19 July, 2013

My Ode to Summer

What will you do with your summer? It's a big ol' world out there. 

Swimming, diving, camping, hiking, and don't forget sports. Perhaps it's time to work on that tennis game or try your hand at windsurfing. How about a few weeks at the lake? Snorkeling is good. Maybe you'll finally make that California trip. Branson, Las Vegas...you might even get around to that cruise vacation! Even in the old neighborhood there's plenty of community parks around!

When I was a kid ( seems like last month ) I would go to the playground on Prospect Avenue near my boyhood home... that would be in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. We had a softball team and a couple of patient college aged supervisors who taught macramé and boondoggle when they weren't breaking up some minor altercation! Anyone care for a pot holder?

On the weekends I'd  have a traveling lemonade stand in the bed of a little red wagon pulled by the younger brother. Hardly anyone would venture into my marginal neighborhood so I had to get the product out to them ( I'm actually still doing that ). In later years I had the summer job thing happening... I picked strawberries for ten cents a quart. ( I really hated that job. ) When I was old enough I had a small lawn mowing business and was actually able to buy my first guitar with the proceeds. Of course Dad had to haul me and the mower around which was not high on his happiness list.

Each year the family made it's annual pilgrimage to Roseland Amusement Park in nearby Canandaigua, NY. It was a kind of budgety Six Flags but we always had a ball. I could hardly wait till I was old enough to go on the adult rides. Dad had an old black and white Mercury with a 'merc-o-matic' transmission... the gear shift was mounted on the dashboard and the starter was on the floor. Curiously there were a number of cigarette lighter burns on the front seat... oops!

Occasionally we'd all head out to the 'cottage'. This was a small lake house built by one uncle on the 'high banks' of Seneca lake. A long rickety staircase led down a shear embankment to the shore. The water was nearly always freezing and the bottom was covered with sharp rocky shale... quite the perfect way to slice open your chubby pink toes! It was always exciting when we were permitted to drive my uncles' home made go-cart up and down the dirt access road. For some reason I always associate these days with the spice 'dill weed'. That aroma always rekindles the 'cottage day' experience.
Around mid-evening a street vendor would pass by selling ice cream treats. There was one street light near our house. The pavement was red brick, and the neighborhood was integrated. As often as possible we'd all try to stay out late to play 'kick the can' under that streetlight. Generally by 9 pm the sun would set. The folks would tire of that 'can sound' and call us all inside.

One night each year June bugs would hatch out ( kind of an over large ladybug ). We children, being cruel things, would do our best to swat at them with baseball bats. Once in a while we'd all go to nearby Genesee Street park and play 'Red rover, red rover, I dare you come over'! Chestnuts would fall from the trees at the end of summer and be collected just to see who could gather the most. 
I was a small town boy. In fact my graduation class had around 64 students. We would not have been so crowded except that our school district merged with another in the last semester thereby doubling the size of the senior class! Those summer nights meant so much to me and are one reason why I love South Florida. Now every night is a summer night! 

The heat, the beach, ( sometimes ) the strawberries... if only there was someone in this neighborhood who played 'kick the can'.

Make a memory this summer. You won't regret it!