I should have mentioned that was headed to Mackinac Island in northern Michigan for a well-needed vacation. I apologize for neglecting to do so. Consider this my make-up gift: a transmission from another place and another time.
This island is a bit crazy, Diane, and there’s no other way to put it. The roads are clear of motorcars and automobiles, and also scooters, skaters, rollerbladers, and anything else that smacks of modernity and makes old people stick close to, or safely on the sidewalk-side of, the curb. In place of these things Mackinac has bicycles (lots and lots of bicycles) and the old-fashioned clip-clop of horses. Horses pull the taxis. Horses bear luggage and passengers from place to place. Horses.
Horses poop quite a bit.
Mackinac’s retro charm comes complete with a very retro scent. This is something period movies and old novels cannot convey. I doubt I can effectively do so either, so I will hardly try. I will say just this: there’s a lot of clumpy horse droppings in the roads of Mackinac, drawing flies and creating a fog of odor that is prone to creep up on you at the worst times. You’re enjoying a delicious homemade ice cream cone, walking along in the sun, gazing at the deep blue water, and – there it is. Yikes. Best to be flexible, Diane, and breathe through your mouth as necessary.
In addition to this anachronistic affectation, Mackinac also seems to sport a very old-fashioned class system. Old-fashioned as in plantations in the Old South, if you follow me. I have seen three persons of Latino persuasion here. One was female and appeared to be a maid in a very “Gone With The Wind” outfit. The other two were male and seemed to be responsible for all of the island’s horse poop clean-up. In addition to the hispanics there are a lot of blacks at Mackinac, which seems very progressive for a little northern island, until you realize they are all serving you drinks, bussing your tables, and (especially) hauling your luggage from point A to point B in little carts affixed to bicycles. Strangely, all of these people speak with a heavy island accent (and not a Mackinac Island one, whatever that might be). They seem to hail from the Virgin Islands or possibly Jamaica. How they ended up here I do not profess to understand. But they seem to fill a very important niche, which is fulfilling a lot of white people’s subliminal ideas about how society ought to still be run.
It’s a bit fucked up, Diane, not to put too fine a point on it. It made me wonder if any of the other liberal-leaning white people had noticed and been made uncomfortable by this. My guess after some consideration is no; they are probably suffering from fudge and ice cream blindness.
This brings me to another fascinating aspect of the island, which is the food. Besides the sweets, besides the many, many (10+) fudge shops, Mackinac is dotted with a pretty large number of restaurants. These all serve the same things, which I can itemize here without much effort:
4. Pasta with meat in it
5. Salads with meat on top of them
6. French fries
7. Things that allege to be burritos or tacos or nachos, but lack a certain something (let’s call it “spice” or “flavor”)
That’s most of it, and good luck to you if you come here seeking something else. Maybe semi-big city life has spoiled me – in fact I’m sure it has – but I’m finding it hard to get by without recourse to some good, fairly cheap Indian or Thai or Chinese takeout. I miss places with more than zero or one vegetarian options (not that I’m vegetarian, but the missus is, and if she can’t eat, I surely can’t either). I long for variety, ethnicity, and meals that aren’t an automatic g’head-and-write-it-up $15 a person. I’m looking forward to getting back to that. If it wasn’t for a pretty good “chicken fajita wrap” I had for lunch today, I’d have to declare this place devoid of decent dining experiences.
[Next day addendum: we tried another place that amazed us with falafel and hummus sandwiches, chicken gyros, and bread crumb-encrusted macaroni balls. You have to shop around, but good food can be found. I’d suggest, counter to my experience everywhere else in the world, that you start with the bars.]
If I might lodge one other quick complaint: biking a minimum of three miles a day, and usually more like five or six, is not my idea of rest and relaxation. Must remember this next time I feel like getting away somewhere with ye olde world charm.
It’s certainly not all bad, Diane. The lake is great and very, very blue. The sky is big and bright. The air is clear and the cable works. And for half of our stay we felt pretty much alone in the woods here. Pity about the idiots that have moved in next door. I hope I can live with them for another day and a half. But if I can’t, the bail money’s in my office safe. I believe you know the combination.