The Last Daze of Summer
Robert Downes 8/31/09
Remember the Year Without A Summer? Neither do I, because it happened in 1816. It was also called the Year Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.
Crops failed throughout the U.S. and Europe -- killed off by frost and two huge snowstorms in June. Ice was reported on the lakes and rivers of Pennsylvania in July and August, and (if Wikipedia can be believed) there were temperature swings from as high as 95 degrees to near-freezing within the space of a few hours.
It was caused by the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora in 1815. The biggest earth burp in 1,600 years filled the sky with ash that dampened the sun.
Then theres our summer, which most agree was a dud, weather-wise.
The National Weather Service (NWS) notes in its monthly Climatological Report that it was abnormally cool across Michigan this summer. In July, when the Detroit area usually gets half of its 90-degree temperatures, the thermometer never got above 86.
Only four times in Detroits climate record history have we failed to reach 87 in July and that was in 1875, 1907, 1992 and now 2009, the report states. Our July average of 68.9 degrees was more like the tip of northern lower Michigan than the metro Detroit area.
Mid-state, temperatures were about 6.5 degrees below normal on the average, according to the NWS. You can extrapolate from those temps what this has meant for our shivery summer in Northern Michigan. For frustrated beach-goers, it seemed like it rained 10 weekends out of 12 this summer.
About the best you can say for this summers weather is that it was good for business. Unable to hit the beach, tourists turned out en masse at downtown stores and restaurants and soothed their sense of deprivation by reaching into their wallets.
But at this rate, the Ice Age cometh next June...
Other pet peeves & ruminations this summer:
The handling charge: Everyone hates this trend: You buy tickets to an event at nose-bleed prices and are then told theres a handling charge of a couple extra bucks. For what, no one seems to know. It‘s not like you‘re getting a back rub or something.
We attended the Cherry Festival Wine event this summer, paying $10 for half a glass of Riesling and a handling charge of an extra dollar. It was more of an insult than an injury, but it will be hard to “handle“ going back again next year.
Locked in 79: Was there a single major act that played Northern Michigan this summer outside of Kid Rock or Big & Rich that didnt have one foot 30 years in the past? A pity you had to go to Rothbury or Detroit to see something current, like usual.
TCs snooty factor: It‘s a tale of two cities: again this summer we got an earful of gush about what a well-heeled, high-toned crowd in attendance at the Film Festival;; meanwhile disparaging the “low-class“ people at the Cherry Festival, who have the gall to eat down at the Open Space food court instead of at our gourmet restaurants. (Please note, I‘m paraphrasing here...)
Then there‘s the claim by some downtown merchants that Cherry Festival-goers don‘t buy much beyond ice cream cones, resulting in “the worst week of the summer.“
I wonder if this isn‘t an urban legend that‘s caught on over the years, since I‘ve talked to several downtown restaurateurs and retailers who do great business during the Cherry Festival, although admittedly, they are not high-end operations.
Snooty is Northern Michigans new ugly, and you dont have to go far to find it in upscale communities around the region, even in a recession. But it‘s hard to imagine that the elitists taking shots at the hoi polloi didn‘t come from working class roots themselves. Or at least their parents did. Let‘s play nice next year.
The Mayonnaise Rule: Does this ever happen to you?
You tell your glaze-eyed waitperson that you dont want any mayonnaise on your sandwich.
You (lying): Im deathly allergic to mayonnaise; its like a mix of anthrax and bird poop with a serious spider phobia thrown in.
Waitperson: Right, no mayonnaise.
You (as the waitperson is walking away): Oh, and did I mention no mayonnaise? Cant remember if I said that...
Waitperson: Oh yeah, got it.
You: You sure you dont want to write that down? Its a lot to remember.
Waitperson, looking irritated: I got it. No mayonnaise!
You: Yeah, good, no mayonnaise. Thanks.
Sandwich arrives... with mayonnaise.
Back in Biz: The credit crunch and banking crisis put many high-profile developments in the ditch over the past year or so: hotel schemes, condos and new retail developments in Petoskey, Suttons Bay and Traverse City were shelved for lack of capital.
Few were sorry to hear of a proposed 130-room hotel being put on hold in TC‘s Warehouse District, which is percolating with creative energy with the InsideOut Gallery, Right Brain Brewery, and the Cuppa‘ Joe Warehouse restaurant. Many believe a hotel on West Bayshore would ruin the Warehouse District, which might be better developed as something similar to Detroit‘s Greektown.
But now that the Obama Administration is declaring the credit crisis to be over, one can only wonder how many of these developments are shovel-ready once financing becomes available. At the Grand Traverse Commons in TC, for instance, a new luxury hotel is moving forward, along with a possible new brewpub. Northern Michigan is on the verge of a new spurt of growth.
Hostel Takeover? Various (bad) schemes have been tossed around for the renovation of the 61-room Whiting Hotel in downtown TC, including as a luxury boutique hotel, or for low-income housing. None have gained much traction so far, even though there is apparently funding available from the State for the makeover of the 115-year-old hotel.
So why not a hostel? A low-cost place that would welcome everyone from backpacking young adults to families on a budget, with wi-fi, a communal kitchen and bikes for loan in the heart of a vibrant city. Hostels welcome visitors in almost every city in the world at rates from $10-$50, yet they are lacking in Northern Michigan. At the very least, we need hostels in TC and Petoskey.