Thursday, September 27, 2012

Salvatore's Rhenish Trifles

I'm going to get back to trying to write real articles someday. The time I have to do anything is curtailed ever more, but this must be getting close to its peak. Someday I will wake up and actually have hours and days on end stretching out before me in which I can scribble away to my heart's desire. But I probably won't want to by then because I'll be too told and I'll have even less to say than I do now. Though maybe I will be able to pick up something of the habit of dispassionate reflection again, which I have not been able to indulge in for some years now. 

These are more Michigan pictures, from the other day (and a half) on which we did not go to Mackinac Island.

1. Miniature Golf Sign and (nearly empty) Parking Lot, With Lake Huron in the Background, Mackinaw City. Mackinaw City is kind of a sad tourist city--most honest guidebooks describe it as the place where all the people stay who can't afford to stay on the island. I probably could have coughed up enough to stay on the island but I actually didn't have any choice, since we didn't know we were going there definitely until about two weeks beforehand, by which time everything in a remotely reasonable price range on the island (i.e., less than $250) was booked up. Mackinaw City for some reason does not have a proper grocery store (just a dinky IGA) or any pharmacy at all, which I don't understand. You have to go a good 30 miles away to find those things, and if you have to go at night the trip is in complete darkness, because no one lives up there at all. Northern Michigan almost makes Vermont look populated. At least towns with a streetlight or two are somewhat closer together in the Green Mountain State. 

2. Golf. My children don't play properly or keep accurate score. I don't know whether this means anything. Like most modern parents, whenever my children do not immediately do something the exact way they are supposed to, nor immediately show promise of excellence to boot, I panic and assume they are doomed, if not absolutely to prison, than at least a lifetime of social ostracism and inability to ever have any hope of vocation or self-support.

3. Bathhouse/Snack Bar at Petoskey State Park, on Lake Michigan. Lower Peninsula, about 30 miles west of Mackinaw City. The beach was in an attractive spot, and I thought the shapes on this building looked interesting enough to take a picture of it (there was, for the record, also a good-looking college girl working at the counter, which gives any place a kind of instant respectability that it may otherwise have lacked). The town of Petoskey, which we did not make it into, is one of the places where Ernest Hemingway's family used to vacation when he was a kid, and of course Michigan features in many of his short stories. "Up in Michigan"--I just read it in the bathroom, it's only five pages long.

4. The Lake. A Day at the Beach. Hemingway. What do I think of him? He seems pitiless, which is a useful trait, though oddly rare in American writers, or at least good ones. And his style, with its seeming bluntness--though it is not really blunt, it is more like broad strokes that evoke more dimensions of atmosphere and character than is common in such a style--it really is a form of Cubism translated to writing, though Joyce is too, in a different way. And I do think he is important. With Americans, the question is always "How deep? How close to any essential question of life? Is his language, his philosophy of the sort to be part of the foundation of a great national culture?" I don't have a sense of what the right answers to these questions would be for anybody anymore?

5. Entrance to Motel, Mackinaw City. I think this was an America's Best Inn or something like that. Not great obviously but not bad. Three beds in the room. Very cheap. It had a good pool. Family accommodation.

6. The Breakfast Room. This was an island in the middle of the parking lot. The breakfast was not too good. Among other problems the attendant was the sort of unpleasant soul who flew into a rage if you did anything impertinent like say, ask if there was any more packets of butter when the basket was empty. My wife, who has no tolerance for such behavior whether it comes from above or below on the social scale, refused to go down after the first day, but I of course could not stay away.

7. Over the Bridge, and Zipping Along Lake Michigan's North Shore Now. 

A short (one minute) film of the beach at Petoskey. Nothing much happens in it, but it strikes me as having an impressionistic quality such as I like. Since putting up these kinds of movies seems to be easy I think I want to try to occasionally make some short videos for the site. I don't think people will want to watch or listen to me droning on about anything for 15 minutes (while slouched at my desk unshowered and clad exclusively in underwear) but there are things I can try to do to adopt an internet film persona.

The annual book meme is out where you turn to page 52 of some book and read the 5th sentence. I like to do this with my own book(s), to see how they compare with real books. The selection from Volume 1 is taken from dialogue and is fairly pedestrian: "We had it at home." Volume 2's however is a much more characteristic offering: "She happened to smile right at Erlsegaard as she said this, for it had taken but a few seconds for her to pick him out as the man present who was and always would be hopelessly in love with her, even assuming he had just seen her for the first time that instant."

How about the picks from some other books? Hemingway's Short Stories: "'The marvelous thing is that it's painless,' he said." From "The Snows of Kilimanjaro".

The Anatomy of Melancholy: "Never so much cause of laughter as now, never so many fools and madmen."

Rick Steves' Spain: "You'll raft the river of Barcelonan life past a grand opera house, elegant cafes, retread prostitutes, brazen pickpockets, power-dressing con men, artists, street mimes, an outdoor bird market, great shopping, and people looking to charge more for a shoeshine than what you paid for the shoes." Wow.

King Rat: "When Larkin saw it he smiled through his pain."

Lonely Planet Spain: "It's not that other cities don't have these things." Talking about Madrid. I am not going to Spain any time soon, by the way. That is just where I want to go at the moment so I have a bunch of guidebooks for it sitting on my desk.

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