austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

I'm looking everywhere I go

The next day --- Saturday --- we got up and headed up to Northport, which is a bit north of Suttons Bay and a bit of a bigger town, though still a charmingly cozy little spot. This turned out to be the day of the Northport dog parade, although that was held early in the morning when we were still rousing and all we actually saw was the aftermath, in the form of lots of people bringing their dogs around with them, which delighted us. What the dogs made of it I don't know, particularly as there were dogs of all weight classes, from Marmaduke down to Wadded-Up Tissue sized, and meeting a lot of them.

We picked, more or less arbitrarily, an Italian restaurant near the end of the main tourism district, and ate outdoors beside a garden with a huge iron sculpture of a preying mantis and various little statues, including a toadstool with colored glass dots that some kid pried up and was made by his parents to put back. The place had, long ago, been a gas station, and they had historical photographs of this as well as some ads for, if not this station, at least the kind of station that might've been in the area. (They also had a huge warp in the floor, a bend a couple inches tall and running quite a distance.)

After lunch we wandered around and found an old mill pond, named (according to the plaque) for Captain Warren H Stone, who ``lived for fishing, no matter the method he used or the species he pursued''. It was shockingly clear, at least to me, because I wasn't familiar with the phrase about being clear as a mill pond, but in the bright light and the clear water the only question was how is it we didn't see fish in this beautiful water? The answer is we didn't look long enough: almost as soon as bunny_hugger voiced the question she started to see the guppies, little ribbons of black in the plant life, and then we couldn't not see them. The fish were all over the place and we just needed to learn how to spot them.

Naturally we went to look around the beach, and found among other things a historical marker explaining the town's origins, which include the moment when early white settlers purchased the land from the Ojibwa locals. This captured our imagination on two points, first, that the marker said the purchase price was $53. That feels so peculiar to me I had to wonder if it wasn't actually $52.50 and rounded off, since it just feels to me that ``a quarter of ten dollars'' is a more natural unit to be used, especially back around 1840, than ``three dollars''. The other is that the whites had to borrow the money from the Ojibwa chief, giving bunny_hugger the vision of Chief Peter Waukazoo sighing and shaking his head and pulling out his wallet to tell them he was covering them this time but that was it.

Also we learned that the Leelanau Peninsula, which is where we spent the week, was ... well, it's a little complicated. But the name seems to come from Henry Schoolcraft, an Indian agent and ethnographer who created many Indian-sounding names for Michigan places. Leelinau [sic] was used as his wife's pen name for some magazine writings; his wife, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, was half-Ojibwe and half-Scots-Irish. So how this name made the jump from wife's pen name to peninsula name ... I still don't actually know. Sorry.

One thing that's been in Northport forever is the Nature Gems Rock Shop, inside a building that looks dilapidated and ld and looks like it always has. It sells rocks, especially Petosky Stones (fossilized corals), and fossils and wood carvings and all this other stuff that it makes you nervous to see kids hanging around because you just know they're going to break things. This was one of the shops particularly that bunny_hugger shared with me, as part of her childhood, and I felt like it was fun not just being here but stepping into this continuum of places she'd been to all her life.

We didn't go to Northport just to have lunch and ponder the history of the place, but also to pick up provisions. We had a decent-sized miniature refrigerator in the hotel room, and we hoped to picnic a couple times over the week so we went to the Tom's supermarket for provision. There bunny_hugger ran into one of her students from the past term, who was living in Northport for the summer and working at the supermarket in some kind of family-related thing I didn't quite get straight. But they chatted a bit, pleasantly.

And we picked up a couple of things: a loaf of ciabata bread, for example, some apples, and some spreadable and some not-actually-hard cheese (we were over-thinking whether to get this when bunny_hugger shrugged, grinned, said, ``Yolo'', and tossed it in the basket), dishwashing liquid (for the plastic picnic stuff), and a twelve-pack of soda that turned out to fit exactly in the vegetable crisper of the mini-fridge. It turned out we'd bought almost exactly the right amount of stuff, and we'd spin it out into three lunches.

Driving back ... well, M-22 is the main highway artery around the Leelanau peninsula, but it goes around the rim of the peninsula and there's not a clear marking between whether M-22 South is the one on the eastern or the western end of the peninsula. As we navigated around some road construction we got onto the wrong end and so I got a glimpse of towns like Leland that would be even-more-tourist-ready, as well as some views of Lake Leelanau that's at the middle of this little peninsula within the big peninsula.

That's not to say we had dinner at home. Actually, we'd go back to Suttons Bay, where a lot was closed but there was a Chinese-Thai restaurant, Hang On, that was still open, though they were really getting ready to shut for the night. bunny_hugger got Singapore noodles, while I went for my safe old standby of egg foo yung, and it was a great meal. We'd end up recommending the place later in the week to people who didn't listen to us, but that happens.

For the evening we thought to go to the Pirate's Cove Adventure Mini-Golf, which ought to be easy to locate with it being on Route 31, one of the major highways in the area. Naturally we got lost. I was navigating, but I was also using the promotional flyer for the Adventure Mini-Golf, the map of which I would like to point out had two features on it, one of them being the Mini-Golf spot itself. We ended up going in the wrong direction on 31, out into the distant wilderness with no sign of finding the place we actually wanted.

So I suggested that maybe we could just go to that fair instead.

bunny_hugger asked what fair, a reasonable enough question. I'd noticed some kind of county fair going on, a decent distance off the highway, which she hadn't because she was probably paying attention to the actual highway. We could see the spotlights for it, although that only gave us approximate guidance in closing in on the fairgrounds and between not knowing just what roads to take and not knowing just where the fair's opening was, we got there kind of late.

Really late, in fact: by the time we walked in the gates of the Northwest Michigan multi-county fair, they weren't taking any kind of admission fee and there was a steady stream of people striking their exhibits and taking them away. It was the last night of the fair and we were there in the last half-hour, which is a particular pity as it was a lavish and huge fair, complete with two merry-go-rounds and two Ferris wheels. It was also a great-looking fair, with new-looking rides and several funhouses and drop towers and all. If we'd had the slightest idea it was here we'd probably have rescheduled the day around it; as it was, we got just on one ride for the night. On the other hand, we happened to discover a county fair and strode on in; that's pretty great.

Back at the hotel we discovered, one, that the hotel's wi-fi was actually pretty good if you were in the correct part of the room. Sitting by the desk where I'd had my computer plugged in was rotten, but if I sat on the bed by the window I could have a steady and pretty strong signal. bunny_hugger, with a newer computer, could sit on the other bed and have a pretty good Internet connection.

But second, and bigger, and outside, we could see stars.

I've really lived, mostly, in suburban areas my whole life; but those areas have been central New Jersey, or cities like Troy, or Singapore, or Lansing. These are, astronomically, cities, soaked in light. The Leelanau peninsula was some of the highest-quality dark I'd ever seen and when I looked up and saw the Milky Way hovering over us, I was spellbound. I hadn't seen it, not in that depth and texture and substance, ever. It'd been a while for bunny_hugger too.

So we spent time wandering around outside, finding spots outside the hotel's lights, looking at the stars and, better, the meteor shower. I've really never lived a place that could feasibly see meteors and here, we could just stare up at the sky and wait and be rewarded.

So, I was impressed.

Trivia: Pepsi began selling in Romania in 1965. Source: A History Of The World In 6 Beverages, Tom Standage.

Currently Reading: The Berkley Showcase: New Writings In Science Fiction And Fantasy, Editors Victoria Schochet, John Silbersack. (Published 1980; the introduction to the first story, a putative romance, talks about how modern audiences accept as romance pap like Love Story, a book and movie ten years old at the time.)

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