Summer for me has always been a great marker of time. More so even than Christmas, as lovely, sentimental, and holy as that season certainly is.
It’s so easy to float a summer wind back to visceral warm weather moments, a slightly sunburned body hitting cold saltwater, the delight of finding a root beer popsicle double-stick at the corner mom-and-pop grocery, rolling around in the back seat of your parents’ car parked deep in an apple orchard after midnight.
A kid growing up in a densely urban area might struggle to find an empty orchard and a young person today has probably only seen a mom-and-pop store in a Robert DeNiro movie, but we all replay sticky, strictly summer delights. Walking from blistering midday heat into a movie theater that hits you with air conditioning roughly the temperature of Iceland in February, mixed with the smell of delicious if not questionable popcorn. Corn on the cob cooked on an outdoor grill by a father or uncle who knows what he is doing, smothered with butter and salt. (HEY, “EAT THIS NOT THAT” ……EAT THIS!”
Sorry. Lawn clippings floating on the water of the lucky neighborhood kids whose parents loved them enough to put in an above-ground pool. The smell of gas mixing with saltwater. I know, it’s bad, but the smell is the strongest sense, and when our next-door neighbor Charles Lane let me hang out around his old 40-foot Chris Craft at the East Haven Marina, it smelled like paradise.
All of this can be summed up in one maligned word. NOSTALGIA. We are told bathing in nostalgia keeps you from staying in the game, being open to new ideas and God help us all…. LIVING IN THE PAST!
Look, I know the past is gently varnished in our minds. I don’t miss the horrors of what was done to our fellow Americans at the hands of racists. Or the lies of big tobacco. Or the fact that Sunny D was not really orange juice, or that TV dinners were not really food. (Sorry, mom.) I know that American boys died fighting in Vietnam, only to realize that their granddaughter’s Pink ass-displaying leggings are now made there. That sucks.
Andy Warhol once said, “America is drowning in nostalgia.” Maybe so. But for many Americans, the summer of 2020 was really shitty. So, this summer I am going to see some old high school garage band friends in New Haven. We are going to relive oft-told adventures, disasters, lovers, and occasional exaggerations.
I am going to eat raw clams and drink beer at a bar and remember my father introducing me to that wonderful taste of the Atlantic. I’m going to a hot dog joint called Blackies. Have not been there since I was 12. Best dogs in the East. And the guys and I will get New Haven Pizza. The best in the country. Google it.
I’ll walk on beaches near where I grew up and drive by several of the houses my family rented.
I will drown in nostalgia. I feel no shame. After the year we’ve all been through, is it so wrong to embrace for just a few hours moments of carefree past. Even if it was not really carefree.
Lennon said it…” Whatever gets you through the night.”
Mary and I have had it much easier than most Americans this year. All I really need to be happy is here and my friends and children, yet we all felt the horror of the virus.
Sinatra sang it….” The summer wind came blowing in, from across the sea, it lingered there to touch your hair and walk with me” ….
I’ll enjoy my friends’ stories, roasted seafood but probably not rolling around in the backseat of my parents Pontiac in the apple orchard. Gosh, I sure do miss that car.