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I walked into the store, and much like that first step from the plane onto the soil of a foreign land, its culture washed over me like a rogue wave. It was, as if suddenly, I’d grown claustrophobic.

My breathing became heavy. My heart began to race. Even more so did my hands become sweaty when Jennifer offered with a smile, “We’re going to need a shopping cart,” insinuating that we’d be traversing each of the aisle ways of this strange terrain in search of these and those things of all natures and styles, none of which could be carried in a smaller tote basket.

The store? Michaels Arts and Crafts—a supply house for those with the skills for precision home décor and needful hobby provisions.

When it comes to makin’ stuff, you name it and this place has it.


“Got any titanium templates for making Kim-Jung-Un-shaped paper weights from molten steel? The Christmas party for our local communist club is tonight, and I don’t want to show up with nothing to share.”

“Yep. Aisle ten. And by the way, what time is the party?”


“Say, where might I find what I need to make a manger, but one that’s exactly thirteen millimeters tall?”

“Aisle four has all of our miniature manger supplies.”


“Excuse me, where might I find your paintable glass geckos?”

“We have a wide variety of paintable reptilia over on aisle eight’s endcap.


“Hi, um, I’d like to use my Bedazzler on my cat, and—”

“—All our Bedazzler supplies are in aisle one.”

“Oh, no, I already have all the bedazzling gems I need, I just need to know what kind of lacquer I should dip him into after I’m done. I want it to be harder for him to scratch them off.”

“Oh, gotcha. All animal fur shellac and polyurethane is over in aisle six.”


It wasn’t until I saw what I thought was a rather unique flower pot—which in the end, turned out to be a product called a “scene garden”—that I thought to myself, This place needs to change its name. As far as the name change idea goes, I was thinking we could go from this…

…to this…

Anyway, a scene garden is, essentially, an elongated flower pot that people fill with a base element—like gravel, sand, dirt, puke, or whatever you feel like filling it with. The pot is then arranged with tiny adornments that portray a scene, such as an oceanfront affair with little plastic people resting in chase lounges beneath beach umbrellas and surrounded by palm trees. Maybe there’s even a little guy on a tiny surf board floating in the basin of water serving as the ocean. Really, a scene garden can be anything—a family having a picnic, a fairy garden, a shark attack, or a bar fight. Just know that no matter what you choose, Michaels will have the stuff you need to make those free hours in your day fly right by toward a successful conclusion.

They have everything a bored, but crafty, person might need.

At first nosing of the Mayor Pingree Rye Whiskey, I got the sense that the Valentine’s Distilling Company—a native to Detroit, Michigan—found time in its busy schedule to stop by Michaels to pick up a few key ingredients from somewhere between the heat pens used for pyrography (wood burning art) and the edible, but nearly tasteless, birthday cake sheets printed with a little girl’s favorite Disney princess character. To translate, I took from the dram a mild, but singed, sniff of oak, as well as a slight hint of something candied. A second sniff affirms that whatever is sending up the candy smell is far too thin to be of any consequence. It may even have been the perfume emanating from the lady in the next aisle over. Yeah, the one accompanied by the shiatzu dressed like Santa Claus. Cute? Nope. Those tiny glossed eyes aren’t natural. The pint-size creature is merely holding back its little doggie tears.

The palate is an altogether different visit to the all-giving craft store. There’s an initial creaminess to the whiskey, one that delivers what seems to be an attempt at typical rye components, such as spice and honey. I say “attempt” because along the way to the checkout, I’m guessing the formulators stopped by an artificial flavoring aisle and dropped in a few waxy morsels—compounds meant more for scented candles than food. In particular, I tasted something chemically floral. If I had to say what candle I may have been nibbling, I’d guess it was lilac or something. Yeah, probably lilac.

The medium finish is crisp enough, giving over a nip of allspice and oak. Unfortunately, just as those two characteristics are peaking, the finality turns a tad sour. Once again, I’m guessing it’s whatever candle scent found itself in the mix.

I wish I could say more—especially since these guys are from my neck of the whiskey woods—but in the end, the Mayor Pingree Rye is only a scene garden. It’s a crafty effort at representing what others have offered and experienced in reality.