The Monuments Men: Making history boring

Before I go any further, I want everyone to know that I LOVE history. I took many history classes in college, when our family goes on vacation, I love to stop at historical places and just try to envision what it was like back in the day.

Even when I head south to visit my sons in Georgia, I always threaten my wife that we’re going to stop in south-central Tennessee to visit the James K. Polk Home and Museum in Colombia. Yeah, he was a non-descript president, but he was still a president.

Now, back in the present, I must tell you about my experience last night (Friday, April 25) watching the film The Monuments Men.

According to the rottentomatoes.com synopsis, The Monuments Men is “based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history. The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners.”

Less than 30 minutes into the film, my love for history was really tested. By way of narrative, director, writer and star George Clooney is explaining to president Franklin Roosevelt why he and his group of misfits should be allowed to track down all the art that was stolen from collectors all over Europe and hidden in different places, eventually to be part of an Adolf Hitler Museum. Well, we all know how the war ended and the museum was never, built, but this film chronicles the adventures, so to speak, of Clooney’s character and those he enlists to help him.

I told my friend, John, before the film began that I might be dozing off because he and I and our wives had just come from a wine-tasting place where a Groupon coupon gave us each six samples … and the ladies who served us weren’t exactly stingy with those samples.

Turns out the wine really had nothing to do with the two or three times I nodded off. While Clooney was narrating during different parts of the film, I felt as though it was more his way of giving the viewers a history lesson rather than a plea with the president for approval of searching for the stolen masterpieces. Raiders of the Lost Art perhaps? I’m not a big George Clooney fan as it is, but with his “lectures” going on and on, well, he made history about as boring Friday night as my high-school teacher, Mr. DeJonge, did. (No first names, please.)

Other stars in the movie included Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett.

Most of the portrayals were OK, but I was looking for more action from Damon, I was waiting for either Goodman or Murray to break out into some sort of comedy sketch and I kept insisting to my friend John that Balaban was NOT Alan Arkin when John kept saying he “did not realize Alan Arkin was that short.” Oh, and when Cate Blanchett is on-screen, she is very distracting, if you know what I mean (wink, wink).

Critics scored The Monuments Men at 33% with fans being a little more tolerant at 50%. I usually side with the fans because I think a lot of movie critics would rather nitpick than gave their overall impression of this movie. But not this time.

Believe me, people, history is not as boring as George Clooney and The Monuments Men would suggest.

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Another Bed & Breakfast winner!!!

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I don’t remember how many years ago it was that we stayed at our first B & B (Bed & Breakfast), but I do remember it was at the Michael Cahill Bed & Breakfast in Ashtabula, Ohio.

How do I remember that? Well, quite simply for the fact that when we returned home and told our friends of our new adventure, most of them didn’t bother asking “How was it?” or “What was it like?” Instead, most of the responses were, “Why Ashtabula?” Well, first of all, because it was there. Ha ha. But mostly, it’s because we were taking a scenic trip around lakes Erie and Ontario and Ashtabula, Ohio, was about six hours from where we live in West Michigan and it seemed like a nice place to stop. Not to mention the B & B is right across the street and up the hill from Lake Erie and a nearby lighthouse.

I do know we began our B & B lifestyle once all three of our boys were out of the house and on their own; B & B places like it when they don’t have kids running around. We, in turn, like the quietness and the camaraderie we have with the owners.

That being said, ever B & B we stay in gets our own little personal critique. With my wife being a lighthouse lover and me being a fan of nature and nature photography, it might be a while before we find a place to rival the Big Bay Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast in Big Bay, Michigan, about 20 miles north of Marquette on Lake Superior. The lighthouse/B & B is on top of an 80-foot high cliff and stands about 40 feet high. And the sunsets on Lake Superior … oh, my.

A couple of weeks ago — it was Spring Break, 2014, to be precise — we ventured north while everyone else was going south. In Bellaire, Michigan, about 30 minutes around the bay from Traverse City, we found the Applesauce Inn Bed & Breakfast. No cliffs and no lighthouses here, but what a nice, nice place. Innkeeper Jamie and her husband (whose name I never did get) gave us all the creature comforts we could want in a B & B. There are only three rooms for visitors, but all three are very nice. Two of them are on the second floor and the window in our room had a west-facing view that gave us a great view of the sunset over the trees. It was relaxing in our slightly elevated off the floor queen-sized bed with a nice, fluffy and lightweight down comforter. A left turn and then a right down the hallway got me to the top of the stairs and a window that looks out over the yard where they have their own chicken coop and chickens, meaning fresh egg dishes every morning for breakfast. The tree below had something like six bird feeders and in one sitting, I picked out both a Hairy and a Downy Woodpecker, a red-breasted nuthatch, a chickadee and a couple of sparrows. Jamie said they had a nesty pair of Pileated Woodpeckers nearby, but I didn’t see them. State road M-88 runs in front of the Applesauce Inn, but the traffic is light enough that you don’t really notice it. Still, it’s a lot quieter than a night in a hotel with a pool and game room with the cars and the kids and the … well, you know.

The real treat happened the second night we stayed as we returned to the Inn from Traverse City, taking the “quick” route out of Traverse City via 72 and 131 before turning west onto 88 at Mancelona.

Just over a mile from the Inn, I saw a raptor gliding through the sky. Since Illy was driving, I could keep my eye on it. As we passed almost directly underneath the beautiful creature, it made a hard left turn. I threw open the inside covering of our sunroof and there it was: The bright white head feathers, the similarly ivory-colored tail feathers … yes, there was my first Bald Eagle sighting of the summer.

I exhaulted in the sighthing. Illy smiled. We slept well for the second night in a row at the Applesauce Inn Bed & Breakfast.

And I haven’t even had a chance to talk about the wonderful breakfasts Jamie made and the night-time treats that she left on the dining room table. How much fun would that have been with other guests? Or friends.

Thanks, Jamie. We’ll be back. Maybe with golf clubs next time!!