Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 5: Werewolves of Holland

Zeeland Twp. to Holland. 11 miles/51 total

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain.
He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook's.
Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein.
Ah-oooooo, werewolves of London.

On the iPod on the bike back to the beginning of the walk I heard Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London," one of my favorites. Unfortunately, it put me in mind of that fascist punk Kid Rock, and how he has messed up the song for me lately, because he uses the opening bars for his song about sweet home Alabama and Michigan in the summertime, blah blah blah. What a turd that guy is. He and his fellow Michigander Ted Nugent could probably benefit from whatever it is they do to werewolves in the movies. Ah-ooooo.

So it seems almost inevitable, after the unflattering things I said last week about the Dutch of Ottawa County, that I would find the towns of Zeeland and Holland to be quite charming, at least in their downtown business districts. They both look like pretty nice places to live. It's just that so much is always said about the industriousness, thrift, success, and tidiness of the Dutch (and it's all pretty much true, both here and in Europe), that I just couldn't resist dwelling on the darker side of it all--the religious intolerance, reactionary politics, the werewolves, and all that. But that's not to say that I expect them to leap out from between buildings and rip my lungs out. Monsters? Just in the way the poet e. e. cummings meant it when he said, "pity this busy monster, mankind, not. Progress is a comfortable disease ...."

Out on W. Chicago, before I get to Zeeland, I continue to see those white turkey feathers, stuck to the weeds on the side of the road. Then a couple of onions, perhaps fallen off a big truck loaded with them. And a stalk of celery. Vegetable road kill.

Just after entering Zeeland, I see the headquarters of Herman Miller furniture, the company credited with inventing the office partition in 1968, perhaps a dubious distinction. Dilbert fans, take note. Also the aeron chair and the Eames chair, both pretty comfortable ways to spend your time behind your partition, if you're lucky enough to have them. Across the street from Herman Miller is Howard Miller clock company. I think, from the looks of it, that this might be their headquarters, too. Nicely designed building, modern and rounded and sleek. They make grandfather clocks on a large scale. Don't know if Herman and Howard Miller were related, but there they sit. Anyone out there know? The Miller brothers--Herman, Howard, and of course, Henry.

Down the street toward town there is a huge facility, most definitely for manufacturing or processing, of Mead Johnson Nutrition, which makes pediatric nutritional stuff, like formula. Big plant.

The downtown business district of Zeeland boasts banners hanging from the lightposts that proclaim, on one side, "Z!" and on the other, "Feel the Zeel." I'm feeling the Zeel myself, with the walk going well, feet feeling fine, and a rare wind out of the east at my back.

Decorating the concrete sidewalks of the downtown are terra cotta diamond inserts every several feet, and on every third or fourth one of these is the crest and the name of one of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands.

Leaving Zeeland I come upon a couple of state historical markers proclaiming the site of the village of New Groningen, founded back in the 1840s by folks from the provinces of Groningen, Friesland, Overijsel, and Utrecht, which are in the northeast of the Netherlands, along the German border. The hinterlands. Even though Zeeland and Holland are named after Dutch provinces, too, few settlers to Michigan came from those places.

Approaching downtown Holland I am again struck by how damned tidy the place is. Holland's logo is a stylized tulip, and they have a tulip festival every year in April or May, when all the several million tulips the town has planted bloom. Holland also has a Dutch village, a sort of mini-Greenfield Village, with 19th century crafts and cottages and cheese making and delft pottery and wooden shoes and all that crap--sort of a Disney version of the Netherlands. I don't think they have any hash bars or Indonesian immigrants plying the streets. Oh, and they have a big windmill, of course.

Well, downtown Holland is prosperous and really good-looking. It's near the campus of Hope College, and has lots of restaurants, bars, theaters, boutiques, and all that. There's little doubt that the Dutch of west Michigan have not lost that ability to turn a buck (or guilder), for which, as a nationality, they are justly famous.

Turning south on River Street I head out of town, but stop to sit on a bronze bench that's partly occupied by a life-sized sculpture of Benjamin Franklin, holding a page from the Constitution. I ask old Ben what he thinks of this walk I'm on, and wonder whether he would have approved. I suspect that he would have deemed it rather frivolous. After all, in his day walking was just a way to get from one place to another, and long walks were no big deal. He might have thought that I should be putting my energy to more practical use. Be that as it may, I say goodbye to Ben and continue on my way, for the last couple of miles, ending at a Burger King at 30th and Michigan.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for enabling me to update my info on Michiganders whose fame hasn't crossed the Atlantic! and Chicagoans ("Enjoy every sandwich" is a quote I'll be using). As to the comments on football on the previous post, it's all Chinese to me!

Billie Bob said...

FYI If you want to hear a really good tribute to Warren, find the CD called "Enjoy Every Sandwich", which has the Boss, Jackson Brown, a number of others... including an excellent version of Werewolves, believe it or not, by Adam Sandler; as well as The Wind done by Billie Bob Thorton. I didn't even know they could sing. But, yes they can. The album is very nicely done. Highly recommended.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

To Anonymous:
American football isn't made in China yet, but I'm sure that's coming soon.

Anonymous said...

I guess the expression in English is "it's all Greek to me" or maybe "Double Dutch" (Ha Ha!)... I'll be catching up on idioms too.