A Brief Look into the Life of a Slacker, The Power of Positive Connections, Marquette After Midnight
08/15/2010 88 °F
Both of my dedicated readers got on my case this week about my lack of posts to my blog.
“It’s stagnant”, they proclaimed. To which I had no recourse but to agree. That isn’t to say I haven’t been thinking about it, or composing thoughts in my head about the next entry. No, my mind is always on task so to speak. In my defense (flimsy as it is), I have this to offer: I’m currently chasing summer vacation, and I felt that to truly get to the essence of summer, one must shirk responsibility. As it is, I am a man of leisure. I’ve frolicked in my muse, chased rainbows, and have accepted (and embraced) the fact that I am a bum (and damn proud of it).
To me, when thinking about summer vacation of years past, I get a sense of freedom. I have memories of long days spent at the camp swimming, lazing around, eating, visiting family, friends, and playing around. In my attempt to recapture that feeling, I’ve found it appropriate to stick to a rough schedule for any given day.
I’ll wake up around 8 a.m. I’ll eat a light breakfast, read, write, edit pictures until satisfied. I’ll run up to the coffee shop in Calumet (5th and Elm Coffee House) to use their wi-fi. I like to keep up with “my people.” From there, I’ll drive down to Eagle River where our family’s “camp” is located. I must digress. A “camp” as it’s called up here in the UP, is simply a vacation home. Other parts of the country refer to it as a cottage, a cabin, or make up their own name.
Once at the camp, I have a strenuous list of things I try to accomplish. I like to complete one chore for the day, i.e. Paint the trim on the main house. There’s always basic maintenance to do, and I feel good about helping out. Once my chore is finished, I’m free to work on my hobbies. I’ve recently started slack lining. Slack lining is a sport that is very addicting. The basic premise of slack lining is walking on a 3-inch strap that has been tightly secured between two trees. It’s kind of like a combination of walking a tight rope and the balance beam, but done close to the ground. I can tell you it’s challenging. It’s like learning to walk all over again. I like to long board, and it’s my favorite mode of transport down to the lake. There’s something appropriate about riding a long board to the beach. Lake Superior has been perfect for swimming this year. I love swimming in the warm waters, and body surfing in the occasional big waves. After my daily dip into the big lake, I’ll return to the camp and either set up my hammock, or settle into my favorite chair in the shade. I like to read, catch up on my journal, meditate, bird watch, and take hammock naps. After waking up, it’s time for another slack-line session before jumping in the lake one last time. After my second swim, I’ll put on dry clothes and head to my mom’s house for dinner, or eat with my family at the camp, depending on which menu is more to my liking. After dinner, and “sittin’ down time” (digesting, while sitting in the shade). I’ll head out to see some friends, family, or find a good spot to unwind from my busy day.
Now, this isn’t to say that I haven’t been writing or taking photos at all. I’ve several writing projects I’m working on, and I’ve been focusing more on them during my daily writing sessions. One project that I’m working on is a combination of selected photos paired with my thoughts about that particular scene. An example:
Late Afternoon at The Camp
“The warm breeze gusts through the hodge-podge collection of deck chairs strewn around the yard. It feels good on the skin after a long day in the sun. Most of us are sitting in the shade of the old apple tree, decrepit, but still providing a canopy of shade to lounge in. The old folks and the dogs are content to sit quietly, lost in their own thoughts. The dogs seem to prefer either the cool touch of the clover patch or the comforting dust of a sandy hole, dug to their own specifications. Gangs of children occasionally stream through, on the way to the river, the frog pond, the park or the ice cream shop. My brother is finishing off smoked chicken wings on the grill, and the smell of the cooked meat slathered with homemade barbeque sauce is wonderful. My stomach growls in anticipation, a low guttural moan. “ME WANT FOOD!” There is peace and tranquility here. An easy feeling of contentment holds over the yard, and though not all will notice it, all will feel it. Years from now, the feeling will return to us at another time, bringing with it the beautiful nostalgia of late afternoon at the camp.”
I’ve also completed the first of my summer trips, this one to Marquette, Michigan. Marquette has always been on of my favorite towns to visit. Years ago, when I was a kid, a trip to Marquette was a special treat, and the equivalent of taking a long road trip. Growing up, our family never had a lot of money, and an annual family vacation to some distant locale was out of the question. Occasionally, we would make forays to Marquette to visit relatives and do some shopping at the mall and department stores. It was a big deal to us, and we always looked forward to these trips.
Later, my sister went to Northern Michigan University to get her degree in nursing, and lived in Marquette for several years. During my early teens, we would visit her occasionally on weekends, and it was a lot of fun to explore this small city with her. These memories, combined with my traveling restlessness fueled my desire to return to Marquette to explore the parks, beaches, shops, and restaurants that make up this great little city.
To hopefully make this an even better experience, I logged onto the couch surfing network once again to see if I could find a local host that could not only put me up for a few nights, but also could show me around town and hang out with me during my explorations. As it turned out, there was only one person who could host during my visit, and as luck would have it, she turned out to be one of the best hosts I’ve ever had while surfing.
My favorite part of the CS experience is to make connections with like-minded individuals. Sometimes, this is as simple as swapping travel stories over dinner, or before going to sleep. Other times, these connections are stronger, and I find myself opening up to a complete stranger, sharing with them my own life story, my philosophy, dreams, and ambitions. To my mind, this is what traveling, couch surfing and life is all about: Making positive connections with people, becoming friends, and letting your guard down to really get to know that person. Along with this, comes an openness to discuss anything under the sun. If I can find that kind common bond with someone, it really reinforces my lifestyle and my approach to traveling.
My friend J.J. Johnson, a mountain man from Oregon stated it best, “Sometimes you meet people along the way that inspire you, and get your creative life juices flowing again. You feed off one another, re-energizing your spirit, finding support and positive reinforcement.”
My trip to Marquette wouldn’t have been nearly as fun, if I hadn’t made that connection with my host. In three days, we went from strangers to good friends, and I look forward to talking with her again.
Highlights of Marquette:
First impressions are important. I met my host, and we went out for a light lunch at the Sweet Water Café. I had a cold blueberry soup for the first time, and it was delicious. It was pureed blueberries mixed with light spicing of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, topped with thinly sliced almonds. As I opened my wallet to pay for the meal, a teaspoon of fine brown beach sand poured out of a hole in the bottom of my wallet and onto the table. As I nonchalantly wiped the small pile onto the floor (attempting to be suave about it), we both chuckled over it, and the ice was unintentionally broken.
My host was a night owl. Therefore, I adapted my own schedule to match hers and we had a fine time exploring Marquette in the wee hours of the night. I enjoyed our late night treks across town, stumbling along, craving and devouring subs from Jimmy John’s, taking turns discussing our views on life. We spent one night at the beach watching starry skies emerge from the clouds followed by a meteor shower right over Lake Superior. The first of the meteors was a brilliant fiery streak that went off like a flash bulb, mirrored on the flat dark water of the lake. It was amazing. Staying up all night wasn’t something I was used to, but I think I carried myself very well for having stayed up to 5:30 am three nights in a row.
I spent a terrific afternoon at the lake near Little Presque Isle. The shore near LPI is beautiful soft beach sand that makes it a popular destination for swimming, sun tanning and relaxing. I set up my slack-line in the shady forest of red pines adjacent to the shore. I had a lot of fun practicing my craft as onlookers wondered what I was doing. After the balancing session, I waded out to LPI and hiked around the island, impressed with beauty and ruggedness of the exposed ledge rock on the westerly side of the island. I found a dead duck floating in a pool. I wondered what happened. How do ducks die? I approved of its final resting place, a small pool surrounded by carved ledge rock, within four feet of Lake Superior. It was a beautiful place, and if I were to choose a final resting place for myself, I would want something similar.
I enjoyed exploring Marquette’s shops and restaurants, Including (in no particular order): Third Street Bagel, Vango’s, Vierling’s, BabyCakes Bakery, Jimmy John’s, Sweet Water Café, Togo’s Subs, The Uphill, Remmie’s, Snow Bound Books (a dangerous bookstore full of excellent reads), and Peter White Public Library. The library being one of the coolest libraries I’ve ever seen. A meeting place of old and new, old fashioned architecture meeting modern library technology. I look at a town’s library as a deciding factor to if I like a city, and if I could live there. I could live in Marquette.
As I drove home from Marquette, I reflected on my visit, deciding it was a complete success. I had accomplished all that wanted to do, and was quite satisfied. I thought ahead to my late summer plans, and decided that I was going to come back to Marquette sometime in the fall. Why not? If a city is this good, it deserves a second visit, to seek out more of its secrets, and find more of its charming character. In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I haven’t napped in my hammock in several days, and the lake needs my attention a couple times a day. I have to spend some quality time with my family (especially around dinnertime), and my long board needs someone to carve down the hills with it. Therefore, I’ve got a busy week ahead of me, before I head down to San Diego for some tuna fishing.
It’s not easy being a man of leisure.