Hello friends. Welcome to my 10th blog post. I had a bit of bad news this past week. One of my favorite restaurants almost burned down. Shipwrecked Pub in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin had a fire in the second floor, but luckily it was contained. They said they will rebuild, which is good news, because it has great food and an excellent choice of craft beers.
Egg Harbor is a small town located in Door County that has a year-round population of about 200 good citizens. If you have been to Door County, you know exactly what I am talking about. Shipwrecked is the first restaurant you encounter as you enter Egg Harbor from the south on Hwy-42. For those of you who have not been to Door County, hold on, you are about to be enlightened. First, let’s get you orientated. Check out the maps below.
If you pretend the state of Wisconsin is the back of your left hand, Door County is your thumb. It is a peninsula with Lake Michigan to the east and Green Bay to the west. Not the city, the bay. Easy enough?
As you travel up the thumb, along the western coast, you will encounter several small towns and some breathtaking views. There are oodles of shops, pubs, eateries, wineries, small harbors, golf courses, inns, etc. If you can get up there in the Fall, even better.
It is often called the “Cape Cod” of the upper mid-west. If you want fast food, water-parks and go-cart tracks, try the Wisconsin Dells. Door County is adult entertainment, so leave those teens and tweens at a neighbor’s house. You won’t want to put up with the constant, “Mom I’m bored, can we go home?” routine.
So, this is what my wife and I like to do up at “da Door”. Check in a bit before noon in an Egg Harbor inn or Hotel. We usually can get a good deal at the Landmark Resort via a vacation club we belong to. Stop at Shipwrecked for a quick bite, but now it might be Casey’s or Rosa’s pub. Both have good food.
Oh, I almost forgot. On the way up, stop at the “Door County coffee and tea Company” in Sturgeon Bay, and grind some fresh beans. Then cross the road to the “Door County Distillery” and pick up a bottle of Chardonnay, or some nice dark beer. You, decide, this is your get-away. Also pick up a sweet onion and some pickles and olives, tartar sauce, paper plates and napkins at the grocery store in Egg harbor. You’ll need these for later.
Okay after lunch, drive north and check out the hands-on art studio. We’ve made some cool crafty stuff there over the years. It is great therapy, plus you get to take home cool crafty stuff. Or if you have the urge you can chase a little white ball around.
As you head north you will pass through some serene sounding towns, like Fish Creek, and Ephraim, and I guarantee you will be wearing a grin all the way. The plan is to drive the entire peninsula, which could take a good hour or two, depending on traffic and how many stops you make. The one stop you will make is in Sister Bay at “Door County Creamery”. We’re talking CHEESE!! They have an unending selection of artisan cheeses for you to taste. Get some to go. You can even visit the goat farm. Also drive slowly past “Al Johnsons” restaurant. They have a grass roof with goats grazing on it. Why not? You’re on vacation.
When you finally reach Gill’s Rock, you’re at your destination. Remember, you are on one of the world’s largest fresh water lakes. We are talking fish, my friend. Step back into time and enter “Charlie’s Smokehouse”.
Grab a hunk of Lake Michigan smoked white fish, a hunk of smoked salmon and a couple sleeves of saltine crackers. They close at 4:00 in the Fall so don’t dilly-dally too much along on the way. Take a gaze at the shoreline for a while, then start heading back south.
Okay, you’ve driven the entire Door County western coast, and have passed several beautiful bays and harbors along the way. Your timing is crucial now, because you need to pick the perfect place to view the sunset and enjoy your picnic.
My wife and I made it all the way back down to Egg Harbor last time. It was perfect!
Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Before you dive into the next Chapter of Pinky’s Drive-In enjoy some travel humor:
As I waited for my luggage at the airport, a man lifted my suitcase off the baggage carousel.
“Excuse me,” I shouted. “That is my suitcase.”
The man shot back defensively,
“Well, someone took mine!”
There’s a new sunblock to use on your kids, when at the beach. It’s SPF80. You squeeze the tube and a sweater comes out.
What I like about the hotel minibar is that it allows you to see into the future and find out what a can of Pepsi will cost in 2020.
Okay, Chapter 10 of Pinky’s Drive-In:
Ken recalled another incident that involved Marlene.
“Woody, is your uncle still alive?” asked Ken.
“What are you talking about? Why would you be concerned about my uncle?” I responded.
“You know the cop. The one who saved our butts during the King riots!” said Ken.
“Oh, you mean my uncle Carter. No, he passed away several years ago. He was a great guy,” I said as I took a sip of coffee. “He actually got me out of several jams. It’s good to have a cop in the clan!”
My uncle Carter joined the Chicago Police Academy right out of high school. He eventually worked his way up through the ranks and retired in the mid seventies as one of the most respected Watch Commanders on the entire force. He was known as a straight shooter and always went by the book. When he was the headman at O’Hare Airport, he set up security and personally escorted many dignitaries safely to their destinations. One of his most cherished moments was having a photo taken of him shaking hands with JFK on the tarmac. He always said that next to his Chicago Bears’ season tickets, that picture was his prized possession.
My father was Carter’s cousin, and other than my aunt Jenny, he was his only blood relative. Carter told my dad that if he ever needed help with the law, to call him or at least mention his name. I don’t want to give the impression that we abused the privilege, but several members of my family saved many dollars on auto insurance by avoiding traffic tickets during Uncle Carter’s tenure on the job.
On April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered while lending help to a sanitation worker’s strike in Memphis, Tennessee. This caused rioting in over 60 cities in the U.S. for the next 5 days. The riots in Chicago occurred almost entirely on the south side in the predominately black neighborhoods, but Mayor Richard J. Daley imposed a nine o’clock citywide curfew for several days following the assassination. If you were on the streets after curfew, you better be on your way to or from work or school. That was the law during that week and it was strictly enforced in the areas of the city most affected, but not as tightly on the north side of town.
My brother and I bought a 1961 Pontiac from my uncle just a few weeks earlier. My brother was 20 years old and I was 18, and we took turns driving it. The car was a maroon Pontiac hardtop with maroon vinyl interior and a 389 engine, with a four-barrel carburetor and standard steering. It was huge by today’s standards, and without power steering was quite difficult to maneuver in tight situations.
Saturday night, two days following King’s death, Ken, Marlene and I were sitting at the counter of the coffee shop in Waveland Bowl, talking with the cocktail waitress. Annie worked there for several months, and became familiar with most of the boys. She was a 21-year-old, mildly attractive blonde with a southern accent and an attitude. Annie was from Tennessee, and rented an apartment, just a few blocks west of Wrigley Field, that she shared with another coffee shop waitress.
Moose and Ted were also in the restaurant, sitting in a booth. Annie was just ending her shift and asked if we would like to come over to her place. She even offered to pick up some beer, so we all chipped in and were on our way.
Moose rode with Ted in his Chevy and I drove Ken and the two girls in my Pontiac. We made a brief stop at the liquor store for some snacks and beer and arrived at Annie’s place at about 7:30.
Annie’s neighborhood, referred to as the Uptown area, was also known as Hillbilly Town in those days. Many folks with Appalachia roots settled in about a square mile area. Most of the buildings were six, twelve or twenty-four-unit red brick apartment buildings. The streets were very narrow and, for the most part, one-way. Parking was hard to find, but after about six tries, I could squeeze into a space about a block away.
Annie’s flat was decorated in early rummage sale. The couch and two lounge chairs were old and completely mismatched, as were the four metal-legged chairs around her gray laminated dinette table. I never knew anyone from the south before and remember being taken aback with Annie’s strange way of expressing herself. Her trailer-trash accent, coupled with the fact that she talked nonstop, became a bit annoying after a while, but, in lieu of the imposed curfew, we gladly accepted her hospitality.
The TV was out of order so we listened to the local rock station on the radio and just hung out as usual for a couple of hours. Ted and Moose both seemed a little antsy and bored, so when the beer was gone we decided to pack it in. Annie’s roommate came home with two fine male citizens of the area, Clem and Billy Bob, so we thanked Annie for the wonderful evening and off we went.
I remember Marlene’s comment as we climbed into my car.
“You’d better be careful driving, Woody. Its 9:30 and past curfew,” she said.
“You don’t want to get pulled over by the cops,” added Ken. “Especially with beer on your breath. They’d lock you up and throw away the key.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take it slow and easy,” I said.
Ted and Moose already took off when I pulled out of my parking space. I was parked on Buena Avenue, which was a two-way, but extremely narrow street, and there were cars packed in bumper to bumper on both sides. I was hoping that nothing would come up the street because I wasn’t used to the width of my car and didn’t want to have an accident. I got about halfway down the street when a car turned onto Buena.
There were two of them. The first car was a rather small Ford Maverick but the second was my worst nightmare. As luck would have it, I was forced to pass a police cruiser. The Dodge Monaco seemed to be as wide as it was long. We had just inches to spare on either side. Marlene was sitting in the middle in the front seat and I think she closed her eyes as I slowly started to inch my way past the squad.
The driver’s side windows were down in both cars as we started to pass. I smiled and nodded at the officer as our front doors met. I was almost free when I heard our rear fenders scrape against each other. What happened next was a complete blur.
“Oh my God!” screamed Marlene. “You hit him!”
“Floor it!” yelled Ken, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
I didn’t know what to do. I panicked, and without thinking, I pushed the accelerator to the floor! The two fenders made a terrible crunching sound as they scraped together.
The police turned on their red light and siren, and took off down the street in the opposite direction
“What do I do?” I yelled to Ken.
“Turn left and then another left at the next street. It’s one way,” Ken said as he pointed across Marlene’s lap.
“Okay, I got it,” I answered.
I obeyed Ken’s directions. I turned left immediately and then again. Ken was right, the next street was a one way, but it was in the wrong direction. I took it anyway. Unfortunately, the police squad did the same maneuver I did, but in the opposite direction. It took a right turn and then right again. OOPS!
“Shit! Here he comes!” I said, pointing straight ahead.
“Back up! Back up!” shouted Ken.
“No way, man. I’m screwed!” I said as I stopped the car and waited for the inevitable.
The squad pulled up directly in front of me and the driver shined his spotlight in my face. A second cop jumped out of the passenger side and screamed at me to turn the car off and get out. I was clearly shaken, but not as badly as Marlene. She was completely panic stricken as she started crying uncontrollably. Ken tried to put his arm around her to console her, but the officer made him exit the vehicle as well.
“Hand me your keys,” said the officer. “Now turn around and put your hands behind you.”
Ken and I were both forced to lean against the squad car as the two cops cuffed and searched us for weapons. They left Marlene alone until another squad pulled up with a policewoman. Marlene wasn’t cuffed, but she did get patted down. Ken and I rode in the first squad and they put Marlene in the second. and another officer drove my car as we caravanned to the station.
Our hands were set free when we arrived at the Clark Street police station. I don’t believe we were considered a dangerous threat. Of course, if they had known Ken’s reputation, they may have given it a little more thought.
We looked sheepish as they led the three of us into a small office with just three chairs and a desk. We each took a seat as a rather fatherly looking sergeant sat down behind the desk.
“Which one of you was driving the car?” he asked.
“I was, I answered in a shaky voice. “I’m sorry. I was scared. I’ll never do it again!”
I don’t recall exactly what I said, but Ken told me that I rambled on and on.
The sergeant started writing tickets; Driving while under the influence, Wrong way on a one-way street, Curfew violation, Damage to city property. I was going away for life and there was no way out of it. I knew that I was totally screwed. By the time I was allowed to drive again, cars would be obsolete. Then Ken saved the day.
“Woody, tell him about your uncle,” Ken said as he nudged me.
My uncle Carter was almost a legend among my friends. I used to brag about how he could get me out of any jam. Don’t get me wrong. Except for making an illegal left turn once, I never even needed him before.
“Do you know Commander Carter?” I asked the Sergeant.
“Who?” he answered as he looked up and finally stopped writing. “Yes, I do. Are you a relative?” he quipped.
“He’s my uncle,” I said.
“Why didn’t you tell me this before? It could have saved a lot of paperwork,” replied the Sergeant.
He made a phone call.
“Commander, I have a boy in my office who claims to be your nephew. He side, swiped a squad and fled the scene. Yes, I’ve written him up on several counts. But, sir, he never said boo to me about you!” He said, raising his hand in the air.
The sergeant’s face became beet red as he handed me the phone.
“Woody, tell me what happened, son” said my uncle.
Carter was always in control. I’m sure he could have remained calm during a nuclear blast and everyone around him would have felt assured that all was well. This was probably the key to his success over the years.
I calmed down immediately as I laid out the entire incident. As I told him how I panicked and explained to him over and over how sorry I was, he simply listened quietly and just interjected with several understanding uh-huhs now and then. When I finished my lament, he asked the one crucial question I really didn’t want to hear.
“Woody, have you told your mom or dad yet?” He said.
Ouch. That hurt, I thought.
“No, sir,” I said.
“When you get home, I want you to tell them what happened and ask them to call me tomorrow. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir. I understand,” I said.
He asked me to hand the phone back to the Sergeant.
The problem with writing tickets is that they’re numbered and each one has to be accounted for. Once the ticket has been made out, it can’t be ignored. That is, unless you have huge clout near the top. All my offenses were dismissed except the damage to city property issue. The squad car was damaged and couldn’t be ignored.
I thanked the officer over and over as he escorted the three of us out of the station and back to my car.
“Drive carefully now, son,” he said as I slowly pulled away.
I dropped Ken and Marlene off at her aunt’s house and drove straight home. I walked into my house as if everything was fine. My mom seemed okay, so I knew Uncle Carter had not called the house.
The next two days were agonizing. I didn’t tell my parents what happened as I promised my uncle, and it was gnawing at me. I knew I had to tell them, but I just wanted to wait for the right time. I knew my uncle could call the house at any moment, but I needed a little more time, to find the courage, to spill the beans.
It was Monday night and I still hadn’t said anything. I told myself that tomorrow right after dinner, I’d do it. Just then, the phone rang. My mom picked it up. Guess who?
My mom handed me the phone and looked at me with her left eyebrow raised. The raised left eyebrow was the kiss of death in my family. All four of we kids dreaded it.
When my mother said, “Uncle Carter wants to talk to you,” I was frozen. I could feel the blood rush to my head as my face reddened.
“You didn’t tell her, did you,” said Uncle Carter.
“No, sir,” I said.
“Tell her now and ask her to call me right back,” he said sternly and hung up.
I couldn’t have felt worse. I wasn’t even afraid to tell my mom what happened anymore. I was ashamed and felt as if I betrayed my uncle. When I told my mom about the incident, she was furious at first. She knew I had to be punished. I wasn’t allowed to drive for two months. That hurt, but not as much as the rest of it. I had to write a letter of apology to my uncle and deliver it in person the next day. What a humbling experience that was. My uncle accepted my apology and we never mentioned it again.
When I appeared in court a few weeks later, a public defender met me at the door, and told me to sit quietly. When my case was called, he simply said I pleaded no contest to damage to city property and the case was dismissed.
I was never sent a bill for the cost of the damage to the squad car. I guess the good citizens of Chicago took care of it for me.
Like I said earlier, it’s good to have a cop in the family.