Monday, August 04, 2014

Pure Michigan

I was going to talk about the incredibly difficult and mentally painful process of attempting to get health care, which I began last fall via the ol', continued in the spring with many Arizona web site and phone call customer service experiences, and have sadly extended through the summer, with even today there being no answer as to my ever-pending potentially eligible status. Nearly a year later. Still waiting. To see if I am insured through Arizona's health insurance or not. Still. Waiting. Yeah, I was going to talk about that, but that seems so...futile. Let's talk about Michigan instead! (If you're interested in my incredibly painful health care application process details, let me know, and I will blog about them another day. We can discuss hilarious things like the fact that the application asks you if anyone applying for assistance is pregnant, and I could actually have been not pregnant, then been pregnant, then had a baby and become not pregnant again, all in the time since I first signed up on

Well, as much as I love being an Arizona resident and attempting to hear from the state of Arizona regarding my eligibility within thirty business days, or even two or three or four times that amount of time, at the moment I find myself sort of vacationing in Michigan. I say "sort of" because our time here has been extended beyond what we thought/intended/desired and now it's become more of an unfortunate incarceration (joke, Designing Women reference). But at any rate, I have spent a lot of time in Michigan. I can't really decide what I think about it.

Lots of states and regions evoke extreme emotions of one form or another. Just the ones I have lived in might go something like this:
Arizona - nostalgia! sunsets! wide open spaces! cowboys! deserts and pines and high country and mountains and Grand Canyon! saguaros! and the chance to laugh at anyone pronouncing that last word with a hard 'g'
Utah - mountains! Mormons! more mountains!
Wyoming - Dick Cheney! Teapot Dome! more cattle than people!
California - carefree life! freedom! creativity! convenience! coast! a million film and TV and song references heard 'round the world!
Massachusetts - colonial history! progressive politics! two-family houses! mill towns! college towns! a million college students! no Mexican food! lots of Dunkin' Donuts!
New York - wondrous chaos! people who don't know where any other states are!
Illinois - corrupt politics!

But Michigan somehow seems more calm and steady. This despite being an economic wasteland and all. Now, the folks who are from around here definitely have the home-state passion --hooo! boy, do they!--but I can't quite feel the intensity yet. The thing about Michigan is that it's got a lot of things to do, but it's definitely not a flamboyant state, so you kind of have to poke around and sort of rustle up the things to do by yourself. It's a shame, because there's, like, tons of stuff: lakes ("4 out of 5 Great Lakes prefer Michigan"), other outdoor fun (peninsulas & waterfalls & bike trails & even a bit of skiing), charming towns (Saugatuck and Petoskey, just to begin with), famous places that are on your radar your whole life without you really knowing why (Traverse City, Kalamazoo), the greatest city possibly in the world ever for journalists, according to one of my USC professors, that being Detroit...It's got the hometown of my boy Gerald Ford, and in that hometown (also Brian's) are a MILLION restaurants and artsy things...It's got the hometown of my (really) boy Michael Moore...It's got Big Ten schools and fruits for the picking and symphonies and ballets and rock n' roll...And everyone who's anyone has a family vacation house near a lake, or, as they call them, "cottages."  But you find out about almost NONE of this stuff until you come and spend a lot of time here.

Basically, what I am saying is that maybe Michigan needs a better PR team. I mean, unless they want to keep all the good stuff secret so they can have the place to themselves. But how well has that worked out? (See: economic wasteland.) Of course, they could also use some better weather. The fact that you are buried under lake effect snow for seven months of the year isn't helping draw visitors, I imagine. ("Come to Michigan! Rent a car and dig it out! Sit in your hotel room and enjoy the snow falling outside your window!")  I never really understood as a child the idea that summer didn't begin until the solstice on June 21st, because it was obviously so much earlier than that that one began swimming in the backyard pool, chasing the ice cream man, watching terrible blockbuster movies, and so forth. Here in Michigan it really might not begin until the end of June. If then. With schools in Arizona starting in August or even the END OF GODDAMN JULY nowadays, as evidenced by my home state peeps on my Facebook news feed, this leaves a very small window for a vacation in Michigan, no?

On the other hand, there are certainly people who do vacation here. We have spent a good portion of this unfortunate incarceration (Anthony! I'm telling you, Anthony! and if you don't get it, you just don't, so sorry, or, rather, #sorrynotsorry) at Brian's family's lake house ("cottage") in Holland, Michigan (tulips! Dutch ancestry! um...a random windmill or two!), a town I actually rather like (when it's not sweatshirt weather in the middle of July), and a few of the neighboring "cottages" have been filled with an endless stream of renters who come with their gaggle of kids, cousins, siblings, aunts, and whatnot for a week of, well, vacation, before disappearing and making room for the next lot. I am curious how these people chose a rental cottage at Lake Macatawa/Lake Michigan in Holland, Michigan for their vacation spot. (But not curious enough to walk next door and ask them, because I prefer my position of anti-social comfort on the porch with my cats.) How did they know this place was here? Family? Friend's recommendation? Travel agent? Brochure? It certainly never would have occurred to me as a family vacation idea when I was a child (it's really far from Disneyland) nor as an adult (it's really meant for people who like to self-cater, i.e., cook, whereas I say half the fun of vacation--make that more than half--is that you are totally really justified in eating out every day, as opposed to the rest of your life when you have to actually convince people it's a good idea to eat out every day).

Lonely Planet declared Brian's/Gerald Ford's birthplace (see, I was born where Dick Cheney hung out, and Brian hails from where Gerald Ford hung out; I definitely get the worse end of that deal) of Grand Rapids to be the Top U.S. vacation spot for 2014. And just based on the beer alone, they are on to something! The whole craft brewery thing is kind of amazingly out of control here. Plus the aforementioned arts. Did it work? Did travellers arrive here in droves? I don't know the numbers.

I also must say that Michigan has a lot of trees that all look the same, plus really straight roads and highways. That might sound like it's not a unique thing (trees? highways? just hear me out) but really, it's kind of bizarre. There are a lot of roads (on which your car may feel free to emit all it likes, as there is evidently no emissions testing to register a car here?!) in Michigan; despite all the driving, I wouldn't call it a land of wide open spaces so much as a land of carved up spaces. But so then you're driving along I-96 or I-196 or I-696 or I-94 or US-31 and they all look the same. Not the way "all interstates look the same" but there is just rarely a time that you are in anything but a highway corridor through the trees. Which seem to be all the same trees. I find myself getting really excited when there's, you know, a curve. It's too flat and tree-y to ever open up into wide vistas, I suppose. Those wide expansive highway vistas of which I speak are a staple of driving in the West, but they aren't just out West - you get the vistas in Nebraska and Iowa and Texas and stuff, too (dotted with cows). And in other states where you're hemmed in by trees (Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts) the roads seem to be smaller and more winding. Or it's southern and swampy, like in Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana, with lush branches draping themselves over one another above the bayou, or above the alligators. Michigan is just hiding everything, and you have to get off the highway to see it.

What do you know (or want to know) about Michigan?

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