August is the month we get to welcome new full-time voices to the post calvin! Please welcome Annaka Koster, who is taking over Nick Meekhof’s spot. Annaka graduated from Calvin in 2018 with an English and history double major and is currently attending the University of Michigan in order to add an MIS to the back of her name. When she’s not reading up on metadata standards, Annaka can be found doing a sundry of nerdy things, including reading comics, playing board games, and petting other people’s cats.
Lately, I’ve been hunting for gods.
It has, in fairness, been more a road trip game than a spiritual discipline. The fledgling god-hunting community has yet to even provide an answer to the EMF meters and thermographic cameras of its far more technologically-advanced cousin ghost hunting, meaning that even the appearance of pseudoscience is lost to us. (And by fledgling I mean “singular in number,” although we are accepting applications. Interested parties can apply by procuring a branch from the fanciest tree in their vicinity and stabbing the nearest Loki cosplayer with it. Trust me, it makes sense.)
The god-hunting thing first came about after I finished Neil Gaiman’s American Gods circa 2014. If you’re familiar with that book—or possibly the TV show (I can’t speak for Starz’s adaptation, but the fact that they decided to pluralize the name of their company with a z doesn’t bode well)—it should start to make sense. (As should the aforementioned Avengers-themed assault.) If you’re not, here’s the sum-up:
Incarnations of ancient deities haunt modern America, constantly at risk of being ousted by the new generation of gods—technology, the media, globalism, and other social ills denounced by Thanksgiving-day grandfathers the country over. The Old Gods tend to show up in those places that are at once totally American and uniquely alien, like a Los Angeles street corner at 1 a.m., a funeral parlor in Cairo (Illinois, not Egypt), a roadside attraction that claims to house the world’s largest indoor carousel.
With that in mind, god hunting is simple. Just keep an eye open for those somehow strange places, those only-in-America places, those places that make you pause and think, There’s just something kinda weird about this.
Exempli gratia, three, if you’ll both indulge me and forgive the lack of geographical diversity; Northern Michigan is both rife with god-haunts and where most of my road trips tend to find their terminus (you really can’t escape your roots):
1. Sea Shell City: Cheboygan, Michigan
As a rule, places that advertise via cryptic billboard are usually good candidates for god-inhabitance. Sea Shell City is a sprawling, nautical-themed tourist trap-cum-gift shop that answers the question, “What if Moby Dick had a Pinterest board?” 600 miles from the nearest ocean. But its billboards advertise something else: “MAN KILLING 500 LB. GIANT CLAM” [sic]. My working theory is that the Filipino salesman who first (allegedly) sold Sea Shell City the dead Tridacna was really a down-on-his-luck Sireno (who had won the shell (of The Birth of Venus fame) off of Aphrodite in an illicit game of blackjack).
2. Main Street Pasties: Falmouth, Michigan
Imagine, for a moment, travelling to your grandparents’ hometown (okay, home-unincorporated area) one day to discover a red trailer adjacent to one of the approximately dozen houses on the town’s main drag. The trailer (and an accompanying sandwich sign parked down the street) advertises old-fashioned, fresh-baked, bona fide Yooper pasties. In the years since, you have never seen anyone in the trailer, have never seen anyone attempting to purchase a pasty from the trailer, have never seen the lovingly hand-painted, black-on-white “open” sign not standing at attention near the trailer’s hitch. You might think a renowned kitchen god—Zao Jun? Annapurna?—had decided to set up shop halfway between Prosper and River (or you would, if Falmouth wasn’t, at last count, 97.5 percent white and pasties weren’t irrevocably Cornish).
3. The Missaukee County Women-Haters Club: ???
A legendary place, and one that I have only set eyes upon once, as a child. It was my aunt who spotted the sign, spray painted on plywood and propped up outside of a cinder-block house with near (but not quite) rusted-out pickups. I watched the sign roll past the window while my mother, aunt, and grandma made those sorts of rueful faces that only women can and considered what kind of people would (ironically or otherwise) inhabit such a space. But maybe there weren’t people at all. I think back on the Old Gods (the ones that could’ve solved innumerable problems before they started if they would’ve just kept it in their pants), and, if I’m being honest, the club could probably use a bigger shack.
And now I come to a confession. I’m really not a very good god hunter. I’ve never taken exit 326 on the 75 in anticipation of sticking my hand in a dried-out bivalve. I’ve never trolled the back roads of Missaukee County in an effort to rediscover the professed women-haters and their club. I may, one day, convince myself to attempt a pasty from the red trailer, but I would just as soon patronize one of Falmouth’s three other commercial ventures.
I’m not scared of the gods that inhabit these places per se; I’m just wary of the humans who built them.