Small Town Fever

Whew. It’s been a surprisingly eventful week. What I thought would be a boring, sucky work trip has turned out to be something of a little treasure. I’ve been out working on the Wisconsin/Michigan border in a really small town. I was bracing myself and expecting the worst…praying for free wifi at the hotel. Instead, I was hit with an overpowering sense of small-town kindness, an appreciation of the little things, and a little personal family history.

On Traveling and Being Alone

I had the wonderful opportunity to get a whole day to myself on this trip. Between flying and driving, I had a ton of thinking time and I really enjoyed it. During my drive up to Michigan, I started wondering how bad this trip was going to be. All trees and signs of life were dead from winter’s wrath. It was cold. There was no AVIS preferred. My rental car had the same air freshener my uncle used to use when I was growing up, so there was a constant pull of memories. There were about 5 music stations, and 10 talk-radio stations, most of them preaching about god. I thought…Oh lord, this is going to be a long trip.

Then something strange happened. My mind started to clear. I started laughing at the country music and turning it up. And I started to enjoy myself.

no officer, I was not taking pictures while driving

Cheese and Wine. Moccasins. How could I stay grumpy with signs like that?

I read a book a long time ago that said everyone should go out and eat at a restaurant alone, at least once in their lives. It’s hard, no? To feel completely comfortable eating alone in the presence of others, without a bar to pull up to, and without a book or phone in your hand. But this was my time. I pulled up to a local deli and tried to enjoy the experience. It was a little scary. But it was also worth it. As I was eating my sandwich (sans avocado – something I’ve been taking for granted in Cali), there was a barrage of moms coming in after their weekly Weight Watchers meeting. They all had the same spiky, highlighted hair. On the TV the local news was on. “Breaking news…horrible accident…”. Everything is a horrible accident in a small town. I spied a date with two teenagers and smiled to myself at the cuteness/awkwardness. I walked away feeling good and looking forward to more driving time.

I wanted to make a point that being alone and getting all introspective is not a negative thing, as some people may think. For an introvert like myself, down time is 100% necessary and even therapeutic. I was excited and happy.

Getting Back to my Roots

I am originally from the Midwest and spent some time as a kid traveling through Wisconsin and Michigan to visit family. But what I didn’t realize until I was at my destination was that I was about a mile away from where my dad grew up. We talked on the phone. “Dad! Google maps says I’m only a mile away from your old house!” “Daughter, it’s a small town, everything is only a mile away.” razz So inbetween work days, I set out on a mini tour to visit my dad’s old stomping grounds. Below is a pic of the house he grew up in:

time keeps marching

Very strange, but cool, to drive around and think about my dad hanging out here. He said for entertainment they used to go to the local garbage dump and watch the bears come out and scavenge for food. Wow, what a good time. rolleyes

One tradition that has remained throughout the years are pasties. If you’ve never heard, a pasty is basically a bunch of meat and potatoes…sometimes onions and other spices, all combined in a thick crust. It looks sort of like a half-shell turnover on the outside, and tucked inside are the goods. Back in the days of coal mining, miner’s wives used to make these for them in the morning, wrap them in newspaper, and the guys would stick them under their shirts right next to their belly. It would keep them warm until lunch and in turn they would also have a hot meal. Pretty neat, eh? I ate them with my dad every trip we used to take back to visit the fam, and we still eat them to this day.

A huge tradition in this town appears to be Wing Night. Oooooh yah you better believe it. Wings and beer, beer and wings. I went out with a bunch of coworkers to one of the local bars for wings here a few nights ago. On the wall they had a bunch of the old high school football teams. I went in search of my dad, who played in the mid 1960s (holla!). For some reason the bar only had pics through the 1950s…but I am including his pic anyway for good measure:

what a stud!

I really did enjoy myself, walking down the same streets he did and going to the same restaurants. His advice to me: “Don’t get lost in all the culture there.” K, Dad.

Working on a Ship

Although I couldn’t take pictures of the ship itself, here was my view from the deck:

don't think we'll be getting underway anytime soon, eh?

The shipyard environment was a very rough-and-tumble experience. It was mostly guys, wearing Carhartts (which I may or may not have a soft spot for…eep! Be still my beating heart!). It was a hardhat environment. Mama got her own:

And a lot of flapper hats:

(source)

Mostly in plaid.

Quotables

Finally, I leave you with some of my favorite one-liners from the trip so you can get a flavor of the environment. Overheard by the locals and/or my coworkers (sometimes multiple times):

“Yah, there’s quite a wind out there”

“Let’s go tie one on”

“Well, we made it back to the hotel. That’s a good sign.” (<– my favorite)

“We’ll have to take you to Wing Night at the Best Western, so you can meet the whole town!”

“…Wing Night at the Firehouse…”

“…Wing Night at Dexter’s…”

“CASH ONLY”

“Oh, it’s about a mile away”

I think that’s enough small-town talk for one post. The love will continue as I will be taking several more trips in the coming months.

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6 Comments

  1. Glad your trip was full of little unexpected surprises. It’s funny how things sometimes work out like that. Love the pic of your dad and I soaked myself drinking from my water bottle when I read his comment to you about getting lost in all the culture. Too funny, and sounds like it was maybe even a little true. Wing night! Silly things like that sometimes makes me miss my hometown, the slow pace, the caring community, but then I remember that the only place open on sunday is wal mart ><

    Reply
  2. Thanks Andi! I agree with you on the small towns…they definitely have a way of working into your heart. But my coworker said he couldn’t even get broadband internet installed where he lived, since it was so remote! Could not live without that.

    Reply
    • Ah, we had that at my parents house. You had to get wireless from the phone company or through your satellite company. Not as reliable as broadband, but uhhh no worse than having broadband in an apartment building. However, not so fun to climb on the roof to scoop the snow out of the dish when the connection got wonky, lol.

      Reply
  3. Anonymous

     /  February 11, 2012

    Smile!!!! Dad

    Reply
  4. Wow out there

     /  February 16, 2012

    Sounds like you are traveling a lot and taking in all forms of “culture”. I think every man has a carhart jacket they are great. Never been a wing night or cold fan but if I become one I will have to visit. Awesome old school pic of ur dad did he raise u with some hometown flavor?

    Reply
    • LOL – yes, a lot of culture to be found here. yeah…my dad taught me to appreciate the small towns. We used to drive through them when I was a kid so I could learn how to read maps!!!

      Reply

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