Idiosyncratic look at the culture of the Great Lakes, from Green Bay cheese-heads to Polish sailors.
Former Chicago Tribune columnist McClelland (Horseplayers: Life at the Track, 2005) hilariously recounts his three-month journey around the so-called “third coast.” Beginning at the Calumet River on Chicago’s industrial East Side, he tours a Russian cargo ship before heading out with the sailors to buy a pair of counterfeit Nikes and a few burritos. After stopping at a Michigan sports bar for Game Five of the 2005 NBA finals between the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, the author next finds himself snapping pictures of incoming freighters with nerds who carry around copies of Know Your Boat as if it were the Bible. Part comedian, part historian, McClelland manages to convey a large amount of significant information while entertaining the reader. Traveling along Highway 61, a road made famous by Minnesota-born musician Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan), the author heads north into Ontario, where he stumbles dangerously close to stereotypical territory with tales from Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton’s and an interview with actor Steve Smith, the Great White North’s answer to Tim Taylor from Home Improvement. Nevertheless, McClelland displays an uncanny ability to educate the reader with vivid accounts from his travels. It seems that the culture he set out to find is an eccentric blend of dozens of other cultures. A local boy from Grand Beach, Mich., the author struts an extensive knowledge of the area that makes this a must for fans of travel literature.
Intelligent, witty and downright shameless: the Great Lakes for better or worse.