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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer in the City

It's no secret: I'm a big fan of summer.  All my favorite things are summer things.  All my favorite activities are summer activities.  And not just any summer, either.  City summer, the kind I haven't been a part of in half a decade.  Once the weather gets warm, everything about life I find worthwhile starts to happen.

Back home, summer meant kids.  After June 22, schools were out and all the kids in the city ran rampant around town.  To some that means playing in creeks and woods and what have you.  To me, it was no curfew, football in the streets (I had a mean arm once) until you couldn't see the ball.  It was basketball from noon 'til dusk, or later if the court was near a streetlamp.  It meant movie hopping from one summer flick to another, sneaking around ushers and cameras to turn a matinee ticket into an all-day film festival.

It meant the Mister Softer Ice Cream trucks, whose distinct jingle could be heard from blocks away like an approaching T-Rex.  On the hottest of those summer days, that jingle meant relief was coming and sprinkles were free.  It meant the Spanish dude selling Icees on the corner of Church and Flatbush Avenues, and how with a little hustle and the guts to stand the heat, you could turn a 20-pound block of ice and some syrups into shaved ice treats, happy kids, and money.

It meant baseball, and who didn't love baseball? It was the middle of the season and the pennant races were either really starting to get interesting, or really getting out of hand (I'm a Yankee fan, guess which end I usually saw?), and we waited in anticipation of the Home Run Derby.  It meant work for some, play for others.

As adolescence set in, summer meant exposed midriffs and cut-off shorts.  It meant teased hair and bikinis.  It meant sundresses.  It meant sweat making every inch of fabric, no matter how thin, stick strategically to bronzed skin.  It meant girls in their late teens and early 20's knowing full well they had me and my hormones in the palms of their hands.  As an adult summer meant late nights chasing women and thrills, fueled by drink and dance.  It meant that even if the temperature cooled slightly, the streets were just as hot as they were in the daytime.  It meant watching the transformation as women traded in their business wear for outfits that were less confining to their bodies and attitudes.

It meant thunderstorms.  It meant that just before one would hit, the air would be heavy with a certain energy, thick with humidity and heavy with expectation.  When it was over, the air was cool and light and if you were outside,  you were happily drenched and enjoyed a powerful lightshow full of sound and fury.

It meant Coney Island and the rides that, even though you had been on them a million times, you still once in a while ponied up that $5 for one more go at the Cyclone or the Zipper. 

It meant not having a backyard pool, but having a fire hydrant and a hollowed out tin can.  It meant skelly in the streets, and if you're from Brooklyn or the Bronx and I have to explain that to you, you need to put the video games down, son, and get out more.  (For my Canadian friends, think curling, only with bottlecaps on asphalt.)

Summertime was eight short weeks of wide open possibility, that always seemed to last forever until it was almost over.  And even though as a working man I never had summers off, there's still a conditioned mind-shift that you anticipate in late May, starts in earnest late June, winds down around Labor Day and ends around the first day of school.

I still love Summer.  Let the games begin.

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