the northland 5

Since my grandma passed away a couple years ago, there’s been some question as to what’s going to happen to my grandparents’ house in Menominee, Michigan. My parents go up there regularly (my great-aunt still lives nearby), and so does my uncle and his family. It mostly sits empty, though, and nobody particularly wants to live so far away. We all want the house kept in the family, but it’s a huge commitment.

Knowing a decision about that will probably made at some point, I really wanted Matt to go to Menominee. He never got to meet my grandma, so it was a big deal to me. I also wanted to see the town we visited at least twice a year for as long as I can remember, since the chances we’ll go there again are pretty slim.

We drove up Friday afternoon, with my mom and sister following an hour and a half behind us. We got up to Michigan in a little over 5 hours, and had some time to kill before they showed up with the house key. We decided to go hang out at Jozwiak’s and wait. It’s a well-known hamburger place that we used to visit as little kids (in the UP and Wisconsin, it’s totally normal for kids to hang out in bars).

Within an hour or so, we’d made friends the bartender, Addy, and made plans to meet her after her shift ended at 11pm. (This is one of the things that’s awesome about most other places that aren’t Minnesota: strangers aren’t abjectly terrified of meeting new people.) We went to the house to find my mom and sister there with my cousin Nicole and her boyfriend John. We said hi, brought our bag inside, and were presented with our sleeping arrangements: a twin-sized bed and a cot. We pushed them together, but the cot was a couple inches shorter than the bed. Argh.

We went back out and met Addy across the river in Marinette, Wisconsin, at a bar called Cappy’s. The bar was made of what seemed to be lumber scraps, and there were cages by the stage. Drinks were about $2.50 at most, and the DJ ruled. We loved it. Far later than we’d planned, we arrived back at the house in Michigan. I climbed into the twin bed with Matt and managed to maintain our very cozy situation for at least half the night.

Saturday, we got up and began the grand tour of the other Twin Cities. We stopped with my mom and Stephanie to say hi to my Aunt Pat in Marinette, then Matt and I went down to the Peshtigo Fire Museum. I’d been there years ago, and needed to revisit it, if only to verify that the before/during/after mural is as morbid as I remember. It is.

We toured the museum, and I found it to be a lot more interesting than I’d previously thought. They actually only have a few cases of stuff that was charred and recovered after the fire, and a ton of other period items. The story of the fire is horrifying: it occurred the exact same night as the Chicago fire, only it killed many, many more people. The entire town was destroyed. This terrified us a lot:

After the museum, we toured the cemetery and saw the mass grave. (There were 350 unidentified victims from the fire.) The good news about Peshtigo, though, is it’s doing well. At least til highway 29 is finished and skirts it completely.

We headed back up to Marinette to visit the Pine Tree Mall, where I’ve spent at least 2 hours of my life, since it takes about 10 minutes to see it all. It’s even worse than it used to be; most of the tiny stores have closed, because they raised the rent after Wal-Mart moved in. (Worst possible business to move into small towns? Quite possibly.) We did some shopping at Younkers and the sporting goods store, when went over to Shopko. Man, I love Shopko.

We decided to get pasties for lunch, as well as to bring home with us. We went to Dobber’s, which my mom swears is ‘the best ever! Way better than Colonel K’s!’ and ordered two hot pasties, and a dozen frozen ones. They were out of vegetable pasties, though (we did get 6 frozen ones, thankfully), so we made a trip over to Colonel K’s anyway. Which was awesome, because the strange guy behind the counter ruled.

We stopped back at the house briefly to shove our giant bag of pasties in the freezer, finish eating, and then we headed back out to explore downtown Menominee. We made a stop at the yarn shop, which is awesome but surprisingly expensive for a small town, then wandered down Front Street. The Waterfront Festival was in full swing, with a bad cover band playing at the bandshell, and food and beer tents set up in the park. Since we’d be down there in the evening, we skipped the festival and walked across downtown, out onto the breakwater. It was insanely humid, so there was a heavy fog hanging over Green Bay.

Having pretty much seen all of what Menominee/Marinette had to offer (at least, what they’d offered me as a child), we decided to find a place we could sit outside, have a drink, and hang out til it was time to meet the rest of the group for dinner in Marinette. I racked my brain trying to think of a place that had a patio or sidewalk seating there. We definitely hadn’t seen anything, and the one place that looked promising wasn’t open til 5. We drove out to Schloegels, and were told they didn’t have a liquor license. Finally, we accepted that the area must hate drinking in the outdoors, and crossed the bridge to Marinette. We picked a bar called Cusack’s that looked entertaining, and holy crap, it was.

There was both a Catholic school reunion and a softball team hangout in full swing. Older ladies were singing and dancing with a tambourine. A girl at the bar who looked like the trashy version of Scarlett Johansson wanted to know everything there was to know about my tattoos. The smoke was so thick, I got cancer twice. The bartender bought us our last round, just because.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned in the last few minutes how much small-town Wisconsin rules.

Round about dinnertime, we headed down to the Rail House to meet the family. Nicole and John were already there drinking at the bar, and my mom, aunt, and Stephanie rolled in shortly after we arrived. We ordered dinner, and Matt and I split the beer sampler, which arrived on a train car.

After dinner, the old people (which included my sister) headed back to the house to wait for fireworks, while we went bar-hopping with my 21-year-old cousin and her boyfriend. We hit up the Aloha Lounge, which had a bartender of absolutely indeterminate gender, and then Corky’s, which seemed fluorescent-lit. The bartender there told us about her band, and demanded that we return after the fireworks. We said we would, knowing that plans would take us elsewhere.

The entire population of the two cities were downtown for fireworks. We found a spot, and got to Front Street just as the fireworks were starting. From our spot, we could actually see where they were firing them from the breakwater, which was awesome.

Once the fireworks ended, old people and families headed home, while the younger people headed to one of two bars on the main street. We of course picked Pirate’s Cove, an old favorite. It’s the first place I became aware of the existence of those molded plastic drop-in shotglasses, after all.

We hung out with Nicole and John, watching the place get fuller and fuller, to the point that we couldn’t move. They decided to head home for an early trip in the morning, and Matt and I went next door to see what the other bar looked like. On the way out, we kept hearing the name “Chelsea”. There was an ambulance parked outside, a crowd of people on the ground in front of the bar, and the paramedics where wheeling out a stretcher. A girl passing us announced on the phone, “Chelsea drank herself into a coma!”

Oh, Chelsea.

The Irish bar was alright, though rockin’ the upscale vibe didn’t seem to fly well in Menominee. We had a drink and headed out, stopping to hang out atop a propane tank along the way. It was the right thing to do.

On Sunday, we headed westward around 10am, making sure to stop at Seguins and Nueske’s for the required cheese, beer, and meat needs. We got home mid-afternoon, and I spent most of the rest of the day in repose on the couch. As always, Wisconsin-time requires plenty of recovery.

5 thoughts on “the northland

  1. Reply aprilNo Gravatar Aug 11, 2009 1:38 pm

    Dude, pasties sound awesome right now. My grandparents were of Norwegian stock from Michigan, and I remember all day pastie making sessions, which were always accompanied by lefse for some reason. Mom just doesn’t make them the same.

    • Reply jenniNo Gravatar Aug 11, 2009 1:53 pm

      that’s awesome! i’m surprised they’re not a thing here, since we collect norwegians. they’re a huge deal in the U.P., though.

      come visit our freezer! we have a collection of them now.

  2. Reply Addy VandermuseNo Gravatar Aug 12, 2009 12:15 pm

    OMG I can not believe you braved the Menkaunee bars. I should have warned you about those bars. I am so glad you guys came into Jozwiaks and I got to meet you both. I had a blast out with you that night. I made sure I told Dave you mentioned he rocked as a DJ on here. Cusacks is a blast I used to go there alot too, but things change.

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