Fancy Cocktail Hour: JW Marriott Grand Rapids

Saturday August 17, 2013

JW Mariott Grand Rapids

One of the first things I did when I knew that we’d be going back to Michigan for a few days was block off our only Saturday night there to spend with our friends: Ken, Mindy, Tyler, and Becky. These two couples were who we’d always spend the one Saturday night that we’d allow ourselves out each month when we were still back home and saving every penny. Somehow, without fail, each time we all got together we’d start the night with dinner out at 6:00 and end up at someone’s house after, then look at the clock dumbfounded that it’s 4 am and no one has realized it. I swear those hours after midnight seem to disappear into the Twilight Zone. They’re always gone in the blink of an eye. I didn’t know what our next night out with them would hold, but as soon as I knew we were coming, I told each of them to book a babysitter for night and to make sure they didn’t have any responsibilities to tend to until the next afternoon.

When Mindy asked me what I wanted to do for the night, I said that we should keep it simple, probably just grill some steaks at their house and have a bonfire so we could keep the night relatively cheap. But then I got to thinking about something all of us girls had talked about way before Matt and I ever left last year, but never ended up doing. Which was to get dressed up and go to a trendy bar downtown for a few drinks. Basically, just like the fancy cocktail hour we had in Jamaica, but in a big city. Many reasons came in to play of why I wanted so badly do this on our visit home. One was that I wanted to get downtown and enjoy the city for a night since who knows when I see it again, another was that, well, I like getting fancy, but most importantly, I have a dress that’s been sitting in my closet for three years now and I needed an excuse to break it out. It was originally purchased to wear to my 10 year high school reunion, but somewhere along the line the ball was dropped on that occasion and we never had one. Way to go Northview class of 2000….. (kidding!)

So the plan of action was to go downtown to have a drink (‘Only one!’, Matt lectured, since we’re still trying to keep our spending down) and then make our way to Ken and Mindy’s where we’d follow the rest of the original plan of grilling steaks and hanging around a bonfire. Becky and Tyler weren’t going to be able to make the ‘fancy cocktail’ part and were going to meet up with us at the house later, so Ken and Mindy came to pick us up from Matt’s mom’s, after I’d just rushed home from Muskegon, blowing through the door and yelling ‘I need the shower, I need the shower!’, to be able to get myself ready to be picked up an hour and a half later. With only one working in the house at the moment, sometimes it needs to be fought for and I was going to be damned if I was the one standing on the other side of that door while another person used up my precious time inside. Quickly bolting myself into tiled safety, I ran through the 20 minute ritual of washing, shaving, and scrubbing, …all the necessary prepping to make one fancy. Even though I still felt a little rushed at times since then drying and styling my hair after it’s been washed can be another 45 minute episode, I think the results turned out ok. And just like in the days when Matt and I were back in high school and ready to go to a formal dance (two of which we actually attended together), there was still a few minutes for the obligatory photos from parents.

Matt & Jessica before fancy cocktail hour

Did I mention that only the girls were getting fancy?

The bar we were off to, to enjoy our one cocktail, was not really a bar in it’s own standing, but rather a bar attached to an upscale hotel, the JW Marriott, which may have benefit a lot from a hotel renovation. The reason we (I) had chosen this is because the bar that’s part of the hotel, Mixology, sits in a part of Grand Rapids that overlooks the Grand River, has a trendy little sitting area inside, and cabanas just about hanging over the river on their balcony outside. And since this was my one chance to get out on the town during our trip back, it was either go big or go home. Since my photos won’t do quite the justice it deserves, let me take a moment to show you a few photos, of which are not mine, to give you a feel for this place and why I wanted to spend my evening there.

JW 2

JW 4

Nice, right?

Even though it was now around six in the evening, the sun was still bright and blazing in our faces as we walked from the parking ramp to the hotel. Did that stop me from asking to sit in the nice air conditioned lounge with views of the river instead of getting a table out in the scorching heat where I could get an even better view of the city? Absolutely not. The rest of the group trudged behind me as I excitedly called out to the hostess, “I wanna sit outside!” and we were led to a table (not a cabana, where I’m guessing you have to be ready to spend big $$ to sit there) that did not harbor any kind of protection from the sun. I enthusiastically slid into my chair as everyone else slumped into theirs, pulling out sunglasses and using their hands to shield the sun from their faces, as if they were about to melt into a puddle under the table. I tried to tell them it was a beautiful day out. Besides, why would they want to miss out on views like these?

Grand River from JW Marriott

For the next hour we all sat around the table enjoying ourselves and our drinks (that’s right, Matt ordered two!) and I tried to tell everyone that the heat wasn’t so bad, that we had it much worse in Guatemala, while truthfully, there was enough perspiration on my legs to keep me sliding around in my seat. Before I could turn into too much of that constantly sweating person I am while back on the boat, I decided that a nice breeze up the skirt would do me some good and did a little wandering around the patio area. Taking a few photos here and there, I made sure to capture the River House condos where Matt and I would be living had we spent our money on a new home instead of a life at sea. Which, he had full view of the whole time we were enjoying our drinks, and made sure to bring up many many times how we could be sitting on the 16th floor overlooking the river and the beautiful lights of Grand Rapids each and every night, had we decided to stay home. I have to admit, it was looking pretty tempting at the moment.

beers at Mixology

River House condos across the bridge

 River House condos in the background.  We would have had a view looking right.

Matt at JW Marriott

While I was up and about, I talked our server into taking a few moments away from running from table to table to get a couple of photos of our group. She was very willing to help us out with the photos. The guys…not quite as willing to be in them.

Mindy & Jessica at JW Marriott

Ken, Mindy, Jessica & Matt at JW Marriott

Back at Ken and Mindy’s place, we unwound on their shaded deck while waiting for Becky and Tyler to show up. It didn’t take long for the sun to go down, and all of a sudden, that heat that we’d been trying to take shelter from all evening was completely gone. I forgot that up in the 42nd degree of latitude, the nights don’t stay warm after the sun disappears. It didn’t take too long before my fancy attire was crumpled in a heap on the floor where I had traded it in for much more comfy jeans and a cardigan.

sunset over a field

enjoying wine at sunset

As soon as Becky and Tyler showed up the steaks went on the grill and we sat down to more food than I could ever eat in a lifetime. Salad, 10 ounces of meat, and a loaded baked potato. I’d been dreaming about this meal for weeks which meant I felt guilty about not eating every single bite. I basically had to be rolled away from the table, swearing I’d never eat again, the same way someone with an epic hangover swears they’re never going to drink again. It’s an empty threat, but one that always gets repeated after any episode of overindulgence.

setting the table

Then it was time for something else I had been looking forward to since there’s not many chances for them when you’re surrounded by water. The ever popular bonfire. You can’t say that you’ve fully experienced a summer season without attending at least one. While Ken and Mindy went outside to set up the fire pit, Matt and I stayed behind with Becky and Tyler to mix the cocktails. Becky was stirring up some kind of concoction in a large thermos that included Southern Comfort, orange juice like the ones at, and 7 up. Since the two of us are not normally fans of whiskey of any kind, she promised that by the time she was finished, we would not even taste the alcohol. That it would be just like drinking fruit punch. Which, after having another set of friends used to make what we liked to call the ‘pink drink’, including: pink lemonade concentrate, vodka, and a can of beer; we found out can be very dangerous when you don’t realize how much alcohol you’ve consumed, and in Matt’s case, think it would fun to jump in your hot tub fully clothed with your wallet and cell phone in your pocket.

Becky mixing drinks

I think the Twilight Zone of missing hours happened while we were out at the bonfire, because I’m pretty sure the fire started blazing around 10 pm, and before I knew it, the clock was reading midnight and all the sturdy logs we had stacked up were now reduced to nothing more than glowing embers. The night was over yet though. As we straggled back inside I remembered that Becky had brought me a box full of ‘old’ clothes that she wanted me to look at to see if there was anything I could use. Â Not that there is any room on the boat for me to bring as much as a souvenir back from Machu Picchu, new clothes did not fit into any extras that we can bring back with us. But drop a box of free clothes in front of a girl, and she will shop through them. The next two hours basically turned into a fashion show where I’d riffle through the items, found something that I liked, ran to the bathroom to change into it, and come back out to show everyone. Some of the items weren’t even used, price tags still hanging off the side, like a pair of American Eagle jean shorts that fit me so perfectly it was like I had sought them out among 50 other pairs. Luckily, since Matt was a few drinks in at this point, I was able to smuggle about three news pairs of shorts and five new tops into my bag without any argument from him.

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 The shoes, unfortunately, were borrowed and not on the table for my taking.

When the fashion show ended we were all running out of steam and ready to call it a night. Matt and I were sleeping over, so there was never a worry of drinking and driving, and as we climbed up the stairs to settle ourselves into their three year old’s bedroom, we were surprised to see it was only after three. Looks like we can’t even keep the party going until after four anymore. We’re starting to get purposeless in our old age.

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