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November 20, 2008

The UP

I’ve been very busy the last several days, and am writing this now at 6:48 am in Marquette, Michigan. If you’ve never been to Marquette, I’ll give you an idea of what it’s like. As we were driving in from the airport, I asked the kid who was driving me if we were in Marquette proper. He said, “Have we passed the trailer park yet?” That’s what Marquette is like.

An observation: I have found that the worse a place is, the prouder people are to be from it, which I think explains Texans.

Not that Marquette isn’t a nice town. It’s terrific. They’ve got an A&W, a Burger King, AND a KFC. And also a store that sells nothing but bingo supplies. Now I don’t play a lot of bingo (at least not as much as I should), but my understanding is that there are really only a couple of supplies needed: a bunch of numbered and lettered balls, a basket from which to withdraw them, and a lot of pre-printed cards. I suppose you could throw in various bingo knickknacks, like those ink stampers people use to mark their cards and maybe “I Love Bingo” keychains. After that, though, I’m kind of hard-pressed to think what you put in your bingo supply store. It just doesn’t seem like the kind of concept that screams, “Successful retail venture!” But as I said, maybe I’m just not as familiar with that world as I should be.

The reason I was in Marquette was because the good people at Northern Michigan University hired me to come speak to the students. It’s the kind of thing I do a fair amount of and enjo. College crowds are warm, receptive, and easy. Which is good if you make a lot of dick jokes, as I do. When I asked the crowd if they liked going to school in Marquette, the cheers were pretty unanimous. I asked why - not in a mean way, incidentally - I just wanted to know. One fellow said he likes “the outdoors.” I didn’t have the heart to explain to him that you can go outside in other places besides Marquette. I’ve traveled extensively, and I have found that pretty much everyplace I’ve ever been has an indoors and an outdoors. One guy mentioned that he liked going to Marquette because of “the drinking.” Again, I didn’t want to explain to him that they’ve got that in other places, too. One thing that they don’t have other places, however, is the world’s largest wooden dome. Yes, apparently they have the world’s largest wooden dome right there in Marquette, appropriately titled “The Superior Dome.” It’s where the football team plays, and it’s a source of enormous pride for the folks in Marquette. When I think large wooden structure crammed with people, I think “fire trap,” but that’s the difference between the good-hearted optimists in Michigan and me.

                                 (The Superior Dome - awesome)

Something else they’ve got there in Marquette – lake effect snow. I found out about this when I got off the plane and the first thing my greeter said to me was, “Did anybody call you?” Those are not the first four words you want to hear when getting off an airplane. No, nobody called me. Well, it turns out they were expecting over a foot of lake effect snow over the next twenty four hours, potentially stranding me in Marquette. On one hand that would have been okay since it would have given me a chance to check out the dome and the drinking, but I have to be in Atlanta today, so hanging out in “The UP” (upper peninsula) wasn’t really an option. For those of you unfamiliar with this meteorological phenomena, the wway it works is, if you live near a lake, you get a lot of snow. I have no idea why. A possible solution was driving three and a half hours south to Green Bay after the show, and then flying out of there in the morning, which did not sound like fun, especially after traveling all day. So after consultation with the weather gods, I decided to risk it. Turns out that was a good decision, as the snow didn’t get too bad overnight. Just enough to make the roads treacherous this morning.

The shuttle to the airport turned out to be a brand new Toyota Prius, which is a fine automobile I have written about in the past, but for all its gee-whiz hybrid technology, it’s terrible in the snow, which I realized as soon as we started going down a snowy hill and the driver said, “Oh shit.” The airport is about half an hour from town, and we slipped and slid the entire way. Just as we pulling onto the airport grounds, my driver said, “Well we made it.” Then we drove off the road. No joke. We took a turn a little too fast (fifteen miles an hour), and ended up driving into a ditch. After several minutes of huffing and puffing, clearing snow from the tires, and with the help of a good Samaritan, we managed to get the car free. The driver was very apologetic, which did nothing to dry my socks. Even so, I tipped him ten dollars and told him to get back safe. Flying in to a town in the middle of nowhere and ending up in a ditch – it seemed like a pretty good metaphor for my career at this point.

Here's a clip of my show last night, in which you can see me learning about the Superior Dome.


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Dwight K. Shrute

Fuck you all! I'm FIRST AGAIN!!!!


tch...lucky michigan bastards


I liked this one so much I think I read the whole blog out loud to my friend, with whom I never share the computer.

I'm glad you didn't freeze to death.


i'm glad your driver didn't inadvertently kill you and that you made some college kids happy and/or laugh.

are you getting excited for the tour? is it fun travelling with showalter and wain?


hi michael!
i don't know if you remember...but you totaly almost commited rape last night haha just kidding...but i'm suprised that you did not metition melissa! she's been talking about you all day!



Love the orange hoodie. And I wonder if that guy ever came back. Maybe he just had to pee... Good luck in the ATL.


The possibility of you stranded in a small town in the middle of nowhere, snowed in and stuck in a hotel room for who knows how long- well, somehow insert me into the picture and you have the makings of my new #1 fantasy ready to be played out.

Of course, in my version you aren't frantically dialing your manager, trying to book any private plane available outta there, nor are you texting hirable iditarod dog teams while simultaneously summoning hotel security to cart away the crazy, older, half-naked drunk woman clawing at your keyhole.
I guess that is why fantasies ARE better than real life.


Thanks for coming up here! It's so boring and nice to have a little fun once in a while, because, as you can see, there's nothing to do but drink and go to outdoors.


Wow, reading this, I realize that I completely dismiss the UP as either part of Michigan or the United States. I just assumed it was sort of a no man's land - like the DMZ between North and South Korea. Except instead of landmines, it's littered with empty jugs of syrup and discarded hockey pucks. Because Canadians don't possess the fortitude to construct landmines. Or viable baseball franchises.


Please get a new sweat shirt.


that video is mmmmmm so nice.

i just vahnt to bite yor nahk.

Matt Wrobel

Ah, Mr. Black. Thank you ever so much for coming to the no man's land that is the UP. Hope you enjoyed Helvetica, it's a great documentary. As you experienced, there's not a damn thing up here, except that lake snow and fast food places.

Also, I might ad, wireless internet.


That whole slippery slope situation bites! At least Hotlanta can offer you better weather...and peach flavored saltwater taffy!

Now would be a good time to take a 10 day break from blogging as I will be in the midst of a transition. Just sayin'....


You're already in Michigan and I didn't even know?

You need to just stay in Michigan since you're coming back in a few weeks. And don't worry, I'm not an optimist either. There are some of us in Michigan. The only good thing is all this snow would put the fire out.


You're already in Michigan and I didn't even know?

You need to just stay in Michigan since you're coming back in a few weeks. And don't worry, I'm not an optimist either. There are some of us in Michigan. The only good thing is all this snow would put the fire out.


I'm glad you didn't die on the way to the airport, because then I'd never know about the bingo store which I definetly plan on checking out if I ever find myself there.


Atlanta? Recording more Xtacles?


*Gasp* 70/30 IS in Atlanta which could mean more Xtacles which could mean Frisky Dingo eventually coming back. Please, say it is so! Party boosh!


thank you for coming to NMU and sorry about my friend, my friend was the guy to get up left the show last night. it wasnt because you weren't funny, no it was because he had other plan that night and was just waiting. he thought you where funny, and was happy to hear that you called him a d-bag.


I'm reading your book and it is just so funny. I could have just stayed up all night and read it because it was so wonderful, but I am reading only a little bit every day because I want to make it last!!

That Mother

I too am familiar with the Lake Effect as I go to SUNY Oswego on Lake Ontario...

We also got a foot of snow...

But we did not get a Mister Michael Ian Black...


Well then, your blog abstinence is excused for the time being. All that travelling, I hope you have a good Evian water mister for your lovely skin. Kssshhh kssshhhh (thats the sound of the mister) Kssshh kssshhh (and again, because of the travelling)

Bingo sufferers, surround their numerous cards with a proud display of good luck chachki's. Maybe that Bingo store is nothing but a bunch of Leprechauns, rabbits feet, rubbing stones, crystals, mini dragons, and other Paganistic items that you should be very VERY familiar with by now.


>>which I think explains Texans.

Gasp! Oh no you di'int!

Wellll, thinking back on some of my college days buried in the lost Piney woods of East Texas, mayhap that is true, but still. Gasp!

No. You. Di. Int!

I like your hair. Thanks for the video!


Upon further reflection, I will exempt you from your Texas libel because Austin isn't really Texas. It's like the District of Austin. So I will just assume you are exempting us folks.

Secondly, thank you for the video!!!!!!!!! That end bit with the walker was priceless. As was the being unimpressed bit. Funny funny. Thank you for the video :)


I'm the cab driver, and I too, am glad we didn't get killed. That was the worst ride of my life. Wish I could have conversed with Michael more, but I was too darned scared.

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