The Moving Wall is a half-scale replica of Washington DC's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Since 1984, The Moving Wall has toured the country, having installed itself for public viewing at over a thousand towns and cities. A conservative estimate would put the number of visitors in the millions. This blog is dedicated to getting behind The Moving Wall, to revealing how it was built, and what keeps it standing and rolling along.

On The Road With The Moving Wall

I have created a separate blog for this year's visitors to The Moving Wall. On it, they can directly post observations, impressions, reflections, etc. They can also post images. This new blog has the potential to be a great journal or travelogue of The Moving Wall in 2010. Please spread the word.

Here is the blog: http://rollingwiththemovingwall2010.blogspot.com/

I am also quite honored and pleased that Sharon Denitto has requested that her excellent site, Touch The Wall, be linked here. Please visit Touch The Wall, as Sharon's hard work offers a unique perspective on The Wall, and presents information not readily found elsewhere.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The New Frontier

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I went to White Pine in  search of The Wall. I didn't anticipate that White Pine itself would be of interest to me, but it is. 


I have long known what The Moving Wall has meant and means to people across the country; but once in White Pine, I began to realize that The Moving Wall holds increasing meaning for its immediate neighbors, and that, too, is a story worth telling about this structure, so simple in design, so complex in effect. 

Beginning with this post, then, I will toggle between writing about The Wall in its winter home and all that envelopes it in the shop, and then how it exists outside, within the larger community of White Pine. In other words, some posts will live within the walls of the shop; others will stretch their legs out into the streets of White Pine. 

I should also say that if the connections between The Wall and White Pine aren't yet apparent to you, join the club: they are not yet apparent to me, either. 

But I also trust, and I hope you will, too, that in the working out of the observations, impressions, and details, the connections will become more apparent to us both. 

And, for whatever it's worth, let me be frank: I am a writer, and part of my personal interest in writing this blog is to bump up against my limitations in the execution of it, and then to overcome them if I can. If you have suggestions how I might do that, feel free to include them as a "comment." I won't say that I will revise to suit every comment, but I guarantee that I will at least read every comment.

So, let me begin today by telling you a little about The Konteka Inn, where I stayed during my time in White Pine.


The drive from the airport in Marquette, MI, to The Konteka Inn in White Pine took about 2 ½ hours, not the 1 ½ hours I (mis)calculated.

That meant an hour more of pine trees and cut logs and long stretches of road with only me on it. It also meant another hour of trying to dodge Christian radio in search of secular stations: no easy task in the UP.

Arriving successfully unconverted, I pulled into White Pine and The Konteka Inn (officially The Konteka Black Bear Resort) and its big barren parking lot.

A smattering of cars scattered around the mud and potholes. The Konteka's website boasted the ability to accommodate trucks and and their snowmobile trailers,

but none were to be found, as was not the case only a week or so earlier, when the yooper snows were deep. But a spate of warm weather had all but laid bare the forest floor, and the snowmobilers who might have come from far and wide stayed far and wide.

Bad for Konteka. Fine by me.

I climbed out of the Dodge Caravan I had rented and took a quick 360. The Inn was a bit more rustic than pictured on its website, and smaller. 

As I walked into the combination front desk/restaurant/bar/gift shop/bowling alley, a couple guys were having a quiet beer, naturally ignoring the chattering TV head in the bar. I saw no one else. I rang the bell on the registration counter, but no one hopped-to. 

Assuming that eventually someone would come my way, I passed the time looking at the den of slightly blurred framed photos of black bears which populated the walls. I am not a bearologist but even I could tell that these photos were not of the same animal. The bear were clearly of different sizes and weights. 

The biggest, standing tall and looking straight at me, curiously, not ferociously, wearing a  "Well, gee, who are you?" or "Well, gee, what are you dong here?" expression, had a daffodil yellow dot the size of a quarter in each ear, and I thought the adornment quite complimentary. 

There were also photos of bears dining at what looked to be the edge of woods that I could see through the Konteka's dining room windows.

These weren't just any old bears, then, they were local bears. The photos were family portraits. The Konteka's kids.

After a moment or two a young woman approached in black pants and shirt (bear chic?) who seemed a bit frantic. She apologized; she was all "alone." I gathered that she wore a number of hats for the Inn, though given the absence of any customers or guests, I wondered what they might be. 

She stepped behind the check-in desk which reminded me of an empty jeweler's case. I told her that I had a reservation, that my name was Blitefield, and that I had requested the quietest room possible. 

She returned a quizzical look but even as I said it, I understood that look, and agreed, feeling a bit foolish about that last part, given what 'd seen with my own eyes. This wasn't some spring break get-to with Girls Gone Wild going wild. It was an empty hotel. Still, she humored me and said “Room 115. Our quietest,” she said, handing me my key – not a card, not some other kind of modern entry gimmick – but a regular key, and told me that, as things were quiet, the owner might have locked some of the accesses to the parking lot, and that it would be best if I grabbed my things and went to my room via the bowling alley, which I did.
I don't know why they called my room “115”, unless there had once upon a time been more floors to The Konteka, or that some distant plans were in the making for adding some. As the rooms were on one floor, why not just “15”? 

Anyway, I walked down the single dark hall toward my room passing rooms 101, 102, 103, etc., many of which had the European sign for no-smoking affixed to their door. Despite the signs, or perhaps in defiance of them, the hall smelled of deep-soaked cigarettes nonetheless. (Michigan hasn't yet caught up with the rest of the country regarding cigarette smoking, and so smoking is pervasive.) 

Room 115 was at the end of the hall on the left, just before the coin-operated washing machine and dryer, which were just before the “spa” (jacuzzi). 

Room 115's curtains opened onto the woods behind the Konteka (as did all the odd numbered rooms; the even numbered rooms look on to the parking lot and the Mineral River Plaza.) Indeed, the room was quiet, as I had requested, though there was always the possibility, and hence, my fear, that some night owl or yooper yahoo might decide to do laundry at one or two in the morning, no doubt drying a coat with a heavy metal zipper or hard buttons. 

Rm 115 was non-smoking but had obviously absorbed undertones of cigarettes. It was also, by the Gucci-goo standards of the east coast, worn, a bit shabby. But it was neat, mostly. It's furnishings were serviceable. A boxy, sharp edged (circa '?0s?) wood laminate dresser and night table, probably standard of a mountain lodge, stood at the ready for the contents of my meager suitcase.  

The TV was ten or fifteen years old but not so old as to be pre-clicker, and giving it a test run I found that it worked well enough for the amount of viewing I was planning to do (zero).The mattresses of the twin queen beds had colorful polyester covers, but mattresses were tired and soft.

Rm 115, in other words, was a basic room, comfortable but not cozy; the very muted and zest-free room which comes with a $54 nightly rate. One thing stuck out, though. 

In the bathroom, on the wall above the toilet, a flourish of creativity, of design, of personal touch, maybe even wit: a towel rack had been stocked with descending, drooping boughs of towels of increasing sizes and length, beginning with a stack of face cloths at the top, and concluding with bath towels at the bottom. A sort of white pine of cotton. 
So, initial impressions of The Konteka: quiet, simple, smokey, and essential. A place proud of its bears, proud of its bowling alley, bar, spa, and gas pump; a place where some creative housekeeper is proud of her work.

My next post will resume back in Rm 115, but only so long as it takes me to make the I'm here! phone call to John and Joy, and make my way over to The Wall.

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