Friday, August 26, 2011

Mackinac Island: Americana made in China

Mackinac Island (pronounced mack-i-naw, um, eye-land) is at the top of the Michigan mitten. Except for a couple of emergency vehicles and snowmobiles, cars are banned from the eye-land. This peculiarity brings millions of tourists to Mackinac--that and the fact that Somewhere in Time was filmed there.

If you want to enter the Grand Hotel, where Christopher Reeve read his lines so stiffly, you'll need to have a crisp ten dollar bill with you. Mackinac likes to make a clear distinction between Grand Hotel guests and the sloppily dressed tourists who come to the island for the day. If you're able to bike around the island or hike the trails, you'll have a great weekend on Mackinac, but if you're a person of limited mobility, there's not really much to do there except eat fudge, hang around the tiny town and look at the quaint houses--but don't get too close.

Can you imagine how the 500 or so year-round residents of Mackinac feel when hordes of tourists stand in front of their homes and take pictures? I got a taste of the animosity while returning from one of my late afternoon hikes. As I was getting close to the town, I spotted a woman and man standing at their front door talking. When they looked at me strangely--and then more strangely--I smiled and said Hi. 

"Where are you coming from?" the woman asked me with an enormous smile that said her question was anything but friendly.

"Um, from up the road there. The trails?" I pointed to where I'd just come from like I was afraid I'd done something wrong.

"Oh," she said. "I thought you were coming from my house." She said "my house" as if it were the Grand Hotel.

"But aren't you standing at the front door of your house?" I asked.

With a big smile the man said, "It's all right. It's all right."

I walked on trying to figure out what had just happened. I think they were accusing me of trespassing although I'd never left the street. They live a block off the main street, so I'm sure they have lots of unwanted guests. Here's the thing, dear Mackinac Island residents: There's no industry on Mackinac Island. No farms. No businesses besides B&Bs, fudge shops, restaurants, bars, novelty shops and clothing stores that stock t-shirts and hoodies that say MACKINAC on them. If you choose to live on Mackinac Island, shouldn't you at some point come to terms with the fact that there will be lots and lots and lots of tourists? If this makes you crazy, maybe you should consider a home in Nowhere, Montana. It's beautiful there.

The streets of Mackinac Island are lined with American flags, which gives you the feeling you've stepped back in time--maybe 1912?--back to a simpler era with lots more horse shit on the streets and black domestics in the hotels. I'm not sure which one was more offensive. I love horses, so I'm going for the conspicuous presence of subliminal racism.

The most offensive--and sad--thing about Mackinac Island is that, for all its Americana appeal, almost nothing in the stores is actually made in the USA. It was a bit nippy the second morning, so I went looking for a Mackinac hoodie. I don't have anything against garments made in other countries: I just like to support the local economy when I'm traveling. I spent a couple of hours searching through every store on the island only to find that almost all of the garments in the stores are made in China, Pakistan, India and Nicaragua. I finally settled on a hoodie that was at least assembled in the US.

Mackinac Island is worth a visit if you're into quaint houses and horses. If you're looking for real Americana, Mackinac will probably disappoint.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to N is for New Zealand.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Have a Blog While I'm Gone

Hello, pretty IMBO reader! As you might have gathered from previous posts, if no planes have crashed or motorhomes run out of gas, I'm exploring the national parks of British Columbia right now--which means I'm probably not online. Probably. I am sort of obsessed, so I might try to find access.

While I'm gone, why not stop by one of my friends' blogs? A cracking idea, no? Let's start today with M.J. Nicholls blog Quiddity of Delusion. M.J. or "Mark" as I and his mother like to call him is a writer in Edinburgh. He writes unusual, innovative fiction and eloquent non-fiction. He also maintains a lively blog on his writing process. One of the things I like so much about his blog is his monthly "My month in Novels" post. Um, Mark reads a bit more than I do, so if you're looking for a good reading list, Mark--or M.J. as publishers like to call him--is your man.

I must be off (in fact I already am),

Sunday, August 7, 2011

You wanna blog? You got one: Martha Williams

Hello Pretty IMBO reader,

As you may have gathered, I'm off. If nothing has gone wrong, I'm somewhere in a British Columbian national park. I'm probably hiking and soaking up clean Canadian air...that is if nothing has gone wrong. My friend Martha Williams posted a similar message when she also set her blog to post automatically a few months ago. Scheduling automatic posts can be a risk. In Martha's case everything went splendidly.

Martha writes and edits. Her blog is all about the/her writing life, and she always has something valuable to say.

I hope you'll check her blog out. It's HERE.

I must be off,

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blog of the Day? Nothing to Flawnt

Marcus Speh is a machine. In fact, I think he's probably more than one machine, like Shakespeare was really a group of writers. His blog, Nothing to Flawnt, is but a small part of the online presence of Marcus Speh, the persona we once knew as Finnegan Flawnt. As many of you already know, he's hosts

Kaffe in Katmandu, a unique co-operative--an "existentialist shangri-la"--where you'll find everything from literary articles to visual art to fiction and poetry. It's a colorful place.

He also runs the project One Thousand Shipwrecked Penguins HERE.

Right now I'm somewhere in British Columbia wandering around in a national park, so . . .

I must be off,

Monday, August 1, 2011

Have another Blog While I'm Gone!

Here I am again, pretty IMBO reader. But I'm not really here; I'm somewhere in British Columbia in a national park trying to feed the bears. Yet thanks to modern technology, I'm also here with you. How are you? You're looking, well, prettier than usual. Have you been stopping here every day?

Onward to our blog of the day. Glamour Granny Travels! The Glamour Granny's name is really Inka, and she runs one of the most interesting travel blogs I've bumped into. This German-born traveler has been EVERYWHERE, and she writes about her travels in a way that gets you there quick and keeps you there. She's informative, witty, real and entertaining. She accompanies her travel anecdotes with lots of great pictures. Swing by and have a virtual vacation with the Glamour Granny.

I must be off,