One of the things I enjoy about visiting my friends in Michigan is the unique night spots.
There are clubs around, but Sonny and I prefer the bar scene, which is still loud and a bit put-on, but actually a lot of fun with the right people.
There’s a street in Grand Rapids, Michigan, called Ionia, which has several well-to-do pubs to spend $10-20 a drink on.
Sonny and I will head to one of these spots after chilling at the office all day — which is a pretty fun gig in itself, since it’s in a very creative space and involves watching him edit film and mix music tracks.
Anyway, one of these places, called Bar Divani, has always fascinated me, since it is just so surreal compared to my normal soldiering routine.
It’s just downstairs from the office. Once out in the evening, you hang a left, dodge the valet parking sign and push through the entrance.
The music is low — a welcome change. The light is soft, to the sides, behind couches that line the walls, and drifts out of warm, hushed, overhead lamps.
Bottles of wine abound, with cases upon cases of the stuff put around for show. Plastic cases displaying wine bottles are even a part of the floor, which are also lit.
All of it is to foster this sort of chill vibe, peppered with enough culture to attract the best and the brightest (i.e. rich/white) of the city.
And boy how they come! Men sip their this-could-be-worth-$10,000 drinks with their trophy wives/girlfriends. Everyone dots the air with those too-loud laughs. The kind that you hear at Shakespeare plays, showing a patron understands the cryptic humor; the sort that proves sophistication.
The girls are too cute. Damn hot, actually. That sort of old-money, I’ve had a personal trainer since four, kind of hot. And definitely the kind a soldier doesn’t talk to. Partly because I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy them anything, but mostly because the manicured boyfriends they keep sedated on the fringes of the conversation still use those personal trainers.
Sure, I can ruck march with a full pack, carry a squad automatic weapon, and tug along my camera case, but I don’t have as chiseled a physique as these gents.
A few tries at visual flirting end with the blow-off eye roll and body-shift-away reaction.
No biggie, I’m there with Sonny, who is pretty well known among the primped and pretty, not because of his bank account, but more for his vision.
He’s a film director and artist, which will still buy you a friendy regard and bout of small talk with just about anybody at a place like Bar Divani.
Which gives me a certain by-association free pass, and a head nod from the regulars when they’re done showing Sonny they remember his name. Still, I don’t push it. I sense the limits of my visa.
But Sonny has a genuine interest in how people are doing, and hearing about the waitress’ own documentary film about a senior’s retirement community’s field trip bus driver is genuinely interesting. Moreover, $20-a-shot vodka tastes pretty damn good.
Again, surreal, fascinating.