Up North

The following story is a fictitious combination of several real Michiganders. Nonetheless, I believe it accurately captures the essence of a quintessential Michigan ideal.

Pink, yellow, purple; dappled clouds, the sun, birds; and noise, wondrous noise, outside the cracked windows. This is the life, carved from virgin forests, subdivisions of eternal peace and order. Up north, a million miles away from home, WKLT 97.5 Kalkaska and The Eagle’s “Take It Easy”, feelings poured out like cheap beer, endless benders down the shallow rapids of the Rifle River in an inner tube.

Back to sleep.

He worked his whole life for this, the “cabin”, a dark green clapboard house deep in the woods near Skidway Lake, Michigan. All those years down in the Ford factory, sweating bullets while he affixed that same hubcap over and over under the wan, sickly light – it was enough to drive you crazy, and it probably did, but who could really tell?

It was all worth it.

Lord knows how he drove back to that soulless complex of boxes five times a week with clockwork precision, relentless in his grim pursuit. He’d tell his coworkers about his movie ideas on breaks or when the line got slow to pass the time, that perfect first shot of himself sitting in front of a television with a loaded gun on the coffee table. The tension, the emotion. The rest of his imagined magnum opus proceeded like a Vin Diesel flick, a barrage of obscene explosions and narrow escapes, bigger than life itself. If they’d just give him a big Hollywood budget, or let him run the factory for a few days, it’d all make sense.

In his mind.

When he was hired by “Ford’s”, the drive from his home in Sterling Heights was only a half hour. Not too bad. Then, he moved up near Port Huron move into his wife Pam’s house, a bungalow from the 1940s with low ceilings and dated crosshatch wallpaper. The drive was over an hour from there, and maybe Pam’s didn’t have a portico or Palladian windows like the new homes in Shelby Township, but it was paid off. They were, after all, saving the money for his dream home up in Skidway Lake, one dive bar Bud Light at a time. In due time he’d be free, retired at the tender young age of 55 with a fat pension in his paradise up north.

Except he couldn’t wait that long.

At 53, he bought the house in Skidway Lake, a stone’s throw from the Rifle River. The price was right, and a two hour plus commute was doable for a couple years. After all, when you’ve compartmentalized anguish for that long, what’s a little more steam in the tea kettle? And to be honest, he kind of liked it. He’d built cars. He’d made love to countless girls in cars. For a while, he’d live in one for four hours a day, and there’d be no one to bother him except Dave and Chuck the Freak on 101 WRIF. Hell, cars had bought him the cabin.

Not bad for a guy that never went to college.

In fact, he couldn’t care less about college unless it’s Michigan football, 100,000 plus proud packed in the Big House for a game against dreaded archrival Ohio State, David Boston’s face mask eternally eating turf to roaring approval. Now, at the halftime of his life, he’ll turn off the satellite TV and smoke outside the cabin with his buddies from the Eagle’s Club under the great pine trees and say to himself, “God damn, I’m blessed.” Finally, rid of the rat race, the crime and pollution. Retired with no regrets.

A dream, made in Michigan.

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2 thoughts on “Up North

  1. Yep, that’s how it used to go – but not anymore. Pensions are largely a thing of the past, job stability sucks, and people sure as hell aren’t buying second homes up north. Not to be a debbie downer, but things are rough – even with an education.

  2. Yep, mostly true, except for the last of the Big 3 workers hired during the good ol’ days and many firefighters and cops. If only we could find a way to outsource public employees….

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