Essay: Cameo Appearances

Burt and Mullett lakes are nearly identical in size. Within a matter of minutes we had viewed one from the leeward side and one from the windward side. The lakes are like twins with different personalities. A piece of me envied them. They had no decisions to make.  Just go where the wind blows.

It was mid-afternoon when we arrived in Cheboygan.  Hungry, we went to the Great Lakes Café on the eastern edge of town, a place we had read about but never visited.

Pushed by the wind, dry leaves made scratching sounds on the parking lot. In the restaurant’s window was a “No Smoking” sign. That meant the food would have to be mediocre for us not to like it.

It was well past lunch time. Only a few customers were scattered among the many mahogany stained tables. Half smiles and nods of the head were directed our way as we selected a table which caught the sun through a picture window.

There is something about winter up north which brings strangers together. There are fewer daylight hours and fewer people because of the movement of the sun and the summer folks.  Another person is like the light in a house that you go by while walking the dog before dawn. The potential for warmth is there.

A few feet away sat two elderly ladies, one of whom saw us studying the menu. She volunteered that we should order the liver and onions.Then she laughed and said she does not eat it but she has heard it is good.

Our waitress recommended the chicken gumbo but warned it was very spicy. I asked if she was implying I was not man enough to eat it.

For some reason our waitress mentioned that she had recently moved to Cheboygan from Las Vegas. Perhaps that was her way of telling me that any dumb joke I attempted was probably something she had heard from guys more clever than me.

Enjoying the banter and, for some reason, wanting to please these total strangers, I ordered a bowl of the chicken gumbo plus the liver and onions dinner. The tender calf’s liver came sheltered by a roof of bacon strips.

Both gray haired ladies had finished with their meal so they entertained us as we ate. One of them described her 40th wedding anniversary gift from her children.

The children had paid for our new friend and her husband to have a chauffer driven limousine take them to various garage sales when they still lived near Detroit. She said the limo driver had as much fun as she and her husband did and the driver probably purchased more “stuff” than they did. She also said some shoppers questioned why anyone who could afford a limo would need to shop at garage sales. Knowing how competitive garage sale customers can be, I pictured two gray haired ladies coming from opposite directions and colliding at a sale item, much like those white caps colliding that morning on Burt Lake.

We all agreed the Great Lakes Café has great food and one of the ladies recommended other nearby restaurants in Onaway and Topinabee. She said she has to go to them with her female friend because her husband is cheap. He prefers to eat at fast food restaurants. Perhaps he doesn’t like liver and onions. Perhaps he doesn’t know how much fun his wife is when she is enjoying herself. She was smokin’.Then the two ladies left. They had made cameo appearances in our lives, as we had in theirs. I was sorry to see them go.

As you read this, you may think we did nothing that November day. Not true. We went where the wind blew.

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