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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Travel, Poetry, and Some Secrets of the “Most Beautiful” Places

Surely you’ve all heard by now—“Good Morning America” found Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore to be the most beautiful place in the United States. We had some stiff competition, so it's pretty big county news. What’s really funny are the different local responses to the news from residents and visitors, old and new, fulltime and parttime. Some, rubbing their hands together, eagerly anticipate a boom, while others shudder in dread of the same. Are big changes in the wind? Will Cape Cod, the Grand Tetons and Hawaii’s golden beaches be deserted for the glories of northern Michigan? Somehow I doubt it. The shelf life of a morning news segment is briefer than anyone imagines.

Meanwhile, here on Waukazoo Street, the bad news or the good news--depending on your point of view--is that the TV crew did not get up to Northport at all. (It's going to take a lot to spoil us!) Even star community booster Mario Batali, when touting area restaurants, doesn't spill all the beans in his poke. For instance, did he tell the world that he brought another visiting celebrity to dinner one night at the Garage Bar and Grill in Northport and that the two of them were back the next day for lunch with Mario's wife? No, he did not. We here at the northernmost end of Leelanau County still have some--er, oops! Cat out of bag! Sorry, Bruce and George!

Really? Honestly? I can think of countless beautiful places in Michigan that tourists from New York and California, let alone other parts of the world, never see. They don’t even suspect the existence of these secret gems hidden away in plain sight but perhaps without a lot of signs pointing the way. My friend Laurie and I spoke of this years ago, lying in the sun on the dock at Charley and Mary’s lake—which is what we always called it, and I’ll say no more about where in the state it is to be found. Unsung treasures! I’m sure that what is true of Michigan is true of every state and every country in the world. It’s been true of every place I’ve ever visited, at least.

Then there was this summer story:

“Stranded in Northport”

A woman not interested in art or books—although, in fairness, maybe she would have been some other time—spent a quarter of an hour in my bookstore on her cell phone, discussing with someone on the other end the calamity of being “stranded in Northport” due to boat engine troubles. When she got off the phone and relayed the latest news to her husband, he said cheerfully, “So maybe I should get two books then!” Her reply: “That’s not funny.” I thought it was. I thought it showed true vacation spirit.

How many people slaving away at jobs in unappealing places would love to be “stranded in Northport” on vacation? A man from Wisconsin got a big laugh at Barb’s Bakery one morning a few years back when he declared Northport “the holy grail” of destinations. But then, he had to make the trip on his sailboat through “Death’s Door” to get out of his Wisconsin port and arrive here safely.

Follow the crowd or take the road less traveled? It can still make all the difference. What’s your take?


Gerry said...

You did a much better--and kinder--post about all this than I drafted. Maybe I'll go ahead and post it anyway. OK, I just did. What the heck.

Someone who sits in Dog Ears Books kvetching about being stranded in Northport is possibly a lost cause, and certainly misses out on a great many of life's serendipitous pleasures.

That fencerow photo makes me want to go for a nice walk right now, quite possibly in the vicinity of Northport.

P. J. Grath said...

I would get more perturbed by the complainers if I didn't feel so sorry for them. This morning we had the opposite--the place was packed with folks delighted to stumble upon us, thanking their lucky stars. That was nice!

P. J. Grath said...

Okay, here's what Gerry had to say:

Dawn said...

Stranded in Northport!? PLEASE let me be stranded in Northport! The woman had no class, no vision, and not much of a life I'd say. Feel sorry for the husband. Love the fence.

P. J. Grath said...

The lichens on the old split-rail fence are charming close up, too, Dawn.

Maybe the woman was just having a bad day. In fact, I'm sure she was!

Helen of Farshaw's<> said...

Well: for many years, you've invited me to visit, and this post may just have tipped the [plane] in your direction!

P. J. Grath said...

Helen! Really? Just let me know when so I can plan for time to show you around properly!

Kathy said...

I suspect a lot of folks would love to be stranded in Northport--or the U.P. So much of it is perspective.

P. J. Grath said...

You are so right, Kathy. Can you imagine Dorothy complaining of being "stranded in Kansas"? There's no place like home! Or a beautiful place to visit, either!