Your weekly update (and *Michigan*)

Congratulations, everyone. We got through another week, each and every one of us. I hope you’re all as pleased with this accomplishment as I am.

I worked every day this week, still training. By friday, I felt a lot more comfortable and confident. On Monday, I will go out by myself, with my own route. It is, of course, a completely different route than the one I’ve been training on, and I need to fit in the time this weekend to really study it, but I’m excited to begin.

Also, I’m flying out to Michigan on Thursday. The whole thing seems a little unreal right now, mostly because I have a lot of things to accomplish before I get on that plane, but I’m flying out to Michigan on Thursday. I’m so excited! The thing is, you see, that Leftenant Weatherby and his Lady Elise are getting married a week from today. Goodness. One. Week. From. Today. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of events that you just gotta be there for, whatever it takes. I was willing to Greyhound-bus it, but my parents thought that was crazy (they’re awesome) and lent me enough money to get the plane tickets. Getting the time off my new job wasn’t even an issue, because I brought it up before any of us even had schedules (I still don’t have a schedule past Monday). So next week, I get to witness this important and meaningful occasion in the lives of two awesome people that mean a lot to me… AND I get to see everyone in the group of friends surrounding those people. Lady Higg, Constable Maelstrom, Doctor Longbottom, and everyone else that doesn’t have a blog pseudonym yet. I’m just so happy that I’m able to make this trip, able to be there, and able to keep these people in my life. I’m actually flying into Lansing on Thursday and staying with Lady Higg, and then driving upstate for the wedding with her and Doctor Longbottom. The three of us and Constable Maelstrom are staying in a cabin for the weekend, and then I’m flying out of Lansing again on Monday. You’ll notice I have cleverly maximised my time with Lady Higg, because going a year (okay, eleven months) without seeing your best friend is the exact opposite of an ideal situation(!!!), and who knows when I’ll get to see her again after this!! So naturally, I’ve arranged my trip to include as much best friend time as possible, and I can’t wait.

And that’s your blog post for today, because I actually have a lot to do in the way of packing and planning and shopping and laundering and studying and sketching and all the other things. Have a good Saturday, y’all!

Me and Lady Higg in NOLA. Ignore the redeye. Also, I didn't clip Lorax out of the picture intentionally! That's how I found it on facebook!)

Me and Lady Higg in NOLA. Ignore the redeye. Also, I didn’t clip Lorax out of the picture intentionally! That’s how I found it on facebook!

And here's a group shot that actually includes the happy couple! Elise standing up on the far left, and Tom (Leftenant Weatherby) looking heroic with the box of cupcakes.

And here’s a group shot that actually includes the happy couple! Elise standing up on the far left, and Tom (Leftenant Weatherby) looking heroic with the box of cupcakes.

“Bring Your Mug”

That’s the first thing my best friend, Lady Higg, said when I told her I was coming home. (That’s the Big Thing, by the way; I am currently in transit, via Greyhound bus, to Marquette Michigan, my college town and home of five years.) Lawrence said it too, when I told him I was thinking about making the trip. “Bring your mug. We’ll have a few beers. It’ll be worth it.” I wanted to write an epic blog post about Marquette, about why I love this town, and why I’m going back one last time. I wanted to tell you about my rocky beginnings with Marquette, how the city grew on me slowly, how it wasn’t until my first summer there that I really understood. I wanted to tell you how Lake Superior is the most beautiful thing in the world when the water is sparkling in the sun, and about that night we sat on the breakwall with the waves around us as the sun set and the city lights shone brilliant on the water and Marquette was so lovely that she almost outshone the moon rising orange and round behind us (Leftentant Weatherby: do you remember?). I wanted to tell you about all of my friends, the old and the new, the dorm friends, the bar friends, the trio of red-head writers. I wanted to tell you about last summer, the summer Marquette really became mine, when I was newly single and some friends had left and, in some ways, I didn’t know who I was—how that summer Marquette cradled me as I tried everything new and learned that sometimes, things keep hurting even as the time passes, and that letting go of a thing can mean hanging on to it, and learning to carry it differently. I wanted to tell you everything, but after five years of Marquette, there’s too much to tell. Instead, I’m just going to tell you about a bar, about Blackrocks Brewery, the reason I have carried a large, beautiful, handcrafted ceramic mug across Canada in my backpack. Because that one summer? That awful, wonderful, shining summer? It ended with Lady Higg and I at Blackrocks Brewery, living our lives—stress, shenanigans, and all—and talking it out over a pint of the best beer in the UP.

Blackrocks Brewery is a nano-brewery, and a very special place. It’s in a bright yellow house on Third Street, and the interior is warm and cozy and welcoming, with every available wall and ceiling space filled up with hanging mugs. The beer is brewed on the premises, and the brewmasters themselves are there every night, smiling and splashing beer into glasses and mugs, saying Welcome. We’re glad you’re here. We hope you stay. Every mug of beer is delicious. There are six or seven brews on tap every weekend, always something new. I think they’re at over 150 varieties. My favorite is the Willie O’Ree, named after the famous hockey player, a brew so dark, sweet, and smooth. They also make fun stuff, like the Atomic Fireball Wheat: a bright orange beer made from actual atomic fireball candies that give it a scrumptious cinnamon flavor. Blackrocks’ menu is posted on their facebook page, and it looks like there’s a Chai Ale on this weekend, which I’m excited to try if there’s any left when I get there. Oh, and the mugs? Each one is handcrafted by local artist Ryan Dalman, and can be purchased for $40. Each one is a work of art, and with a mug in your hands at Blackrocks you feel like you belong, like you’ve shown your loyalty, like you’re holding a piece of gold. Also, there’s an extreme practical benefit: Each mug is a little bigger than a pint glass, so when you have a mug, you get more beer, for the same incredible price of $3.50.

My last school year, it seems like we lived at Blackrocks. Lady Higg found it first, thanks to Doctor Longbottom, but I was a quick convert, and by the end of the year it was where Lorax and Lawrence came too, and sometimes Fights With Centaurs (Fights With Centaurs  is a dear, dear comrade, but she doesn’t come out quite as often (too many centaurs to wrangle) and so there’s an air of excitement every time she shows up. Fights With Centaurs is here? Tonight? With us?). It was where we dragged old friends when they came to visit, where we assumed everyone should want to hang out. Lady Higg was the first to get her mug, back in December. I got mine in March, only a few months away from leaving town, because what could be a better souvenir to bring home from Marquette?  Lorax got his soon after mine; it sort of matches his tattoo (Lorax, generous in all things—wine, vodka shots, fish sandwiches at 2 am—is letting me stay on his couch this week). Lawrence finally acquired his mug just a few weeks ago, since they had run out of them on his birthday back in June. These three, Lawrence, Lorax, and Lady Higg, are the ones who came to my apartment at 12 AM the morning I left, when the cleaning and packing was finally done, to just sit, drink a cup of tea, and say goodbye. These are the ones (in addition to all the ones, you know who you are) with whom it will be worth everything just to tap mug handles and talk. Because as much as it’s about the best beer in the world, Blackrocks is also about friends, a safe haven, and home.