Here I was on a very cold, not ready to embrace spring, March day. I sat all alone outside a not yet open ice cream shop eating a free chili dog at a picnic table on the edge of Old Town. Let me explain how I got here. If this was a CSI episode, words would come up at the bottom of the screen saying “30 minutes earlier”. The series of events that got me to that picnic table went like this. Our family has only one drivable car at the moment. We have a van but due to a clerical error in Virginia, where we bought it, we are not able to register it in Michigan until the right amount of red tape, hurdles, miscommunications and swearing happens. So for now our family of 6 creatively makes due with a 5 seat Cavalier. Today’s schedule consisted of our twins coming home at 11:50 from school, me needing to be in Old Town at noon and our oldest son needing to be at LCC west campus by 1pm. The return trip would include stopping back into Old Town to pick me up. How to solve this problem? My first thought was to just cancel my volunteer time with Lunch with a Purpose. I didn’t really want to miss it, especially since my friend Erin Slayter was going to be there and I needed to talk to her about volunteering for Earth Day Lansing event; Old Town Spring Scrub. My next thought was to leave now and get dropped off at some walking point so I could do one of my walks. There was a set of streets off Grand River that I walked when I was hunting down Angel Hill. I pulled out my map and found the place I could get dropped off at; Clark & Grand River. There’s an odd momentum change when you go from driving to walking. I’ve noticed it before but for some reason this one seemed especially noticeable. Maybe it was having my husband drop me off on a street corner and drive away, leaving me there exposed to the cold, wind, passing cars and other folks out on the street. I wrapped my camera into my coat and began walking. There were not many out in this neighborhood with most of the store fronts empty and many houses as well. This is an economically hard hit neighborhood. Although the few people I came into contact with were not hostile towards me, I sensed a subtle feeling that I shouldn’t linger too long. I quickly continued my walking. Then I came to Chicago Deli (801 E. Grand River; 367-7697). If the bright orange color hadn’t stopped me the size of the deli, roughly the size of my kitchen and dining room, made me take a second glance. When I did, I noticed the open sign and a customer enjoying his lunch. This was the exact kind of place I created City Saunter for! So I went in. I introduced myself and handed out my cards talking to the owner, Henry. I explained my project and that I wanted to take some photos of his little restaurant. He was so thankful for the attention I might be able to give him he offered me a free chili dog. After being urged by the other customer to try a dog, I agreed. I continued to ask Henry questions as he put together my food. He was running the place with his wife and niece on a part time basis. He offered up the chili dogs but was really showcasing the Chicago Style Italian Beef sandwich, announcing that it’s his biggest seller. He pointed to a large poster with a delicious herbed meat sub on the wall of the counter and I secretly committed to buying one of those babies in the near future. He walked me outside so I could take photos of his sign, rejecting the offer to go stand under it. He shook my hand and I thanked him again for the hotdog. Since I was trying to get to Old Town I took it with me to go. My walk then took me past the old Alamo building which is still a wonder to behold. It operates as a church now. I passed Pruess Pets, another wonder. I photographed the gorgeous waterfall and continued on my way.
When I arrived at Center St. in Old Town I realized I was ten minutes early for Lunch with a Purpose. At the corner sits an ice cream shop. It was closed down for the winter but had three metal picnic tables out front. I decided to take a minute for myself. I sat down gazing down Grand River into Old Town and pulled out my first City Saunter freebie; a chili dog from Chicago Deli. Refreshed from my lunch it was now my turn to give a little. I walked north on Center St. to the Big Brothers Big Sisters office and joined the other Lunch with a Purpose volunteers cutting out bowling pins that BBBS would sell to raise funds for their charity work; a true chain of giving.
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