20 August 2009


I am here in Petoskey, Michigan. My mother has a condo here for the summer. It's a beautiful area here on the shore of Lake Michigan, with all of the little towns very carefully crafted to appeal to wealthy tourists. The waters of the lake are clear and cold and gorgeous in the evening light. But I have to admit to some sadness.

Decades ago, my grandfather Foley bought a cottage up here in Michigan, a small 100-ft place on Crooked Lake. And every summer for years, the family would converge in small groups on the place to go out on the boat, eat Oreos and argue about calories, and visit a few special places like Tom's Mom's Cookies and White Caps. My mother lived in Florida rather than Ohio with the rest of the family, but even so she and my brother and I managed to come up to the family cottage several times. The first such trip when I was twelve, I jumped into the lake and cut my leg down to the bone on the first day, souring the experience. But as I grew older, I began to be extremely fond of the place, and of lying in the hammock in a cooling summer afternoon.

When my grandmother Foley died, one of my aunts and my uncle went in with my mother and used part of their inheritance to acquire the cottage ("trading in" the money they would have gotten otherwise). But due to family friction over the succeeding few years, my mother has decided to pull out. I was lucky, and still got to go last year, one last time. But it looks as if my aunt and uncle are going to try to just sell the lot.

Last time I was there, I took pictures of the doorframe where the heights of dozens of Foley family children were marked. I got a shot of the rough pencil notes of my grandfather, scrawled along the staircase ("lightning struck, stumps removed - May 1954"). And I swam far out onto the lake at dusk.

But now it's gone. And so while my mother's expensive condo is right nearby, and we still go to all the places and I still have to listen to all the stories ("Al, when I was a girl, we would go down to the library there in Conway and smoke cigarettes outside."), it really does feel like something has passed.

The town is quite nice. Hemingway's family used to summer nearby, and many of the places are famous local hang-outs that he once frequented. Tonight my mother and I are dining at the City Park Grill, where Hemingway was allegedly inspired to write his short story "The Killers."

Yesterday I stopped by a local booksellers, to ask about the new Terry Goodkind book, Law of Nines. Goodkind wrote the Sword of Truth series, a fantasy series that began in a fairly mediocre manner but became truly bizarre as it moved on, turning from run-of-the-mill books about a young swordsman/wizard who is fated to save the blahblahblah, and becoming a series of Objectivist speeches. Think John Galt with a sword.

As it turns out, they didn't have the new book (probably for the best, since I would only have hated it and I might as well hate it in the library) so I broke down and bought Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which I am halfway through. It is dancing merrily along the border between clever and obnoxiously self-aware so far, but was certainly worth a read.

I also went to American Spoon, picking up a jar of apple butter and some creamed raw honey. I decided to let Lizzie choose which one she would want of the two.

My mother is preparing single-mindedly for the Mediterranean cruise upon which we will be embarking in a few days. She bought tour guides and special clothing and hats.

Oh, and I rented a tux. I'm going to look fucking dapper.

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