[ Today? Late following Jabberwocky. Tomorrow, possibly late just due to traffic. ]
To this date, Saturday, we still hadn't deployed my new bathing suit. But we had a day remaining, too, and an event bunny_hugger was looking enthusiastically forward to, albeit at an hour not quite so appealing.
The event was a planned gathering at Grand Haven State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan, by the Michigan Furs, who had heard fair bits about me from bunny_hugger but who might not be fully certain that I wasn't just her made-up New Jersey boyfriend. They'd planned to spend a day at the beach, starting sensibly at fourteen hours before dawn so they'd get a good spot. We're not morning people in that or any way; we intended to get up at a fair hour and drive west on our schedule. There might be some problems meeting them, what with the Lake Michigan shoreline being about 17,000 miles long, but hey, we have cell phones, we can work something out.
In packing, we decided to drive out toward Grand Haven and stock up on snacks at a supermarket there, rather than one near Lansing; this would give us the chance to not have our food melt on the way to the beach, particularly if we got stuck in traffic. The flip side of this was we discovered only in the parking lot of the supermarket that we'd bought a little too much food to fit fully in the cooler we had, at least until we left some soda bottles out, trusting we could cool them later, and wrote off some of the purchased ice as just surplus.
Also at the supermarket in Grand Haven we saw an elderly man with a picnic table trying vainly to encourage people to take a free copy of the local newspaper. Only one person did, that bunny_hugger saw (I didn't), but even his entreatiest that there were all kinds of coupons inside and people could subscribe at cheap rates didn't drum up more business. I felt sad for him and almost but didn't grab a paper. Also outside was someone who took a photograph of the supermarket's dot-matrix announcement board; we couldn't figure out what he was photographing.
As we approached the beach, bunny_hugger was called by her contact about seven hundred times, all entreties to call back so we might find out where to meet anyone. Unfortunately while we defeated expectations of the impossibility of parking --- one of the lots opened up just as we were passing near its entrance --- cell phone service disappeared entirely, almost as if we were at my parents' house. Well, bunny_hugger's did. My phone service didn't change, because I left my phone at home, since, after all, she had all the contacts on her phone, right? And nobody there knew me to call anyway so why would we need a totally different phone on a completely different calling network?
Well. Despite great efforts on her part, she couldn't get cell phone receiption worth anything. There was barely the bandwidth to let a text message squeeze out, slowly, and frustratingly. Any chance of meeting anyone evaporated in the summer haze, and we reluctantly accepted we just couldn't arrange a rendezvous point. We settled down in a nice-looking spot of beach, and took turns going to the bathroom and changing.
And yet as she got to the bathroom, she got a message, saying they'd meet us at one of the changing stations, the one with the white roof, which we were pretty sure was the one we were near. We packed up everything and staggered on to that station and tried not to reflect too hard on how none of us were entirely sure we could recognize any of the others by sight. Indeed, we might not see so much of anything: it was really bright out, and I decided it was finally time to accept the message of the glaring light (and why is beach sun so much more intense than usual sun? Just the added reflections from sand and water so you get light from 4π radians rather than the usual something-under-2π-I'm-not-working-out-b
Eventually we found someone wandering into the changing area who looked completely lost and uncertain, and wasn't that a natural cue to things? We called out, ``Are you looking for us?'' He was indeed the advance scout, and we were soon all assembled in the designated spot, beachwards from the changing station. We had been maybe fifty feet down the beach when we had resigned ourselves to never catching sight of them.
There was a red flag up, unfortunately, warning against swimming, due to rip tides. This would be quite disappointing, particularly as I haven't gone swimming since I shed a third of my body weight; I assume I don't float as easily as I used to, but I'd like to know how I move. Despite the warnings, though, many people walked into the water, as far as the nearest posts, and we all joined that action. We wouldn't get deep enough in the water to swim, or in my case even lift my feet off the ground really, but we could feel how compelling the rip tide might be.
The water was beautifully warm; great beach weather. It was also turbulent, in that the waves ranged from cresting at a foot high to cresting at the height of Detroit's Renaissance Center. Some tried leaping over them, some tried floating with the waves, some tried bodyboarding occasionally voluntarily, some tried standing still despite the water washing forward and back. Some tried all these at one time or other. I admit I got particular pleasure from standing with my back facing the incoming waves, and taking the heavier hits as they came. Here I'd have warning that I should take a deep breath and then refrain from inhaling from the looks of horror and sometimes pointing done by bunny_hugger. Some of these waves snuck up on us. It was great for practicing my Silent Movie Comic Deadpan faces.
The food we brought, by the way, we ate in several sessions, with the rapidly-devoured bits being stuff like cole slaw and macaroni salad (including cheese, which lead me in supermarket to think it was macaroni-and-cheese, showing there are deeper linguistic differences between New Jersey and Michigan than the whole soda/pop thing). Eaten over the course of the day were the crackers and cheese spreads, which swiftly answered all my doubts about what the flavored cheese spreads which were locally available and new to me were like.
It was a lovely day, spent meeting people whose names I was never in real risk of getting straight, although bunny_hugger was surer about them. And they were apparently pleased to meet me. They were also surprised I didn't have a noticeable New Jersey accent, which is true. I settle for a broad-based mumbling incomprehensibility. I also remember trying to explain pork rolls, which really can't be done. Even Wikipedia throws up its neutral-point-of-views and admits they defy description.
Toward the end of the day we got pretty well dried up, and watched some small-craft pilot flying his little craft up and down the shore, and got things packed up and ready to go ... not home, actually, since though it was getting near sunset (at approximately 2 am, because Michigan is so ridiculously far west in its time zone) we had something further to do.
The first part was to leave the beach and drive a little north. We made the driving there a little more complicated than it needed to be by wanting to get there with one of the Michigan Furs folks, and he was supposed to follow us from the beach parking lot, and we lost him almost immediately; yet, somehow, we ended up parking near one another anyway. bunny_hugger and I spotted what looked like an incredibly great spot, but on closer examination we could not figure out whether the lovely and unoccupied spot was a valid parking spot, or possibly a handicapped-access spot, or an authorized-vehicles-only spot, or what. There were some marks in the sand, but they were too vague to make out, so with heavy hearts we made the safe choice and left this really great spot to seek out something else. This turned out not to be so bad; we found another spot at the opposite end of the parking lot, once the slowest driver in the world got out of the way. It was still an odd thing.
What we were going for was, first, a particular ice cream stand and buy a really delicious and only modestly overdone sundae. bunny_hugger had talked several times about these particular sundaes and she was not wrong to do so. I don't believe it was just the context which made it such a compellingly good ice cream. We ate that, not too hurriedly, while walking down the river to a set of stadium-style bench seats.
The thing we wanted to watch was the Grand Haven Musical Fountain. This is an enormous display of water and color, as well as music, but placed on the far side of the river so that it doesn't look as big as it actually is. It was built in the early 60s as part of the nationwide municipal effort to be sure every community had some insane early 60s project to its credit. The basic idea: as it finally gets dark enough to appreciate lighted fountains, the fountain warms up, booms its hearty greetings of how it is the Grand Haven Musical Fountain, and launches into a show of music accompanied by varied sprays of water in many different colors. It literally starts the show by saying, ``I am the Grand Haven Musical Fountain'', as if it were a cameo-bot on Futurama; bunny_hugger reports it also used to then announce how proud it was to be there. When you consider how 100-meter-long computerized light-water-and-sound displays can be almost anywhere, the loss of its statement of pride at being in Grand Haven must be taken as ominous. Perhaps it's threatening to move to Menomonee.
According to the schedule bunny_hugger had found, the fountain was supposed to play a medley of moderately tolerable 1980s hits and we were ready to put up with that. The Musical Fountain apparently decided it had heard enough of the Macarena; instead we got a medley based largely on movie scores, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is really the sort of music you want for this kind of presentation.
The fountain is across the river from the audience, and our view was slightly obstructed by a trailer-sized something up front which maybe was audio equipment or something. A minor visual distraction was the large number of small boats which crowded the river, grabbing better seats than we on land might obtain. But the most serious threat was working its way slowly down the river, blowing its horn several times as it neared and with apparent indifference to the show it was interrupting: a freighter roughly the size of Maine was steaming its way through.
The small boats pretty much all fled, racing up the river ahead of this oncoming monster. While we were braced for the last minutes of the show to be cut off by the interloper, actually, the Musical Fountain reached its conclusion and thanked us for our presence just about the moment that the freighter would start blocking the far end of the seats. Perhaps they time the boats that way; as the audience dispersed and small boats continued to flee, the freighter blew its horn several times and shone spotlights around and drew applause for adding its finale to the show.
I discovered afterward the Grand Haven Musical Fountain has downloadable software to allow ``the community'' to choreograph its own songs, and that it was actually used by a number of amateurs to choreograph actual song performances. Alas, the software exists only for Windows, or as their Minimum Requirements puts it, on a Mac running Boot Camp or Parallels or Virtual PC. There go potential hours of pointless self-amusement.
Rather than rush through traffic, bunny_hugger and I walked along the very dark shoreline up until we found a pier which ended over the water, and then walked back along a shoreline not deserted yet, but being deserted. It was a wonderful, beautiful evening, and we rode back home together delighted with the entire day.
Trivia: The United States Congress in 1816 set the border between Indiana and Michigan to be ten miles north of the southernmost point of Lake Michigan, saving Indiana from having a zero-dimensional beach front. Source: How The States Got Their Shapes, Mark Stein.
Currently Reading: A Clash Of Symbols: The Triumph Of James Blish, Brian M Stableford.