random thoughts: U.P. edition

Last week we traveled to Ann Arbor to move our college junior into an apartment for the upcoming school year. We stopped in Petoskey to visit family and friends and then drove home to Madison through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s been decades since this troll* traveled north of the Mackinaw Bridge, but the U.P. hasn’t changed much. Fresh air and clean water. Forested land and undeveloped shorelines that go on for days. Everything about the U.P. harkens back to simpler times. Here are my other random observations.

  • The U.P. must have more signs for pasties and smoked fish than the entire rest of the county. These are true Up North delicacies. Smoked lake trout and whitefish fresh off the boat are flaky and delicious. Pasties are handmade with care and are just the right comfort food for surviving brutal winters. Houghton, for example, averages over 200” of snowfall a year!
  • The yoopers* should be given some kind of credit for inspiring the tiny house movement. We probably saw a hundred little rental cabins that looked to be no bigger than 100 square feet each. Fishermen, hunters, snowmobilers, and other outdoorsy folks choose these no-frills, economical options for a little dose of indoor comfort.
  • Highway 2 boasts an impressive array of throwback motels. For some reason, I love the big LOBBY signs above the entry doors. They remind me of the family vacations of my youth when filling up an ice bucket from the motel ice maker and raiding the vending machine for candy bars was a novelty.
  • In Manistique, the sign at the Big Boy restaurant caught my eye. Why, oh why, are they brutalizing quotation marks this way? It’s both “The” Fresh Choice and The “Fresh” Choice. I can’t decide if this is a worse crime than the egregious use of an apostrophe by Blaze Pizza
  • Unfortunately, the U.P. still seems to be struggling economically. There are plenty of empty storefronts, motels, and restaurants for sale, but I’m not sure what the prospects would be of ever turning a profit. The Culver’s in Escanaba was doing very well, however. Nothing like a Butterburger to fuel us for the rest of the drive home.

*Thanks to Michigan Radio: for this definition: While yooper refers to residents of the Upper Peninsula, those that live south of the Mackinac Bridge may be lightheartedly referred to as trolls since they are “under the bridge.”


random thoughts: D.C. edition

My dear husband and I just spent a long weekend in our nation’s capital. We were visiting our younger daughter, who is doing a 10-week internship at the Partnership for Public Service. If you don’t mind gorgeous sunny weather in the high 80s (and I certainly don’t), D.C. is a great place to be in July. Lots to do, lots to see, and not enough time to pack it all in.

  • For an urban area, D.C. feels surprisingly open. The buildings are not too tall or too crowded together and are reasonably set back from the street. The sidewalks are wide and, for the most part, clean. However,  there is a pronounced cacophony of sirens, horns, and engine noises at all hours of the day and night.
  • It’s also a surprisingly affordable city. Lodging and meal prices were comparable to those we pay in the Midwest. The monuments and many other attractions are free. One worth paying for is the Newseum—we enjoyed it immensely.
  • The Metro makes it easy to get around. That is, when all of the lines are running. The major routes we were counting on to and from the Foggy Bottom station were closed for repairs, so we racked up a lot of extra unplanned steps.
  • The summer fashion uniform for women is a sundress and either tennis shoes for a walking commute or flat sandals. Inexplicably, there were quite a few women wearing low ankle boots with their shorts/dresses/skirts, even in the heat.
  • The men of D.C. are pretty sharp dressers. Noticeably absent was the jeans/tennis shoes/favorite sports team t-shirt uniform we see in Wisconsin.  We observed what may, unfortunately, be a trend in the making: shorter shorts for men.
  • We’re fortunate to live in a foodie city and have visited some other notable ones, like San Francisco. I’d add our nation’s capital to that list, especially when it comes to seafood.
  • We are always on the lookout for caffeine-free diet Coke (or caffeine-free diet Pepsi in a pinch) when we travel but are rarely successful. In D.C., both the Walgreens and the convenience store near our hotel were fully loaded with both options.
  • This was probably the first vacation where we didn’t buy anything. Not even a “Make America Great Again” hat.


words, words, words (11)

The only thing today’s words have in common is that they have nothing in common.

Palimpsest. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was published in 1986, but is experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to the new series of the same name now airing on Hulu. I was browsing through Amazon Prime to score some free reading materials and decided to give it a try. While not my normal go-to genre, I enjoy a good futuristic novel from time to time. So far, this one is living up to the hype. I spotted palimpsest in the opening paragraph and Merriam-Webster provided the definition: “writing material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased.” M-W elaborates, “Nowadays, the word palimpsest can refer not only to such a document but to anything that has multiple layers,” which is the usage here.

Drishti. This Sanskrit term is variously defined as “perception,” “area of focus,” or “focused gaze.” In a yoga class, you might be told to have a drishti gaze by your instructor. Practicing this technique can help you be more mindful and improve concentration. Learn more here, here, and here.  

Fescue. The U.S. Open was held at Erin Hills this past weekend. It was a spectacular tournament in every respect, from the location to the weather, to the outstanding competition. While watching from home, I got to hear one of my favorite golf words again and again: fescue. Google says fescue is “any of a number of narrow-leaved grasses.” This modest definition doesn’t even begin to describe the majesty of yards of tall fescue waving in the breeze alongside a pristine fairway. Of course (ha – golf pun), beauty is in the eye of the beholder; I might have a different opinion if I was wading through the fescue to find my errant ball. See Erin Hills Fescue: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.



apostrophe fail

While in Ann Arbor this spring, we needed a quick lunch and happened to be right by Blaze Pizza. They promote their pizza as being “fast fire’d.” Unfortunately, that is not a typo, but a weirdly-placed, intentional apostrophe. This so offended my grammar sensibilities that I almost* couldn’t patronize the establishment.

The company explains on their Facebook page:

We decided to put the apostrophe in “fire’d” to accent the word “fire”, which is what our restaurants are all about. In order to break the rules, you have to know them, so we didn’t do it unknowingly or lightly — we did it with purpose.

In addition to that, we believe in living life outside the box, being yourself, and following your own path, and our careful decision to use the apostrophe with our own purpose reflects that.

For some reason, their explanation makes me dislike it even more. Blaze could have use color, a stylized font, or some other graphic technique for emphasis without committing this crime against grammar. Apostrophe fail.

*”Almost” because, after all, it’s still pizza and pizza = good.

words, words, words (10)

Today’s words are from a variety of sources and there is no rhyme or reason to their grouping. I’ve just had them hanging around for awhile and it seemed like time to release them to the blogosphere.

Pollarding. While in San Franciso for Thanksgiving, we saw blocks and blocks of gnarled trees that didn’t resemble anything we see in the Midwest. It turns out their unusual look is due more to the way they are trimmed, called pollarding, rather than the type of tree. Here’s a good definition from Wild Willow Landscape Design: “Pollarding is a tree pruning technique that develops a framework of bare scaffold branches with a gnarly knob at the end of each branch.” See also The Quirky Appeal of Pollarding, an older article that is still relevant.

Aposiopesis. Some words are best defined by an example. The Three Stooges are known for “Why, I oughta…” without finishing the sentence. That’s an aposiopesis, “a sudden breaking off in the midst of a sentence, as if from inability or unwillingness to proceed.” I never knew this literary device had an actual name.

Mendacity / Mendacious. The rise in popularity of mendacity and mendacious can be directly attributed to the current political climate. Google defines the noun mendacity  as “untruthful” and the adjective mendacious as “not telling the truth; lying.” Now, see if you can read the newspaper or listen to a news broadcast without hearing one of the two (or both).