Archive for August 12th, 2011

Perpetual tension of This vs That

Chips and dip of manistique

Manistique bears its contradictions without apology—or perhaps simply without awareness.

Its Ben Franklin sells a wide variety of non-grocery items and has this loverly offering, which I hesitated to attempt to date based on the packaging, preferring to let it remain a mystery (against my archaeological instincts). And behind it, with a sample just visible on the wall, is an extensive section of quilting calicos, some of which are exquisite.

Just this summer, Jack’s, a grocery store, moved to a new building, from in-town one block off the main drag to the east margin of town. The new building demonstrates the epitome of contemporary grocery-ology. The deli section is huge, and you can get more than thin-sliced ham and potato salad dosed with glop in a dreadful shade of pale yellow. I tasted a delicious apple-raisin dessert, and saw many tasty-looking dishes (but no sushi; this is the UP after all). Over in the wine section, I noted a few bottles that were upwards of $30 along with a range priced below that; I cannot imagine such a selection in the UP of a decade ago, except perhaps tucked in a dusty corner in Marquette (a college town after all).

I suspect the bankers financing this new-Jack’s are holding their breath, as it was just announced that the city’s largest employer (I’m pretty sure), the paper mill, will be closing soon. On the other hand, perhaps the real customer for this upscale merchandise comes almost exclusively from the outside, that is, seasonal visitors with credit cards linked to distant zip codes.

Perhaps, though, my concept of the UP’s economics are dated, and Manistique’s new Jack’s is the current status quo for the eastern UP.

Back to this immediate area….

I seem to be unable to resist commenting on the weather many days. Today, it’s well worth some attention. About 4:30 in the afternoon, as we were returning from Curtis and rounding the east end of the lake, we transitioned from dry roads into a gusting rain in about a hundred meters. The cell tossed aloft leaves ripped from the trees, and, in another quarter mile, dumped sleet (oops) hail with the hard rain. Ice nodules banging on a vehicle’s metal skin take me back to a sleet hail storm in the Mixteca Alta that left us sitting in our seats as the sun that followed illuminated a sparkly, white, slippery landscape, easily seen from our position trapped at the bottom of a clay-slicked dip between moderate hills. After several hours, and with three guys nudging the Land Cruiser when it threatened to slide off the road in the process of moving forward and upward, we did make it out; I did not look forward to sleeping in the vehicle.

We took refuge beneath a tree on a side road, gambling that our arboreal shield would stand as it protected us from the brunt of the potentially metal-denting sleet hail. After about ten minutes the worst was past and we turned around and forged on. As we came down our road, we only had to steer around one downed tree, and the gravel bore many leaves and small dead branches, reminding me that the Prius is not an off-road vehicle.

When we got back to the house, of course the power was out. I say “of course” because, as our neighbor noted the other day, “It seems whenever we have a zephyr, the power goes out.” Our real dilemma, beyond the freezer and how much water was in the pipes, was that we’re garden-sitting for that same observant neighbor, and his corn is ripe, and the raccoons will be camped out by the electric fence, and would probably check it to make sure it was live, each and every night after dark. So, we discussed just how unpleasant and possibly necessary it might be to camp out in the garden, even in the rain, to fend off the varmints.

Fortunately, we called in the outage (as near as I can tell no one else did), and in less that an hour a power truck arrived from Newberry. We spoke with the fix-it duo, and they checked down the road for the problem. Perhaps a quarter hour later the power came back on, and we headed out to check the garden’s power, and met the truck returning to make sure we had electricity. They told us that apparently lightning had struck a transformer just up the road. I figure maybe eight customers were affected, and no one else had called, perhaps thinking the outage widespread, or, equally likely—we were the only ones present to notices. So, we were very glad we had called.

The power was out just over two hours, I discovered when I reset the bedside clock. Contemplating a night of outdoor vigilance, it sure seemed longer.

I am reminded that I do not like to awaken to a bat flying about my bedroom. Not that I harbored doubts. The valiant John trapped our latest nocturnal visitor behind the glass when it flew to the screen of an open window. The disconcerting part is that we can no longer find it trapped between the glass and screen. More research needed.