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Friday, May 6, 2011

What to Expect When You Visit Northport

Just up Nagonaba Street from the marina is the Leelanau Township Library, and just past that (white building on left above) is the post office. It doesn't get much more convenient than that for boaters. For vacationers in cars, there is plenty of parking and lots of picnic tables and a playground by the beach. These beautiful flowers are maintained by volunteer gardeners. But instead of showing pictures of everything you'll see when you get here, I've put together a list of things that might surprise you in Northport. Be forewarned!

[For my attempt at translating this post into French, see the following post--and feel free to give me corrections.]

(1) People will smile at you. “Strangers” may even greet you on the sidewalk. Don’t freak out! They are not strangers, after all, are they? They live here, or at least they spend enough time here to realize that there are no strangers in Northport. So you needn’t wrack your brain trying to remember if you’ve met everyone who says “Good morning.” Just smile and say “Good morning” right back.

(2) People will smile and speak to your children. (This is especially true in line at the grocery store.) Don’t worry, we are not kidnappers. I, for instance, am not a “stranger" but the “bookstore lady.” We love kids here and keep an eye on them, and speaking to them directly is our way of recognizing them as human beings and neighbors.

(3) You’ll meet a lot of dogs. We love our dogs, and many of them come to work with us--not in the restaurants or the grocery store but in many other businesses, and we’re not about to change our ways in that regard. Love us, love our dogs. Or, if you don't, keep it under your hat.

(4) You won’t find crowds, except on dog parade day and the Fourth of July. This is a quiet, modest, laid-back kind of place. We don’t consider it boring, but you won’t find movies or comedy clubs here or anything big or anything glitzy.

(5) You can expect to be questioned. People in Northport will ask where you’re from, where you’re staying, if you’ve been here before, what you do for a living, etc. This can feel like friendliness or like an invasion of privacy, but it’s almost always intended as friendliness, so before you take it the wrong way, stop and reflect on all the times you’ve asked folks in some town you’re visiting, “So, have you always lived here? Are you from here? Where did you live before?” etc.

(6) We have a few little bad habits. That’s the very general, generic “we,” because it’s not all of us who, for instance, never signal turns at intersections, but look out and err on the side of caution. (Hint to the wise: Signaling turns is always a good idea, as is respecting speed limits and watching out for kids and dogs and elderly people and everyone else.)

(7) We’re proud of our little village, and we love it and are happy to share it with visitors. There are only a few ways to get our goat, and one is to ask, “What’s the matter with Northport?” or to speculate mournfully on whether or not Northport can be “saved.” If you don’t like us the way we are, you can probably find someplace you like better. (We’re not perfect, but you probably aren’t, either.) Another way to offend is to assume that clerks, waitresses, lawn maintenance people, etc. belong to some servant class beneath your notice. That’s not how it is here. We all know each other, and we address each other courteously, regardless of job title or lack thereof.

That’s how we are. If you don’t like democracy, you won’t like Northport. But I hope you will, because it's a great little place!


Kathy said...

You make me want to visit Northport again. And spend more time there. Don't you love little towns like yours?

P. J. Grath said...

I do, I do, Kathy! Everywhere I go!

Dawn said...

I liked it when I was there over a year ago. And it was before much of anything but the grocery store and the library were open, in early spring. I did actually stop and give an elderly man a ride to town,from out near the antique apple orchard, something I would never have done here. And he DID ask me all those questions, where I was from, where I was staying....LOL.

P. J. Grath said...

Thank you for corroborating my testimony, Dawn. Really, would I lie? Let the witnesses multiply! I like it early in the year, too--about now: soft spring breezes, first flowers (daffodils in gardens, English daisies in the grass), everyone smiling even as they sweep sidewalks and wash winter's grime from windows. It's a very neighborly time of year.