Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Life In A Small Town #4


               If anyone has seen the classic Seinfeld episode “The Bottle Deposit” than you are probably familiar with what I am about to tell you.  The State of Michigan offers ten cents apiece to anyone that returns their empty bottles or cans.  This became the form of currency that a great many of us abided by back in our younger days.  Now, when most of us get done with a soda we toss it into our garbage can.  In Michigan however, empty cans and bottles are something like a form of currency.  See, once a week or so some of us would go into the garage with a garbage bag and fumble through the cut in half refrigerator box to collect cans.  We knew that each can found put us one step closer to renting Rocky 3 for the fifty third time.
                You couldn’t just walk in and give a video store your cans.  One would have to take them somewhere else to get them counted, get your money and then go rent Rocky 3 for the fifty third time.  This meant you had to go into that weird back room of the grocery store to count them and then inform the clerk of how many you had.  Or depending on which store you went to, you had to stand at the customer service counter and count them out in full view of the other patrons.  Who were likely looking at you like, “look at that poor bastard having to count all those cans.”
                Some adults when it came to can counting took it to extremes.  They would save up all of their cans for the entire year.  Lord only knows where they would keep the damned things.  They would then fill up what seemed like an entire conversion van with garbage bags of tin aluminum cans.  The process of counting them would take upwards of an hour and then they would walk away with perhaps enough to buy a case of beer to start the whole process over again.  It’s just like a certificate of deposit, just with cans and bottles.  And it’s possibly dripping a mixture of several substances out of a partially sliced up garbage bag when you go to cash it in.


Life In A Small Town #3


               Growing up in a small town, especially in the pre-internet days, it almost seemed you got ahold of trends and fads when they were at odd swings of popularity.  Take for instance, the Macarena.  That wonderful little dance that combined two of America’s favorite wedding reception dances the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey.
                I remember visiting some relatives in Chicago around the time the Macarena craze hit the nation.  Being from a town that neighbored on one of the four smallest broadcast television network markets, I didn’t see the dance craze coming at first.  Hell, this was at a time when we had fewer than fifty cable channels.  Can you believe it kids?  There was actually a time when you had fewer than fifty channels on TV.  The horror of it still makes me wake up at night in cold sweats.
                As I was saying, one of my out of town relatives tried to explain it to me.  I didn’t quite get it at first, and then I realized it was a dance where you don’t actually really go anything.  You just kind of flap your arms.  The only movement from your lower body came at the end of the motion when you would do a ninety degree turn of your body, bearing the dance’s only resemblance to the Hokey Pokey.
                The Macarena came and went and managed to stay in school dances and wedding receptions; or wherever people that couldn’t dance wanted to try and dance.
                Another odd coming of a fad in my town was when it seemed that overnight, everyone that could get their hands on one was wearing a House of Pain jacket.  Yes, the guys that gave us the hit song “Jump Around” managed to cause quite the stir for a while in my little town.  It was funny, because I remember the jackets had that same color scheme as the title sequence from the show Martin.  Or at least that’s the way I remember things.  We had everything from the Insane Clown Posse to Starter Jackets.  Both of which could be found in secondhand stores and yard sales in same said town ten years later.  Now people can actually afford the Starter jackets.

Life In A Small Town #2


               Another thing that everyone in northern Michigan seems to have; is a story about the time they met Bob Seger.  Yes, Bob is an even bigger legend in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula than Paul Bunyan.  The legendary rock musician during some of his rare downtime during his heyday touring would spend time in Oscoda, or near it.  At least that’s what I am told.  He would spend his time eating at this little bar/restaurant just north of the town, mostly during hunting season.  Remember what I told you folks in #1, people from Michigan really like to stalk and then possibly kill things during the fall. 
                Anyway, Bob would come up and take some much needed time off from his busy touring schedule and spend it hunting on this vast acreage of property he supposedly owned.  So it would seem natural that one or two people that have lived in the area for some time would have a story about when they met the man at a hunting supply store or a restaurant at the end of a long day of trying to give another creature lead poisoning.
                There’s just one problem.  Growing up, there seemed to be so many people that had an “I’ve met Bob Seger at the grocery store/restaurant/gas station” story that they can’t all possibly be true.  Which this has led me to the following conclusion.  Either all of these people are lying, or Bob Seger is a Yeti.
                I know it would seem strange to some of you to think that the man who sang “Turn the Page” would be a Yeti or a Bigfoot.  However, there are enough shows on television concerning the search for Bigfoot that it may just be true.  I’ve probably seem an amount of Bigfoot hunters that is roughly equal to the number of stories of Bob Seger sightings I have heard.  Then again, maybe most of those people are full of it.  Yes, I know it may be hard for some of you to believe; but there are folks that will lie about meeting a celebrity to improve their social standing.
                In northern Michigan, nothing will get people impressed more than a good “I met Bob Seger” story.  I fell for it once myself as a youth.  A friend of the family recounted to us one night how he had met Bob Seger.  The story was almost too unbelievable.  The family friend, who we will refer to as Drake; had been imbibing copious amounts of spirits and was escorted by officers of the law into a neighboring county’s drunk tank.  He is sitting there awhile when the officers escort another gentleman in.  The man informs Drake that he is in fact music legend Bob Seger.  Perhaps the man was just able to convince an inebriated Drake that he was who he said he was.  It could also be that he really was who he claimed to be. 
                It’s funny, most of the Bob Seger stories I’ve heard over the course of my life from people that live in northern Michigan seem to revolve around meeting him in a county drunk tank.  This means that either he has a bigger problem than he ever let on, they are all lying or Bob Seger really is Bigfoot.


Life In A Small Town #1


You know what the messed up thing about growing up in a small town is?  There’s only one of everything.  One McDonald’s, one Burger King and one Arby’s.  Hell, we actually got a Taco Bell at one point, but they had to shoehorn that into the same space that made up the KFC.  Nothing better than the smell of chicken grease and taco grease mixed together.
                I remember the summer that the Taco Bell got wedged into the KFC.  I lived in the small town of Oscoda, Michigan.  Nestled just off the coast of Lake Huron in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan; we were the town that everyone came to go fishing and camping in the summer and shoot harmless woodland creatures in the fall and winter.  Our business was pulling harmless critters out of their natural habitat in a violent manner and to cause their lives to come to an abrupt end.  Oh, I almost forgot.  We also later on that same day would skin them and eat their remains.  Yes, our town had quite the history of violence.
                My apologies, time to get back to my main point.  Our humble little town on the lake used to be a burgeoning metropolis so long as the threat of nuclear war hanged in our faces.  However, with the end of the Cold War the Department of Defense decided to schedule the Air Force base that was built in the town was scheduled to close.  After that, the town basically closed up.
                Quick sidebar before I promise you I’ll get back to talking about Taco Bell.  When I was in high school we had to take as a graduation requirement a state history course.  One of the facts given about our small burg was that at one point Charles Lindberg came to visit.  You know, the same Charles Lindberg that flew across the Atlantic?  Ok, we’re on the same page here.  The teacher, who I will henceforth refer to as Mr. Jim, made a strong point of bringing up that the aviation legend didn’t look like he wanted to be in Oscoda, Michigan all that much the day he made his visit.  Well, I don’t know about you folks but if my kid had been kidnapped and everyone in the world was asking me about it I sure as hell wouldn’t want to come to Oscoda, Michigan.  I digress.
                The day Taco Bell came to town.  It almost seemed to happen under cover of darkness.  There we were one day riding our bikes past the giant neon and glass visage of Colonel Sanders.  The next, there’s an equally neon arrangement of the word taco next to good ol’ Harlan.  Now, you would think that a fast food chain opening up a new location would attract a few people out of morbid curiosity.  The people of Oscoda totally lost their minds.
When I say totally lost it, I mean they would park their cars in the lot of the neighboring grocery store and stand in line over an hour or more to order something from Taco Bell.  You see, Oscoda was located in one of those odd spots where it was at least an hour away from the nearest Taco Bell.  So the only time you would be able to make a run for the border is if you were near a shopping mall.  By the way, the placement of some of the state’s shopping malls is quite the puzzling conundrum.  We will dive into that later.
Imagine the disappointment on the faces of everyone the second time they visited the Taco Bell.  Once they realized that they can come and buy a pack of ten or whatever the hell arrangement it is they serve their tacos in whenever they want, I would imagine for many that the bloom was off the rose.  I bet a good portion of the townsfolk probably realized, “hey, this is just a crappy taco,” and were wondering why in the heck they stood in line for half the day for a disk of flour enveloping a teaspoon of seasoned beef.  Which we would all find out later allegedly contained sawdust.
So yeah, that’s life in a small town.  Just a continuous series of small excitements encompassed by the planning of doing something else that day to rid you of the tedium that you are surrounded by.  It’s not all that bad, really.  You just have to be really creative otherwise you’ll find yourself excited for the opening of a Taco Bell.


Life In A Small Town

Hi folks, going to be trying out a series of articles I am calling the "Life In A Small Town" series.  I hope you all enjoy reading and please feel free to leave your feedback.  In an effort to keep everyone's eyes from crossing, I am going to make this the base page for the series and just post the links to the articles.  Much easier I would say.  At any rate, you should be seeing them show up any second now....

Life In A Small Town #1

Life In A Small Town #2

Life In A Small Town #3

Life In A Small Town #4