Okay, Looks Like I’m Ready to Be a City Boy Again

Yesterday the family piled in the car and returned to the City on the Make. Schools are starting, and other obligations are beginning. Of course, after a rainy weekend, the sun came out on Sunday and taunted us as we packed, cleaned, stored and drove off. Typical weather for the end of a vacation–I wish I could keep track of the weather every Sunday evening since we’ve been going to the lake house, because it always seems to be sunny, warm and perfect.

So after a pasta dinner tonight, I took a stroll through Lincoln Square, to see what’s been going on around the area. Couple stores opened, a couple closed. No real surprises. Both bookstores are still there (man, we are fortunate around this hood), and looking like they’re doing okay. An artist lined up a lot of canvases on the sidewalk near the square, which was cool and something it would be good to see more often. The Davis is still showing movies, and my favorite bars are still open. Pretty soon Half Acre Brewing will have a tasting room at their brewery on Lincoln, so I can have my mail forwarded there.

Yep, it looks like everything proceeded along without me the past two months. The nerve of this city, ignoring my absence! As usual, coming back here after the summer was filling me with a little dread: too much noise, too many cars, too many people. Oh, and the writing projects call again, now that vacation is over. It’s always more pleasant to think about great projects than to watch what they end up being.

But as I type, I realize these are the exact reasons I’m not ready to live full time up in farm and lake country. I need the distractions. I need the loudness, and the people. I need things to keep changing. Without it, I don’t think I’d be able to survive. Hanging out on the water is a lot of fun, and certainly refreshing, but I still need to talk to people about something other than the fish and whether the State of Michigan will implode on itself.

So the Garners still get the best of both worlds. A place to relax, and a place to get wound up. I wish these two things to all of you. Oh, and some fresh caught fish.

Fishing Boats for Sale

Driving through the backroads of Michigan this summer, I’ve seen “For Sale” signs everywhere. Not just on houses and property, but also on cars, trailers, lawn mowers, snow blowers, fishing boats and pontoons. It’s very sad. It’s gotten to the point where I expect everything sitting in someone’s front yard MUST be out there to be sold. I had to apologize repeatedly to that old woman sitting in the Amiga in Fruitport, and she STILL gave me the finger when I drove off.

Just kidding. I was never in Fruitport. And I have no use for an Amiga.

Such a fire sale can be hard on the nerves of the casually interested. If I had a few million sitting in the bank ready for action, I’d probably start succumbing to temptation and assemble a flotilla of pontoon boats, bass boats and jet skis. What I’d do with a flotilla, I don’t know. Float it as best I could, probably. The temptation is also there to scoop up some of the homes and property that are sitting on lake front property, but they cost considerably more than a 20-year-old pontoon. And I have no interest in becoming a real estate baron. Plaid pants make me look fat.

These are tough times for my favorite state. It always seems to be tough times here. I moved to Chicago in 1982 because of tough times, and every time I come back, it’s déjà vu all over again. Now the workers who are losing their jobs or feeling the pinch of the general downturn are trying to sell their fishing boats, which are basically standard equipment here. The “Cash for Clunkers” program might help the factories get rolling again, but the GM bailout will be forcing wages down. So even those folks who still have jobs might not be able to afford a house and a boat.

Oh boo hoo, you might be thinking. I don’t have a boat, or a trailer or even the time to use one if I did.

But it was part of the social contract here in Michigan for generations. You put your time in at the factory, and you’d be able to send your kids to school, have some health coverage, and be able to relax a little on the water on the weekends. Now that’s falling apart quickly. The state is out of money, the city of Detroit is bound to collapse soon, the small factories that fed Detroit are cutting back and/or shutting up shop, and the people who are just trying to wait for the rebound to start are going to food banks and selling the fishing boat. Maybe when things turn around, they’ll be able to buy a new one, maybe not. Sad to watch. Feels like the whole state is hunkered down, waiting to get punched one more time.