November 30th, 2004

ferndale bar lisa

I'm a Fudgie

D'y'know what that is? Hint: it has to do with the obligatory side trip of my Thanksgiving adventure "up north"---that is, the side trip to see the bridge.

Don't know the history of the area well, but I imagine Mackinaw City was important early on not just cuzza the fortress there: it's a good place to try to cross a lot of water. Now, though, the tourist aspect seems to be anchored to the proximity of the big honkin' Mackinac (sic, but also pronounced "Mackinaw") Bridge, a.k.a. the Mighty Mac.

'Course ya'll Michigeese likely know all about the bridge culture, and probably a bit about the tourist trade up thereabouts, too. Even though the water is lakes, not an ocean, they've got a good number of the seashore traditional attractions, both for the semi-washed masses (like me) and for the more well-to-do. One of them is fudge---thus the throng of tourists, in the area in the summer for the tourist experience, are, to the locals, "fudgies." I did get my guides to take me to a fudge- and taffy- and caramel-corn-selling establishment, where I did in fact try the fudge. Bought a few pieces of taffy and some postcards, and browsed about checking out the wealth of kitchy tchotchkitude, including all manner of plastic item stamped with an image of the longest suspension bridge in the Americas. This particular joint also had the rubber-lashed-by-leather-to-cardboard feather-decorated "Indian" drums and Minnetonka moccasins I was so drawn to as a kid, plus the more-newly-favored displays of "personalized" items, like keychain tags in the form of mini-local-state-license-plates with the current crop of popular first names (and stuff like "I [HEART] MY 4X4" or "SEXY GRANDMA") or your-particular-birthday astrological profiles---for almost every day, just not bigfinedaddy's birthday. Oh, and there was a penny-squashing machine, as you have aroundabouts nowadays, which will take yer 51 cents and give you back 1 of 'em, smashed into an oval with the locally relevant image embossed thereupon. (I got one of those, too.)

I suppose it's appropriate that what helps make a place feel special and vacation-y---different from home---for us consumer Americans is a different ilk of consumables we can associate with the boardwalk, or the Black Hills, or a place like the foot of the Mackinac Bridge. I was feeling too poor to bring back a box of taffy or 20 pens/keychains/lighters/magnets to share with my coworkers (and it didn't seem quite far enough away for that), but there's also that aspect of buying junk as a way of sharing the experience with loved ones by remembering them while away and bringing them back a memento---and the cheap plastic tacky souvenir item doesn't seem at all shamefully unappealing to me: it seems just right, and kind of touching, to me, believe it or not. (vjsmom, I very nearly got ya'll another floaty pen, this one with a barge wafting out from hiding to travel under the structure at hand.)

So, if there's some sexual meaning to the term "fudgie" in another context, that's NOT what I meant.

I am also told that we down here are "trolls" to the folks in the UP, cuz we're from . . . (wait for it) . . . . . ----yep: under the bridge.

Most of the trip, of course, was not this pilgrimmage, but visits to and with parts of my hostess's semi-extended family. That's another tale entirely, of course, but the short form is that it reminded me how it can be to be among clusters of related people, with the combination of affectionate (and sometimes less affectionate) familiarity and claustrophobic trap, particularly common in the queer experience, I imagine, but probably true for lots of folks who go back home to be with the folk of origin they've largely left. I say that as someone who didn't have much extended family, and now has just the brotherly pod, which I do hope to catch up with soon. It had me thinking, as you might imagine, more about the larger family I was recently almost a part of, for a time.

I'm very glad to've experienced the tips of the middle and forefingers of Michigan---both what I could of the culture of the area, and the annual Indian River craft show, but even more the feel of the out-of-doors, and how it seems to be as big a character in life up there as any people. I do love the birch among evergreens---for me it's right up there with the willow by the brook and the cottonwood rising up and rustling on the prairie, along a creek or on a hunk of the Flint Hills. Next time: more time outside. More of those great dramatic skies, or whatever they're like in warmer weather.

Those of you who tipped me that "it's different up there"---quite right you are.