Sunday, near Germfask.

Sunday, July 14th, 1996

It’s a quiet Sunday morning here in the Helmer/Curtis/McMillan/Germfask/Newberry metroplex, way up above the 45th parallel, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where all the corn is good looking and all the people are, well, almost uncomfortably uniformly white.

Yes, there is a town named Germfask up here. Sounds to me like some sort of biochemical experiment gone horribly wrong, but that’s the name, don’t wear it out, and on this morning, there’s some sort of Strawberry Festival or bazaar or something where blankets and quilts are sold (among other things) with the handwritten admonition, "Remember, winter is just around the corner."

Yep. Indeed. There is no doubt. We took a look at the Mills family’s photos of last winter, a winter particularly cold, harsh, and in ways subtle and less so, debilitating. Snow higher than small children. That kind of icy cold that drains the color from Kodak film and gives these shots an overall pallor. Yes, the winter survival mechanisms up here&emdash;both for body and mind&emdash;are second to none, but still, I think about when the lake a couple of hundred yards off my right shoulder finally unfroze&emdash;mid-May&emdash;and shudder just a bit.

You want hardiness of spirit? You’ve got it here, in warehouse store quantities. You want a decent bagel? Well, that’s another hunk of dough entirely.

But this time of year, folks thoughts are well removed from snow and cold. It’s warm, with cool nights, and a nice place, if you don’t mind mosquitoes in your eyebrows. More often than not, though, the insect life can be held at bay from a healthy breeze from the north, and because of how Our Wacky Planet works, it stays light up here a very very long time in the evening, lending a certain timelessness to the day’s activities.

Our days have been generally ones of rest and relaxation, although when hanging with the Smiths, r and r has to be punctuated by the rigor and ritual of meals consumed at noon and six, on the dot, and certain chores that at times, if you don’t mind my saying, seem just a teensy bit compulsive.

But it’s a treat to just relax and sync up to an entirely different set of rhythms and explore some back woods with Sammy and family and see some people that we really regret seeing just once a year.

I hope your summer is turning out to be all you expected it to be. If you’re visiting Atlanta for the Olympics, I have one piece of advice: remember, this is all just a big act. Come back and see the place after all the hoopla and you may well have a better, calmer and..uh, cheaper Atlanta experience.

Email me some sense of what’s happening up (or down) your way. And thanks for clicking by.

Settling in north of the 45th.

Saturday, July 13th, 1996

Most folks I know are convinced I’ve become bored with HTML and I’ve decided to let this small puddle in the Internet ocean become fetid, brackish, neglected. Well, no, I just haven’t had much to talk about, and not enough time to conjure something up that resembles content.

I’ll try to correct that today. Today is a bright and cloudless Wednesday where I am, which is comfortably north of the 45th parallel, and not in the host city of the 1996 Olympic mumble mumble mumble. A brisk breeze is cascading down from the general direction of Lake Superior, and for that I’m grateful. It was absent during my morning walk and for that I had to swat, twirl, and generally practise evasive maneuver delta gamma 5 as mosquitos saw food on the hoof in the form of hot sweaty me. It is summertime, and in Atlanta I am told, it remains hot. Very hot. Brutally hot. Darn hot.

Olympic-spectator-dropping-dead-in-the-stands hot. But I can’t verify that, because I am not there.

I am here.

And here is a bit cooler and one heck of a lot less humid. Here is a place without soil the color of 1972 AMC Javelins and without the verdant intrusion of kudzu. Here is next to a modest structure the inhabitants still call ‘the green cottage’ although it is not green but stained some shade of generic wood-brown, scarred, we are surprised to see, by what appears to be gnawing along the north and east faces—the product, I am told and must believe, of a porcupine in winter, so desperate for calories that he consumed big gouges-worth of house siding without even consulting the structure’s government-approved Nutrition Facts label.

Here is also aside a lake that glitters throughout the day, interrupted by the occasional sailing or fishing boat, but, thankfully, almost never by a Jet-Ski or anything else that goes BRRRAAAP across the water. Here is one lake north of Curtis, and a couple of lakes southwest of Newberry. Here is where Sammy’s family has taken summer for quite a while, amidst lupine and old apple trees arranged in orchard rows.

Here is the part of Michigan not shaped like a mitten. It’s the land celebrated in alt.great-lakes. It’s a nice place to be, but I wouldn’t want to winter here.

I was taught in 9th grade Expository Writing to make outlines of what I wanted to cover in an essay.

Is this an essay?

I can imagine myself in 1971 or so raising my hand and saying "Does this form of outlining apply to web page creation?" Jeez o petes, we must be living in The World of the Future when http slash slash colon etcetera shows up on billboards and even in publisher’s addresses in plain old hardcover nonfiction books, for heaven’s sake (I’m looking at the dust jacket of Ted Koppel’s bestselling Nightline book, which is really freelancer and former ABC producer Kyle Gibson’s book. There’s that slash slash stuff.) But I digress. I need an outline, or some sort of organization. Story of my life. Hey, doesn’t HTML have some sort of fancy list-generation capabilities? (I’ve never used them myself.) Let’s see. In upcoming installments of this here thing I’d like to cover with you, if I may, if you’ll indulge me, if I can get my substantial butt in gear…

  • Our visit to the Stratford Festival in Ontario, a delightful dose of Shakespeare, stagecraft, a full-blown all-singin, all-dancin musical, and a great meal or two with good friends.
  • The secrets of fairly healthy eating on the road, from fast-food to grocery-store breakfasts.
  • A report on the state of American and Canadian radio, from the perspective of someone (that would be me) nostalgic for the days of real talk radio, regional variations, and the magic of AM clear channel stations in the night. In other words, someone out of touch with reality. Again, that would be me.
  • The complete lyrics to "Roll On, Big O," the legendary TV and radio commercial for Lawson’s Dairy Stores in the 1960s that is, to my mind, still the quintessential truck driving ballad.
  • Some sense of What I’m Reading This Summer, which I hope will include some more substantial works than that Nightline book (which I enjoy because, hey, I’m a TV guy.)
  • An in-depth analysis of current Canadian politics, gleaned from thumbing through old copies of MacLean’s found in bed-and-breakfasts, and enhanced by kilometer after kilometer of driving through southern Ontario listening to more-than-mellow CBC talk radio hosts and their callers attempting to crystalize some sort of sense of what Canada is for a Canada Day broadcast.

All this and more, next time. I hope. I will endeavor. It is my earnest wish.

See, the outline form is useful. It’s dinnertime, my time is up, and I’ve been able to spin some nonconnected ideas out without any of the heavy lifting needed to fully discuss them. Cool.

It’s going to be a long, hot few months. We might as well spend some of it together. Please pass the air conditioning. Email me some sense of what’s happening up (or down) your way. And thanks for clicking by.