Summer Love

I prefer a summer day that yawns a little, I like a moon that stays up late.

It’s the heart of summer. Eat some custard. Count your blessings. Breathe deep the sea.  

Didn’t Joni Mitchell write something about “the hissing of summer lawns?” How evocative.

Similarly, I like the way a gin & tonic bubbles and hisses this time of year. A good G&T has little hints of witchcraft and lime. It ruffles the curtains. It creates its own gentle breeze.

By the way, my buddy Miller called the other day just to laugh.


He laughed.

I laughed.

Then we hung up.

Boom. I prefer a friendship that doesn’t require conversation.

By the way II: Here’s how I evaluate a dinner party these days: Does the banter come easily? Are the pauses comfortable or weird?

I usually avoid dinner parties at all costs, but have been to two lately, and they were both pretty cool — no one pressing to stand out, everybody nodding into their dinner plate, grazing.

Actor/director Richard Benjamin was at one of them, plus a lyricist, a cardiologist, a therapist,  a socialite. We were a mere mezzo-soprano away from a good game of Clue.

If more dinner parties were like this, I would be more willing to attend. As it is, I have a firm quota for dinner parties: two a year. That’s twice as many as I’d prefer, but I’m in “yes mode” lately, so bring it on.

See how I’m letting summer come to me? As your beer therapist, as your literary barkeep, I insist you try that. Let life come to you for a while.

“Put your lips to the world, and live your life,” in the words of poet Mary Oliver.

Anyway, Suzanne is taking me to a dinner party Friday where we will be having African food, served by someone I’ve never met.

I do this only because I trust Suzanne as much as I’ve ever trusted anyone – even my own sisters, who in 60-plus years have never stolen any money or lied to me much or been very mean to me, other than a zing here, a jab there, the kind of gentle ribbing you get often with siblings.

That’s what I like in life, gentle ribbing. Sisters.

I have the best sisters. Totally different. Both are now obsessed with the fantastic new sport of pickleball and are determined to get me to try it.

I’m holding out. First, I resist fun fads of any sort – hula-hoops, bell bottoms, thongs.

Second, I could never play anything where you have to “stay out of the kitchen.” I just know myself too well. On a typical summer day, I enter the kitchen maybe 3,000 times.

So, anyway, I hope this Friday dinner party turns out well. If not, so what? It’s just a risk you take when you’re in “yes mode,” which I recommend very much.

Then we’re escaping to Cayucos for a couple of days.

“A Couple Days in Cayucos” sounds like a John Cassavetes movie with Gena Rowlands. I hope it’s not that much work. I hope there’s easy banter, gentle ribbing, naps.

Ever been to Cayucos? It’s perched on a cloud somewhere up along the Central Coast, which oddly and perversely is grossly underdeveloped by American standards.

If this were Florida, for instance, there would be rows of ginormous hotels crammed along the beach, and truck stops, some theme parks, tons of golf courses, a large and noisy airport, junk yards, slaughterhouses, alligator farms, tanning salons and Bentley dealerships.

Sadly, there is virtually none of that, only the foggy and fetching coastal town of Cayucos, which is a step back in time, with an old pier and a charming little main street with the vibe of a tiny frontier town.

Cayucos also has sea lions and the best hiking … killer burrito stands, creamy chowder, creamier sunsets, and an old hotel.

To my mind, every coastal California town should have a haunted Victorian inn, where Stephen King is typing up in the attic. Every few minutes, you could hear him scream.

There’d still be actual keys for the doors, not passcards, and you’d get The Times delivered to your room each morning with a carafe of coffee and some wads of super-soft bagels, maybe a warm scone.

The sprinklers would hiss and the fog would roll in.

There’d be a fireplace and a library. A tattered guest book to sign.

The Fetter family from Valparaiso, Indiana. We LOVED it here!

Cayucos already has most of that. Plus, something no other town in America has right now: my old pals Jenny and Alex, who have a weekend love shack up there.

And for a couple of days, we’ll breathe the sea.  

Speaking of gin and tonics, we’re trying to re-schedule a backyard blast. Stay tuned, we have one in our sights for July. Meanwhile, stay hydrated, and enjoy every moment. Cheers!

24 thoughts on “Summer Love

  1. Love this post! Just say YES to summer, gin and tonics, Central California, hammocks…Let your summer unfold in delightful ways, Chris. Thanks for the reminder. I hope you and Suzanne continue to enjoy every minute of it. To me, it’s the one season that always goes by too fast.

  2. Chris – Cayucos is my favorite place ever to see and hear the ocean, watch the surfers and the sea lions, relax and shuck responsibility for just a few days twice a year, and where the biggest decision is whether to go have clam chowder and a sandwich at Duckie’s again. It’s the most dog-friendly place ever, with water bowls outside most shops and eateries, so your wolf girl would be most welcome. There are hikes to take – or walks on the pier if you’re not up for a hike – and Morro Bay, with all its little shops and many restaurants, is just a few miles south. There are several motels and one wonderful bed-and-breakfast place right across the street from Duckie’s. Everyone – residents, vacationers, and visitors – seems laid back and happy, which makes a stay there a pleasure and packing up to leave kinda sad. I know you and Suzanne will have a great time there seeing your pals and soaking up the small town vibes, Enjoy every minute! – Marilyn Baldwin

  3. Sorry my friend, *I* have the best sisters. Those Helgren girls are awesome…

    What is it about the 4th that triggers “Afternoon Delight” in my head and summer love? Must have been that bicentennial year…

    1. For the sake of my survival, I have to disagree. But I remember Mindy and Holly like it was yesterday. We’re lucky with sisters. We had some great summers on the Fox River, didn’t we?

  4. Love your writing, Chris. Your lead sentence will stay with me all day. Thanks.

  5. I woke up this morning to the moon over the Cleveland National Forest. I guess it stayed up very late! Enjoy your day, hope you had a terrific Fourth!

  6. I have to admit to driving to Cayucos for lunch at Ducky’s & then stocking up on brown butter cookies for the ride home. Perfect place for Chris as the restaurants have names like Schooner & Shanty.

      1. Cambria is on that lunch list too but it takes me 3 days to drive to Oregon. Go figure.

  7. If you lay on your back to watch the fireworks last night, they delivered, didn’t they? The position invites the experience. It is the position of Summer. At least for some of us. And now…Cayucos. Well, if you’re there—and while you’re there—you might be heading up to Cambria for that lovely headlands hike at the ranch preserve between the two beach colonies, or to walk the boardwalk at Moonstone; or rattle around the old (east) village. If so, try turning briefly off the road at Harmony, the smallest “town” on the”MidCoast” ( a couple of buildings?), move the sleeping dog out of the way, and saunter in to an old central coast vibe of wood and colony things (I kinda like the odd ceramics; and the feel of tts perch at the bottom of the hill rolling down from the coastal escarpment ( sort of old and small and cloistered—barely there). Even the dust seems sleepy. Is there anything that can compare with Summer? Besides Suzanne and Cakes, that is? I rest my case. What a lovely time to do so.

  8. Oh! And by the way Cayucos is where a lot of folks live who work in Cambria but cannot afford to live there. So it has an easy, quiet, lived in feel—like Summer sandals. You just slip your toes in, take a deep breath, and expand into it.

  9. Just Laugh … it’s what happened while reading your July 5th’s post.
    FAN 4 Long Time!

  10. Summer is so fleeting here in Chicago you have to grab it by the lapels. Your summer seems to be shaping up fabulously. And “we were a mere mezzo-soprano away from a good game of clue” is SO funny! Your descriptions are simply the best. Have a great time soaking up Cayucos with Suzanne. I have no idea where it is but now I feel like I must get there someday. Enjoy!

  11. Pro tip from a local: Cafe Della Via for dinner. The burritos next door to the corner gas station are big enough for an NFL lineman. Brown Butter Cookie Company is a treat Catty Cakes will thank you for.

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