bambu, brz #1

Saturday, 2.11.17

And so this is my first foray into Brazil,
          away from the airport,
          where the bamboo leans over into the road.

João’s mother is elegant and kind,
          and is about to veer into one car
          as she flips off another.

And there’s sunlight dappling through the trees.
And the soil is red.
And even though there are dunes in the distance,
it’s unfamiliar and

o til, brz #2

Monday, 2.13.17

Sao Paulo without the tilde is unfamiliar, flat,
          not the São Paulo I came to know and like.

It needs the tilde… o til.
          A little less exotic without.
                    Don’t you think?

Worth the extra effort, I’d say.

São Paulo is kind,
          that bustle, the drive, the ambition.

People are too busy to bother much with you, though, like in New York
          so you can

                    explore freely.

tiny empire, tc #10

Friday, June 16, 2017
Empire, Michigan

I slammed on my brakes just before the second bend in M22, south of Empire, startling my fiance. But his eyes were lit up.

“Did you see?!” he asked.

I drew a really dramatic breath and nodded. I pulled a u-turn—dangerous, probably, but worth the risk.

We backtracked and pulled into the neighborhood along Erie Street — a collection of funky, tiny houses cutely arranged around a village green. This is what excites us.

We’re both 32 years old.

The first tiny house was sort of cabin-esque. Situated a little further off the road and behind a modest podium of shrubbery. He’s a little shy. And definitely a he. Dark, but bright-eyed and welcoming.

And then the blue one — a little reminiscent of the A-frame wanna-be where I grew up, over on Long Lake (the one downstate, in Kalamazoo, not the one up here). It’s a bit of a stretch but I’m an inconvenient combination of nostalgic, romantic, and unapologetic.
All the Icks.

It’s sort of tropical, the blue house. But that’s the trick of Northern Michigan, isn’t it? One year we stayed on Old Mission Peninsula shortly after spending some time in Ibiza and swam out to the raft at Haserot Beach. We laid on our bellies, backs to the sun, and watched the fish swim in the clear blue water below.

“Kind of like the Mediterranean,” I said.
“My love,” J snapped, tutting at me with disgust. “Much colder.”
Again, a stretch.
What can I say?

A diminutive red Victorian. Elegant and established. Regal. Monarchical. This one. This could be a place to display our tchotchkes in heavy mahogany cabinets and re-watch episodes of the Great British Bake Off into the wee hours of the night.
But is that us, really?

One of us, maybe.

The best for last, of course. My favorite — the white one. It’s the first one you see if you enter from M22 on Ontario Street. Simple. Symmetrical. Minimal. Modern and traditional at the same time.  A fusion of our two opposing styles. It seems like it’d be light and airy inside. Perhaps with wide-planked wooden flooring. A neatly designed kitchen that spilled into the living area. Plenty of comfortable seating for friends to kick up their feet after hiking the dunes.

It wouldn’t be  suitable for our tchotchkes—all the little knick knacks we’ve collected throughout the years. I’d have to throw them out.

Or tuck them in a box in the attic because I’m sentimental


And maybe that’s okay.


pine cone, tc #9

Friday, June 16, 2017
Traverse City, Michigan
Leelanau County

I wasn’t ready to go yet, but that’s always the case when check out time rolls around.

“Let’s do something around town,” I said to J.
“My love, I have to work.”

A compromise. I dropped him off at this minimalistic hipster coffee shop on the edge of town in between a terrarium store and a place that sells furniture for the 1%. Cute watering can, though. $50 dollars? I can water two plants with this. 

I walked back downtown by myself. A brief foray into Cherry Republic and then into Brilliant Books because we had been to Horizon earlier. I like Brilliant better — it’s cozier and organized in a way that prevents me from leaving without spending at least twenty dollars.

I browsed a bit and then moseyed over toward one of the booksellers.

“So, here’s the thing. I’m not from here and we’re leaving today and I’m hoping—”
“Oh, where you from?”
“Downstate originally… Kalamazoo. But I’ve—”
“Ah! Kalamazoo! I lived down there for a few years for—”
“Oh, nice! Where?”

We interrupted each other for ten minutes talking about Kalamazoo. The conversation eventually lulled. I lingered, dumb and staring.
“Soooo, what brings you in today?” People in the midwest are socially generous.

“Right. We have to leave today and I don’t want to go.” I left it there because it was already awkward and I wanted to test this socially gracious person because I have a black and rotting soul.

A quizzical look.

“You’ve gotta have something in here about Michigan, right? Michigan stories?”

He wrinkled his nose.

“You like Jim Harrison?”
“The Legends of the Fall guy?”
“He was from up here?” I vaguely knew he was from Michigan, but didn’t realize he had lived so close. Leelanau County, it turns out.

The bookseller walked me over to a section with only his books, handing me a copy of True North.

“Trust me,” he said.


A lucky encounter in Suttons Bay.

A high school friend who I haven’t seen in a few years. His wife, on whom I have a schoolboy crush. The first day of their Up North vacation was the last day of ours. We had some beers at Hop Lot. They have two cool kids, but seemed happy to have time away.

“We’re having some other friends join us, another couple.”
“They just moved from Ann Arbor to Holland.”
“Oh, god!” I cried.


A few beers. Slightly drunk.

We still had to fit in our usual standbys: Glen Arbor, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Road construction; stopped in the middle of nowhere. Inappropriate advances from my fiance.

There’s a woman—a construction worker—holding a stop sign ten feet away from us. She looks like a Gerry. Well, Gerry with the guys, her crew. Geraldine, perhaps, when she gets gussied up.

What if she sees?

“My love, you can have a hot dog at the Pine Cone.”


the queen is upset, tc #8

Thursday, June 15, 2017
Traverse City, Michigan

The same weird ass shit hangs from the ceiling of the general store.
It tiptoes precariously at the border between the artistically eccentric and ‘it puts the lotion in the basket.’
I was bummed. On this particular day the bulbous and curmudgeonly proprietor wasn’t there.
He scolds people who complain when their sandwiches take too long.
If you believe Yelp reviews, he says things like, “Oh, the Queen is upset she hasn’t been served yet?”
(Which makes me like him even more.)
But really….
What’s so wrong with wanting to spend a few extra minutes in paradise?


There’s fog out in the bay, even though it’s sunny.
We’re at the tip of the peninsula; one of my favorite places.
There are a few people wandering around; still early for the season.
A woman stops me to take a picture with her guy in front of the lighthouse. It’s the same spot we asked someone to take our picture the year before, the day after our spontaneous engagement
We snap a few pictures of our own and slap away the sand bees from our ankles.
It looks like my plan for a romantic and lazy late afternoon, sprawled out on a beach blanket, has been foiled.
They don’t produce honey. 🐝


We cursed all the way back to the car, stopping frequently to bend down and itch our legs.
“I need a beer,” I said.
“Yes,” J agreed.
(He’s not a beer drinker.)
“I know a place close by—let’s skedaddle.”


We turned off M-37 toward our destination.
A flower farm. We stopped to take pictures. Irises, I think.
A bit further to West Bay and we pulled into the Jolly Pumpkin.
The driveway loops around a grove of pine trees.
In that grove: rows of white chairs, an aisle down the middle.




coffee drinkers, tc #7

Thursday, June 15, 2017
Traverse City, Michigan

I brew two pots of coffee in the Gevalia, going back each time to a warm but empty carafe. There is no doubt of my genetic relation to this gaggle of coffee-addicted vultures.

I brew a third pot and stand over it, guarding that which gives me life. I pour myself a cup. There’s no sugar so I throw in a marshmallow—a hangover from the s’mores—and head out to the dock with my book: The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot. It’s a collection of slightly chauvinistic short stories set in Northern Michigan. I shouldn’t really like them but I do, except the one about baseball.

The lake isn’t still but it’s calm. The sky is a bit dark in the distance. There’s a woodpecker off somewhere chipping away. The dark clouds get closer. The wind gusts. It blows my hair around. The pragmatic side of me should have probably prepared for rain, but somewhere deep down inside me is this intuition which understands nature and keeps me out on the dock. Ron and Zack’s conversation drifts out to me. They’re talking about fishing: the time they came up a few years ago and were reeling in bass, one after the other.


“You can try this bitch kayak this time,” I said to J, kicking the green vessel his way, the one I had chosen last time we went out on the lake. It was flatter—one of those you sat on top of rather than inside. I despise anything that makes me feel off balance and reminds me that I have a ‘core.’ 

I pushed out in the blue one and knew immediately that my time in the city hadn’t rendered me unable to manage a kayak. I dipped the paddle in the water and turned around to watch my fiance struggle with his vessel, recognizing the shimmy that was necessary in order to maintain your balance. He’s cute, I thought, allowing myself to gush. We were getting married out here in one year, after all.

We paddled over to the north side of the lake, occasionally going our separate ways to explore fallen trees and schools of fish, but always circling back to each other.

“My love,” he said, with a startling sense of urgency, like maybe his kayak sprung a leak. I turned around. “What is it?” I asked. He said nothing but kept looking toward the shore. I paddled toward him.
“An owl,” he said, pointing to the nearby raft.
“Is it?” I asked, squinting. It was small, and it seemed weird to see one in the early afternoon.
“The head’s moving!” J said. And it was. We paddled a little closer.

“It’s fake!” I shouted, splashing it with my paddle.  “A bobblehead owl.”

And so it sat, regally upon the raft, moving ever so slightly and judging us.
Refusing to fly.


overheard, wscj

Conversations overheard at various Water Street Coffee Joint locations in Kalamazoo, Michigan, listed in no particular order:

“There’s no reason Aaron should be making $75,000 a year.
“She’s very smart… and very Catholic.”
“It reminds me of the time I went to Thailand and thought I was going to die. They don’t label their spicy food. How do they not all get ulcers?”
“Music, masturbation, and timing. I try to weave in all those themes in this book I’m writing that is about myself. And I don’t want my family to read it. The poor side is probably fine, but the rich, Christian, Republican side…”
“I think you have to be deliberate to remember peoples’ names. I’m not a people person so I don’t bother. Some people are, though — they’re so peopleish.”
“Instead of buying expensive Christmas presents, how about we go for a walk in the woods and watch the birds or somethin’?”
“My pride and joy is my songbook.”