What Makes A City?
As often as I voyage in search of a quiet view of nature, I also like to explore amazing cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Green Bay. Yep, believe it or not, when you live in the UP (see The UP from July 2012), you have to hit the road and drive the three hours – one way – to Green Bay, Wisconsin to get a dose of the big city life. More than once, I made the trek to the mini-metropolis along the western shores of Lake Michigan just to see a movie, go out to dinner, or even buy a new car (see Learning to Drive from January 2013). You make do with what you have in a pinch, right?
In fairness, the drive to Green Bay offers a view I found more enjoyable than the town itself. Skirting the northern shore of the lowest of the Great Lakes, the view from the road includes glimpses of the fishing shelters on the frozen ice. I marvel at the logic that developed these structures and I chuckle to myself when I know at some point during the spring melt, someone’s ice shack, and mostly likely their truck, too, will fall into thin ice – it appeared as a breaking news story on the evening report more than once each year. In our quest to see all five Great Lakes (see “OMES” from March 2012), we stopped along the beautiful shoreline to snag a quick shot on the swings at a lakeside park. Truthfully, it’s a lovely, scenic drive that I recommend in the summer.
About two-thirds of the way towards Packer headquarters, I prepare to cross from Michigan’s upper crest into northeastern Wisconsin where Menominee and Marinette straddle the Menominee River. Along the Great Circle Route, like an anchor on the bottom of the peninsula, the historic home of Lloyd’s Wicker Furniture fuels the economy of the Michigan side of this river region. The woven furniture style migrated from its British roots and established itself in a large-scale manufacturing facility along US Highway 41. The first time I drove towards the structure, I recalled an enormous manufacturing facility from the randomly quirky film Joe Versus The Volcano.
I envision Tom Hanks trudging day after day into this compound of industrial structures, a not-uncommon appearance along the Great Lakes, and his willingness to leave this dismal, dark, limited light location so far north of the Equator for a tropical oasis in the heart of Polynesia. I feel similarly, as life in the frozen wasteland certainly gives me a brain cloud. This mundane existence, where the weather remains unchanged for months upon end, where the sun sets before the work day ends, where the colors of gray and dingy white coat every object far beyond the Vernal equinox, lies in the intersection of misery of frostbite where I welcome the escape from such a routine. A day trip to Green Bay, while a scenic drive providing a brief outing from the bitterness of the Upper Peninsula, just doesn’t measure up to the kind of escape I envision. And as I pass the wicker furniture factory on my way through Menominee, I am reminded of the bleakness and monotony the factory represents in the film, and the similar pallor cast over me by my presence in this blank existence. It would make me want to jump into a volcano, too.