Up North: Seen (2011)
Up North: Seen (2010)
We were Up North last week, which in Michigan is as much a state of mind as it is a part of the state. We left in the middle of a heat wave, and once we crossed that 45th parallel the thermometer on the car somehow read twenty degrees less than it did on the asphalt and concrete of the city far behind us. All my digital things suddenly stopped working. For seven straight days we did not see a television set, which meant we didn't have to see any of those commercials the state tourism board produces with Tim Allen reading poetic descriptions of the many splendors of Up North. We were living a Tim-Allen-narrated commercial complete with beach sunsets and slow-motion jumps off wooden docks and trout fishing in rippling creeks we had all to ourselves. I can't stand Tim Allen, but I love being up north so much if he tenderly asked me to jump off the Mackinac Bridge I wouldn't even ask which side.
That's not to say everything Up North is perfect. It sometimes feels like we are twenty years younger than anyone else vacationing there, but I suspect going there is simply proof that we are getting old. Still, if the state tourism board believed in truth in advertising, they would also pay Wilford Brimley to read a poem about Michigan's majestic Indian casino architecture and our many varieties of fudge. In rhyming couplets.
Every summer we spend a week at a cottage twelve miles northwest of the small resort community of Harbor Springs, just off a road that must have been declared one of the best rides in America by Motorized Tricycle Magazine. You couldn't throw a Petoskey stone up there without hitting some geezer on a three-wheeled motorcycle. Motorized Tricycles: All the inconveniences of traveling by motorcycle, without any of the cool factor. Motorized Tricycles: Easier on Your Prostate Than a Harley. Motorized Tricycles: One less wheel than a car, but twice as ridiculous! The motorized tricycle industry should really hire me to write them some slogans. Tricycles: now for everyone who wears diapers.
Harbor Springs, Michigan, is a really good place to go if you want to see the sad reality of what actual people look like wearing the clothes on those headless mannequins in that Nautica store at the factory outlet mall. I don't own a pair of shorts, but whenever I travel to Harbor Springs I wonder what good yachting advice and bad stock tips I might pick up by dressing like a local. I imagine dropping into the Claymore Shop for a polo shirt, khaki shorts, an embroidered belt, and a pair of those gross shoes old men wear without socks. I might even buy mandals or those unnerving plastic shoes with delineated toes, but if I really want to sit at the Little Traverse Yacht Club with the most recent issue of Sailing Magazine to observe just how tedious and awful moderately rich people truly are, nothing but Sperry top-siders would do. In truth, even in a perfect Harbor Springs uniform I would still be so slovenly they would all just assume the homeless First Gulf War vet the country club hired years ago to prospect for golf balls in the water hazards was back on his meds. Then I would probably see some teenage kid with perfect blond Cobra Kai hair wearing shorts the color of an orange dreamsicle laughing at some joke I wouldn't understand about jibs and booms and I would start frothing angrily at the mouth and muttering to myself until they would be all, Nope still off his meds. Of course, none of those people would be locals (unless you call people who own million-dollar cottages they sleep in twenty nights a year "locals") and most of them probably live a few miles down the road from me in Grosse Pointe Farms or Birmingham. That dude glowering at us from the corner waiting to fill up my water glass who couldn't wait for all of us rich downstate assholes to get the hell out of town so he could spend his miserable winter field dressing deer and getting into high-speed snowmobile chases with the local game wardens: he's the local.
I may have exaggerated some of that, except for the me being slovenly part. We did go out to dinner once at a fancy place in town and my wife pointed out (correctly) that my t-shirt was inside out. I played it super casual though. I was all, I know, as I pretended to stretch my arms and deftly ripped the tag off the back of my neck. Problem solved.