Our records show that we have owned our little log cabin in Michiana since 1987. And we generally get there once a year or so, invariably in the summer.
In those twenty-six years, every time we drove Highway 294 from Chicago to Michigan City, there were always serious construction delays along the way. Twenty-six years (and who knows how long before that), and the “294” had apparently still not been entirely repaired, breeding suspicions that late at night, highway construction workers sneak out there and mess the thing up, so when they came back the next day, it’s like, “Oh, look! There’s more to do.” I mean, come on! They built the Empire State Building in three years. They couldn't fix a highway in thirty?
Anyway, what I’m getting to is, this year, when we drove the “294”, for the first time in twenty-six years, there were no construction delays whatsoever. I think somebody finally caught on. (“Hey, you men! What are you doing out here?”)
As it turned out, this confounding of our expectations would be the theme of our entire visit. Not everything, like our ability to travel the “294” without sitting in traffic cursing was better. But virtually everything was different.
Every summer without exception, we arrive at the cabin, and if we’re there for two weeks, the first week is spent waiting for repair people to come out and fix something that’s broken, like the time, for example, when there was no hot water, and we endured four days till the plumber arrived, heating water in big pots and pouring it over each other in the shower stall.
This time – and I’m telling you, it was the first time ever – the cabin was in perfect shape. (if you don’t count the mouse infestation, which was, happily, eradicated before we arrived.)
A hail and hardy cabin was an unexpected surprise to be sure, but, along with the anticipated “294” traffic snafus, another traditional Michiana activity had been deleted from our itinerary.
Then, there was the weather. Though we were visiting at the end of July, with the exception of one day, the local weather was less summer-like than autumnal, with its nippy air and overcast skies. As a result, there was only one viable beach day, rather than the numerous we were accustomed to.
Sticking to meteorological territory, there was yet another unexpectedness. One of our favorite Michiana activities is pulling up chairs on our screened-in porch, and watching the weather. We don’t have weather in California. So it’s quite a novelty – experiencing the rain bucketing down, counting the seconds between the lightning bolt and the thunderclap, to determine how far away the center of the storm is. Waiting for some old tree to collapse onto the telephone wires, plunging the entire neighborhood into darkness.
Talk about your free entertainment!
This year, there were scattered sprinkles now and then. But nothing threatening to an aging tree. Or exciting to terminally deprived weather watchers.
Then, there were the activities. Normally, we can count on seeing a play at the Dunes Summer Theater, where, throughout the summer, local people mount major musical productions, varying from The Pirates of Penzance to Rent.
The play scheduled for when we were there was some arcane childrens’ show written by David Mamet.
So, as they say in Texas,
Movies in Indiana are of a specialized variety, meaning unilaterally mainstream. If you lived in Michigan City, you would think Woody Allen hadn’t made a picture since Annie Hall.
I know it’s the summer, auguring the unlikelihood of Oscar contenders, so, you know, you lower the bar. Which we always do, allowing us to attend three, maybe four movies at the 14-theater Michigan City multiplex per visit.
This summer, however, as you may have noticed, the cinematic “Quality Bar” is not just low, it’s been buried. Fourteen theaters, and there not a single offering that could even attract our apathy.
Aw, come on, Earlo. You can’t be that big of a snob.
The Conjuring, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D., The Lone Ranger (Jay Silverheels has to be spinning in his grave), White House Down, Wolverine, Grown-Ups 2, World War Z…
Okay, maybe you’re right.
Compounding the “not a lot to do there” impression was that, on previous visits, we’d run into annual “Special Events”, involving full-scale “reenactments” and costumed loonies walking around going, “I am Benjamin Harrison!” One time, one of the multi-masted “Tall Ships” sailed in. Another time, the Platters (or their descendants) put on a concert in the park.
The closest thing to a special event on this trip was the highly advertised “Taste of Michigan City.”
A dozen or so restaurants were represented. And four of them were pizza.
Summing up: No highway traffic jams, no cabin emergencies, no eye-catching weather patterns, no days at the beach (We took a short walk on the sand, but we ran into an area designated as a “Private Beach” which had a posted sign that said, “Enjoy walks for miles. Please sit in park limits.” Apparently, we could walk, but we couldn’t sit down. We decided not to risk it. What if we got tired?”) No amateur theater, no movies, and no annual special events, if you exclude the opportunity for evaluating thick crust versus thin crust.
So, was our Michiana stay uneventful? In the literal sense, perhaps.
And yet, I would not have missed it for the world.