Friday, July 30, 2010

"We Interrupt This Program...Again"

Well, here we go again. We’re off to Michiana.

For more recent readers, Michiana is where our tiny, vacation log cabin is located, at the corner of Michiana Drive and Chickadee Trail. The cabin is in Indiana. But across the street, it’s Michigan. Hence the name.


It gets worse.

It’s not just that it’s two different states, but on the Indiana side of the street, it’s Central Time, and on the Michigan side, across a ten-foot strip of pavement, it’s an hour later. Eastern Time. It’s a very strange arrangement. Eleven-thirty A.M. our time, our neighbor from across the street says, “Good morning”, and we say back, “Good afternoon.”

If I gave you the exact address, you could see a picture of our cabin on your computer, taken from a satellite. But I don’t think I’ll do that. You may decide to check it out when I’m there, and I’m changing. I don’t need any of that.

(Correction: Anna told me the pictures aren't taken from a satellite. Somebody goes down the street and takes pictures of all the houses, and puts them on Google. But I'm still not going to tell you the address. You might decide to drop by while I'm changing, and I don't need that either.)

We head off to our cabin retreat with an understandable trepidation, understandable because, invariably, when we get there, there’s a serious problem. Once, arriving at midnight, we were unable to get inside, because recent heavy rains had swollen up the door, causing a misalignment of the locking mechanism. We had to call an “All Night” locksmith. We woke him up.

On various other occasions, we’ve discovered a big hole in the roof, a tottering chimney, no hot water, the phone out of order, trees that needed to be cut down immediately or they’d collapse onto our cabin, and last year, a tree that actually did fall down, taking out some adjacent power lines. Our neighbors hated us for that, and they don’t even know our names. We were just “Those people!

Two weeks ago, as we pleasantly anticipated this getaway vacation, we received a call, informing us that a tree had dropped from the property next to ours, landing on and totaling our little, metal storage shed.

Still, somehow, we love the place.

It’s an odd thing about the trees in our area. Last summer, another one fell down across the street. It’s as if trees have these secret “Expiration Dates”, and when that date arrives, it’s “Look out, below!” It would appear that a lot of these trees were planted around the same time. They seem to be coming down together.

We now hike the trails with our eyes open, our ears acutely attuned to the telltale “Crrrrrack!!!”

Anyway, we’re going again. As I did on our recent trip to Washington, I’ll be taking along a laptop. However, I am not entirely certain about the wifi situation in Indiana. I believe that the Internet there is powered by corn.

No it isn’t. That’s a joke. I can’t help myself. It’s what I do.

Doing some detective work, my stepdaughter Rachel found out that there’s free Internet service at the nearby New Buffalo Public Library. The library is problematic, however. When “the book” gets loaned out, they close down the building.

No they don’t. That’s a joke too. A “the library is so small” joke. These are cheap, easy laughs I’ve been going for, grounded in ignorance, prejudice and coastal snobbery. Maybe I do need a vacation.

I may send some “Dispatches From the Heartland”; I may not. We’ll just have to see. We may be having too much fun for me to have time to write anything. Or, we may be too busy calling people to come and fix the things that are broken. That is, if the phone works. Cell phone service on Chickadee Trail? In and out. Mostly out.

As a contingency, to avert blogal “Dead Air”, I have arranged for a “Plan B.” It’s a little odd, but I hope it’s okay.

Recently, while on the treadmill, I listened to a book entitled The War Lovers, by Evan Thomas. It’s about the Spanish-American war, one of America’s regular interludes into, “Boy, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a war. Why don’t we invade…(INSERT SMALL COUNTRY OF YOUR CHOICE)?

The book’s central characters are Teddy Roosevelt, someone from the Lodge family, and William Randolph Hearst. Just out of the spotlight, however, I discovered a personage I found considerably more interesting. His name is William James.

I was aware of the name William James, but I didn’t know anything about him. It turns out he was a philosopher, and he helped get psychology off the ground. James had a brother, Henry, who was a novelist. I know equally as little about him. But there was an intriguing quote in The War Lovers that said, “William James writes philosophy as if it were fiction, and Henry James writes fiction as if it were philosophy.” I may have to check those guys out.

In fact, I have already done some research on Brother William. I got the itch to do so because of another mention in The War Lovers, wherein James was quoted as saying,

“Reason is one of the very feeblest of Nature’s resources.”

I believe I said something very similar to that in a recent blog. Agreeing with my way of thinking? That’s pretty much all it takes to make me a fan.

William James originated the term cultural “pluralism”, at a time when we were treating conquered people who were different from us crappily, and he believed we shouldn’t. He also coined the phrase “the moral equivalent of war”, when he was searching for a way to redirect our inherently, warlike impulses in more productive directions.

Curious to learn more, I Googled, “Quotations by William James.” I got a hundred and six of them. Not all of them are consistent with my beliefs.

“Truth is what works.”


I have selected the quotations that are. Hey, it’s my blog. I insist on ideological consistency. Even when I’m not writing it.

Starting Monday, I’ll be offering a daily quotation from William James. Ponder them at your summery leisure.

In the meantime, it’s off to the cabin.

I wonder what we’ll find.


A. Buck Short said...

Unlike Michigan City that’s entirely in Indiana? Names please, which of your friends and relatives derive hours of self-inflicted amusement by persisting in identifying the place as Meshugana, Indiana?

Coincidentally, I had just been reading on the Unitarian Universalist Historical Assn. (UUHS) website about Horatio Alger having received a bit of psychological counseling from James after being forced to leave his church in Brewster, MA and the ministry entirely, after it was discovered Alger had molested three young boys. Apparently it wasn’t only rags to riches stories. Encouraged by William Wadsworth Longfellow at Harvard and later Edward Everett Hale as the speaker at his ordination to make something of himself, Alger decided to make himself a pedophile. Probably one of the few endeavors the man ever recommended anybody give up on.


A Fan said...

Hi Earl! I'm thinking about becoming a stalker and was looking at a google map photo of the intersection of Michiana and Chickadee. How far from there will I find the smashed shed?? Will it be hard to locate? Because I'm getting older and can't really stand walking around all day in the summer heat.

Gary said...

Reading Henry James was not required in your schools. It was in ours. He was either a romanticist, realist or a member of the James Gang, an early rock band that stole from the rich and serenaded the poor. They too were from the heart land: Kansas.
Enjoy the vacation, Earl. We anxiously await your Jamesisms.