The power has gone out in Copper Harbor Michigan, as far north in Michigan one can go without a boat. I have no idea if these words are going to be saved. Ah, I see that all changes are saved off-line. A promise indicated on a line by the title. The power outage had affected the pumps in Copper Harbor. I saw no place for fuel in Eagle Harbor or Eagle River. So I am forced to drive to Phoenix, where a fellow customer at the Pines promised me Phoenix had power and gas. The impact of a rookie move has affected my retreat to Copper Harbor. Instead of driving out to the very point of Keeneewa Peninsula, I'm conserving gas.
I had seen the bright lights of the Holiday Fuel Stop last night outside Calumet and looked at my gas gauge and the gauge had indicated half a tank. I was excited, and making a stop in Calumet would have halted my progress into the wild. I was thinking I had enough gas to drive back to Calumet, only thirty-five miles, a fact I looked up before the power went out and the wireless quit. My cellphone has Sprint service and the indicator just snickers "No Service" at me.
I stopped last night in Phoenix, finding an open bar called the Cliff View Tavern and Motel. I ordered a Budweiser, picking the only seat at the bar. She opened up my Budweiser, and I settled in to eavesdrop on conversations. And everybody grabbed pudding shots, toasted healths and left. The bartender poured herself a tall glass of wine, perched on a stool and asked, "So, where are you from"? She introduced herself as Joan.
Joan had bought the business with her husband Jim, and Jim pulled up to the bar and began nibbling on leftover pizza forgotten by a customer, and a friend. In 1977, Jim had noticed Joan waitressing in a Utah diner on the Wyoming border. A month later, Jim had coaxed Joan to go driving around the two tracks with him. A few months later, Joan's mother, a legal secretary working in a local lawyer's office, typed out Jim's divorce papers. I apologized for running off their customers. She rolled her eyes and said, "The regulars had been drinking here for hours".
I asked why the place carried the name, "Cliff View Tavern". Jim answered, "Don't walk out the front door too far until morning". The danger has nothing to do with falling off the cliff. Loose rocks plummeting two hundred feet onto ones head provides the danger.
The place had a real estate sign near the front porch, listed for sale, price reduced. Much of the Keeneewa Peninsula has gone on the real estate market. A beautiful house in Cassell, built in 1900, had been on the market for 180 days, six months from April to October, the months of leaves and sunshine. Last Thursday, I met a retired school teacher who had planned to move to Florida but the house in Hancock hasn't moved at a price to make it worth selling. If one has ever tried to buy a bar, one learns that a bar has a price and it usually has a price much higher than any realistic business plan can support. Bars, in a way, are always for sale.
A mile before Phoenix and the Cliff View Tavern, a tall post over four hundred inches tall greeted me. The snow gauge had been set there in the seventies to celebrate the record snow fall of 390 or so inches. Muskegon has never achieved over 150 inches, located in the Lake Michigan snowbelt. I had the thought, "Now what if that gauge were the fundraising gauge for the United Way of the Lakeshore, all orange all the way to the top". Double the usual Muskegon snowfall and that's the typical Keeneewa Peninsula snow fall.
The Cliff View had cabins and I considered asking for a key at the bar. I had no inclination to haggle the posted price of sixty-five dollars, since neither warmth nor snow abounded. We had a nice chat and that makes poor grounds for haggling. I had planned to vagabond this weekend anyways, making use of the cozy Subaru and a pair of sleeping bags. I had no idea where I could park my car without fear of a bear or a polite officer's knock on the window. I had to explain "junkholing" last weekend to a friend, the idea that one just napped in the car when one felt tired. Rest stops, scenic turnouts, the parking lots of all night diners, trail heads in the Catskills, even Walmart parking lots worked okay when one was "junkholing".
My friend is one of my friends who have encouraged my writing by reading my daily posts on Facebook where I keep a daily, almost confessional journal. The bare bones confessional stuff never makes the Facebook journal. After months of trying, we finally had an evening where we caught an audacious play together at The Block, a concert hall perched with a glorious view of Lake Muskegon. At intermission of Sheridan's "School for Scandal", I had purchased a Two Hearted Ale from the bar and offered her a fill of her wine glass with Pinot Noir. "How long is the second act"? She asked. "About a glass of wine," I answered. "Twist my arm", she said.
In the second act, the bawdy action of Kate Bode as a married woman hiding behind a screen in a seducer's chambers made my friend laugh beside me, at my left elbow, in the front row. Rita, my concert connection, had landed us in the front row, stage right. She laughed more quickly than I laughed, and I had to work out why she was laughing a few times. I noticed that my friend's boots had a fresh polish and her good hair day suggested an afternoon stop at the salon. I believe one of the actresses stared covetously at her boots.
Now Cinderella has nothing on a single mother when it comes to having to vanish after the show, but we had time to walk to Hennessy's Pub and she had a glass of cola and I should have had one too. We shared a plate of lamb sliders and chatted. She leaned over, looked me in the eye, and asked, "So what's up with you sleeping in the car in the forest near Manistee"? She had read a few of those stories from late September.
I explained that there's nights when I'm alone when actually taking a hotel room means wasting time. In the Manistee National Forest, I was planning to fish for Salmon coming up the river to the fish weir and who wanted a soft bed with fine sheets when the action began when dawn was imminent? Plus, everyone knows there's nothing shabby about sleeping in a Subaru, right? Nothing I have to explain to a member of the Subaru club. We even tend to park together at rest stops and Walmart parking lots.
"There were people out in the forest"?
I thought, "There's a few Wiccan gatherings, feminist festivals where men never tread and out and out grassers in the Manistee National Forest. However, I'm hardly on the invite list".
I answered, "Just some man sleeping in a van, feeding baby skunks with cat food and complaining about his doctors. Another morning, a guy hiking the North Country trail. I like talking to hermits. Now, if I was riding around with someone I was trying to impress, there's a perfectly nice Microtel in Manistee with perfect beds and nice sheets, forty or so a night after the kids go back to school".
She didn't blush. I have to remind myself when I'm in the company of a full-fledged, all-around woman. The topic of conversation changed. We finished our sliders and she let me have the third. She picked up the tab, I let her. She wanted to share the evening's expenses, and she gave me a lift to my car parked at the farmer's market. We embraced and I jumped out of the passenger seat of her Suburban, a vintage Texas Cadillac with room for an air mattress in back.
I had pondered this conversation as I drove north on M-26 along the shores of Lake Superior, looking for the right spot for a snooze. A sign said Jacob's Falls and I turned around to drive down what looked an access road. Didn't press on the gas. The falls cascaded down a twenty foot high slope of stone into a cold pool of water. The road hadn't seen a car but mine for hours and I just marveled at the cascade. My grandfather never mentioned that he was baptized Edward Jacob, but I had made note of the fact on his death certificate. A waterfall had to be the worst parking place for the evening, and eventually I pressed onward.
I passed through Eagle Harbor and a sign by the lighthouse stunned me. A school teacher in town had written the rite of the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization that had abandoned what became the Harris Building on Division Street in Grand Rapids. A round window still had the emblem of these knights in the third floor window. I rejected the lot of the lighthouse. I continued on until I found a roadside park with outhouses and trash bins that had bear locks on them. I failed to open the bear lock and I had rubbish to get out of my car. I kept my keys in my ashtray and my glasses on the dash in case I had to make a quick getaway with a bear claw gouge on my door.
The light came up softly as the rain was drizziling, and I noticed a set of stone steps up a long tall wall of stone that was blocking my view of Lake Superior. Twenty steps up the flat stones, the top of the stone wall had accumulated a layer of soil, mosses and grasses still green, and the maker of steps had chosen flat top boulders to embed along a walkway leading to an gazebo made of cedar poles. I sat on a bench and watched Lake Superior washing against the stone masses of the shore. There's a saying that every eon a bird comes in a myth to peck at a rock and when the rock has dwindled after an endless series of pecks, a day of eternity ends. The Sanskrit word for this day is Kalpa, although I'm sure the spelling is Kapala. I imagined Lake Superior as this bird, making undetectable progress against this stone wall. I was eager to see Copper Harbor, and I took the steps downward slowly, stunned to see the date 1983 carved into the bottom step, two years before the monks had arrived to build the Poor Rock Monastery.
When I arrived in Copper Harbor, a sign pointed to the library. I followed and arrived at the Tenth Street Fishing Pier. Two men were fishing, casting amazingly long casts into the pristine waters. I walked up just close enough and said, "Did you hear about the guy who walked up to the fishermen and screwed up their casting by standing too close and asked 'How's the Fishing'"? The fellow named Jarve answered first, "Well, he met a pair of liars who said the fishing was lousy. We have a boatload in the truck". The rain fell on the water and a few made splashes. A few bounced and then beaded on the surface until the surface absorbed. "I saw a sign pointing the way to the library and I wound up here". The fellow named Ingo replied, "Well, you can read the bay like a book. A joke book. The fishing is a joke today". Jarve changed his lure, reaching into a four level tackle box as neatly organized as a library bookshelf. I was pretty sure I had walked into a re-enactment of Jeff Daniel's "Guys on Ice". I hazarded to say as much and Jarve and Ingo laughed loudly enough to make the waters echo. The two were trying to land a passel of splake for today's fishing tournament. Jarve's truck window had two stickers, one that identified him as a retired army sergeant. The other, a stick figure dry humped the word, "It" in block letters.
In the dark of the Pines Hotel Cafe, the waitresses are buzzing around the dark dining room, promising pancakes and even omelettes from the gas griddle. They are warning that the coffee is about to run out. One customer said to his waitress, "I am glad I got you paid before the credit card machine became useless". The restrooms make use of a system called a grinder pump and without power, the effluent just accumulates. The owner walked through the dining room, declaring to his staff, "The restrooms are closed. The restrooms are closed. Use the community center". Next door, the community center has power, thanks to a generator. Now in a few minutes, I am going to check to see if the center is open. Maybe it has wireless. And a coffee machine?
When the lights worked, I visited the rest rooms thank goodness in time, and noticed the pine log walls covered with photographs, maps and mounted panels of artifacts. One panel had arrowheads of all kinds, spear points and a few pipes carved out of rocks. A second panel had pipes and saws made out of jawbones mounted on felt. Seeing these jarred my memory.
I remembered a day when my older brother, Matthew, and I were walking along a freshly plowed field and he shouted gleefully and picked up a well formed arrow head. He kept the treasure and never let me hold it and he never let me find it either. Later, he became enamored of Native American dancing practiced by mostly white men. Some called them Ben Hunt Indians, after a man who costumed actors for Westerns. Matthew went deeply into what Native American culture he could find, and he couldn't find much because the authentic tribes of the many fires had been badly marginalized in the seventies.
Even so, he collected cassette tapes of authentic Indian chants and drum routines and he only let me use his cassette recorder when he want recordings of articles from his magazines. Then, friends took him to a night screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and his life moved on to other interests.
Climbing up a talus slope in the Sangre de Cristos mountains, trying to reach the cliff called Lover's Leap before sunrise, I spotted an arrowhead between the small boulders. Matt was cooking breakfast over a fire back at camp. We were hiking in the preserve called Philmont, or better, Phil Turn Rocky Mountain Scout Camp. I remembered reading the camp manual, "Leave all artifacts where they are and report location to the staff". I pointed it out to my friends and we admired it and then we continued our climb. We made it to the flat topped cliff and stood right on the edge as the sun rose. Happily, no one got dizzy or felt vertigo as Lovers Leap had nothing resembling a guard rail. We threw a Frisbee over the edge and watched it sink slowly towards a creek. We had to retrieve it because Frisbees doubled as dinner plates.
I know a friend who lives near my place that I'm maintaining in Muskegon, and I'll have to ask her what is proper for these Native American artifacts. One of her ancestors might have carved them from flint or antler.
The power has returned. I am mildly disappointed.
Painting by Barb Carlson of Spring Lake Michigan.