American Culture

Indian summer in the industrial north: Lex Veritas


An urban pastoral.

The second half of August and early September were unseasonably chill and dreary.

It felt like we’d be battening down sooner rather than later. Would all those peaches on the tree ripen before the weather turned, or more accurately would the weather turn back enough for the peaches to ripen. The shop and music beckon but the brief, glorious summer is hard to let go of.

At least for this week, summer returned. Hot summer, not the the usual September of pleasant days and crisp nights. It felt like summer with the mostly blind dog leading the way into the neighborhood north of here. Every university town has a student ghetto. Ours is north of Wright street. The students really apply themselves to the uncommon moments they get to experience real summer in Marquette. They spill out onto whatever constitutes a front lawn with party volume dance music, drinking and the timeless pursuits of 21 year-olds. Bro number one tried to impress the girl he’s walking with by calling bro number two a slur and making fun of him. Bro number two may have felt the need to assert immediate dominance over a shirtless bro number one. I imagine and hope that the girl pulled a muscle rolling her eyes.

This part of town used to be the gritty, working class neighborhoods. Floated on swampland under the stacks of the Cleveland Cliffs/Dow Chemical joint venture, later involving Kingsford. They cooked trees to make chemicals and charcoal. If the remaining underground sluices down by the lake are excavated, an onshore breeze smells like rancid barbecue. There’s still some old timers left. It’s the kind of neighborhood where there are people living in their grandparents’ home.

The town’s public housing is a flat apartment complex covering two blocks. Enough density so that the good parents drive their kids to school of choice elementary schools as if being poor is a contagious disease. But it’s no real ghetto. In fact, on a summer night that feels like free money there’s a couple dozen kids of more than one color kicking soccer balls and just generally being pretty free range kids with other kids. There’s no travel soccer, but there’s a ball and some green.

And as the sun starts to set for real as opposed to the lingering twilight of the north, some sort of chihuahua / Doberman mix flings itself to the end of a cord at a 90 pound, but wholly oblivious shepherd/lab. The little thing probably had his day made chasing off someone eight times her size, and she’s less a fan of other dogs now that she can’t see them in her peripheral vision.

Oblivious is easier and she seems pretty content.