Just like that - the sun pops up over the trees and light pours into Sputnik. I’m up, putzing around with high spirits, a cup of coffee and Just Kids open to the last chapter, waiting for me like a good friend.
The book is a perfect ten. Going into it, I knew absolutely nothing about Patti Smith. Now I can’t wait to listen to Horses. I’m going to block off a big chunk of time in a special place to listen to the whole thing straight through. But first, I need to get my hands on a non-digital version, which might take some time. I write “Horses” on a post-it and stick it to the wall. Now I have something to find.
I stand on the edge of Lake Huron, looking out. I walk up to the edge and step barefoot into the shallow, clear water. The rocks feel good on the bottom of my feet. The water works magnifies my feet, makes them look even whiter and softer than they already are from being in hiking boots all day every day. Every part of my body is covered in mosquito bites.
I debate whether or not I want to get totally naked and jump in. It’s cold. What’s the point? Then I remember that Jack Dorsey takes an ice bath every morning and suddenly it becomes obvious what I must do. “If Jack can do it I can do it,” I say to myself before tossing the rest of my clothes on the rocks and walking further out into the water. I don’t go far enough that I can jump in, or even swim. Instead, I do one slow push-up thing to get fully submerged and when I pop up and shake off I feel like a million bucks. Maybe even a billion.
Yesterday I worked from a hybrid church-coffee shop called Harbor Hope Cafe. The barristas, two older women with children my age, were very down to chat. The cafe had a spectacular view of the harbor, one I didn’t fully appreciate until I finally sat down with my muffin. The white sun was sparkling across the water in the harbor and the lighthouse looked like it was sorrounded by glitter.
Once I got the ladies revved up on the topic of social media, it was hard to change the subject. One of the women has a thirty-two year old son who is a mental health counselor in New York City. According to him, social media has destroyed his generation. Eventually, inevitably, we were talking about the only other important thing there is to talk about: libraries and reading.
Before I left, they filled up my five gallon water jug and downright gasped when I told them I unfortunately wasn’t much about my big adventure. “Not everyone can do what you’re doing,” one said. “You owe it to all of us to share you experiences.” And the other one added, “Plus you have so much to say!” Yes. Yes. Yes. I thought. (But also, later: No. No. No.)
I spent a few hours at that cafe, replying to emails and journaling through the most challenging and important of all the Readup-related puzzles: How can we grow? How can we grow? How can we grow? Eventually, I knew when time was up because I started getting bored and confused. So I spent the remainder of the afternoon poking around the shops in downtown St. Ignace, shops that look a lot like all the shops in towns like this: T-shirts, mugs, postcards, bath salts, and trinkets galore. Obviously I had a great time and obviously I didn’t buy anything.
I was shocked that the Ojibwa museum was closed by the time I stumbled upon it. How on Earth is it six o’clock already? I thought. Lucky for me, there was still a ton to see and read about in the park adjacent to the museum, an old, converted missionary. I sat alone on a folding chair in a wigwam for a little while. Then I did the same in a tepee. Then I read about the medicinal qualities of sage and sweetgrass on small plaques in the garden before walking a long row of highly-imaginitive animal statues. I enjoyed meditating on the spiritual significance of each creature, and learning about how and when the Native Americans hunted what. And why.
Then I read a big chunk of Just Kids on a nice bench under a tree. Two teenage girls with massive ice cream cones came by. They were unnecessarily loud and sat unnecessarily close but I didn’t mind. In fact, I gave them some of the attention they wanted, occasionally smiling to let them know I was evesdropping and when I got up to leave one shouted, “Have a nice night, sir!” I made long eye contact with both of them in the time it took to say, “You too. What a beautiful day,” and they both smiled ear to ear. One had a very strange tooth up in the high part of her gums and for my walk back to Sputnik I wondered if she would have that for the rest of her life, and what that meant for her. It fascinated me.
I’ve been working really hard for the last few weeks, so I decided I had earned a night out to dinner. I still haven’t tired of my RV meals – mushroom ramen, veggie mac and cheese, Mexican salads – but I didn’t feel like cooking. For seven bucks, I got a veggie pastie from a place that seemed solidly local and established and I ate it on a picnic table looking out on the same harbor, the same lighthouse, that I had been looking at all day.
A few blocks before I arrived back at Sputnik, I caught a live band on the patio of a small, blue-painted bar. Of course I didn’t go in for a drink, but instead I posted up on a nearby cement staircase to nothing and enjoyed a few songs. I thought a lot about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorp, about how these kind of people keep the world turning, and about how nothing is more important than art, music, writing. I thought about these three musicians, in matching blue shirts, singing “Night Moves” by John Mellencamp and I thought about how they have everything and nothing in common with Patti Smith. I liked when they sang with their eyes closed. I liked when they seemed as lost as I often feel. I liked thinking about Working on my Night Moves. I need to work on my night moves.
Eventually I made it back to Sputnik and drove to my secret spot on a dirt road off a small street called Rabbit Run, which is where I still am right now, the following morning, telling you all of this. See you tomorrow.