My Great Lakes Loop - Gallery #1

There's certainly a more elegant way of doing this than just posting a pile of pics. Elegant, however, I ain't got at the moment. What I do have are loads of images from my current "Great Lakes Loop". Rest assured, it's been a fascinating trip thus far. I rolled into Detroit yesterday and I'll soon hit the road for other Michigandering. All the pics in this gallery are pre-Detroit. My apologies for the lack of back story on what made the random-ish cut. So there will be more to come. Here's a taste of what I've been seeing along the way - click on the photo(s) to advance through.


Soaking up the Soo

I've been working on Pelting Out  long enough to exercise a healthy skepticism in the new material I come across. As a part of doing so, I spent last night in Sault Ste. Marie - home to one of the most mispronounced/misspelled/misunderstood place names in North America. Call it "Soo Saint Marie" or just "the Soo".  There would be even less here today were it not for the history and innovation of the Soo Canal. Even at the height of its engineering heyday, the Canal is an industrial expansion upon a once natural waterway between Lakes Superior and Huron. But I'm nonetheless intrigued by this place. Go back far enough and you'll find many competing origin stories. I found what I came looking for, which included wanting to see whether (or how) both sides left certain parts out of the narrative. I should back up a bit to say that "sides" in this particular place corresponds to the border between Canada and the United States. The Canadian historical narrative is different than the American one. Not necessarily opposed. It's what gets left out that intrigues me. Add to that the current emphasis that Stephen Harper (Canada's Conservative Prime Minister) has chosen to re-frame the War of 1812 (which actually lasted until early 1815). and contrasts then and now between the U.S. and Canada.

Intriguing stuff, right? Uh...maybe not yet. I'm leaving out a ton of detail. And I'm about to hop on the road for another long day of driving. Monday was Winnipeg. Tuesday Thunder Bay. Yesterday Sault Ste. Marie. Today is more parts of Michigan and then back into western Ontario. Detail will follow, I promise. And please don't wait for the movie. You'll like the book better.


 Trying finding mention of The Chicora on the U.S. side of the Soo.

Trying finding mention of The Chicora on the U.S. side of the Soo.

Pointing my road canoe toward Thunder Bay

I quickly fell in love with Winnipeg and the whole keystone sensibility here in Manitoba. It's not high gloss. When it tries to be, it fails rather innocently. Today's plan centers upon Thunder Bay. Maybe eight hours of solid driving, plus or minus whatever superhumandriver focus or distractions come up along the way. I arrived in Canada with a plan. Google has filled in the blanks thereafter. How else might a person who's never been to a particular place claim with some degree of assurance that they know what to expect on down the road a full day's drive? Much less claim that a late afternoon arrival at a well-reviewed rural B&B after a well-timed handful of stops planned along the way might still mean a chance to catch "Pacific Rim" at 7:05 in Thunder Bay? Crazy and/or arrogant people talk like that. Or they did just a few short decades ago. 

Even when I'm doing research, I still shoot for the sort of road trip where I can be a traveler and not a tourist. I won't claim the defined difference between the two as my own formulation. Rather, it was offered up on the platter of conversation between Philip Caputo and William Least Heat-Moon in a NYTimes piece about travel (published this past Sunday). I totally agree with their context. So that's how I roll. With as much appreciation for the little stories and the big sights (or sites) along the way. With the advantage of knowing through experience that if you don't have a plan, you won't see the poetry that comes from improvising.

So if we cross paths out there, I'll be that guy scribbling notes, making calls, chatting up the person behind the counter and scanning the horizons. And whatever fork in the road you approach today, I hope you encounter someone smiling as they head your way.


Another Sting. Just "making copies".

The Edward Snowden case seems pretty far away from the boundaries of my current book research. Yet the tentacles of domestic surveillance twist and stretch pretty far if you let your mind go. Before long, a tenuous link seems possible to all sorts of innocuous things. Like good ol' snail mail. And, no, I'm not currently wearing a tin foil hat.

Instead, I'm thinking about a distantly related domestic spying story that crossed my radar on July 4th. If you didn't see it, the mere novelty of Postal Service spying should garner at least an old-timey raised eyebrow. Goodness knows mine certainly arched when I saw a breakdown of "mail covers" and how one forgetful employee in Buffalo let an internal notice of doing so slip on by. The evidence ended up in the subject's mailbox. Who happens to run an anarchist bookstore. Nothing will come of it, in all likelihood. I humbly suggest that our collective lack of surprise to such matters - especially in the wake of Snowden's desperate cry for attention - stands as a most striking national evolution. This story stuck with me and I suggest checking out. You just might never look at your pile of Pottery Barn catalogs and ValPaks the same way again.

 The famously grody, unisex CBGB bathroom. As seen at The Met/Costume Institute's "PUNK" exhibit - May 2013.

The famously grody, unisex CBGB bathroom. As seen at The Met/Costume Institute's "PUNK" exhibit - May 2013.