Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Things Change," Or, How I Have Progressed As a Writer, Or, a Series of Situations in Which I Tease Kevin, Or, How I Used to Suck

The author writing at age twelve

by Brendan Cavanagh

In the summer of 2004, my family made its second voyage to Door County, WI in order to make a repeat appearance at our favorite vacation spot, the Alpine Resort. At this time, I was twelve years old, a pusillanimous, highly inquisitive and entirely innocent boy. I decided to follow in my father's footsteps and record my thoughts during the trip in my Platform 9 3/4 journal, just as he had four years previously. It's always been great to come back to every now to laugh at and rehash good times. But now I have a blog and the ability to embarrass myself in front of...TENS of people (most of which reside in Denmark. word.)!

I've taken the liberty of transcribing my journal (because a diary is too effeminate) word-for-word, complete with mistakes, non sequiturs and a hell of a lot of now-regrettable comments. Between the descriptions of the banality of daily life, one can find countless scenes of mirth, wistfulness, anxiety, nerdiness, sorrow, thematic undertones, various musings on life and a heavy nostalgic overtone. Peppered throughout one will encounter brackets [ ] containing modern muses on what I wrote six years ago, so as to avoid confusion for the reader and perhaps make a joke or two. Without further ado, I present to you, dear reader:

Return to the North Woods II: The Sequel: A Son's Journal
(In the Year of our Lord: 2004)

[Inscribed is what I thought was an elaborately-constructed replication of the Cavanagh family crest flanked by two pillars, which made up the "II" in the title.]

Wednesday 8/4/04

Preparations having been made, we wait till the morn.

[In my opinion at the time, this was among the greatest opening lines of all time]

Just one more night! I believe this is better than Christmas. We will be going to Plateville, WI for a night and hopefully seeing the House on the Rock. We'll be going to Milwaukee to stay with Uncle Jim. Then, for a glorious week, we will be staying at the Alpine Lodge in Door County! We had gone 4 years ago in the summer of 2000 and Mom and Dad went for their honeymoon in '91. We love it. We will then go home via Evanston to visit the Wambachs.

[Brigid's godparents and dear friends of my parents]

*-and Jim's again for 2 nights and a ball game. Today was spent getting prepared. I got my Lionel Richie CD (Greatest Hits). We all hope to sleep well tonight. (Me and the kids have started cross country Monday! We will train in WI)

Thursday 8/5/04

And sleep we did! I had an all right sleep. I went to bed writing at 11:00 and woke up at 3:00. I went back to bed and woke up at 6:00 and then 7:15. Brigid woke me up at 8:00. We got dressed and watched tv (the Magic Bullet blender in which we were particularly engrossed in). We left at 9:15 and spent a few hours in the car. We went NW through IL (couldn't make the Dixie)

[our favorite nostalgic truck stop/gas station]

and went through Iowa, and back to IL. We stopped in Galena, IL to view the Scenic Overlook Tower and Grant's *-Ulysses S. Grant house. It was cool. We were led by Rita Anger, a bossy tour guide, through the house. Speaking of Iowa and the Scenic Overlook Tower, the views were awesome! Quoting my Dad, "we kids would die in the Dakotas!".

[A butchered quote from his first journal, in which he described the reactions of my siblings and I upon first seeing large, sloping hills outside of Illinois]

We went through Galena to get ice cream and me, a caramel apple. We left thinking it looked like Diagon Alley. We spent another half hour driving to Plateville, WI. Me and Brigid competed in the Alphabet Game *-You have to see 26 words that each start with a letter in the alphabet We both needed X. I won at the hotel with Xamer (in the phone book). We got sidguated situated and went in the pool/jacuzzi while Dad napped. We then took showers and are watching Wild Wild West. We don't know what to eat and it is 8:25. We're thinking Culvers. Guess not. We drive out a little and see a play in the act. We decided to stop and see it. Kevin said, "It's Jesus Christ Superstar!" It was Cinderella. We watched the end and searched for food. We saw a Steve's Pizza Palace and stopped. Turns out we had to go in the Captain's Cove to eat. It was still pizza. Our waitress was Monica, a resident of the Midwest who did not like cheese. She was from Detroit, Chicago, and Rockford. We got a half Hawaiian- half cheese (extra). It came with free chessy bread. Two slices of Hawaiian and two pieces of cheesy bread were all that was left, in which will comprise of my lunch tomorrow. There was a neat war memorial we looked at. But then, we went to Dick's, some mall where Dad had to get some razor blades. Now we're back at the hotel watching Everybody Loves Raymond. Tomorrow we'll go to Milwaukee.

Postscript- Today at the Scenic Overlook Tower, Kevin (who's obsessed with Jaguars) started petting the hood ornament on a Jag not knowing there were people inside the car, watching his every move. We started laughing and rushed in the car. The man and his probable mother, started inspecting the hood ornament and the front of the car. Freaked out and sure they were anal

[a word I had learned that day]

people, we left. Then, at Grant's house, we spotted the same people again! We were freaked! Ahh, the highlight of our day...

Also, we stopped in a city in Iowa to see a thing called Driscoll's Island. My great grandma's name was Driscoll. We got some pictures.

[In this chapter, I drew my only picture of the entire trip, depicting Kevin petting the Jag's hood ornament, bearing the legend "In Which Kevin Spots A Jag And Spotted Himself By An Anal Couple."]

Friday 8/6/10

At 11:30 (after an episode of the Nanny) we went to bed. I slept very well. We woke at 7:45 and dined around 8:30. I had 1 piece of a homemade waffle and some of Brigid's yogurt, cocoa, and orange juice. At 9:30, we left. After a while, we stopped in Mineral Point to see the town and the minor's cottages. The town looked like Diagon Alley *-It was called Shake Rag Alley. That was okay. We then went to the House on the Rock. That was awesome! There were statues of wizards with wands, owls, and staffs. They looked like Dumbledore...

Taking refuge under a tree on the "Street to the Past" in the House on the Rock.
Note the bearded wizard in the background

There was also a "street to the past". It looked like Diagon Alley. I knew- after the statues and Hogwarts-like rooms, this was what my treat was. It all looked Harry Potter-ish. After being halfway through, after 3 hours, giant whales and squids, Mikaido rooms, and Diagon Alleys, we were hungry, tired, and clausterphobic. We left. My favorites were the giant carousel, the Mikaido Room, and the Infinity Room, which stretched forever with no support underneath. We got caught in a traffic jam leaving, but left okay. We stopped at Gordon's a burger shack. They were good. I was stuffed withe 3/4 of a double cheeseburger. Now we're driving through Madison on our way to Milwaukee.

The Cavanagh clan at the House on the Rock

After a while we made it! We found Jim's house but we couldn't reach him. We were using the wrong doors. We finally went through a black door and rang his doorbell. He came down and we all said hi. We went upstairs, dropped our stuff and caught up with him. Later, we went to a Mexican stand resturant called Conejitto's (I think). It was great! They accidentally gave us a bunch of salted rimmed glasses but then they got the drinks right. How old did they think we were???

Then we went to Kopp's Ice Cream. I got a Hot Fudge Sundae. We loved it! We got back in time to see Monk, and it was a good episode. Then we kids and Mom watched the Simpsons and Lizzie MacGwire. At 11:00 we went to bed.

Saturday 8/7/04

I woke up at 8:00 and slept well. After everyone woke, we watched tv and talked. We decided to go to Usingers. At 9:00 we went. Got a bunch of brats and sausages. Then we went back to Jim's, packed, said our good-byes, and left. He was a great host. We stopped at a gas station and a woman working there told us where a brat festival was. This was in Sheboygan. It was cool. I had a burrito.

A Bratwurst Festival called "BRATXOTIC!" Every meal had bratwurst in it-
burritos, sandwiches, egg rolls, pizza, etc.

Then in Two Rivers, we stopped at a playground and McDonald's that we stopped at last time. After a while, we got to the Alpine! We were really excited! We settled and unpacked,. We went to the pool for a while. Then we had to go to 5:30 mass. We then went to Fish Creek to go to the Confectionary, the greatest candy shop on the planet. I got a Hear no Evil- Speak No Evil- See No Evil monkey. We came back to the lodge and decided to go to a pizza place to take out a pizza. Earlier, we went to the grocery store. We came back, watched SNL, and ate pizza. Then we went to bed.

Sunday 8/8/04

I woke up and found out we'd go to Whitefish Dunes! We got ready and left. It got kind of cloudy but we still swam. After a while it rained and we left. We got dressed and went to Fish Creek to find a laundromat and the Irish Store. Didn't get anything. Went to Sister Bay to look around and we found a laundromat. Then we went to the bowling/resturant place. I won at bowling with 91

[I have not scored that high since]

and I ate a cheeseburger. We went to Fish Creek to get ice cream- me, buddhas, and go to the Confectionary. We came back and stayed at the lodge's rec room for a few hours.

[This was the first situation in which I had a rec room at my disposal, and the first time I was able to use the term "rec room" in a sentence. I mainly hung out there so much so I could be that cool older kid playing pool and pinball, but mostly so I could use the term "rec room" freely.]

The Confectionary

Now we're back and just doing stuff.

I forgot to mention that we went to the Oshkosh store. I got rabbit's feet. Dad had a long discussion with the storekeeper. That brought back good memories.

Goofing off in Chief Oshkosh's teepee

Monday 8/9/04

I woke up and found out we had to run to town and back. BORE! We warmed up, stretched, and ran. After, we all went swimming and took showers at the Fish Creek "Y". Then we went to Bailey's Harbor to go to the library we went to 4 years ago. After we went to the Sandpiper and I got a cheeseburger. Went back to the library and left for Egg Harbor to go to the Alpine Beach. Swam and played for a few hours. That was cool. We all went to the Rec Room for a while. Mom and Dad walked in with the key to the Alpine Tower. In case you don't know, this was where, 4 years ago, we kids and Andre

[an Alpine employee from Belarus that babysat us in 2000 and ultimately became a good friend of ours]

started climbing to, but stopped for Kevin was to afraid. What a view! We then came down the "mountain". Dad took us on a 1 hour cross country drive to Gills Rock and back. We saw Pebble Beach only to find out it is now a no trespassing zone. Things change. We went to the Confectionary once again. We all were starved so we went to the supermarket in Egg Harbor. When we left, a store lady helped us with our groceries. Kevin did not know that and started singing "Whiskey Girl" by Toby Keith. She started laughing. We came back, ate, and hung out at the rec room for a few hours. Mom and Dad came and said there was a racoon at the cabin. We went dancing for a while and came back and scared the racoon away. Now me, Dad, Brigid, and Kevin are writing on Dad's bed, as we are now accustomed to doing at night. It was a busy day.

There was also a dance. We stayed for the end.

Pebble Beach
Thursday 8/10/10

Today we woke up and ran. It was about 3 miles. After, we all went to Cana Island to visit the Lighthouse. We took lots of pictures. Helen asked if we could eat and Dad said every food she ate and Helen was mad so she stormed off. Then Mom was heard to say, "I think you went one fudge too far," so we all laughed. After the lighthouse, we went to Ephraim to get a pizza at Sonny's. Our waitress was Agneska, a resident of Poland (Warsaw). She was given a choice of Door County or Cyprus, Greece *by Greece, sorry. She chose Door. I'd have chosen Cyprus. The pizza was good though. After we shopped in Ephraim and Fish Creek. I got a buddha. Then we had supper at Pennsylvania.

[the Alpine names each cabin after a state in the U.S.]

After, we went to the Bingo for a few hours. Helen won $1.50 We left and we watched tv at Pennsylvania. Then we went to bed.

Playing Bingo at the lodge and trying to look like we are drinking beer

I want to mention that every bench in WI is dedicated to someone. Weird...

Wednesday 8/11/04

We woke up and ran. After we had a great breakfast at the Hof resturant. I had a sausage, ham, and cheese omelet. That was good. We then went in search of a wallet and belt for Helen. We first stopped at Made in Britain LTD, a British store for me. I got a hat and fruit pastilles. Then we stopped at the leather store. Brigid took a jacket off the hanger and showed Mom. The store owner thrust the jacket out of Brigid's hands and said, "I don't think we'll be playing with that, it's a $1800 jacket!" Mom said, "I don't think we'll be shopping here." 2 one-liners for Mom! Whooo-hoooo! We left in a hurry. We just shopped all day. I got a mini bow (no arrows) at the Chief Oshkosh store, and candy at the Confectionary. Later, Mom went shopping and Dad and me and the kids stayed at the lodge for a while. Dad played checkers and chess with a 6-year-old named Charlie. Dad almost lost. He later picked up a game with with Charlie's grandpa Dan. We went back to Pennsylvania to eat hang out. Mom and Dad went shopping together. Me and the kids watched tv. When they came back, we ate dinner at the Hõf resturant. It was very good! I had a half rack of ribs. Mmm! For the rest of the night, we danced and played games.

We are having very chilly weather lately. I like it 'cause it reminds me of the Fall.

By the way, the racoon that has been making repeated visits to the dumpster by our cabin needs a name. We all agreed on "Sonny". That gets my vote.

Thursday 8/12/04

We woke up later to run today. After, we went to Sturgeon Bay to take Dad to their "Y". While he worked out, the rest of us went to Perry's Cherry Diner. I had a cheeseburger (no doubt). We went to the Confectionary and the Bear Shop. They didn't have the same bear we saw last time, but we found a different one to take a picture with. We picked up Dad and drove to Sister Bay, to the laundromat. I finished my Barry Trotter book. It was really good. We left Dad there and went shopping in Ephraim. We got Dad a burger and shake at Wilson's. He liked it. For a while, we goofed in the game room at our lodge. Then at 8:00, we went on the Hayrack Ride. That was awesome! I talked to this guy who had a daughter Ashley (11) and Austin (7). I liked Ashley.

[The grossest understatement I have ever made]

Then we roasted marshmallows at a bonfire. Then we hung out at the lodge, till we went home and went to bed.

Trying desperately to entice Ashley

Friday 8/13/04

Today is our last day! I'm really sad. I don't want to go. I'll miss the Alpine, and Ashley. We woke up early and ran. When I came back, we ran into Ashley and her Dad. So we talked. By the way, they live in Wheaton, IL.

[I spied them from a distance talking to my mom as I finished up my three mile run, so I oh-so-casually jaunted up to them, red-faced and quasi-surprised. Very debonair.]

We caught the end of the Price is Right to see a strange, little man named John *-we played card games at the lodge. We played Urf, Concentration, Crazy 8's, and Blackjack. We went to Fish Creek to drop Dad at the "Y". we made our last stops their. We left, and got sandwiches. We ate, then swam at the beach one last time. We hung out at the lodge and rode bikes for a while. then we left for Bailey's Harbor to Weissgerber's or Weissburger's or something. Then we danced and played at the lodge till 10:30. We said our goodbyes to Robi, the bartender.

[We drank about ninety orange cream sodas each time we hung out in the rec room, and consequently made good friends with the young, hip bartender]

Constructing a bathtub at the Alpine Beach

We (me) are all really sad to leave tomorrow. To quote Frank Sinatra-

Let's forget about tomorrow for tomorrow never comes!

[We listened to Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits on cassette tape in the car the whole week]

We're nearing the end of our vacation. We still have to go to Milwaukee and Evanston.

Saturday 8/14/04

We woke up early and packed. After getting dressed, we hung out at the lodge for a while. Kevin creamed me in pool. When Mom and Dad came, we got sodas and said bye to Robi. Mom gave him $20 and said, "How much do I owe you?" Robi said "That'll come to a total of- have a good trip." That was really nice of him.

[Another gross understatement. I was not that emotional of a kid at the time, and even I about bawled my eyes out when he said that. Also I should mention that I failed to acknowledge in my journal that the morning we left, I had terrible diarrhea. I say this because it was humorous the way I delayed our departure by going to the bathroom at the lodge, then for some reason at the cabin, then got in the car where we went as far as the lodge at the end of the street, when I had to go again. I think after three sittings (so to speak) I was good to go.]

We drove for a while and stopped at a hotel in Kewanee. We got lunch their. I got a cheeseburger (per usual).

[And my Dad lost his wallet, a real bummer]

A little while later, we made it to Milwaukee! It was fast! At Jim's, we talked and watched tv. Then we went to Usinger's, a chesse place, and candy shop, and an art fair. Then we went to Conejitos. Yummy! Then we went to Kopp's. After, we went to Jim's and watched tv and went to yellow bed.

[Okay, now here is the real reason why I have brackets in this blog post. While I wrote that line, my mind began wandering and I started to think about this book of famous people back at home, which featured Richard F. Outcault, who in 1894 created one of the first American Sunday comic strips, The Yellow Kid. I was at the time envisioning what a weird-looking character the Yellow Kid was, and absentmindedly substituted "yellow" for bed."]

The Cavanagh children with Uncle Jim at the Art Fair

Sunday 8/15/04

Yesterday was good, but today was great! We woke up and got dressed. We then went to the ball game. Brewers vs Marlins. I got 3 autographs.

[On the underside of the bill of my St. Louis Cardinals hat]

Marlins won 5-3. It lasted 3 hours, 9 minutes. Then we got burgers and ice cream at Kopps. Then we watched tv at Jim's and went to bed.

At the Brewers game, suffering from inexplicably sharp bowel movements, hence the pained smile

Monday 8/16/04

This morning we woke up up and saw Jim wasn't there. We took showers, packed, and left. Not so long after, we got to Evanston with a little help. At first we were with Ann.

[Brigid's godmother]

Then as we started eating Caroline walked in from volleyball. She's a few months older than me. Later, Jack (17) came in. Then Caroline and the kids and I went and played basketball for a while. After, we came in and watched Olympics and talked. Doug had come in.

[Brigid's godfather]

Later Ann came back from picking up Claire from tennis. By the way Jack did cross-country today. After talking a while, we left. But not before taking pictures! We said our goodbyes, and drove off. We went to Portillos, a hot dog place. I had gone 23 hours after my birth.

[A popular legend in my house- My mother and father, less than a day after enduring my birth, decided to treat themselves to some delicious dogs at Portillo's, thus exposing me to my first "taste" of quickly-prepared, greasily-wrapped, Chicago-style, outside-world food.]

Hours later Kevin had to go to the bathroom so bad, he was crying. He went in a cup in our car. Ha ha =:S Hours later we made it to the Dixie. This took a while. I got some Chex. Soon, we made it home.

This was the best vacation ever! I had so much fun.

To quote my Dad:

This'll be the vacation we'll remember FOREVER!!!


[Yet another butchered quote from Dad, and I even felt obligated to admit it in the journal, which explains the let-down after the epic, rousing final sentence. Lame, but the meaning is still powerful all the same.]

As one can see, I've made long strides grammatically and thematically in the last six years. Despite any misspellings and language confusion, this journal is an admittedly cute account of my worldview at the tender, innocent age of eleven. I remember it being longer back then...

I think the main theme I extract from it these days is that "Things change." People grow older, gain (or shed, in my case) an extra couple waist sizes and become corrupted by increased exposure to violence, drugs and pessimism. Landscapes become more rugged due to years of erosion and human waste. Employees and proprietors move on to college or new jobs, and some of them die. Resorts operate under new management or close down. At the end of the summer, regular patrons return to their homes in various cities, states and countries. Things change. Yet we're occasionally given the cruel capacity to revisit old haunts and try to conjure up feelings and emotions of the past, which almost always is fruitless, if not fleeting. However, the fact that as humans we're imbued with this critical flaw- nostalgia- allows us the opportunity to embrace the present rather than take it for granted, to cherish the moments as they come, to live each day as if it belongs to the Sun-dazed, penultimate weeks of summer.

Dedicated to Ashley, wherever she is today.


  1. Brendan you can't tag all of your posts as overly sentimental.


  2. I get overly sentimental when I write anything about me

  3. Brendan I promise I'm gonna read this but I got like 3 other books on my list before I can start another one. SOrry

  4. 11-year-old Brendan is a better writer than me. You should write a novel or something. (Not that you haven't already)