Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bad postcard of the week: Musical fountain and other dangers of Grand Haven

The world's largest musical fountain. 

GRAND HAVEN – We first visited Grand Haven back in 1999 when the newspaper was interviewing me for a post it was creating in the lakeshore city, and I brought the family out there to check it out.

It was a stunning early summer afternoon, and the place was spectacular, with a trendy downtown, a beach, docks and an unusual two-part light house on a long jetty extending into Lake Michigan.

The waterfront was packed, with families having fun and many of them sunning on blankets and towels. We were working in Flint at the time, and remarked that if that many people were found lying on the ground in that city, there would be someone drawing chalk outlines around them. Flint is a rough place.

The newspaper opted against the Grand Haven plan, but hired us anyway. But Grand Haven has always been a fun place to visit.

Which is not to say it is without some challenges or danger.

Today’s bad postcard tells us about one of them: The Musical Fountain.

The back reads: World’s Largest Musical Fountain – Great plumes of water, reaching as high as 100 feet, dance and flow into a myriad of spectacular patterns and colors in perfect time with some of the world’s greatest musical compositions. The thrilling performances are held every evening all summer long.”

Now, there are some very nice postcards of the fountain. Most of them are in focus. This is not one of those cards.

The fountain was created in 1962. We've attended two of its shows. Here’s what happens. A voice booms from the speakers, and is the fountain talking to us. Sometimes it sounds like a grown-up, sometimes it sounds like a kid.

Then music plays, and lights flash on the fountain as water spurts.

It was interesting for about 15 minutes, because there are only so many combinations of lights and water. Our problem that night was that the playlist seemed like it was the one used in 1962 and aimed people where senior citizens -- at the time.

We’re talking “Volare,” that Polish Bobby Vinton song and other stuff that Rockford plays from the speakers downtown to drive away the skateboarders.

We collectively decided that we, having once watched the singing fountain, did not have to ever see it again. Caroline and I caught it another time, and the playlist was pretty similar.

Doing some research, it appears we were just unlucky, because a fountain schedule posted online tells you which songs are planned for each night, and there are some nights where they mix in a classic rock song and even some Coldplay.

We headed back out to Grand Haven on Saturday for some late-summer fun. It was again a perfect day, with an art fair along the water, and the main drag closed so merchants could have tents and sales up and down the street.

Here’s where things get dangerous. We purchased a ceramic switch plate at the art fair, then a bottle of wine in an Italian shop. Both were placed in one bag, entrusted to me. I was cautioned many times not to break either one.

Julie and Caroline were looking in a clothes store and I went in search of a restroom. There’s a pretty nice museum downtown – selling Grand Have Zombie Walk t-shirts for just 50 cents – and museums usually have restrooms.

I took care of business and checked out the musk ox exhibit on the third floor and was heading back down the stairs when a little girl darted out in front, out of nowhere.

I don’t know why this startled me, but it did. I missed a step and started to fall, clinging to the banister with my right hand and holding the bag with the breakables in my left.

It seemed like everything was happening in slow motion. I hit my face on the wall, the banister or a step – maybe all three – and ended up on my back on the bottom of the landing, head hitting the floor with a thump.

My thoughts ranged from “Ouch this hurts,” to “I didn't hear anything in the bag break” to “If I have a concussion; people are going to think I’m going to be dangerous like an ex-football player” to “This is embarrassing.”  It’s amazing how quickly things run through your mind in just a few seconds like that.

I think I scared the little kid and her dad, who were kind and concerned – but didn't help me up. Assuring them that all was well, I headed down the second set of stairs, passing a museum staffer.

“What’s going on up there?” she asked.

“I think someone fell,” I replied.

Just a little dizzy, I made it back to the clothes store where Caroline was trying on a dress and flip flops.

Caroline and I at the light house post fall. We survived.

I’m a little banged up. There’s a big blister on a finger from trying to hold on to the banister, and my lower back aches a little – which made the hard pews in church a tad more uncomfortable.

But nothing is broken – in me or in the bag – and we were able to complete the day of shopping and touring. We made it out to the light house --  but opted against sticking around for the Musical Fountain.

No comments: