Monday, 30 June 2008


One of my favourite cartoons consists of just two pictures with the caption: ‘One of the guests at this party is a hypochondriac’. The first frame shows a party. The second is in darkness with a chorus of speech bubbles saying "What happened to the lights?" There is a lone bubble which simply says: "My eyes. My eyes!"

One moment I was sitting in a basement bar in Escanaba talking to Johnnie. The next minute everything went black. The power was "out"- which was a shame as Johnnie was telling me how he was thinking of hiring a boat to live on during the summer that he was working here. I was also enjoying an ad on the TV for ‘Dulcolax stool softener’ which had just followed one for "Arisept....Alzheimer's isn't waiting". Wheel of Fortune in this country is obviously aimed at a certain age profile.

What to do now? Bizarrely I was beginning to feel a little peckish. The restaurant shut at 11pm and, providing the power came back, all would be well I was told. So I returned to my room and, as it grew hotter due to the lack of air-con, I typed this blog by the light of the computer which ensured that it made even less sense than normal. I then sent it to the BBC for the team to make more intelligible before putting it up on the site.

Eventually a clang and a whirring noise was heard over the sound of my rumbling stomach as the fans started in the air conditioning unit. The lights came on and I looked at my watch......five past eleven!

I woke up early and stomped out of the motel determined to find some food. Michigan is a treasure trove for old fashioned diner fans. Corporate America has ensured that every town looks the same, but there are some notable exceptions. I found a fantastic café and, for a modest fee, they served up ‘The Skipper’. This was smaller than ‘The Trucker’ which frankly I doubt I could have finished. It was served with the words: "of course you can have that since you asked so nicely." There were smiles and everything, so unlike the café of the other day.

Weather not brilliant so I drove much of the day with the roof up. Still the smells of the forest were tremendous as I rounded Lake Michigan, went over Mackinac Bridge, and drove down towards the peninsular. At one point I noticed something moving rather awkwardly across the road and slowed to observe a turtle crossing. A little later I swerved to avoid a gopher that was hell bent on self destruction.

Miles and miles I travelled through dense woods broken occasionally by the odd shop selling "Pasties" or sometimes even "Pastys". No desire to try one as ‘The Skipper’ was still occupying my insides.

As usual I dawdled and around every mile or so there was another lake with more boats of every shape and size. Apparently due to the rise in fuel prices people are not using their boats as much this year. Also many driveways had a boat with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. Could be some bargains here! Worse still - in one small community not only had high fuel costs damaged the boating and fishing season but, due to a burst bank, the whole lake had vanished and wouldn't be back until next spring. The water in these lakes is tremendously clear but, due to the colour of the earth, they can look jet black.

Eventually I started looking for somewhere to stay so opted for a place just outside Cadillac. Looking at the map I was not more than 150-or-so miles from Detroit....the motor city. Also not far from Pontiac. Hmmmm..I wonder!

Booked into a ‘resort hotel’ which, from some angles, had the look of a ski lodge about it. The old photos inside showed that it had grown up from being a hot-dog stand in the early 50's. When I hit the bar I realised however exactly what sort of ‘resort’ it was. It was golfer’s heaven. Sitting at the bar were a selection of stereotypes all joshing and flirting with the woman behind the bar. I sat and read the paper as they told short jokes about one of their number. They then made a few ribald remarks about the woman's tattoo. One of them got cramp so was standing awkwardly which resulted in a lot of fart gags and noises which they blamed on the woman behind the bar. Big Yocks all round. Meanwhile on the TV in the background, that had previously been showing the baseball, there was a man sitting outside on his terrace by the light of a furnace, cuddling his wife.....yup another Viagra Ad.

At the bottom of the screen it read - "See our ad in Golf Weekly."


Anonymous said...

Hello Alex,

Loving your blogs, you should write a book. Must be about half way now- well it is in time anyway, so all that fun you've had over the past two weeks - you have it all to come again over the next two weeks! How cool is that! You're not missing much here - all very quiet ... You should be well up on your Coffee Shop lingo by the time you get back... mine's a thunderthighs...

The girl that does Yoga...

Holland said...

Hi Alex,

Really enjoying your blogs, you write so well!!!
Hope you have no more rain!


Janet (Holland)

malcolm said...

Good Show Alex!

If I told you I am the same age as Madonna I would be dating myself. But would anyone believe me?

For many kids in Michigan our introduction to music was dancing to vinyl Motown 45 singles playing on a phonograph with our elder sisters and her friends.

Say HI to Janice Long who I listen to {As well as the 'Best Time of the Day' show} when I'm home from my factory job. If you see them, say HI to Steve Wright and Tim Smith who I hear online in the day.

Grand Haven Michigan

BluePixel said...

Great blog as usual Mr Lester.
I too had the weird experience of driving through Pontiac and weirdly I was actually driving a rented Pontiac Grand Prix at the time. It did make me smile. The Americans I mentioned it to didn't see the funny side of it though. I always thought car names like Pontiac and Cadillac were JUST that, car names. I had no idea that they were real places too. Maybe there's a Mondeo town in the UK somewhere or perhaps a town called Mini?
I look forward to your next blogage.