Summertime Ain’t Easy No More

Summertime,
And the livin’ is easy

Most Many Some Some people my age will recognize that imageas the opening of an aria composed by George Gershwin for the opera Porgy and Bess. Some people may have trouble with the concept of an American opera, but the song went on to become a jazz standard and there’s no trouble understanding that jazz is as American as the proverbial apple pie or Chevrolet. Being a jazz standard means there is no single way to sing that song so it’s really hard to pick a favorite. I remember my mother listening to the Porgy and Bess soundtrack when I was a little kid. I like that version the best. But, of course I have no idea what version that was, other than it’s the one that’s been stuck in my head for over 50 years. In any case, I’ve drifted away from my topic.

I remember when we described summer using words like “lazy days” and “dog days” but these days, summer seems to be overly complicated and artificially short. I really don’t want to become that guy who writes “back when I was kid” posts, but seriously, back when I was a kid, in summer the livin was easy. We rode bikes. We drove on family vacations and we enjoyed some simple pleasures. I promise not to go down the kids-today-have-it-so-easy road, but those bikes had one speed and “coaster brakes,” the reliability of those cars was questionable and they had just started building the highway system that connects American cities today. As for simple pleasure, think Popsicles.

I starting writing this post on August 5th, almost a full month before an unusually early Labor Day, and many of the people that I know are talking about summer as if it’s over. It might be the weather. We had a brief cool snap last week with nighttime lows in the low 60’s. We also dodged the ugly week of 95° 90% humidity that normally haunts July in New England. Still, that doesn’t mean that summer is over – technically, summer has almost 50 days to go.

Summer has been traditionally defined in the US as the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Of course, that period has been crunched by school systems that routinely start before Labor Day and, due to an abundance of “snow days,” runs well into June.

I could go back down memory lane and talk about walking to school in snow that was at least ankle deep, a condition that would keep schools shut or call for an early dismissal today. I’ll stay in the here-and-now. In addition to frightened school administrators, I think that complex vacations, a near-obsessive need to schedule activities and the whole “if we aren’t doing something, we’re not doing nothing” culture has ruined summer.

People also might be thinking that summer is over because the Back-to-School ads are in full force. Hallmark released their Christmas ornament lineup for 2014 and Home Depot has snow blowers on display. Retail has moved into winter mode, but retail is always way ahead of the calendar.

It seems absurd to me that in a day of 24-hour order-to-fulfillment cycles (even without the use of drones) we still let our emotions be governed by brick and mortar marketing managers.

For the record, I define the seasons by the outerwear that’s involved with my daily commute. Spring and fall are jacket affairs. Winter is a variety of coats that change based on temperature and forecast precipitation, but none of which would be worn in any other season. Summer is clothes-on-my-back weather and the end of summer is that point when I have to start regularly wearing a jacket to work. We are a long way away from that.

Here are 10 more reasons that I know it’s still summer:

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates are still playing baseballimage
  • You can still buy fresh-picked corn
  • The package store is still stocking Mike’s Hard Lemonade
  • We’re still mowing the green stuff that surrounds our house
  • It’s still light out when I get home from work as well as when I leave for work
  • Nobody is playing football that counts yet
  • Home Depot isn’t selling leaf bags yet
  • We’re still eating vegetables from my wife’s garden
  • The boat dock is still in the CT River at Great River Park
  • The 4-H fair, The Four Town Fair and the Big E haven’t happened yet (which means I haven’t consumed a summer’s worth of sausage).

By the way, since I can’t find that soundtrack album, I’ve come to enjoy Norah Jones’ version of Summertime. Give a listen. Of course, if you’re not a fan of American Opera or Jazz, you can tune into Mungo Jerry’s alternate take on the whole summertime thing.

46 thoughts on “Summertime Ain’t Easy No More

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  1. Mungo Jerry and Porgy & Bess. I guess you have captured summer time completely.

    And the Pirates are playing games that count!

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  2. I like Norah Jones’ version of Summertime, but not as much as the original.
    It is indeed Summer still. My tomatoes aren’t even red yet!
    I preferred when we went after Labor Day and were done by Memorial day, too. It seems like administrators these days are scared of parents, and I think that accounts for so many education issues.

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    1. I was on a school committee once that was struggling with how to get the 180 days in by June 30 (State law) after a bad Dec & Jan. They were going to have to cancel either the February or April break and they couldn’t decide. they were afraid of the parents, the teachers, the staff – everyone. The original version is better. My daughter introduced me to Norah Jones. She has a beautiful voice.

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        1. Perish the thought. My only child just turned 30. I still am on one committee because they include parents, business people and “citizens” but it only meets twice a year. Longer days would seem like a better idea. How about 40 hr / week 48 weeks a year and give adult workers the summers off?

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            1. You have to join those committees. Actually, you only have to join one. After that they will draft onto all the others. On second thought, don’t join :)

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  3. Oh yeah -your “back in the day ” has nothing on me, you whippersnapper.

    So -Porgy ‘n Bess Yeah, Carnegie Hall in (circa) 1980 with my buddy Lisa from Boulder when we were so hungover from our ALL NIGHT at Plato’s Revenge “somewhere” in NYC – we made it to P&B, but promptly fell asleep and all I remember was how FABULOUS the art-deco bathrooms were at Carnegie Hall.

    But I digress. Wait … What was your post about ?!?

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    1. You do have one on me. I’ve been drunk in New York, but not in Carnegie Hall. That’s a funny story, better than mine, you didn’t miss anything., Except for the opera :)

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  4. Summer free Friday night concerts on the Boardwalk, Discount Retro Mon and Tues nights at the Boardwalk, lazy afternoons at the neighborhood pool, and the sun still shining after 8PM are a few things that tell me Summer is still on!

    There are several schools that have started school already. That’s just sad!

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  5. I thought I know quite a lot about United States, but you’re just breaking that mindset of mine and making me feel more and more ignorant. I am not upset about it. In fact, I am happy that you bring out more information about the US in a different way. I liked the way you described simple pleasures like popsicles. Truly, life was so simple and different then. No Xbox, smartphones and tablets. In school days, we used to bet and the loser would buy a popsicle for the winner. It was worth the challenge.

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    1. Just as you are opening my eyes to a different India than I ever imagined Sharukh. This is what I like most about this experience. Thanks for the support. BTW, I would still bet somebody for a Popsicle :)

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  6. It hasn’t been much of a summer here, Dan, but I refuse to acknowledge that summer is over, or almost over. Darn it! My Butterfly Bush is finally flowering and I captured some butterflies inclusive of a Monarch. My hummers are still here …. yep, it IS still summer! Love, Amy

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    1. We haven’t seen hardly any butterflies this summer but my wife’s Bee Balm is attracting a hoard of Bumblebees and they are truly fun to watch. Thanks for you comment Amy and keep summer alive as long as you can.

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      1. I’m just SO excited about seeing this Monarch and capturing Her because it is the first one in 2 years I have seen here at my Butterfly Bush. That post will be up and running soon. (smile) Love, Amy

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  7. Times have changed. I saw a quote to the effect that when we look around now nothing seems to change yet when we look back to the past things are so different. When did they change?

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  8. For me, summer is a mindset. Which is why in my youth I held an Ugliest Hawaiian Shirt BBQ party every Feb for 10 years – swept the snow off the deck, fired up the grill, and partied like it was 1981-91!

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  9. You caught so many things in this post that I have pondered from time to time. I find that as an older person I scratch and claw to hang on to summer as long as I can; even though I enjoy the other three seasons, there’s something special about summer.

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  10. Hi Dan,

    Such a fun and memory-launching read!

    I loved a grape Popsicle on a hot summer day … purple teeth and lips were the norm for me.

    Me, my brothers, and my sister, couldn’t wait for the pickles to be ready at the little store in our small town. The cucumbers came from the store-owners garden.

    The pickles were kept in what was to me “back then” a huge wooden barrel outside on the front step.

    We’d go into the store and each of us paid our nickle. Then one of my brothers would hoist me up so I could fish out the biggest pickle in the barrel.

    Yep, with dirty hands, we swished around the barrel of pickles until we claimed our prize.

    So many great summer memories!

    On my way to work every morning I drive by the road to the school where my daughter teaches.

    The day after school was out, at the end of June, a new message had been posted on the school’s sign, which is at the end of the road:

    “Have a happy and safe summer.”
    “Classes resume August 19.”

    Well, talk about summer being over before it begins. Geezo!

    I enjoyed this post a lot. I love that song from Porgy and Bess!

    ~Cathy~

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    1. Thanks Cathy.
      August 19th is way too early to start school. Great story about pickles. I think we were healthier with a little dirt from everyone’s hands in the pickle barrel.

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  11. Have always loved ‘Summertime’; I used to sing it (not very well!) as a lullaby to my children when they were babies. Also it’s definitely still summer – in my book, the season doesn’t end until I’ve had my birthday on 21st September.

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  12. “Hallmark released their Christmas ornament lineup for 2014 and Home Depot has snow blowers on display.”
    That was my first major cultural shock when I arrived in the USA. How fast everything went!
    Summer, unfortunately, stops as soon as kids go back to school. If you have kids in school! This year, for the first time, I will experience a longer summer since my youngest one is going to college later in the fall. I must say that I like it. Otherwise back to school would be in a few days!
    Fun post, as always, Dan.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. In what must seem like a typical American response, I just assumed that the marketing calendar was a worldwide thing. I wish it we could but the advertising back in step with the real seasons, but it seems futile to try.

      We usually were able to extend summer into September due to the large number of agricultural fairs in New England on and after Labor Day weekend. When our daughter was in school, we had quite the routine of fair-going. These days, with school and school related activities starting earlier and earlier, I don’t know how families manage the transition. It seems as if summer is destined to be reduced to July.

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      1. Fast and always faster is not always good, right?
        I like to live as close to the seasons as possible and to keep small traditions around them. Mostly the kind of outings we choose and the food we eat. I think it makes life more interesting. See you.

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