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Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Trip to the Past, A New Friend


Nostalgia is not one of my vices. The past is gone, and I can live with that. There is a line from an old song that sums things up pretty well. "I only wish that I could see yesterday, the same way that I can see tomorrow.I can't really explain it, but it makes sense. Maybe you would like a little more anger with your with your enigma, "I'm getting nothing and expecting oblivion, the past ain't even worth living in, it's just a nail that keeps being driven in.2 I'm not really sure what that means either, but I have no real attachment to the past. The present has enough problems, intrigue, drama and pleasure for me. I don't need to go digging into yesterday.

However, there was a small town about halfway to Big Bay called Grayling. We stayed there last night and it was like stepping back in time. The buildings were old, Main Street lined with small, single story buildings. Locally owned businesses serving the community, street level symbiosis. Insurance agency, bank, diner, and bar all within shouting distance. All, presumably, on a first name basis. Park once, take care of everything.

We ate at the place rated #1 in Grayling by Trip Advisor, Paddle Hard. It was a crowded little bar that had an amazing number of micro brewed beers. The place was crowded, it was noisy and it was a perfect place for us. Loaded with humanity, all shapes, sizes, ages, all manner of fashion choices, all wedged into a small, cramped place. Flatbread pizza was the specialty and we had the mashed potato, cheddar, green onion and bacon. We like to eat things we don't have at home. Mashed potato flatbread pizza qualifies.

It was a such a charming little town we decided to have a "walkabout." It was like going back to the town I grew up in, or the town I grew older in. It really drove home the changes in my life.

We stopped in to buy some fireworks. It was owned by an elderly couple who had been selling fireworks for years. I was wearing a Louisville Cardinal National Championship shirts, and the old man, who was sitting on a chair behind a little folding table, with a glass of water and a newspaper laid carefully, meticulously in front of him, asked "are you a two point guy or a three point guy?" A question any real basketball fan can answer without thinking.

"I am no fan of the three point shot, it has changed the game in ways I don't care for." I answered, without thinking, no real fan is neutral about the 3 pointer.

"Me either. I played before the three point shot." He said.

He was stooped, and leaned constantly to his left, even while sitting in his chair. He looked old and frail, and a little brittle, but his eyes lit up when we talked about basketball.

He had played for a season at Michigan State and he was Spartan Green through and through. When I told him my wife knew a young man who played for the Spartans, and told him who it was, his eyes lit up, he was excited, he knew the name.

"Oh, he is good. He won a few of those games by himself." He was happy to be talking to a person whose wife knew somebody who played basketball at his alma mater.

It was one of the best parts of the trip so far. This small, fragile old man sharing his memories, and asking about mine. His wife told my wife he had been a high school hoops star, and he still had the passion. His wife said he would be thrilled to talk about basketball, he still loved the game. And, he did, and it was obvious. And I was happy to have had the opportunity. I can't speak for the old man, but I came away a little richer.

Life is made up of small seconds, seconds that flash into nowhere. Too often we rush past the good things to reach our goal. How many things do we miss? I am not sure I want to know. But, these few seconds were among the best of the trip so far.


1 The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Give My Compliments to the Chef

2 Graham Parker and the Rumour Empty Lives