The Boys of Summer

At this stage of my life, it’s probably time to start tracking down old friends and paying back the money I owe, then sit around with them murdering the truth about our younger days.

We’ll embellish every detail as we recall how happy we were when we were 17 and raced that old blue Mustang down leafy country lanes, almost got in a fight with a carload of other dolts, then quietly peeled off for home, feeling like we’d conquered a summer night.

Nostalgia is pathology.

Still, I am not done making memories, or murdering the ones I already have.

Perhaps the best thing about old friends is how the stories get better over time, until they in no way resemble what actually happened. It’s like when an epiphany marries a lie.

“Remember that one night…”

FYI, I’m going back to the heartland in a few weeks. There’s a big legal proceeding there, actually a wedding, that I’m obligated to attend.

Tried to wiggle out. But the bride (Rapunzel) wears her mother’s hair like an heirloom. Never stood a chance.

Generally, I dislike destination weddings. I just refuse. “I’ll buy you a fancy car instead,” I offer, “it’ll be better for everyone.”

Does that seem churlish? The older you get, the more honest you get – except when it comes to stories of the past.

My boyhood recollections are all fairy tales at this point. They are like spinning straw into gold with old German folklorists.

Back in Chicago, I’ll see my high school buddy Doug, as well as my college roommate Jack. Sure, our stories are riddled with half-truths, yet we will laugh like leafblowers when we tell them for the thousandth time.

“Remember that one night…”

I’m an old penny now — a man who walks the dog too much and oils his pruning shears after every use. Coils the extension cords just so.

I’m of another era. I’m still not over the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, or Brian Piccolo’s untimely death. In a drawer somewhere, I still have a pet rock and my Presidential Physical Fitness Award.

The other day, I spent my very last buck on the No. 19 at Langer’s, the best pastrami in the known universe, served on a billowy rye, crunchy along the seams.


As I noshed, my lunch buddy explained that he gives so much money to his favorite college football program that they have invited him along on the team plane this fall.

“Me too!” I screamed, out of mere envy.

Can you imagine though? Traveling to Eugene or South Bend with your favorite sports team? To me, that’s better than traveling with Springsteen. That’s better than conquering Italy with Napoleon. Better than kissing Meg Ryan atop the Empire State Building.

Almost better than pastrami on rye — though not quite. 

As you know, Los Angeles can have a sinister, Wuthering Heights quality to it. There are dark shadows, kinky corners, loud and lewd people.

And it is all made tolerable by the No. 19 pastrami sandwich at Langer’s Deli. You really should  try it some time.

Obviously, the things I love I love too much. If “Seinfeld” was about anti-existentialists – nothing has meaning, get over it – I am the extra-existentialist. I am the syrup on the pancakes, the cotton candy at the county fair. I am the first four bars of a Paul McCartney song.

For the record, the girl I’m currently seeing loves pancakes, she just never eats them, being an L.A. girl into culinary denial. As an L.A. girl, Suzanne is also an anti-existentialist in a non-sentimental, Seinfeldian way.

I’m trying to instill in her a sense of nostalgia, a longing for the past. I’m not sure I have the right keys for that, or know her access code. She’s much too smart for gooey sentimentality, though she has a really lovely heart, big as a purse.

Yet, when we go back to the Midwest with my suitcase full of old stories, I will dance her around the region’s freshwater lakes, skip stones across the ponds, sing my stories about the good old days.

She’ll see the country roads we raced, the river we skied, the best place to find deep-dish pizza.

It’ll be like a theme park of my past. Pillowcase clouds and Creamsicle sunsets. Love me? Love me not? It’ll be a week-long riddle. Cross your fingers.

“You’re Taylor Swift,” Suzanne explained the other day. “You pressure wash your brain directly into the universe.”

Poor universe. Poor Suzanne.

But, hey, remember that one night…

Cheers to a lovely late-summer weekend. It’s going fast. Pre-season football was on TV the other night and Halloween is in the stores. I’m sure the fake Christmas trees will show up in the hardware aisles soon. America moves too fast sometimes. In the meantime, reposting a couple of recipes from Wednesday’s Newsletter. If you missed my ode to grilled charcuterie boards, here it is. And here are more photos from Cakes’ ice cream tour of Delaware. The sunset photo is of my boyhood home, Barrington, IL., the hardscrabble former mining town where I grew up. To this day, a very tough place.


From reader Judith Burkhartsmeyer: Muddle 2 strawberries and several mint leaves in a tall glass. Add crushed ice. Generous pour of gin. Fill glass with equal parts grapefruit juice and tonic. Squeeze a slice of lime on top.

From reader Jill Baer: Start with Mulholland Gin (over ice). It has notes of lavender, lime and cucumber. Squeeze in fresh lemon and lime juice, then some muddled mint leaves. Add Bubly brand sparkling water (the Pamplemousse, but you could use any sparkling water with a citrus note). Garnish with fruit slices and a sprig of mint.

17 thoughts on “The Boys of Summer

  1. Watch out. Suzanne is beginning to overtake you in the creative metaphors department. She should start her own blog and tell all your stories from her own perspective….But I still love your wonderfully poetic way of murdering the truth. Cakes is well on her way to becoming a professional model. One of the most naturally photogenic kids I have ever seen. Keep those pics coming! (Maybe you can get a cut of the action as her agent.)

  2. Langer’s ! The best pastrami & rye bread on rye in the world! I’m a simple guy, I’ve never had a # 19 in all my years noshing there. Too much of a good thing. I’m sure I’d pass out from pleasure. So like you’re gray Fox I never order it!

    1. Naw, I posted a Newsletter last Wednesday insted. If you go to, you can sign up for the monthly newsletter, which comes out about every three months.

  3. And I thought I was the only guy who walked his dog too much. Wonderful to find myself in such fine company!

  4. The number 19 at Langer’s! Thanks for the reminder. I have to get there and have one of those again. Soon! The sandwich that more than lives up to its reputation.

  5. Guess who we saw at Langers about a month ago? Nancy Pelosi! Lunching with Jeffrey Katzenberg. A TON of security.

  6. I just turned 72. My closest friends are High School buddies – Geno, Biggy, OD, Ragey, and Blu, the only one still living in our old town. But we still get together periodically, and talk regularly, especially with the one whose wife is battling health issues which gives him a break from reality. Like you, the stories get better over time and our wives just roll their eyes. But since half of them went to school with us they know where truth ends and fiction begins.

  7. If I recall correctly, you have no recollection of my regular “Chris, do you have 50 cents you can lend me” at Middle School. The advantage of aging friends… I remember regularly hitting you up so I could by Ding Dongs from the vending machine. Even if it was 50 cents a week, I owe you $204 in 2023 dollars…so maybe I’ll buy you a drink when I see you in a couple of weeks….

  8. I’m ready to convert into extra-existentialism. Maybe that could be a higher level of the Gin & Tonic Society. If word got out, Scientology would be left in the dust (as it should be).

  9. Yeah, Barrington is scary. Drive through the other day & made sure all my doors were locked & windows rolled up! So they wouldn’t chase me out if they saw the Berwyn sticker on my car! 😂😂
    It’s beautiful up there. Enjoy your destination wedding w your family & old pals. Can’t wait to hear the stories!

  10. I also fondly remember that era. I think I still have my first Ronco record purchased at Zayre on Golf Road. Played it a zillion times. Enjoy the nuptials of Rapunzel and the week of family and friends. And don’t worry. The Jewel liquor aisles are still stocked with plenty of booze. 😉

  11. One thing our memories are is the stories we tell ourselves, and they are as real as when we first wrote them. I think that the embellishments of time merely ad luster to the dream within a dream that life appears to be. Having been an editor, you know that there often is no such thing as great writing, only great re-writing. I don’t think that, but many battle-scared editors have cause to think so.

    Drifting And Humming Down To Fall

    Life comes at you point blank
    A little breeze said someone said
    And so it is, lasr weekend was
    A blur of Summer faces and
    Good times, so I just got here
    To the wet blue ink of recall;

    Memory is like a river, bank
    What is out there, so I’ve read
    We’re swept downstream just because
    Time keeps raining down like sand
    Who knew its water was so clear
    In Summer, floating down to Fall?

    What happens when we reach the bay
    And everything just falls away?
    Why, then we’ll be in salty sea
    Where all things float more easily
    Thoughts mix with clouds, reality
    More saline than it used to be;
    And waves whisper to the land
    The grainy loneliness of sand
    Telling stories of their reach
    From land to land, to the beach
    While the sea birds weep and cry—
    There’s so much water in their eye;

    And heat of heat lightning clashes
    Wiith the heat of August’s ashes
    And somehow precipitates as rain—
    Water’s air—those memories again;
    Immersed are we in Summer’s hum
    Of heat, feeling somewhat numb
    Under hot water’s humid thumb
    In memories we just came from,
    But soon we’ll be awash in Autumn
    Its golden breezes like a hymn
    Sung to the body in time’s flow—
    Where memories of Summer go—
    The loveliest of things to know
    That oceans of the mind bestow.

    …at least, that’s the way I remember it.

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