Thursday, June 17, 2010

Walloon, Walloon, Walloon........


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/t-magazine/23talk-michigan-t.html

Ahhhh, the link so nice I posted it twice. The town referenced in that fancified, city-slicker of a newspaper, Petoskey, is the home of Walloon Lake. Walloon Lake is a pretty significant place in my life because for at least a third of my life it's been the Up North HQ for my family. Flashback to to the early 90's. We're Up North, happily ensconced in pretty swank digs on Lake Charlevoix. Mom nervously announces that "Dad has bought something". Oh God. Judging from the way her eyes are darting about the room, I'm pretty sure it's not a La-Z-Boy with cupholders. Well, it seems that dad has bought a cottage. On WALLOON. While scant miles away it had always seemed a world apart from what I had known on the shores of Charlevoix. So close but oh so far. There are Charlevoix people and there are Walloon people. There are also Harbor people but we won't get into that today. I always thought I was a Hatfield but I was being told I was now a McCoy. My reaction? "DAD DID WHAT?????!!!!!!" I mustered the self-righteous indignation of one who has paid absolutely nothing for the lifelong privilege of vacationing in a pretty freakin' sweet spot and crossed my arms and probably said something like, "FINE but don't expect ME to show up". This likely was followed by a "Hmmph" and double foot-stomp. In my mind, Wallooners were a different breed. Clannish and mysterious. Even though my parents had belonged to the Walloon Lake Country Club for many years, I always felt like an outsider. Probably because I was. Most of the denizens of the lake and the cottages they belong to go back generations. It's not at all uncommon to see four generations of a family eating together at the club. Shit, we've got three and and in the grand scheme of things, we're newbies. Anyway, the first time I went to inspect this acquisition, armed with a whole lot of doubt and a horrible attitude, I was sufficiently horrified. Although beautifully situated on Birch Point, a treed peninsula that juts out into the lake almost like an island, this thing was a cottage. And not a cute cottage either. Kind of a dumpy cottage that was built in the 1930's and added onto. Badly. There were some cool things about it. Actual linoleum from the 1950's and old fashioned appliances that were kitschy cool and appealed to my design school sensibilities. And there was a whole lot of really sweet knotty pine. There were also some very UN-COOL things as well. Like the fact that the washing machine was oh, I don't know......IN THE KITCHEN???? This in and of itself was bad enough. But wait for it. The dryer? IN THE GARAGE. That's right. Cue the chickens, banjos and corncob pipes. Oh, and upstairs? Where I was to sleep? Two little rooms you had to duck to get into. And that had vinyl floors. And 70's paneling. With tinfoil balls wadded up and stuffed into holes in the walls. Keep in mind that at this point in time I was in my twenties and had not yet been beaten down by the world. I was still laboring under the impression that the universe (and my parents!) owed me something. Something WAY better than this. Well, my friends.......I have never, EVER been more wrong about something in my life. That little cottage and more importantly, the land it sat upon became a refuge for me. It's long been scraped and replaced with something a little more up to date but the place remains the same. It has nearly magical properties. Everyone who sets foot on the Point is entranced. They can't help but be. It's been close to eighteen years since I rolled up that dirt driveway for the first time. A lot has changed. Especially me. But the lake has not. I can stand and look out at the Narrows (see conveniently posted photo.....you're welcome) and it's the same view the Ottawa had when they used Birch Point as their summer campground. It's the same view a young Ernest Hemingway had as he paddled his boat through the waters of his childhood, forging the memories from which the Nick Adam's stories were conceived. It's also the same view my two-week old baby boy had for the very first time in July of 1999. "Jack, Walloon. Walloon, Jack. You guys are going to have a beautiful friendship". It's the view he's seen every summer since when I take him over to the club in the little Whaler for camp. As an interesting aside, that is the only boat I am allowed to pilot, even at my advanced age. My dad, it seems has never really gotten over the two car accidents I got into the day I got my license. He's got quite the memory, that one. Particularly when the incident in question resulted in an expenditure of money. I think even dad would admit however, that some things are more important than money (that loud thump reverberating across the nation was likely my dad falling over when he read that line). Like time spent together. And memories. Faithful companions no longer with us spent hours upon hours paddling around that lake, little black head perched just above the water. And working up a mighty fine stench that is seared into our collective olfactory memories. Little ones sat in baby pools under hundred-year old trees because they were too little to really get in the lake. My nephew, who is now about to be a junior at the University of Michigan, stood on the terrace wall and sang songs about poopy pants or some such thing. He was 16. I'm joking. He was like four. I've even planned my funeral which involves being shot out of a cannon and into the lake. After I'm dead of course. The cannon is not involved in my demise. I've shed tears of laughter and of grief in this place. I've devoured countless books here and hatched a million money making schemes. I've also consumed countless cocktails with my dad. Many have been the late afternoon when an exasperated Rose has tried to drag the two of us off of the porch/terrace/dock in an attempt to get us to dinner. When you're solving the problems of the world while looking out on Walloon Lake, dinner doesn't much matter. We can eat when we're dead. Reference cannon. Like I said in my previous post, I'll be up there in a little less than two weeks. My dad called the other day while I was out walking. Dad: "GOOBLER!!!!! I was sitting on the porch last night and having a drink and your chair was just sitting there, flapping in the breeze. When ya getting here?" Not soon enough Dad.......not soon enough. 

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