*I wouldn’t ordinarily have a footnote to my poetry. But I’ve never had this happen before. I don’t know what to call that little slice of word jumble at the top. I tried leaving it out and that felt wrong. I tried putting it in…even wronger. Is it a foreword? A prelude? A prequel? I’m not sure what to call it. So, I’m not calling it anything. It just is. And I hope that is enough.
While I was surviving the past six months, fun events still happened. They just were overshadowed by the dark cloud looming. Now that the storm has passed, everything is sunny skies…or should I say…bunny skies?
It was high noon in Bunny Town.
When trouble showed its floppy ears.
Some folks might say, he was itching for a hare-raising fight.
Others believe, the dastardly bunnies had it coming.
The lone bunny rider looked honest…honestly dangerous.
He dressed all in white…except for the mask.
Clemson Cadbury—Clem to his friends—rode into Bunny Town one fine day.
He was wanting to put up his lucky rabbit’s feet and ease his saddle sores at the only hopping joint in town:
The Rabbit Hare Saloon
The girls at the saloon were of the heart of gold variety.
They made a rabbit want to sit up and pay attention.
To push his fuzzy-tailed luck.
But Clem only had eyes for the sweet, sloe-eyed school marm who taught the A, B, C’s of being a bunny.*
His heart belonged to that fair damsel–Flory-Dory Flopsalot.
Clem would have happily laid his hat—or his heart—at Flory-Dory’s feet for her taking or stomping there upon.
But Flory-Dory’s uncle was the local sheriff and he put no faith in lone rabbits who just moseyed on through his town.
So Clem spent his lonely hours, pining for his true love, and sipping dandelion sarsaparillas at the Bunny Bar Saloon.
Until the day he tangled with the Black Bunny Banditos!
Clem didn’t know, when he entered that bar that fateful day, that a gang of hardened thugs were also looking to play.
They were bad bunnies with bad attitudes.
And they didn’t care what kind of mask a bunny hid behind.
Clem was nursing a carrot-infused herbal tonic and the saloon honey-bunnies were taking his orders—hopping to get whatever he wanted.
The three black-hearted bunny banditos entered the saloon.
Their tail spurs jingled as they hopped.
Bippity tried to snag his favorite coquette–Odette.
But Odette was batting her lashes at Clem.
Boppity yelled for his bunnymondaine—but Desbegonia had no time for the ruff-necked, lop-eared cur.
No, Desbegonia was dancing to and fro, making Clem watch her as she’d go.
Then Beauregard stepped through the door and stood there watching a minute or more.
He waited. He wanted. But his flowery filly—Daffydilly—was not to be found.
Except, wherever Clem was around!
Daffydilly sang sweet serenades to woo her beau…
(But not the rabbit by that name, no!)
Beauregard spit out his cheroot and hollered at his boys to scoot!
“No interloping jackalope claims our pieces of fluff!” Said he.
And off behind the saloon went the three…
Clem had no clue when he stepped outside
An ambush awaited his white-tailed hide.
But Flory-Dory knew!
From her chair near the window, she’d watch and sigh, whenever the handsome buck went by.
So, when the school marm saw her rabbit in trouble, she called for the sheriff on the double!
Sheriff “Lefty” Cottontail.**
Sheriff Cottontail was none to keen to confront the three rapscallions—despite their lawless ways.
He was a laid-back lawman who let other people’s bullets do the talking.
But Flory-Dory wasn’t letting her lily-livered uncle get away with that!
“I’ll take on those ne’er-do-wells myself, iffn I have to!” Said Flory-Dory.
If she’dve had a spittoon nearby, she’dve spat in it for emphasis.
With this incentive, Sheriff Cottontail, decides it’s better to fight like a rabbit, than to be shown up as all fluff and no tail.
He hops to Clem’s side in the nick of time.
Sheriff Lefty (pictured right) and Clem
The dastardly Coney Brothers had trussed Clem up in baling wire and dangled him by his stubby tail over a vat of sugar syrup.
“We’re gonna dunk you neck-deep in this here sassafras barrel.” Piebald Beau promised Clem. “When they find your sorry sack of fur, all will think that you fell in to get a drink.”
Then in flopped the Sheriff, long and fat, and squashed those Coney brothers flat!
It warn’t no time at all before the bad bunny brothers were rounded up and thrown into the hoosegow.***
But Sheriff Cottontail knew, it wouldn’t be long before those bunnies were back bearing a grudge.
The Black-Hearted Bunny Banditos
So the sheriff hired his niece to be his stalwart deputy!
Flory-Dory rescued her hero from a sticky fate and cut him free.
Clem caught Flory-Dory up in his fuzzy embrace and they nuzzled noses.
It was quite the scandal.
And into the sunset, as he rode away, Clemson swore that he’d come back and marry that gal someday!
Asterisk Bedazzled Bunnynotes:
*The bunny head mistress taught the children their A.B.C’s: Always. Bring. Carrots.
**Sheriff Lefty was so named because, if you weren’t careful, he’d let himself get left behind in a gunfight.
***Hoosegow—to all you city slickers out there—is the clink, the slammer, the yard, the pen or, as it is otherwise known, jail.
_____________You read this far bonus____________________
Honestly, I’ve never had so much fun as writing this post.
Here’s a few oddities I discovered while looking for bunny-related miscellany:
Bunny Cowboy Soundtrack performed by Neptune Bunny here:
I won’t even try to explain this. You just have to watch it to believe it.
Walking the public pier along the Holland State Beach allows one to appreciate both an exercise in free speech and the quasi-felonious joys of graffiti expressionism.
I have never been so brave or confident in what I had to say that I was willing to risk a $250 fine and possible jail time to tag a public edifice in order to say it.*
Vandalism is, at the very least, a misdemeanor offense, but what I want to know is…is it art?
And if it is art, what is it saying?
Based on my hour spent cataloging this year’s liberal art tributes on the rusting canvas of the masses, the message depends on the viewer:
If you look hard enough, you can find answers.
Although….you may also be left wondering what the question was.
Thoughts from Danny Duncan!
Danny thinks “It’s fine!”
But, he scrawled his sentiments in a tucked away place on an overhead pipe, so I suspect he’s playing it cool.
Some people put themselves out there, courting ridicule…possibly unaware that a Tinder Date may be using a pseudonym.
Everyone has an opinion…whether that opinion is worth scrawling on a pier support is in the eye of the beholder.
Dreams are apparently dictated with impermanent ink scrawled on a blue-green background and will melt with time and the coming rains.
Lacking the words to express their deeper emotions, some fall back on a classic:
Friends slap high fives (or low ones) wherever they can.
Some HIGH FIVES bury the headline:
OTHER HIGH FIVES come with best wishes from ON HIGH!
Emotions run high…leaving some confused…knotting their hair with suspense.
Will Jeffrey or Won’t Jeffrey?
Perhaps the message echoes an earlier time—a plea forPeace, Loveand Hope symbolized by a badly divided pie chart?
The VEGANS were a bit demanding and psychedelically so:
Some pier polluters promote poignant pleas:
Perhaps what you take from the message boardwalk is only that which you brought with you?***
FORSOOTH, FIE, ALAS
One word scrawled among the masses stood out. I was astounded that classics such as Shakespearean language describing a two-week time frame have made it to modern vernacular (even if the spelling hadn’t):
Then, later, during a rare session of live tv watching, I was bombarded by a commercial which dispelled my illusions. (And possibly also my allusions.)
I almost despaired to have lost a belabored delusion of the persistence of language.
But then, after watching King Lear drop bodies at Grand Valley State University, I decided that Fortnite actually is a modern variant of Shakespearean storytelling—if only Shakespeare had lived in the age of the rocket launcher.
If my child remembers me for anything, let him remember me for this…
Friday is a dream day-come-true for my ‘little’ man. A half-day of school as a start to the mini-fall break weekend. Road trip, here we come!
We discovered “The Ledges” by joyous accident on a past excursion when we wandered east of our standard Exit 59 pitstop.
This time, we travel to Grand Ledge on purpose, hauling my Canon EOS Rebel XS with the intention of cataloging the experience.*
You can find a description of Fitzgerald Park at the park’s website. But understand, no words can convey the simple pleasure in tramping leaf-strewn, mud tracks that wend along a slow-moving river. This will not stop me from trying, however.
Posting this humble shot to Facebook, a friend introduced me to the true art of nature to be found in the ephemeral sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy.
The sluggish current is dotted with geese and ducks, fattening on late blooming bugs confused by the unseasonable warmth. Ignoring the catastrophic implications of global climate change, my son and I tramp the trail fantastic in search of adventure. Who knew it would end in the best darned French fries this side of Mackinac Island’s truffle fry extravaganza?
Between a rock…and a hard place…you will find a reluctantly posed teenager.
Walking leaf-scattered paths on a sundrenched day doesn’t present many dangers. One thing you can count on when charting a wooded trail is that generally nice people abound.
Everyone we meet is friendly, and after a moment, recognize my son’s quirky tendency to plop down in the middle of the trail to jot numbers as just another sight along the way.
Tree Swallows Rock – looking like the strangling coils of a wooden snake
Leaves crunch underfoot. My cane helps me balance across the footpaths where humus formed of decomposing plants and steep inclines make traversing the narrow passage challenging.
The slope gets gradually steeper until you begin to have sympathy with yaks in the Himalayas.
I am calm in my repose, whistling to my son periodically when his goat-like surefootedness keeps him yards ahead. He disappears around a bend and I hail him to halt. He waits impatiently for me to catch up. Aside from being short winded, I have nothing to fear. Or so I think!
There is no warning. No scary music. Though I sing a half-choked ululation when I am startled by the sudden appearance of a garter snake—or is it a ribbon snake?—dashing frantically away from clumsy feet stomping through its territory. I squawk like a demented chicken, hopping to avoid the tiny red, yellow, and green striped reptilian flag whipping past. Its curving body signals a fervent desire to have nothing to do with me.
I swear it looked like this–Northern Ribbon Snake by Nick Scobel. thank you for the loan. I was too busy shrieking to snap a pic.
A later search on the internet at The Michigan DNR website assures me that I was in no danger—but they fail to take into consideration the effect a small snake has on an unsuspecting woman, on a hill, with slippery, squishy, rotten leaves and rocks and roots to upset an already precarious balance. I’m lucky I didn’t fall into the river, is all I’m saying.
It was a truly idyllic while. We passed the trestle bridge (pictured above, on separate days) where we’d experienced the sound and fury of locomotion just weeks before. It is a quiet sentinel as we pass.
The famed ledges are rocky outcroppings where lichen and verdigris—the coppery extrusion that rusts to a gorgeous blue-green powder adorning many a Catholic cathedral—turn the mundane slabs of sedimentary strata into a magical realm.
Fairies and sprites no doubt whisper from moss-coated crevasses. And red and gold leaves mark a journey through streams of light, chariots with invisible riders steering the autumnal march.**
The trail ends for us at the juncture of West River and Harrison Streets in Grand Ledge and we face the choice of turning left, crossing the walking bridge to Island Park, or going right heading into town. I lure my son away from a moored pleasure boat with the promise of lemonade and a snack toward the option that would let me sit down for a while.
This is how we stumble onto the best d*mned French fries for a hundred miles, if not more.
The Crossroads Barbeque is a most serendipitous discovery. The unassuming block-front, dark glass exterior doesn’t inform the prospective customer what delights are in store. You have to be on the lookout for such a dining experience—it is not to be missed.
I am more thirsty than hungry, but travelling with a teenager means we stop for food on an almost hourly basis. I am so glad we did. And not just because we get to meet the nicest guys behind the glory: Lee Burmeister, co-owner, and Cam, “You can call me Hershel Frobisher,”*** who describes his managerial style as “Giving everyone a hard time.”
Inside Crossroads BBQ, a giant rectangle of space is marked along one side with tables and seating and an open, wood floor that almost has room for a small band and dancing. After meeting Lee Burmeister, co-owner, or as he referred to himself, “Pit Master” of the joint, I could imagine an after-hours crowd breaking out into impromptu two-stepping, or perhaps heavy metal thrash jams, filling the space with sound.
The walls are covered in my kind of kitsch, fire engine red walls interspersed with giant chalk boards scribbled with bright, handwritten menus make the space warm—no doubt an interior design nod to the spicy cuisine offered up.
A cast iron pig ‘oinks’ the daily special—which is what leads me to add an order of fried chicken to my son’s enormous French fry basket. I am not sorry.
My son graciously lets me try a wing as he inhales the rest of the golden-crispy half of chicken that comes out. We’d already been bestowed a platter from heaven—a wholly satisfying mound of fries that suggests the magic of the Ledges walk leads to this particular pot of gold.
I did not come to Grand Ledge to write a blog post, travelling with autism has its limits. But sometimes, the discovery of delicious splendor demands a little improvisational review. I beg a scrap of paper—and am given a hunk of butcher block from a roll—to make my notes. I pepper the crew with questions, while my son explores and attempts to move a piano to find the secret behind a blockaded door. The proprietor is an understanding guy—letting me know he has a nephew on the spectrum. He is un-phased by my questions or questionable parenting.
The secret to the fries is easy—a beer batter coating and a bath in scalding soy oil—they are presented towering high in a thick pile. If you don’t think too hard about it, you can tell yourself these are a healthy treat. The chicken is about as moist as a bird can get without feathers. The secret, I’m told, is “high humidity.” I immediately picture the chickens sitting in a sauna before heading to the fryer.
The fries edge out the chicken by a crispy, salty bite. Then again, I tasted them first. I think I’ll have to go back again and try them in the reverse order. It may take a few taste tests to narrow down a winner.
Lee is affable and proud to show off the winning trophies from regional and statewide chili championships—the latest being a sharp, neon glass sculpture—depicting a 2nd place victory at the BWL Chili Cook-Off in Lansing in September. It’s no surprise that they came a close runner up to “Hottest Chili” considering their claim-to-flameingredient.
The secret to the hottest chili? The pepper of course. Feast your gaze upon this innocuous looking baby:
The Carolina Reaper no doubt lives up to its name. A customer, curious about our conversation about the heat index of a chili so hot it comes with a disclaimer warning that the pregnant, nursing, or elderly might want to give it a pass.
The cook serves up a portion of the diluted sauce and the man eagerly accepts the viscous, volcano-red serving—but one taste and he passes on the offer to try the unadulterated chili by itself.
You could not pay me to try one though. No amount of money is worth taste bud annihilation.
Mid-conversation, my teenager loams large dragging me toward the exit, but I managed one last question. “Do you need to wear protective gear—like an industrial painter’s mask—when preparing the pepper?”
Both Lee and Cam, hold up black, rubber-coated digits.
“Rubber gloves are all we need.” Lee eyes his thick latex mitts for a second, and adds, “But a mask wouldn’t hurt.”
One quick group photo and we’re gone. With only a wafting odor of fries to remind us that Shangri La exists.
We scarper past the Masonic Lodge where a sandwich board outside informs us that pasties are the fundraiser of the day. It’s a shame we are too stuffed to take advantage.
For another hour, we cross the bridge we abjured earlier. We interrupt squirrels and Canadian geese, disturb a young lady fishing, and then my son tries–again–to break into the Grand Princess hitched alongside Island Park. It is time to leave.
We start the walk back and I am serenaded by demands for our next outing:
“Boat ride, boat ride, boat ride…”
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*Intentions aside, I sadly neglected to recharge my batteries from the day before— where I photographed my son’s school field trip to Post Family Farm. Who would’ve thunk taking 205 pictures of pumpkins would drain a camera battery dead?
**You’d have to be soul dead not to find poetry in these woods.
***I’m not explaining this joke. I find it much funnier this way.
The chatty family at breakfast–who shares an understanding of the role of stress in caregiving those with special needs. How did Alicia do on her conference call, I wonder?
Biking hither and yon, a velocipede pedestrian torquing her camera like an unwieldy bolo tie at every scenic vista. I’m kind of suprised I didn’t garrote myself with my Canon by accident.
What I have learned thus far:
Strangely, the police station is not open for tourism. They were polite, but firm. I’ll just have to count the windows and make my best guess.*
Ditto for the hospital. Though, a very nice nurse did mention that patients could be airlifted via helicopter, saying, “When in doubt, we ship them out!” She was also very pleased to tell me that the medical center was one of the few “free standing emergency rooms” in the state. Now, to Google exactly what the significance of that is so I will be duly impressed…
The airport is a parking lot for planes…planes with highly trusting owners. Apparently a 12-and-a-half-million dollar jet called a Citation Sovereign + landed there just a few weeks ago. I speculated that the ‘plus’ stood for that extra half million. I wonder if they left the keys above the visor?
People on vacation are willing to talk to strangers–probably in greater detail than they would anywhere else. Especially the newly weds.
Congrats once again to the couple from Holland who showed me their wedding photos and chatted in the shade by the Arch Rock waiting area. I’ll make sure to check out Kollen Park the next time I’m visiting Holland. May you live a long and happy life together, may all your worries be in your past.
Seriously, for such a small island, there is an inordinate number of hills. And rocks. And horse hockey.
I managed the tour of the Grand Hotel, getting some good photos and ideas for the finale–yet to be written–but what I really gained was an appreciation for the staff. The many kind people who work there–as well as a mother who took time to chat with me while her son ‘shadowed’ an employee in the program in hopes he might work there himself when he graduates from high school.
I shall take my sweeties and go thither…
Who doesn’t walk their bicycle with an umbrella on a sunny day?
This mom had worked there in the summers of her youth–right around the time the hotel was last renovated. She confirmed that the wallpaper was original, they have no ‘servant stairwell’ (cross that one off the list), and that the wait staff, musicians, and bartenders were housed in buildings down from the hotel, back in the day. The building women stayed in was the John Jacob Astor house which is now called The Grand Cottage. The men were housed elsewhere–possibly in a building called “The Twilight” which is a forest green house down the hill, take a left, and the first on the right. (You can’t miss it.)**
Slipping in and around busy bartenders, waiters, flower vendors, and the myriad other people working the hotel, I was routinely helped, with courteous, generous insistence.
My favorite stop had to be the Tea Shop. The Jamaican clerks were all natural charm and chatted about tea choices and even laughed when I read off a menu item identifying the contents of a $130 cocktail available in the nearby bar.***
I finally asked how I could say ‘Hello’ in the patois of Jamaica. A painstaking effort was made to help me try and say it right: ‘Wha Gwahn’, is what it sounded like. Which could almost be a contraction of ‘What’s going on!” I also practiced the appropriate reply: “Arri, mon!” (Perhaps, ‘All right, man?”) Strangely, the language seems even harder to speak when stone cold sober. Go figure.
I ordered my tea and wandered off to drink it, forgetting entirely to pay. The assistant apologetically brought this to my attention–as if they were at fault for wanting payment!
The young lady and I chatted for a bit. I told her about my son and asked her about autism awareness in her native land. She told me that everyone knows about autism because a great lady wrote a book about her son and it became very well known. I only wish I had taken down the name of the book! Antonette concluded by saying, “Don’t be afraid to bring your boy. Jamaica will be a great place for him. It’s all love!”
How can you turn down an invitation like that?
Her manager called her back to duty, I hope she wasn’t in trouble for taking so much time with me. If he only knew the kindness of such a gift. The thought that somewhere, out there, is a world full of people who would welcome my son with open arms.
It’s all love indeed.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*As dedicated a writer as I am, I wasn’t willing to get arrested to achieve my goals.
**Maybe you can’t miss it, but I certainly did. It is only gravity that keeps me from wandering off this planet by mistake.
***Maybe you’d prefer to save money and make the 125th Anniversary Cocktail at home? A quick search online reveals a bottle of the 100-year Grand Marnier Centenaire costs only $116.00, the 150 Anniversaire Grand Marnier comes in at $219.99 a bottle (Kaching!, and edible gold leaf–strangely enough–is the least expensive ingredient. It’s available, of all places, at Walmart for $76.45 for a pack of 25 squares. Don’t believe me? Check it out here: Gold Leaf at Wally World.
And bonus points go out to anyone who noticed what is particularly strange about the bicycle depicted in the close-up of the wallpaper. I didn’t see it the first dozen or so times I tried to upload the pic from a location Where the Wifi was Iffy. (Which once I wrote that down, looked like a book title for a modern day sequel to Where the Wild Things Are.)
Laughing as leaves fall, making spirals in their descent,
Through elegies of air.
So still he moves,
Leaning into a soundless void.
Planets in their orbits spin
And yet no shift in his equilibrium shows
That he is out of synch with a world
Built for words.
Images from a recent walk with my son, I was inspired by the drape of his blue blanket to wax poetic. Happy Halloween everybody. Nanowrimo begins tomorrow. Do not expect great things from me until December.
Sometimes, you just need a little encouragement. Welcome to a journey I’m calling “The unintended road trip on the serendipitous path of lung-wrenching discovery.”
It is the Fourth of July and the crabby son needs quelling; so into the car we hop. My child barks directions: “left,” “straight,” “more” from the back seat. We drive south along Highway 196 headed nowhere in particular–when someone suggests ice cream.*
We brave the lovely town of Saugatuck packed to the gills with red-white-and-blue spangled holiday goers. Quirky shops nestle along the Kalamazoo River. While the pre-teen scarfs gelato as if I hadn’t fed him in weeks, I manage a quick interlude at the Saugatuck Tea Company. Decorative teapots and art-inspired mugs lure shoppers in. A huge Russian Samovar painted in bright, enameled colors squats in a corner behind a room divider–the space manages to be bright and airy despite its modest dimensions.
In addition to tea paraphernalia, one entire wall offers loose-leafed teas with elaborate names like ‘Dragon Tears’ and ‘White Monkey Paw.’ I exchange words with the proprietress. She waves me to the wall of glass jars and lets me sniff the various contents. When I mention a favorite tea I purchase from a rival gang Teavana and how expensive it is, she suggests I get the list of ingredients next time I’m there and she can try to reproduce the results.
After smuggling my score out of the store in an attention-getting paisley bag, my child and I meander. With no great plans, we are unbound by expectation. It is very carefree and relaxing. I suspect this is what leads to the eventual cacophony epiphany to come.
We pass the gazebo in Wick’s Park and I can’t help myself, I have to stop and photograph the beautifully painted cinder block building that houses the public restroom. Who wouldn’t want to pee here?
Then, it is along the water to the nearby point of local interest–the chain link ferry. I brought my son here many years ago, when he was just a little guy. In a fit of nostalgia, I drag him to recreate the experience.
College students busk for tips, joke with passengers, and lure small children into photo ops turning the hand crank that churns the small boat across the river on a rickety chain. It is a swift journey and we are deposited on the other side to seek the experience that will make our day: the climb to Mount Baldhead.
As we leave the small boat, the crew encourages us to: “Be careful as we disembark.” And in passing, they say, “Oh, enjoy the 302 steps up! Don’t worry, it doesn’t get hard until the last two!”
Join me in the ascent. And like the experience itself, I will let the view speak for me…mostly because I am wheezing and turning magenta as I make my way up the vertiginous climb.
My son quickly leaves me in the dust. He prances ahead a spastic, loping blur of red–I am struck by the fanciful notion that for once, the sun/son rises in the West. Hypoxia sets in very quickly it seems.
As if climbing a sheer-faced cliff, the higher up I get, the less oxygen there seems to be–despite the valiant effort my lungs make imitating a wounded bellows. I get dizzy by the fourth flight and feel as though the signposts are talking to me***:
Cautionary warnings mark the trail, if only you know where to look:
I pause frequently to admire the view/find peace with the inevitability of death.
Before long, the signs of the prophets speak their words of wisdom–no subway walls required:
Many have come before us…
Some found love to hold and keep them strong–quite recently it seems:
Some return with their love to mark the passage and constancy of their union:
Some are a bit defiant about it:
Step-by-gasping-step, life lessons are revealed…though the truth is somewhat debatable:
Some who wander the path share their pain with the world:
She has a lot in common with a fellow traveler:
And then, there is the impetuous voice of youth speaking to the ages:
The stair treads pass slowly. I pause more frequently and try not to feel as if one quick shove would send me over the edge. The signs urge me on….
I reach the top victorious where my son hands me his lemonade to open. I stagger over to admire the view which is truly spectacular–if somewhat buried in the surrounding trees.
I get mere minutes to enjoy the splendid view before my child hares back down the path as if gravity has no greater significance than a propellant to urge him onward. I am more cautious–and cognizant of how difficult it would be to get a gurney up to retrieve my broken ass if I fell.
There you have it. Wooden aphorisms mark a trail for the intrepid explorer to follow. You can be your own Magellan–circling the world to find answers to life questions. You can take the wisdom of others–picking and choosing to see what fits.
You can wear your epiphanies on your chest–much like my son’s perspicacious porcine persuasion.
Or you can wander off the path to make new discoveries and record them in out-of-the-way places to be discovered or not as the universe sees fit.
As for me, I follow the signs that speak to my heart:
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*It might have been me.
**I now have ‘connections’–so, if you need some prime, illicit loose leaf, you know who to call.
***Actually, I did not see most of these signs until I was making my way back down. Call it ironic hindsight.
Saturday, we over-nighted in Bear Lake – a tiny town 22 miles south of Frankfort, Michigan—the place my son randomly picked on the map that, surprisingly, did not have any hotel rooms available the night before a three-day holiday weekend.* Some people might thrive on the uncertainty of housing and the joi de vivre of impromptu journeys–it gives me hives. Fortunately, we found succor at the Bella Vista Inn. As it turns out, the relief of making the 2 ½ hour journey was to be compounded by Fate wagging a playful finger in our direction.**
Bear Lake is a blip of a town, but that is part of its appeal; it isn’t intended as a huge tourism destination. The lake is placid and shallow fairly far out. Kiddos can splash in the water by sandy beaches. Gnarled trees of indeterminate species grow along the lake’s edge. The trunks dip and bend toward the water as the earth crumbles away in gradual increments.
We’d navigated our way to the tiny motel and decided to walk across US 31 to admire the lake. Our access beach was a sliver of sand in a small crescent carved out from the neighboring trees. But it was sufficient for a quick dip. I opted to stand and watch while my son dabbled in the water. Now that he is older and can swim a bit, I’m less afraid of imaginary undertow currents taking him to Davy Jones’s locker.*** I snap a few quick pics with my phone and upload a selfie-free greeting to all my peeps on Facebook. My son scampers around in the water, barely bothered by his mom’s admonition to “Pull up your shorts, your butt is showing!” (Time for a new swimsuit, I guess the elastic is blown in this one.) We stop at the gas station/store/pizza joint on the way back to our hotel to grab some dinner. I’m standing in line waiting for a sub sandwich when I get a phone call:
Vacation Reenactment Players present:
Peculiar Coincidence or Celestial Serendipity?
*BrrrrrrrRing* (Honestly I don’t know what noise my phone made, my son changes the ringtone daily.)
Caller: “K…where are you?” (Names abbreviated to protect the clueless who think this will keep serial killers away.)
Me: “M? We’re at Bear Lake.”
Caller: “I know. I saw your picture on Facebook. We’re at Bear Lake. Where are you exactly?”
Me: “Uh…” (I stop to look around for the name of the gas station.) “We’re at a BP across from the Belle Vista Inn. The kid is getting some pizza and I’m waiting in line to get some dinner.”
Caller: “We’re down the road at a campground. We’re grilling hot dogs. C’mon over.”
Turns out it was walking distance from us. This is the kind of adventure you can’t plan. (Okay, maybe you could plan it, but it would then lack romance—or whatever the parenting equivalent is!)
Pizza and sugary drinks in hand, we followed her directions to what had to be the smallest campground I have ever seen. It was a slice of beach carved out behind the town, lined with camper trailers and crawling with dogs and children. Friend M was corralling her herd—she has three, which is enough for a herd in my opinion—with equal parts humor and no-nonsense parenting. She could write a book about it if she wasn’t so busy. We exchanged chit chat and delighted in the coincidence that brought us together.
“I grew up here. My grandfather planted trees along this lake.” She stops, looks around and points to a nearby tree. “He planted that one.”
There is pride in her voice. You can tell she is happy to be from a small town and has pleasant memories. I’ve often wondered what that felt like.
She offers us canvas chairs at her parent’s trailer. It is a cozy niche just down the road a ways from her childhood home. There, the grandparents are doting on a precious little girl who has decided to wear a batman mask, it slips off repeatedly as she toddles around. It is a bit incongruous with the pigtails poking out on either side of her head. Everyone is laughing or joking about Bat Girl. I have a feeling I’ve accidentally wandered into a Norman Rockwell life tableau, except that M’s husband is on the road and she isn’t sure when his hectic schedule will bring him back into the family orbit. I comment on the peacefulness of location and she nods. “This is my oasis—I can relax here.” She hands me a cream-flavored, alcoholic ginger ale. “I could stay here all the time.” Taking a sip of mellow intoxicant, I’m finding myself in agreement.
During the visit, her children are in constant motion—her son is off at the little playground beside the beach. Her daughters are crawling in and out underfoot. M is the serene center of a frenetic buzz of activity. We stay as long as my son will tolerate and M hands me a plate of potato salad for the road. We hug before parting and I thank her for a wonderful time. She smiles and says, “We’ll be coming up for a long week around the 4th of July, if you want, you could rent a tent space and join us.”
I’m touched. It is a generous offer to be included in a family trip. (With a special needs child, it is especially nice to be invited anywhere.) I may question my sanity when I take trips with my son so far from home, but it is moments like these that make it worth the effort.
The rest of our weekend is a blur of touristy moments:
Frankfort has a beautiful grassy park and nearby playground for kids to run around on. My son looked especially appropriate in his yellow slicker standing on the mock prow of the playground ship.
In town, many shops devoted to the American spirit for shopping and dining abound. The Crescent Bakery & Cafe served about the best pesto/giant mushroom panini I’ve ever eaten. If I hadn’t forgotten my purse and had to schlep all the way back to our car, we might have avoided a major meltdown moment! One caveat if you dine here—it’s a popular place and the service can be slow, which is a bad combination if your son is starving to death before your very eyes. (Cell phones pay the price for such inconsideration.)
The death of his favorite entertainment hits my son hard…even though he was the one to throw it in a fit of hunger-induced rage. After lunch, we mourn with ice cream served up at the ever-so-festive The Scoop—a local joint that serves up Moomers Ice Cream.
We are surrounded by candy and sugar on all sides—it is very cathartic. It is also just about the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
We drive to Ludington to spend the night at a Best Western. Despite being tired from the day, I decide to take the internet’s advice and hit the popular local restaurant: The Old Hamlin.
Above the door as you walk in, the sign says “Family Restaurant Since 1926.” They must be doing something right because the place was doing pretty good business despite the later hour. The décor suggested its roots might be as a Greek diner—the dusty murals and ancient faux wood roof tiles suggested a warmer climate. Old Formica tables and naugahyde padded seats welcomed weary travelers; the furnishings’ sturdy qualities matched its customers perfectly. The food was the standard eclectic American Diner fare—good and plentiful. And as a local had suggested, the homemade bread made it worth the trip.
Stuffed to the gills, my son and I walked to visit the beautiful nearby Lake Michigan shoreline and enjoy Stearns Park where my son dragged his paper and crayons to every single piece of playground equipment to write numbers in a new, exciting location while his mother climbed sand dunes to get a picture of the lighthouse against the backdrop of the sparkling waves. It was reassuring to learn I wasn’t too old to enjoy a good sunset. (Although I wisely refrained from investigating the skater’s park nearby—one hip replacement is enough for now.)
We walked a bit and discovered another sandy pleasure—beachside cuisine. At The Sunset Side Concessions, I was momentarily tempted to order Deep Fried Oreos, when my better senses prevailed.
Despite having eaten enough pancakes and bacon to sink a battleship, my son happily gorged on yet another scoop of ice cream (What is a holiday without overindulgence and stomach aches?) before returning to the Best Western, splashing in the pool, and then conking out for the night. (If you are tired out reading this, imagine how exhausting it was to cram all this into a weekend!)
Sunday heralded the end of our vacation. After barely making it under the wire for breakfast, we packed and visited the lake shore one last time before heading home.
I managed to lure my child to visit the light-not-a-house via a long walk down the concrete breakwall to the Ludington North Breakwater Light. It was tricky going as he desperately wanted to fling himself down the slanting embankment to investigate the giant, no-doubt-slippery rocks framing the walkway. At the lighthouse–sorry, I can’t break the habit–I was dismayed to discover that, this far north, The Square™ is a tricky device that doesn’t always work if the wireless connection is iffy. I’d spent the last of my cash leaving a tip for the hotel staff—and on the electric massage chair in the lobby. (The only way to travel.) The volunteers graciously let my son pell-mell his way up the stairs to take in the view. Since they couldn’t get the credit card taker to work, they handed me an envelope trusting in the honor system to see payment received by check later that week. What a gift that was to a weary mom and an overly excited child.
We snapped a few pictures—my son insisted on photographing the graffiti—enjoying the sun and the boat wakes creating liquid contrails and a mock surf at the water’s edge. All in all, it has been a postcard-picture perfect visit. As the tourism ads voiced by Tim Allen would say, “It’s Pure Michigan.”
Don’t you wonder if Missy & Bob are still together? I like to think they are!
So that was our Memorial Day Extravaganza. Mostly unplanned and as spontaneous as I can ever get with my oh-so-special life. I hope you enjoyed tagging along; you’re welcome anytime.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*Did you catch the sarcasm in that one?
**Not THAT finger, thank you very much.
***One flavor of paranoia—imagined parental fears.
This is one of the hardest questions to answer, not the least of which is because it is transliterated from Russian. It asks: “What is art?” I ventured forth one night to consider this while exploring that regional delight: the hometown art fair.
Yesterday, I took my son to the Art & Chocolate Walk in Grandville, MI. Families gathered to share tidbits and admire local amateur artists’ works alongside school children’s efforts. I will say now, I am no arbiter of art; I have not studied at the Sorbonne, nor could I tell you the effect Prussian blue had on the impressionists. What I can tell you is viewing art at the speed of sound is a blurry challenge. (My son is not known for his love of art–unless it is of the deconstructionist variant and it involves either indelible ink or an expensive piece of technology.)* Destructive self-expression aside, my son preferred gobbling the candy and cookies to exploring the meaning found in artistic media–regardless of what form it took.
Among the exhibits under flapping awnings and propped on rolling stages was the very popular human statue. Parents would lead their unsuspecting child up to the copper-hued sculpture, asking their opinion about the work, only to hear the children yelp, “It moved!” followed by a spate of giggles when the work of art waggled a brush at them before returning to a frozen stance. Is this art? I can’t say. What I will say is the kids liked it and the man did a great job. He was up there the entire time I visited the fair staying in character–except when he broke the third wall–to the delight of onlookers. That shows talent in my book.
The art exhibits were cleverly spaced throughout the local business establishments. The chamber of commerce committee that dreamed this up earned their pennies.
There is something odd, at first, about squeezing into a dress shop or past floor tile samples to view whichever school group or work was displayed, but plucky people managed it. After you grabbed your treat and had your card punched, you could wander through the stock to find the exhibits–it was surprisingly fun.
We zipped through one store where grandfather clocks competed with chiming glass-and-mirrored wall clocks which signaled the changing shifts of visitors to the small table of glue and paper efforts by the local elementary students.**
To some, this marketing of community businesses through parental pride might strike a mercenary note, yet I couldn’t help but admire the effort it took to put this on. Someone organized the local shops, the schools and teachers, the musicians and artists to contribute–time, money, energy and enthusiasm. Behind each cardboard easel you’ll see a deeper purpose–to nurture budding talents and to give pride of place for children who can go somewhere, point to a piece of work and say, “That one’s mine.” while the world looks on.
Everywhere I went, in the brief moments of admiration for some truly talented youngsters, I saw moms and dads escorting siblings and taking candid shots of performances and works by their children. Some children were shy about it, others wore smiles so wide it is hard to imagine a frame large enough to fit all those teeth.
Where does art comes from? What inspiration springs from the soul and dares to express itself in song, sound, or acrylic paints? When does it actually happen?
Was there a budding Renoir or Matisse among the earnest, dramatic and sometimes cute artwork? From what I could see, yes. I was astounded at what was produced–either as a collaborative effort or even a derivative style, it was still very much art to me. Perhaps it was the nascent, newly-birthed foal version of art, just finding its shaky legs and looking for its mother to lean on, but it was art.
All artists start somewhere at a place of beginning, staring at a blank canvas and wondering how they can speak to the world through a charcoal pencil. How does a child scribbling one day turn into a world-renowned artist? At one point, someone put a pencil or crayon in their hand and told them, “Draw me a pretty picture.” This, this is where art starts.
I wanted to include some of my favorites, so scroll below to see what I could see in the short amount of time my son allowed me.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*His first work is entitled “A Study in Red” because he squirted red food coloring all over the cream carpet in the living room. It never quite washed out. I hope the new home owners aren’t standing over the Rorschach-esque designs speculating whether a murder took place.
**If I confuse which grade of art was placed where, forgive me. By my fourth piece of dessert my concentration suffered from sugar overload.