Searching for Jim

It was 2016 when I was half way through Jim Harrison’s collection of fiction. One night, while working second shift in a government job, I read the news on my phone, Jim Harrison was dead. I should have seen it coming. At his age it wasn’t to be unexpected that he would pass away. The River Swimmer was added to my list of read books on Goodreads the week before and I was then reading The Big Seven. With a pen in hand Jim was added to the long list of American writers we would no longer reap the benefits of.
Last year, 2018, my wife and I took a trip to Grand Marais where we quickly learned Jim owned a cabin for a good portion of his life. I sat at the bar of the Dune Saloon and noticed a picture on the wall. Jim was laughing or smiling and I pointed at the picturing asking the bartender, “is that Jim Harrison?” I was the only idiot in the room that didn’t know Jim lived in the area. This was common knowledge and to my dismay I had to acknowledge that although I had read a good portion of his work, unlike most of the people in the room that had known him personally, I didn’t know much about the man.
The few things I did know about where from his own books and things that I suspected were his own traits coming through in his characters. He enjoyed red wine, women, fishing, solitude, and dogs. Cigarettes were a must in life. A man of Michigan, the state that I grew up in and still live, was the setting for many of his tales. There appear to be several Michigans that one can know. There is the state in the southern region where poverty and crime are normal and we don’t have much pride in where we come from. Then there is the southern Michigan that has money and good jobs, that is able to enjoy the better things in life. There is country Michigan, where hunting and factory life is normal, Jesus is thanked every Sunday and you better own a truck. Then there is northern Michigan that is still a mystery to me. This is a place where English changes, time slows down, the weather is quick to winter and slow to spring, troubles are forgotten, and sleep is guaranteed.
I have seen very little of the northern part of my state. At the Dune Saloon, I was introduced to the 1970’s and 80 in a time capsule that had been locked away for forty years. A jukebox sat against the wall with music that had not been changed since 1986 and a pool table was waiting for a game to be played. The bathroom walls were covered in decades of people carving their names into the dried bone colored wood. Old barrels were being used as table tops and the brass bar running along the bottom of the bar was kept polished by the feet that rested on it every night. Jim came here often and I could imagine what things might have been like when he stopped in. as a writer, I know that very few people that I am close to will actually read anything that I write. No, the conversations would have been about other topics, the weather, best places for fly fishing, how to cook a perfect tenderloin, where is the best red wine from, or the legs of the Menonite girl that had walked by outside earlier that day. Jim was a normal guy and he wrote about normal guys.
The cabin that I had heard about was purchased and while I still drove out to see it that final hundred yards of the trail, I could not pass because of the no trespassing sign posted on a tree. I had to respect that while Jim once lived there it was no longer his place, and hell, he might not appreciate me stopping by if he still was there.
I should have trusted Jim’s taste on that trip. While my wife and I ventured around trying out different places to eat and drink, with crummy pasties polluting our pallets, the best food was found at the Dune Saloon on the last night we were in town. The view of Lake Superior was something that has to be experienced for oneself. The large polished rocks on the beach that is combed every morning by collectors and those who make money selling them to tourist, are something that I have never seen elsewhere. The sandy beaches of lake Michigan are littered with beach bunnies and over developed kids in bikinis leaving their trash for others to pick up long after they are gone. Lake Superior with the cool breeze blowing in from the north and the freighter ships dropping off ore in the distance was the complete opposite of its southern neighbor.
While I enjoyed Munising, the painted rocks national park, the breweries in the U.P. the quiet nights, and the laid back days, there was one thing that stuck with me. Who was Jim? What was the Michigan that he knew? Who was I as a writer and what could he teach me along the way? What the hell was this state that I was living in and why didn’t I know about it?
I learned about Jim’s house in Leland Michigan, how he had two daughters like me, and all the crazy friends he had. There was much more to see and experience from his world that still exist today. Those final years that he spent in Arizona he longed to be back in Michigan. His final books were set in the state and even he admitted that he was too old to enjoy the winters again or cross the trails that kept him whole. Now I am in Traverse City, following him again to learn what it was he enjoyed in life. I have a week and a list of places to go. Unless the gods roll their dice against me I should learn something along the way.

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Golden: part 4

Every morning started out the same, I would awake early having not adjusted to the new time schedule, make coffee and wait for Nick to wake up. For a man in his late sixties, he was always on the go and busy trying to make some deal happen. Breakfast was always at Gilbert’s on Main in downtown Bellevue. Nick and the owner had a history, a story I never heard. The owner was a raging alcoholic who would down a pint of Vodka in a day and couldn’t function in society. Now sober, he owned Gilbert’s, a deli with fresh bread and breakfast meals served inside or on the sidewalk patio. People lined up behind us as we stood in line waiting to see what the specials of the day were.
Ferraris and Lamborghini drove up and down the street with their loud exhaust, older men trying to attract younger women. You could smell the ocean in the air and if you were on the right street one could see the water in the distance. Gilbert’s reminded me of a few delis from my home town, with murals on the wall and young girls working behind the counter. In the back, near the restrooms, there was a wall lined with posters advertising events that would be coming up in the area. On the wall was a shelf of books and one of them stood out. I had never seen a hard cover copy of Kitchen Confidential Even though the book was a best seller on the NY times list it quickly went to soft cover and has continued to sell since. I pulled the book out and discovered it was a first edition. I couldn’t find a price on it and took it back to the table.
“what did you find?” Nick asked as I flipped through the book.
“A first edition of Kitchen Confidential was sitting on the shelf. I have never seen one before.”
Nick waved his friend over. The man looked at us through his glasses that made him look like the mole from A Wind in the Willows. Ni ck asked how much the book was. “Ahhh, it’s free. Keep it. I find stuff and put it over there for the customers to read. They take them home half the time. That’s the point.”
“Are you sure? I have cash.” I said ready to pull out my wallet.
“Nick doesn’t pay here. I tell him that all the time and he still tries to pay regardless. Take the book.” The man turned around and disappeared talking to other customers.
For breakfast I order the Smoked Salmon Scramble and it might have been one of the best breakfast meals I ever had. Fluffy eggs mixed with cream cheese and thin slices of salmon on top was complimented with grilled potatoes. The portions were huge, something you would serve the mountain on Game of Thrones.
After breakfast, we went around town for my supplies stopping at a local market. I picked out shampoo, soap, tooth brush and paste, coffee, post it notes and pens would be needed. Nick purchased the items and we went back to Walden.
“I have a history with Michigan,” Nick said as we drove down the highway. “I was seeing this Jewish girl, her family had more money than you could have imagined. We were supposed to get married and then I met this girl from Michigan. Ever been to Warren?” I shook my head knowing I had never intentionally visited there. “well, I don’t know what you guys are doing up there but I threw away a life time of security to be with her. She was amazing. You should have seen her.” His eyes drifted off longing for the pleasures of long ago. “but if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have my daughter. She is absolutely beautiful. Have I told you about my daughter?”
“No.” she had never come up before.
“I’ll show you a picture when we get back. She is gorgeous, takes after her mother. She moved out to New York and with in the first month she was on a billboard in Manhattan. I tell you she’s going places. Has a few jobs lined up. Maybe you’ll meet her one day.”
Nick only talked about his daughter. I learned over a year later that he had a son from a different marriage but he never talked about him. It was obvious who his favorite was.
His car was starting to act up. Once we pulled into the driveway, I took a look, being the amateur backyard mechanic that I am, and found a puddle under the motor. The red fluid on the ground said it all. “Your transmission has a leak,” I said showing him the pink tint on my finger.
“That son of a bitch. I’ve already had it in. they were supposed to fix that. He’s picking this up and fixing it today. I’m tired of this shit.” This was the first time I had seen Nick lose his temper. It wouldn’t be the last.
Inside Nick had called the garage and the guy was coming out to get the car. We would be driving in Sam’s car for the rest of the day if we went out. That day we didn’t. staying in and getting things ready for that night.
Behind the cabin was a small shack. “I picture that as Walden. I want to clean it out and turning it into a writing retreat. I want the whole cabin to be a retreat for writers like yourself. If you come out here, you’ll have a place to stay with like minded people.” Nick was being honest about his intentions.
I went back and forth about moving never truly thinking about it being a possibility. I had a house with an upside-down mortgage thanks to the 2008 financial crisis. There was all of my stuff and of course finding a job if I did. The $300 a month Nick was paying wasn’t going to cover my bills.
The shack was tiny and I could see there being a small desk and a typewriter inside. It would be something I would inspire to.
Nick took me on a hike that day. We went down the street and found the entrance to the trail. A tiny stream went through, something that flooded when it rained. He said that sometimes lost salmon would find their way up the pitiful stream. Seattle had been experiencing a drought for over a year and wild fires had even become an issue. I remembered reading about the fungus that was killing large numbers of salmon because of the high heat and the lack of water. This was the sixty acres of land that the cabin was built on, a public park.
We found large dead tree trunks from pine trees larger than anything I had seen in Michigan. The bridges appeared new and the trail was kept clean. You could tell that the area was taken care of by either the city or the locals. We emerged from the other side of the trail and Nick said it was the first time he had ever gone the whole way. I find that it is the people who are surrounded by great things who never appreciate them.
Back at Walden I made a pot of coffee, cracked open one of the 20oz beers and started my laptop. It was going to be a long night.

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The Last Rhino

I feel like I have been here before. Looking at the news and thinking we are next. The last male white rhino died earlier this week and I find myself thinking about it over and over again. What does it take for the planet to wake up to what we are doing?

I went on a walk with my daughter today. We climbed Westnedge hill and looked over the city. I thought about the flood that happened a few weeks earlier. Places like the north east and Denmark are seeing record lows as the arctic tries to figure out what to do without any ice to hold the cold polar vortex at bay. The jet stream has shifted, no longer assisting jets on their travels. This is a lot to take in.

Since i finished the Self Authoring program I have seen some changes in myself that i thought I should share. In the past 3 weeks i have had 1 beer. for those that know me that will come as a shock. also, while i have been debating on when to enjoy my pipe, I came to the conclusion that the pipe and my tobacco cellar should be retired until a moment comes my way when I can relax and enjoy the hobby again. So what the hell do I do for fun? I guess I will have to figure it out.

I pulled an old Remington portable model 1 typewriter from my basement, a project I picked up a few months back but set aside due to time restraints. The black body and well preserved case caught my eye when i first saw it. Usually i prefer the Royal desktops but I thought having the portable would encourage me to write in public again. I had to sand down some of the rubber rollers that had flattened out and was keeping the paper from working over the platen. There are several books I would like to write, adventures and characters that are becoming impatient as they run around in my head.

The more I listen to the news the harder it is to comprehend everything that is happening. I looked up climate change podcast and found myself disappointed in what i found. One in particular that was recorded in Michigan ended up being a denial show where the host spit out free market rhetoric and how renewable energy was a fraud that would hurt poor people. Having said all of that, I am seriously considering bring back my old podcast. It won’t be the same podcast exactly, but a revised version that I get to run. the last podcast I ran was on American Prepper Radio and as far as I know you can still find the show and episodes on there, but I don’t recommend it since it is outdated by a few years and the content no longer applies. I was thinking of doing a shorter show, three days a week, 15-20 minutes covering the latest in climate change, economics, and societal collapse. i don’t know when it will start but the idea is there and I already know how to start and record a podcast having do that two years ago. i can’t be the only one needing to talk about this. There has to be others out there hearing what I’m hearing and wondering what the hell is going on? The collapse experiment was a nice test run, I liked the idea, maybe it’s time to improve it now and create something worth sharing.

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The Times They Are A Changin’

For the second day in a row I was outside cleaning my yard. Racking leaves, cleaning out the garden, this was February 14 and it was almost 50 degrees in Michigan. This kind of thing has been a re-occurring trend in my state. Granted, the state is known for having all four seasons in a week, or sometimes a single day depending on its mood. For most of my adult life I cannot recall the last time we had a real winter, the type of season where kids could build snow forts and have snow ball fights while hiding behind snowmen. The last time we had an accumulation of snow and it stuck around all winter was 1999/ 2000. That was 17 years ago, in the early 2000s we had a snowless Christmas with 70-degree weather and I was outside wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

Again this year, the weather bureau stated this was the hottest summer on record and the warmest winter ever recorded. Last week the arctic was 50 degrees warmer than normal and was the highest temperature ever while humans have been on the planet. The arctic, for another year, never froze over.

I know that things change, the childhood that I had was not the world my parents had, and the world I grew up in was my version of normal. Every generation goes through that transition. When I was growing up war was a televised spectator sport, celebrities had live trials, and the president’s sex life was broadcast on television. That wasn’t my parent’s world. The one that we are moving into isn’t the world I grew up in either. Normal for my kid could look like snowless winters in Michigan. Animals I saw alive at zoos will no longer exist. If some people have their way, the National Parks might not be around either for them to enjoy. A think called privacy will become an odd habit for prudes. The world I grew up in, the one that currently exist will be gone and what comes next will be the new normal, the only one my child will ever know. The fast-changing world is a challenge for parents, seeing their kids with things they themselves do not understand and are too busy working several jobs to have the time to keep up with the times. It’s no wonder there is a disconnect between the generations.

The times they are a changin, and what the world will look like I can only guess. Winter has become a short one month event with bits of fall and spring dotting the calendar here and there. The bits of warm weather at the beginning of the year has caused havoc with the fruit trees, causing blooms too early for bees to pollinate and catching the flowers in early season frost to dry off, killing the chances of growing fruit. Hunting season has been thrown off as well with the rut taking place earlier in the fall so that it is done before gun season opens. The earth is changing and the rest of the planet is trying to catch up in its own way, but nobody knows how to do that. In a world that we depend on to remain normal I find myself questioning what exactly is normal?

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