Come Sail Away…

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!  

15 thoughts on “Come Sail Away…

  1. Catty Cakes is one cute little Fourth of July firecracker. I loved all your great summer memories! My mother loved hammocks and rhubarb pie too. Thanks for reminding me. Summer always goes by too fast, but the memories stay forever.

  2. I love these summer posts. This was just what I needed to jumpstart my hump day. I remember going to Minocqua WI in the summers…early 70’s. Lazy, hot days. Summer was freedom. Just unstructured play. We’d walk to 7-11 for 1 cent Bazooka Joe gum. Some days dad took us up to Hippo’s Hot Dogs. Great memories. Thanks for the smiles. And keep the pics of Catty Cakes coming. So precious. Have fun tonight! Cheers! 🍸

  3. Rhubarb. I personally don’t care for it, but my ex-husband loved it. His mother gave me a recipe for Rhubarb Cream pie that was passed down to her. Apparently, it’s delicious!
    Still make it for my rhubarb loving friends, and occasionally my ex-mother in law.

    It’s easy as “pie” to make, with the added bonus of just needing a prepared pie crust.
    Trader Joes can help with that!

    If you feel like giving it a try, let me know and I’ll send you the recipe. Lot’s of lazy summer days to sharpen your pie skills.

  4. Rhubarb pie. Takes me back to 1960 and my wonderful grandma in Sequim WA. She grew it in the back yard. Loved it, even raw. Especially raw. Gonna have to miss Avignon’s tonight…wife in hospital recovering from neck surgery. Hope we can make the next one. Have fun!

  5. Another lovely summer break epistle with birds and fireflies and babies and hammocks… (pass on the Rhubarb pie) wish I could make it to Avignon tonight but 1) I don’t drive freeways anymore except in emergencies and 2) I have no idea where Montrose is. But I’ll be there in spirit, gin and tonic in hand! XO

  6. Loved your remembrances of summers in Wisconsin. They remind me of my summers in Michigan’s UP. We came to Chicago from there, so we had lots of family to visit while we stayed with my grandparents. So many beautiful lakes, so wild, and surrounded by glorious Lake Superior. We didn’t drink Coke, but we would walk to the South Range Bottling Co to buy an orange pop for 7 ¢. I’ll stop now!

  7. Perfect. Summers in Wisconsin, the lake water was so cold, the water so clear you could see all the way to the bottom off the end of the dock. And the air… perfumed with the sharp green vapor of the pines, the seductive scent of suntan lotion the girls were smoothing on their skin drifting in and of your consciousness. And the bonfires on the beach of the lake at night, the cold of a Pabst sweating in your hand, the kisses sweet and lush as a peach, the night sails on a sailfish, dodging the yachts full of noise and light and laughter motoring by in the dark, and etc., etc—the thousand and one other things of Summer. Nothing like it. I’ve Loved it so, and still do; as do you. Perfect.

  8. LA guy born & raised. Married a girl from STL who summered on the countless lakes in MN & the shore of Door Co. WI.
    SoCal to MN or WI every summer thereafter. Never been to Hawaii! Why?! I can go the beach at home.
    Also a member of the Class of ‘56. John Burroughs HS Burbank!
    2 daughters 3 granddaughters.
    With respect to the Beatles, no other singer’s pronunciation was a perfect as Sinatra’s! Perfect!

  9. Even I, a California city boy, got to summer in Wisconsin. As a young lieutenant my buddy Captain Baxter would invite me to ‘Grandpa Baxter’s Farm’ in Wilson [you know, near Menomonie] where they taught me to how to drive a tractor, what a threshing machine was and how to pick corn from their very own fields. On Sunday mornings when the adults all went to church, I got to watch the twenty five kids they left behind. Organizing those football games was an absolute highlight! Fishing on the Spooner River…gotta say that I love how your column took me back to those few summers in the 60s. Looked forward to return visits after Vietnam but, alas, Baxter got transferred to California so we went to Zuma instead.

  10. Summer reminiscing;we were originally from New York, moved out here, vacationed back in Brooklyn with family and friends. I loved the fireflies at night and the Carvell ice cream truck! Playing Stoopball until we couldn’t see the ball anymore. Thanks again for taking us back to childhood Summer vacations! Don’t you and your son love being so deliriously head over heels at anything the Princess Baby does??!!

  11. I’d drive around in my Dad’s Eldorado every other weekend in the late 60’s listening to Jonny Cash and Roger Miller. Pretty cool

  12. My family immigrated to Chicago in the 1960’s. Growing up in the city, I had friends who attended camp in WI. Sleep-away summer camp was unfamiliar to my parents so us kids never had the opportunity.
    Now raising our son in LA, and planning summer camps about a decade ago, I remembered that kids from Chicago went to camps in WI. After a diligent website search we selected a boys camp in Northern WI. For six summers, we took our son to the Midwest, flying into Rhinelander, dropping him off at camp on Plum Lake, 30 min. north of Minocqua, visiting small towns around Eagle River, enjoying the beauty of the North Woods, etc. Sadly, 2019 was to be his senior summer, with the culmination of a weeklong trip on Lake Superior. But we still have our memories of all of those special summers in WI.
    Thank you for allowing us to reminisce with you!

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