I may feel about yesterday's
journey across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, today made the trek
Sister Betty's seamstress and the first straight woman I've ever taught
how to rim (no, I didn't provide skin-to-skin instruction) sent me this
note when she learned I planned to visit Mackinac Island:
"SB, I am soooo excited you are gonna be in
"We used to go to Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw)
Island in the summers for vacation, from our cottage in the 'Upper Lower'
(that's the upper Lower Peninsula). You will be hangin' with the "Yoopers"
up 'der, eh! (U.P-ers, i.e, Upper Pennisula dwellers--basically Canadians
who can vote in the States).
MUST buy some penuche fudge. YOU MUST!!!! It is phenomenal, but you have
to buy it from a place where you can see the zitty teenagers making it
on a big marble slab."
The sky was overcast and hinted of rain when I
arose. I headed out after liberally applying mosquito repellant and
suntan lotion (one can never be too careful about premature aging of the
skin). There are only two ways to reach Mackinac Island: boat
or airplane. As the Invisible Jet has been in the shop for some months,
the landing strip on Mackinac is a bit short for turbo engine aircraft
and I'm conserving fuel as a war protest, I chose one of the three competing
ferry lines and climbed aboard. (One must always remember to wear underwear
while in an invisible jet - especially in these more conservative states.
On a muggy day, going commando is just so much more comfortable.)
Island is Michigan's summer resort (and summer home to their governor as
well). Settled by Catholic priests in the late 1600's, it became
a military outpost occupied first by the British, then the Americans, then
the British and then the Americans. After the Civil War, the island
attracted tourists and changed from military base to resort destination.
The Army continued a presence on the island until the 1900's. The
Army left and the state turned the fort into a historic park.
With the exception of aircraft and a single ambulance,
motor vehicles are prohibited on the island. Horse drawn carriages
carry everything including tourists, police, food, garbage and big-screen
televisions. I witnessed the UPS horse cart, complete with brown-uniformed
driver, delivering on the island today.
headed to the stables and rented a horse and buggy for a trip around the
island. My assigned horse, Mike, has been worked the island for the
better part of two decades. As we set out, Mike made it clear who
was in charge. From time to time, he threw his head back and yelled
at no one in particular. Then he sniffled. Or, I thought he
sniffled. I later realized he was farting at rather regular intervals.
When I snapped the reigns a bit to encourage Mike to break out of his more-than-leisurely
pace, he turned his head, rolled his eyes, looked over one shoulder at
me and continued to move at the same slow speed. Mike was in no hurry
and if I wanted to go faster, I could get out and walk. Dominance
established, Mike and I took nearly two hours to complete our one hour
the time I returned Mike to his stable the clouds were gone and the day
was sunny. I decided to climb up the hill and visit Fort
I was never big on scouting. In fact, I
was asked to leave Cub Scouts as a child - for reasons that had nothing
to do with me and a story I will tell another time. Whatever I may
have missed the Navy taught me later: survival, how to tie a knot
and that even ugly people can look good in uniform.
Bear in mind that Fort Mackinac was abandoned
by the Army over a hundred years ago, Canada is a relatively peaceful neighbor
and that the British haven't sent warships to the Great Lakes in recent
memory. Even so, some bright adult got the idea the Boy
Scouts should guard this decaying old fort against...something.
Every door, every corner, every turret was manned by a Boy Scout standing
at parade rest. Clearly miserable, these children were forced to
stand in two-hour shifts in the hot sun largely ignoring, and ignored by,
the tourists. In reply to my question about the purpose of their
mission, a boy scout replied: "I dunno, we do this every year."
Well, hooray for Homeland Security!
bit of inside gay humor: One of the scouts was standing guard next
to a door marked "Tea
My exploration of Fort Mackinac complete, I wandered
into the town. I quickly observed two things: First, Mackinac
Island may be the whitest place I've ever been in my life. There
was nary a black or Hispanic person to be seen walking the streets - except
in maid or butler livery from the expensive hotel on the hill. Second,
guys on the island were the trash
collectors and horse-manure sweepers who drive horse-drawn garbage
trucks and wear sweaty shirts.
Island is also famous for its fudge. The main street houses a half-dozen
competing fudge producers. Michigan is a good place for an island
which serves primarily fudge, ice cream, fudge, hot dogs, fudge and soda.
This may also explain why most of the carts are pulled by teams of horses.
Not wanting to violate local custom, I bought and consumed the requisite
quarter pound. Later, to be certain I'd done my share, I bought another
quarter pound for the ride home (and two, three-pound boxes to mail home).
In retrospect, today sounds like a bad gay porno
movie: Sweaty garbage man pulls up to the fort and asks the Scout:
"How's that fudge?" (No nasty email please, you aren't paying for
a healthy steak dinner and two glasses of wine, I wandered back to the
ferry as the sun set in the west.
The moon has risen full, yellow and heavy from
the lake. Ducks and geese waddle down the beach highlighted by the
moon's reflection on the tiny waves. A half-consumed piece of fudge
calls quietly from the nightstand. Tomorrow
[PS - This
is a "Red
Nun Buoy". See, nuns provide assistance to sailors, too.]