Saturday, October 3, 2009

I Love to Go A-Wandering (NOT!) well...sometimes!

If you know me well, you know that for me, there's no place like home. But, I managed to get out and about last week, without being overly traumatized. First, it was off to St. Paul for the annual, regional book trade show. This has become routine for me each fall, and there are sights, places and people I look forward to seeing each year...the awesome, first glimpse of the Mississippi, the park adjacent to the convention hall that pays homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and my favorite Peanuts characters, the brew pub across from the park, and the little artsy shops lining the street. Although St. Paul bustles, it is a friendly city, and I could easily live there. No one pushes, or mumbles, or snaps, or beeps horns.

Neighborhoods! Where have they gone? How nice would it be to have all your needs within walking distance? In addition to the mundane necessities, my needs would include a performing arts center, a movie theatre, a bookstore, and an authentic Mexican restaurant. From my current neighborhood, I can walk to a bar, a bank, and a temple. I suppose I could make it the nearest convenience store, but the uphill return would take days, and my survival would be questionable.

The trade show kept me busy for a couple days, and of course, the highlight was meeting authors, and getting a peek at new books. Now I will drop names - Neil Gaimen (The Graveyard Book) Robert Goolrick (The Good Wife), Vicki Myron (Dewey), Lauren Stringer (Snow), Ingrid Law (Savvy), David Wrobleswski (The Story of Edgar Sawtell). These are just a few of the rock star writers and award winners I was lucky enough to meet. The beauty of this event is that these writers not only speak at special events throughout the conference, they stick around and help man/person? their publisher's displays, and spend time chatting. You would be surprised at how many writers have heard of Manitowoc - many recognizing the name from hotel ice machines, and even getting close to the correct pronunciation!

Mike Perry! I look forward to catching up with him each year. This year we chatted about his growing Manitowoc fan base, including two loyal readers, Pat and Margarette, who he has come to recognize by face, if not by name. We talked about his choice to home-school, which has some readers puzzled, confused, and angered. Mike explained that the decision is not a condemnation of the public school system, but rather an opportunity to have his children travel with him.

After a fast, filled, and overwhelming show, nothing was nicer than seeing that big, brown "Welcome to Wisconsin" sign as I crossed the state line at 11:30 on Sunday night.

The picture at the top is Big Horn Lake in Townsend, Wisconsin, about two hours northwest of here. The cabin at the right is one of several once owned by my great grand-parents. Inspired by Sara Rath's novel, Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages, I decided it was time to return to this place filled with happy, childhood memories. I found it easily, and the rustic, name plaque nailed to a tree told me that the little fishing "village" is still owned by a distant family member. That is good. No one was around, but I did some exploring anyway. The out houses are still there, although I didn't get close enough to determine if they were functional, or simply left as quirky icons of long ago.
Immediately, I was struck with the memory of pleasant quietness. There are no motor boats on Big Horn Lake. Water laps to the shore, and if you're patient, a fish will jump and splash. That's all for sound on a calm day. The sky and water are both a perfect, sapphire blue. Breathtaking. One of my favorite pass times when we were at the cottages was to float in an inner tube to the middle of the lake and watch the fish, and fiddle with the lily-pads. The water was, and is, clear. I assume the lake is still filled with blue gill and northern.

Some changes have been made. A few new, sweet little cottages have been added to the land, just big enough to sleep two of three people. The fish cleaning shanty has been removed. Fish guts! I can't believe I ever scraped and scaled fish, let along watched my grandfather slice and gut them, but spending time with him remains one of my fondest memories.

I wasn't sure what I would find in Townsend, or how I would feel about seeing the cabins and the lake again. I was afraid that the calm, rustic, happy place in my mind could turn out to be a series of run down shacks, crammed together down some scary,out of the way, road, leading to a muddy, sucker-filled, mosquito infested pond. That was not the case. I am lucky, and maybe I will go back again.

*****TV update. I pulled the plug on dish Network. My 120 channel package, when analyzed, turned out to be too many to count infomercial channels, repeated channels, channels in foreign languages, or 24 hour news channels. 120 of them for sure, but only four or five worth watching. So, I am without TV viewing capabilities for a while. I will look at it as an experiment in hermit-like living and see how it goes.
In addition to the TV business, I also declared a moritorium on needless car travel. Wouldn't you know, right off the bat, I discovered that I had left the book I was reading on my desk at LaDeDa. Torn between my vow to finish one book before opening another, and my decision to think twice before setting out on a ten minute journey that would surely wind up taking me on hours of unplanned adventures, I paced. I bit my fingenails. I walked the dog. I dusted, and rearranged the furniture. I looked up the number for Comcast, and I wrote it down. Then I blindly grabbed a book off the shelf and settled in for a wonderful Sunday afternoon with Under the Tuscan Sun.
Thanks for stopping by.

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