A Note to Our Guests

Helpful tips for getting the most out of your stay

First, before I get to the actual purpose of my note, I would like to address what went on this past winter between Cottage Consolidators International, better known as CottCon, and us, that is, Burt and Erma Bergie, of Burt ’n’ Erma’s Bide-a-Wee Bayview Cabins. Well, Bide-a-Wee was the name we’d always had, until CottCon changed it to what you saw on the sign out front when you turned off the county road—The Haven on Harbinger Lake. It’s funny when you think about it, because the lake has never had an official name. If you look on the map, it’s there but it’s not labeled. In our lifetime we have heard it called Mud, Moth, Mallard, Muskrat, Beaver, Stump, Brown, Round, Pine, Rock, Fish, and Woodchuck. We always called it Tomahawk Lake, because that’s what our boys called it when they were little and Westerns were the thing. But now it’s Harbinger, which is pronounced to rhyme with ginger, not finger or stringer. Burt and I didn’t know that at first, and so I hope I’ve saved you some confusion. It means a sign or omen, as in “When Burt’s ears tingle, it’s a harbinger of walleyes.” Or as Burt took to saying over the winter, “When a British guy shows up at Tomahawk Lake in a Mercedes SUV, it’s a harbinger of whoa Nellie.” But we never did whoa, and here we are. ¶ People around here have said that what Mr. Carver—that’s the British fellow—did was to engineer a hostile takeover of the Bide-a-Wee. Really, though, he couldn’t have been more gracious. When I say that, both of my sons roll their eyes and groan, “Mom, that’s not what hostile means in this context.” I understand. I’m not an idiot. We weren’t seeking a buyer, therefore the one who came looking for us was, technically speaking, hostile. People love to use fancy terms for everyday events. Maybe we should have been looking for a buyer, instead of living on shims and spackle. CottCon paid us a good price and hired us to run things during the transition phase. Enough said.

Now, those tips I promised:

1. If you’ve stayed with us before, you’ll notice that the cabins have been remodeled and renamed, all part of the rebranding that Mr. Carver is so fond of talking about. Cabin #1 is now Loonshadow, #2 is Sedges, #3 is Tangled Up in Blue, and on and on. People like the Berber carpeting and the lack of knotty pine, and to tell you the truth, so do I. But what I notice when I go in to check the linens and the coffee packets is that there’s too much silence and the air doesn’t smell right. The quiet is from the new windows and weather stripping, and the scent is from the “diffusers” that CottCon insists we plug into two or more electrical outlets per cabin. They live in fear that someone will get a whiff of the minnow tank. My advice: unplug them, seal them in a plastic bag (or two—they’re pungent), and toss them under the sink. Then open the windows, unless the wind is from the southeast, which is rare.

2. Speaking of live bait, we still have it, at least for the rest of this year. Mr. Carver says CottCon views fishing with live bait as barbaric, and I don’t think he was listening when Burt explained that we’re situated on a landlocked lake, not a trout stream. Then when you add in the fact that we now have a sushi bar—well, you have to laugh. Hey, I just work here! I’ve never been able to say that before. The point I wanted to make is, please don’t go into the bait shed and make sushi jokes. Burt has heard them all a million times, and they really set him off. Last week a man asked for a side order of wasabi with his two dozen minnows. Burt said, “Personally, I like ’em plain,” and he dipped one out of the tank and swallowed it whole. Next time he may go for a night crawler.

3. The Gitchee Gumee GrillePub has a full bar, of course, but many of our guests like to leave the premises and explore the local nightlife. That would be Einar’s Alibi, located about halfway between here and the interstate. Burt and I have gone to church with Einar and Grace for 46 years, and they run a nice little place. A bump and a beer and a microwave sandwich—sometimes it’s just what you want. I would be dishonest if I said the GrillePub hadn’t caused a bit of coolness between us. In any case, if you drive a luxury SUV, I hope you have a thick skin. Some of the fellows at Einar’s can be a bit sarcastic. Mr. Carver didn’t care for the place.

4. If you ordered the Borealis Bytes package and your Wi-Fi doesn’t work, feel free to pop into the office and use my 56k modem. First come, first served. I do use Net Nanny, FYI.

5. The Haven on Harbinger Lake Hearthside Activity Hub is open from 7 a.m. until midnight, with the last two hours of each day reserved for our adult guests. This means you can enjoy the pool, the gigantic faux-granite fireplace, the game arcade, and the digital Paul Bunyan without having to sidestep overstimulated, poorly disciplined children, whether yours or someone else’s. We can help you find baby-sitting if needed.

I’d like to say a little more about our Paul Bunyan. I don’t understand it. Mr. Carver tells me it’s a “holographic leisure attraction with state-of-the-art imaging drivers and expandable artificial-intelligence modules.” What that seems to amount to is a talking Paul Bunyan like the one down in Brainerd, only created by a computer and projected in 3-D. It’s supposed to be able to give a reasonable answer to almost any question. “Where’s Babe?” the kids will say, and the translucent Paul replies, “Oh, resting in the stable. We’ve got lumbering to do tomorrow!” If it’s after 10 p.m. and a woman with bad judgment about bathing suits (Burt calls them “three-margarita moms”) steps up and asks, “Paul, does this thong make my you-know-what look big?”, Paul will chuckle in a way that makes your skin crawl and say, “Sakes alive, you look just right to me! What’s a pretty young lady like yourself doing in a logging camp?” Then come gales of laughter and another round of drinks.

A few nights ago, around 3 a.m., I let myself into the Hub to have a chat with Mr. Paul Bunyan. I powered him up and he appeared instantly, almost solid enough to touch. The whole building smelled of chlorine, and the HVAC system made a hushing sound—sort of like waves but not really.

“I’ll get right to the point,” I said. “Have we done the right thing here? Selling out to CottCon?”

“Of course!” Paul boomed. “There’s lumbering to do. Have I mentioned that it’s sustainable lumbering?”

“How long will the transition phase last?” I said. “What will Burt and I do when it’s over?”

“I love biscuits and gravy! And flapjacks! Babe wants grain and hay! Haw haw haw.”

“Mr. Carver,” I said, leaning forward to stare into Paul Bunyan’s flickery eyes. “Is that you? Are you sitting there in London, watching me on your laptop? Are you controlling what this thing says? Do you know that my husband is eating live minnows? Is there no way to slow everything down? You paid us all this money, so why can’t I sleep at night?”

Paul Bunyan appeared to be thinking. He sat motionless for what seemed like a very long time. Then he shook his enormous bearded head, cracked a grin, and hollered, “Howdy, little lumberjacks! Who wants to snap my suspenders?”

Good grief—I set out to jot down a few things that weren’t covered in the hardback CottCon Vacation Resource Manual, and just look at how I’ve managed to run on. I’ll close by reminding you that checkout time is 11 a.m., and if there’s anything you need in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to ask.

P.S. Please fill out a Guest Comment Card before you go.

P.P.S. Say hello to Einar and Grace if you see them.

Contributing editor Jeff Johnson once swallowed two live minnows at a Boy Scout Jamboree.

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