The leaves are mostly fallen from the trees. There’s a crispness in the air, although we have yet to see snow. And in the upper peninsula of Michigan, thoughts have turned to this year’s rifle hunting season. This is where I’ve lived for the past 22 years.
I came up here from Chicago on the “first day of deer camp”. As i wandered around the empty streets of my new home town of Gladstone, I was greeted with a friendly “Have you been hunting yet?”. Being naive to the local culture, I was vaguely aware of the concept of the time of year as being a state wide holiday. But it didn’t matter to me then. I was escaping the grit and congestion of the big city. I was drinking in the newness of small town life, and I wanted more. Quaint shops with “closed” signs were an indicator that I had arrived.
I was in need of a haircut, so I popped in to a local barber. At the time, there were two in Gladstone, located on the opposite ends of Delta Avenue. The shop was antiquated from as far back as the 1950’s. One chair. One barber. A few chairs along the window for waiting your turn. Sitting in the chair, I was greeted by an elderly gentleman, possibly mid to late 60's. He draped a faded, striped apron around my neck, and he filled me in on things to see and do about Delta county.
As we talked, his words were punctuated by the buzz of the electric clippers in my ears. I occasionally looked around the room, catching glimpses of peeling paint in the corner, and old newspapers and magazines on a table next to the chairs. And out the window, an occasional dog being brought into the shop next door, a pet groomers. The groomers had looked closed, so I was briefly surprised at the image. The conversation wound down as the barber finished with me. $6. Paying and tipping him, I admired my new looks, and departed.
Next in my journey, I wandered the main drag, peering into the different shop windows. A few antique stores, a computer shop, and plumbing supply store later and I was ready for some lunch. Sadly, being new to the area, I wasn't familiar with the concept of “closed for deer camp”. Knowing no other diner locations, I returned to my car, and drove back home.
22 years is a long time. Since then, I and my wife have visited most of the tourist traps, worked for a number of local businesses, and settled into a lifestyle most people often dream about. We live in West Gladstone now. Most mornings, we wake up, and have our coffee as the sun comes up over the horizon. Then we settle into our routine behind computer monitors, cranking out projects, reports, and various digital goods for our respective churches and organizations that today’s society demands. The grind of city life has found us. But then again, sometimes you need the balance of busy and calm. I was asked once if I miss the city life. I just smile and say no. We live digital lives now. I have the best of both worlds when I get into Google Earth, and zoom in to virtual Chicago. It’s a brave new world.