Thirty Years and Three Days

trip-potoskey-and-birds-and-millie I was not looking forward to the price the girl with the bleached smile was about to quote us. "Well," she starts, "We have a room for $350.00. It's a king with a Jacuzzi and a balcony overlooking the lake. All of our rooms either overlook the lake or our downtown area." I knew it. Sven's mouth wasn't working. "That's a little steep," I said. "Anything else?" "We have another room for $250.00 with two double beds, a balcony and a jacuzzi." We just stared at her. "And there is one with a king that faces the lake, for just $199.00." No response. Silence. "Anything else?" I say. "Anything cheaper?" "Well," she drops her voice, "We have one for $179.00. It's on this side of the building and it faces the parking lot." "Does it have a window?" I said. I looked at Sven. His chest was moving in and out. He was still breathing. She continued. "Of course, all of our rooms come with a $25.00 voucher towards breakfast in our fancier than all get out, dining room." Did she just say twenty-five dollars towards breakfast? That's crazy. Obviously, she has never met Sven and doesn't know that he is, how shall I put it? FRUGAL. But you know what? All of a sudden $179.00 seemed pretty darn reasonable to me. I mean the little girl had begun at $350.00. This was our anniversary trip after all. We deserved it. Didn't we? Thirty years is a long time to be married. Especially when you aren't even old enough to be married for thirty years. At least not on the inside. Hell, we went to Jamaica for our twenty-fifth. This was quite a downsize. I gave Sven one of my looks. "Fine," Sven said, "We'll take the one on this side." I felt just like Cookie in The Best in Show. And then off Sven went, to retrieve our car which was parked around the block because we could not for the life of us find the entrance to the elusive hotel that stood out above everything as we'd circled it. "How do you pronounce the name of this town?" I asked the girl as she entered my information into her computer. "Potoskey," she said without looking up. "Oh crap. When my husband comes back, would you mind saying that it's Po-toe-skey?" "But it's Potoskey," said the woman next to her. "Yeah but, you see, I really need it to be Po-toe-sky." As Sven and I rolled our luggage toward room 030, I turned around. "Oh, by the way, how do you pronounce the name of this town?" "Po-toe-skey," they both chanted. The bellboy turned and grinned. "Thanks," I said, waving. "See, I told you it was Po-toe-skey." The day had begun in the pouring rain. But it didn't matter. Sven had replaced the windshield wipers and he'd coated the windshield with Rain-X. Because we were going on a vacation. And if there is one thing that Millie Noe loves, it is going on a vacation. We got a jump start on a three day tour around the upper half of Lake Michigan by leaving Thursday night, right after work. "The windshield is so clean that everything looks fake out there," I'd texted to my sister Louisa. Our final destination? Ludington. That is where we would catch a four-hour ride back to Wisconsin on the SS Badger. Why? It's hard to say. But it was after having planned the trip when we remembered that it had been our plan to catch the same ferry on the way back from our honeymoon trip to Maine. That never happened. I looked fondly back to 1986 when I was all of twenty-nine and digging under the seats for spare change to pay the toll booths, after having tried to pay a visit to Sven's old golf coach from the Coast Guard Academy, who'd lived in Connecticut. That is when we learned that Connecticut is not as close to Maine as it appears on a map. And that was also when we learned that Sven's old golf coach had been dead for six years. But I'm over that now. I don't know about you, but I have never left on a trip without having something that I need to drop into the mail. And somehow the envelope always ends up in the car with me. Does this happen to you? And do you think, "It's no big deal. I'll just stick it in a mailbox when I see one in front of a store?" And then you never see a mailbox in front of a store, because you need a mailbox to be in front of a store. I know. I knew it was a real special day when Sven and I stopped in Escanaba Michigan. I hopped out to swipe my card while Sven was messing with the gas tank cover. And there it was. No. Not a mailbox. A mail truck. Just for me. And there was the mailman heading for it. I grabbed the envelope out of the glove compartment, slammed it shut and took off on a sprint, splashing my way over to him. "Hey! Hey! Hey! Mister Mailman!" I yelled all the way there. He turned around on the step of his door. I handed him our daughter's birthday card. He tipped his hat. Sven was busy pushing all the buttons at the pump, oblivious to my disappearance and saved mailing, when I returned, all out of breath. "What are you doing?" I asked. "I am trying to put gas in the car. What do you think I am doing?" "Well, I have to swipe my card first you know." I went inside to pee. "Excuse me," I heard a voice. "Is that your National Lampoon Vacation car out there?" I turned around to see a woman wearing a Pit Stop T-shirt. She was talking to me. "What? No, I have a KIA." In comes Sven through the door. And then out of the men's restroom comes a guy with a greying ponytail and holier than thou jeans. "Is that your car?" she says to the man. "Yep," he says and keeps on walking right on out the door. Another woman in a matching Pit Stop T-shirt runs inside. "I got a picture of it. There's even a dead grandma in the backseat," she says. She posts it on Facebook. I knew that at that moment, the moon and the sun and the stars were all lined up, in perfect order. trip-surfrat A few minutes later we pulled up behind SurfRat. When a person puts this much effort into a project, complete with a fake, stoned looking dude, who is facing you and he sticks a rattail to an antenna, that is flapping violently in the wind, it's easy to smile. Even if the weather is not that lovely. As we passed by the forty-foot long station wagon on the left, the driver was inhaling a slice of pizza, and rocking out. That even made Sven smile. The rain came. Rain, then drizzle. Then drizzle, then rain. And then some more rain. I watched all the drops roll into little tiny balls and travel wildly up the windshield leaving trails of tails, like millions of sperms swimming to an egg, which apparently was on the roof. That is what Rain-X does to rain. We battled our way through gale force winds and opened the door of a Marina restaurant, for lunch. On our departure, we went out the other end of the building, because my sweet Sven knows how to outsmart the wind. And there it stood. An antique shop. It was blocking the wind. I'm not a big fan of antique shops. But I do find them to be very inviting at times. Especially when I do not particularly want to get back into a car and watch sperm for another couple of hours, as mesmerizing as it can be. I have seen enough episodes of Antiques Road Show to know that if I am ever standing in a long line of people wearing flowered shirts, I will not have along with me a ten foot tall dresser with handles that look like maple leaves all lined up and down the thing, that required Three Men and a Truck for transportation, just to have one of those cute little Keno brothers act like he's about to have an orgasm over it. And then find out that the looming dresser is worth quite a bit. It's worth almost as much as the invoice from Three Men and a Truck. Not worth it. My plan is real simple. Bring in something small and be a winner. Like this guest. "Well, I saw it in the window, and I just had to have it," explains a woman wearing seventeen rings, four bracelets and earrings that look like chandeliers. The camera scans a Broche sitting on a black velvet cloth. It is covered in silver, gold and rubies, and it says something about Tiffany Somebody on the back of it. "How much did you pay for your Broche?" asks a man in a plaid suitcoat and striped pants. "I think I paid twenty dollars," she answers wistfully. "Twenty dollars, huh? Well, that was a pretty good bargain. Because today, at auction, your Broche would go for thirty-five thousand dollars." This is when the guest faints. And this is when she is carted through rows and rows of old people with old stuff. And one of her earrings is stuck in her thigh. Well, I figured that as long as Sven and I were standing in an antique shop, avoiding the wind and the universe seemed to be in perfect order, it was Millie Noe's day to find that one small item that she just had to have. I held it up for Sven. "How much is it?" he says. "Twenty dollars," I grinned. "What is it?" he says. "It's a bud vase." trip-red-lighthouse "Let's go out to that lighthouse." "Not happening Millie," Sven said. We drove on by. But it wasn't long after the priceless, bud vase purchase, that the weather took a turn. The sun didn't come out blasting and blinding. Instead the clouds spent the afternoon slowly thinning out and breaking up, little by little, cloud by cloud. "I have a missed call," I said looking at my cell phone in the passenger seat. "Call it back," Sven says. I don't like to call unknown numbers. I don't even like to call numbers that I know. But ever since I published a book, I am certain that if I don't return every call, I might miss Ellen DeGeneres or Oprah or Mallatt's Pharmacy, saying that they sold a book. Maybe some radio station wants to interview Millie Noe. What if it's Jimmy Fallon? "Hello, this is Jason," states an unfamiliar voice. "Hello, this is Millie Noe. Did you mean to call me?" "Millie Noe, yes, absolutely. I was calling to let you in on a wonderful opportunity. I would like to set up an appointment for one of our Kirby representatives come to your house and..." "Excuse me Jason." "Yes?" "Did you say, Kirby?" "Yes." "Later." And I hung up the phone, three times. I am never really sure how to hang up my phone. Foiled again. Jason was just a guy working for the one and only company that repossessed a vacuum cleaner from Millie Noe. Maybe he should have checked his records before dialing. Maybe they shouldn't sell their vacuum cleaners to people who have to make monthly payments on them. If a person has to make monthly payments on a vacuum cleaner, then a person should not have that vacuum cleaner. Because a person can never be sure that she will not be getting divorced in the not so distant future. Trust me, the very last thing a person needs at that point, even if it was all her fault, both the vacuum purchase and the divorce, is to load up her children and her vacuum and walk into a store where the people on duty have no idea what to do when somebody stops by to hand over a court ordered, repossessed, vacuum cleaner. But I'm over it now. Especially on such a fine day. We crossed the Mackinac Bridge. trip-mackinac-bridge And not long after that we stood in the lobby of a fancy hotel in Po-toe-skey Michigan and we scored a lovely room that overlooked an exquisite parking lot. trip-potoskey-hotel And then it was time for some Millie and Sven fun. trip-potoskey-clock trip-my-sweet-sven-on-doc trip-potoskey-dock trip-millie-and-sven-and-vase The next morning, we were seated in a beautiful, stuffy, and white, as in, not even a tan face in the room, dining room, where the clinking of expensive silverware on high class China, muffled by linen tablecloths and matching linen napkins, drowned out the hushed conversations all around us. And Sven and I ate twenty-five dollars worth of eggs. By the way. Did you know that all corned beef hash does not come out of a can? Or that Eggs Benedict can be served without hash browns? And then Cookie and her man with two left feet, got back in the car to continue the tour around the lake. trip-saturday-boats trip-saturday-boats-2 "We need to get some gas," says Sven as he pulls into a gas station. "Oh. No. Not here," I said. "What's wrong with this place?" "Look at that sign." NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS "What kind of a gas station doesn't have public restrooms?" "Fine," he says and turns the key. "Sven what ever happened to Lake Michigan?" I said a little while later. "I don't know." Sven pulls over to study the Atlas. Apparently we had taken a wrong turn. Apparently we were in a national forest. "I think we should stay right on this road," he says. "It'll get us to Ludington." Did you know that it is very difficult to find a gas station in a certain stretch of a certain area in a certain national forest, in Michigan? "I think we are coming to a town," I said. "I think we just went through a town," Sven said. "Is that a gas station over there?" "Are you kidding me?" "Well, it looked like a gas station." "Hey, is that one up ahead?" "Sven, that thing hasn't been opened since 1950." He pulls back out to the road. With under an eighth of a tank, we came upon a building, with working gas pumps right in front of it. It was open. "I'm going in to pee," I said, swiping the card. I wandered around inside. There was no restroom door. There was a sign. MUST GET KEY FROM ATTENDANT TO USE OUTSIDE BATHROOM "Jesus." And then we pulled into Ludington Michigan. "Hey Sven, there's a gas station." trip-luding-gas-station AND THEN WE DROVE DOWN BY THE BEACH. trip-ludington-lighthouse-way-out-there "Let's go out to that lighthouse." "Way out there?" "Yeah, way out there." ""Fine," Sven says and parks the car. trip-ludington-lighthouse-looking-up We spent our last night in Ludington. We stayed in a room with a king, a Jacuzzi and a balcony. It faced the lake. That's right. You see, Sven had to pee. Sven left Millie Noe alone at the front desk. "Well," says the girl in the ponytail, "We have a room for $250.00. It's a king, with a Jacuzzi and a balcony, facing the lake." "Oh. Anything cheaper?" "There is one with two double beds, a Jacuzzi and a balcony. It also faces the lake." "Oh. Anything cheaper than that?" I said. "We do have one for 169.00. It overlooks the pool, over on this side." "Yikes. I don't think my husband is going to go for it," I said. "But we'll see. I'm pretty good at this." Sven walks up to the desk. "Honey, she has one for $169.00," I said, in my nicest voice. Silence. I gave him my look. "Okay," he says. The girl was bent in half trying to stifle her laughter, behind the computer screen. She composed herself and stood back up. "So how has your vacation been so far?" she asks and begins typing in our information. "Oh. It's been great. We've been driving around the lake. And this is our last night. We're catching the ferry back to Wisconsin in the morning," I said. "I am bumping you guys up to the king with a Jacuzzi and a balcony, facing the lake." trip-ludington-ferry-and-lighthouse-sunset trip-millie-and-hot-tub trip-pulling-out-of-ludington trip-ferry-sven-on-phone trip-ferry-millie-feet trip-manitowoc trip-the-million-dollar-bud-vase trip-sven-will-you-quit-taking-pictures Sven says, that sometimes it take ten years and ten minutes to fix something. I get it. It took thirty years and three days to catch that ferry.

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