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.
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.