By Bill Diem

A few things are new in Portage Township since last summer. I don’t see it all at once, but little by little the changes become apparent. What happened was, I flew from Paris to Marquette last week, got a ride from Mark Gordon to Curtis, and am now nearly ready for summer.

The plane takes about seven and a half hours from Charles de Gaulle Airport in France to Wayne County Airport in Detroit. But I leave my house in a cab driven by Giovanni Generoso four hours before the plane leaves. We have been using him for a few years, and now he’s a friend. He likes to cook, and uses us from time to time as guinea pigs when he has leftovers.

There were three hours in Detroit. It was really fast going through the Frontier police line. They didn’t even look at my passport. The facial recognition system they have installed recognized me from the last time I crossed the border in April, for a New Orleans vacation. I suppose they know a lot more about me than my face.

My grandson Jonah got me at the Marquette at 11 p.m. and took me to Alice’s house. The next day, after a birthday supper, Mark Gordon drove me to Curtis.

The first new thing to catch my eye was that all the dirt roads have been paved. It will be an advantage for bicycling. Pat Abram told me last year that it would be easier for the township to do them all at once, so no one would be jealous of another person’s paved road.

Then the Silverdome on Main Street in Curtis is gone. And in Newberry a bank has changed its name. Some friends have health problems. The water is high in Manistique Lake. Two cottonwood trees on my shoreline are tilted far over the water and won’t last another year. One of them has already cracked off everything but the first 20 feet.

Yes, things that have changed, but only the health troubles of friends are worrisome. Now it is time to live here for a while, instead of Paris.

Among the things that I plan to do this year is organize at the Curtis Library a July 28 reading of a play I wrote a few years ago. I love the way the Library does so much to encourage cultural growth. It is a popular sidekick to the Erickson Center for the Arts, which has become a major entertainment magnet, with music, theater and art.

I wrote my play, “Curly Maple,” thinking of Curtis a generation ago when I was younger and things were a little different. The play is about change, and nature, and good people dying, and being poor but happy, and new people coming up North with new ideas.

A lone virgin white pine tree has everyone dreaming about what to do with it. John Ferndale would develop around it; pulp cutters Buck and Curly would start a sawmill; and the strip teaser Willow, who has come to town to dance in Johnny’s bar, would save it for the people. And Grace, who owns it, will have to sell the land to pay for her old age.

If you would like to take one of the eight parts to read, send me an email at