Great Lakes Journal, Part II

Tahquamenon Falls


Welcome back to this journal, some jottings on a cruise upon the Great Lakes, or some of them — three of the five, to be exact: Huron, Superior, and Michigan. For Part I, go here. And let’s sail on (if you’ll pardon the cheesiness) . . .

We glide into Whitefish Bay, on the eastern tip of the U.P., i.e., the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Soon, I see a flock of wind turbines. I’ve been grousing about these things for the last several years now. They’re a blight upon landscape after landscape. They produce comparative squat for energy. They are feel-good projects of the enviro-Left.

But you didn’t come to this journal for political rants, did you?

One more thing — my current favorite stat: 27 percent of a wind turbine’s blade is petroleum. Heh.

A guide tells us that this area — Whitefish Bay — is one of the great cranberry capitals of the world (or country, or state — I forget). I think, “They must be thankful for Thanksgiving.”

The Tahquamenon Falls are a jewel in Michigan’s crown. This is the area of The Song of Hiawatha, I believe — Hiawatha, who built his canoe “by the rushing Tahquamenaw.”

I grew up with a great deal of hype about northern Michigan — “God’s country,” “as beautiful as it gets,” “the equal of anywhere in the world,” blah, blah, blah. I remember a man saying that the drive around Grand Traverse Bay was like the Amalfi Drive.

Then you get about the world a bit, and you realize — eh, maybe this is a lot of home-state boosterism. I mean, have you ever been to Switzerland? Ever take a Norwegian cruise?

And yet: The Tahquamenon Falls would impress anyone, from anywhere. Not because they’re big, like Niagara — but because they’re so beautiful. Being in this spot makes me sort of proud to be a Michigander.

May I get you a hankie? (An air-sickness bag?)

A guide in the park tells us that they reduced the price of admission, to all the state parks, by more than half — and generated more revenue. John Fund and I look at each other and murmur something about Reaganomics.

Our group is taken to a shipwreck museum — which strikes me as just a little odd, given that we are people taking a cruise. You know how they don’t show air-disaster movies on an airplane?

When I was a child — you may have had the same experience — I sometimes thought, “Why are they showing this to children? Why are they showing something so scary, in a movie, play, or TV show, to children?” I remember, in particular, having the bejesus scared out of me by the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I thought, “Damn it, isn’t this movie supposed to be for kids? WTF?”

I’m not sure we had the initials then . . .

I see a distinguished conservative on the beach. He’s wearing a blazer. I think of Nixon’s wingtips.

A postcard reminds me of our state motto — which I always thought had to be the coolest state motto conceivable: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” (Never learned the Latin.)

George Gilder is interviewed by John Miller. Long ago, George worked for centrist or liberal Republicans: George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits. John asks him why. George says, in sum, that he was for civil rights — that he was for full and equal rights for blacks. And Goldwater, unfortunately, had been on the wrong side of the bill, whatever his reasons.

And how did George get to be a Reagan-style conservative? Well, for one thing, “The black family managed to survive Simon Legree, but it could not survive LBJ.” George, like others, saw the consequences of the “Great Society.” My impression is, his political views have always been responsive to the question, “What works best for people?”

Incidentally, George says that Mitt Romney is a brighter and abler man than his father (who was plenty bright and able).

You can make fun of Mackinac Island, another of Michigan’s crown jewels — maybe the central one. It’s so pretty, maybe a little prissy . . . But, you know? It is really an extraordinary and beautiful place. You’d have to have a heart of stone to reject it. Again, proud to be a Michigander . . .

Tell you what I’m not so high on: horses instead of cars. Michiganders are very, very proud of this. On Mackinac Island, no cars are allowed, except for emergency vehicles. You go by horse — more like horse-and-buggy — or bike. People would have it no other way.

But with horses comes poop — and this can make the island unpleasant, even if they have people sweeping and hosing like mad. When you take a walk — just a simple walk — you do so amid horse poop and its odor.

I see a young man hauling a cart behind a bike. The cart has some kind of supplies. The cart tips over, and then the bike and the young man go over. He is really frustrated. And I think, “It’s so unnecessary. Really unnecessary. Just a dumb, sentimental conservatism.”

Personally, I would be in favor of cars on the island — a limited number of cars, and cars of a particular type. I would be strict about regulations. But I would allow cars, and have fewer horses.

Again, however, people would consider this absolute heresy, and they would erect a stake.

Doud’s Market bills itself as “America’s Oldest Grocery Store.” True? A wonderful claim, regardless.

Aboard ship, on a panel, John Fund makes a moving statement. He has been to Greece lately — to Thessaloniki. He saw something he’d never thought he’d see: men in business suits, pawing through garbage cans. They had left home as though they still had their jobs — dressed for the office. Maybe they were pretending to their families that they still had the jobs. Maybe they were pretending to themselves.

In restaurants, they mixed ketchup with hot water, fashioning a kind of soup.

This is very, very serious stuff. Conditions are ripe for a takeover by extremists — by fascists or Communists (same diff, basically). Sensible reforms must boldly come forth (easy to say).