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Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Real Slice of Pure Michigan -- Not Long for This World

For the past few years I have had a love-hate relationship with Up-North Michigan. (And I have to say, Rick fuels the fire, but he's right.)



In the past ten years Up North has gone from being really a get-away to being a get-away-to-a-different-place-that-looks-too-much-like home. The proliferation of big-box stores like Lowes, Home Depot, WalMart and Meijer have put many of the smaller hardware and grocery stores out of business. Those small-town shops and stores were among the places that made my summer town of Gaylord (and many of the other northern cities) what they were -- a getaway from city life.



This is the Gaylord I remember from my childhood. The place I bought my school clothes, the five-and-dime, the single movie theatre downtown with a phone booth outside (our delight was phoning the booth when the movie got out to see who would answer!).

 

Tourism in Gaylord perked up after the town went "Alpine" in the 1960s. The Alpine movement wasn't all bad -- it brought a community together and increased tourism and the bottom line for the small shops that dotted Main Street. Faux Alpine buildings (most not done all that well) were all over town. Even Big Boy wore an alpine hat. I-75 came along and had two exits. A festival was in order. But with more people, the area became more attractive to chain restaurants and stores. With good comes bad.

It isn't just Gaylord. It's like that with little towns all over the north. I don't begrudge the permanent residents the flexibility to shop in stores that other spots have, I really don't. But I get a little crazy when I think of going north to relax and you can't even get past the highway exit because the street right after is a left turn into the WalMart lot and there is no left-only signal! If I wanted to go to WalMart, I would have stayed home. The sprawl drags on for miles out of town, so the proliferation of the "boxes" not only affects the independent merchants but puts a big blot on the landscape.


People around the country tell me they see the state's Pure Michigan campaign commercials on television and how beautiful our state is. And the commercials are well done and accurate to the point of showing what's left of the best. But what those commercials don't show is that wrapped up with the beautiful vistas, startlingly blue lakes, gloriously colorful fall foliage and breathtaking winter views are traffic jams, urban sprawl, chain restaurants out the wazoo and the same big box stores that you can find in any state at any time.

It's like taking a photo for your blog. The vignette on the table or cabinet, the piece of art, the close-up of the bowl of fruit on the kitchen table looks charming! Could any of us Susie Homemakers be better? But pull out to a wide shot and you might see the breakfast skillet still on the stove or a rug that not only needs vacuuming but is peppered with cat toys. Don't even think about that pile of craft supplies on the far end of the table!

Pure Marketing.

When I was a kid coming home from the lake with my mom, we'd always stop for lunch at the Lone Pine Restaurant in Grayling, about 20 miles away from the cottage. (Grayling, I might add, doesn't have a lot to offer in the shopping department but it stayed true to its small, up-north town image of a main street and minimal sprawl, except the strip when you exit the interstate.) We'd always have a burger with their special sauce, long before Mickey D. thought of the Big Mac.


Recently, Rick and I have taken to having breakfast there when we return on a weekday morning from the cottage as we did the Tuesday after Memorial weekend. Two eggs, toast, polish sausage to die for for about $5.50. Best breakfast in the north.


 
It's the kind of place you expect to see in Northern Michigan -- and the kind that is fewer and farther between. It's northern kitch. Pine walls and tables, a spaghetti board with specials, taxidermy on the walls, photo tributes to locals, a case of miscellany that is intriguing if not designed by House Beautiful. There are still bits of Christmas up. Quite a few bits of Christmas, to be honest, but since I'm a Christmas girl and still have two (small) trees in the house, I take no one down on that one -- simply observe!




It was quiet when we arrived. The usual crowd of morning folk had departed a bit before, our waiter said. For once, we had the restaurant and our waiter to ourselves. He was a charming, talkative fellow who had been around the area forever. Somewhere in the course of the conversation he mentioned the restaurant would close on August 1. After 50 years, the owner wants a rest, one she is entitled to. The restaurant is up for sale with little interest so far. One could only hope.


This hit us on any number of levels. For me, there was an emotional connection, that mom-and-kid lunch memory. For Rick and me, it's a fun spot to stop, a quirky, non-chain with fair prices. But what really hit us was the realization that "another one bites the dust." IF, and it's a big if, they sell the restaurant, chances are a new owner will spruce it up. Maybe (or maybe not) keep the bear and the deer on the wall and its wonderful pine walls.


They'll probably remove the wonderful paneling in the rest room. Really, I like this. Perfect for the environment, nicely done.



If it isn't stripped and leveled for another Dollar Store, they will "upgrade" things. Prices will escalate -- you have to pay for those renovations somehow. And assuming they have the willingness to give it charm, chances are it will be faux charm, just like Gaylord, twenty miles to the north, is faux Alpine.


Who knows what will happen then. What I do know now is that we will eat at Lone Pine many more times before August 1. And be grateful we had the chance to include this little spot in our own bank of northern memories, before Up North becomes Down South at Higher Altitude.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The First Trip North of the Season!

We're back from our first trip north of the season. And of course they brought out the sunsets, just for us!

 

I'm pleased to say Lizzie Coco managed reasonably well in her carrier, although she was quietly vocal along the way so we'd not forget she was there!



No ugly surprises were waiting for us this time -- no "home invaders" like the squirrel a year or two back that pushed us into hard core cleaning (versus open-it-up-and-dust-it-out). That's always a huge relief! The biggest issue was getting the pine needles raked up that fall profusely from the trees. Both Rick and I had a share in that one and it's looking pretty good!


Going to the cottage is like coming home. So many past experiences come to mind when I'm there -- times as a kid and times with the cousins formed the backbone of my life at the lake as a teen and young adult. My fondest memories of my parents are wrapped within those four walls and the lake. They all come tumbling in as we turn into our area, drive down the road past the old cottage, turn the bend and get to our place.



With the cousins, we swam and waterskied until we were forced in by lack of gas in the tank or dinner on the table. At night, a card game or jigsaw puzzle. Our houses were interchangeable as we were in and out of each others' spaces on a regular basis.



I think each year we spent two months waterlogged, wet and very happy.


Then the parents were gone. They never had a chance to meet Rick or the boys. I wish I had my favorite photo of their first visit scanned, or many of the others that came later. I loved that they fished and built sand creatures, though truth be told, my cottage had no allure for them compared to the fast toys and boats at their grandparents. Someday they will appreciate the quiet!



This weekend I read two books and did several pages in the art journal. Rick, of course, had his bike rides.


And Lizzie just enjoyed new terrain, exploring every inch before going back under the quilt!


And, I am pleased to boast (because this never happens!) I beat Rick in Scrabble! (Getting the Z and playing off it several times, not to mention the J on a triple word score, didn't hurt!


And of course there were the nightly (and morning) serenades!


The best part about leaving the lake in early summer is that you know you'll be back again and that (hopefully) the (giant) mosquitoes will disappear, the temperatures will be warmer and the skies bright more often.


Summer days aren't what they used to be. They can't be. A generation dies. Children grow up. Cousins live far away and visit less often. And those long, endless summers where time didn't matter and life was easy are probably gone forever.


But there are still precious moments to be had and I intend to have as many as I can. And of course, there will always be memorable sunsets. I can work with that!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

An Estate Sale Horror Story

No, nothing really bad happened at this estate sale. It all happened in my head.



It all started at book club when one of my pals mentioned another member was busy working on an estate sale that would take place a few days later. "They have lots of antiques and ton of crafty stuff," Sarah said. "It's going to be a good one."


I refrained going on Friday. I do not need one single thing. Ever. But the thought of a second day's discount (and the fact that it was rainy and cold and Rick was doing an out-of-town 100-mile ride that day) led me to googlemaps and then to the house. Cars were lined up on both sides of the road. I viewed this as a good sign. I would be fed up with the crowds and leave quickly, dollars saved, no need to add anything to the pile.


The first thing I saw was the chintzware. I have a few pieces of my mom's and I thought, "This is so pretty. My colors. Spring. Wouldn't it be nice to have dessert on these little plates or serve home made macarons on this lovely larger plate."

I passed up the very nice stacked tables, thinking they'd be good TV tables or even art overflow tables. One was kind of wonky and wobbly and yes, I know me -- I'd knock it over in a heartbeat. But the buttons were nice!


A couple of cute Christmas items which I am convinced I will give away. Maybe. So, not pictured!

And then... the basement. This is where my freakout began.


The room was long and narrow. Imagine, if you can, several folding tables, two deep and several long, filled with plastic shoebox-sized storage boxes with everything under the sun. Ribbon. Stickers. Papers. Printed out collage sheets. Old cards. Stamps. Flowers. Tags. Embellishments. Books. Glue. Scissors. Napkins. Tools. More buttons. Work the woman had done herself.

There had to be 40 or 50 boxes. All well-categorized (probably the work of the estate sale people). Then there were Xyron cartridges, paper cutters, big stuff.


And another table with a huge box of Valentine-related and another of mixed holiday and more of her cards and on...and on... and on.


Fill a bag for $5. (Amazing what you can fit into an oversized lunch bag). Some things marked as bulk. As you can see, I was restrained but not good.

So, you might ask, where is the horror story in this? Apart from the fact that day two was only 35% off (not the expected 50%), the sale was fine. What wasn't fine was my head.


I came home and looked at my stuff -- not the new, but all the old stuff I already have. Now, mind you, this is stuff I am using. Not daily but regularly. I am not willing to part with it yet. But I couldn't help thinking "This is what my house will look like someday." Wall to wall tables with boxes of ribbon and cutouts, stickers and tape, books and mediums, buttons and papers, stamps and pens, feathers and glue guns, tapes and tags. Not to mention a few new old Golden Books. Or what will be left of them after my scissors go at it!


I'm still shaking.


Now granted, I hope I won't be here to have to deal with that. It'll be Rick's problem (or someone's!). He'll call the estate people and they'll put them in neat categories and say "fill a bag for $5" and that'll be that.


But I have seen the future. And it scared the heck out of me.

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Will Never Get These Read

But, I will certainly have fun trying!

 

Rick and I spent a couple of days in the metro Detroit area helping Kevin and Molly move to their first house. They own it fair and square -- apart from the lion's share of it which the loan company has, but details, details! It's theirs to settle in and have a real home.

I don't quite understand this interpretation of Beethoven!
Amidst packing and unpacking, sprucing up the house inside and out and doing all those moving things, Rick needed to check his work email so we went to the library. And wouldn't you know it, they were having a book sale.


Yes, I know -- this is a place is I should not go. But really, how could I pass up tons of books? Or these terrific travel pamphlets. I've always loved these and am getting quite a collection on all things Brit. Now there is a Mont St. Michel booklet to start France off!


My shelf is bulging. Well, actually, one of my wicker chairs, till I can figure out where they will all go! I couldn't resist the memoirs.


These two food memoirs/biographies were especially good finds for me -- Ruth Reichl's "Tender at the Bone" and the bio of Judith Jones, Julia's "Mastering the Art" editor.


These two looked fun -- more Britain and Judith Viorst on aging? Sounds good for grins!


And I loved this one -- it's huge with yellowed pages. And I'll never read it. But the illustrations at the top of this post are from this book and you can bet you may be seeing it in "altered" form as parts of various 
future collages!


It was a good thing Rick finished his e-mail check when he did or who knows what would come home. But it was $11.50 well spent. (Oh, and there was also a book on Versailles and one on the Titanic!) Meanwhile, it's going to be a good-book summer!

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