Frontispiece. A word you just don’t hear anymore. I miss it.
Nothing ever makes summer last long enough here in the Northeast. It’s the one time of year when there’s just too much too do and not enough time to do it all in. All the concerts, shows, activities, attractions, and general frivolity are essentially packed into July and August, and on Labor Day we shut the whole fun factory down and crawl back into our shells for another 10 months. Luckily, some of my fun is actually better in the shoulder months — the depths of summer aren’t necessarily the best biking or canoeing weather, if you’re a sun-avoider like me — but the weather gets iffier and the likelihood of a weekend of rain much higher. So it’s always about this time that I feel a great big sigh for the end of summer (and personally, having had weeks off in the spring, I had less summer than usual, by a lot) and wish there were a lot more of it. Am I stupid to fight the lure of more temperate climes (where, in fairness, they spend much of the summer huddled around air conditioning, and precious little of the winter bombing down ski slopes)? Maybe better I should focus on setting myself for a future where my presence isn’t really required by anyone from, say, May to September. Or December to March, for that matter. ‘Cause if I weren’t wanted (financially or otherwise), I could sure spend a whole lot more time out doing those things that make it all worthwhile.
Sad news today — Phil Rizzuto, “The Scooter,” has died at 89. Yeah, he was a great shortstop who helped the Yankees to 8 World Series titles, but that all happened before I was born. For my generation, he was the voice of the Yankees radio broadcasts, the guy who could paint a picture of what was going on on the field hundreds of miles away and make it seem like it was right in front of you. (My daughter asked earlier, “Like the guys you wish would shut up when you’re trying to watch a game?” I had to explain that without those guys talking, on the radio, you couldn’t even know there was a game.) And if in his later years he was better remembered for not being entirely coherent in the late innings, leaving Bill White to paint the clearer picture, he was never anything less than entertaining and distinctive. An earlier era had Red Barber and the Dodgers, but we had Scooter and the Yanks. Any summer evening in Syracuse when I wasn’t out at a Chiefs game, chances were I was listening to Scooter call the Yankees game. I was never even that great a baseball fan, but I liked the rhythm of the announcing, the flow of the game, and that great, lost feeling of connectedness that listening to a live ballgame at night always brought.
As primitive as that would sound to my kids, I still get a little bit of that thrill on days when I read the commentary on the Tour de France or some other great race on Velonews. If you can’t watch it, and you can’t listen to it, I’ve gotta say that reading the liveblog can still capture some of that excitement.
But it’s nothing like hearing the voice of the Scooter coming through the tinny AM radio while you sit in your apartment of a summer evening, waiting for a breeze and that final out.
There’s nothing quite like a sweltering summer night in New York City, the town that makes its own gravy (Letterman’s, not mine, but don’t think I’m not jealous). The gravy was overflowing today, in fact — I was taking a late train for an afternoon meeting and ignored news of thoroughly flooded subways, knowing like I know the 2 train that surely things would be back to what passes for normal in the B’gapple by my late arrival. Well, here I am on the 8:20 pinkeye home and the MTA appears to have decided to give up, go home and try again tomorrow. Seriously. Entire stations are boarded up, and once I found one with a set of letters to my liking, there was a definite air of subterranean doubt as to whether any trains were actually moving. But eventually a C train came, and even if it were to take on the characteristics of an A or an E, I was reasonably sure of being delivered somewhere beneath Penn Station, a distinct advantage over taxis, to my way of thinking.
Ahh, hot New York, where the most beautiful women in the world are all out in their lovely summer dresses, all sweating just as much as I am, if a tad more elegantly.
No matter how far I go in life, no matter how much experience I gain, how expert I am in my field, no matter how much money I make, no matter what I accomplish or what titles I hold,
I will always spend some portion of my day fixing other people’s inability to properly line up tabs in a word processing document.
You can’t just put in spaces, people. It’s called a proportional font.
It’s the kind of thing that keeps my inner typesetter humble.
Is there anything sweeter than a summer night with your friends as a teenager? Dropped off the teenager at the movies (after two quick changes — one into considerably less than she had been wearing just moments before, one with a little bit more, allowing that her father might be right about how chilly a theater would be). Minutes later, it turns out the local gang isn’t exactly the fact-checking department of the New Yorker, meaning the 8:40 showing of The Simpsons Movie starts at 10. So what’s dad’s solution? After much cellphoning to various parents, I cart four fourteen-year-olds up the street to a Starbucks, because it seems like caffeine is in order. Another parent agrees to ferry them back to the theater later.
That’s the non-urban life. Can’t just walk anywhere, especially at night. And the friends live all over town. When I was that age, we’d have had license to wander the village aimlessly until an appointed hour (which would have been well before 10). Of course, at that time the local theater was showing “art” films, which sometimes meant ’70s porn and sometimes meant art films, but in any case it was rarely showing much that 14-year-olds could see. And if we’d had a plan fall apart and were obligated to let the parents know about Plan B, we’d have needed dimes for everyone (for the payphones), and luck in getting hold of anyone, ’cause no cellphones and no answering machines, baby. We were way out there on the edge, man.