Today I’m writing from The Boathouse, billed as Kenosha, Wisconsin’s only authentic waterfront pub. Settling in always takes a few minutes, but I notice that once my computer is set up and I’ve ordered my spicy chicken wrap, the sounds and sights begin to recede into the background and I begin to hum (not literally, I realize that might draw unwanted attention). The hum is silent, comfortable. I may not be a local, really, and definitely not a regular here at The Boathouse, but I feel plenty good about being here alone, not bothering anyone and not being bothered either, just a lady writing in a pub all by myself.
I find I’ve been doing this long enough now that I can bring people, music, food, and any combination of those things in and out of my perception to examine or ignore or just to color the environment—whatever I choose—like focusing a lens. The space is roomy and filled with that particular cold bright light that only people in climates such as this can truly appreciate. Sunny does not always equate with warm.
It is currently 3 degrees outside, yet there is a lively crowd celebrating a birthday at the bar, and I, after all, have driven into town from my remote and forever under construction antique railroad cottage out in Salem, undaunted by the temps. I’m in the back of the establishment, in the bar area. The entire back wall is lined with large unshaded multi-paned windows that face a small bay, then a narrow strip of snow-covered, pine-tree dotted parkland, then the blue vastness of the great unfrozen Lake Michigan. It is too big to freeze, so I’m told, though I’ve heard it’s come close to freezing clear across in the past. I remember my dad telling me it happened once, back when American Motors was still cranking out Rambler cars. I could probably Google it…but I’m not here for fact checking. This, my friends, is Pub Fiction.
I went for a short walk with my brave dogs and husband this morning. We would have walked longer, but we started to worry that the pups’ little bootless paws might develop frostbite.
The music is early rock. The television is on too, of course, but for once there are no sports being played. It is late afternoon and the news is on, out of Milwaukee. The last story featured two little Girl Scouts dragging a sled full of cookies across a frozen lake (not sure which lake as there are so many around—only know it isn’t Lake Michigan because Lake Michigan is too big to freeze. I really need to Google that…).
Anyway, the Girl Scouts are dressed in the brightest of orange and pink fuzzy hats and mittens imaginable, with jackets to match– two small smiling bright dots on a pure white glacier. They head out toward the little wood shacks further out on the ice where the ice fishermen are gathered. I would include ice fisherwomen, but there aren’t any in evidence, just a bunch of men. Go figure. The news announcer says, “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.” Every fisherman buys a box of cookies.
My attention returns to the birthday celebration—just three guys now, two of them, older than the birthday guy, mention Hanoi, then birthday guys says that just once in his life he’d like to be on a white sand beach for his birthday, “Just once.”
Hanoi waves his arm at the windows. “What about that water?” he says. “Is that not beautiful?”
Yes, I think. It really is.