Friday, August 29, 2008

"Headin' To The Woods"

It’s time for a much-needed vacation. Not for me, I don’t do anything. At least, nothing that’s overly stress inducing. Except for maybe practicing the piano, an activity fraught with frustration when you’ve been blessed with hands of stone. If I were a boxer, “Hands of Stone” would be helpful. But I’m trying to make music.

Dr. M, however, listens to the problems of troubled people all day, and though it’s a gratifying and rewarding enterprise, she occasionally needs a break.

I’ve written a number of posts ahead. Shticklach – small pieces – to tide you over and keep you around. I like it when you’re around. If you weren’t there, I’d be typing for nobody, an activity strongly indicating some long-term involvement with one of Dr. M’s associates.

“I’m writing for nobody.”

“Stop doing that.”

“I can’t.”

“How’s Tuesdays and Thursdays at eleven o’clock?”

One of you helped me the other day. You sent me a link, so I could order this audio book I’ve been looking for. I can’t say “Thanks” directly, because I don’t know where the e-mail disappeared to. And besides, it was a “NOREPLAY”, which, as a learned (“Noreplay” - Feb. 5), you can’t reply to, because it’s not “NOREPLAY”, it’s “No Reply.”

So whoever it was who helped me, I’m thanking you here. Thank you. I get a lot of helpful stuff from commenters. Links to places I couldn’t find myself in a million years. Like The Court Jester’s “Vessel With The Pestle” scene on youtube, or however you spell it.

It happens a lot. I mention something in a post, and there’s the appropriate link in the following day’s “NOREPLAY.” Assistance from a total stranger. Thank you. Everybody who’s done that.

I also appreciate your comments. Some of them elaborate more fully – and more articulately – on my ruminations. Some challenge them. Some supplement them with ideas of their own. They’re always interesting, often provocative, and never dumb. No dopes read this post. Not that I’m anti-dope. Dopes are welcome too. (That’s not me, being tolerant. It’s me, wanting as many readers as I can get. Okay, let’s say, no big dopes.)

When I come back, I’ll be doing more Story of a Writer posts. I’m not sure what’ll be in them – because I didn’t write them yet – but somehow, when I start remembering, stuff seems to come up. The feedback I receive tells me people enjoy Story of a Writer. I, frankly, enjoy everything I write.

In the future, I’m looking to make this blog more interactive. Two people have told me reading this blog is like sitting in a room with me, only they don’t get to talk. I want you to talk. If I haven’t adequately encouraged your talking in the past, that was a mistake.


Ask questions. About anything you want. (I mean, you know, don’t get crazy.) If the questions involve issues other readers might be interested in, I’ll take a break from my regular blah-blah and respond to them in a post. It could become a regular feature. I just need questions.

I guess I could make up my own questions.

“What do you mean, and pretend they’re from readers?”


“That’s not you.”

You’re right. Thanks, Italics Man. I lost my head. Wait. What if I did it funny?

“You can do it funny.”


“But it better be funny.”

I’m shutting you down now.

Sorry about that. Sometimes, I’m of two minds and they speak at the same time. Bottom line: Your questions are welcome.

So where are we going on vacation? Get ready to be jealous.


It’s not as exotic as it sounds. Michiana Shores is a cottage community about sixty-five miles from Dr. M’s hometown of Chicago. (It’s been called “The Hamptons of the Midwest”, though I think only by people from the Midwest.)

Dr. M’s parents purchased this place when Dr. M’s Mom was pregnant with Dr. M, and she required bed rest. It subsequently passed through the family, and now it’s ours.

The cabin’s a long way from our home, but we always love vacationing there. Why?

It’s in a forest.

A log cabin. Tiny but authentic. On Chickadee Trail. I love it. I live on a tiny bird street.

“A street named after a tiny bird, or a tiny street named after a bird?”


And it’s not even a street; it’s a trail. It says so right in the name. I live on a tiny bird trail.

In a forest!

The Forest Primeval. I don’t even know what that is. But I bet it looks like the forest surrounding Chickadee Trail. A lush, dense forest, with fifty foot trees that I’m sure have seen Indians.

It’s definitely Indian Country. The neighboring streets are named after tribes: “Comanche” “Kiowa”, “Choctaw”, “Chicagami” (that one sounds fishy, but you never know). Yeah, there’s also an “Oriole”, but that’s just so we wouldn’t be the only “bird” street.

Another point of interest:

Our cabin is in Indiana. But across the street – literally, across the street – it’s Michigan. (Hence the name: Michiana.)

It gets even more interesting. Indiana – at least the county our cabin’s in – is in the Central Time Zone. Michigan’s in the Eastern Time Zone.

That’s right. It’s an hour later across the street.

Is that not odd? I can barely wrap my head around that. It’s like it gets dark an hour later across the street. Or is it an hour earlier? You see? I can’t figure it out.

Michigan kids who get permission to play outside till eight o’clock, play across the street in Indiana, and when they come home at eight, it’s nine!

What happens? Do they get yelled at?

“We said eight. It’s nine!”

“Not where I was playing.”

We make eight o’clock dinner reservations, and forget the restaurant’s in Michigan. We show up – we’re an hour late. We go to breakfast at eleven – it’s really twelve – they’re not serving breakfast anymore.

We eat a lot of meals in the cabin. Frequently, after returning from reservations that we missed.

Sometimes, we get it right. There’s this hamburger place, in Michigan, called Redamak’s. Eating there is not a problem. There are no reservations, and they always seem to be open. Redamak’s serves the best non-gourmet (read: greasy) hamburger I’ve ever tasted. (Though L.A.’s The Apple Pan is neck and neck.)

Don’t ask for a salad at Redamak’s. I did that once. The waitress replied, “We don’t serve salads. But some of our hamburgers come with lettuce.”

It’s the Heartland. They grow vegetables there. But they don’t seem to eat them. Another hamburger restaurant opened across the street from Redamak’s, advertising in big letters: “We have lettuce and tomatoes.”

Nobody goes there.

Midwesterners seem unwilling to eat vegetables unless they’re deep-fried. People smoke. Many are alarmingly overweight. And yet, when they announce the names of people who lived to a hundred on The Today Show, they’re invariably from the Midwest. I don’t get it!

Entertainment in Michiana? The Dunes Summer Theater is walking distance from the cabin. Great shows, featuring local talent. Reading the theater program, along with their acting credits, you can also find out where they work. The Leading Man’s an optometrist, the ingénue’s an Assistant Manager at Denny’s.

Regular people, acting up a storm. And not an agent in sight. They do it because they like to. What a concept.

Movies? How about the theater in La Porte, Indiana, where you can see (at least, you could last summer) a “first run” movie for a dollar. A dollar-fifty, after six P.M. And you get free refills of popcorn and soda.

A dollar-fifty for a movie. It’s worth the trip to Indiana just for that!

Other entertainments? Horseback riding (along forest trails, keeping your eyes peeled for “owlhoots”), the Michigan City Zoo (featuring some of the most moth-eaten animals I’ve ever seen), The Lighthouse “Outlet Mall” (where, by September, even the “sale” items are on sale).

There are antique emporiums and weekly auctions, there’s miniature golf, there are batting cages, there’s the La Porte County Fair (where you can eat “Elephant’s Ears” and experience an almost immediate cramp bubble in your stomach).

You can drive around Indiana State Prison and “check the perimeter” for hitchhikers. Or you can take a walk and check out the seemingly endless variety of birds (Dr. M’s knows their names.)

For fifteen years, I was the part owner of the South Bend (thirty-five miles from the cabin) Silverhawks, an “A”-ball team in the Diamondbacks organization. Though I’m now a former owner, we still go to games, where John Baxter, the General Manager, and his wife, Rita, treat us royally. (Though they probably won’t let me throw out the first pitch again. Will they?)

What do we like doing best in Michiana? Taking in our favorite entertainment of them all.

The weather.

We don’t have weather in Los Angeles. My brother used to say, “In Los Angeles, every day is Tuesday.” He’s right. You wake up, you look outside, “Oh, yeah. It’s like yesterday.” Sure, we have earthquakes, but they spread those out. Generally, the weather is, “I saw that already.”

Michiana really gets weather.

The best seat for watching weather is on our screened-in porch. You sit out there with a book, and the weather passes, like it’s Disney on Parade.

It’s a pleasant day. Suddenly, the wind kicks up, rustling the branches in the trees. The skies begin to darken. There’s the roll of distant thunder.

Within minutes, there’s a deluging downpour. Sheets of rain, accompanied by startling streaks of lightning, and thunderclaps that’ll rattle your bones.

We watch it all, from the safety of our porch. Midwestern weather. It’s the greatest show there is.

Okay, so that’s it. I’ve left you stuff to read, and I’ll talk to you when I get back.

Have a good week. And think of some questions for me. You really don’t want me to make them up myself.

(Unless they’re funny.)


Rusty James said...

You really must treat yourself to buying a Bow & Arrow.

My mother lives in Montana (mid-north-west?) and there's nothing more fun than visiting her and seeing both my fly rod and bow & arrow hanging on the wall - neither of which have taken sentient lives.

Rich said...

Have a safe, enjoyable trip, Earl.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to the Crane Pie Pantry?? Fennville???

karyrogers said...

I posted the audio book link and Court Jester clip. It's the least I could do after all the entertainment you've given me!

If you want a real show, head south and hang out. Gustav should make landfall next week.

Jess Kiley said...

Glad you love Michiana, are you sure you're still Canadian? You rarely talk about the provinces. My friend Trina says your East and West coasts are the opposite of ours, the cultures are reversed.

We had a cabin in Elkhart for many years, it's probably not too far from your Canary Trail. Let us know if any of your readers show up at your door, and don't forget to pack your rifle.

Thanks so much for leaving us reading materials. Your writing could honestly replace television watching. I'd read any story you wrote, and be as caught up in it as any televised series.

Have a great, relaxing trip!

Anonymous said...

I hope you get as much enjoyment from your vacation as I do reading your posts. They are always entertaining and thoughtful.

Mother Nature puts on wonderful shows here in the State of Washington, too. I have always loved it.

Anonymous said...

You made me wish I was going...! You forgot to mention the beach, where you can swim in Lake Michigan & get eaten alice by mosquitos. What fun. Have a great time. Say hi to the cabin for me. =) Rachel

MikeThe Blogger said...

So your love of boreal forest and cottage country must relate back to all those wonderful Algonquin Park experiences. Glad I could help, Mike. ;-) Have a great trip. I am writing this from the living room of my Kawartha cottage looking out onto Canadian Shield, Pine Trees, and a beautiful serene quiet lake. My memories of the same - just love it here.

Anonymous said...

If I could be anywhere right now, It would be there. So have fun for you and me and rachel because we need some fun too!

PS why have you forgotten oinks? and round the clock?