Monday, August 16, 2010

The Last Day of Summer

Yep, in my world, yesterday was the last day of summer. School doesn't actually start for another week, but today starts the official activities that precede that beginning--meetings, talks before parents, opening dinners, mixers, in-services.

While it's true that summer keeps getting shorter and that, on our school calendar, this one only lasted about 2 1/2 months, it has also felt, to me, like a very long summer. I think I timed this one about right, extending the time off by splitting my three weeks of vacation in between Fridays off (I can't say enough about the mental benefits of the 4-day work week) and one large block of time down in Florida. That is what made the summer feel longer, and better.

So, yes, I'd call it a successful summer, in spite of overwatering my tomatoes early and condemning them to a quick death due to leaf rot, in spite of the incessant heat wave that has enveloped this city, in spite of the closing of the New York Diner, and in spite of the crunchy char-dog I took a bite of at the Strut before I hurled it to the ground, a pleasure I put off for too long and paid the price for.

Without further ado, here are the highlights and lowlights of the summer:


THE LOWS

1. The break-in at our house in mid-June. It is an event which still reverberates in the collective consciousness of our family. I can see it in the attention to the double and triple-locking of doors. It comes rushing back any time there is a noise during the night or even a knock at the door, or when I go outside at night to see if the extra lights we installed are still working. For me, I am still not comfortable sleeping upstairs; I want to be somewhere where I can hear whatever I need to hear. But, no, no gun.

2. Guidestar. com. This annual kick-in-the-nuts was a little different this year because I avoided going to the page myself, but its salient highlights were shared with me by eager others. Some would rather not know. Some accept it as the way things are. I suppose I'd rather know. This year it hurt, because it reported on a year in which there was no money for raises. Oh, really.

3. A broken air conditioner in my car. It broke on the way to Florida. I took it like a man, sucking on large cups of ice cubes all the way down. Then we snuck out of Florida during a thunderstorm and used an overcast evening and driving through the night to make the trip tolerable. Tolerable. But now, on a daily basis, there are moments when I'm sitting in traffic in a car that, even with the windows down, has heated up to 120 degrees. I suppose I should get it fixed, if I had the money. See #2.


THE HIGHS

1. World Cup Soccer. This was the unexpected pleasure of the early weeks of summer, and things seemed a bit emptier once it was gone. Getting up early to watch games, seeing my daughter interested in the first sporting events in her life while learning players and lingo and even discussing strategy with a coach, being part of the collective American experiences at the Tremont Tavern, packing into a sports bar in Charleston for America's final game, crying, nay, weeping over Germany's elimination, cheering on the filthy Dutch at the end--I was very happy to be a part of it. And I can't wait for the next one.

2. My daughter's 21st birthday. Both seeing her joy at reaching this milestone and getting to put on a celebration for her made for one of the summer's better nights. As someone who likes to think that he can express love through cooking, this night was an attempt to do just that, and having friends there to share in that experience and to assist me made it memorable. And, of course, cooking paella outdoors on a grill is a primal experience not to be missed.

3. Charleston and New Orleans. The two are seen as somehow bookends of Southern culture, almost competitors. And while both may still have echoes of the Old South, in many ways they couldn't be more different. Charleston is charming and coherent; New Orleans is casual and slack and contains so many conflicting layers of history that almost every block is a different New Orleans. I had not been to Charleston before. I will be back. But, New Orleans has my heart. And taking my younger daughter and a group of her friends down there and showing it to them helped me to see it once again with fresh eyes.

4. The Play. I spent the better part of two weeks in Florida writing a play, or part of one. It's not one that you're likely to read, because it would probably get me fired, people being touchy the way they are. I sent a first draft to a friend who critiqued it pretty hard, and that knocked me off my game for awhile, but I plunged into Act II and revived myself with the challenge of trying to manage a conversation with six characters and trying to get them to sound different from one another, an endeavor both intellectually stimulating and physically exhausting.

I enjoy all of the seasons, but I will have a hard time letting this summer go, will undoubtedly do my best to extend it in whatever ways possible. I hope yours was memorable, too. Onward.

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