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G-Sync: PurrMichigan is political

Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen goes on a summer-long holiday and imagines a post-Pure Michigan state that is purrfect. Read on for his take on the Mitten's waterways -- and its politics.
The time between the launch of something new and the moment it will be lampooned  -- often in a snarky creative fashion -- is all of a few minutes in our modern world. Michigan, for all its rustic charm when getting off the well-worn path and adventures just waiting to happen, is also a place where humor can be easily found, too.
An array of sidesplitting comic video responses appeared almost immediately after the first round of those soft-voiced, nostalgia-driven Pure Michigan ads first aired.

But who could have predicted how quickly this campaign would be adopted out to other uses, from automobile license plates to other micro-campaigns like one boardroom wankers' brilliant idea of filing our state's unemployed seeking work under the "Pure Michigan: Talent" banner. [Insert groans.] I was raised to believe that talent was a gift or a special class of excellence, not something handed out like a ribbon in school elementary games where everyone is a winner for just showing up.
So why am I bringing it up now?
Many years ago after my car accident, near the end of a session with my shrink, he suggested I consider taking a summer off. He asked if I could imagine what it would look like.
Well, that was simple, I replied, and I said instantly that I imagined my summer off being one spent curbside with my sunburned thumb held up high, hoping for a lift out of here to AdventureTown. Needless to say, I never stopped thinking about it and finally this summer it (partially) came true.
Before you craft your letter accusing me of bragging about my privilege, let me explain how it came to happen -- and what I discovered as I purposefully decided to embrace a Pure Michigan summer.
For starters, unhitched to the academic calendar to which my friends with children or in education must adhere, I began my summer much earlier. Immediately after the Creston Neighborhood Association's 8th annual Art Battle for Community, I hung up my many hats devoted to volunteer work and quickly assigned this time to exploring Michigan's pleasures.
Right at the start, I gave myself a few ground rules.
  1. I had to work (just enough to cover my bills) and cut back on expenses, which meant eating out had to go.
  2. It would be necessary to plant a garden (for healthy snacking at home).
  3. And, finally, I had to be open to the road not taken but pack extra batteries and sunscreen, just in case I got too far out in my adventures.
The places that opened to me were so wonderful as I wandered about the state.
For music, it is a no-brainer that we have some amazing acts right here in Grand Rapids but, like bands, touring had to be in cards for me to be successful in my goals.
I had hoped to kick my music explorations off with a new festival in Grand Rapids called BrekFest. Sadly, after that event was cancelled the night before as acts from around the world began to arrive due to an anonymous caller's tip-off that something illegal was about to happen (it wasn't), it meant I would begin a week later at the live electronic music event Movement in Detroit.
Here I witnessed many acts I had never heard of from all over the planet as they descended upon Hart Plaza for one of the most beautiful weekends of new music I have witnessed in this state in a very long time. Boundaries were pushed creatively by the acts that visited but, as with every year, Detroit artists who commanded many of the five stages showed off what it's possible to create here, too.
And while Grand Rapids, the second-largest city and fastest-growing in our state, hosted its fair share of local and imported acts -- from the recent The Soil & The Sun's SRO Founders Taproom concert to Chile's El Gremio wrap-up of their national tour in GR to a packed dance floor at the Pyramid Scheme -- I have come to love what I have seen develop here with our music scene as well. 
Even last week as I wandered about, as the natives say, "Up north," I was caught off guard when I discovered Joshua Davis' solo act at Short's Brewing Company's Wednesday night music night. Davis has also been moving about recently, relocating from his Lansing home to his new one in Traverse City.
Speaking of craft beer, while it is good here in our state and we have definitely found a place in the history books, it is not a cure for cancer. I, for one, am glad the madness that gripped everyone in Grand Rapids (to the point of risking a pulled finger muscle from repeated voting on their iPhones for our city to be called BeerCity, USA) has finally subsided as more and more folks are discovering the joys of "the other" appearing on our horizon.
With more and more Michigan-made spirits and distilleries popping up all over the state, it is soon to be the decade of liquor if the awards follow as they did for our wines and beers.

I just wish I could see Coppercraft in another Michigan branded store, Meijer, but I also realize they just began production just over a year ago and distribution only began a few months ago in Kent County. Still, where I found it (or recommended it), this uniquely bottled presentation with a limited edition label makes for a great gift to present to hosts instead of the obligatory bottle of wine or sixer of local beer.
While on my many jaunts around the state, I made a direct beeline to any water that is still easily accessible, whether a stream, river or the big lake, Lake Michigan – in my opinion one of the most remarkable bodies of water in the entire world.
The purity of these waterways and their ability to refresh our spirits is priceless, whether we're watching an outdoor movie on the banks of the Grand River or spending hours conversing with a former Grand Rapids resident (and good friend) artist Scott Hessels, who spent a month on Lake Michigan before returning back to his new home of Hong Kong.
He often remarked during those lovely pauses that emerge after long conversations on the beach that we shouldn't lose sight of how lucky we are in Michigan to have access to such a beautiful lake that, as he says so wonderfully, "takes over your entire scope of vision" when we are on its shore.
I even got the bug to be an explorer myself as I sought out and discovered the source of a river after enlisting the help of a local who helped me navigate via a two-track seasonal road.
We often encounter rivers at their middle or end but rarely do we visit the humble source of their beginnings. It was while I was on a self-imposed writer's residency at a new Michigan Airbnb that I discovered the purity of this source and had another thought that feels appropriate as we talk about Pure Michigan.
We are about to exit our summer season and enter a brand-new one that is sure to be just as adventurous as the last: election season. Unfortunately this is not typically a season as pretty as the previous one, but I think it has potential if we are all able to advance a pro-solution mindset for the state.
For starters, the Pure Michigan campaign was born under Governor Granholm's term but was deemed such a success that it carried over under our current governor's last four years in office. I see this as a model for all of us, whether we call ourselves citizens or elected officials.
At the top of this political chain are glimmers of hope, as exemplified by Granholm and Snyder's bi-partisan promotion of the goodness of our state, that maybe there are elements we can deem valuable to our state's ability to remain relevant here and exportable to the rest of the world.

Maybe, in the interest of preserving one of the country's greatest natural resources, our lakes big and small, we can reach across the aisle and protect Michigan's best hopes for the future, from waterways to public education, from roads to small businesses.
As I prepare to end my "summer off," I have taken to adding a newish hashtag on my social sites, both privately and publicly, that plays beautifully off the Pure Michigan campaign. It's a way to infuse some creativity once again into their campaign, but it's also a reminder of our uniqueness.
So if you see #PurrMichigan, know that it is meant to encapsulate a lighter side of life, one not driven by pure economics or a tourism group simply trying to pull focus (and dollars from your wallet). Rather it is a chance for those of us who love to venture around the state to evoke that happy noise kitties make approvingly when touched.
I have caught the bug, Pure Michigan. I won't purchase a license plate or even buy for a moment your suggestion on the blue roadside signs bearing your name that a McDonald's at the next stop is something unique about our state's culture.
Instead I will, as others have done before me, continue to highlight those things worth mentioning and remind all those who are about to seek office via our November election that Michigan has plenty of items worth protecting.
PurrMichigan will not make any of us rich, but with a little effort and push, we might just make an impact by lending our voices this fall, whether we tweet our love of an expanding craft liquor industry made possible by the state's governing body's expansion or promote conservation via an Instagram image of a river's humble source in a county where fracking happens just steps away. 
Michigan may not be perfect, but we can say it is purrfect when we get it right. Enjoy the last couple weeks of summer, and if you find something worth sharing, be sure to use #PurrMichigan. (Michigan cat photos welcome, of course.)
The Future Needs All of Us.
Tommy Allen
Lifestyle Editor
Want to spend more time out exploring your city's culture? Visit G-Sync Events: Let's Do This! 
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