Finally! A Vacation!

I’ve been meaning to blog on this vacation for quite a while. I’ve been to busy enjoying it to do anything about it until now. I just woke up ( for no reason that I can figure) at about 4:00am (EDT) and couldn’t get back to sleep. Blogging seemed like something vaguely useful to do. I’m sitting at my laptop with the headphones on listening to WPR’s broadcast of the BBC World Service. I’m realizing how little news I’ve listened to since this trip began. I don’t feel to bad about it. Ingrid and I haven’t had a vacation together in roughly three years. We got something of a late start last Thursday. It took us longer to get packed than we had anticipated. We got on the road just before 5:00pm (CDT). We decide that, even with the late start, we weren’t going to rush. We would arrive when we arrived and no sooner. Destination? St. Joseph, Michigan. Why? Ingrid grew to her teens there and hasn’t been back in forty years. We found that many things had changed, but many others had not. We discovered the difference between the two in our explorations on Friday and Saturday. Ingrid’s old house is still standing, although it has undergone much renovation. It is a small, two story, very blockish sort of house. The kind that most real estate agents would sell to a young married couple as a “starter” house. When Ingrid lived there it was decidedly a “fixer-upper”. That particular part of town; the housing between the train tracks and Lake Michigan, forty years ago, was considered the poor side of town. That is no longer the case. Somewhere along the line, somebody finally figured out that that was lake-front property and the value shot through the roof, as it were. Gentrification has possessed the neighborhood. There has been a lot of restoration and even some new construction there. The house which used to be just south of Ingrid’s, for example, has been torn down and replaced with a McMansion . The downtown area is thriving and vibrant with many diverse shops both new and old. Of the former variety is a small bead shop from which Ingrid has been ordering material for her art and jewelry projects. It took some doing to get her out of there to move on to other shops. Of the latter variety, across the street from the bead shop, is an old style five and dime store which Ingrid remembered from her childhood. The young lady working at the counter told us that her grandmother had worked there as a teenager. At the south end of the downtown strip is a small music store. It’s accent is on band instruments. The walls are covered with trumpets, trombones, and the like. There is a small display of stringed instruments; cheap, acoustic guitars, one or two violins, and a fire-engine red ukulele. In the counter display I found something for which I have been searching for years -- a steel slide whistle. The only ones available in most places are the crummy, little, plastic ones. I couldn’t pass it up. At the north end of the downtown strip in a huge, old, very official looking building which currently houses the St. Joseph Tourist Information Office. The structure was built in 1932 to house a bank. It is startling to imagine that someone had the moxie to establish a bank at the depth of the last Great Depression. The interior has been fully restored. The marble counters and teller-window cages are in tact. Ditto for the original vault doors (although, the vaults are now used to store tourist brochures). The most jangling change, according to Ingrid, is that St. Joe has become a very arts-friendly city. There many outdoor sculptures , and more galleries per block than many, much larger cities. We ended our stay in St. Joe watching (and photographing) the sunset over Lake Michigan. Having grown up in Chicago I have seen many sunrises over the lake. One must admit that most of them were seen as an adult, on a Saturday or Sunday morning, after closing some four o’clock bar (they’re open until five on Friday and Saturday nights). Thus, my appreciation of said events were experienced through something of a haze. That having been said, this particular sunset was very different from anything which I have ever seen. Though the sky was cloudy, they were the sort of puffy, cumulous clouds one associates with a warm, summer evening ( the temperature was in the forties). They formed a great, gauze screen through which bit of sunlight shown , causing the horizon to colorfully glow with the promise of a better tomorrow. Sunday morning we moved north to Ludington, Michigan. I’ll write more about that part of the trip soon. BTW, new photos from this trip are posted in the photo gallery.

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