Chris Smith: Summer in northern Michigan — crazy is as crazy does

Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Summer I 2019 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.

Summer in Michigan — anywhere, really — is, for many, the best time of year. For us Northerners, anything beats a long, sustained winter, the likes of which thankfully just passed. We not only look forward to the warm weather, we crave it; but not like craving a Hershey bar. More like a shark craves fresh blood or the Tigers crave a decent bullpen. This irrational yearning for not freezing anymore means that after the first 75-degree day, we firmly shelve common sense between the wool scarves and snowshoes and do things that defy logic, science and most genetic traits of an evolved human being.

Visiting the sand dunes: Specifically, running down a sand dune which, sadly, involves climbing up the damn thing in the first place. The risk to body includes, in no certain order: ankle sprains, knee tears, a year’s visit to the chiropractor, your first ever 40-foot step, broken necks, hyperventilation, tachycardia, A-fib, and full-blown vapor lock. Yet, we do it … because it’s summer.

Spending the day at the beach: For most of the year, normal folks attempt to avoid skin contact with an open flame. But as soon as school’s out, we see no problem sitting on the beach, forgetting the sunblock and frying any exposed body part to an unrecognizable crisp. The best part is we’re stunned how, during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in late June, with no clouds and 80-degree heat, we could possibly sunburn.

At home, we typically bathe alone, in the comfort of our own bathtub. Yet a beach, or river or lake — wherever we decide to swim — is a perfectly reasonable place to not only share with 500-2,000 of our best friends, but accept — happily, mind you — whatever they’re putting in the water (use your imagination). My family loves swimming in rivers like the Platte because the current is fun to play in, and the water temp is considerably warmer than adjacent Lake Michigan. But I know darn well that every square inch of water upstream of me was seined through the swim trunks of some dude from Detroit. Yet, we do it … because it’s summer.

Wearing flip-flops: Which means good taste is thrown to the wind. The goal isn’t just to feel comfortable at the expense of fashion sense but evidently to win a contest. Some folks look good in them — maybe four people on the planet. Let’s not forget, flip-flops originated as shower shoes so the fungus would grow on them and not your feet. And as we walk, they do zippo to keep the dirt out, so we end up with feet like a Roman soldier. Yet, we do it … because it’s summer.

Golfing: One of the most common recreational sports up here. But after hole #4, the question of “why” plagues me like a sliver under the fingernail. I just lost three $5 Titleist Pro V1xs by hitting the same tree three times in a row. Ironically, the same tree I’m about to wrap my expensive Taylor-Made driver around. Luckily, I have time to do a quality job because I’m currently following the foursome from hell. You know the one — two hit it out of bounds, the third not quite to the lady’s tees, and the fourth has bought enough Bud Light from the gal driving the beer cart that he’s trying to decide which end of the club to hold. And they’ll never — ever — let you play through. Yet, we do it … because it’s summer.

Those lucky enough to live up here bear the brutal winters for a primary purpose: our summers rock. Yet, long winters create an abnormal attraction to the sun and all its associated hobbies. Occasionally this urge for warmth trumps reasonable thought, and we succumb to choices not normally made given enough time and all the facts.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, then summer in Michigan is no different.

Bring it on.

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