Cheese Curds and Lighthouses

CHICAGO — My suitcase looks like a Jimmy Buffett song – so much sand, all my t-shirts scented with airport sweat and rum. When I’m done unpacking, the plan is to just burn everything.

LAX was agony going out, and a dream coming back. The shuttle driver (Randy S.) greeted us with a smile and a hearty “Welcome home, folks!” Tipped him 15 bucks just for his basic decency.

OK, here’s a list of what I did on my summer vacation:

–Unloaded another sassy daughter.

–Gained a son-in-law they call Truck.

–Took a lap around the Great Lakes to check out the ancient lighthouses.

–Sang old whaling songs to Suzanne, my chaperone and navigator.

–Devoured 27 Chicago-style dogs in maybe three desperate, gasping-for-air bites.

–Jumped into the gurgling ice bath that is Lake Michigan.

–Tasted Lake Huron (redolent of oily shipwrecks).

–Got Suzanne forever hooked on deep-dish pizza.

–Visited Mackinac Island, where we stayed at the grandest hotel I’ve ever seen and pretty much drained the little village of all its gin (sorry!).

–Chit-chatted the locals, including a Harvard dude named Dennis who is now the island’s Bilbo Baggins.

–Filed a request for an inquest into Rapunzel’s reception, including that incident where a bridesmaid bit a cousin while battling for the bridal bouquet.

I mean, I’m all in favor of over-the-top passion – it’s the only passion I practice. Yet who wants to get married quite that much?

To recap, it was like a mosh pit out there on the dance floor to begin with, my buddy Gino riling up the guests while dirty dancing with my other buddy Pete.

Even the band was impressed.

Then, with the trademark insouciance of a brand-new bride, Rapunzel steps out on the dance floor and tosses her wedding bouquet over her shoulder – like Gibson, like Maddox — to a screaming scrum of beautiful young women, their arms flailing like winter wheat.

It’s no wonder someone got hurt.

Trust me, these were not the Bronte sisters out there. Young women today are raised to be very physical in ways we now regret. It’s scary, their fire … their fury … their drive to catch a floaty bouquet of tiny white roses mixed with wisps of baby’s breath.

Here are the latest eye-witness details: One niece, who’s 11 feet tall and has arms like linguini, snatches the flowers in mid-air, then accidentally rakes her arm across the face of the groom’s twin sister, a hard-charging surgical intern who – let’s be frank – probably sees a lot of blood in her line of work.

The case will probably settle out of court, as these things mostly do. But it will remain a special moment in Rapunzel’s wedding lore. We’re hoping someone caught it on video, so we can Zapruder it at the inquest, one spinning pixel at a time.

“Your honor, may I direct your attention to how good everyone’s hair looked during the incident…”

“Live within your harvest,” the Persians like to say. And for one day at least, we didn’t.

Gawd, I love the Middle West — every day a Super Bowl.  The bar tab alone was in the mid-trillions.

Meanwhile, more things I did on my summer vacation:

–Dragged Suzanne to up to the piney woods of Door County, Wisconsin, a quick screen pass from the cheesehead capital of the world, Green Bay.

–Paid 2 bucks less per gallon than I do in LA.

–Seduced my chaperone with Leinenkugel’s beer.

–Re-seduced her with cheese curds and smoked white fish.

–Visited a bunch of lighthouses.

–Ate Jamaican food in Michigan.

–Immediately regretted eating Jamaican food in Michigan.

–Drove through a spectacular settlement known as Charlevoix, a painterly isthmus that – from what I hear — is the gateway to Beaver Island.

Sense a theme here? Yes. Courage. Adventure. Hedonism. Wiseguyness.

On the fourth day, Suzanne asks if my fingers are quivery from not writing. She knows that after a few days away, my fingers start to flutter … a sax player without a horn.

It’s evident every time I pick up another bar tab.

“No,” I explained. “Basically, I’m just sort of broke.”

Did I mention that on my daughter’s wedding day, I cannonballed (semi-naked) into Lake Michigan a few hours before the ceremony?

Thought I was gonna die.

But I didn’t.

Bashed my heart on some rocks, that’s all.

You know. Weddings.

Looking for ways to support this broke father-of-the bride? Please consider buying a copy of “What the Bears Know,” a new wilderness memoir I helped write  with “Bear Whisperer” Steve Searles. It’s funny, it’s smart, it’ll change everything you believed about that wild bear in your backyard pool. Also, we’ll be at Vroman’s bookstore Oct. 3 at 7 p.m., to song-and-dance our new book. Please join us. The book hits stores Oct. 3. For advance copies, please click here. Thanks!  

17 thoughts on “Cheese Curds and Lighthouses

  1. Doing what I can to help your wallet recover from this epic wedding-induced adventure! Counting down to Bear Book time! Thanks for sharing all the delicious fun you shared with your silver sidekick and wonderful family. Congrats to Rapunzel and Truck for their great choice of venue and each other, of course!

  2. “Then, with the trademark insouciance of a brand-new bride, Rapunzel steps out on the dance floor and tosses her wedding bouquet over her shoulder – like Gibson, like Maddox — to a screaming scrum of beautiful young women, their arms flailing like winter wheat.” So much to unpack in one sentence… LOVE IT 😎

  3. Door County. My late wife’s from St Louis where everyone believes they own the peninsula. They tend to congregate in the Village of Fish Creek usually at the Bayside Tavern for cheese curds & beers. No place like it in my home town Pasadena.

  4. The epic wedding. The spin around the Lake. The pics. The observations and stories. I just love it all! Sounds like a marvelous trip! I’m fond of lighthouses. My favorites were in Maine and Scotland (where I rented a car for two weeks as we meandered around and somehow managed to drive on the other side of the road not killing anyone.) And glad to hear you jumped into Lake Michigan…it’s good for the soul (not always the heart as its icy grip can paralyze you but I still highly recommend.) My favorite place in the U.P. is Ishpeming. Clear skies. Clean lakes. Stars galore. You forget you have a care in the world.

  5. And a good time was had by all. The bouquet toss story is hysterical. I recall my own daughter catching it and promptly dropping it and walking away. Her Dad and I high-fived each other on the spot. We still laugh about that moment.

  6. Wow, what an epic travel log. Absolutely a trip to remember and such a fun one for your readership to share in.
    One little detail that caught my eye: I’m from Chicago too and lust for a decent deep dish. If you ever find a decent place anywhere in the SG valley, please share!
    And see you at Vroman’s. I have a feeling I’d better get there early.

  7. The pangs of poverty briefly visit many a Father Of The Bride, but we both know how enriched you were by the experience, so in a broader sense the opposite is true. The Grand Hotel is indeed grand. Many years ago I got kicked off that bowling alley porch for not wearing a jacket and tie. My squeeze and I lubricated our ruffled lack of plumage down over the hill at the little golf course pro shop bar, an Old Fashioned or two yielding a lovlier view than we could have had straight-jacketed up on that long porch with the other stiffs. The “Grand” in the name now stands for what you can easily drop in a day at “ The Grand Hot Mac”; surely a Big Mac Attack for those already feeling pangs from climbing to the top of all those lighthouses after acclimating to the lofty financial altitude of a wedding.

    By the by, is it too much of a time stretch to say that while you were stretching pictures and memories, we were stretching tarps—soon to become flying flags—here, to welcome Hurricane Hillary? So you won’t have to further stretch your imagination. I offer the panel that follows, soon…below.

  8. The bride and groom are gorgeous. Your love is very pretty, and you look so hot with that MidWest wind in your hair!

  9. Gal Tropicale

    The hurricane came in and exhaled
    Its deep breath of heavy moist air
    Blowing and sighing in the trees
    Steadily raining down a fine mist
    Intermittently drumming hollow
    Fingers on the roof, or staccato
    Fingernails on the humming gutters
    Turning the sky purple and ashy
    With sullen light, like a tropical
    Dancer bringing her Caribbean
    Act to the desert, running out
    Of music and water—a steel band
    En route, energy unwinding
    After days and nights of circling
    An ever moving core of fame;

    Dark turbulence around us e-mailed
    Its news of flood and mayhem so rare
    That sandbags were like gold bricks, and breeze
    Became a metaphor for missed
    Opportunity; what would follow
    An avalanche of storm surf to go
    With the sheeting kites and stutters
    And tin can jangling of melee
    As waves of light—in a waterfall
    Of roaring esprit never seen
    Here—took August heat and drowned its bout
    Of drowsy lassitude—Summer land
    In ennui—with a tearful blinding
    Rage of emotion; while we, idling
    Near her center, saw her—as she came
    Writhing through—as an entertainer
    Going through the motions—as iit were—
    In a foreign land, frenzied languor
    How it is at the end of a tour….

    How quickly storms pass, like that of this storm’s namesake, in 2016, and the storm of love and beauty you were swept up in so recently. But many storms are worth memorializing, if only for what they teach of energy’s eternal affection for change.

Leave a Reply