Children of Summer


rainy window.jpg

It’s rained a lot this year.

We’ve had a deluge of water plummet from the sky.

I’ve only lived here for two years but this much precipitation seems odd for Southern California.

We’re starting to find the cracks in our buildings. Things grow in the dark places under benches and rocks, in the nooks and crannies we didn’t even know our homes had until we detected a strange odor and opened a cabinet to find it full of green.

I had a teacher. Ms. Something-or-other. I remember she was a Ms. and not a Mrs. more than I remember her name because she rarely said her name but she told us all the time about her failed marriage.

We we’re in sixth grade. We just wanted to lay on the floor and watch the overhead fan spin. If you watched carefully you could trace the individual blades with your eyes and it would look sort of like it wasn’t moving at all.

Ms. Something-or-other told me that a lot was a bad word because it didn’t mean anything. I told her it did. She asked me what it meant. I just said more than some.

She didn’t like that.

Better, she opined, to use words like many or several. These words, she told us, had meaning. They had a more concrete value than the lackadaisical a lot.

We didn’t care, though. We just wanted to go catch coquina shells on the beach. They would all sink back under the watery sand when the tide went it. If pressed, I would say there were a lot of them.

Ms. Something-or-other probably wouldn’t have liked that.

But we were children of summer.

South West Florida didn’t have seasons back then. It probably still doesn’t. It has summers. There is, starting from the top of the year, the pollen summer, followed by the wet summer, followed by the hot summer, followed by the good summer, the greatest of them all, dry and temperate, sometimes even cold.

The good summer was nice even though all of the old people came down and clogged-up out roads. Sometimes they would drive the wrong direction on I-75. That wasn’t much fun.

We didn’t care, though. Instead we were in the mall, eating pretzels and chasing the girls around.

I had never understood summer or spring. In music class we would wear romantic orchestras blasting out lovely melodies in honor of the rosy spring and verdant summer, but none of us ever got it.

“Why do they like summer so much?” I would ask Joe Quinn.

“It’s just a bunch of rain,” he would say, her nervous eyes narrowed in skepticism as a flute tweeted and twilled like a bird.

“You can’t even go outside,” I added over the oboes.

Maybe that’s what they liked. Orchestras spent most of their time inside. All they needed was an excuse.

I went to college in Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham is a place that has four season, but their all terrible except for fall. There is so much pollen in spring hat I could see it wafting across the quad in great yellow cloud, engulfing freshman fooling enough to try to enjoy the good weather. They would come out the other end on all fours, coughing and clawing at the ground, begging God to open up their air passages. Tears streaked their faces.

Summer had the heat of Los Angeles with the humidity of Florida and the bugs of the Amazon basin. You could only go out at night, and my, those nights were magical. We would prowl around the quad, smoking cigarillos and laughing off the buzz we picked up at the J Clyde.

Sometimes we wold kick things, things like lamp posts or tree trunks, not out of malice, but simple to test if they were really there and this all was’t part of a dream or movie.

Fall was the only tolerable time of year, but it lasted for about two weeks in mid-November.

Winter was cold enough to bite but warm enough to rain. It would be wet and 43. It felt like the heat-death of the universe.

I moved to Los Angeles and expected eternal summer. What I got was perpetual drought. Sometimes it was a cold drought. Sometimes it was a hot one. Most of the time it was a pleasant drought, like the countryside had gotten into a classy hospice.

But this year it rained.

If pressed, I would have to say a lot.

People don’t talk about the drought anymore.

They talk about the unrelenting rain and the perpetual cold. They talk about the holes in the roofs and the green in their cabinets and the brown water-stains on their ceilings and their wet bike seats and how there’s no reason to go outside if you’re going to get wet.

They talk about dreams of summer.

I do too.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to spring and summer.

For the first time in my life, I get why the musicians played.

Because I’m a child of summer, a boy from a land of heat and water, a creature of the everglades and the beach and the sand and the golf courses and the estuaries and the boats and the water skies and the tubes and the wave riders and the pools and the slides and the sprinklers that fired off droplets that would catch the late afternoon light and explode into sprinkles of magic golds that would tumble into the grass that was quickly turning into mud but you didn’t care so you kept jumping and jumping and someone would come out with the water balloons and the kids would screech and for a moment, just for a moment

time stopped.

It froze.

And you wanted to kick something.

Not out of malice,

no, not that,

but just to make sure

that this

was real,

and not a dream

or  just

a part

of some movie.

The Light of Polaris


Office Buildings at Night --- Image by © Richard Schultz/Corbis

I like to write in the dark. I get home after ten more often than not, and the first thing I do is grab a beer from my fridge and head upstairs. Nighttime is when I write my blog posts and other non-fiction stories. The night is magic, it’s full of possibilities, and ripe for reflection. Night time is when you’re vulnerable.

I find music appropriate for the mood of whatever I’m working on, and then I write about myself.

I have really shitty blinds in my apartment. Honestly, they’re terrible: long plastic strips that hang down all the way to the floor. They break and fall off if a spider breathes on them wrong. I always have the blinds shut in my room, but over the year that I’ve lived here, three or four strips have fallen, leaving great gashes in my privacy. It used to make me uncomfortable, but I’ve long since stopped caring. If someone wants to spy on me, so be it. I hope they’re prepared for boredom.

I live behind an office building. Every time I get home, there’s one light on in the building, directly across the alley from my room, on the same floor. It’s almost always the only light on.

The cleaning people travel throughout the building during the night, normally up until twelve or one AM. I’ve watched them, sitting on my ratty couch I bought from Salvation Army for twenty dollars, a glass of Jim Beam in hand, David Bowie on the stereo. They’re very efficient.

Sure, I have a TV. There’s actually two in the house, but when the mood strikes me, there’s nothing as good as watching other people. Maybe it’s the danger in it. This is wrong. You know it’s wrong. That’s what makes it so much fun. It’s like spying. It is spying. It’s Rear Window.

There’s a new apartment complex further down the street. It’s sleek and modern, and the top floor suites have huge, multistory windows that provide a wonderful portal through which to view the occupants. The huge windows don’t have any blinds. I’m sure the owners assumed that since there aren’t any apartments close, no one would be watching the people living there.

They thought wrong. I have binoculars.

The penthouses are occupied by a couple twenty somethings who either hit it big or have very rich parents. They throw lavish parties and have people over all the time.

I watch it all. You’re fights, the slow dances with your girl when it’s one AM and everyone left, the different girl your bring over the next night. The shame. It’s all a show to me. You’re my amusement.

I see it all.

It gets boring after a while, though. Too much like TV. It’s too simple. I can turn on Hulu and watch the real world without having to hold binoculars to my face.

The light in the office building, though. That’s a mystery.

It stays on until two or three in the morning, every morning. I can never see anyone in the room, no matter how hard I look. It’s the angle, I think. There’s probably more to the room that I just can’t see.

Surely there’s someone in there, but why? What are they doing?

I wonder.

A workaholic is a safe bet, sure. I can picture him now, slaving away at the keyboard, crunching numbers, making a list of who to call tomorrow. There are movie posters on the wall. I can see that from my room at least. Maybe he’s a movie producer. He could be staying up late reading scripts, getting ready to call writers and give them notes. Maybe he’s researching other productions, trying to pull some deals together. Maybe he needs to find a tank for a shoot tomorrow.

Whoever he is, he’s a workaholic. I get workaholics.

I’ve always assumed you become a workaholic when you have nothing else. It’s you and your job. You’re a workaholic because you’re scared to go home, your scared to sit by yourself in your mansion or apartment or car or whatever because no matter how late you stay up, how long you watch TV, how high you blast the music, or how much alcohol you drink, you can’t escape that moment at three AM when you’re staring at the ceiling and all you can think is what else is there?

This is it.

I’m going to die.

It’s in those existential moments that we find out who we are. Your soul screams why?

Whatever you’re answer is you.

Stay at work though, he says to himself. Burn the midnight oil. To you, it must be a distraction. Keep working, keeping thinking about deals and packages and actors and scripts. Think about location deals, and music rights, and sponsors.

Avoid it.

I understand. I get the guy across the alley. He and I are a lot alike.

To him, his single lighted window is a distraction. He burns the light to keep away the dark.

I wonder what he thinks about when he looks at me. When he looks across the alley and sees an almost pitch-black room. What demons assail him, then?

I wonder if he can hear the keys clacking away. I wonder what they sound like to him.

I hope to see him one day. I think he’ll be standing in his window, tie hanging loosely, a cup of coffee in hand. There will be circles under his eyes, and the wisps of hair that he combs over his ever increasing bald-spot while be sticking out at crazy angles. He’ll have a white shirt, khaki pants, and a gold watch

I’ll be in my IKEA computer chair, sipping on a PBR and listening to death metal music. I’ll still be dressed in all black, like I always am when I come home form Starbucks.

Our eyes will meet, and what then?

Will he shiver?

Will he blink?

Will he nod?

No.

I think he won’t do anything at all.

Just stare, and then go back to work like nothing ever happened.

To him, his light is his escape. To me, his light is a beacon. A warning. An egg timer, counting down.

A calling.

It’s the north star, Polaris, and it leads me in new and exciting directions. It pulls at me, and my soul is compelled to follow.

You’re days are numbered, it whispers as I traipse over mountains, and sail over wine dark seas, and if your life flashes before your eyes, how much of it do you want to be in an office?

Not much.

Not much.

So I click away, and I dream.

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