Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ice and Leeks, New Resolutions And Sexy Badgers

Hoo boy. The last week has been a constant stream of not-writing. If there were a yearly award for not-writing, I would be a contender, right behind a dude with broken fingers and a block of vaguely man-shaped wood.

That's always the danger about heading up north to visit the parents. There's never a good time to just lock yourself in your room and get things done. Instead, alas, I spent quality-time with some awesome old people, enjoyed several quiet days, finished up reading a bunch of books and helped out with chores. Restful but not conducive to getting things done.

Vacation, at least this kind, is a social activity which actively precludes solitary activities. I suppose I could have put up a big sign outside my door, or maybe sat under a tree with a moleskin notebook, sketching down words with a pensive look on my brow, but it would have been annoying and inconvenient.

"You're writing a book?" my parents would ask.

"Yes. It's about sexy badgers who fight crime in outer space. Also, compound interest."

*long silence*

"We're trading you in for a more normal son."

It was an odd weekend, as if there are any weekends which aren't odd in the Upper Peninsula. The late winter had strange repercussions: even though it was the end of May, spring was just beginning to kick in. The trees were gray and skeletal and only just thinking about budding. The spring plants were in full riot, all the leeks and trilliums and other swamp-loving plants which crowd the woods around my parents house, were out in full profusion. As a result, the entire time I was there the whole place smelled like an Italian restaurant and there was a reflected white glow through the windows from all the blossoms, which are, technically, a protected species in Michigan owing to their rarity in any place other than my parents' backyard. There: as common as pennies.

And yet the weather was pushing eighty much of the time. Felt like summer, but winter still had its claws buried deep, fighting every step of the way out. There was still snow on the ski slopes and ice choking Marquette's harbor. We drove out to Marquette on Saturday to enjoy a new Mexican restaurant near the docks and there were Yoopers in swim trunks and bikinis lining the beaches. After a winter as bad as the one we've just had, you take what you can get, apparently.

The UP is kind of like that. It's one of those places you can tell the tallest tales about and every word winds up true, almost by accident. It snowed on July 4th once. There's a shrine to the guy who invented the highway dividing line and it's only a two hour drive from Paradise (Michigan). There was a blizzard so bad it buried telephone poles. There's exactly one strip club there, and it's in a town which can best be described as having fifty people living within a five hundred foot radius of the community center. Said titty bar is painted bright f'ing pink and has no liquor license--it's technically a tea house.

You can find moose, wolves, cougars, Italians and the world's largest wooden sports dome all within an hour's drive of each other. While you're scratching your head over the wooden dome, you can watch the only current (or ever, really) Finnish-language program airing in the United States.

You get the idea. It's a deeply weird place which gets weirder the more you explore it, more of a fantasy land than anything Tolkien or the like ever conjectured. It's like visiting Oz every time you cross the improbably large bridge guarding its entrance. You find yourself leaving sometimes with a slightly befuddled look on your face while you try to reconcile the fragments of the trip you just had.

Was someone's shed burning down really front page news in the county newspaper? Did you really just see a forty foot wooden Indian in that town you drove by? What's up with all the locally produced commercials? How in the hell can so much wilderness fit into such a small strip of land?

I really need to get back to writing stories about Argyle, the fictional trap town I wrote about last year during my challenge. The beautiful thing is how I don't really even have to do anything to create stories like that--they sort of write themselves. No matter how hard I try, the real UP is weirder. No matter how interesting I try to make my characters, real Yoopers are more fun and likable and ten times more diverse than you can imagine.

Actually, I need to just get back to writing more. Nothing quite like fantastic weather and lack of a ridiculous resolution-with-deadlines-built-in to really spike my productivity.

Okay: here's one. five hundred words every morning, rain or shine, in honor of the end of May, which is now, and I'm totally making this up, the new hipster version of the New Year. I'm making a spreadsheet and I'm going to post the totals at the end of the week. Boom!

Addendum: I need a finish line for this resolution. Some nice round number. 500 days is too long and marathonesque.  100 days, perhaps, with an option to renew. Sweet.

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