Saturday, June 09, 2007
Every year, around the end of May or beginning of June, I start showing signs of what has become self-diagnosed and labeled as Summer Fever. To suppress the symptoms, my doctor has suggested wearing flip-flops and using my dad’s Chevron card to put gas in my car. But when I brought it up, Dad just gave me a dirty look. It’s like he doesn’t even care about my health.
I don’t know how I’ve never outgrown the phenomenon that is The Beginning of Summer, but it’s just instinctive. It’s like I forget I’m a grown up, with a job, a mortgage, and a vocabulary that should not include words like “dude” or “freakin’.” I suddenly have the urge to get up around 10:00 a.m., catch up on some music videos, go to a friend’s house to swim, order pizza that my friend’s mom pays for, then head off to a dark, air conditioned movie theater to watch the most recently released summer blockbuster. Then my friend and I call a couple of girls to accompany us to In-N-Out Burger, and then go to another movie. But now, when I call Katie to go, she just says stuff like, “ Where are you? I have dinner on the table…We’re sitting here waiting for you. I’d love to go to the movies, but we have five kids and no babysitter.” Apparently Katie isn’t really concerned about my health either.
I have wonderfully fond memories of summers growing up in California. And I think one of the reasons that they are so wonderful and fond, is that I am fondly remembering specific days, and then wonderfully imagining that every day was like that. (This is one of the warning signs of Summer Fever.)
Still, I believe that in my youth I approached summers in the same manner I approach a watermelon. I make very calculated, preparatory plans on how to get the most out of it, and then I take my shirt off and rub it all over my body. And then I spit seeds at small children. Ah, summer.
The mood of summer, for me personally, is capriciousness or frivolity. Whimsicality. This was especially the case when you had Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm, Sea World, Universal Studios, and Raging Waters at your doorstep. These were tiny, magnificent worlds, 90 minutes from my home. A complete escape to another fantastic existence. A world where all the characters and employees there make you feel like the gates were opened today because we knew you were coming.
I remember as a child I wished I could live in an amusement park. I had picked out an apartment overlooking Main Street in Disneyland. (Yes, I know they’re not real. I found out during an embarrassing conversation with Disneyland management, when I tried to put some money down on a place last year. I don’t want to talk about it.) When I would need to get away from it all, I would leave Main Street and spend a weekend at my place in the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House (which is now Tarzan’s tree house. What’s up with that?) I would commute to work by taking the Storybook ride. (Because I believe a slow commute should take up a portion of your day, no matter where you live.) And I would enjoy a churro on my way home from work everyday.
It wasn’t only the amusement parks, though. The summer was just packed. We would make weekly jaunts to Zuma Beach, where a single day felt like an entire summer itself. We’d arrive at the beach, lay out the beach blankets and towels, and then get out the food as if we were going to have lunch first; only to be overcome by the exhilaration of that huge ocean, and go running headfirst into a wave. Then, an hour later, waterlogged and with clear sinuses from the salt water, we’d drag ourselves onto the sand and eat like it was the first meal we’d been given since floating to shore from a deserted island. We’d bury ourselves in the sand, throw a Frisbee around, dig for sand crabs, build sandcastles, and wish we never had to go home. Eventually we’d all climb into the van and promptly fall asleep on the drive home. Then, groggy and salty, I would climb out of the van, find my way to the shower, and wonder to myself how that much sand could still possibly be falling off of me – and from unspeakable places! Ah, summer.
We additionally made monthly waterskiing trips to Lake San Antonio, around the central coast area of California. We’d throw out sleeping bags on the shore and literally sleep a few feet from the water. And sleeping would generally be the only time we weren’t in the water. It was no strange thing to go on a skiing trip and never have your swimsuit completely dry. These trips were commonly three- or four-day trips. By day four we were three shades darker (either red or brown), our lips were so chapped it was like somebody took a blowtorch to them…and then a cheese grater, we’d consumed 438 ounces of soda and never left the lake once to use a bathroom, and our feet were so calloused, we could play hopscotch on hot coals. The drive home at the end of each trip carried the tradition of all of us telling ghost stories for hours on end. Some spooky (The Hillside Strangler, The Hook, etc.) and some with funny punch lines (“Bloody Bones & Dirty Diapers” and “I Got Ya Where I Want Ya, Now I’m Gonna Eat Ya.”)
There was also camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, pool parties, barbecues, staying up late, getting up late, the smell of sunscreen, the smell of popcorn at the movie theater, breaking curfew, playing hide-and-go-seek in cars. The list goes on. Summer just always seemed like the season for very little real responsibility. And around this time of year, I miss that.
And if my boss can’t understand my illness, and he continues to insist that I not take off my shirt to eat watermelon at my desk, I may just call in sick one day, take two matinees and call my doctor in the morning. Seriously, is there nobody that cares about my health?