All this happened, more or less...

My name is G and these are the true stories of my adventures.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The True North

Shaky Geography

I'm from Michigan. For anyone whose US geography is a little shaky, -- I'm looking at you, Kentucky -- Michigan is the one in the north that's surrounded by all the water. From where I live now, driving to Windsor is faster than driving to Toledo. Given the option, I'd rather drive to Canada than to Ohio anyway. I have more friends there and I know the area better. This unique border-state position of being closer to a foreign country than to a neighboring state makes for some interesting blending of cultures.

For starters, I have a deeply rooted affection for Canada. Sort of the way I imagine I'd feel if I had a younger brother who had out-grown me. He's bigger than me, and if I really pushed him, he'd probably be able to kick my ass, but he would never do that because at the end of the day, he's still just my sweet little kid brother. And I'd never claim that Ontario was exactly like Michigan any more than I'd claim my brother was a little clone of me. But we can't deny we grew up on a lot of the same culture -- euchre, "The Red Green Show," fantastic winter storms, no shortage of corn fields, and of course, the Lakes.

Ontarigan -- Between the two of us, we pretty much own all the cool beaches.

Ohio's like my stepbrother. We live in the same house. Other people seem to think we have things in common, but... I don't really know him. I'm told they play euchre there, but sometimes they use sixes and fours to keep score instead of fives. And while Michigan has nearly 3300 miles of shoreline on four of the Great Lakes, Ohio borders Lake Erie for just over 300. I can't begin to relate to that.


When I returned home from Seattle, I took a little look-see at my calendar and realized I had two empty weeks before our annual family romp on Lake Huron. I wanted to get out of the house, but after so much traveling, I knew I needed to head for somewhere relaxing. I immediately composed an email message to send to a handful of my Strong & Free friends. It began: "Dear Canada, are you busy next week?"

Several emails, a few pricey phone calls, and one exemplary set of directions later, I set out on the eight-hour haul to central Ontario.


Despite having several friends in Toronto, I decided to spend the majority of my week a couple hours east of there in a quiet, rural area close to the shore of Lake Ontario. Going to another major urban center just didn't appeal to me. So instead, I went to see my buddy Brice -- an old work mate from Japan who, like me, has since returned to his hometown. This made Brice the fourth ex-NOVA friend I got to see this summer. Well done, me! And as with Dave and Jenny in Dublin, I hadn't seen Brice in over two years, so it was a deeply gratifying reunion.


In the first fifteen seconds after I pulled into Brice's, I got three things: a bear hug, a brief introduction to the fam, and a cold beer. That set a pretty good tone for the whole visit.

Despite Brice's assurances that there was absolutely nothing to do in his town, we kept pretty busy. We went to a bonfire and a baseball game; we grilled out every night; we played ferociously competitive euchre (the only kind, really); and we sat outside at their mom's listening to the coyotes. Brice and I went swimming in a rock quarry one afternoon, which is an experience everyone should have at least once. His brother's girlfriend and I got to laugh and roll our eyes while the menfolk attempted to force open a safe they had found, using an electric drill, hammers, chisels, and sheer tenacity. Naturally, we spent a day on a Lake Ontario beach with a bit of frisbee, a bit of sunburn, and a respectable cooler of beer. And at night when I crawled in bed at the family farm, it was pitch black and perfectly silent. I haven't slept that well in quite a while.

I even changed my plans for the rest of the week so that I could stay longer. I guess I just couldn’t think of anywhere worth running off to. :-)


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Summer Film Review

While everyone's going batty over "The Dark Knight," make sure you don't miss "Mamma Mia!" Meryl Streep is a diva! She dominates the screen throughout and delivers a particularly heart-rending performance of "The Winner Takes It All." The adorable Amanda Seyfried sparkles as Sophie, bringing a fresh face and powerful voice to the hopelessly starry-eyed role. Packed with humor, charm, and a fantastic score, this film is so wonderfully well-done, you won't even mind that Pierce Brosnon was cast for his ability to act the aging heart-throb and not for his singing voice. ★★★★★