Outdoor living

Sidetrack has a split-personality: Scowling regulars swill brews at the bar, but grandparents in matching polos order hamburgers on the balmy patio outside under party-colored umbrellas. But on this warm weeknight in Ypsi’s Depot Town, the light conversation and clinking glasses are suddenly interrupted by a leather-clad motorcyclist lighting up his cherry-red hog on the main road outside. Apparently getting ready to take off, the evident badass feels the need to rev up his engine — for five straight minutes. Motorcycle exhaust pours into the dining area. Mothers try to shield their children from the cloud of carbon monoxide, old-timers shake their heads, and young women cough and rolled their eyes at the obvious spectacle. Finally, after minutes of roaring, blaring, testosterone-fueled showmanship, the motorcyclist put the bike in gear and floors it — stalling out just a few yards from the curb. The entire patio explodes with unabashed laughter. Even the 5-year-old in a booster seat is amused.

Trying to get a number of people to do anything at once is daunting — “the wave,” or smiling for a group photo, for example — but show us a failed display of pure phallic power and we’ll all end up in unison. —Caitlin Cowan

On a Lark

I know right away I don’t fit in. The waiters are wearing tuxedos. The patrons are in designer suits and expensive evening gowns. I waltz in wearing a button-down plaid shirt and baggy green shorts. Everybody is dressed so well at West Bloomfield’s four-star Lark restaurant, I ask if there’s a dress code. Fortunately, I’m OK.

I order the coldest, cheapest beer from the bar.

“I don’t have cheap beer,” the bartender tells me. I ask for the coldest then. He opens a bottle of Grolsch and sets it in front of me with an intimidating pewter pilsner glass with a wolf’s head on the side of it.

Everyone who sees the thermometer wants to know what’s up. After I explain what I’m doing, he laughs and tells me that, in addition to not being cheap, none of his beers are very cold, either.

“What do you usually drink?” he asks.

“Labatt Blue.”

Cracking a mischievous grin, he reaches over to open a beer cooler. He pulls out a bottle of Blue from his “private stash” and tells me it’s his drink of choice. All of a sudden, I’m not so sure I’m out of place — flip-flops and all. —Jonathan Eppley

Cold receptions

What’s so odd about a guy curious about the temperature of his beer? The bartender looks slightly intrigued when she asks, “What the hell are you doing? Are you obsessed or something?”

She turns and walks towards a portly fellow. As she speaks to him, his head lights up like a beefsteak tomato. He waddled in my direction and barked, “Our freezer is just fine, pal!” It turns out he’s the owner. He launches into an incoherent tirade having to do with inspections, licenses and something about honey-roasted peanuts. Have I stumbled into some dispute between him and the health department? Or maybe I’ve crossed some battle line in neighborhood bar wars?  At any rate, tell him why I’m doing this. With a newfound understanding of my mission, his anger softens into sheer annoyance. The beer wasn’t that cold, but I this guy managed to give me the chills anyway. —Alfred Ishak

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