  23 days.  22 days.  3 more weeks!

After some seven years, my buddy Van VanDeWalker is going to be visiting his hometown of Flint, Michigan and to say that he’s excited about this visit would be the understatement of the century.  He’s pumped!  If you could put anticipation for a trip on steroids – Van would make Barry Bonds look like a piker when it came to being “juiced”!

No longer does Van have to settle for reliving the memories of biting down and hearing the snap of a Koegel Vienna with Angelo’s coney island sauce, mustard and onions…he’s going to be able to enjoy one, two, maybe three.

Van can attest to the fact that not only does seven days without a Halo Burger make one week – imagine seven years between a Bill Thomas olive Halo burger.  Knowing Van  he’ll probably tell you that having to live all those years without a Bill Thomas Halo burger was a living hell – something akin to being water boarded by Dick Cheney.

The anticipation for this trip is high…really high…and it makes sane men do strange things.  If I were a betting man, I’d place a few bucks on one of the first things that Van does when he gets off the plane at Bishop Airport is to kiss the ground.   Yup, he’ll get down on his knees and kiss the tarmac and hope like hell that airport security doesn’t bitch slap him.  I’m sure that before Van leaves the airport in his cheapest you can find but still expensive rent-a-car, he will buy a Flint Journal from one of the airport coin boxes to read back in his motel room.  And, if I know Van, he’ll be sneaking a peek at a headline here and there while waiting for the traffic lights to change on the way to his budget motel. 

One of the reasons that Van will be visiting Flint will be to attend a high school class reunion,  but one day of his three day visit will be taken up by doing one thing – joining me for a tour of the old town and seeing first hand just how much things have changed. 

Whether it was going to Kearsley Park on a hot summer day to learn basic lessons of safety at Safetyville, USA or taking in a Thanksgiving Day Northern/Central game at Atwood Stadium on a cold winter day – that’s the Flint that will forever be a part of a lot of us.  Or maybe it was jumping on an MTA bus and meeting all our friends downtown to see a movie at the Palace or Capitol Theater, or enjoying a ice cream sundae in the restaurant at Smith B’s or a bag of caramel popcorn from Dales. There are so many moments and places that both Van and I are going to relive as we drive around Flint and remembering how it use to be.

When we drive by Windmill Place – I’m sure we’ll have a laugh remembering when that Saturday a long long time ago when I participated in a “Celebrity Hot Dog Eating Contest”.  The organizers of this even pitted me against some small bellied “celebrities” from WTRX, Channel 5 and some other media organization that I can’t remember and they didn’t have a chance against my hot dog eating skills – me, the well-trained eating machine.  These guys were no match and I didn’t even have to pull out all of the stops to trounce the competition.  . 

Van will be surprised as I take him to one of the new sub-divisions in Grand Blanc and remind him that the radio station that we once worked for – WTAC – once stood where these beautiful homes now stand.  I’m sure he’ll also be surprised by all of the changes on S. Saginaw in Grand Blanc….this wasn’t the way he remembered the way it looked.

Van will also be surprised when I point out to him that the “Jumbo Video” store on Dort Hwy., across from K-Mart, is where the Ember’s Lounge once stood.  It was at the Ember’s Lounge where all of his friends left him alone on the dance floor to do a drunken Pee Wee Herman dance as we enjoyed our drinks and watched him from our table.

Our sight-seeing trip to Flint wouldn’t be complete without checking out the Citizens Bank weather ball or driving by that forty foot waitress in front of at the coney island restaurant on Corunna Road.  For old times sake – we’ll probably buy a lottery ticket or two at Paul’s Pipe Shop and see first hand all of the improvements downtown from the Durant Hotel to Channel 5’s new Flint headquarters to the new grocery store that just opened.  We’ll probably visit the old neighborhoods and share stories about what made living there so great and as we’ll probably pay a visit to Gracelawn to honor family members who have left us that made these memories we’ll share possible. 

So, join us in counting down the days.  August 20-23, 2010 – Van VanDeWalker visits Flint.  Believe it or not – on August 21st – Van and I are going to combine two of our loves into one thing….coney islands and Scrabble.  So, don’t be surprised if you see two guys chowing down the dogs at Angelo’s while they’re playing a game of Scrabble.  You’re more than welcome to watch – but please – no helping the participants.  

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