Christmastown… in September

This is part two about my trip to Michigan State University. Part one is right here, in case you missed it.

After spending the early part of Saturday hanging out with MSU’s sax teacher, Joe Lulloff, several students from his sax studio picked me up for our drive to Frankenmuth, MI. Never heard of Frankenmuth? Well, then you must hate 1) America 2) Christmas 3) Jesus 4) Beer and 5) Fried chicken. In that order.

Frankenmuth is about 90 minutes from MSU. We were heading there for Octoberfest (granted, a bit early, but it is Michigan, and it might be too cold by the time October actually rolls around) and Christmastown. First stop: Christmastown. (I keep calling it that, but it’s really “Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland.” If you don’t put “CHRIST” in all caps, you’re missing the point of CHRISTmas (and you’re going to hell). Remember: you can’t spell Christmas without Christ, people.)

Bronner’s is an enormous Christmas store, open 361 days a year (It’s best not to ask, but I suspect they’re closed on Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Day, and, judging from the Americana everywhere, July 4th.) The place is the size of a large grocery store on the inside, and the property spans several acres on the outside (all decorated with Christmas lights), and there’s a hotel attached to the whole thing. Believe it or not, just because you’re there, CHRISTmas / America may not be the most important thing in your life. Being Saturday, it’s okay to put college football first. Fortunately, Bronner’s beautiful lobby is there to serve you.

Past the football viewing room, you enter the Festive Chaos.

Why hello, Sexy Santa.

What are you into? I mean… you know what I mean. (Perv.) What I’m asking is do you like cars? Princesses? Monkeys? Soccer? No matter what you like, Bronner’s has a CHRISTmas ornament for you. Me, I think cats are cool. I was awfully tempted by this one, so tacky it’s almost cool (but really, just tacky) — until I saw the “Made in China” label. Do not lick this cat.

I was walking along, and there was this crazy frog who flipped onto his back and made this gesture right before I stepped on him. Silly frog.

I think my favorite section of the store was the Hunting section. No joke. Michiganders love their hunting. It all made me want to get a gun, put on my super macho safety orange, and shoot something.

What’s better? The snowman with a gun…

… or the deer with a gun? (AEJ thought the deer would be better with the head of a human hunter tucked under his arm.)

Famous people love to visit Bronners. I mean, they even got Marie Osmond! (in, like, 1986 — in case you can’t read the year, or tell by her hair / outfit).

And everybody’s favorite first lady, Laura Bush. (Wow, I never, in a million years, would think that my blog would include a picture of Laura Bush’s beautiful, sincere smile.)

I love this picture primarily for the caption: “Ralph and Charlotte Albrough love America, Christmas and the Lord and Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland.” In that order? Yeah, I guess in that order. But they forgot “hunting.” I’m bummed I can’t read their matching shirts. I can only make out “America” and “his grace.” I’m not sure what’s on that dude’s hat, but I reckon it’s a big, fat American steak.

Seeing that picture makes me want to write a family bible, too. Chapter 1, verse 1. “In the beginning, Loki said, ‘Let there be yogurt…’ and there was yogurt. And he licked it, and it was good. Then Loki said, ‘let there be fingers to chew.’ ”

You know what I love at Christmas? Creepy children.

This tree was pretty sweet. It’s decorated entirely with Big 10 Football ornaments. Oh, and American flags. Go Buckeyes! And America! (In that order.)

After Bronner’s, we headed to dinner at Zehnder’s.

This enormous German restaurant serves enormous quantities of… fried chicken. What? You thought, being a German restaurant, they’d serve something German? Clearly, you don’t understand the USA. We’ll give you German beer in a German restaurant, but that’s all you’re gettin’. Besides, if they served sausages rather than chicken, this guy’s outfit would be a lot more obscene.

The food was pretty tasty, I have to say. Fried chicken, yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Yes, it’s all beige, and it’s basically Thanksgiving dinner without turkey, but turkey makes me sleepy anyway, so this was perfect. Seriously — very good stuff. It was “all you can eat,” but we didn’t do so well on that. They made a killing off of our skinny table.

Dessert — soft serve ice cream — was yummy. Mine, inexplicably, had a plastic monkey on top. Another serving had a mermaid. Another, an elephant. While I was enjoying my after-dinner beer, the three of them got a little… frisky.

From dinner — stuffed as we were — we all headed to Octoberfest, probably a 10 minute walk. We kind of needed the exercise, especially if we were hoping to make room for more beer. Octoberfest welcomed us — and also seemed to be telling us to come in and get out at the same time.

The thing was held in this enormous airplane hangar-like structure. Plenty of room for drinkin’!

And dancin’! (Can you make out what’s happening there? Those crazy Germans and their crazy ass-slapping dances!)

It was a pretty spectacular evening. Bronner’s was hilarious, the dinner was funny but completely delicious, and Octoberfest was drunken (and inherently fun). I had to pace myself somewhat, though, because the next morning, I had a dress rehearsal at 10am. More on that… next.


Cathy says

I don't think I've laughed that much in quite some time. Thank you!! I do have to say that my favorite thing in this edition of the Osti-Blog would have to be:
"It all made me want to get a gun, put on my super macho safety orange, and shoot something."


Sarah says

This was a great post, but I still think 'Christmas 05' takes 1st place for Christmas entries.

Fosco! says

Wow. I grew up in MI and remember childhood trips to Frankenmuth. But I haven't been to Bronner's since the beginning of the war (on Christmas). It looks like they're holding up pretty well. It's a pity you didn't have time for a second dinner (of exactly the same fried chicken) across the street at the Bavarian Inn.

I haven't thought about that place in years. Thanks, JM, for driving me down memory lane (and making my day). That's my home state, bitches!

Gus Greely says

You said it all with your photos, but I can't help reiterating verbally: there's such a sardonic beauty in their using the word "CHRISTmas" to overstate their earnest religious sincerity, since it is implicitly insincere -- contradicting itself by fitting perfectly with and adding to the implicitly insincere, overstated kitschy nature of the place as a whole. (i.e. preaching that Christmas has lost its intended meaning and selling that sentiment with a gun toting snowman.)

It's a wonderful life. : )

Kevin Howlett says

The "big, fat American steak" on the guy's hat looks like a Detroit Red Wings logo. She's got the same thing on. I personally never cared for hockey. Like Sean Rouse says, it's a little hard to get into a sport where at the end you can say "tie! You're all winners today! Go get yourself some orange slices; then we'll meet up at the Pizza Hut and the rich kid's dad is gonna try to nail your mom."

That place makes me long for the Spruce House in Estes Park, CO. Ornaments galore, no tackiness. I GUARANTEE IT.

Melissa says

Unarticulatable horror.

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