Saturday, May 24, 2008


I'm in Wisconsin tonight, but I could throw a rock and hit Minnesota. A couple weeks ago, I was here in Wisconsin. Back then, I was in the "V" created by I-43 and US45, north of Milwaukee. I was running from Sheboygan over to Lomira. Cutting across on some county roads and state highways, I had another great drive. There were fourway stops and long curves; dairy cows and fishing lakes; clumps of trees out beyond corn fields and beautiful old barns. I saw a barn with a huge cornice over a door; an eagle perched at its peak. Near Random Lake, I drove through a small artists community. There was a sign for "Pottery and Forge" and several studios; paintings, quilts, furniture.

I saw some poor sap driving an Accord or a Corolla or something. In the front, with him, was an older lady. Probably a Mother-In-Law because in the backseat was his wife . . . and she had the GPS! Talk about a well equipped backseat driver. There was a big sign for Bob Fish GMC, a car dealer. His logo was a very nice graphic of a dolphin. A porpoise dolphin, not a dorado dolphin, which is, of course, a mammal, and not a fish.

When I was at MSU, my parents and brother and sister lived in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. The nearest real mall was four hours away, here in Wisconsin. The terrain in Wisconsin is similar but less remote. I began to think of a U.P. Trip I made with some housemates:

I lived in a house a block off campus at Michigan State. It was a great house; subdued, yet had great parties when the time was right. All the right stuff was available. We had a gigantic purple bean bag chair, the Grape, in front of the TV. It had to have been 8' in diameter. There were a couple couches and an entertainment center. The dining room was sparse with a table and 5 or 6 chairs. The kitchen was nicely done; good enough for 6 guys.

Past the kitchen, the wall into the garage had been knocked out and down a couple steps was a JennAir Indoor Grille set into a brick arch. The room had some barstools, exposed brick, a skylight and fake ferns. It was so 1970's, it looked like the set of a Porno Flick.

Just past the indoor grill on the way to the deck was a hot tub. I kissed my first wife, the first time, right there in the tub surrounded by steam and cedar carsiding. Just out the sliding glass door was a deck, the width of the house and 10 or 12' out into the backyard. That summer I had a strange loopy sunburn on my chest from sitting on that deck with a guitar. I was jamming with a guy who had just chosen Med School over going on tour with Amy Grant. Fool!

From the front, the house was a plain looking colonial. Oh, but if the interior walls could talk.

A half dozen of us occupied the house. John, whose dad owned the house, was finishing up a Civil Engineering degree. And although he as the son of a suburban Detroit dentist, he drove a jeep and carried himself like the love child of Thoreau and some husky woman in a greasy tshirt who cooked at a lumber camp in the far north woods.

Loren was a photographer. I don't remember what he was studying but he left town shortly after I did. Last I knew, he was in the Canadian Rockies capturing images for National Geographic. We had a couple of Pre-Med students and Buck. Today, Buck would be called a Metrosexual. He was doing a marketing internship in town and plucked and preened like a supermodel. Whatever he was doing, however, seemed to work with the ladies.

Most of the housemates made a trip up to my parent's house in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan. Three or four piled into my Bronco II; the tailgate stuffed with gear. There were two or three more in another car. I'm not sure how we got away with imposing so much on my unsuspecting family.

We left East Lansing one afternoon and tore up the highway. US27 and then I75. Just as we crested the Mackinaw Bridge, the tollbooth came into view. We should have thought about that. And, really, the toll booth operator has little more power than a snow plow driver or the person at the counter of the Secretary of State Office, but it was a man in uniform. My truck was filled with smoke. Smoke we didn't want anyone in uniform to smell. "Tollbooth!" I screamed! Down came the windows; the sunroof popped open. If we hadn't been 100 feet over the water, we would have flapped the doors to fan it out. We must have looked like a car fire, rolling down to the tollbooth with smoke pouring out all the windows. In reality, I'm sure no one even noticed.

There's more. Read it here.

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