Thursday, June 5, 2014

Michigan 1988

In the summer of 88 I was working concrete construction in Champaign, Illinois. I worked with a number of good guys, but my best friend from that job was Kurt Strube.

At some point in the summer, I mentioned that I'd like to go to Michigan because I'd never been to Michigan. So, Kurt and I decided to go.

We only had the weekend, so there wasn't much time to get very far into the state. I'd wanted to go to Traverse City, to Mackinac Island, to the U.P. and places of the far north. But, looking at a map, I settled for a state park north of Muskegon.

Yes, we planned to camp.

But first off, Strube wanted to go to Holland, MI because he had an old friend--who used to work concrete construction in Champaign--who had moved there. So, we went to Holland.

No cell phones in those days, but Kurt had his number and he used a pay phone at some strip mall to call this guy and this guy said he'd come meet us at said strip mall. We waited and the guy walked right past us until Kurt made a quacking sound which was some kind of inside joke between them. Anyway, the guy was okay, kind of wacky like Kurt himself. I'm not sure what we did: drove around to see the town, known for its tulips (I think), drank a few brews at a bar and played pool.

Evening came and we told him we wanted to camp. The guy said he knew a place. we followed him there.

The place was some bottomland beneath a bridge along a river. It had weeds and trees and lost of junk.

Now, I don't mind camping, don't even mind sleeping in a car or truck, but I don't usually sleep beneath bridges in strange towns or even in familiar towns. But, this place was just fine with Kurt.


It was summer. It was hot. There were tons of mosquitos. Who knew what kind of people came to a place like that beneath the bridge--evidence said people who drank beer and whiskey and dumped bulk trash and had furtive sex. But, again, this was fine with Kurt.

I elected to sleep in the vehicle--I think we took his truck, but maybe it was my ugly Ford maverick. Strube wandered around the detritus and picked out an old soggy stained mattress that someone had dumped in the weeds.


So, he slept out there with the mosquitos and who knows what. I slept in the car with the mosquitos and, at least to some degree, I knew what.

Nothing happened beyond that, so the next day we drove up to Muskegon and past and to the campground of Silver Lake State Park, which was more to my liking and which was fine with Kurt.

We camped. Went swimming in the lake. Climbed dunes to see the bigger lake--lake Michigan. Later that evening we drove out to some bar.

The bar was next to a concert venue. The band Aerosmith was playing at that concert venue. There were crowds. In the bar some motorcycle guys wanted to play pool. We played pool. The biggest of them said to me: If I was going to fight you, I'd have to knock you out really quick because I'm in too bad shape to fight for very long.

I didn't feel too threatened by that statement, but it did give me pause to think . . . Anyway, they were okay and we went out with them to stand along the fence as the Aerosmith concert wound down.

There were security people around this chain link fence. The motorcycle guy--who mentioned his need to knock me out quickly--asked the security guy how he could stop him if we rushed the fence to get in to the concert. I personally had no plans to rush the fence, but it was nice of the motorcycle guy to include me.

Well, we didn't rush the fence.
I didn't get knocked out.
I didn't sleep on an abandoned mattress under a bridge.
I did finally go to Michigan.

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