Amy Hinman
Posted: April 17, 2014

I once spent a brief stint working at a certain bakery-café (which will be referred to as a “bakery-café" to ensure no feelings are hurt) that also served soups, salads, and sandwiches. My job on the line was to prepare these lunch items. The chicken used in the salads and sandwiches was labeled “Antibiotic Free,” and even on the call screens was denoted as “ABF CHX.” A nationwide restaurant chain that cares about healthy chicken? Was it too good to be true?

Joe Abramajtys
Posted: April 14, 2014

The next morning we got out early to ride the length of nearby Presque Isle State Park. Pennsylvania has only a 46-mile stretch of frontage on Lake Erie, and part of it is the 7½-mile-long Presque Isle Peninsula, which contains a dozen soft sand beaches, multiple bays that host some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the world, and Perry’s Monument, a 101-foot-tall cement and stone obelisk commemorating Admiral Perry’s victory in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1812. Perry built many of his ships using timber form the Erie area, then sailed them west on Lake Erie to Bass Island, near Toledo, Ohio, where he engaged and defeated the British warships. In 1812 the peninsula was about a mile farther west than it is now: a process called longshore drift — the continual action of prevalent westerly winds sweeping across the peninsula — picks up sand and moves it east, thereby moving the peninsula’s tip east at a rate of a half-mile every hundred years.

Joe Abramajtys
Posted: April 8, 2014

About five years ago, when Nell and I were in India, my Mother died. This trip around Lake Erie was the first opportunity I took since India to visit my parents’ graves. Holy Trinity Cemetery (my parents attended Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Niagara Falls all their lives) is one of three contiguous cemeteries located between the Robert Moses Power plant and the Lewiston Bridge, very close to Lewiston, New York, where we were staying. All three cemeteries are manicured and contain many mature shade trees overlooking the lower Niagara River Valley gorge with its densely wooded slopes, sun warmed rocky outcrops, and ribbon of swift silver water.

Joe Abramajtys
Posted: April 5, 2014

Robert Moses was a prick: He threw thousands of mostly poor people out of their homes, either paying below market prices for their property or seizing it outright; he worked with crooked politicians and gangsters; he stole reservation land from Native Americans and threw them off their property; he bulldozed historic buildings; and his manipulation of local governments was tantamount to fraud.

Moses was never elected to anything, yet he succeeded in expanding the governmental power of eminent domain to a level never before achieved in order to complete his grand designs. Moses was quoted as saying, “Those who can, build. Those who can’t, criticize,” as well as, “I raise my stein to the builder who can remove ghettos without removing people as I hail the chef who can make omelets without breaking eggs.”

Ari Mokdad
Posted: March 31, 2014

Traverse City is home to some of Michigan’s finest produce like apples, pears, peaches, and of course wine. However, with the inevitable fruiting bud loss from the bitter winter, Michigan is left wondering what this means for local economies. How will this never-ending winter impact Traverse City’s tourism industry, and more importantly what will happen to this year’s harvest?

Although Michigan’s vintning industry may not be as deeply rooted as that of Italy or even California, it’s safe to say that we are no longer new. Michigan’s oldest vineyard, the St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw, was established in 1936. Since then, Michigan vines have stretched along the Lake Michigan coastline. Some of the most acclaimed Michigan wine has come from the Grand Traverse Bay area.

Joe Abramajtys
Posted: March 26, 2014

Reunions make me anxious. In particular reunions with people I knew in high school and before make me nervous because they feel like a singles bar where you’re a piece of meat being sized up according to criteria you have no control over, only with reunions the criteria are purely historical and people are addled when you don’t act like you did at eighteen. And what’s the sense of connecting with people most of whom I didn’t like even when I was in high school? But today, in Lewiston, New York, I’m to meet a guy named Freddie and his wife Marilyn: Freddie was my best friend for the first twenty years of our lives, and Marilyn is Freddie’s high school sweetheart. John and Jill, our motorcycle companions on this circumnavigation of Lake Erie, and my wife Nell and I are to meet them at a Lewiston restaurant called Mangia run by women Freddie knows. I have had no contact with either Freddie or Marilyn these past fifty years.

Amy Hinman
Posted: March 24, 2014

When I think about sustainability, I think about farming. When my brother, an engineer, thinks about sustainability, he thinks about an engine. I asked him why.

“I dunno,” he shrugs, “it’s just like...can you keep that engine running?”

Ross hit the sustainable nail square on the head. Sustainability is about keeping the engine running itself.

Labeling a product as “sustainable” has become big business. I’ve seen a pink, plastic coffee thermos with “Green Girl” (in green) printed on the side. I wanted to ask the complete stranger holding it how a plastic (made from oil, which we suck out of the earth, which can’t and won’t last forever) cup is “sustainable” or “green.” Unless that plastic is made out of plant material, it’s not a “green” cup. And if it gets melted in the dishwasher and no longer seals, it’ll go right into a landfill where it will continue to be a slightly melted cup in a pile of garbage for as long as the earth exists.

Joe Abramajtys
Posted: March 12, 2014

Freddie and I are old friends: it sounds funny to say it because for the past fifty years we’ve not seen or heard from each other. But for the first twenty years we were best friends: lived across the street from each other; hung together from kindergarten ‘til high school graduation; bartended my parents’ silver wedding anniversary party in the basement of my home and got drunk for the first time, then stumbled through our neighborhood to get some “fresh air,” arm-in-arm supporting each other until we got to our respective homes and passed out; double-dated (he married his high school sweetheart, and is still married to Marilyn — I have no idea where mine is); worked after school at what we both still agree was the best job of our lives: a veterinary hospital where we cleaned kennels, assisted with operations, groomed dogs, mopped floors, waited on customers when the skinny receptionist was on break or vacation, and put down unwanted dogs and cats by pushing a strychnine-filled hypodermic needle into their hearts (the cats were the most shocking because they would go stiff on tippy-toes then try to climb the hospital garage’s cement block walls before falling dead on their backs with their tongues hanging out).

And we even came close to blowing up our neighborhood.

Joe Abramajtys
Posted: March 7, 2014

It’s going to be awkward. We are on the second day of our circumnavigation of Lake Erie, heading toward Niagara Falls where I’ll meet with Freddie, my high school best friend who I’ve not seen for fifty years. I hear from others that Freddie is now the kind of outspoken ultra-conservative Rush Limbaugh type that I never get along with, being myself an intransigent Liberal shade of blue short of Communist red. When Freddie and I made contact and arranged to meet, we agreed to stay away from politics, instead drawing on a history of solid childhood friendship to explore rekindling a relationship. Given the political chasm, I’m not sure that’s possible. I dread fucking the trip up with a bad reunion.

Amy Hinman
Posted: February 24, 2014

No place is beautiful all the time. Winter in particular, is unforgivingly bleak washing over the bright West Michigan landscape with tones of slush and snow. No one comes to Grand Rapids in the winter. And if they do, they have an outstanding reason for braving the snowbanks that dwarf most vehicles, the potholes that have probably tried swallowing your neighbor’s terrier at least twice, and the impassable side streets (because who needs to park close to the curb when you can take up most of the road?).


This blog contains news and commentary about the Great Lakes region from Wake editors and contributors.