At Large : Summer mode
Everyone wants to know, how's your summer going? What are the kids up to? Having any fun? How's business? Been to the beach? Done any sailing? Hasn't the weather been funny? dry? wet? hot? crowded? Can you believe the traffic? Can you believe how rude people are? Had many houseguests? Catching anything?
This column, in one forum or another, none notably different from the other, has appeared on one summer Thursday or another for 10 years. In summer mode, the questions that occur to us are annually the same. So are the answers. Let's get the answers out of the way.
Summer's okay, but it's not summer the way it use to be, when we were, say, 17. That was summer. No idea, we don't communicate that well. Sometimes, but fun can be exhausting. Business is good, surprisingly. Never go to the beach, what with the sharks and the sand. No, the boy always has the boat. I'm not laughing about the weather, I'm watering the garden. The traffic is, well, July, isn't it? They're rude, for sure, but I mean Islanders. How come Islanders who are polite in February are rude in July? As for the rude summer visitors, I have no idea if they're rude in their February lives. Maybe they're angels in the winter quarters. I myself am rude on occasion, and I enjoy it. I never know if we have guests or not. I don't fish, I shop at Net Result.
The truth is, I like summer weather, summer traffic, the summer license to be rude, the crowds and the houseguests. It's summer, after all.
But, we ought to have some new topics. For instance, suppose one comes across Daphne in the fresh fruits and vegetables. You may know her. Daphne is a mother of two, but they're grown up, she wears a huge straw sombrero, and she has devoted herself to her vegetable garden. But, she has insect problems, which is why she is in the Stop and Shop. She has an eggplant tattooed on her left upper arm. She wears yellow Crocs. Whenever I meet her, I'm happy, because the only things we talk about are organic approaches to insect control. Plus, this summer, she's sick about what's been going on with tomatoes. As we all are.
My old friend Tommy, the shingler, can be found most afternoons at the Lampost. He doesn't drink, but he has an unbridled enthusiasm for our female summer visitors, and this is where many of them hang out. "I just got off a steep roof, and I'm a little unsteady on my feet," Tommy tells me, "but with any luck a seasonal visitor will come to my rescue." Tommy loves summer.
I told him proudly that I'm going to install a roundabout in my kitchen and charge a $1 surcharge to each kid who goes around it. That will help finance the park and ride lot I'm opening in the field to the north of the house. It's going to be free parking for anyone who leaves a car there, but they'll have to walk to the ferry, and I'll ticket their cars while they're gone. Tommy says, "Don't give me that anti-summer crowd stuff. These are my people."
Talia works for a caterer, so you never run into her till afternoon. She spends an hour or so on the beach, after getting up late and before beginning the setup for the evening's summer resident dinner party. She knows all the celebs and has dated a few. She remembers my Burma Shave signs. I've installed them each year along the Beach Road between the remains of the drawbridge and Five Corners. The point is to distract motorists as they wait in traffic. Otherwise the frustration builds, and when they get to Five Corners they attack the congestion with the pugnacious abandon of a car service driver in Manhattan.
Easy. Does. It. Don't Let. Five Corners. Be the End. Of Your World. Burma Shave.
Talia, gathering up her beach things as she got ready to go to work, said, "Hey, those signs of yours, pretty neat. I've always meant to ask, what's that Burma Shave bit?"
My family's a little split up this summer, so I have more time than usual to chat with friends I meet. We sent one of the dogs, Teddy the pug, off-Island to a summer weight-loss camp in the Adirondacks, a rustic place with a lot of outdoor activities. He starts every morning off with a dip in the males' pool, a sort of a rock-lined grotto filled by diverting part of a quick flowing mountain stream. It's about 45 degrees year-round. He and the other campers jump in, seize up, and the counselors retrieve their rigid little bodies just before they expire. The shivering takes off pounds.
In his letters, Teddy seems happy enough, although he's begun to dot his "i's" with little illustrations of dog bones or lamb chops. I never thought of him as an artist. Of course, we miss him, but we know he'll be happier if he could lose seven or eight pounds.
We always reply cheerily, "Glad you're happy. See you in September."