I make mention of Mr. Gross from time to time, and several readers have emailed to ask just who this Gross fella is. Well, here’s who he is. Back live on Monday…
Newsweek writer Daniel Gross wrote an article that appeared in last week’s publication titled “There’s No Place Like Home- Good riddance to the vacation home”. Mr. Gross, a seemingly simply minded young man now residing in Connecticut is enjoying the fact that along with our economic downturn, fewer people are escaping to their lake homes for the weekend. He enjoys this, because, according to him, his primary residence in Connecticut features a pool and a basketball hoop… and a trampoline. He thinks vacation homes are lame, he thinks people who own them are pretentious, and he thinks his pool and trampoline are all the rage. He’ thinks he’s special because the New York Times shows up in his driveway every Sunday morning. He really thinks he’s something in his suburban oasis, where apparently deer sometimes walk through his yard. He thinks these things, but he’s wrong.
The truth is, you can’t blame young Daniel for his misguided take on the vacation home, primarily because he doesn’t own one and never has, but more importantly because he grew up in.. you guessed it, Michigan. He laments the vacation habits of the neighbors of his youth, who for weekend enjoyment completely unfathomable to him, gave up comfortable suburban homes for locales further north. He talked about how cold it was up north. How there was no newspaper to read (certainly not the lofty New York Times), and how the lakes were always cold. This poor guy was obviously turned against the vacation home at a very young age, and I can’t really blame him. If my only exposure to a vacation home was a cottage in Michigan, I might opt for the chlorinated stench of my own backyard pool as well.
What Dan doesn’t get is that lake homes just aren’t what they used to be, unless of course you’re looking for what they used to be. They can be whatever you want them to be, and millions upon millions of people in this country get that. Chicago gets it more than most, and with Lake Geneva so silly close, it’s pretty hard not to get it. I’ve written before that our Queer Eye friend Thom Felicia gets it, and Lord knows I get it, but I owe my keen appreciation for the vacation home to a young couple from Illinois who first got it in 1968.
This young couple, one an Irish guy from Niles who likes to think his high school days played out just like they did in Grease, the other a German farm girl from Princeton, were both teaching school in the little hamlet of Royal, Illinois. In 1968 they bought a small cottage on Spring Street in Williams Bay, an oasis at the lake, a quintessential lake cottage to cool off at on hot summer weekends. Basic? Yes. Running water? Most of the time. Easy access to the water to feed this fella’s lust for old wooden boats? Absolutely. The next two years were vacation bliss for this couple, who embarked on a basic renovation of the cottage and spent warm summer days walking the shore path, and cool fall nights by the roaring space heater. To this day my father calls the two seasons spent vacationing in Williams Bay the two best summers of his life. No word on where the summer I was born fits into this hierarchy.
Soon enough, my parents would buy a lakefront home in Williams Bay, the home that I grew up in. The home that they still live in today. The pier where I first jumped into the lake is the same pier where my own children have taken their first jump. It’s a lake house, but it’s much more than that. The lake house is different, yet the familiarity that comes over time is so much more appealing than Mr. Gross could ever know.
So this weekend, like every other weekend throughout the year, thousands of vacationing Illinoisans will arrive at their Lake Geneva vacation homes. Some will settle into small condo’s at Abbey Springs, others into old lake cottages on leafy streets. Others will arrive at fancy lakefront mansions with children and nanny in tow, but no matter what the style of home, no matter the location within our tremendous market, the feeling will always be the same. It’s a lake house, and there’s nothing like it. The New York Times delivers to your Lake Geneva driveway for $3.10 a week. See you at the lake.