Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

No-Benny Vacation, Part One

Well, we're all back home again.Ron and I spent a mind-bending four days without Benny, who was visiting my sister in South Haven, Mich.

It's embarrassing, really, how quickly we adjusted. Within 24 hours, Benny's little table in the living room, usually strewn with toy spaceships, matchbox cars and abandoned sippy cups, turned into a coffee table buried under newspapers, car keys, junk mail and half a Snickers bar.

Our old habits of 9 years B.B. (Before Benny) quickly returned: lazy weekend mornings, long bike rides, brunch downtown, movies, restaurants, the New York Times Sunday paper, big fat books, tiny little purses, complete sentences, wine with lunch ... the list goes on.

But I sometimes got the feeling that Ron wasn't totally with me. I'd be lapping up my ham-and-cheese crepe at an outdoor cafe, cheerfully babbling about Meryl Streep's performance in last night's movie, and Ron would just stare into space, lower lip protruding.

"This is great ham," I'd say.

Ron glances at my plate. "Benny likes ham."


It would be better in Grand Haven, I told myself. I'd booked us two nights at a bed-and-breakfast in this touristy beach town on Lake Michigan. My goal was relaxation verging on outright boredom and Grand Haven did not disappoint. The town was mostly empty that Monday and Tuesday, resting during the brief interval between Fourth of July celebrations and the Coast Guard Festival in August.

Monday was beautiful, bright and warm, with a cool breeze off the lake. I strolled around while Ron napped, then we went to dinner. Then we settled on the B-and-B's front porch with our books, waiting for the 10 p.m. performance of the World's Largest Musical Fountain. According to the tourist pamphlets, this water-and-light show, created in 1962, uses 32 600-watt subwoofers, 14 power amplifiers and 12 high-frequency horns.

A crowd gathered on the boardwalk below, boats circled in the harbor. Other guests joined us to await the spectacle. The show began, and frankly, it was a little weird. The lights flickered, the music swelled, the water sprayed (courtesy of a “huge” nozzle bed system).


Well, maybe the Fountain didn't say that, but that was the gist, if you know what I mean. Ron and I stared in stunned disbelief while the Fountain played a series of long-forgotten tunes, many old enough to collect Social Security. The Fountain would introduce each song, chuckling at the funny titles. The whole thing was a little strange.

What's more, this panopoly of water and light is not really the largest in the world. The city of Grand Haven's web site reluctantly admits that theirs is the "once largest musical fountain in the world."

"Only recently has the size been exceeded in a musical fountains," the website goes on. "The unique character of this fountain has not been duplicated."

So where's the real largest musical fountain in the world? The city sniffily admits that one is in Las Vegas, Nevada: "Where water conservation is critical and glitz is the byword."

Well, I hope they're ashamed of themselves over there.


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