Hi folks ... there’s a slight chill in the air. It’s still sunny out but not as warm. The kids go back to school in less than two weeks. Summer is ending. I heard my favorite end of summer song the other day and it started me on this. This one is all one piece. Thanks for all of the e-mails and messages from those of you who got the answer to my blog question. And to the guy who thought the lyrics were from a Beethoven piece ... uhhhm ... Any way. Thanks to Barney-R for editing it. And Thanks to AK for letting me end this one the way I wanted to. SS06
Nobody on the road. Nobody on the beach. I feel it in the air. The summer’s out of reach. Empty lake, empty streets, the sun goes down alone. I’m driving by your house. Don’t know, you’re not home.
Every time I pass that house I think back on what might have been. This time of year, with the heat of summer gone and with it the tourists and summer residents is especially sad for me.
My name is Kathleen Finnegan. I’m a thirty-eight-year-old part-time waitress, part-time McDonald’s employee and part-time Jane of all trades. I live in the beautiful town of Ogden Michigan.
Ogden is a very small town on the shores of Golden Lake. I guess the thing that makes Ogden special is the fact that it’s not only right on the lake, but that it’s only a forty-minute easy cruise to the center of the Detroit Metropolitan Areas.
During the fall, the woods on the back side of Ogden display a show of natural wonder that is hard to beat anywhere in the world. Lots of nature lovers come to Ogden just to watch the beauty of the leaves as they change colors to prepare for winter. There are colors of leaves here in Ogden that are found nowhere else in the world, let alone the rest of Michigan.
Besides the normal reds and oranges and yellows, there are deep purples on the Blackmore trees and a pure white color that always reminds me of Christmas.
During the fall, we get infusions of tourists, but not as many as in summer. They’re also a different type of tourist. Most of the fall visitors are academics, naturists, botanists or couples looking for a quiet romantic getaway.
They temporarily increase our population, and fill the cash registers of local businesses without interrupting the normal flow or impacting the town very much. For the most part, these people are quiet and respectful, unlike the people who’ve just left.
Ogden is as I’ve mentioned, a relatively small town. From late fall to early summer the population is about eight hundred people. During the summer, the population nearly quadruples to over three thousand.
Most of these people come here for the lake, the beaches, the parties and the pure summer atmosphere. Most of them are looking for a healthy and safe place for their families to relax and spend the summer. Ogden in the early 2000’s is like California in the eighties.
Most of our summer population falls into several categories. There are owners, renters, vacationers, and workers. Each group has its own personality. And most of the groups split into subgroupings as well.
The owners fall into several smaller groupings. Some of them are just regular people who live here all year round. Some of them live in town and work normal jobs. They’re just plain normal people who happen to live in Ogden. Others who live here year-round are very wealthy. They live in multimillion dollar homes on the beach and usually have boats and all that crap. There are also even wealthier people who own the same types of homes and only spend summers in Ogden.
At the end of the summer they go back to New York, Chicago or wherever else they live and forget about Ogden until the next year. Most of them hire locals to act as property managers to take care of their houses until they return. Unlike California, we have bad ass winters in Ogden. This is still Michigan.
So, if no one looked out for their property, a winter freeze could do all sorts of expensive damage and cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair or replace. Property managers are worth the money.
Renters are just that. They rent a house for the summer or part of it. The richer they are, the better the house they can afford.
Vacationers just come here to spend some carefree time in the summer. Some of them rent for a short period of time, but most stay in one of the hotels.
Workers, are usually but not always, college students who work here for the summer or part of it. Besides making money, they get to enjoy the area and party with everyone else during their off hours.
The one thing that they all have in common is that when the summer leaves, they all go with it.
From a very early age, I was fascinated with thoughts of the rich people who came to visit during the summers.
I marveled at their expensive clothes, their expensive cars and their huge boats. They seemed to be just like the glamorous people on all the tv shows I watched. I dreamed of being one of THEM instead of one of US. And my most heart-felt dream was to one day ... go with them when they left at the end of the summer.
I wanted to see all the magical places they lived in when they weren’t here.
The only person who knew about it was my best friend, boyfriend and lifetime confidante, Mark Strictly.
Mark had grown into a very special boy. He was smart, hard-working, good looking and really nice. He could have been the man of my dreams, if he was from somewhere else ... or even if he was from here ... if he was rich.
But he wasn’t so I needed someone else.
The only problem was that Mark didn’t know that. Not that he was dumb ... he was just too trusting. Mark always told the truth, so he kind of expected everyone else to, as well.
Mark was two years younger than I was, but we grew up within spitting distance of each other’s houses so we were thrown together.
Neither of us lived on or even close to the beach. Those houses cost too much fuckin’ money even when we were kids, but I always loved looking at them and dreamed that someday ... if I was stuck here forever ... I’d live in one of them.
Mark of course saw it completely different. He loved Ogden. He loved the beaches, the woods, the town and the people.
“If all your rich people come here to have fun, they must be sick of wherever they live,” he always told me. “Kath, a place is just a place. What matters is the people you’re with and the things you do. That’s what makes a place special.”
He was always saying shit like that. It never fazed me. As romantic and thoughtful as it seemed, I knew that Mark’s special place was between my legs.
His dreams and mine were different. Where I dreamed of going off to bigger places with rich people, Mark wanted to stay right here in dumb old Ogden, start his own business, marry me and have kids of our own.
I always agreed with him that it was what we would probably do, but at the same time I busted my ass every summer trying to meet the person who would get me the fuck out of this Podunk town.
As a matter of fact, we both busted out asses all summer. Mark worked at every job he could. He made and saved as much money as he could. He was saving for college and to have enough money to take me places and buy me things.
Neither of our sets of parents could afford to send us to college. In Mark’s case that was a God damned shame. He was as smart as a whip and would have benefitted greatly from the chance to go to a great school. He had the grades to go to U of M, or Michigan State or anywhere he wanted to go l but he had nowhere close to the money for even one semester. Let alone four years. And no one ever thought about giving any kind of hardship scholarships to poor white kids, so he was just out of luck. His plans all revolved around going to Lansing Community College and even that was gonna be tough.
In my case, it was a relief for my parents. In my case, there was no problem. As I’ve mentioned, I was two years older than Mark, but we graduated the same year. I could barely even spell college, and had no desire to see the inside of one.
To be truthful, I wasn’t dumb, I was just disinterested. I knew that my future did not lie within the walls of academia, it was out there ... somewhere ... away from Ogden.
So, every year. Starting from the time that I was seventeen I patrolled the town, looking for someone, anyone who wanted to spend time with me and might take me away from Ogden.
I had plenty of time because as I’ve mentioned, Mark worked his ass off during the summers. All he had time to do was work, eat and sleep.
It’s hard as hell to believe that I haven’t seen Mark in almost twenty years ... well seventeen if you’re a fanatic about details, but not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.
Maybe it’s the fact that every God damned day, both going and coming, I have to drive down this same tired stretch of road and pass his old house.
His parents moved out and into a senior community a few years ago. Even though the house isn’t on the beach, a slick realtor described it as having, “beach access,” and some sucker paid a lot more than that place was worth.
But I still think about him every time I drive by the place. Maybe it’s because I didn’t realize exactly how special he was until he was gone. Maybe it’s because when I take a serious look at my life and how it turned out, marrying Mark and having a bunch of babies with him really wouldn’t have been so bad.
It was supposed to happen. Mark’s little dream was my fall back plan. The problem was that when I fell back ... Mark was gone.
.... There is more of this story ...