Anybody Seeking a Pleasant Peninsula?
Holy crap it's been a long time since we've last been in touch. My apologies. I've been distracted by various life pursuits over the past few months and simply haven't set aside the time to sit down and write to you, dear readers. How have you been? How's 2019 going for you? How did that thing you were anticipating turn out for you? But enough about you, I notched another crapitol onto my beltpost waaaaaaaay back in December of 2018, and now is finally the time for me to tell you about fabulous Lansing, Michigan.
Now I know what you're thinking: how could he afford Michigan, especially in December? (Birbiglia, 2006) Well, remember in 2017 when I traveled to Oklahoma? Well, I decided to make the last-minute-end-of-the-year-trip an annual tradition, so I was on the lookout for cheap fares to capital cities. Luckily, living in Denver, the hub of Frontier Airlines, I have nonstop service to many of the 50 state capitals at my fingertips. After some light detective work, I discovered Lansing, Michigan was not much more than an hour's drive from Detroit, and I happen to have a very dear friend who lives just outside the city.
So I set out for Detroit, steeling myself against what I assumed who be a frozen, lawless, Robocop-esque wasteland of abandoned factories, decrepit mansions, and fires not yet extinguished from 1968. Turns out Detroit is on the upswing, aside from the roads being in a terrible state of disrepair. They've got high-rise developments and gentrification just like every other city, just a lot cheaper (presumably a terrible weather discount). A few random notes:
Overall very Midwestern. While driving myself around the suburbs and in the city, much felt familiar to me, aside from signs reading, "Tunnel to Canada," and the famed Michigan left turns (I completed several of these during my trip and I think I prefer regular left turns). Also, I know people in every city claim their city has the worst drivers, but WOW, Detroit, I have never seen such lawless, Mad Max-esque fury on the urban freeway.
Before I made my way to Lansing, I had a very special stop to make at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. This massive museum complex has many exhibits, but really only one thing I absolutely had to see. On display there is the SS-100-X, not a top secret spy plane as you may suspect, but a 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible. But noy just any 1961 Lincoln Convertible. THE 1961 Lincoln Continental in which John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. This car actually remained in use by the Secret Service for several years afterward, as in those days, they didn't have money to throw around all willy-nilly for the transportation and protection of the President of the United States. They wisely decided to refurbish it with some extra armor plating, as well as a permanent hard top. And YES, there IS a souvenir penny machine, and now I have a JFK Limousine penny and it's one the most-prized in my collection. Also, they had a decidedly less-morbid 1950s era Wienermobile:
With that piece of macabre history geekiness out of the way, I was free to make my way to the capitol in Lansing the following morning. I awoke that chilly Monday in my Best Western in Livonia, grabbed a cup of coffee, and drove the hour and twenty-ish minutes West.
Lansing has a Midwestern-Big-Ten-town familiarity to it. Outdated architecture, decaying office buildings, quirky mom-and-pop businesses downtown, and the like. Upon first site of the capitol I was initially bummed to see the dreaded blight of major renovations underway, but this would prove to be no large hindrance. Most of the work was being done outside the building with only minor disruptions to the interior.
The current capitol building opened in 1879 after 7 years of construction, and was designed by architect Elijah E. Myers, America's most prolific seat-of-government architect. This was the first of three state capitols he designed in his life, followed by the Texas capitol in 1881, and culminating with the Colorado capitol in 1885. Which means, for those of you paying attention, that I have now completed the Elijah E. Myers Crapitol Trifecta!
Since beggars can't be choosers, I was able to hop onto a free guided tour of the capitol with a bunch of second graders. At least I think they were second graders. I'm not very good at judging (read: caring about) children's ages. They were smaller than me. The tour guide (whose name has long since vanished from my mind) gave the dumbed-down version of the tour complete with the expected "Does anyone know who our governor is?" softball questions for the kiddos.
The Michigan capitol is quite handsomely adorned with checkered tiled floors (with cool fossils embedded in the black tiles), a magnificent cast iron grand staircase, fancy elk-crested chandeliers, and the nine muses of Greek mythology encircling the roof of the dome.
I slipped away from the throng of halflings after the senate chamber gallery when I spotted a restroom, and the rest is history. Lansing has fallen. My 12th conquest.
I'm just now reminded (again, sorry for the long delay in this post - I must try to write these while they're still fresh in my mind) that I made my visit to Lansing on December 3rd, 2019, just two days after the death of George H.W. Bush. Looking through my photos I was asking myself, "Why were the flags at half-mast?" These days it's tough to keep up with the pace of national tragedies, but this one I do recall, as I had sat in my motel room the previous night watching HBO's excellent documentary '41' about the man.
My main objective accomplished, I was now free to enjoy the holiday spirit of downtown Detroit. My dear friend Ashleigh and I browsed the artisan soaps and candles at the Christmas market, sipped hot soup and roasted marshmallows at the adjacent Chanukah lighting ceremony, and capped our drizzly night out (did I mention the shitty weather?) with live jazz at the legendary and super swank Cliff Bell's.
Then, what happened was, I returned home to Denver and celebrated Christmas and got distracted by other things and binge-watched all of the Bond films, and you know, just kind of let the blogging slip away from me a little bit. I promise to be more diligent in the future, though the future is uncertain as of this writing. I have been sidetracked from my Crapitol endeavor to another adventure: the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Antwerp, Belgium. That's right, my next trip will be two full weeks in Europe without a crapitol in sight. Further Crapitols adventures will have to wait until the summer. In the months to come, keep an eye out for Iowa, or Wyoming, or maybe.... your state!
Until then, dear readers, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!