Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Real Pit Of Trash And Snakes

The first time I made it to the UP in Michigan, I visited the Shipwreck Museum. When I came to Detroit, I had no idea of what "up north" meant -- Detroit was as far up north as I could even imagine! Anyway, as much as I love wrecks and am a trainwreck myself, I can't say that I got all that much out of the museum except a semi-permanent version of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" playing over and over in my head and a few postcards that some unlucky people had the misfortune of receiving. I ate my first pastie on this trip, a grim little concoction stuffed with meat that I savored as much as I could which was not at all. But I did think about the museum after, the sign that read "Why We Ask You Not To Touch," the artifacts that people had retrieved, that damn Gordon Lightfoot song.

Lots of things sink to the bottom of a lake. I've never been one of those athletic types that wanted to plunge into the depths and find what lies beneath the surface. The largest body of water I grew up near was Possum Kingdom Lake, a real pit of trash and snakes, and although I had heard rumors of man-sized catfish swimming its depths, I had no desire to see them, let alone risk the bends and whatnot. I'm a person prone to panic and without much common sense. But thank God some people can dive deep and see the trash and treasure, letting the rest of us know what others have lost along the way.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"What few people know is that Lake Superior stays so cold that drowned bodies never make it to the surface." Jim Harrison

Cocktail Hour

Bada Bing

Drink whatever soothes you for the final episode!

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Saturday! The VERY last Sopranos ever tomorrow!


Susan Miller said...

I don't know, but it always seems like you dive pretty deep here. For me, this type of diving is more interesting than exploring the depths that lead us to the material things.

eric313 said...

At least you stayed away from the local crystal meth when you where there. Many zombies today should have followed this example.
I heard on NPR that somebody recently did their dissertation work on northern Michigan's peculiar dialect. I bet that person hasn't ever had the pleasure of being chased by gunpoint from a deer blind in the middle of the woods. Or from a bar, or someone's trailer. There's nothing to do in northern Michigan but shoot things, get drunk and have sex. That's the tri part fulcrum on which northern culture swings here in the glove. At least there are things to do in Detroit. Like have sex, get drunk and shoot things. Only with a better selection of music. Right under the thumb of the glove.

It is a different culture up there in the green paper forests, the almost two thousand abandoned logging and mining towns with clear streams of quicksilver so thick there's a timetable to tell a person exactly how often they can safely eat fish from the Great Lakes basin without risk of toxic shock. Many of the Japanese fishermen who once sailed around the world and up the St. Lawrence seaway every year no longer make that 18,000 mile plus journey, as the smelt and other small schooling fish are recognized as a mildly threatening part of their diet and now ply other waters. The birds that traditionally migrate here are becoming extinct and children occasionally get hepatitis from syringes at beaches covered by our own refuse and waste that we dump into the most valuable and under-rated and yet obvious resource this state has beyond it's divers people. Couple all this with the decline of industry and commerce pillars that identified the spirit of the cities and rural areas alike, a steadily eroding standard for public education and an exodus of the best and brightest young talent headed for anywhere but here, and you have a living, wasting tragedy in which one can find every desperate feeling and terrible dull ache of a spirit and heart, every distress and danger and where you can still occasionally find love, if you're good and you stop searching just right. There's one of the lonely positive aspects of living in a dying land, that around you are those whose hearts say many of the smae words and bare the same scarss that will onday be their death. But love for what once was has to reconciled with love for what is left after loss. It is all we got, as so many great performers in this city's past have sang over the airwaves to the rest of the world that listened to its every beat as a doctor might hear the heart of a loved patient with more care and intuitive grace than that of another, even if not doing so consciously. It is only the natural reaction of a person witnessing the slow demise of a cherished friend. And now that the great past has fallen to present decay, and the ears of the world turn elsewhere, the people of Michigan's green forests and rusting places are left to listen in peace to the heart of a tired giant whose songs have been many and great but are slowly fading off into the swirl of echoes, held only in the chambers of our hearts. We love every pulse, but with acceptance of inevitable loss comes change; and with this change will trully come a new culture, and maybe if one is good good, they might be able to find a new love here in the north.

eric313 said...

and I agree with Susan. She summed it up beautifully. Of course you could tell...

eric313 said...

this pic is the coolest.

the walking man said...

Good God what a dissertation Eric, The Upper Peninsula was given to Michigan as a trade off to stop a border war between what was the State of Ohio and the territory of Michigan. It was the acceptance of that treaty that allowed Michigan to become a state. We got the UP and they got Toledo.

Pasties were originally made for the copper miners to take down in the mines for their lunch, the ground up meat and vegetables is mostly not too palatable because it really needs about six beers to get one down, three while you think of eating it and three while you eat it. They look like a folded over piece of Pita bread with the edges pinched together, the worst of it for me was the bread, made out of a strange flour concoction that came out like a southern girls first attempt at biscuits.

The UP was settled mostly by Finnish and in case you don't know they are historically a dour, sad lot of people, who went into the mines for pennies a day and mined the copper out until there was no economy left. Now there is tourism on the western edge of the UP and the rest are pretty much allowed to secretly poach whatever game they want including bear which will get them through the winters where sometimes thirty feet of snow is not uncommon.

The YOOPERS call us trolls and they think of us as all a bunch of sissies that should stay where the hell we are and leave them alone. They spend a healthy part of the spring and summer logging wood not only for sale but mostly to split to get them through the winters, but the entire area is far from logged out.

The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is about the most famous thing to have ever happened up there. In heavy 30 -40 foot seas it began to take on more water than it could pump out and went down whole , halfway or so to the bottom of the the lake the keel which had been stressed and bent on the surface for reasons still unknown, broke the ship into two pieces.

The wreck was found 17 miles from white Fish Point which was the safe harbor it had been searching for. Radar and radio on the laker and the land based direction finder of the White Fish Point lighthouse were all non functioning because the storm knocked them out.

So the captain was basically trying to sail by instinct. he had many years experience on the lake. Every year at the Mariners church in Detroit on the anniversary of the sinking they toll the church bell 28 times for the crew which were all lost at sea.

A few years ago divers went and removed the original ships bell which sits in the museum Michelle mentioned and another bell with the names of the lost crew was welded in it's place. The site at the request of the families is now off limits to divers and is considered a gave site.

Gitchegoomee never gives up her dead (sic Gordon Lightfoot) which was the aboriginal word for Lake. Superior.

More useless information the Walking Man dived for and found down there


Jon said...

You're right...the Yoopers have no use for the Trolls or Lopers...except for thedollars we leave behind; both tourist and tax. Detroit gets a bad name for its high number of welfare people...I'd bet if you looked at the stats for the UP, you'd shiver. Probably the same for murders in numbers per thousand.

Driving along Route 2 may be beautiful to some. It seems more to me a great green desolation.

A perfect place to move Guitmo to, eh?

eric313 said...

I thought it was cool, Mark.

Grist for the mill, eh, m?
Maybe I'll write more.

eric313 said...

Yes, the "Toledo war" echoes on today. We must never forget the dozen men and yoiuths who were tarred and feathered in Monroe, MI.
(true fact)
Never again.