Blog : Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend

To all of the soft people who complain about winter and whine about spring, you’ve made it. I mean, I’ve made it to, to this place, to this time, to this summer. But it’s really about you, the soft-weather-whiner. It’s 80 something and the leaves are green and the shrubs are flowering and the lake is as deep and clear as you remembered it. If you cannot be happy now, will you ever be? Are you not entertained?

This weekend, I wish you a most pleasant time at the lake. This is the weekend to immerse yourself in this scene, in this place, in this thing that we have that’s so very hard to describe. The key to a long summer is to get a head start, to squeeze a few extra weekends early and a few extra weekends late. No matter what happens from here on out, we already have this weekend. Sure, it might rain. Sure, it might get cloudy for a bit. But on balance it’s nice out, and for that, we can all be thankful.

You’ll start seeing my new issue of Summer Homes For City People around town this weekend, and I do hope you enjoy it. I know I don’t really enjoy creating it, mostly because I’m overwhelmed with anxiety when I think about what I might have missed, or what errors slipped past multiple proof-readers. If I make an error on this blog, which I tend to do, it’s not really a big deal. It’s just a bunch of words thrown onto a screen. But in print, it feels so much more important. The magazine is out, with design help from Flair Studio and a new cover by Neal Aspinall.  You’ll find it around the lake wherever cool things are found.

This Memorial Day Weekend, be sure to apply sunscreen. Boat safely. But above all be thankful for the sacrifices made by others so that we can argue over the petty. Today, I’m worried about some deals and about some smudges on a few of my magazine covers. I’m not worried about invading forces from the north, or artillery fire landing near by home. I’m just worried about silly things. It’s the superfluous things for which men sweat (Seneca), but we’re only able to do so because the truly brave have made that possible. My thanks to the veterans, to the active military, to everyone who has given more than I’ll ever be asked to give.

Now, let’s strike the grills and gas the boat. There’s summer to be had.

Lake Geneva Memorial Day Weekend

Lake Geneva Memorial Day Weekend

And away. We. Go.  That’s best if read in the Joker’s voice, right before he ignites a bomb that has the power to destroy one thousand Gothams. But alas, we are not igniting a bomb, though we are ready for this slow burning fuse to hurry up and give us a show. It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and with this weekend we commence the first summer of the rest of our lives. What a summer it might be. It could be. It should be, probably. The issue today is that last summer was just so nice. Last Memorial Day weekend was delightful, full summer, instantly. This summer looks to be off to a rockier start, or at least a wetter one. Still, after some driving, it’s time to live it up like it’s the weekend.

I’ve written it before, but it should be mentioned again. This weekend is not a summer weekend. No matter how badly we wish it were, it isn’t. It’s a spring weekend. It’s May, for crying out loud.  If the weather waxes summer, terrific. But if it doesn’t, let’s not get all bent out of shape. I can envision the text messages now… “What a crappy weekend”.   “Are you building your ark?” Etc and etc. Yes, the weather might let us down this weekend, but that’s okay. This is just a dress rehearsal for summer. It’s the last full pads practice before we take the field. This isn’t the big show, it’s just the dry run. Or wet run, depending.

What does matter this weekend is the intent of the weekend. Yes, we’ll light our grills. Yes, some will go swimming. Yes, I’ll have my Superjet in the water. But this is about remembering those who died in awful places so that we can live here, in this place, where our biggest concern is whether or not it’ll rain on our cookout. What an embarrassing bunch of people we are.  My kids can’t swim in the pool this weekend, so everything is ruined! No it isn’t. We’re alive. We’re free. We’re living in this place. We aren’t just existing. We’re living.

And so this weekend here’s what you should do. Pick up my 2017 Summer Homes For City People magazine. It’s out on newsstands now, and it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever done. I don’t think it’s the best, either, but that’s just between us. At least I didn’t put the wrong date on the spine like I did last year.  Please grab the magazine and bring it home with you and leave it on the doorstep of your wealthy neighbor who doesn’t understand that weekends are not for the 6000 zip codes. Please do that, I’ll be thankful and my kids will, too.  Now that we’ve discussed the things you can do for me, here’s what we can do to show our respects to those who made all of this possible.

There are parades everywhere this weekend, but since you’re reading this on this site we’re going to skip all of the things happening in towns that don’t matter. There are parades on Monday in Lake Geneva, Williams Bay, and Fontana. Men will march. Women, too. Kids, sure.  The Lake Geneva parade is downtown at 10 am, the Williams Bay and Fontana parades are in their respective downtowns at 10:30 am. I recognize you cannot attend each parade, but try to attend the one closest to your lake house. If you try, I’ll try. It’s so easy to get caught up in the superficial worries of this weekend. Is the lawn fertilized? Are the annuals planted? Is the mulch done? Why isn’t the irrigation watering in the far west bed?!  Who cares. Some famous philosopher once said, “It’s the superfluous things for which men sweat”.   Let’s stop sweating and give a salute, and then we can go back to sweating.

Here’s to a most enjoyable Lake Geneva Memorial Day Weekend. And remember, if it rains don’t be sad. It’s not really summer, anyway.

Mayfly

Mayfly

It’s that season again, and with that season, we’ll require a reminder that Mayflies cannot kill you. They can’t give you Zika. They can’t do anything but annoy, and that’s okay. A post from the past…

 

I do not know what a June bug is. I don’t know what sort of bug it is, but I think it’s a beetle. I also don’t know if it’s a June bug, as the month would suggest, or if it’s a Joon bug, which is how I think the spelling is of that movie alongside Benny, which also might be Bennie, but who knows. I know certain things about June bugs. I know that they are bugs, and I know that while they likely arrive sometime in June they most certainly do not only exist during the month that I assume to be their namesake. My daughter’s name is May, but she exists the same in May as she does in June, which is to say that she exists solely for the purpose of torturing her brother and making him feel as though she gets special treatment. She does, but not just in May because her name is May.

Mayflies–I know more about these than I do the bugs that may or may not be beetles that come after the flies. Mayflies aren’t really flies at all. They do fly, but they do not buzz against windows and spoil picnics and touch everything in the way that garbage flies do. Perhaps calling them garbage flies is inappropriate, like calling field corn horse corn, but as I recall fruit flies are more like small bugs, or gnats, than they are like flies, so I’ll assume that fruit flies are like gnats and garbage flies are the flies that we think of when we think of flies. Which is often, in summer. Mayflies, they’re a summer bug too, which is back to our point about those flies existing, at least sometimes, outside of May.

This is the time for these bugs. In fact, it might be past the time for these bugs. They were buzzing while I was working, buzzing in great dark clouds over piers and in front lawns and buzzing next to lilacs as they bloomed and made all the world smell like the pages of Glamour magazine. They were in these large schools, roaming about without moving much at all, hovering, really, hanging out in front lawns and near bushes and over piers and over expanses of calm spring waters. These bugs can, at first, seem daunting. There are many of them, but the swarm doesn’t instill fear like a swarm of bees would. And they don’t instill disgust in the way that a mass swarm of flies would, be those flies garbage flies or fruit flies, it doesn’t matter much. They’re still flies, and a whole mess of them would be just miserable.

I’m sure I saw some of these dark schools of Mayflies during their namesake month, but I can’t remember them this year because I didn’t take any time to smell any roses, or to pick any dandelions, or to walk along the shore path near the water where these bugs like to hang out. I haven’t done these things because I haven’t had the time, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t see some Mayflies this year. I did. I saw plenty of them, just not the huge swarms of them that I remember seeing during other Mays from other years. I remember one year when they were particularly impressive. I fished off the Loch Vista pier, casting thin line with small hooks looped through the faces of small minnows. I don’t feel good about doing that to those minnows, but I do feel good about watching a small red and white bobber slip under the still surface, and I feel equally as good about reeling in a smallmouth bass before gently unhooking it and releasing it back to its watery home, so the minnow part is unfortunate but I find that its end justifies its means.

I remember one late afternoon, late enough where the sky was dark but the light hadn’t yet faded enough to be considered night, and I was doing that casting and standing and reeling. The buzz from the Mayflies was pronounced–loud even–and I felt great privilege being on that pier in that scene, watching my bobbers. I’d look away at times, just for long enough to see the cloud of Mayflies dip too close to the water so that the wings of the lowest members would dimple the surface and stick together. The bugs that met the water in this way would stay there, glued to the surface of the calm lake, where they’d lay without hope until a small bluegill would ascend from the depths and sip them, implying politeness while still being ruthless. I watched the scene play out, the falling to the water to become a meal, the bobbers dipping under the surface, the smallmouth pulling away as best they could, the night sky growing dim, the Mayflies abuzz.

This is May, and we’re at the lake. The flies are not flies at all, just Mayflies in some quantity. They won’t bite, they won’t bother, and soon enough they’ll be dead and stuck to spiderwebs under the eaves of our homes and the canopies of our piers. They aren’t anything to fear, no more than we’d fear a Joon bug, or a June bug, or the dreaded Juhn bug.

 

Above, my Lake Geneva Club listing, freshly under contract.
Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend

The man in front of me wore a checked shirt of blue and white. I wore a similar shirt, mine more white than blue, and no fewer than six other men on the small plane wore the same pattern in the same colors. The older men in first class wore solid blue.

The checked shirt man bobbed his head long before the plane launched into the sky. He bobbed his head as we cleared the coastal state and then still he bobbed when we made it over Lake Erie. The bob was the same the whole time, shallow and quick, always the same beat. Whatever he was listening to was consistent, song after song, either that or he was stuck on repeat and he bobbed to the same song in that same shirt in the seat in front of me for the entirety of that westbound flight. I wished I hadn’t been so annoyed by the constant motion. I tried to video the bobbing, but the phone was on 9% and the passengers behind me would have been able to see what I was doing. I preferred to be simply one of the men in the checked shirts on that flight, and not the man who videotaped the other man because of his insistent, steady bob.

Once I flew home from the Cayman Islands, which island I cannot remember. Two days before the return flight that island sun had burned my face so badly that I spent those two days that followed slinking around the shady side of the pool and icing my face down with the bartender’s ice. I went for a walk at night and carried with me a neatly folded paper towel so that I might wipe the clear puss that was weeping from my burnt face. I never said this story was pleasant, but the pre-flight history is important because my mood was sour when I boarded that plane, and increasingly it worsened as the man in the seat in front of me spoke loudly in a heavy foreign tongue. I had no headphones, but had I it wouldn’t have been certain that I dared touch them to my crisped ears. I could do nothing but sit and listen to his heavy exaggerated dialect, and the farther into the flight the more he spoke, the louder, loud enough for everyone to hear, no matter their seat. My face wept, my ears buzzed, my patience was not traveling well.

And so yesterday I sat on that flight home, back to this place, to the place we take for granted. You take it for granted and I take it for granted because we’re told by the world that our place is nice, but it’s not that nice. It’s nice for Wisconsin, those people from other places say. I’m back after a short visit to a bigger city where bigger things exist, but I’m reminded today that these bigger things are not better, that far away city no more important than this small village. It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and while this is typically a warm up for summer, this year it appears as though it really is summer. Enjoy it, bask in it, solemnly remember those who made this safe life possible, and don’t take any of it for granted. Not this place, or this time, or these warm days and this clear water. It’s special, and sometimes you need only sit in coach behind a checked shirt man whose iTunes was stuck on repeat to realize it.

Boxed and Burlap

Boxed and Burlap

I was in Chicago Wednesday. It was a crisp spring day, the sky and water in a matching shade. The city, when viewed from the approaching interstate, no matter which one, is not a terrific thing. The city looks too congested, hazy, too city-like. But when viewed from Lakeshore Drive, the city comes alive. It would be hard to view the city from that direction and consider the city a mess. And so I spent time in the city and I visited a few coffee shops and restaurants and marveled at the variety in such tight quarters. In Lincoln Park we walked past three coffee shops to go to the fourth, because that one was better, or just different, it was hard to say. So many people can support so many shops, even when they’re all nearly the same. I enjoyed my visit and my meetings and returned home as I always do, happy to have been and happier to be back.

In Walworth County, we do not have the luxury of superfluous shops and stores, because we don’t have the population to support such variety. I’m happy for this small town setting with small town concerns, but businesses that rely on foot traffic can face an uphill battle because of the demographics. That’s why I root for local businesses that open, even as I know most of them will fail. A new ice cream shop in Williams Bay? Well, we already have two, maybe three, four if you count that one place, so you’ll be the fifth? And you’ll be serving Blue Bunny Ice Cream, the same kind the gas stations sell? I’d rather treat you as farmers treat farm animals, because you never get to know something you know is going to be dead in a few months.  But alas, I cheer on businesses that I think the community needs, and businesses that will benefit the community they serve.

I have had a dream for decades that I would someday buy the Geneva Lakes Bait and Tackle store and turn it into a high end outfitter. I’d run guides through the shop, and make it a high end sporting store. That dream is probably no longer viable, but that corner of Williams Bay where Highways 50 and 67 intersect has been the focus of much growth. Mercy Hospital is big and bold on that corner, important for the area and a nice thing to have nearby so many recreating daredevils.  The Belfry Theatre, as you read here last year, is being refitted and should be open soon for a summer concert series. Lakeland Church is helping the effort; their church being located just to the north of that intersection. The sore spot has been the site immediately across from the hospital, just north of the Belfry, north of my someday bait and tackle shop.

That corner property was a mix of run down old this and beaten up that, and you’ve likely noticed over recent months a revitalization of sorts occurring on those grounds. A new barn was built, the property cleaned, the old house remade. The style fits my eye, whites and grays and a bit of modern intermixed with a decidedly country vibe. The business is Boxed and Burlap. My friend Jon Neighbors and his lovely wife whom I’ve never met are the owners, and what they’re doing deserves your attention. The property is being turned into a destination with multiple purposes, most notably the tree and plant business that occupies much of the property. But that’s where the similarities to other greenhouses and nursery operations end. The old house is nearly complete in its transformation to coffee house. The tour I went on yesterday revealed a very cool space that will likely become a very popular coffee spot. In Williams Bay, we’re long ice cream but exceptionally light coffee.  Boxed and Burlap fixes that.

There will be additional goings on, with one building undergoing a conversion to an artists studio where you can take some art and pottery classes, should that be something you’re interested in. I love art, but I barely have the patience to draw a heart around my name when I sign my wife’s anniversary card, so you won’t find me working on my pastels anytime soon. But the space will be there, so that’s nice if you’re artsy. There will be live bands, seasonal festivals, a farmer’s market, and more. The vision of the owners has proven to me, before they’ve proven to anyone else, that this business will work.

But for it to work, and for the community to benefit from it for years to come, it needs your help. I’m not going to tell you to visit them this weekend, but I am asking that you visit them over Memorial Day Weekend. The coffee shop should be open, so stop for an espresso and take home a lilac bush while you’re at it.  Help this business succeed not for the sake of the owner, but for the sake of the community. Failed businesses aren’t a benefit to anyone, and important, high visibility corners are an especially important component to any thriving community.  Hopefully this summer I’ll see you at Boxed and Burlap.

Deadlines

Deadlines

I think about the days when I won’t write on this blog. I think about how admitting that is to somehow run afoul of the unwritten rules of a real estate professional. I cringe at the word professional. Cringing at the word is also running afoul of those unwritten rules, though I’ll bet they are written somewhere. New agent materials, written. Trade magazines, written. Written by people who tell you what to do and how to be successful. Wear a crisp shirt. Don’t be yourself. Don’t talk about safe neighborhoods and whatever you do, don’t say anything that might be construed as being somehow offensive.  Don’t tell people that you fished Delavan Lake yesterday and you were, for the first time in more than a week, happy to have a cold.  Um, Dad, what’s that horrible smell?  I don’t know son, I have a cold.  I think it’s the lake. See, don’t say anything offensive, and don’t let your hair be messy and don’t ever talk about how you look forward to the day when you don’t sell real estate.

I think about those days in the future, and I think I’ll try to write stories or articles or blog posts or something, and with the meager scratch I’ll earn I’ll just live on that. I’ve written for some magazines already, and it doesn’t seem that hard. Just sit here, think about something not related to real estate, and write it. Then, send the written thing in to the magazine and have them brutally reject your written thing, and you.  I sent a bit into Gray’s Sporting Journal once. I received the courtesy of a rejection email, and it stung. But I’m a glutton for things that sting, (see, Real Estate Profession), and so I emailed back. I asked what about the piece was wrong. Was it the topic or the style or the fact that I always put periods inside the quotation marks?  I was expecting a blistering critique, a sharp dagger to slice through my dreams. I braced myself for the reply.

The writing is not up to the Gray’s Sporting Journal standard. 

That’s all he said. He didn’t thank me for my thoughtful question. He didn’t even soften the edges.  He didn’t say one thing was wrong, he said it was all wrong. And so I’m happy to write for the Drake Magazine (pick one up at your favorite bookstore), where they let me write about fishing with my wife (I hate it), and fishing with friends (hate that, too), and they let me make fun of Iowa. See, when it comes to real estate, Michigan is the one who deserves my ire.  I never wanted to hate Michigan, but any state that produces a commercial aimed at romanticizing Escanaba is a state that has earned my spite. In trout fishing, Iowa is the embarrassing one. Wisconsin has glorious trout streams. We have so many that you don’t dare try to count them without your favorite quant nearby to assist. But Iowa, they have streams stocked with silly trout that don’t spook when you cast your line over their heads. They have hatchery fish that are more likely to eat a Dog Food Emerger than a Pale Morning Dun. See, this is why I have to write for a fly fishing magazine, because you don’t even know what I’m talking about.

In January, the publisher of that magazine emailed me with an assignment. An assignment. I’ve never had one since high school English, and those were assignments I could cheat on (the internet wasn’t available yet, but Cliff Notes were). This assignment was different, and I’d be getting paid for it, and so I had to focus.  I was to write about the early season opener in Wisconsin, which again, is meaningless to you if you’re not interested in fly fishing. But the early season opener is a big deal, and this year it was earlier than in every year that has come prior. This winter, Wisconsin anglers could fish for trout, so long as they released them. I gladly accepted the assignment, which was due by March 1st. I had more than a month to write this piece, and it only needed to be 800 words or so. Cinch. My career was blossoming.

And then the month of February passed, and my assignment went as most of my prior assignments. Unfulfilled. I couldn’t write. I sat at this desk, stared at this screen, typed words on this tiny keyboard, but a story never materialized. The month was a failure because the deadline only reinforced my writer’s cramp. I couldn’t think of anything, and when I did think of something, I wrote it and quickly realized it was the wrong thing. I stared at my office fireplace, hoping the flames would give me inspiration. They didn’t. I watched a fly fishing video or two on that office TV, hoping something would kindle in me an angle. It didn’t. I fished once that month, hoping that the snowy solitude would show me the way.  The fish ate my fly, and snow felt right under my boots, but I had no angle. The deadline was looming.

And I had nothing. But when the deadline was just a day or two away, an idea. I hurriedly plunked it down, read it once, fixed a few words and eliminated a few commas (I do love the comma), and sent it in. I waited for the reaction of the editor. Would he know that I had written this in haste, because the deadline was so near? Or would he reject it because it was, in the words of Gray’s, not up to the standard? When his email arrived in my inbox, it took me a few minutes to open it. I didn’t know if I could stand the rejection, the humiliation. I didn’t want to fail at my first assignment in the field.   If I flunk my first test, how would I someday retire early to while away my days on a Geneva plying sailboat or in those cold clear Wisconsin streams?

He said the angle was different, the tone not what he expected, the outcome unpredictable. But then he said he liked it, and looked forward to running it in the Spring issue. And with that, a deadline made. A dream intact. But the deadline almost paralyzed me, and I nearly missed the prize. You might not realize it, but you have a deadline, too, and it’s rapidly approaching. It’s Memorial Day Weekend 2016, the weekend that should be your launching point for your first Lake Geneva based summer. You see the gray of today, you see the possible snow of tomorrow, you see the calendar and you think you have time. But you don’t. You’re as me, pressing your luck, not willing to do the work required to obtain the reward.  You have 55 days to get this right, now don’t blow it.