Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wilbo Follows M-23 Through the @PureMichigan towns of Ripley, Dollar Bay, Tamarack City, Hubbell and Lake Linden.

In Lake Linden, we find the Loading Zone II. I wonder what town has Loading Zone I? Tonight, I've driven east on M-26, a major road that weaves around the Keweenaw Peninsula. It goes east and picks up the towns of Ripley, Dollar Bar, Tamarack City, Hubbell and Lake Linden. Then it zigs west and picks up Laurium and Calumet. It's the road that picks up the towns on the west shore, Eagle River, Eagle Harbor and Cooper Harbor. M-203 heads west to pick up McClain State Park at the juncture of the Portage Canal and Lake Superior and then Calumet draws it to the east. One has to wonder who planned the roads through this peninsula.

I noticed the Copper Mine as I passed through Tamarack City, where deposit cans are collected for downtown improvement. At a long table with glaring lamps overhead, five pairs of players focused on their cribbage boards, a Thursday night ritual. A few are preparing for the cribbage tournament coming up at the Ojibwa Casino in Baraga, a fifteen hundred dollar pot at stake. Not everyone at the table knew about it. I regret not taking on the challenge of cribbage while living in Muskegon. A friend had invited me to her bar to play a few games, trying to get a cribbage night going. I rather chickened out. That's awful because chickening out spoils the fun for everyone.

We had met again at the funeral of a friend who played cribbage with his friends on the porch, the porch overlooking the sands of Pere Marquette Beach and Lake Michigan. She had played a weekly game with Tom, and that how she got to know the man. We were surprised to see one another at the big, old Methodist Church in downtown Muskegon, and we agreed to play cribbage to honor Tom. I hope Tom, wherever his soul rests, doesn't mind that we didn't play at least one game and reminisce about him. At least there's a good story and the cribbage could still happen.

I wasn't planning on staying long, but a woman struck up a conversation with me, a woman waiting for her husband to finish his game. She noticed I seemed like a troll, and she asked where I called home. "Muskegon", I answered. She had a Muskegon story. She traveled around the Great Lakes on a freighter called Yooper Jackson. The freighter allowed wives to come along, just as truckers often go long distance driving, accompanied by a wife. Taxi cabs in Muskegon are usually husband and wife teams. At the Muskegon Channel, the fisherman in their boats didn't move to allow the freighter through. The freighter didn't slow down either and she stared at the fishing boats, hoping to call for help if one got sucked under. Tim the bartender had chatted with them, and he drew me into conversation when the wives left with their cribbage playing husbands.

Tim talked about Main Street Calumet​ where tomorrow the First Friday openings are planned. His wife has a place behind the bar at Shute's, a woman he met three years and three months ago and married this summer. Her grandmom watches their three year old boy as he bartends in Tamarack City and she bartends in Calumet. In the winter of 2014, he piled up snow eighteen feet high in his front yard, throwing it with a shovel. He would have made an incredible mucker in the mines of Calumet and Hecla. To get to his front door, he carved a tunnel. He posted an image of his wife, his child and him, smoking a cigarette, standing in the tunnel exit at the driveway. It racked up seven thousand likes on Facebook. I wanted a slice of life, and Tim gave me a slice of Calumet. I made sure I learned the name of his wife so I will refrain from hitting on her next time I visit Shute's.

The Landing Zone had a full rail on men when I arrived, and one man even bought a round of Rumplemintz for the house. The bartender, named Jen, knocked one back with us. She greeted me in a friendly and sunshiney way, and added, "The kitchen has closed but I'll totally bake you a pizza". I wasn't hungry but no one has totally made a pizza for me. She's offered pizza to all the arrivals; she hasn't offered to totally make them a pizza though, and that makes me feel special. She has an enthusiastic voice that reminds me of a character actress who guest starred on the Love Boat and Fantasy Island, a blond who always fell in love and made it look exciting. It might be impossible to look up her real name. Could I live in Lake Linden? I am certain I would wind up on crack  or meth.

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