(A Summer Issue)
Summers Come and Gone
Upon returning from The Cape last month,
from a visit to our son who is doing an internship as a reporter
for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of
the historical Cape Cod Baseball League,
it hit us once again, and hit us hard, that: the magic
of summer dies with advancing adulthood. (“Advancing
Adulthood” as opposed to say, Middle Age or Senior Citizen)
There is no season in which the transformations
of our lives are more pronounced, than that of summer. For
summer is child’s play; a young person’s game.
When was the last time you heard someone reminisce about the
springs or autumns of their youth? (“Boy do I miss those
April days when we’d all go out in the rain.”)
In large part this is no doubt due to the
obvious. In our coming-of-age years, summer invariably meant
a long respite from the rigors of school and the pursuit of
higher education. Whereas in adulthood, summer is usually
about trying to escape for a couple of precious weeks each
year from, “Duh Job.” And now even that has gone
by the boards, what with most people opting for quick getaways
in lieu of extended vacations. In a global economy and high
tech world, one must never be out of touch. Or so it seems.
And the Bureau of Labor statistics in fact, confirms
this trend toward shorter vacations. Not to go too left-brain
on this amidst this rhapsody in summer blue, but check this
But beyond what is measurable, there is always
the visceral, which is far more potent in constructing the
narratives for our lives. Those stories filled with…
that first summer romance…those days at the beach…the
eternal nights when time was on our side and seemingly would
be forever—we were invincible!… that quintessential
Fourth of July.
As we thought of all this while watching the
Harbor Hawks play the Cotuit
Kettleers —young men with visions of the
Major Leagues dancing in their heads —a box score of
sorts began to form in our head. Hardly a poetic device we
realize, but it spoke to us; this lineup of past vs. present
facets of our summers. We share it in the understanding, that
while the specifics and the perceptions of one man’s
summers will of course differ from another’s, each person
will find their own interesting comparisons to make. With
one part tongue-in-cheek and one part tear-in-eye, we offer
our “box score.”
And with that, we once again
close with the lines of that bittersweet Wordsworth poem,
as we did last August in our piece on Woodstock:
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower
Short Takes on the Passing of Summer and Time
In keeping with the theme of the first piece
of summer and time passing, we offer these short poems that
we have written over the years.
Urban August Still
Tight pink rubber
ball high bouncing
launching off a stoop
downward turning orange growing
swishing through a hoop.
(c) Copyright 1979 Marvin J. Wolf.
Time waits for no man… in its mad rush towards
by Ron Vazzano
On Summer Reading and Reading Summer
We have never quite understood why lightweight
books, or so called “beach books,” are recommended
as summer reading. The assumption seems to be that the mind
cannot handle anything too taxing during the more leisurely
months of July and August. Yet, it seems to us that the opposite
should be true: that more leisure time offers more opportunity
to get into something “heavier” or “deeper.”
When else are you going to get to War and Peace?
After a hard day at the office followed by helping the kids
with their homework? After a root canal at the dentist?
Truth be told, we did very little reading
of any type in summers past. (See first piece). Or any other
seasons for that matter. Trying now to play catch up in advancing
adulthood, summer has become our heaviest reading season.
We have read over a dozen books this June and July ranging
from accessible novels such as That Old Cape Magic
by Richard Russo (author of Empire Falls) to Dime-Store
Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell; a reflection by Poet/Essayist
Charles Simic on a surreal artist who filled shadow boxes
with found objects. Sitting somewhere comfortably in between
these extremes, we re-read an anthology entitled Summer.
Compiled by Alice Gordon and Vincent Virga
and first published in 1990, Summer is a marvelous
compendium of some 40 essays, memoirs, poems by a variety
of writers; well known and not so. Some of the more familiar
names include John Updike, Calvin Trillin, Ray Bradbury, Ogden
Nash, Raymond Carver and Wallace Stevens. But perhaps our
favorite piece is a memoir written by a lesser known writer,
Mary Cantwell which opens with the paragraph…
Around five o’clock on hot summer
mornings in New York a breeze springs up from the south.
It stays around just long enough to clean the air, then
dies at sunrise. For hour or so my bedroom is cool, cool
enough for me to wake and fumble for the sheet I’ve
tossed off during the night.
It took us right back to those mornings in
the tenement buildings of our youth on the Lower East Side,
sans air conditioning. But every reader will find
their own summer connections reflected somewhere in these
And finally, the book also includes over 70
illustrations about which Mr. Virga had this to say:
My best memories of summer are bright
and clear, color-fast, color-drenched, moist-lit and heavily
chiaroscuro, very like the images I sought for this book.
We highly recommend Summer for summer
Summer Stock: Opus ‘73
Vans packed tightly like cartons of eggs
aligned head to head with no thought of cracking.
Yet, the contact here is a fragile one
of errant knees rubbing in early friction
the acting troupe caravans.
They wind their way through
the white birches of New England;
a respite from the treeless city
and suffocation from an unfiltered heat.
Abandoning the rusty lights
and bold overtures of honking, hissing
they exit stage left
through no wings of praise:
they shoehorn “The Method” into a pillbox
What are you doing with your life
of pilgrim worship—a church transformed
by klieg lights and prayer into theater?
Or will the craft teeter, top-heavy and bloated?
Or perhaps as if a paper plane
glide untouched through an open back door
and out into a night
of crickets, stars and scratch lemonade
and heathen thoughts on getting laid
in brass beds after the show, but a shout
from ancestral burial grounds.
It beats back home where they’d
be making the rounds.
Up here they steal not only a summer
but the Yankee folk as well
to color the townscape of The Music Man.
And they layer these extras in sweat-stained costumes
ill suited for steam bath climates
and transparent plots.
Yet with the theater, the Yanks cast
In boaters and bonnets, all learn quickly the sonnets
of this paean to American dross—in lieu
of hymnal praise to the Lord.
oh, if the chorus of deer heads caught
and mounted on stone walls could sing:
the strawberry girl
secretly sipping her sherry each night
rehearsing her lines of suicide disclosure—
a reckoning scene from an aging Inge play;
pixie sticks of marijuana
sipped through clenched lips out back under
the tree that got iced by lightning
late one August night;
the lady of the house
fading in the throes
of blond domesticity—
tingling anew with the ripe possibility
of the leading man slipping in at lunch
while her husband hauls his big-ass truck
off to New Hampshire for spare parts;
the alderman’s daughter
who soon would run off with some Huck
Finn of a kid—both possessed
by the demon of Bohemian freedom,
this summer spawned;
the rape alleged
(in the dark
at the top
of the stairs)
by a minor cast member
while toying with her toast one morning at breakfast;
the fair-haired boy
and the stage manager’s wife…
this town and take its life.
A roll in the hay and then one down the hill
into fire and brimstone
where preachers may have warned in frockcoat times
of the gypsy moths hatched
from the larvae of Satan
who flutter about the flames of sin.
Yet they open their doors and let
And even if the hunters’ trophies hang
can one not help but
smell the flats still damp
with pigment and wanderlust
as the curtain thrusts upward
like a maiden’s skirt on opening night?
at the clown white temples
on the head of audacity;
of stretches beyond suspended belief?
Like the peach-fuzz Mayor
“right here in River City?”
Who is too young and hung for the part?
that the line between stage and county
has either been crossed
or is no longer there?
“Oh, we got trouble!” Lock up your daughter!
And the Watergate hearings bring
down the old order.
The Fourth of July is shot dead on TV
by the owlish minion with the smoking gun;
his Grace Kelly wife out of High Noon,
standing firmly behind him—
the stunning Mrs. Dean:
pull of platinum tresses
in well appointed dresses—
latent Roman Candle
reined in so tightly—she must
work on it nightly—
It drives even the gay guys in the cast
toward concave speculation;
face of ivory
she sits as he hoots
his tale on every bough.
But now disdain on every woman’s brow.
The summer creeps on like a lost centipede;
one hundred feet dragging across the boards
in and out of step—
of small matter after the rape.
it was mentioned before.
It happened late in the season
in the house on that hill;
in the gabled room wedged —albeit alleged—
near the stage manager and wife “Hester”
who was off earning an “A+” that night
with the fair-haired boy—
the Tommy character who played the flute.
There were bells on the hill
but no one ever heard them ringing.
Just as the ferret glance of the dressing room eye
feigned no notice
of a bared breast; a taut thigh;
of a fleeting pass through underpants.
But through all proclivities the show must
And so, ON, the show went.
creed, an oak, to their contours bent.
The kangaroo court bounds to order unexpected.
The accused sits anchored, then shifts with a spasm
of denial and one extended tear.
The company takes places
in accordance with its blocking.
Eyes evasive avoiding interlocking.
Then the sleeping dogs
and Christian codes
and Talmudic justice,
and fair play awakened,
and other pedigree
barking in the moonlight up the righteous tree.
slight teen girl,
but a spray of caramel freckles—
a wisp of pubic hair—
with kitten claws of innocence
has torn the curtain down.
Lock it in the dressing room. Keep
it from the town.
Time gets caught in the web of
And these lives are released…
an early September storm.
Then mercifully breaks the entanglement
as the pyrotechnics flag the summer’s end.
a blue-black inky sky.
They could not look each other in the eye.
The sparks that fly must fall back to earth
to dazzle on terms of their own making.
You could not see for the next burst of wannabe’s
who did by chance touch down
Or the lady of the house?
Or all scintillation in between?
to the outer most glimmer
of the boy toy ebbing?
the Alderman’s daughter
to the star-crossed Milky Way of Yanks?
The laser years to burn in the blanks.
The white birches go unseen on the weave back
The eye has refocused on the upcoming season
before the first leaf has considered its turn.
Life will go on in that black box
facades and wires and clustered spots
and assorted props and papier-mâché
where lighting gels and a color array
can create a forest of illusory trees
from which they cherry pick realities.