Home. A comfortable, familiar place where you know what to expect. Each year brings a slight variation to the landscape, a new flavor to land, but overall, the core components of this place are still the same. Only this time, being back in Michigan (the suburbs of Detroit to be exact) had me experiencing it as if it were a glass of wine.
There is a uniformity about most everything here. Green dominates the palate here, and every shade of it on the spectrum. Grass is everywhere, and looks like it belongs on a golf course being almost completely uniform in its color, house after house, city after city, as though there was a competition going on for the greenest lawn. It’s that soft, plush kind that begs you to run barefoot and play a game of chase as a child on it. Yards are all well-maintained and manicured, freshly mulched, with occasional flower gardens adding some spice and color to the ubiquitous green here. The fresh smell of cut grass is drowned out by the smell of nitrogen and fertilizer, and every other lawn is staked with a sign saying “Keep Off”, which immediately brings memories of my childhood, our perfect lawn and dad telling us we couldn’t play outside for 24 hours because he just applied the monthly dose of fertilizer. The trees lining every street are every shade from yellow-green to a deep grass green, all overly healthy, plump, and happy looking. Their leaves are all flawlessly matching, and nature’s perfection can be seen upon a close up look at their precisely organized cells. Each group of leaves makes an evenly spaced perfect clump and the branches sprawl from the trunk in a perfect Fibonacci manner, swaying and dancing in the gentle warms winds, showing off how alive and happy they are. The sun’s rays emanate through the leaves on this bright and warm day, the backdrop an almost fake looking blue sky with pretty white puffy clouds. Buildings offer little excitement, most are rectangular, made of grayish concrete or glass, lacking any soft, organic lines or ornate, artistic details. And the commercial nature of the restaurants offer nothing for charm. It’s a place you’d come to for comfort and familiarity, but certainly not a place you’d save up and splurge on for a special occasion.
Being a wine passionate, I was sure to ship home some of my favorite French and Italian bottles before I landed here. With access to good wine much more difficult than in Italy or Santa Barbara, I surely didn’t expect the same wine offerings at friend’s parties. The smartness in this decision becomes fully apparent as I’m offered a glass of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc at a friend’s BBQ. Our hostess, certainly not wanting to appear cheap, tells everyone to go inside and get a glass, as she would not have them drinking out of plastic Solo cups. Most declined her offer and chose to drink it out of their plastic cup, and all I could think was that it was going to take more than a glass to help that $12.99 bottle purchased at Costco (excuse my snobbishness, but once you’ve tasted unique and authentic flavors more common from smaller producers, it becomes increasingly difficult to find any joy in commercially-made wines). We are all entitled to like what we like, but so often we like what we like because we are too afraid to risk and try something different or new. But how many times after you finally risked a bit, did you find that a whole new world opened up to you? My guess is more than once.
This place called home is certainly quaffable and hardly the worst place to be, but I'm clearly missing the charm of Italy. For me, Michigan was somehow that Sauvignon Blanc I was drinking.