Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bad postcard of the week: Pistols, petticoats and mysteries at Stagecoach Stop

There’s so much wrong with the front of this week’s bad postcard, but it was the back that sparked my curiosity.

“The Stagecoach Stop in the Irish Hills of Michigan. Pistols and Petticoat Room.”

And that’s it.

What, exactly, went on in the “Pistols and Petticoat Room?” Women shooting it out? A place to buy frilly clothes and firearms?

The photo offers only a handful of clues. We see an Indian headdress hanging on a harp – yes, that is odd – and a member of the Solid Gold Dancers. The dancer isn't dancing, she’s just standing there staring off. 

She’s no doubt thinking “I see neither pistols nor petticoats.”

Of course, the whole thing is cropped poorly and too dark, so they might be there. We just don’t know.

Over her shoulder we see a mannequin wearing what might be a frilly nightgown. And in the lower corner, we see Chewbacca’s knee.

I did some searching on Stagecoach Stop. Turns out it was later called Stagecoach Stop USA and was a Western-themed amusement park. There were stagecoach rides with robbers and everything. But there is no mention of the Pistols and Petticoat Room, so our imagination will have to do.

Alas, those were simpler times there will be no stagecoach rides these days. The park, and neighboring Prehistoric Forest, closed down in 2007 after 43 years of thrills. The land was auctioned in 2012.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bad postcard of the week: Dancing candy canes and other scary things at the Ionia Free Fair

Let's play "Guess the Plot" of the Ionia Free Fair show
I've been to the Ionia Free Fair. I saw some scary things. But nothing as scary as what we see in this week’s bad postcard.

These county fair adventures were a new experience when I arrived in the Midwest. The closest thing we had to these in Massapequa Park was the St. Rose of Lima bazaar each summer. That had lots of carnival rides and games, both of which were scary.

But these Midwestern affairs had all of those, plus all kinds of farm animals. It was kind of fun for the transplanted New Yorker, seeing goats, cows, sheep and other exotic beasts.

The Ionia Free Fair has all those things, and more. Andrew and I went to see the Newsboys and Mat Kearney concert at the fair one year. Not the best venue, but a great show.

Which brings us to this week’s postcard.

The back reads: “Grandstand Show – Ionia Free Fair.  Thousands view the colorful and spectacular production presented every evening in front of the grandstand on the largest outdoor stage in the State of Michigan.”

Well, colorful. Our photo here is either overexposed or horribly lit. We might be better off.

It’s difficult to make out what is going on, but we might not want to know. Let’s focus on the poor guys on our right.
Give it up for these guys, because they know the true meaning of shame.

Imagine the conversation.

“Congratulations, Bobby! We were impressed by your audition. You've earned a role in the Free Fair spectacular production!”

“Jeepers! That’s cool! What’s my role?”

“Well, you get to be a giant, dancing candy cane!”

“Oh. Um, we don’t have to put my name in the program.”

For the life of me, I can’t imagine a production that would include giant dancing canes, much less a production in the middle of summer, with the distinct aroma of horses, cows and pigs wafting in for effect.

Poor Bobby. Let’s hope he was able to take off the costume before walking through the midway on his way home.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Bad postcard of the week: Obstacles of Mackinac Island

Ghost riders in the skies above Mackinac Island.
Sorry for the delay. We’re back in action, recovering from our adventures on Mackinac Island.

Here are some things non-Michiganders need to know about Mackinac.

-- It’s an island between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula. The Mackinac Bridge connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, but you need to take a ferry to get to the island.

-- It’s pronounced MACK-an-aw. Yes, I know how it is spelled, and what those letters are supposed to sound like. Blame the French. It doesn't help that the nearest city on the Lower Peninsula is Mackinaw City – spelled differently, but pronounced the same.

-- I’m assuming there are more fudge shops per capita on Mackinac Island than anywhere on the planet.
But that’s OK. You walk off the fudge calories by walking. That’s because there are no cars allowed on Mackinac Island. That means the modes of transportation include bicycles and horses.
Note the guy on the right struggling to get his bike up the hill.

Remember those things.

OK, so we had a work function on the island. That’s a good thing, because it is a beautiful place and everyone was excited to go there.

I disembarked from the ferry, collected my rolling luggage and headed into the street, dragging it behind me to the place where we were staying.

Now, because cars are prohibited, I believe that, like the fudge, there are more horses per capita on Mackinac Island than anywhere in the country, and that includes Kentucky. Heck, I’d say that includes the stables at Churchill Downs.

I know from experience that I’m violently allergic to horses, so the horse taxis are off limits to me. But I don’t mind walking.

Automobiles have their flaws. But among the things working in their favor are that they do not urinate frequently and anywhere they darn well please. And, they don’t do the bigger, smellier thing that sometimes accompanies urination. No need for details here.

(Lots of fudge, lots of horses. I chaperoned a class of fifth-graders to the island once, and you can imagine the jokes.)

So I was dragging my luggage behind me and was about to step over a puddle. And I realized that even through there were showers that morning, that puddle might not be rain water. I stopped, and then proceeded very carefully around the puddles and piles that make up the main street on Mackinac Island.

It rained later that night, creating more mystery puddles and diluting the piles. We probably should have just had a shoe bonfire that night. Burn them all, and start fresh in the morning.

The other popular mode of transportation is a bicycle. This is not necessarily easier. Navigating the pony piles is still a challenge. And the island is pretty hilly in the middle. 

You see a lot of people who have not ridden bicycles in a long time trying to reacquaint themselves with hand brakes rather quickly. And given the obstacles, stepping out of their way is not always easy.

But biking is easy if you stick to the road that runs along the island’s 8-mile perimeter. It is a spectacular ride, with the combination of the water, the rocky beaches and the fragrant pines. And, the horses tend not to venture too from the main drag, so the road is generally obstacle-free.

So, today’s postcard is, according to the back, a celebration of the carefree and poop-free ride around the island and the pleasures that are included.

Alas, we get a photo that celebrates none of those things. We get:

-- A small part of the island’s green area.

-- A four-foot sliver of the bike trail. (Can you find it? Look really hard.)

-- Big, giant letters to tell us where we are, because we sure has heck wouldn't know from the photo.

-- A creepy ghost biker, pedaling across the sky.

Feel free to speculate how our ride came to be in his ghostly state. It’s nice that he’s wearing a helmet, though it’s a little late for that now.

You thought I was making that up, didn't you?
Perhaps he was whacked by the whip of a guy directing one of the horse taxis.

I actually saw this happen. I guy was speeding down a hill near the Grand Hotel – and looked experienced enough to know better – and a driver reached out and whacked him as he sped by.  The driver looked at what must have been my horrified expression and said, “I tried to slow him down.” Didn't work.

Perhaps he was distracted by the giant, golden head of Gerald R. Ford – called “Jerry  3PO” by Grand Rapidians – and crashed into the wall of Historic Fort Mackinac.

Perhaps he went careening down a hill, tried to dodge a pony pile and crashed through the window of a fudge or t-shirt store. It could have been any building, but odds are it was a fudge or t-shirt store.

We just don’t know.