Summer of Love

Turns out I’m a bad fit for the 21st century. The other day, Suzanne challenged me to come up with a metaphor that wasn’t based on 50 years ago. Really stumped me. I seem to be totally lip-locked on the period from 1965-1980, particularly the beach flicks.

Did you know that the original definition of a bikini was a swimsuit so ethereal that it could be pulled through a man’s wedding band? Well, now you do.

Trust me, if there’s a tidbit of utterly useless info, I know it: a funny aside about the Treaty of Ghent, the best recipe for chipotle salmon bowls.

Yet, when you ask me super-important stuff, like who won the last World Series…

To be sure, I’m an odd duck. I can’t tell a proclivity from a fetish, a goose from an egret, a cop from a robber. Seriously, I can’t even tell Megan Fox from Seth Rogen.

One’s a girl? I give.

I mean, who even cares about today’s crop of movie stars, the whole boring androgynous lot of them? Our actors have never been less interesting. A giant gob of forgettable goobers.

Gimme regular folks any time. My buddies entertain me more than Chris Pine and Tom Hardy. Sure, my pals are goobers too, but they’re the real deal…honest-to-goodness, farm-to-table goobers.

FYI, July is a month when you sit in the sand and think: “Does that gull have a better life than I do?”

Hundred percent.

FYI, July is the month when you realize that love is a series of tiny emotional bribes — and that’s OK!

FYI, July is when you gaze out at Mother Ocean and think: “Whew, that shade of blue belongs in the Louvre.”

So, gimme late summer sunsets. Gimme coolers too heavy to drag across the sand.

Gimme “Nights in White Satin,” a Moody Blues song so hauntingly romantic that it makes me want to make out with myself.

Speaking of real romance, I chatted with Alan Bergman the other day.

As you may remember, Mr. Bergman is the co-author of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” as well as “The Way We Were” and “It Might Be You” from the movie “Tootsie.” He and his late wife, Marilyn, won three Oscars and a Grammy for Song of the Year.

When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware,
That the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair…

The Bergmans wrote these soft-focus metaphors to match a movie mood, as when Streisand rakes Redford’s autumnal hair.

Their process? The Bergmans would sit face to face and ping ideas back and forth. They’d “write to the melody,” Alan said, meaning the music came first, and they’d match the words to it, solving a lyric jigsaw puzzle one great line at a time.

Like a snowball down a mountain or a carnival balloon,
Like a carousel that’s turning, running rings around the moon…

Their songs are rueful, heartbreaking, crestfallen. Mr. Bergman and I agreed that melancholy can be an underrated emotion. There’s a wry solitude to it … a chance to dig a little … a chance to find life’s  rhymes….that place where art is born.

Dear Gawd, please save us from a world where everyone is jumping around all the time, though we see that more and more. The other day, I bought cans of bear spray for my daughters’ safety and peace of mind.

I told them, “If Smartacus plays that one song again, zap him.”

“OK, Dad,” they said.

Indeed, the world is a frantic zoo right now. Pop songs sound like leaf blowers. Movies are made for morons.

In response, we turn to the little pleasures – comfort food, comfort music — in hopes of riding it out, as ants crawl up our ankles, fleeing a drought that might be our biggest worry of all.

By the way, White Fang is enjoying a Summer of Love. With Smartacus back home, it’s become a contest to see who can give her more attention — hug her massive head, rub her snowy belly.

I think she likes the attention, though I’m not 100% sure. As my buddy Searles notes, huskies can be like Siamese cats. They prefer an emotional moat, a melancholy, a chance to dig.

White Fang caught another gopher in the yard the other day, so she does a fair amount of public service in her spare time. She also eats bumble bees straight out of the garden. No ketchup, nothin’. One day, she’s going to scarf a bee that will sting her on the way down.

“Breathe, baby! Breathe!!!” I’ll yell while giving her mouth to mouth, during which the bee will wend its way back up her throat and into my own massive mouth. Can bees strike twice? I’ll let you know.

Anyway, be forewarned about bees and huskies and modern life in general.

Meanwhile, I crave nothing so much as an afternoon rainstorm right now, the kind of cleansing summer downpour that they have back east, where you throw open the windows and inhale the damn thing – the lilacs, the puddles, the steaming roofs. And watch it as you would an old movie, with a cup of coffee or tea.

A quiet, clever movie, not a jumpy one where people act like they’ve swallowed a bumble bee.

Breathe, baby. Breathe.

This recipe for chipotle honey salmon bowls is simple — even I can fake it. It comes courtesy of my daughter Rapunzel, from a website called Half-Baked Harvest. Info here: honey salmon bowl. I would call it slightly spicy. If that’s not your thing, just cut the chipotle peppers and add a bit more soy and honey. Enjoy!

15 thoughts on “Summer of Love

  1. If your unique brand of insightful, slightly melancholy appreciation of all the great artistry from 1965-1980 is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Thank you! Moody Blues forever.

  2. Love your articles from another so cal baby boomer. Living the dream. Keep the articles coming for the rest of us.

  3. There were plenty of leaf-blower songs and moronic movies in our youth, We just remember the good parts.

  4. I once read that most people loch in to the music they like by age 29. I wish I could give proper attribution. There is a lot of good music out there if you look for it. One more thing…only in a drunken stupor should you even consider if a gull has a better life.

    1. What does ‘loch in’ mean? I do some weird stuff when I listen to Billy Idol. Or the Sex Pistols. And drunken stupors I do understand…

  5. After a certain (ahem) age, we live more and more on the chemistry in our minds, as physicality makes its long , slow, achingly reluctant decline to the contemplative stasis of the unknown. Its slip of the seconds for most is less an incline than an undetected dissembling dispersion of interest in which recursive nostalgia assumes a larger portion of attention than we would have earlier dreamed (literally) possible. Yet, in and around us is one of the most physically beautiful Summers ever, it’s chemistry cool and luxurious in its display of contrasts, the interactive chemistry of recall struggling to react with, let alone match its theater of sunsets, spacial brilliance, floral intensity, range of scents and night sounds and other lyric stimulants, and—yes— it’s feeling of wistfulness (perhaps a bit of the melancholy you and Alan Bergman spoke of)—in the midst of the ongoing Covid darkness, economic and societal upheaval, burgeoning climate menace, and all the other malaise clouding the horizon of our awareness.

    This is one for the ages—at least ours—and it is our duty to be out in it as much as the constraints of our condition allows, feeling and celebrating every physical and emotional nuance of
    the season’s experiences; for this exquisite time may never come again. Now that’s a melancholy thought well met in song, viz. “Once upon a time, the world was sweeter than we knew”.. and many others Sinatra had wired into our consciousness in an earlier era. Sinatra in the air, the frosty burn of a G&T in your hand, BBQ smoke rising to the stars, an arm around the sinuous silver sliver of a girl at your side, your mind filled with the beauty of the moment: now that’s the way to make nostalgia, or at least it’s one way. Let’s do it.

    1. I love your writing! This response to Chris Erskine today almost made me cry. Keep up your responses.

  6. I watched the James Bond movie Thunderball the other day. So much 60 stuff – jetpacks, karate jobs, bikinis. One of the futuristic gizmos that Bond was given was a camera that shot pictures underwater! Not sure what I’m getting at here, Chris, but movies from the ’60s sure looked more interesting. Oh, and Bond forced himself on a lot of women. Not cool.

  7. Thank you Chris for another great column. Also thanks for the recipe. My daughters have also introduced me to Tieghan Gerard at Half Baked Harvest. She seems to be the the Ina Garten (although much younger) of their generation. Cheers!

  8. Moody Blues and making out with yourself.
    I closed my eyes and could see and feel that summer rain storm from my childhood not far from Chicago. A yard lined with lilac bushes and a house with double hung windows thrown open to that rain. Running out to help mom bring the laundry in. I can smell it and hear it. Thanks for that memory.

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