The Rapidian


Readers offer scenes from the streets

How to contribute a story to Afoot

Afoot is a new space at The Rapidian that invites readers to share a slice of life from the streets—and parks and shops and offices—of Grand Rapids.  Did you look twice at a stranger today?  What did you overhear?  Was a new tree blooming out an old window?  We’d like to see through your eyes and hear through your ears. 

Please send your submissions to [email protected].   Submissions must be true, and should relate to Grand Rapids, past or present.  Brief is better—under 300 words.  Sometimes a couple of sentences can do the trick.  If your entry is accepted, we will contact you to verify that you are the author.

An important goal of the Rapidian is to connect the people of Grand Rapids.  Not only do we get to hear what other people are up to, we get to hear it in their own voices. 

Today the site launches a new column that takes this idea in a more personal direction, asking readers to share what they observe and encounter as they go about their daily lives in the city. 

No observation is too trivial—in fact, we’re looking for the trivial.  A hello from a stranger, the duck that waddled unexpectedly from behind a piece of plywood, an overheard fragment of conversation:  these are things that give the flavor of a place.  It’s fun to recognize that the home we know so well is the home our neighbor knows, too.  Where did it happen, Fulton and Diamond?  The reading room of the library?  The railroad tracks on Kalamazoo?  Those are my stomping grounds, too.

 Afoot takes its name from the Whitman poem that begins, “Afoot and lighthearted, I take to the open road,” because that’s the spirit we’re aiming for:  a spirit of eager attention to what’s around us.  If you enjoy this first installment, we hope you’ll return the favor by sending in something of your own.  See the box for instructions, and send your submission to  [email protected].  Can’t wait to walk with you!

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They were building the tower for months and I had been watching every day.  My desk at the office was the closest corner to the crane and it seemed like every day there was a little less cloudy sky and a little more steel beam.  When the crane whipped around carrying bins of this and piles of that, a few of us would watch and gasp and guess at how the thing was being made.  I was on vacation when I got the text from my co-worker:  a blurry, zoomed in picture of a little Christmas tree perched right up on top of the tallest piece of steel.  The tree was ringed with a finger-painted digital red loop and an arrow.  "They put a tree on top!  You're missing everything!"  

The internet says the builders do it to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced in the construction process.  I wonder if they carried it up or let the crane lift it to its nest?

Lydia Clowney



Last night I was at an event in downtown Grand Rapids and one of my friends said to me, “I have to leave early, and don’t ask me why because I’m worried you will lose respect for me.” I said laughing, “Well, now you HAVE to tell me where you are going or I will always wonder.” He stuttered a bit and said he was going to 20 Monroe Live and raised his eyebrows as if I would know what that meant.  I didn’t.  He looked very sheepish when he finally said, “It’s called Midget Wrestling!”

I looked up at him, and decided against a takedown.

Julie W. Metsker



As I waited for the #2 bus at Franklin, a black plastic bag touched down on Fuller and glided across the pavement, revolving twice, like a busy robot.  I looked around to see who was operating her.  Nope.  And no one else about to catch the puppet show.

Amy Pattullo



Thursday March 28, 2019, opening day for the Tigers and the sky was blue.  I was walking down Fountain Street on my way to the Y.  It was noon, and in a small front yard to my left a 90-year-old woman was raising a rake above a knee-high mound of ice still remaining beside her porch.  As she brought the rake down hard and sent ice chips flying, she explained:  When I was young, I didn’t care how much snow kept coming down, I loved shoveling.  This winter’s gone on way too long.  I don’t want to see this ice anymore.  I nodded, and said I’d been expressing similar sentiments to my own shovel, Big Blue.  She kept on with her work, raking ice chips out onto the sidewalk, exposing them to real sunshine, bright 60-degree heat.    

Later that afternoon I said hello to the statue of Noahquageshik, and crossed back over the river by the blue bridge.  I wondered how the Tigers’ season was opening.  Not owning a cell phone, I couldn’t call Ernie Harwell.  I did stop, though, to ring the doorbell of the lady with the rake.  In five hours, a great amount of melting had taken place, thanks to her demolition work.  I complimented her, saying I had taken note of all the melted ice.  She replied, yes, I wanted it gone, and now it is gone.

Steve Walters



Taking a pleasant walk on a nice day last fall, I approached Pleasant Park, which has a large field of clipped grass, an area beckoning Frisbee dogs or Thanksgiving Day touch football players. This day, though, was not Thanksgiving, and the dogs were in the background, for an organized game was in progress.  A gaggle of different sized children and a couple of women were hard at it, in a big group ranging along a sort of line.  From the corner of the park, across the vast open area, I could hear my neighbors calling, “Green light . . . red light!”

Judy P. Clowney


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