Stand Up Paddle (SUP) @Lake Michigan – Even I Can Do This?

日本語はこちらをクリック (For Japanese, please click here)!

If you live in the Great Lakes region or if you are going to visit any of the Great Lakes, you may want to seize the opportunity to try a rather easy-to-do water sport there.

SUP seems to be gaining popularity in the Lake Michigan area slowly.  SUP stands for Stand Up Paddle boarding.  It is often shortened to Stand Up Paddle.

You paddle standing on a long board.  They say it is much easier than surfing – I have never tried surfing myself, but I heard from many sources that surfing is really difficult.  But SUP is said to be very doable for average people (like me).

Early this month (July 2012), I spotted several people trying SUP in Lake Michigan (photos) when I was on Silver Beach, St. Joseph, Michigan, with my family.  This was the first time I ever saw SUPers in Lake Michigan.  Lake Michigan beaches are becoming fashionable and trendy places!

This kid seems to be having a little bit of hard time balancing himself.

These two seem to be having a really hard time balancing themselves on the paddle board. Don’t they realize maybe it’s not a good idea that two people stand on one paddle board?

As expected, the two are about to fall in the water (and they did after I took this photo).

This kid had a really good sense of balance, I noticed.  He was so stable on the paddle board and was paddling very gracefully.

Some people were born with a lot better sense of balance than others.  I am one of those not very blessed with a good sense of balance.  I would be just like those two who fell in the water.

The first time I saw a Stand Up Paddle boarder was in Maui, one of the Hawaiian Islands, about five years ago. When I saw it, I thought “What a strange and weird new water sport…”  SUP was introduced by the famous surfers in Hawaii only a decade ago. So, five years ago when I saw it, it was only in its infant stage.

Almost always, in the infant stage of any new sport, it looks really weird to the eyes of average people including me.  As it gains popularity, it starts looking more cool to our eyes. When a new sport population reaches a certain number, do our brains shift and decide “This new sport must be cool enough for this many people.  I am now going to perceive it as cool”?  Do we need some time for a new thing to sink into our brains before we can start perceiving it as cool?  Over my life I have seen several things coming in style and going out of style. It’s all in our heads – it’s all phycological, it seems to me.

Borrowing the marketing term, followers must have started trying SUP nationwide this year.

Last year (2011), 1.24 million people SUPed (this is a new word).  That was an 18% increase from 2010.

There is an aqua outdoor sport shop named Outpost Sports on Silver Beach.  They had rental paddleboards for SUP available on the beach this year.  This was the first time I ever saw rental SUP paddleboards on a Lake Michigan beach.

$25 for one hour and $50 for one day – not too bad.  I am not trying to do a P.R. for this shop, but I look like doing it…

A brochure I picked up in the store

Notice that a large portion of it is used for advertising SUP rental.

It’s a standard business practice to use a young female model in bikini to sell aqua sporting stuff. Of course they have to do that to promote a new sport.

Even in the Detroit suburbs, SUP seems to be becoming popular.  What made me think so was the e-mail ad I received back in June (below).

Walled Lake is one of the lakes in the Detroit suburbs.  The package includes two hours of SUP in  the lake and subsequent drinks and an appetizer at one of the waterfront restaurants for a well discounted price of $39 per person (normally $80).

It must be near the end of the lifecycle of a fashion or a product (EOL) if it becomes popular in an area like Detroit suburbs ( — sorry, this is a mean joke).

Another good thing about SUP is that you can do it in your neighborhood lake or river with no waves, as long as it’s large water.

The photo above is one of the pages of the recent Eddie Bauer catalog I had at home.  I noticed they are now trying to sell women’s swimsuits with SUP setting. Another evidence of SUP going into the main stream. The model on the right does not look athletic at all.  If she can do SUP, maybe I will be able to do it, too.  This photo certainly made me feel so.

There are many websites which show films of SUP and explain how to do it. I picked the one below.  It’s an instructional film in YouTube by Kalama Stand, a very famous surfer in Hawaii.  He is one of the surfers who introduced SUP to the modern popular water sports.

Dave Kalama Stand-up Instructional (YouTube)

Coincidentally, while I was writing this post, the Los Angeles Times had the article on SUP yesterday (July 28, 2012).  It says somebody lost weight by doing SUP!

http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-paddleboard-popular-20120728,0,802603.column

Somehow, human beings can never be satisfied.  Just standing up on paddle boards is not enough. They have to do something like yoga on paddle boards (they call it SUP Yoga).  According to the LA Times, there are now SUP Yoga classes offered by 82 companies (up from only 2 last year). I don’t know if there is any in the Lake Michigan region yet.  If there is none yet, it may not be long before we have the first one around here.

Posted in Lake Michigan Beaches, Sports in Michigan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SS Keewatin, the Last Edwardian Era Steamship, Left Saugatuck, Michigan

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック)!

In my post, Saugatuck is Michigan’s Cap Cod (in Japanese only), I have a few photos of the big ship, SS Keewatin. The ship was on display for a long time in Douglas, Saugatuck’s next door town.  If you have been to Saugatuck, did you go see SS Keewatin?  If you did not, you missed a chance.  The ship is gone back to Ontario, Canada.

I did not see the departure myself, but I got an e-newsletter from Saugatuck that the ship departed Saugatuck on May 31, 2012, for Port McNicoll in Ontario, Canada via Mackinac strait. Port McNicoll was its original home port for SS Keewatin.  The ship was in Saugatuck, Michigan for 45 years!

SS Keewatin was built 104 years ago, when gigantic luxury passenger steamships like Titanic were popular. SS Keewatin will be completely renovated in Ontario and will become a maritime museum there.

It was already a museum ship in Saugatuck (photo above). I should have been inside the ship if I had known it would be gone a few years later.  When we went to Saugatuck for a weekend getaway, we stopped over there, but did not bother to pay to go inside the ship.

There will be no more of this sign…

(Source:Google Map)

Marked with A is Port McNicoll; marked with 1 is Port Arthur / Fort William.

When England was under the reign of King Edward VIII from 1901 to 1914, it was popular among the wealthy people to travel by huge luxury passenger steamships.  SS Keewatin was one them built during the Edward era.

My husband’s late grandmother and great-grandfather were wealthy and went on a worldwide trip by a luxury ocean liner. When their ship stopped at Hawaii (in 1914) , the WWI broke out. They had to give up their trip and come home.

(And alas, where did their wealth go?   I don’t see any evidence of the wealth passed down to my husband… 😦

S.S. Keewatin was built in 1907 by a shipbuilding company in Scotland, and ran between Port Arthur / Fort William (in northern Ontario, Canada) and port McNicoll (also in Ontario) for almost 60 years.

I never knew that ships were going back and forth through Lake Huron and Lake Superior, carrying passengers and freights.

And I never imagined one of the ships was quietly sitting in Western Michigan.

If Michigan had done more tourism promotion, more people (including me) would have wanted to come see the ship. My home country, Japan, certainly would have done a lot of PR trying to relate the ship to the Hollywood movie, Titanic (Japanese are very commerically-oriented, I think).  Maybe they would have overdone it (they tend to overdo commercialization). I would not like too much PR, but I feel Michigan could have done a little more promotion…

When the ship was retired in 1966, a local couple in Douglas, Michigan, took a personal loan and bought the ship (how much money in the world did they borrow?). They restored it and opened it to the public for paid tours.  So, the ship was saved by the couple from being scrapped.

The Edwardian era passenger steamship which would have reminded us of Titanic is no longer in western Michigan…I will miss SS Keewatin.  You will, too?

One of the articles about the departure of SS Keewatin:

http://www.saugatuck.com/Keewatin_skycam.asp

Posted in Southwestern Michigan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gymnasts? Kitesurfers? @Lake Michigan

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック).

This is the English translation of my blog on Lake Michigan area.  I originally write in Japanese, but I make the English version as well so that my non-Japanese friends will be able to read it.  Voila!  Hope you will enjoy it.

On windy days, Lake Michigan becomes a great place for surfing.

Often winds blow from west to east.  This means the beaches on the east side of Lake Michigan, i.e. the beaches in Michigan become great places for surfing.

Did you even know that people surf in Great Lakes?

I knew that people surf in North Carolina, Florida, and New England, needless to say in Hawaii and California, but never thought Lake Michigan is an addition to the list. Of course Lake Michigan will never be in the same league as Hawaii and California, but surfing in Lake Michigan is getting pretty popular, because it is so big and has waves just like oceans. When windy, waves are pretty big.  I bet it will be much more popular ten years from now.

Somebody was surfing.

According to my husband who loves surfing, waves were not good for surfing that day.  There are good waves and bad waves – I could never tell what waves are good or bad.

This is Silver Beach of St. Joseph, Michigan, on a very windy and chilly day late April.

The same surfer standing in the shallow water

It was getting very cold that we got back in our car and kept watching him from inside the car.  The surfer was in the water for a long time but I am sure he was warm in a wetsuit.

Then a small flying object appears above the horizon.

There is another one in the direction of the pier.  They are kites!

Three people in wetsuits on the beach – they don’t look like they are just flying the kites.

They are kitesurfers!

Wow!  With the kite, one of the surfers jumped high into the air from the water surface.

I see… This is kitesurfing.   Awesome…

According to Wikipedia:

Kitesurfing is an adventure surface water sport that has been described as combining wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, and gymnastics into one extreme sport. Kitesurfing harnesses the power of the wind to propel a rider across the water on a small surfboard or a kiteboard (similar to a wakeboard).

These kitesurfers looked very experienced and skilled.

They were doing it for a long time.

And we watched them for a long time from inside the car.

It was probably after 7 pm.  The kitesurfers probably decided today was a good day and must have come here after work. They may belong to a kitesurfing club.

I wished I had a better camera with a big powerful zoom lense.  Somebody was taking pictures of them from inside his car with a professional-looking camera with a huge zoom lense.  I really felt my compact camera was inadquate.

Until very recently, the only kites I knew about were Japanese kites (like the photo right). Those kites used in water sports are quite different from them.  I am a little in culture shock (forgive me, I am a middle-age Asian woman who is not most informed of the latest trends).

When and where was kitesurfing invented?  I did internet research.  It seems it was somewhere in Europe – I expected it to be California as so many other sports had been invented in California.

They glide on the water pretty fast.  As it’s open water with no lanes, don’t they ever crash each other or crash into a boat?  Kitesurfing is considered to be an extreme sport. I read there is a number of deaths and serious injuries every year.

Despite that, kitesurfing is becoming increasingly popular.  Back in 2006, the number of kitesurfers was already estimated to be 210,000.  The number must be a lot higher now (in 2012). It has become pretty popular also in the Great Lakes area – on both the Chicago and the Michigan sides.

From curiosity, I google searched kitesurfing in my home country, Japan.  Yes!  There is a good number of websites on kitesurfing. It seems to be gaining some popularity there. In general, whatever new sport is invented in the U.S., it becomes popular in Japan, too.

If you want to start kitesurfing, you will need to purchase all kinds of gear which are not cheap:

  • An inflatable kite
  • Kiteboard
  • Kite control bar
  • Fling lines
  • A kite harness
  • A wetsuit, a helmet, a life jacket, etc.

If you are interested in kitesurfing in Lake Michigan, I found a good website:

http://www.chicagokitesurfing.com/

You are advised to take lessons taught by a certified instructor. Lessons will take for several weeks. It’s no joke – if you fail in landing properly, for example, I can easily imagine you will be in bad shape.

If you think kitesurfing is too difficult for you, you may want to try bodysurfing and/or stand up paddle (SUP).

SUP is becoming very  popular, as it is quite easy to do – that’s what I heard. I will write about SUP sometime later.

If you want to see more images and videos of kitesurfing:

Kitesurfing (Google Images)

Kitesurfing (YouTube)

The red mark in the map below is St. Joseph, Michigan, where we saw the kitesurfers.

Chicago is across Lake Michigan from St. Joseph.  I am sure you will find kitesurfers on beaches on the Chicago side, too.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Crossing Lake Michigan by Ferry – from Michigan to Milwaukee –

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック)!

Did you know there is ferry service across Lake Michigan between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Muskegon, Michigan?

I did not.

My husband and I heard about it, and rode the ferry last summer for a round trip.  I meant to write about it sooner, during winter, and then it’s spring already.  The ferry company sent me an e-mail announcing the schedule for this year which will start in May.  OK, now I really have to force myself to write…

This trans-Lake Michigan ferry has been in service for 9 years.

I never knew it until last year.

(source:Google Map)

It takes 2 hours and a half to cross the big Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan is big, but it’s big lengthwise. So, it takes only 2 hours and a half to cross it horizontally, I mean, east-west.

The ferry goes very fast.  You feel like you are riding a hovercraft.  The company’s website boasts the boat is equipped with state-of-the-art computerized control system and radar, 4 MTU Detroit Diesel 4000 engines, etc.  I am not a tech person, but it sounds pretty impressive.

I always liked ferry travel.

As I wrote before, I am from Japan.  There were (still are) lots of ferry service there both for domestic and international, as the country is surrounded by sea. When I was young, I rode a ferry with my friend to Siberia (we then crossed Siberia by train and airplane to Moscow and to Western Europe by train).

For Midwesterners, ferry travel must be a pretty novel experience.

One day last August, we took the ferry from Muskegon, Michigan.

We live in southeast Michigan, so it’s 3-hour drive from home to Muskegon. This is not a trivial drive.

The name of the ferry company is Lake Express.  The sign is on Lake Shore Drive. It’s not very noticeable. Pay attention not to miss it.

Turn at the sign and drive a little.  Then there is a parking place. It ‘s not very big, so if you arrive late, you may have to park your car somewhere along the dirt road.  Arrive early!

Pay for parking here.

Check in your luggage at the entrance of the building.

You can bring inside the cabin up to 2 bags, one small enough to fit under the seat, and another such as a purse, a backpack, briefcase, etc.  If you have any big luggage, you have to check it in here at the entrance. They have a big wagon (you can’t see in the photo) to carry checked-in luggage into the ferry, just like airplanes, except they don’t charge any fees!  If you are going to bring your car onboard, however, you can stuff your car with as many as bags as you want, of course.

No security check like airports.  They don’t have a need  to worry about terrorism, I guess (good!).

Inside the building. There is the check-in desk near the entrance.

Lobby

In the lobby there are two clocks: one with Michigan time, the other with Wisconsin time. Michigan is in the EST zone; Wisconsin is in CST.  One hour time difference. This is a good reminder for people like me who can’t remember what place is in what time zone.

Sit on one of the benches outside the lobby for a while.  Then a white ferry appears in the distance – it’s back from Milwaukee.

Some people run out there to see it closer.

Many people take pictures of it.

It must be a new and exciting experience for many Midwesterners to ride a ferry.

People wait patiently until all the passengers get off the ferry.

Then cars get on board first.  There are a lot of motorcycles, too.

Then it’s people’s turn.

People form double waiting lines, quietly and calmly.  Nobody tries to cut in anybody.  I am always impressed how well many Americans behave in public, like in amusement parks, airports, train stations. People are very civilized.

In the cabin

In the center are the tables for big groups of families and friends.

There is a concession which sells sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs, salad, etc.

And three seats in each row next to the windows on both sides. We took one of these rows. We put two of our bags under the seats.

As in many places, it is freezing cold in the cabin!  The A/C is set too low.  I recommend you bring a jacket with you.  Why do they set A/C so low in so many places?  (I think I know why, but I am not going to discuss it here…)

Take off!

View from the window. It looks like a bay, but it’s a lake.  The name is Muskegon Lake.  I will call it a bay, anyway.  You can see there are parks and beaches along the bay.

The ferry goes through the very long waterway that leads to the exit to Lake Michigan.  I could see the ferry terminal is protected deep inside from Lake Michigan.

You can see the bay (Lake Muskegon) in the far distance.

There was a small boat behind following us.  The people on the boat were enjoying beer (looks like a lot of fun ^^).

We are almost at the exit (or entrance to Lake Michigan).

We will soon be out in the open sea – I mean, in Lake Michigan.

We feel as if we were on voyage into a big ocean.

Now we are out in Lake Michigan. It was a pretty long voyage to get to this point.

Good bye, Muskegon.  We will be back in a few days  ^^/~

There are chairs in the rear deck.

As the ferry sped up, it became very windy.  Too windy for me to stay out in the deck, but the people in the chairs stayed out there all the way to Milwaukee!

There are chairs in the front deck as well.

Most of the people out here went inside as it became too windy.

Is this the state-of-the-art radar mentioned in the website?

Nibbling the peanuts I bought from the concession, I stayed in the seat for about one hour and a half. Through the window, I could see nothing but water, water, and water.  Then, suddenly, there are skyscrapers in the far distance – Milwaukee !!

I rushed out to the front deck.  Many passengers were out there already, seeming excited.

We are going through a narrow gate – again – so narrow, just like the one in Muskegon.

What if they take a slightly wrong direction and hit the breakwater ?!

But we went through it with no problem.  They are good at navigating ^^

Yacht harbors everywhere.

Americans love to own boats – one of the things I noticed about America after living here for 26 years.

U.S. Coast Guard!    Cool.

Arrived at the dock.

A big parking place for ferry passengers. Looks like the ferry company is doing a pretty good business.

People are waiting to get onboard.  The ferry will cross Lake Michigan one more time today. It should get to Michigan before dark.  Days are long in summer.

Docking is almost complete.

Cars and motorcycles first.

A car carrying a kayak and a bicycle – somebody returning from an outdoor sports trip in Michigan?

Noticeably many motorcyclists. I wonder if they going to Milwaukee because there is the world’s only Harley Davidson museum in Milwaukee?

The ferry version of Baggage Claim area.

We stayed in Milwaukee for two nights.  Time flew by, and it’s time to return to Michigan.

We went through the same process at Milwaukee terminal.

We went through the narrow gate again to be in the outer sea, I mean, in the big Lake Michigan.

Again, there’s nothing above the horizon in every direction – just water, water, and water. Is this really a lake?  Hard to believe. And it’s all freshwater – the more I think about, it’s incredible.

Then, in the middle of nowhere, something interesting appeared.

A big ship!

In the middle of the big ocean, I mean, in the big lake, what were they doing?  Measuring and/or collecting something from under the surface?

If you know an answer, please feel free to write a comment on this post.  Thanks!

We passed the ship pretty close.

Equipped with the state-of-the-art radar, etc., I guess there is no chance that the ferry would collide into another ship. In the old days when foggy, imagine it…I would not want my ferry to collide into something like this and be thrown into the water.

We are back in Michigan.

For most of the voyage, my spouse was sleeping in his seat. It was such a smooth and comfortable ride that he went into deep sleep.  At some point, he started snoring, so I had to wake him up to stop his snoring. The passengers in front of us and behind us were laughing…how embarrassing.

Went back through the same canal-like waterway. The state park extends along the long waterway. People walking on the trail waved at us.

And there are many beaches.

People in the boat with the skeleton flag waved at us, too.

Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum – looks like a good place to take your kids. There are a lot of museums like this everywhere in this country.

Protected by the breakwater and the long waterway, Muskegon Lake offers a good safe harbour for boats. Lake Michigan can become very rough when hit by storms (if you see the old movie, Ordinary People, you will know what I mean).  This lake must stay pretty calm when the outer Michigan Lake is rough. Muskegon is geographically blessed. That’s probably why the ferry company chose Muskegon for the terminal?

Well, that was a good ferry trip!   We want to do it again.

How about you, too?

The fares are – not so cheap…

As I wrote in Nostalgic Carousel, Revived Resort, St. Joseph, there use to be ferry service between St. Joseph and Chicago from the 19th century to the early 20th century.

I wonder if they can reopen the route?

I would love to ride a ferry to Chicago.

If you live in the Chicago area, you may wish to do the opposite.

Anyhow, I hope Americans realize that they are blessed with really valuable assets – the Great Lakes. Think about how many countries on earth have chronic water shortage.  How many big lakes are there on earth with clean freshwater like Lake Michigan?!

Posted in Ferry Travel/Cruises | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Ah! Nostalgic Carousel – Revived Resort, St. Joseph, Michigan

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック)!

I wrote this post last summer – in Japanese.

Now I am translating it into English so that my non-Japanese friends will be able to read it.  Now that it’s spring (i.e. summer is coming soon), I am feeling an urge to do it.

If you have a chance to go to St. Joseph, Michigan, walk down the stairs or the slope on the Bluff in downtown St. Joseph. At the bottom of the Bluff, you will see the big dome (photo below). The Silver Beach carousel is inside it.

This is a view from the top of the Bluff. The Silver Beach carousel opened not long ago.  Long, long time ago, from the 1890s to 1970, St. Joseph was a big resort for Chicagoans.  There was an amusement park on Silver Beach with roller coasters, etc.  They added the carousel in 1910. The amusement park was closed in 1971 as the tourism in Silver Beach declined. Since then everything in the amusement park was sold or disposed of.  More than 30 years later, tourism is coming back to St. Joseph and Silver Beach, and a new a carousel was recently built.  An amusement park is back in Silver Beach – sort of.

(Map borrowed from one of Michigan travel magazines)

The carousel is within an easy walking distance from downtown St. Joseph.

(Map borrowed from one of Michigan travel magazines)

St. Joseph is one of towns in southwestern Michigan, close to Indiana. It has a few very good beaches, one of which is Silver Beach.

Go inside the dome. You will be impressed. It’s pretty spectacular.

I did not grow up in America, but it reminds me of my childhood. I myself rode a few carousels in my home country when I was a child.

A giraffe!

I would like to ride that myself.

There are horses, tigers, hippos, pandas – 48 animals in total and all of them were hand-carved and hand-painted by the artists!

They wanted to restore the original horses (from the 1920s), but that did not materialize. So they had the artists make new ones. Of 48 animals, 6 are white, jeweled horses which are identical to the original ones. Cool.

This is the original band organ. It was used in the Silver Beach amusement park. It played music for the carousel, carnival, etc. When the amusement park was closed in 1971, the organ was sold.  It was resold to a few different people, but in the end it came back here; it was donated by somebody. It still plays the same old music which played long time ago.

I see somebody did a beautiful job on restoration.

A mother making sure her kid holds on tight to the horse.

When the current grandmas’ generation were girls?  The girl’s clothes and hair style remind me of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Very cute.

Entrance at night.  Somehow it reminds me of summer festivals I went to when I was a kid.

Though I am from Asia, summer festivals are the same, whether in Asia or in America.

In the room next to the carousel is the exhibition of the old photos of Silver Beach and the things recovered from the Silver Beach amusement park.

Like a game machine in a night stall in a lively summer festival. Get closer to it, then the doll inside the cage will have a creepy and loud laugh.

One of the old photos on display. A family vacationing on Silver Beach.  The mother looks just like Olive in the cartoon, Popeye.  Was this in the 1920s?  or before?

People used to come to Michigan beaches from Chicago by ferry like this.

A pretty big ferry used to come in as far as to where the St. Joseph lighthouse is (the lighthouse must be the same one as what it is now).

Considering how shallow the water must be there, the ferry seems too big to me.  Was the water actually deeper than I thought, or does the ferry look bigger than it actually was?

A middle-age looking lady who just disembarked – looking a little tired. It must have been pretty hot in a long dress like that !  With a heavy-looking hat and tight neck.  And the man is wearing a suit and a bow tie!  Is this the late 19th century or the early 20th century?  I am not strong at the history of clothes. If you know it, please feel free to write a comment on this post. Thanks!

In good contrast is a group of young women looking full of energy and excited. Young people a hundred years ago were just like young people now – vivacious.

Silver Beach.  What’s that big thing in the middle of the water??

They had a very big slide.  They could slide right into the water.

What strikes me is that most of these people in the photos are now dead.

There was a train station very close to the Bluff (and close to Silver Beach).  Not only ferries but trains were the transporation people used to come here from Illinois, Indiana, and other areas.  All women are in long white dress. Laundry must have been a big job back then when there were no washing machines.  I can’t imagine how dirty their dresses must have got.

The ferry staying in the harbor

Somebody wrote on the photo in white, “1896”.

I love looking at old photos. They are fascinating.

When I see old photos, I imagine what their life was like and what dramas there might have been. And I think about people of my home country in the same era.

There is a website about the carousel.  If you are interested, voila.

http://www.silverbeachcarousel.com/

If you are at work, MUTE your computer first.  As soon as the page opens, it will play very loud music – you will be very embarrassed!

Posted in Lake Michigan Beaches | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Was Close! Tornado Almost Hit My Neighborhood

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック!)

February and March are bad months for me. Lots of year-end work in my job (my employer’s fiscal year-end is March).  In my personal life as well, a lot of work to do like annual tax return filing.  So, I have not written a post since January ….. it’s an excuse!  I had time – I was busy with my other blog about my home island, See More Kyushu – Beautiful Southern Japan.  Now it’s mid-March already.  When I felt spring is near, I felt like writing about Michigan again.   Then, a big and serious thing happened!

A tornado hit my neighboring town, Dexter, Michigan, on March 15!

It was totally unthinkable that a northern state like Michigan would be hit by a tornado in March.

With just several minutes’ difference, the tornado could have hit the town I live, Ann Arbor, my neighborhood, and my house  (Wow!!)

13 homes were destroyed and more than 100 homes were significantly damaged.
But there was no death and no injury – this is amazing and great.

It became national news.

Here is the link to the coverage by the local online news, AnnArbor.com:

Tornado Rips Through Dexter Area

Now, all those natural disasters I have watched on TV in the past are beginning to seem very real to me.

Very few natural disasters occur in Michigan.

Michigan is not the most exciting place to live or visit (sorry, but it’s true for some Asians, particularly female Asians who grew up in urban environments) , but this is a very positive thing about Michigan – no hurricanes, no earthquakes, almost no flood, and very few tornados.

We have a few tornados almost every summer, but  they are, compared to the ones in the Deep South, like babies, I used to think.

Where I live, almost every summer sirens for tornado warning go off a few times.  Nothing ever happened, so over the years, we had become off our guard and ahd stopped going down to the basement (that’s what we are supposed to do if your house has a basement until the siren stops).

We have to take sirens more seriously!

I thought – maybe we should keep in the basement what we don’t want to lose, high up above the floor of the basement, so that they won’t be damaged either by flood or by tornados.

And I thought – what are the most important things for me?   What do I not want to lose?

My family’s lives – yes, of course.

If I had pets (I don’t have any now),I would not want to lose them, either.

Then I realized I would not really care if the roof of our house is blown away, the walls are ripped, or the furniture is totally damaged.  Even the jewlry I have (not much) would not matter.

It’s the old photos that I would be really bombed out if they were damaged or lost.

I have old photos my parents gave me that look like over 100 years old.  I don’t know which persons in the photos are who.  My spouse also has old photos from the early 20th century or late 19th century; his mother left them in our house when she sold her house and moved into a condo.

I heard that when people’s houses are wrecked by natural disasters, what upset them most is loss of their family photos.  I think I would be no exception if the same thing happened to me.

I have seen on TV how the people in the northeastern Japan were always prepared to evacuate – I mean those who managed to escape the tsunami last year.

They had their most important things always packed in a few tote bags.  If sirens go off, they would grab their tote bags, hold their kids’ hands or seniors’ hands, and evacuate to designated places high enough so tsunami would not reach.

The Pacific coastlines of the northeastern Japan had often been hit by tsunami (smaller ones than the one in 2011). So people had been very trained and prepared. But the one in March 2011 was just too big nobody could ever have imagined – because it was of the scale that occurs only once in 1,000 years. The last tsunami of the same scale occurred in 900s AD.

I want to be prepared like the people in the northeastern Japan.

I will think what I want to keep in my tote bags.  
I have too many photos so they won’t fit in my few tote bags.  Oh yes, I should digitize the old photos and back them up in the cloud storage!  And I will store the originals in the basement (up above the floor).

The tornado made me think what are really important for me and what are not.

What are the most important for you?

If you have to evacuate in a short time, what would you want to carry with you?

Tornados never came to a northern state like Michigan in March before, I don’t think.

March is too early!  

But it’s not that surprising as this winter has been abnormally warm. It’s been like May or June over the past week or so.

I heard that since 1950s, there have been about 10 tornados in Michigan in March and 3 of the 10 occurred in just one day the other day, and two of them hit my neighboring town, Dexter. Gee!

I don’t know if people will ever be able to “subdue” Nature, no matter how the technology advances.

It was just a pure luck that the tornados spared my town, my neighborhood, and my house.  I am very sorry for the unlucky Dexter residents whose houses were wrecked.

I am in awe, again, of Mother Nature.

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I finally went to Sundance Film Fetival @Ann Arbor, MI

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック) !

I finally went to the Sundance Film Festival.

I mean, to the film screening at Michigan Theater downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan – not to Park City, Utah.

On Jan. 26th, from 7:30 pm, the film “For a Good Time, Call…” was shown in the main auditorium.  After the film, the film director and the actresses showed up for the Q&A sessions.

I made a last-minute decision to go. I purchased a ticket via Ticketmaster online. The only choice I had was purchase on Will Call. The Will Call means I would have to pick up the ticket at the theater within one hour before the film starts. I called the theater the day before. They said there would be a long line (as there was last year).

I did not want to wait freezing outside in a long line, so i arrived early, being somewhat anxious, at 6 pm. There was no long line at all. I could pick up the ticket very easily. I did not want to wait inside the theater for an hour, so I went to the nearby Starbucks to kill time. Around 7 pm, I went back and entered the theater. Inside, there was a pretty big crowd already.

More people started arriving around 7 pm.

You have to buy pop corn and drink – big waiting line. The staff are wearing bow ties.  Very cool.

I got a Balcony seat for $23.75 – not cheap.

Plus I had to pay for parking $3.75 (I always park in the parking structure nearby).

$27.50 in total.

Isn’t it a little too expensive just to see one movie?

Michigan Theater is usually not expensive (around $10). Maybe because Sundance Film Festival is special?    Oh well.

Indeed, it is more like an opera house or a musical theater than a movie theater.

This is a brass drinking fountain in the lobby.  OMG!

For a prelude, the guy played the famous pipe organ; Michigan Theater is known for this pipe organ made in 1920s for this theater (you see on the left in the center). It sounds great. It’s really worth coming to Michigan Theater just to hear the pipe organ.

He played the famous theme song of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. This movie was a breakthrough for Robert Redford, who launched the Sundance Film Festival.

This song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, makes certain generations of Japanese, including me, feel nostalgic, too.

The movie was made in 1969. It was years later that I saw the movie for the first time. I saw it in a cheap movie theater in Japan which ran (recycled) old movies for very low prices.  This kind of movie theaters really helped broke students like me. So, technically, this song is not representative of my houth; it’s for a generation who are  more than ten years older than me. But I still feel this is one of the songs of my younger years. You must have a few songs like that for yourself, too.

By the way, in my home country, Japan, they often change the titles of the overseas movies when they distribute them domestically. Why?  Can’t explain.  The titles just would not sound cool to the Japanese’ ears.  So they think up titles that will sound good to the Japanese sense. The title they gave this movie was, “Shoot (your guns) Towards Future” (literally translated).  This translation was great, I think – it helped   sell the movie greatly.  It was a big hit in Japan.

Why does a title like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” sell to the Americans?  It’s beyond my understanding no matter how many years I live in the U.S.  It’s one of those differences in culture and language, I guess.

I have seen many other American movies with the titles which amzed me, “how in the world do Americans want to go see a movie with a title like this?”  Not surprisingly, when they were distributed in Japan, they were under different titles made up by the Japanese movie distributors.

Cute silhouettes of snow flakes on the walls made me feel as if I were in a movie theater in a ski resort in Utah.

Wait for the show, admiring the beautiful ceiling.

Finally, the auditorium is full and the director of Michigan Theater and the film director appear on the stage.

The film director is from Toronto, Canada. The audience is very happy to hear that the director is from somewhere near (Toronto is only 4 or 5 hours of drive from here).

After the film showing, the directors appear again. This time the two starring actresses also appear for Q&A sessions.

The actresses are witty and cheerful.  Many questions from the audience – Americans are in general not shy at all to speak out in a situation like this. The audience gets more and more excited.

Sundance Film Festival is a great opportunity for somebody with no connections with Hollywood to enter the movie business. I wonder if these two actresses will be in Hollywood movies sometime soon?

View from the first floor.

The auditorium was almost full – that means almost 1,700 people came.

The movie was very well-made.

I could not understand a lot of what they were saying (as I am not a native English speaker), but it was that kind of movie with the plot I could follow without understanding everything they say.

It was targeted for people in their 20s and early 30s.  For middle-age people like me, it was..uh…OK…I guess.  People who go to film festivals are young, so, of course filmmakers want to make films targeted to young people.

This film had been bought by a distribution company – good for them!

I hear that many movie distributors come to the main venues in Utah and hang out in the lobbies, ready to make offers to good ones.

About 10,000 films are submitted to Sundance Film Festival annually, and only dozens of them are made offers by the distributors.  Talk about a fierce competition!

The usher gave me this – a thick and beautiful magazine for free!

The publisher is the Sundance Institute, a non-profit organization founded by Robert Redford. It’s packed with information that will surely attract young people who are interested in going into film business. They are well funded that they can give away beautiful magazines like this!

In the first pages, there is a big photo of Redford – he looks as great as before — wait!  How old is this photo?

In the 1970s, he was one of the best-looking actors.  He was very popular in Japan, too.

This photo (in the right page) is definitely more recent. He is in his 70s, but he seems very active – very inspiring for the younger generations, including me.

By the way, the director of Michigan Theater, Mr. Russ Collins, is like a local celebrity.  He has been a regular of the radio (WEUM) program “Cinema Chat” for years.

I wrote a post about Michigan Theater. If you are interested, Michigan Theater, please check out Michigan Theater, the Great.

Michigan Theater was chosen for one of the 9 screening venues outside Utah for 2 years in a row.  There is no guarantee that it will be chosen again, so I decided to go this year, putting pressure on myself (when you are middle-aged, you don’t feel like going outside your home much any more).

It was a fun winter festival.

The audience seemed very proud and excited that their local theater was selected for a venue.

I think this is a very good idea to show films in other places beyond Utah. This way people feel they are participating in the film festival.  Many people can’t afford to travel to Utah, especial young people who are ironically more interested in film festivals than older ones who have more money.  This is localization, and they should benefit from the localization, i.e. there will be more fans of Sundance Film Festival.  The festival may keep growing – I would not be surprised if it is expanded to Tokyo, Shanghai, etc. in the future; it is already expanding to London this spring).

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