This time of year, after a long winter full of cold and frosty landscapes, heavy coats and the death of 3 very wonderful people I had the pleasure of knowing, my mind constantly wanders off to distant lands. So distant in fact, that these lands go by some strange sounding names, like Dowagiac and Cassopolis. Alright, I won't keep you wondering about this wonderful and mysterious land any longer. Let me whisk you away to a place called southern Michigan.
My family has noticed my obsession with this place. I know the depths of the lake and where the shallow parts are. I know which homes are for sale and how much they cost. And which ones are vacation rentals and what they look like inside. Now if only I could be so excited about things I actually need to know. It's ok though, it helps me feel like I'm closer to the lake when I'm really in Queens.
Of course there are other things about Diamond lake and Cassopolis that make it wonderful besides the lake activities. So lets get off the pontoon and walk up to the house and I'll tell you.
Ahh the porch. This is our favorite house to rent for our vacations. There have been others, and not all Diamond Lake houses are created equal.We've stayed in a double wide with plastic sheets, and a very large and very updated house. I liked them all but this one is the best.
Mike likes to point at things. Mostly he points towards the future.
Come on in. Lets avoid all the nicely remodeled areas of this place and go down to the basement. It's my favorite part.
Ok, enough basements for now, lets go out! Lets get out on the town! And let's pretend that Robyn is here and she's driving, because that will make it so much better. She is also a fan of this area and came to stay overnight last year. I'll tell you more about that later. Hey Robyn, put on some tunes!
Onward. Robyn, what should we do? There's Vlasicak's Meat Market, but I think we already bought everything we need. That place is the best. It smells like awesomeness when you walk in. I think the guy always remembers us as the people who buy all his wine. Maybe next year we should warn them that we're coming. I always imagine they're thinking, "Here come those crazy city people again, buyin' all the wine!" I hope they like us. We spend lots of money there. So if we don't need to get thrift store clothes or meat and booze, what are we going to do? What does any person such as ourselves do? Come on, it's not that hard. Bowling! Robyn, aim thine vehicle towards Dowagiac and lets put on our bowling shoes!
Now this bowling alley isn't just any bowling alley. And it's not really in Dowagiac, but I guess technically it is. It out between two lakes on a narrow strip of land. And like places with bars in Michigan, it still smells like stale cigarettes and beer, which reminds me of the bars I used to go to in Arizona before everywhere banned smoking in bars, besides Michigan I guess. I don't like how I smell when I get home, but it seems so homey and familiar. Anyway, let's bowl!
Spanning time. Spanning time.
No? Ok. Maybe tomorrow. But if you leave without having any, you must promise not to forget the chicken in a hat and tie, with either two fat legs or three really skinny ones. Home we go.
Everyone is in the kitchen making dinner. Tonight is my aunt and uncles turn, and tomorrow my aunt and I will cook. but everyone still helps out. We got some vegetables from the farm stand up the road earlier. How is it that tomatoes can be so good? As a city kid I never liked them until I had home grown ones. Now I'm obsessed and I wish I had a yard. Oh New York, you are wonderful but I have other needs. Tomato needs. Hand me that corn! Everyone shares their personal preferences for cooking corn on the cob. I still think mine works the best. We sit down to dinner, everyone enjoying the local foods and beverages. At some point there is always singing or dancing to some kind of funk or soul music. Last year we all did a riveting version of Tina Turners' "Rollin' on the River". We are avid backup dancers. Are you tired yet? Yes? Too bad. We must go back on the boat and enjoy the serenity that is Diamond Lake after 9:00 p.m. Put some beers in your pockets and lets go.
I'll drive now, because it's my favorite time to drive the boat. I can't see much but I know where I am, so we won't run into the sand bar. I always think of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland when I'm on the lake at night. Maybe because it seems so foreign and mysterious. And I'm on a boat. Maybe I'll turn off the engine for a while and just float here in the quiet. The radio is on and the sound drifts off across the water, like mist would. It disappears into the night. Now can you see why I love this place so much?
As we go back toward the house I slow down and pull into the dock perfectly. I like driving a boat much more than a car. It takes more planning and there aren't lanes or traffic lights. As we tie the boat to the dock it gets colder out and I'm glad we're going back in. Everyone goes back to their rooms and Robyn and I go to the guest house where we have decided to stay so we can talk and not bother people.Oliver. He was really sweaty, with an invisible upper lip, and he was really digging on some girl called Jean. Totally groovy fellow, he was. I think he ended up selling real estate in the valley or something.
Unfortunately, as vacations work, we have to leave Diamond Lake now. Everyone get in your cars and drive to South Bend, or Indianapolis or Batavia. This is the horrible part of such a great vacation. You have to leave. If you lived here all the time it would just be where you live. Then again, that wouldn't be so bad. I've got some houses in mind that I would buy if I had a good job. Let me change that to when I have a good job. I will buy a reasonably priced house on Diamond Lake so my family can visit every summer, and any other time they want. Robyn can come with her family when she wants. Forget Hawaii, forget Bora Bora, when you want to have the best time, go to Cassopolis. You already know the language, and you'll feel like you belong there instantly. And it's only a domestic flight away. (Or drive.)
Note: If you loved reading about Diamond Lake, fret not. For I have many other adventures to take you on. There are turkeys to visit, fields of goldenrod to admire, stories of a shipwreck, visits to the feed store, more thrift stores, very long walks through fields of corn past abandoned farm houses, a candy store where the egg salad sandwich will take you back to 1920, an organic farm run by a lovely woman who loves cats, stories of my grandma, and various other things that make Cass County what it is. Oh, and fried pork tenderloin sandwiches.