In our last episode, we talked about daughters and hot-weather wines, and other topics that might be considered mid-summer anti-depressants.
Seriously, I don’t know where Smartacus and I would be without my two amazing daughters.
The trust fund is running dry. Most days, my son and I cast about, never sure about dinner, scheduling our days around the Dodger games, setting up the hammock I got for Father’s Day, so big it could be a schooner. You should see it — a deep, naval blue. I hope to one day sail it around the world.
Hope it has a horn.
There’s rhubarb in the markets now, and the blueberries are all kinds of ripe. I pour a little more detergent in the wash to battle the warm weather funk.
Generally, I love these long summer days of petty obligation. They seem so aimless, which is exactly how my counselor described me in high school.
“You seem so aimless, Curt … are you alright?”
You know, we’re halfway to Christmas, and every time you point that out to someone they flinch as if stung. No one is in much of a hurry. In July, for about two weeks, everything just stops.
The other morning, I was sitting on the patio, trying to figure out if I could pull off a rhubarb pie, and how much Smartacus might mock me, for though I’m a master chef now – thanks, Trader Joe! – I’m still not much of a baker.
Plus, I’m sort of aimless.
Rapunzel is the baker in the family, and she is vacationing right now with her BF in Wisconsin, which is where we summered when I was a boy. All those green lakes and Friday fish fries. America on acid (and algae).
I was born in 1956, like Joe Montana, like the federal interstate system, a glorious era, a wonderful time to grow up.
That was well before kids spent their summers with phones in their faces. We would water ski all day and swat mosquitos all night and fun around with the local girls. The dogs would sit by the screen doors, monitoring the chipmunks, their tails thumping the old cabin floors.
The summer nights were tone poems. I used to like to sit at the end of a wooden pier and watch the freshwater lake nod off in the evening, as the mallards plowed through the shiny surface with their kids.
We’d skip stones and trace shadows with a stick. If the moon was up, we’d swim. Those nights were “like a perfection of thought,” to quote Wallace Stevens.
In summer, the entire Midwest was in Wisconsin. All those cheese curds, the salad bars brimming with beets and radishes. A tavern or two every mile.
If you listened closely, you could almost hear Garrison Keillor burp.
We were so backward. No kids were on meds back then, just a few of the wealthier moms. You’d sneak seven Cokes a day. If there was a grill, your dad would burn chicken. The cabin smelled liked boot leather and bait.
Back then, my dad liked to drive used Cadillacs, the hottest-running car ever made, and there was always the fear/hope we might never make it home again.
When you hitched a boat to an old Caddy, the radiator immediately erupted. Whew, look at that, Dad! Even afire, a Cadillac sedan was a beautiful beast. Best stereo systems. Or maybe the music was just a tad better.
All summer long, radio stations would play Chicago’s “Colour My World,” the greatest song of all time. Or Roberta Flack … Credence … BTO.
I remember one lake summer in the ’70s when Paul McCartney sang “Live and Let Die” in a constant loop, like the USC fight song.
By the way, no one ever pronounced “lover” as well as the Beatles did — luv-ahhh. It’s no wonder they got girls.
All these places have their moments,
With luv-ahhhs and friends I still can recall…
Anyway, those are a few summer reflections, all started with thoughts of the most-elusive of all the pies — rhubarb. Not sure where I would begin. Is there some sort of crust? Do you really need a crust? Couldn’t you substitute bacon or whipped cream?
I have to say it’s really nice, the pace lately. The mornings start with some wake-up video of my granddaughter, Catty Cakes, making kitten noises to her mama.
“Say good morning,” her mother prompts, and Catty Cakes answers with hisses and sputs. As if carbonated.
Smartacus and I ooooooh and ahhhhhh over these wake-up videos like a couple of grandmas. I talk to the videos, thinking the baby can hear me. “What are you doing today? Do you miss Papa? Need cash?”
Smartacus turns to me and says: “Did you see that yawn?”
It’s really kind of embarrassing.
But it’s a beautiful world right now. They now make these t-shirts designed to hide our beer bellies, and a hot new brand of men’s shorts comes with the underwear already attached, so you don’t have to root around under the bed for a pair. You can just slide in….snap, zip.
Who thinks of these things? Do they come in a Sgt. Pepper plaid? I’m in!
Never mind. I already have a new hammock. If you have a hammock, you have everything. Even a bad book is better in a hammock. If this thing had cup holders, I might never get out.
As we speak, I’m considering sleeping in this big canoe, under the olive trees, listening to the birds and the critters rustle the branches, imagining that there are fireflies, which might be angels, though more and more I’m convinced that birds are angels. Or grandbabies are. Or dogs.
As the lights go down, this hammock — this new luv-ahhh — wraps me in its soft arms, made of the kind of canvas we once wrapped our ski boat in at night – blue as a bay, blue as the eyes of the sun-kissed Wisconsin kids.
Blue like summ-ahhh.
Toast the summer with me tonight (June 30) at Avignone’s, a glorious neighborhood bar in Montrose, in north Glendale, between 5 and 7 pm. Be nice to see you. It’s a small place, so be patient for your drinks. Marissa will get to you eventually. No food but you can bring in pizza from Big Mama’s a few doors down. Metered parking on the street, or free in the plentiful public lots behind the stores. Beers $2 to $6. Wine $8 to $12. Well drinks $6. For info, click here. Cheers!