Tag Archives: Petoskey

Books I Don’t Like


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I am reading Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. As I was browsing the bookstore in Petoskey last weekend, the owner walked by just as I picked it up. “That’s a great book,” he gushed, “I didn’t like the movie, and the next two in the series aren’t nearly as good, but that book is fantastic.”

I took it directly to the counter, with one other selection, based solely on that recommendation. I didn’t read the back cover, the reviews on the inside flap, or  even the first few sentences of text. That’s how much I trust the opinion of a book store owner.

That was a mistake.

It is a well-written book. It has grabbed and held my attention. If I walk away from it, I will be haunted by questions of how it all works out. I may do just that, anyway.

I do not like books that disturb my rest.

I don’t like to think of our human race as evil.

I like redeeming characters, and I expect a happy ending.

There seems to be a trend, lately, for books – movies, too – that place humans in awful situations, forced to do unthinkable things to survive.

It’s not altogether new. I am still haunted by books like The Grapes of Wrath, Sister Carrie and As I Lay Dying, all classics by revered authors. I still remember a couple short stories that were required reading in high school. The first was To Start a Fire, perhaps by Jack London, about a man dying in the frozen wilderness. The second was about a hive of bees, as it was attacked and destroyed by ants. I’m sure the writing was wonderful and the message strong, but they each left me horrified.

I have two books partially read that I had to put down just because I couldn’t take it anymore.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller is a science fiction book set in this country, in the near future, after a flu epidemic wiped out most of the population and some kind of nuclear incident poisoned the water. Roving bands of pillagers are a constant threat. It is filled with one heart-breakingly beautiful sentence after another. It is still not worth it. Not to me.

Slammerkin by Emma Donaghue is set in 18th century London. A young girl is accosted on the street, becomes pregnant from the encounter, is kicked out onto the street by her mother, is gang-raped, contracts gonorrhea, is taken in by a prostitute who gets her started in the business…there is no way this is going to have a happy ending. Donaghue is a good writer with a strong feminist perspective. I have read and enjoyed many of her books. I could not finish this one.

Child 44 is set in the Soviet Union at the end of Stalin’s regime. Crime is “non-existent” except for crimes against the state. Everyone is afraid. Anyone could be the next one accused of disloyalty. Children turn in their parents, neighbors report neighbors, family  members turn on each other  to save themselves. It appears that there is a real killer out there, murdering children. To say it out loud, certainly to investigate, would be seen as treason. I’m learning a great deal. It is holding my interest. Still, it disturbs my sleep. I may have to set it aside as well.

I don’t mind strong subject matter. I can stand tension; I can handle a little fear. What I need, along with that, is a thread of humanity, a hero or two, the promise of something better…

Without something to save it, a well-written book is just not good enough.





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This blurry image, taken at dusk , from the door of the Super 8 Motel is the best I’ve got to offer tonight. The white picket fence is hiding the traffic from view, as M31 is just the other side of it. If it were clearer, and if there were no obstructions, Lake Michigan would be off in the distance.

This has been a long day!

I was up at six, to make coffee and give Rosa Parks lots of love and attention. I had loaded all the suitcases but one in the car last night. After I showered and dressed, I dropped a few last minute items into that bag – deodorant, toothpaste and make-up, after I used them – and it was ready to go, too. The little dog came with me while I ran a couple errands and brought my luggage to the airport. Then to the kennel for Rosa Parks, who did me the good service of wagging her tail all the way in, and settling right down on the fleecy rug. Back to the airport, then, to meet Aunt Katie for our flight.

What a flight it was!

When the winds of November are blowing hard, and folks ask me whether they should take the (2 hour) ferry boat ride or the airplane, I always say, “Oh, definitely the plane! That’s twenty minutes of absolute terror, rather than two hours of it!”

Well, it was terrifying today!

I’ve been on worse flights, granted.

However, Aunt Katie and I were in the very back of the plane, in the last seat. The seat that would usually have been in front of us (that I could usually grab on to, when the ride was bumpy) had been removed, leaving a wide expanse between us and the next seat. I think that made the turbulence seem more extreme.

I actually called out twice, in terror, as we tossed and tumbled our way through the sky. Even over the water, where a bumpy flight is usually calmer, we leaned one way and seemed to slide through the sky to the left, then leaned the other way, and slid to the right. Aunt Katie was trying to instruct me about the shopping list. I said, “I can’t listen right now, Aunt Katie, I am concentrating on keeping this plane in the air!”

Which made her smile.

On the ground, I got Aunt Katie situated in the passenger seat of the car, collected our luggage, a quick pit stop and we were off. First to LinCare, to pick up an oxygen concentrating machine and the necessary tubes and connectors. Then to Petoskey, to see the first of three doctors on the agenda for this trip.

“Go! Shop! You don’t have to wait,” Aunt Katie told me, “I’ll be here for hours!”

The one and only time I did that, she was out in record time, and standing outside waiting for me…on her wobbly legs…with a big scowl on her face when I got back from shopping.

“I’m fine,” I told her, “I’m going to catch up on  People magazine.”

She was in and out in less than an hour, with a good report and her next appointment set for six months from now.

I picked up take-out from Subway, and cold beer from Rite-Aid. We checked in at the Super 8. I carried in all the necessities. Aunt Katie got settled in. We had lunch.

Shopping, next. I looked over the list Aunt Katie handed me. It was pretty specific, based on advertised specials. Notes in the margin said “4 for $3.00” or “$1.99 each.” “No substitutions!” was written boldly across the bottom. The only Spartan store in the area was quite a ways north, past Bay View. It was the oddest lay out of any grocery store I’ve ever been in! I wandered the store for two hours, before fulfilling the list.

Meanwhile, the rain continued, with dropping temperatures, then turned to an icy snow. I should have packed a winter coat!

I’m in for the night now. We had pizza delivered. I just opened a beer. I think I’ll get into pajamas and watch Jeopardy from the comfort of my bed. Tomorrow will be another long, busy day!













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I used to meet a friend on the mainland, for a couple days of shopping and conversation.

Linda would drive across the state; I’d fly off the island. We’d meet in Charlevoix. Sometimes we’d gravitate north to Petoskey, for familiar sites, family history, bookstores and restaurants. Other times we’d go south, to Traverse City, for a change of pace.

Linda usually brought her dog on these mini-vacations, so we’d take turns: one of us would go in to check out a shop while the other stayed outside with the dog.

Once, in Traverse City, Linda went in to a New Age book store. I stayed on the sidewalk.

After a few moments, Linda came out. “She wants to see you!” she said, “That psychic, she wants you to go in to talk to her!”


In my almost fifty years of association with Linda, I can count on one hand the times someone chose to focus on me over her.

Charming, charismatic and funny, with a deeper, spiritual side and a manner of listening that made any speaker feel important, everyone – from bartenders to shoe salesmen and even my own children – would rather talk to Linda!

Why had this woman asked to talk to me?

Was I in trouble?

Maybe she felt I was loitering? Surely Linda would have told her I was waiting for her.

If it was the dog – if she loved the look and wanted to know the breed or if I shouldn’t be lingering outside with a dog – I would be quick to tell her the dog was not mine.

What could it be??

I went inside. She gestured for me to come over, and offered me a seat. She leaned back in her chair and gave me a big smile.

“So…” she said, “I can tell that you see the Wee Folk.”

What would make her think something like that? What would make her ask it?

I am small in stature, perhaps it was a matter of “like is drawn to like.”

It has been pointed out to me that I smile, even when alone in my car with no one to be smiling at. Perhaps I was smiling, out on the sidewalk with the dog, and she felt it was the smile of someone who associated with Wee Folk.

Perhaps she was a fake psychic, and was trying to draw me in to her strange world by giving me weird imaginary powers.

What to say?

Any reference to weirdness or odd-ball ideas or charlatanism were out: this woman had summoned me when she could have been speaking to Linda, who actually is psychic, and understands all of it much better than I do, and who most everyone in the world would rather be talking to.

Of course I would be kind.

I considered brushing it off with a flip comment: “Some people think I am one of the Wee Folk,” but her gaze was sincere.

I told her the truth.

“I don’t,” I answered, “but I see where they live.”

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In my walks along wood-lined paths and roadways, sometimes – deep in the woods – an area glows as if lit from within, though there is no obvious source of light.

There must be a break in the canopy of treetops, that lets the sunlight through.

Of course there is a practical and understandable explanation.

But when I see a far bright spot in the center of a dark woods, with grass and leaves and mosses of diminutive size, glowing like the saints in old paintings, with twigs laid out as if by plan, I think of the leprechauns and faeries and wee folk.

If I listened hard enough, I’m sure I’d hear their music.

If I waited, I might even catch a glimpse.

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A Day on the Mainland



The day before yesterday, I traveled with my aunt to the mainland.

Aunt Katie had medical tests scheduled, an appointment with her lawyer, and plans to do some visiting and shopping. She can still drive, but prefers not to when off the island. She invited me along to be her driver.

She mentioned it first a few weeks ago.

“I’ll bet you’d like a trip to the mainland!” was how she worded it.

It’s not easy for her to ask for help.

“I’d love it!” was my reply.

The “mainland” is thirty-two miles away by ferry boat or small plane, to Charlevoix (the Beautiful), in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Two hours by boat, twenty minutes by plane. When I came to Beaver Island on vacation, I always took the boat; since I’ve lived here, the plane is the most practical means of transportation. From Charlevoix, it is a half-hour drive north to Petoskey, to the clinic where Aunt’s medical tests were taking place. Her friend, Rose, is in Petoskey, too; the lawyer, in Charlevoix. She had a list to fill at the grocery store, and another for the pharmacy, based on sales she had found advertised in the paper.

I made arrangements to have the day off work.

I started thinking of all the things I’d love to do, with a little spare time on the mainland.

Maybe, since our flight was early, we could drive through McDonald’s for breakfast.

I know it’s not healthy, but it’s a rare treat. When I’m on the mainland, I allow myself the indulgence of a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich. If I’m traveling downstate to see my family, I also allow myself a large bag of Mesquite Barbecue “Krunchers” Potato Chips…but that’s another story.

A quick run into the second-hand store would be fun.

I’ve been watching for clothes suitable for work. We have a nice re-sale shop here on the island, but the one in Charlevoix is good, too. My daughters (who would have scorned the idea back when I was buying their clothing) discovered second-hand shopping when they realized their children grew faster than the cost-of-living, and they’ve turned it into an art! “Look at the labels first,” they tell me. There is no sense spending two dollars on something you could buy brand new for ten. The goal is to find good labels that speak of excellent quality and high prices…then you know you have a “steal” at two dollars. There are rules about checking for working zippers, missing buttons, split seams and stains. Of course, things like size and style come into play, too, and the best things won’t last, which makes the last rule very important: “Go often!”

What a treat to find time to visit a bookstore!

We used to have a nice bookstore here on Beaver Island, run by my friend, Mary Blocksma. She offered wonderful books and art, yoga classes, writing groups and great conversation in a room attached to her little home (where she often fed me lovely meals based on her knowledge of Indian cuisine or local mushrooms). She found self-publishing and book tours too costly to run from the island, and moved to a city down-state. I was broken-hearted when she left. We have an excellent library, but I love a good bookstore. When I get to the mainland, I like to stop at Book World in Charlevoix, Horizon Books or – my favorite – McLean & Eakin in Petoskey.

A quick run into Cherry Republic for their (absolutely wonderful) Cherry Scone Mix, and a dash into American Spoon Foods for a couple jars of salsa and their Cherry-Berry Conserve would be fantastic. If time allowed for a trip to The Grain Train in Petoskey, I could replenish my supply of rice, barley and beans for winter.

I’d check the grocery store for sales while Aunt Katie shopped. There were a couple personal care items I needed from the pharmacy, too.

I arrived at Aunt’s house at 8:25, with my first cup of coffee in hand. It is suggested that passengers be at the airport a half hour before the flight. Ours was scheduled for 9AM, so we were already rushing.

A few big raindrops started coming down as we drove to the airport, but the winds were calm.

The plane left on time and the ride was smooth.

I picked up the key at the desk, and wandered through the parking lot to get Aunt’s car. We – those of us that use her “mainland vehicle” – are always instructed to park as close to the terminal building as possible, in the long-term parking. For some reason, this day it was parked in the farthest space, in the most distant lot. By the time I found it, and drove around to the terminal to pick up my aunt, she was more than anxious to get underway.

Scratch McDonald’s, on to Petoskey.

First stop, the clinic. We were almost an hour early for Aunt’s appointment, but she checked in at the desk, and the receptionist said she might be able to get in early.

“This will take at least two hours,” Aunt Katie said, “Don’t you have some running around you’d like to do?”

She’d said that same thing to me the last time I brought her to this clinic. I’d headed for the gas-light district, went to my favorite bookstore, brought my purchases next door to the “Roast ‘n Toast” for a cafe mocha and a croissant, and got back to the clinic in a little over an hour. My 83 year old aunt was standing outside on her poor, wobbly legs waiting for me. “You’re late!” was the greeting I got.

Aunt Katie was the one that taught me how to handle disagreements with “stubborn Germans” like my father. “Don’t argue,” was her advice, “You’ll never win. Lower your eyes, bow your head, say ‘you are absolutely right’, then go on and think however you want to.”

Turns out, it was great advice.

Recognizing Aunt Katie as another “stubborn German”, I just said, “Sorry, Aunt Katie, I missed the turn.”

Not wanting to find myself in the same position this time, I said, “Thanks, Aunt Katie, but I think I’m just going to catch up on my magazine reading.”

This time, her tests took over two and a half hours.

Probably especially true in an election year, but Time and Newsweek magazines are pretty worthless if they’re more than two months old. People magazine is not much better.

By the time we got out of there, we had directions to Rose’s new home, but no time to go there. Aunt Katie was hungry. So was I, but I’d have happily settled for just another cup of coffee. No time for any of that, we had to get back to Charlevoix for the appointment with the lawyer.

Paperwork reviewed, signed and notarized, copies made, instructions given, pleasantries exchanged and we were off to get some lunch.

One bowl of soup, each: navy bean with ham. A beer for Aunt Katie; coffee for the driver.

Back to Petoskey, then, to see Rose. We found the place without incident, and had a good visit.

Aunt Katie’s legs were bothering her quite a bit by the time we left, so it was decided I’d do the shopping and she’d wait in the car. The pharmacy first, as it was right on the corner. I managed to work through her – very specific – list, in that – totally unfamiliar to me – store in what I thought was record time. “We’re running out of time!” was the greeting I received as she opened the back door for me to deposit the armload of boxes and bags. “We’re doing okay,” I told her. “A half hour to get back to Charlevoix will leave twenty minutes for me to run through the grocery store, and we can still get to the airport by five o’clock, with plenty of time to park before our 5:30 flight.”

“But you had stops you wanted to make!”

“No, Aunt Katie, nothing specific. I’m good.”

“The re-sale shop!”

“I think they closed at four o’clock. That was only if we had extra time.”

“You wanted to go to the bookstore. Well, you have too many books already.”

“You’re right, there!”

So, on to the grocery store with another list, and on to the airport (where I found a nice, close-to-the-terminal parking spot) and on to the small plane for a nice flight home.

A LOVELY day on the mainland!