Thursday, June 24, 2021

Another book report 'I have something to tell you'

Norther Michigan
 Actually, I have only just started reading this one, but I am so enjoying it! 'I have something to tell you' by Chasten Buttigieg. The first chapter quite unexpectedly, transported me back to my first summer in the US. Chasten grew up in Northern Michigan, just outside Traverse City. My first summer in the US was spent at Camp Maplehurst (now Maplehurst Natural Area) just outside Kewadin which, in 1994, was just a cross roads with a pub and a supermarket - like any country village in Ireland. It was about 35 minutes north of Traverse City. The upper circle on this map is where Camp Maplehurst was, and the village of Kewadin is located. The lower circle is Traverse City.

Chasten mentions that he worked as a busboy in La Senorita restaurant in Traverse City. Again, I was transported back to the first week at camp. After a week of hard work opening up camp in preparation for the influx of kids for the first session, all of the counselors got the day off together, the one and only time we could all go off together. We headed off in a convoy of vehicles - at least 14 of us. First stop was Target where the American kids needed to get flannel shirts - it was unseasonably cold for late June and they had all come ready for summer weather. I had no problem there as I had come from Ireland, most of my clothes were perfect for an Irish summer, which is very similar to the weather that week in Michigan. I did however, need to buy a sleeping bag. I was unaware of the need to bring my own bedding to camp. After that we went to La Senorita and had a late lunch. We returned to Kewadin where I was dispatched into the supermarket to purchase beer which we planned to bring to the beach for an evening of partying.

I headed into the supermarket having been given strict instructions on the brand and quantity. Unfortunately for the teenage counselors who were not old enough to purchase beer, they didn't think to tell me to buy the beer from the coolers. I had been in the US for one week - and I had never been to the States before. I came from Ireland, we don't need coolers to store the beer in, and we certainly didn't have them in the early 1990s whether we needed them or not. So I did what I would have done in Ireland. I saw a mountain of the correct brand in the middle of the floor of the store and loaded them into my cart. Naturally I was not even asked for my ID - I was 48 years old and perhaps I didn't look my age, but I most definitely looked older than 21. I hasten to add that I was unaware of the fact that it was illegal to purchase alcohol for underage drinkers - in fact I don't think I even knew what the legal age was. In Ireland it was 18 and these kids were all around that age - between 17 and 20.

When we got to the beach I was amazed to discover that it really was a beach, even though it was a lake and not an ocean, there was a sandy beach. We unloaded the beer and as soon as the thirsty teens took deep chugs from their cans, a loud wail went up "She bought warm beer?" I was confused. It wasn't warm, it was on the floor in the store. It was warm to them and while hugely disappointed, they were very good natured about it; they also never let me forget it. They took all of the cans down to the water and submerged them in the cool lake water in the hopes of cooling the contents down some. I am not sure if that worked but it didn't stop them from drinking it anyway.

On my first day off after camp got underway - after the campers had arrived, I and a fellow counselor drove to Traverse City to the Social Security Office where I registered myself as a new legal resident of the United States and got my Social Security Number (SS#).  I had arrived on a Green Card which I won in the lottery, see here for more details on that. This blog entry also gives more details. I had been warned that I must get my SS# as soon as possible, so I did. I wasn't aware then that the first three numbers of your SS# identifies the state where it was issued, so I will forever be connected to Michigan.

Any time counselors had a day off, we headed to Traverse City - never again all together, but always there. And I even know the Cherry Capital Airport there, having been charged with delivering one of the campers to catch a flight home as an unaccompanied minor. Talking about cherries! which Chasten did, the camp had an enormous cherry orchard and I have to admit that I frequently gorged myself there.

Mackinac Island 1994
I have also been to Mackinac Island, which he mentions in his book - well, he mentions the Mackinac Upper Peninsula, which is where the Island is. Camp had a full day outing there; it was a magical place. 

Who would have thought that a old Irish woman would have memories of so many of the places Chasten talked about - we could possibly have been in the same place at the same time! Mind you, he was only 5 years old the year I was there.

Obviously, I didn't buy this book to revisit Michigan, that was an unexpected bonus. I bought it because I have great sympathy and admiration for anyone who has to go through not just the realization that they are gay or trans (see this blog entry), but also coming out, first to family and then friends and then to the world, without knowing how they will be treated. I am also curious to read about his experience as the backup for a major political campaign. Having read one of Jill Biden's books. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of Chasten's book!

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