Beached, we had a whale of a time

Opinion: Editorials

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

We just got back from vacationing in Union Pier, Michigan, where we enjoyed six glorious days of sunshine. We spent our days at Union Pier's public beach, which I believe is a metaphor for modern America. It's about as wide as one of our 25-foot lots. It's also very narrow, due to high lake levels. It's sandwiched between vast private beaches. A security guard was stationed to protect those beaches. In the past, I've even seen police remove trespassers.

We public-beachers, on the other hand, were crammed together like passengers riding the Blue Line. We had a French guest, though, who thought this was unfair. In his country, the beaches belong to everyone. So he led an invasion of the private beach. He apparently doesn't believe in beach boundaries or, for that matter, private property. He commandeered a paddle board and paddle no one was using. 

Apart from the cramped public beach, I had no complaints. We were together with a shifting cast of kids, grandkids and the occasional dog. We held nightly family feasts. At one of them, we witnessed the miracle of the six chicken breasts. There didn't appear to be enough to feed the multitudes. But we cooked the chicken, blessed it with barbecue sauce and cut it up. Everyone was satisfied and there were scraps left over for making buffalo chicken dip.

When we weren't grilling, we were checking off all the perks of a Union Pier vacation: blueberry pancakes, bike rides, golf, kayaking, hot-tubbing, visits to the Straydog Restaurant and the Four Winds Casino, a boat ride on the lake, sunsets, fireworks, campfires and coolers of beer. Star-gazing and s'mores. Playing sports and rolling the dice in Risk. But the best part was being together with family 24/7.

It was fun to wake up early with the grandsons, age 5, 3 and 1. As many grandparents can attest, they are adorable, delightful and exhausting. The 5-year-old, Troy, had a groundbreaking week. He learned to ride a bike without training wheels, paddle a board on the lake and even briefly steer the boat. We didn't see much of the other kids at the resort until Troy started pumping out hip-hop music and spontaneously started a dance party. 

There were also some activities we avoided. We didn't watch TV and I was maintaining a complete news blackout — no newspapers, no bad news, no schedule, no deadlines, no work, no phone calls, or urgent e-mails. It was positively therapeutic. At night, we collapsed into slightly sandy beds. In the mornings, we sipped coffee on the screened porch. The yard had a few overhead wires, just to remind us of Forest Park.

Our only regret was missing the fireworks at The Park. We heard they were spectacular. Kudos to the commissioners, especially Matt Walsh, who campaigned on the promise of restoring the fireworks and delivered. How often does that happen? 

Now that we've recharged our batteries and reconnected with our relatives, we're ready to rock the rest of the summer in Forest Park. 

By the way, do they allow paddle-boarding at the pool?

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

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