I love summer, but it can be a complicated season. When you're young, summer is fairly simple. "School's out" and you have the chance to be a different, a freer person. My childhood summers were spent at summer camps, an experience that left a very strong impression on me, cf. my novel WHAT IT WAS LIKE.
Summer promises all kinds of magic: the beach ... cool cars ... summer romance ... barbecues ... star-gazing ... summer songs ... sleeping outside ... fireflies ... outdoor music ... lemonade stands ...water balloon fights ... picnics ... watermelon ... drive-ins ... amusement parks ... boats ... marshmallow roasts ... summer movies ... miniature golf ... roadtrips ... fireworks ... long afternoon naps ... and endless games of baseball.
And when summer was over, you had to return to your "real" self and fall back to Earth. The cycle repeated itself, year after year, until it was all a blur. And one day, your childhood was over.
Summer casts a special spell, especially on writers:
"Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." ― Henry James
"In summer, the song sings itself." – William Carlos Williams
"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer." ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
"Summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill." ―Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
"The summer night is like a perfection of thought." -Wallace Stevens
"I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days — three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain." ~John Keats
"To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie–
True Poems flee — "
– Emily Dickinson
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18
"It will not always be summer: build barns." – Hesiod
"One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter." – Henry David Thoreau
As an adult, I have mixed feelings about summer. I could complain that summer gets too hot where I live in southern California, but t'would be churlish: we have some of the best weather in the world.
I got a sweet early taste of summer at the Memorial Day Classic Car show at my local park. (I passed on the Kiwanis' French toast breakfast.)
And I had my first swim of the season in my backyard pool. When I was a kid, I was a lousy swimmer. (You try swimming in those frigid mountain lakes in the early morning.) But now, after many years, I've become a decent swimmer. I play music on my outdoor speakers -- Beach Boys or reggae or opera or the soundtrack to "A Man and a Woman") and swim lap after lap.
This summer – the summer of the continued unfolding of the Trump Disaster – could be one of the most interesting in decades ... for reasons that are not entirely positive.
So don't forget: one of the best things about summer is SUMMER READING.
If anyone is looking for a passionate novel about a tragic summer romance, try WHAT IT WAS LIKE. It's also a summer thing.
Here are some hot summer links --
The Beach Boys – "The Warmth of the Sun" – the perfect original record – mentioned on Page 71 of WHAT IT WAS LIKE
Sly and the Family Stone – "Hot Fun in the Summetime" – live and super-rare, from 1969
The Lovin' Spoonful – lip-syncing "Summer in the City"
Eddie Cochran – "Summertime Blues" – live from 1959 -- rare and terrific
The Who – "Summertime Blues" – from "Woodstock"
Ray Davies sings "Sunny Afternoon" – on Jools Holland's show -- 2006
The Drifters – "Under the Boardwalk" – lead vocal by Johnny Moore, recorded the day after Rudy Lewis OD'd
Johnny Rivers – "Summer Rain" – the original single
Johnny Rivers – "Summer Rain" – live, 1973
and what the hell --
Johnny Rivers – "Poor Side of Town" – the original single, lip-synced in 1966
Johnny Rivers – "Poor Side of Town" – live on the Marty Stuart Show – backed by Marty and the Fabulous Superlatives
Johnny Rivers – "Poor Side of Town" – live from ???
and a final word from the Masters --
Frank Sinatra – "Summer Wind" – Music by Henry Meyer, lyrics by Johnny Mercer
The summer wind came blowin' in
From across the sea
It lingered there to touch your hair
And walk with me
All summer long
we sang a song
And then we strolled that golden sand
Two sweethearts and the summer wind
Like painted kites, those days and nights
They went flying by
The world was new beneath the blue
Then softer than a piper man
One day, it called to you
I lost you I lost you to
The summer wind
The autumn wind
And the winter winds
They have come and gone
And still those days
Those lonely days
They go on and on
And guess who sighs
His lullabies through nights that never end
My fickle friend,
The summer wind
The summer wind, warm summer wind
Mmm the summer wind