When my “commute” is under 5 hours, I prefer to drive my Subaru, with its tech package, heated seats, cruise control, and plenty of suitcase storage space. When I’m not in character as a Jet Setter, or working from my home office with cats sprawled across my desk knocking pens, cell phones and stacks of papers to the hardwood floors, you’ll discover I’m a bit of a Road Warrior!
My planned week in Kentucky was derailed when I learned of an unexpected need for a training class in Port Huron, Michigan. This is new territory, but the drive north through Findlay, OH and on through Detroit, is a familiar one. Autopilot was fully engaged. Just less than 5 hours alone in the car is long enough to get deep into an audio book, with nonfiction as my distraction of choice. This commute would be made easier by “Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell – and Live – the Best Stories Will Rule the Future” by Jonah Sachs.
It’s a book that is as much about ancient myth, hero stories and archetypes, in the style of Joseph Campbell, as it is about the power of modern marketing campaigns, to mold cultural norms. Marketing is an aggressive business, of which I won’t pretend to be in the know, but I do strive every day to tell stories, with my photos as much as with my words.
So, Port Huron. . . what an unexpected treat, just a short drive across the bridge from the Canadian border. Even an unseasonably warm and dry January is “off season” for this vacation spot, but the locals were friendly, attentive, and eager for my business.
My first (and best) find in Port Huron was the Raven Café. I was treated to outstanding food! Vegetarian options were highlighted on the menu, along with items that could be prepared for the lunch crowd, flagged as “ready in a hurry”. I was honestly torn, between multiple options that sounded too good to pass up, and I told the waiter about my predicament . . . how could I decide between the Greek salad recommended by the local at the next table, the veggie melt that both she and the waiter were drooling over, and the long lists of appetizers, soups and desserts?
I “settled” on a parmesan asparagus pizza – the frontrunner amongst the vegetarian options. I thought I’d settled, until this amazing thin crust pizza, adorned with pesto and fresh tomato, arrived at my table. All the pizzas come with chopped mixed greens in their center, drizzled with Italian dressing. It sounded . . . weird, but was an interesting treat. I had hesitated to go with the pizza because it was 10 inches, and it was just me – the solo work traveler, unsure if there was a fridge at my hotel. I ate every bite. Delish!
At this establishment there was an Edgar Allan Poe theme – “(January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) An American author, poet, editor and literary critic – best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre.” https://ravencafeph.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/food_menu.pdf
The restaurant, which is also bar and coffee house, is lined with book cases, to capacity. I lingered over dinner in this inspiring atmosphere, surfing the internet for other things to do while in Port Huron. The waiter approached – “Hey, I wanted to let you know that on Wednesdays we show movies, so if you were planning on getting any serious work done. . . .” Well, not really. . . just working on my blog!
A screen was hung at one end of the 2nd floor loft, and a projector in the ceiling came alive. The lights were lowered. Not knowing what to expect, I grinned from ear to ear when the opening credits started and the movie was Zoolander. I was hooked, being a crazy fan of anything Owen Wilson does, and willing to tolerate Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell in this instance.
(Have you seen Midnight in Paris, The Life Aquatic, or Fantastic Mr. Fox? Okay, okay. . . there’s Meet the Fockers and Wedding Crashers to come to terms with. I can’t claim I didn’t enjoy those just a little bit. I have a soft spot for this guy, for some unexplainable reason. Don’t even get me started on my feelings for Vince Vaughn!)
A few patrons took their marginally more highbrow conversations downstairs, or left altogether, and others arrived, just in time for the opening scene of a movie they had come to the Raven to enjoy. This sure beats sitting in my hotel room alone while I answer emails and craft a company newsletter. The relatively decent glass of Merlot on offer for only $4 capped off the night.
Wanting to expand my horizons, my second night in Port Huron I had dinner at the Vintage Tavern, on the recommendation of the hotel staff. I was greeted by a hostess who guided me to choose a seat in the main bar area downstairs or adventure upstairs, which she pointed out was 39 steps to the upstairs bar and dining room. Once upstairs the Alfred Hitchcock theme became apparent.
The film was all counter-espionage agent protects top secret information! The movie poster read – The 39 Steps (1935) – “Every Step They Took Brought Them Closer to Danger”. Though the atmosphere was welcoming, and everyone there seemed to know everyone else, just as the website had advertised, I kept wondering what was going on back at Raven Café. The signs for the restrooms did have a unique flair!
As it turned out, Thursday nights at Raven Café bring live music, and a mixed crowd. 20-something college kids gathered alongside families, couples out to dinner, and professionals like myself. With acoustic music as a backdrop, and surrounded by books, games and art projects aimed at local charities, it was a relaxed and casual environment. I welcomed spending a 2nd evening there.
The next morning I was compelled to visit The Exquisite Corpse coffee shop. I don’t know if I’m the only traveler driven there by the uniquely unusual name, but it wouldn’t surprise me if others were lured there for the same reason I was. There were sweet potato muffins and cookies on offer, a selection of diverse coffees, and the coffee shop occupied ½ of the building, with an art gallery prominently out front. Chess boards, bongo drums & local newspapers were all taken up by local patrons, and the staff at my work site were impressed with the pastries I brought in.
It was a treat to be in this port town, surrounded by locals who take the atmosphere for granted and anxiously wait for the big business that the warmer months bring. There was enough to see that I wasn’t all that disappointed to have forgotten to bring my passport. Had I taken the bridge over to Canada, I would have missed out on the chance to experience Port Huron itself.
Come along on the next adventure!
Raven Café: http://ravencafeph.com/home-2/
The Vintage Tavern: http://thevintage.info/
The Exquisite Corpse Coffee House: https://www.facebook.com/exquisitecorpsecoffee/
Filmography of Owen Wilson: http://www.fandango.com/owenwilson/filmography/P200996