LutheranChik's Day Trip Journal
Part II: Hanging Out; Going Home
1:30 p.m., out and about I'm doing the tourist thing, shopping along the main drag, checking out the very nice mom-and-pop bookstore (sadly, not the selection of local authors I'd hoped, although they do carry Jim Harrison's The Raw and the Cooked, a book I enjoyed) and a wonderful kitchen store with the sort of merchandise -- Mack-daddy Viking mixers and other high-end appliances, every kitchen gadget imaginable, funky table settings, local preserves -- that get foodies all verklempt. (And Sinatra singing Cole Porter in the background -- very cool.) There's a nice antique store on the corner -- once upon a time they had on display an entire set of Candlewick tableware that blew my mind, but since Antiques Roadshow I notice that there are fewer really exceptional pieces in stores like this, and more junque.
Resort-town stores come and go from year to year; I note, with sadness, that there are fewer real art galleries on the main drag. A gallery featuring decorative art pieces from northern Michigan artists is no more, replaced by a store selling the sort of generic bling-bling that appeals to suburban shoppers missing the galleria back home. Suncatchers -- ponderous ones made of coiled wire and marbles and faceted glass beads -- are in this summer; and if you feel that there isn't enough stuff hanging on your suncatcher, you can actually buy additional jewelry for hanging on your suncatcher. (In the greater geopolitical context I think purchasing suncatcher jewelry must be at least a venial sin.) I hurry out of there and head across the street to a kitchen store looking for some artisan bread to take home. There's a semi-Jewish deli (the ham in the deli case being a tip-off that this is perhaps not a kosher establishment) in town that usually sells wonderful bread, but it's all gone by the time I get there. Oy. I wander into the natural-foods market and deli next door, looking for bread; no bread, but they do have this great deal where you can buy grocery grab bags filled with community-supported-agriculture produce from local farms. I want badly to purchase one -- there are fresh flower bouquets, egg cartons, romaine lettuce peeking out from the tops of the bags -- but I doubt they'd survive the two-hour trip home in a hot car trunk. Oy. But what a good idea. Why doesn't someone try this in my part of the state? I think. Why is mid-Michigan always 25 years behind the curve?
I have better luck with food back on the highway, at the local market -- fresh local raspberries, which I risk toting home, and dried cherries for cheap.
I get a kick out of the local bumper stickers; definitely non-Outer-Podunkian: "Got bliss?" "I'm a Tree-Hugging Dirt Worshipper." Many vehicles have decals in their rear windows that proclaim, simply, "Life is Good." And it is, today, up here in the warmth and sunshine; it's very good indeed. L'chaim!
Now I take a drive around the north side of the lake. Crystal Lake is huge...a confused, nearsighted tourist could easily mistake it for a bay of Lake Michigan. It's surrounded by pricey vacation bungalows, some of which sell for a cool million; across the street from the lake are more modest but still impressive summer homes built right against the verdant bluff that surrounds the lake. Side streets lead up into hidden gated communities. It's great fun to rubberneck in this neighborhood. I especially enjoy a very festive purple house -- actually dusty aubergine -- landscaped with purple and lavender perennials; if you put a black light on the porch the whole thing would strobe, I think; I know I lead a sheltered life, but I've never seen a house quite so...purple. Driving around to the north side are the older vacation homes, set back in the woods -- older, more lived-in, but still impressive in terms of size and view of the lake. At one place the houses give way to solid trees that almost meet above the road; I'm driving through a green tunnel. And the color of the water, and the sky, and the hills on the horizon; I can't describe how lovely it all is.
After a brief stop in Frankfort for a look at Lake Michigan -- the road doesn't go aroud Crystal Lake; you wind up at a cul-de-sac in downtown Frankfort, looking out onto the lighthouse -- I circle back to Benzonia, along a scenic road paralleled by a bike trail. I pass the Betsie River; I brake for a bluebird -- a bluebird! -- that comes flying out of an old orchard to chase an insect across the road. This just stuns me: How cool is this? I pass by the Gwen Frostic studio, a local landmark selling prints and stationery designed by the late local poet and artist, and I stop at Beedazzled -- my source for star thistle honey and scented beeswax soaps. The herb garden outside the store is beautiful, and filled with the famous honeybees; inside the store has a funky, hippie feel. I stock up on soap in my favorite fragrances (the bayberry rum, and frankinsense and myrrh, are especially nice), and wish a Happy Wheatland to the proprietor.
I'm so happy driving around this area; I find myself wishing that I had a good reason to hang out here for about a week. But I also find myself, a few miles later, wishing I had a boon companion to share this experience. Even the subject of a more serious relationship aside, I don't have pals in the ol' hometown, the way I've had in other communities. (When I lived up north I was sort of a reverse beard for a wonderful,witty, canny group of older married coworkers who used me as a convenient and willing excuse to get away from their menfolk for a day -- we had a blast time after time.) I can't think of anyone at work, for instance, who would get any of this. They'd be wanting to drive to the casino or the mall; they'd be afraid to eat at a restaurant that wasn't a franchise; they wouldn't want to visit the local art galleries or hike along the trails; they wouldn't understand the "farmers' choice" grocery bags back at the market. I'd wind up, I think, shoving these women out of my vehicle with extreme prejudice. Snap out of it, I scold myself sternly. Get over yourself. You could be home mowing the lawn.
4:00 p.m., south of Cadillac I stop at the Northwood Country Store -- the Amish store does have a name, after all. As I leave my car I smell the tantalizing aromas of baking chocolate -- brownies maybe -- and fruit. Inside the store a pleasant older woman is at the register; there are bulk goods, a few groceries, an ice cream freezer and a refrigerator case. (The Amish use gas to run these appliances.) I find the summer savory I've been looking for, some homemade oatmeal bread and a tiny personal-sized blackberry pie to take home for Mom. I find the Amish most perplexing sometimes -- their legalistic theology seems quite grace-less and hopeless (their communities are thrown into internal turmoil over theological issues like the propriety of hook-and-eye closures vs. straight pins); I don't like the way they treat women and children, and how they guilt their young people into staying in their sect; but I've always had good experiences interacting with the Amish in contexts like this -- and I figure that since my shorn, bareheaded, bejeweled and brightly hued self makes me Babylon on two legs for them, I probably provide some needed entertainment; I'll maybe wind up as a topic for discussion around the dinner table.
4:50 p.m. Home again. Mom's in a better mood. I think maybe it's the pie.
And that is what I did on my summer vacation.
Frankfort Lighthouse, on the Big Lake