Monday, September 12, 2005
FED Files - Volume X
Being a math loser, I wanted to save my tenth FED file for my 100th post anniversary (that way it would be 10 and 100 - see the math connection?). But when you have material as good as I have, you can't risk it that you will forget it. So, I will settle for post number 98.
It has been widely confirmed that to be a Fed, it is helpful to be a little odd. Most Feds have eccentric little hobbies, and nuances that could fill books. For an example, is my friend, Lucy (if you remember my earlier post about my lunch pals, she was the pack-rat). Lucy has one of those houses that looks like the stuff in it is part of the foundation - so high are her stacks. She is heavily involved in many very handy hobbies. She knows how to do almost any craft, and is practically a walking encyclopedia.
Semi annually, Lucy has a garage sale to help alleviate the amount of stuff she has in her house. My other lunch buddies have all helped with the sale, and say it is quite the event. This woman owns one of everything. If you need knitting needles size 7, she has them in wood, plastic, and several colors of metal. If you need a bee-keeping outfit (I kid you not), she could outfit you with as little work as finding that box in her basement. If you need a cookie-cutter shaped as a T-Rex (not to be confused with other dinosaur shapes), she would ask casually which size, as she has one of every size (and two of medium).
Lucy is from "the Thumb" (for you non-Michiganians, that's the part of the state that juts out into Lake Huron and looks like.... a thumb). The Thumb is basically rural, and so any serious shopping is commonly done in either Bay City or Saginaw. In Lucy's day, downtown Bay City was a classy place with department stores etc. Now it's about a thousand river-side condos with big river-side boardwalks and Subway restaurants. But one thing has always remained the same in Bay City. Mill End. Mill End was a huge store (three stories of a building almost a city block big) that sold good, old fashioned junk. It was paradise. You could find anything at Mill End. If you needed a pair of leather pants, it was there, if you need 50" hot pink shoe-laces for your high-tops, they were there. If you desired rainbow puff balls to glue onto an art project for fifty cents, Mill End was your place. Mill End didn't follow the normal Supply/Demand rules. If there wasn't any demand, Mill End would just keep the merchandise until there was demand (even if that day never came). All the really trashy stuff, they kept in the basement, a huge, sprawling land of rubbish.
You can see how a woman who has 6 sizes of T-Rex shaped cookie-cutters would be infatuated with a store such as this. Indeed Lucy and her older sister made it a kind of pilgrimage every year from Battle Creek to Bay City (a drive no less than 2.5 hours) just to visit Mill End. She talked about their trips for weeks afterward at lunch. And when she found out that I came from Pinconning (just 20 short miles from Mill End), her first question was, "Have you ever been to Mill End?"
Unfortunately, it was my unhappy chore to inform Lucy that Mill End is closing (at least the one in Bay City). She was devastated. Her questions included (but were not exclusively):
- Is there any other Mill Ends?
- Do their stairs squeak the same way the Bay City Mill End's stairs squeak?
- Do they have the same elevators?
- What will they do with their cat (there was a cat that roamed around the Bay City Mill End for the last 100 years... it's a very old cat.)?
- When are they closing?
- What are they going to do with all their stuff?
- Is there any point in crossing the Bay City bridge if Mill End is closed?
- Why would such a place close?
She posed all these questions (and a few more) to the sales clerk who picked up the phone. She had the sales clerk on speaker phone, so I heard the whole conversation.
As it turns out there are 4 other Mill Ends. The ones in Gladwin and West Branch are the most like the one in Bay City, but the clerk wasn't sure if the stairs squeaked. She imagined that they did because those buildings were very old too. The cat was going to the store in Clare, and the building had been sold to a John Something-or-Another who was turning it into (surprise, surprise) condos. For any of you who would like to see this amazing feat of salesmanship, Mill End will be closing at the end of September (Lucy has already contacted her sister and two friends about their plans for this coming weekend), and yes, it is still beneficial to cross the Bay City bridge as the neat houses along Center Ave are still there, and the Antique mall (Michigan's largest antique store) is just a few blocks down.
So, after several panicky phone calls to numerous people, much mapquesting the other Mill End locations, and the passing of at least an hour of 'work time' Lucy is still mourning the loss of Mill End. The World mourns with you, Lucy. The World mourns with you.....