‘It’s a big old goofy world’

By City Pulse Staff

Let’s face it: For many of us in greater Lansing, the past three weeks have sucked.

Our publicly owned utility was turned on its head following the Dec. 21 ice storm that for some knocked power out for upwards of 11 days. We saw the Board of Water and Light’s inadequacies, and we are not letting them off the hook for it. Consumers Energy did somewhat better.

That ongoing story is the fallout of what was a truly miserable time for some here — a week or more without power or water, followed by a dumping of snow that closed schools for three days with some Arctic-like temperatures on the side.

But your friends at City Pulse would like to show a little mercy on your still-thawing souls. Several weeks ago, we put out a call for writing and artistic submissions for what was supposed to be a humor issue on the first of the year. Then old Mother Nature had to come along and give us real news, so we put the satire in our back pocket.

In that time, we received dozens of submissions from local writers and some who have long left town. It was all fair game: pot, Niowave, tax abatements, local eating, elected officials. We whittled it down to the best of the best before you now.

City Pulse would like to thank all of those who submitted their work. We hope this gives readers a few minutes to pause, relax and find the humor in our Capital City.

After all, as iconic folk singer John Prine sang, “Oh, baby, it’s a big old goofy world.”

—Andy Balaskovitz

Golden Harvest to downsize

Golden Harvest, the Lansing breakfast spot known for quirky dishes, pirate-themed decor and fiercely loyal customers, this week announced it is leaving its home in Old Town for a smaller location.

Beginning Feb. 1, the restaurant will be housed in a renovated storage closet in the Speedway gas station at Michigan and Clemens avenues, said chef and owner Zane Vicknair.

The restaurant will downsize from 34 seats to a single chair and a TV tray. Its kitchen equipment will include only a George Foreman grill and a Keurig single-serve coffee machine. “I won’t lie to you, this is as much a social experiment as a business decision,” Vicknair said. “It’s about taking a no-frills approach where the food is front and center and everything else is secondary. But also, we’re really curious to see how long people are willing to stand in line for this stuff.”

Golden Harvest regular Chad Bradley said he looks forward to the private dining experience and stripped-down setting.

“I think it’s going to be awesome,” said Bradley, who was wearing a shirt with the restaurant’s logo on it. “I feel like Golden Harvest has kind of gotten too big, you know? Like, I saw someone there last week who was wearing a DeWitt football sweatshirt, and I don’t think it was ironic.

“I’m hoping the new location turns a lot of people off so I can feel good again about being in on something exclusive.”

Formerly a cash-only business, Golden Harvest now will accept only bitcoins, Vicknair said.

Building on its reputation for playing aggressive music at anxiety-inducing volumes, the restaurant will play Lou Reed’s 1975 experimental album “Metal Machine Music” on a continuous loop.

—Andy McGlashen


Tweets from someone masking as Board of Water and Light General Manager J. Peter Lark

There was plenty of input from Lansing Board of Water and Light employees at a Jan. 7 public hearing in REO Town, the vast majority of whom showed up to defend their boss, General Manager J. Peter Lark.

But while it appeared Lark was also making comments throughout the night from the Twitter account @BWLPeter_Lark, he wasn’t. It was someone impersonating him. Below are actual tweets written from the bogus Lark account, which certainly caused some confusion from followers who wondered whether it was actually Lark tweeting.

Hey @BWLComm, can we wrap this meeting up soon? Just tell the employees here we’re good. I have a cancun flight in the morning.#flylansing

Our focus on technology is shown through our amazing sound system. The feedback in the livestream sounds like a Slayer concert. #goesto11

My board is currently talking about me management style. "I don´t know." Summed it up pretty well. #gettingaraise

I would like to publicly thank the employees that came out tonight. Your raises will be in your next check. #bwloutage

Of course I´m going to refer to myself in the third person @MattMillerLSJ. I´m Peter effin´ Lark! #bwloutage #trueleader

Look at all the amazing statistics that aren´t at all biased by our size! Nothing to see here people. Don´t you have snowplows to stalk?

I´m pretty sure you spoke at the public hearing @JPowers155, right? We´re you on my side? I can´t remember, was trying to read our comm plan

MAN! Now I´ve missed the beginning of the MSU game. Never thought this many people would speak. I didn´t think there were many angry folks.

We don´t need tree trimming crews. Has so little to do with getting power back on. We´ve clearly had success just waiting for mother nature.

I´m hearing reports of the live feed going down. Reminder, that it’s the LSJ´s problem, not ours. We are amazing at technology.

@AliceDreger In all fairness, my ass needs more kissing to balance out the kicking it has taken lately. #bwloutage

Barron did a great job for us Tuesday. Kicked off the meeting great per the plan. I just wish he hasn´t talked to the media! Who does that?!

@AliceDreger To be fair, my good friend The General totally said he would be objective. And you can always trust someone appointed by Virg!

@AliceDreger A sex scandal would make this #bwloutage so much better! Thanks for the idea. We´ll work on that for next time. #trueleader

Want more? Log into twitter & search : @BWLPeter_Lark

—Compiled by City Pulse Staff

Make do drink

City Council to take up exciting new development project on South Side for coffee shop/artist’s loft/makerspace/business incubator

A small band of entrepreneurs has set forth on an ambitious mission: Transforming the Lansing region and indeed the entire state by starting a new business on the city’s South Side.

The trio — Topher Martin, Chaz Forencia and Delilah Horowitz — are planning to repurpose a bank-foreclosed hardware store on South Cedar Street and convert it into a coffee shop/artist’s loft/ makerspace/business incubator called “makedodrink.”

“What we’re really looking to do with makedodrink is leverage existing assets and create a sense of place for people in the creative class to come together to share best practices,” said Martin, a 28-year-old conflict-resolution consultant from Okemos who once spent three months in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. “We feel that this project can be transformative for Lansing and provide these people here with a rallying point to help spur a true Midwestern Renaissance.”

Indeed, city officials are set to pledge $2.2 million in tax breaks — including $750,000 in school tax abate ments — to help offset the cost of façade improvements, hardwood floors, two Pabst Blue Ribbon neon signs, three top-of-the-line espresso machines, five MacBook Pros, 56 feet of faux-industrial ductwork, two corkscrew slides, a fire pole and what Martin describes as a “super rad” iRobot Roomba 770.

The Lansing City Council next month will also consider issuing $4.7 million in public bonds to create new bicycle lanes leading to the area, providing easy access to makedodrink for the tens of thousands of neighborhood residents who make daily use of the South Side’s expansive network of bike lanes.

The entire project is expected to only cause a temporary disruption to other local businesses, while creating three to five jobs that will pay about $9 an hour.

Critics contend that it´s poor public policy to dole out public tax dollars to subsidize profits for private businesses when schools, public safety and city services continue to be cut due to a lack of revenue.

Local resident Alberta Johnson, 64, said she has mixed feelings about the project.

“My grandkids’ school is crumbling and is full of mold, and I can’t walk to QD without stumbling across drug dealers, so it seems like the city could be asking these folks to pay their fair share so we can improve some of these things,” said Johnson, who receives no tax breaks on her modest two-story house on Fenton Street. “On the other hand, I understand that my concerns are secondary to the needs of the creative class, and I am kind of interested in learning how to become a maker.”

Those who oppose tax incentives for makedodrink will undoubtedly be labeled as obstructionists who want to take Lansing back to the 1950s. Rightfully so, said Forencia, 26, a graphic designer who recently moved to Lansing from West Bloomfield Township.

“There’s plenty of existing businesses and citizens who pay taxes for city services and schools,” Forencia said. “But unlike many of them, we will actually be helping the community in very tangible ways. After all, more than anything, Lansing residents need a walkable, bikeable place where they can learn to be makers and doers while enjoying totally dope Kopi Luwak lattes.

“As you can see, we’re filling a real need for these people,” Forencia said. “We’re quite progressive.”

Economic development officials and the makedodrink team will hold an invite-only community forum next week to go over the plan, where they will present beautifully drawn renderings of the site and #lovelansing bumper stickers.

Horowitz, a self-described social media guru, said she’s looking forward to the meeting and has already launched “Lansing needs makedodrink” accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram and Google Plus.

“We are fully prepared to work with the community to provide multiple synergies between myriad stakeholders through numerous platforms,” she said, “as long as these people maintain a positive, supportive and hassle-free vibe.”

—Thomas P. Morgan

Arts and Culture news briefs

Common Ground Festival 2014 to feature 1997’s hottest stars
Christine Campos, event planner for the 2014 Common Ground Festival, won’t tell us everyone who is playing this year, but “rest assured, some of the hottest stars of 1997 are stopping by Lansing to rock this town.”

Headliners will include Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind, Ginuwine, and Keith Sweat. The annual music festival held on the banks of the Grand River draws an estimated total crowd of over 50,000 to hear music likely to be replayed at 20th anniversary graduation reunions all over the greater mid- Michigan area.

Ghosts of piano duelers past haunt Rum Runners, reports wait staff
Tormented by the vicious duels they fought and lost, the ghosts of Rum Runners’ piano duelers past still haunt the East Michigan Avenue bar.

“I’ve done heard their baleful cries of ‘I think you know this one, a little something from the Piano Man himself,’ and, ‘Ladies, I can’t hear you!’” said bartender Melanie Kurtz. Since opening in 1996, hundreds of piano players have lost duels in the downtown bar’s upstairs lounge area. Their grim specters are a potent reminder of man’s transience in the mortal realm. At night, witnesses report water glasses surreptitiously filled with vodka drained before their very eyes, and the haunting refrain of birthday requests echoing in the dark.

A recent attempt to exorcise the spirits by removing the tiki-bar aesthetic has only angered the ghosts, according to busboy Reggie Alverez.

—Eric Baylis

Organic: Eating local has never been so easy

After watching a Netflix documentary and four YouTube videos about the benefits of local, sustainable food, one Lansing family decided to take local eating to the next level.

“I heard about all of these people who would only eat from their state or region for a month or a year or whatever,” explained Tim Hornsby, 38, who lives with his wife, Elaine, 35, and their two children on Lansing’s East Side. “And I thought, hey, we can do better. So we decided that we were only going to eat from a one-mile radius for one month.”

Elaine Hornsby said their friends and family initially scoffed at the idea. Some went so far as to mock them and call them names. “Everyone told us it wasn’t possible and that we were crazy,” she said. “But we showed them! I had no idea eating locally could be so easy, affordable and accessible. I don’t know why everyone thinks it’s hard.”

Luckily for their family, Tim Hornsby explained, the one-mile radius included numerous restaurants and grocery stores. When beginning their local adventure this October, they made a list of all the local venues at which they could purchase local food: Kroger, McDonalds, Subway, Arby’s, Rite Aid, Red Lobster and Quality Dairy were just a few on their list.

“It was way longer than we expected,” Tim Hornsby said. “We were able to find local meat, local bread, local coffee, local chips, even local Coke!” The couple’s children, Henry, 8, and Sarah, 6, said they didn’t mind the sacrifices they had to make in order to eat locally. “I didn’t wanna at first,” Henry Hornsby confessed shyly. “There are some kids at school who eat funny diets and they get made fun of.”

But their lunchboxes weren’t drastically affected. “I could still have local Oreos and local peanut butter and jelly,” Sarah Hornsby smiled as she sipped from a local juice box.

In order to decrease their carbon footprint, the Hornsbys purchased only local gas for their cars, from stations within the one-mile radius. “When you look at things like the BP oil spill and hear about wars over oil in the Middle East, it just makes you realize the benefits of purchasing your gas locally,” Tim Hornsby said.

Upon reaching their one-month goal, the Hornsbys reported a renewed appreciation for food and profound sense of reconnection to agriculture and food producers.

“It feels so great to see where your food comes from, to know that it comes from your community, that the money is staying in your community, and to meet your food producers and form relationships with them,” Elaine Hornsby said.

The family announced that while they might cheat here and there, they plan to stick to a local diet in the future. “We feel fabulous!” exclaimed Elaine Hornsby as she helped herself to a slice of fresh, local pizza and cracked open a cold, local Bud Light.

—Laura Johnson