Readuponit: Travel and voracious reading

Max Hartshorne, travel website editor, sharing some of the stuff I read, hear and see with you. Updated every day. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

MeetUps Bring People Together for All Sorts of Great Reasons

by Max Hartshorne on November 25, 2014

Jeff plays the G horn, used in marching bands.

Jeff plays the G horn, used in marching bands.

In a Northampton apartment, we played jazz standards on a Monday night.

In a Northampton apartment, we played jazz standards on a Monday night.

Serendipity brought me something on Facebook that turned into something by email that lead me last night to a group of musicians who play jazz in a Northampton apartment every Monday night. It was a Meet Up ,and I now realize that I have former Vermont Governor Howard Dean to thank for that. I read a story about the origins of MeetUp.com and found out that this New York City start-up got momentum after they met with the politician and his chief strategist, Joe Trippi, and created the first very effective grassroots political campaign.  Too bad that after a primary win, we heard Dean’s famous scream and then it was all over for Howard. But not for MeetUp.

So I replied that yes, I’d like to join you guys and play drums with you.  So I sought out the address and found myself playing a pretty good rendition of the Bossa nova classic Desafinado with two saxaphones, a fiddle, two guitars and me on a small drum kit. Those two guys on the sax really hit the nail on the head. Later our host, Jeff, took out one of his three G Horns, which he explained are no longer made, and blew some sweet notes on a few other jazz standards like “Have you Met Miss Jones?”  and “Sea Journey.”

Playing music has become such an important part of my life–my regular Wednesday night rock and roll jams are something I rarely miss unless I’m out of town. The men who I play with are all, without exception, high quality men, who I admire and enjoy.  I thought about another thing that makes me so fond of all of them–they all are masters of their own field,  don’t have criminal records, tattoos, they don’t have sad sack stories about their fallen careers or love lives, or people who are chasing after them for rent, child support or broken laws.

Instead, they are all–to a man–upstanding citizens who love making music with their friends and are great examples of lives well lead for their kids and grand kids.

I spend too much time during the week inside my house, after spending the whole day in my house working. I have been feeling like I need more places to go, things to do, people to see and interact with.  Maybe Mondays will take on the same tradition as Wednesdays, or who knows what other meet-ups are happening.

I heard about another MeetUp that happens at the Forbes Library, it’s all about laughter. A group of people get together every week to make each other laugh. Really.  MeetUp has so many different groups–now if I can find a group that is looking for Bridge players, well, I will be even happier.

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Detroit: An American Autopsy, by Charlie LeDuff

by Max Hartshorne on November 18, 2014

Detroit, An American Autopsy
I picked up a book at Horizon Books in Traverse City. I was amazed to see that this bookstore cafe is open from 7 am til 11 pm Seven Days a Week. Wow!  The book is about a city four and a half hours south, Detroit. And it’s clear from reading just the first few pages it’s a far far different mindset and attitude down there than idyllic Traverse City.  It’s called “Detroit An American Autopsy”  and Charlie LeDuff pulls no punches.  He once was a reporter for the New York Times, and he decided to move back to the his hardscrabble home town with his young family.

Here is how he describes life in a screw factory, a dead-end down on your luck job that his brother had to take after he was downsized by Quicken loan. There were once 200 loan officers, but after the 2008 crash, there were just 28 left.

“Walk in the door of the screw factory and the first thing you notice is the enemy–the time clock. Then you notice the stink of oil vapors and solvents. The dispiriting yellow light. The slippery floors. The caked and peeling walls .

The workers don’t want to be here. The liquor bottles in the weedy lot out back  told part of the story.

I watch the poor mopes taking the last dregs of their cigarettes before the work bell rings . The cutting fluid and other oils have permanently stained the skin under their nails. And that damn lousy smell stays with them.

I couldn’t take my eyes off their bad skin, made worse by grinding dust and dirt caked in their ear folds, eye corners, noses and  hair. I see their skin pockmarked from the metal shavings that they probably have their wife pull out with tweezers each night while they drink  a can of beer. I used to work in a place like this as a kid.  Almost everybody who grew up here spent at least some time in a factory like this.  I remembered it all as I watched the hollow, cornered faces staring at the time clock like they wanted to smash its teeth out. I remembered it all in five seconds.”

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Sarah Landry Ryder: Keeping It Moving At The Redheads

by Max Hartshorne on November 15, 2014

Sarah Landry Ryder runs The Redheads, a cafe and specialty food operation in Lake Leelanau, Michigan.

Sarah Landry Ryder runs The Redheads, a cafe and specialty food operation in Lake Leelanau, Michigan.

We were touring up the Leelanau peninsula and looking for a place for lunch.  Mike Norton, my local guide, said he had heard about a place with good food and a good reputation. When we got to Lake Leelanau, we swung into The Redheads, a cafe and food emporium run by Sarah Landry Ryder. She’s a forty-year-old dynamo who began the business 18 years ago, despite looking far too young to have been at this game that long.

We stopped in and ordered salads with cherries and turkey and homemade pesto, and she told us about her life in this tiny town where things slow way down off season and are crazy nuts for the summer months.

She not only runs this business but also has a big wholesale business selling her organic granola, hummus and pesto sauces to 175 grocery stores and specialty food stores in Michigan and Indiana.

She has two small children and she’s the coach of the volleyball and basketball teams at the local high school.  We asked her how she can manage to run this place with its night shift, where until midnight a crew packages the food products and during the day when they serve breakfast and lunch to passing tourists and locals. “The coaching keeps me sane,” she said. “When it’s 3 o’clock and time for me to head over to the fields, it’s a relief!”

Fishtown in historic Leland, Michigan.

Fishtown in historic Leland, Michigan. Salmon swim up this river to spawn.

We talked about what it’s like to have a food operation in a village where the tourists show up in droves during the summer and early fall, and then there are far fewer customers during the rest of the year.

She explained how the wholesale business keeps things going, and that she needs to keep her staff on all year because she needs them when it gets very busy.  She’s opened a second cafe up the road in Leland, but closes that one after the summer is over.  What has changed here on the peninsula since when she was growing up?

“There are a lot more people living here,”  she said. “And there were no wineries back then, nor was there as much of a value placed on organic produce and producing things without chemicals.”

The more people move to the peninsula, the more tensions grow, there is a dichotomy between those already here and the younger people who are moving here. “Nobody wants to change, the have a hard time accepting that you can’t keep it all the way it once was.”

“Twenty years ago, this part of Michigan was like the Upper Peninsula,” she said, referring to that desolate and colder part of northern Michigan famous for its mosquitoes, lack of people and wildness.  Today’s wine tourism and extensive cherry farming is a much different from the olden days when fish were more plentiful and fewer people lived here.

But Sarah is happy with how her cafe and businesses have fared, and enjoys playing music with her husband, an elementary school teacher, and keeping busy juggling so many different things all day long.

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Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula: A Day by the Lakes

by Max Hartshorne on November 14, 2014

Workers remove the nets from grape vines in Old Mission, Michigan.

Workers remove the nets from grape vines in Old Mission, Michigan.

Glen Haven lakefront.

The shore of Lake Michigan at Glen Haven.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, on the shore of Lake Michigan.

A Great Lakes fishing boat with an enclosed deck.

A Great Lakes fishing boat with an enclosed deck, in Glen Haven, Michigan.

Inside Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, where it's all about cherries.

Inside Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, where everything is made of local cherries.

I love discovering new places and today’s excursion onto the Leelanau peninsula outside of Traverse City, Michigan was a fascinating series of discoveries.

I never knew about the vast fishery of the Great Lakes and that only native Americans are allowed to fish for chub, whitefish, lake trout and salmon here, nor have I ever seen so many different ways you can market cherries, or that there are almost 40 wineries in these two large counties in Northern Michigan.

But that’s why I’m a travel writer and why I always say yes to visiting a new place, so I can share these wonderful things with you, my dear readers.

Mike Norton picked me up in a snow squall and we set out heading west from Traverse City across the flatlands where cherry and apple orchards dot the landscape.  Vast open tracts of land looked like places you’d find deer–and that’s correct.

Our first stop was the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore’s visitor center, where we looked over a diorama which showed the steep cliffs that plunge down to the shore of Lake Michigan. A hike on a snowy path took us up about a mile to a bluff where the magnificent dunes shone bright and we could see the North and South Manitou, small uninhabited islands just off the coast.

We drove up the coast to the town of Glen Haven, which is home to a small maritime museum (closed this time of year) and then to the summer town of Glen Arbor, which was mostly windswept and closed, and felt like being in Cape Cod in February.

This part of the world is cherry country and to find out all about the fruit we visited The Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor.  From cherry flavored coffee, to jams, jellies, dried and fresh cherries, the theme here was pretty clear, and a sign said it all: Apples Smaples, Peaches, Smeaches, Oranges, Smoranges.

Hell yeah!

We continued up north until we got to Leland, where ferries depart for the islands and a member of the Carlson family was smoking salmon and beef in a wood fired smoker.

 

 

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Traverse City Michigan Is My Next Port of Call

November 12, 2014

Tweet   As a polar vortex comes barreling out of Canada toward the Midwest, that’s exactly where I am flying tomorrow morning, when I visit Traverse City Michigan for a four-day press visit. Why am I going to this northern Michigan city on the cusp of winter? Because Mike Norton invited me. I’ve been receiving […]

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A Sister’s Visit with a Georgian Feast

November 9, 2014

Tweet   What a weekend!  It was a nonstop fun fest from Friday until Sunday, when our three fantastic house guests my sisters Jenny Brown and Moo came for their annual visit.  I have a hard time describing just what exactly it is–is it energy?  Is it enthusiasm? Is it just this terrific high energy […]

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