The city’s movers and shakers — correct that, the city’s movers and shakers with school-age children — are mostly gone this week, leaving the city in the hands of the junior varsity. It’s spring break, and around here, people don’t hang around waiting for the daffodils to make an appearance. They’re all on beaches throughout the warmer parts of the western hemisphere, with a few odd skiers out in Colorado. We, the thrifty and/or broke, look for less-expensive diversions to entertain our children on their holiday. Pensacola? No, Michigan City! Yes, Indiana!
My neighbor Deb and I packed up a cooler of snacks and set three car seats abreast, then headed north and west to the shores of Lake Michigan, for its lures of shopping (big outlet mall) and nature (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore). Those traveling without kids might throw gambling (Blue Chip Casino) into the mix, but when we outlined our plan for visiting the casino — “You kids just sit here in the car, help yourself to some juice boxes and don’t talk to any security guards. Go to sleep when it gets dark and we’ll be out when we’re finished.” — amusingly enough the kids didn’t go for it. So we did the Gap Factory Outlet, Hammer’s Pasta and Pizza (avoid, fellow travelers!), the beach, the lighthouse and Mt. Baldy, a very big sand dune. As holidays go, it wasn’t a bad one. The kids kept the backseat bickering to a minimum and squealed very appealingly as they ran barefoot around the windy beaches. They enjoyed the diving duck we saw at the lighthouse pier and climbed Mt. Baldy with few complaints, which is more than you could say about the adults, who wheezed like cheap accordions by the halfway point. That is a HILL, I tell you. You stand at the bottom and say, “Oh hell, I could do that on crutches,” and then you start up, and you stop to breathe at the halfway point and say, “Well, we’re halfway there,” and then the second half is basically vertical, and it’s sand,which means one step up four steps back, but somehow you climb to the top and it’s worth it. Even with the NIPSCO cooling tower off there in the distance. It’s Lake Michigan. I’m a Midwestern girl, and the Great Lakes impress me.
And then home. Not a bad day. Kate got four new dresses and a tankini out of the deal. How did I give birth to this girly-girl, who looks forward to summer not for the outdoor-recreation activities but because she can wear dresses every day? When we got home she put on a fashion show for her daddy, twirling around to show the action of the skirt. Work it, girl. She also loves her two-piece swimsuit, which she calls “a belly stick-out.”
Life’s funny wheel: I was in Michigan City with my friend and neighbor Deb. The city used to be home to my best friend, Deb. They have lots of other things in common. Strange coincidences.
The wonderful Jon Carroll is back from his monthlong vacation, and mentioned he’d spent part of it reading “Motherless Brooklyn,” by Jonathan Lethem, which I read last month, too. (I so love being in sync with my heroes.) Anyway, if you didn’t believe me when I said it was a good book, take the considered opinion of this San Francisco columnist: It purports to be a hard-boiled detective story, and it fulfills all the conventions of the genre, but it has a lot more on its mind than just solving murders.
The hero is Lionel Essrog, an orphan from Brooklyn who has Tourette’s syndrome. The book is told from his point of view, which allows Lethem to explore Tourette’s from the inside. Lionel’s obsessive wordplay works as both character revelation and subtext, a sort of involuntary Greek chorus of Freudian slips, illuminating the dark landscape like flashes of lightning.
Yeah, that’s about right.
And I’m pretty tired. Let’s conclude this little travelogue with a see-you-tomorrow. Upload. “Once and Again.” Snore.