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The bittersweet season

Robert Downes - September 20th, 2010
The bittersweet season
Fall is that time of year when we “get our life back” here in Northern Michigan.
I’m always amazed at the hush that falls over the region just after
Labor Day Weekend. Suddenly, the road along the bay looks less like
the Daytona 500 and more like a country lane. As the smog and
automotive roar of the tourist migration dissipates, you can start to
see something of that small town we remember from way back when -- a
place more like Lake Woebegone than the Vegas Strip. Fall reminds us
that life here isn’t all just a cabaret, old chum... we get our sense
of home back.
By August, our heads are ringing from attending the summer-long
avalanche of festivals, starting in May with the Zoo-de-Mac and
running through the Leland Wine Festival and Spirit of the Woods in
June; the Cedar Polka Fest, Cherry Festival, BlissFest, PaellaFest and
TC Film Fest in July; the new Wine & Microbrew festivals in August;
Bay Harbor Vintage Car & Boat Fest, Festival by the Bay, Dunegrass,
Hoxieville, FarmFest, Forest Fest, Venetian Fest, Alpenfest,
Harborfest, and all of the dozens of other mini-fests punctuating the
summer. Not to mention art fairs -- you could spend the whole summer
hopscotching to different art fairs each weekend, filling your home
with thousands of loon carvings, Petoskey stone lamps and old barn
paintings.
Attend all of summer’s events and you turn yourself into a human
pinata, knocked silly from one commitment to the next -- call it
“minifest destiny.” Unfortunately, this gives the sensation of
speeding up time as your event calendar becomes a mandatory checklist
year after year. Here in TC, for instance, summer becomes a blazing
downhill run after we’ve finished the Cherry Festival, and yet the
season seems barely just begun.
Going to festivals, concerts and gallery openings is an occupational
hazard at Northern Express and I wouldn’t trade them for all the green
cheese on the moon; but by fall I’m ready for a slower pace, along
with the news that the only big thing happening in town is a high
school football game. Thankfully, I’ve been to some of those many
years ago and don’t feel the need to attend.
So festival fatigue eases in the fall and there are fewer events
around to drain the swamp of your wallet (or desert as the case may
be). Amen to that, because before you know it, it will be Halloween
and the Christmas shopping season will be sprung full-blown upon us
along with another round of parties, visitors and expense.
Fall has its own rewards: the air is crisp enough to make for good
sleeping and snuggling weather at night, but not cold enough to hear
the costly rumble of the furnace kicking on. Hikes in the country
replace days at the beach, and soups replace salads as the days grow
cooler. Men huddle around electronic fires to squint at football
games, raising the same grunts and yells as their caveman forebears
20,000 years ago. Cider mills carry us back to our roots, reminding us
that there’s something better to quaff than the carmelized,
carbonated, caffeinated bilge in polyethylene terephthalate bottles
that we trashed ourselves with last summer. And of course, the blaze
of changing leaves reminds us that life is short & sweet, so better
grab all of it that you can while it lasts.
Before you know it, we’ll be rummaging around in our closets,
wondering where the heck we put all of the scarves, hats and gloves we
packed away last spring. Dimly, we’ll recall that it’s time to get
the snowblower tuned up, like we forget to do every fall until it’s
too late. And we’ll find ourselves putting things away: patio chairs
and tiki torches, swimsuits and soaker hoses. We won’t be seeing any
more knobby knees and hairy legs in plaid shorts downtown, but neither
will we enjoy the sight of pretty women in mini skirts and halter
tops. We’ll savor the goo of caramel apples, but maybe lose a tooth
in the process. Fall is the bittersweet season.

 
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