And the livin’ is easy…
Most Many Some Some people my age will recognize that as 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 baseball
- 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.