Friday Evening Videos: “Summer of ’69″

My Loyal Readers know it doesn’t take much to get me feeling nostalgic, but I’ve been especially prone to that particular mood lately for reasons I don’t have time to go into right now. So for this week’s video selection, I thought I’d pull out a song that, perhaps more than any other I know, evokes what it’s like to be me when the memories come calling.

I don’t have any particular anecdotes related to this one, or really much to say about it at all, other than I liked it when it first charted way back in 1985 — I thought the guitar riff was cool — and as I’ve gotten older, the lyrics have only resonated more and more with every passing year. The video is a bit on the silly side… but then Bryan Adams never seemed terribly comfortable with the video thing anyhow. I dig his leather vest, at least.

Ladies and gentlemen, from the excellent album Reckless (which didn’t have a single lame track on it and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year!), I give you “Summer of ’69″:

Have a great weekend, everyone…

spacer

So No One Told You Life Was Gonna Be This Way

friends_cast-season-1

This past Monday, September 22, was the 20th anniversary of a little sitcom you may have heard of called Friends. Can you believe that? Twenty years since the world was introduced to Chandler, Joey, Ross, Rachel, Monica and… whatever Lisa Kudrow’s character was called. I’m afraid I was never much of a fan of this show.

In fact, I recall being pretty hostile toward Friends for much of its run, mostly because everyone else was fawning about it all the time. I’m contrary that way; I tend to reject whatever seems to be the big flavor of the moment, whether it’s grunge music or In ‘n’ Out Burger or all the grim-n-gritty made-for-cable-TV dramas today, simply on basic principles. In the case of Friends, I remember getting my nose out of joint early on because I’d seen so many articles praising the show for capturing the personality and challenges of Generation X. At the time, I was very conscious of my identity as a member of that beleaguered demographic, and I simply couldn’t see it. I didn’t relate to the characters on the show, who as far as I could tell spent a lot of time talking about their struggles but didn’t really seem to have any. How could they, when they obviously had so much leisure time to burn hanging out in a coffee shop while living beyond their means in unrealistically spacious Manhattan apartments? Meanwhile, my real-life friend who lived in Manhattan at the time was crammed into a studio the size of walk-in closet, for which he paid more per month than I earned in two. In other words, Friends struck me as an offensive fantasy, and it angered me that the people who assess such things for a living (no doubt a better living than I had!) believed it was in any way representative of my experience as a Gen-Xer.

Yes, I was taking a mere sitcom far too seriously. What can I say, I was a very serious-minded young man, and very touchy about my own difficulties getting started in life. But time has a way of softening one’s perspective, or broadening it, or both, and when I’m channel-surfing late at night and stumble across a re-run of Friends, sometimes I will stop and watch. I still don’t think it’s especially funny, although I often find myself chuckling at Joey, who reminds me of another big cheerful lug I know. But it does remind me of a time in my life that, despite being hard to get through while I was actually living it, now seems a lot more innocent than it did then. Nostalgia is a curious thing, isn’t it?

The funny thing is, whether or not the show actually captured what Gen X was then, it wove itself into the fabric of what we are now. It’s one of those shows that define an era by dint of running so long in the background of our lives, and by being so popular that even people who don’t watch it come to know it, at least to one degree or another. And as a student of popular culture, I have to acknowledge and respect its significance in that regard. Also, the theme song, at least, really did get at the essence of what I was going through in my twenties, if only I hadn’t been so reactionary that I refused to see it.

Incidentally, our colleague Jaquandor, who is a tremendous fan of the show and quite good at analyzing why things do or do not work, posted a few thoughts the other day that are worth a read. It was his post, actually, that got me thinking about doing one of my own…

 

 

spacer

Scotland Votes!

scotland_piper+castle

We very nearly woke up in a different world, kids. You no doubt already know that the Scottish vote for independence came down on the side of remaining part of the United Kingdom, but it was pretty close, only 55% to 45%, and at certain times during the evening, it looked like it was going to be even tighter.

While the notion of a free and independent Scotland has some romantic appeal for me, I’m not unhappy about the way this turned out. I’ll confess that I’m not terribly well-informed on the independence movement, but much of the rhetoric I personally saw in the days leading up to this referendum, both pro and con, struck me as more emotional than rational arguments, and I found that troubling. Secession isn’t something to be taken lightly, and I’m the sort who always wonders what the unintentional consequences of something this major might be. Local actions have global consequences; if Scotland had broken away from its centuries-old union, would that have established a precedent for other separatist movements throughout Europe? Who would’ve been next? Catalonia, maybe? Northern Italy? And what of the secessionist feelings here in the U.S.? If it’s all right for Scotland to break away, then why not the former Confederate states? Or the Republic of Texas? How about the so-called “Mormon corridor” that roughly corresponds to Brigham Young’s original vision of a massive state called Deseret? Granted, I have occasionally grumbled after a particularly head-smacking political folly that breaks along regional lines that we might have been better off if Lincoln had just let the South go… but would we really? Does anyone actually believe we’re not stronger together than we would be as a loose aggregate of many small nations?

I suppose this gets into my basic political inclinations — I don’t believe that smaller government is always better, and I am greatly troubled by the resurgence in recent years of tribalism, regionalism, and nationalism right at a point in human history where we need to be coming together to confront some really big issues — as well as my tendency to resist change in general. I may be a social liberal, but I’m very conservative in that regard. Guess I wouldn’t make much of a revolutionary; if I’d been around 200 years ago, I probably would’ve been a Tory, just because I’m uncomfortable with shaking up the status quo too much.

And there’s something else to consider about the Scotland situation… what if it had been a “yes” vote with a margin that close? Would secession have been moral and ethical without more of an overwhelming majority in favor? What would happen to the half of the population who didn’t want to go it alone? Would they have felt compelled to leave their homeland? And how unfair would that have been?

For that matter, what happens now? Has this issue opened — or at least exposed — a rift in the Scottish population? Will it lead to some kind of partisan dysfunction like the clusterfarg here in the U.S.?

I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here, the way I always do. Running scenarios in my mind. In the end, I honesty don’t have terribly strong feelings on the matter one way or the other. I’ve long wanted to visit Scotland and I feel a certain affinity for the place (largely generated through movies I have enjoyed), but when it comes right down to it, I’m not Scottish and I don’t have Scottish ancestry, so I can’t make any claims of having a dog in this race. But it is something to talk about, I suppose…

spacer

Quick Takes: Emulsion

Sam-Heughan-in-Emulsion

How I came to see this odd little film will take a bit of explaining, so if you’ll bear with me…

My lovely Anne’s all-time favorite books are Diana Gabaldon‘s Outlander series, a sequence of eight (and counting!) doorstop-sized tomes and various shorter ancillary works that combine time travel, historical adventure, and bodice-ripping (or perhaps I should say “kilt lifting”) romance against the backdrop of Scotland’s Jacobite Revolution and its aftermath. The first book in the series has now been adapted into a television series for the Starz cable network; it debuted about a month ago and stars a young chap named Sam Heughan as hunky highlander Jamie Fraser.

Anne and I have only seen the first episode of this Outlander series, because we don’t have cable and Starz has elected to keep the series off the legitimate streaming services, for some reason. (I’m sure we could find it somewhere out there in the InterTubes, but as you all know, I’m an analog kind of guy, which means I’m not very skilled at tracking down such things.) But this hasn’t prevented Anne from getting involved with a local Outlander fan group on Facebook. Recently, a member of that group proposed trying to arrange a screening of a film Heughan made a couple years ago, a British indie project called Emulsion, for Salt Lake-area fans. It turns out there’s an online service that will set up one-time screenings of such obscurities if you can pre-sell enough tickets to make it worthwhile. Who knew, right? Anyhow, getting Emulsion here required several people to buy more seats than they in fact had bodies to fill, but in the end, the effort succeeded. Tuesday night, I was one of only four or five men in an auditorium otherwise populated by women, watching a movie I otherwise probably never would’ve heard of, let alone bothered to see. (Hey, Anne has supported me in my fannish interests so often over the past 20 years, the least I can do is return the favor once in a while!)

Written and directed by Suki Singh, Emulsion is basically a modern-day film noir, in which Heughan plays a young man whose wife disappeared from their car in a parking lot — or car park, as they say on the other side of the pond — while he was making a phone call. A year later, we find him still obsessively trying to figure out what happened to her… when he’s not just plain obsessing over her. The movie is visually striking, even beautiful in its way — that’s no surprise considering Singh’s background in commercials and music videos — but it’s also pretty damn baffling and deeply unsettling in a way that’s hard to articulate.

Of course, noir films almost always hinge on the idea that things are not what they appear, and this often makes them confusing to watch. For example, I defy anybody to explain The Big Sleep to me in a way that makes sense, and yet it is widely considered a film classic (by me too, for the record). And unlike The Big Sleep, Emulsion actually does provide answers at the end, and they actually do make (some) sense of what we’ve just seen. But the real question when you’re watching a film like this is not so much whether the conclusion makes sense but whether it satisfies. Was it worth taking this journey that left you scratching your head at every stop? The Big Sleep makes the journey worthwhile by being so damn stylish and entertaining along the way that the muddled story ultimately isn’t all that important. Emulsion, though… I’m just not sure the payoff is worth the 89 preceding minutes of “WTF?” As I quipped to our friends when the house lights came up, it was like watching a feature-length ad for Calvin Klein Eternity.

But I will give credit where it’s due: Sam Heughan wears an old-fashioned three-piece suit and hat well. He’s a fine-looking man.

spacer

How to Get My Readers Back

I’ll be honest, I’ve fretted quite a bit in the months since getting this blog back online about whether or not anybody was still reading the thing. It’s a bit of a ghost town around here compared to the way it used to be, recent entries notwithstanding. So when I saw this cartoon somewhere the other day… well, it resonated:

nobody-reads-my-blog

If only I’d known it was so easy to generate feedback!

spacer

Breakaway Plus 15

One of the weirder things about being an aging nerd is seeing certain dates that have great fictional significance pass without anything happening here in the real world. For instance, who among us kids from the 1970s did not feel a twinge when 1987 came and went without seeing the launch of Ranger 3, the “last of America’s deep-space probes?” Surely I’m not the only fanboy out there who actually felt a little nervous on the morning of August 29, 1997, known to lovers of a certain film franchise as Judgment Day? And I can’t wait until next year arrives, and everyone on Facebook starts grumbling about how the real 2015 looks nothing like Back to the Future Part II (they’ve already been doing that, actually, due a couple of memes that falsely identify this year as the one Marty McFly visits; apparently the meme-makers didn’t pay attention when they were watching the film, or their math skills suck, i.e., 30 years from 1985 does not equal 2014).

But there’s one date in particular that was drilled into my head at a very early age… September 13, 1999, the day the Moon was supposedly blasted out of orbit by an immense nuclear explosion and sent hurtling into deep space, carrying with it the hapless inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, who survived the event they called “Breakaway” only to face the grim prospect of never returning home…

This, of course, is the premise for Space: 1999, a short-lived British-made television series from the early ’70s. I never missed it as a young boy, or at least I tried not to. It aired in this area on Sunday afternoons, when my parents and I were usually at my grandma’s place with the rest of the extended family, and my uncles didn’t appreciate missing an hour of their precious football games so Reg and Alice’s weird son could watch his dippy space show.

The series was — and still is — roundly criticized for scientific inaccuracy and a generally far-fetched premise, and even a fan can’t really defend it against those charges. Still… it made a huge impression upon me. The visual effects were impeccably done, better than anything else on television at the time, and generally still hold up today, and the production design of the show was unique and nicely extrapolated from then-current trends and technology. Also, the show’s moody, almost Gothic tone was quite haunting, especially to an imaginative young boy with certain sensibilities that he would never quite outgrow.

And that’s why, every September 13, I find myself looking up to the Moon and wondering what it would be like if it really did vanish from our skies, and what it would be like for those poor astronauts fifteen years on after such a disaster. I hope they’re getting by…

Incidentally, if you’ve never seen the show and would like to try it out, I found the complete pilot episode online here. Before you mock the white bell-bottomed pantsuits, remember when it was made, and that to people in the ’70s, the future was supposed to look a lot groovier than it’s turned out to be. And if you’re not up for a complete episode, here is a sampler:

spacer

Friday Evening Videos: “I Can’t Hold Back”

Where are we going tonight, Mr. Peabody?

Three decades into the past, Sherman, to the year 1984… my sophomore year of high school. There, that’s me, now… the kid by the Coke machine who’s trying to look far more self-assured than he ever actually felt. At least the baby fat is finally starting to come off, thank God, so I no longer look like such a marshmallow.

That’s what she called me once, on the bus coming home from middle school, an eon or so earlier… her “little marshmallow.” In my naivete, I had thought it was cute back then, a term of endearment, but more and more in the autumn of 1984, I’m realizing that it wasn’t meant as benignly as I’d taken it. Marshmallow… soft and white. Yeah, that was me. Or at least it had been. But now things are changing. I am changing. And one of these days, soon, I’m going to figure out how to make her notice me. How to make her like me. I mean like-like me, not just, you know…

Yeah. Good luck with that, kid.

I had just turned fifteen in the fall of 1984, the beginning of my sophomore year, and if I wasn’t the youngest person in my class, I was definitely near the low end of the spectrum. And I had a terrible crush on an older woman. She was a junior, a girl from the neighborhood that I’d known since the seventh grade. But despite our history and our proximity, we may as well have been living on different planets. She had her driver’s license and a car. She went on dates. She had boyfriends. And I was just some lame pudgy kid she’d once teased on the school bus on the way home. But I had my hopes. After all, I’d seen all those movies. I knew how this was all supposed to go: My efforts to impress her would seem to go nowhere, but in the end I would finally win her over after some other guy had treated her like shit, and we’d have this great uplifting moment when she asks me to forgive her and I’d tell her there’s nothing to forgive, and we’d kiss and fade to black… (Pretty in Pink hadn’t come out yet to contradict my romantic fantasies; to this day, I still think Molly Ringwald totally picked the wrong guy. Infuriating damn movie.)

Anyhow, not only could I imagine that triumphant final scene in all its cinematic detail, I even had the perfect song in mind to play over the closing credits (so to speak): “I Can’t Hold Back” by Survivor.

Originally formed in 1978, the band Survivor finally scored a tremendous breakthrough hit in 1982 with “Eye of the Tiger,” the theme song from the film Rocky III (although the version we’re all familiar with from constant radio play — still! — is actually somewhat different from the one used in the movie). The following year, however, the band’s lead singer Dave Bickler was forced to leave the group because of health issues.  He was replaced with a gentleman named Jimi Jamison, who would deliver three more top-ten hits for Survivor throughout the rest of the decade.

“I Can’t Hold Back” wasn’t one of them — it peaked at only number 13 on the Billboard Top 100 — but it remains my favorite Survivor song, in no small part because of Jamison’s performance. His voice is remarkable in the world of rock vocalists for the way it so smoothly conveys such a range of emotion — longing, uncertainty, passion, and in the end, confidence and joy — in short, everything I was feeling from moment to moment during my sophomore year of high school. In addition, the song’s lyrics feature some surprisingly poetic turns of phrase, and even though the synths give it a far more poppy sound than the bombastic “Eye of the Tiger,” it’s still unquestionably a rock song. (The reprise of the line “Turn the pages of desire” followed by the guitar snarl and drum punctuation at about 2:41 — the moment in the video when Jimi starts making out with the starlet on the train — never fails to make me want to pump my fist in the air.)

I had the song on 45 rpm record, and I recall playing it over and over in my room late at night all through my sophomore year of high school, as I gazed out my window at the night sky and longed and dreamed. I still love this song, even 30 years later. So naturally it was the first thing that came to mind when I heard a couple weeks ago that Jimi Jamison had died of a heart attack at the age of 63. In recent years, he’d been performing off and on with Survivor as well as pursuing solo projects, and there had been some talk of the band touring with both Jamison and Dave Bickler alternating lead on their respective hits. There was even some rumbling about a new album. I regret that those things won’t happen now, and that I never got to hear him sing live.

As for that girl that I had such a case on, the junior who’d once called me her marshmallow… I didn’t even get as far with her as Ducky got with Andie. I did find the courage to ask her for a slow dance at one overcrowded, sweaty, midwinter stomp, but that was the extent of it. I eventually got the message and stopped embarrassing myself… and her as well, probably. I’ve bumped into her a couple times in the years since. And I don’t intend to sound unkind, because I know that it’s me that’s changed and not her so much… but I no longer see what the big damn attraction was in the first place…

spacer

Aren’t You a Little Short for a Superhero?

Let’s lighten the mood for a moment, shall we? Here’s something our blogging colleague Jaquandor posted the other day that may prove amusing and/or informative:

marvel-superheroes-height-chart

I am somewhat chagrined to learn I am the same height as Black Widow, which is way down on the low end of the heroic spectrum. I’m a good head shorter than all the really cool guys, certainly. I’d find myself looking eye-to-collarbone with Peter Quill and Steve Rogers, and eye-to-nipple with everybody’s favorite hunk of manly beefcake, Thor. Which I guess would consign me to sidekick status, or at least stick me with the second-tier heroes, the ones who never get their own solo books or movies. (Not counting Wolverine, of course.)

I’ve been looking up at my friends my whole damn life, so I guess this is nothing new. And being at eye level with the Widow — played so deliciously in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by one of the sexiest actresses currently working, the lovely Scarlett Johansson — might have certain advantages. It would make slow-dancing with her easier than with Mystique or Storm, for example. And in any event, I’m still taller than that pipsqueak Logan!

spacer

Doing Silly Things for Charity

If you’re at all active on social media, you’ve no doubt encountered the Ice Bucket Challenge at some point during the past month. This viral stunt phenomenon in which people videotape themselves pouring buckets of icewater over their heads and then call out their friends to do the same was intended to bring attention — and more importantly, donations for research — to a dread ailment called ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. And it seems to have worked; here in the U.S., the ALS Association reports that as of September 8, it has received over $111 million in donations specifically attributed to the Challenge. That would seem to be an unalloyed social good, wouldn’t it? And yet, as with all things in our prickly, contentious 21st-century America, the Challenge has not been free of controversy. A number of critics have attacked the IBC as everything from lazy “slacktivism” to a waste of water in drought-stricken California. An article in Slate appears to have been especially provocative, prompting a number of bloggers in my online circle to fire back testy responses. The ALS Association was later forced to issue a statement denying accusations of fraud, and one of the religious nuts at WorldNetDaily has reportedly even denounced the Challenge as “satanic.”

Personally, I’ve viewed the whole thing with a somewhat sour perspective, if not as outright cynical as some. I have a history with ALS, you see, and I freely admit that I have no sense of humor when it comes to anything associated with this shit. Some of my friends — notably my blogging colleague Jaquandor – feel that charitable causes need to have some kind of “fun factor” to get people interested, that too solemn an approach tends to put them off. It’s possible that he’s right. Maybe even likely. Hell, I’m the first one to change the channel when those animal-cruelty PSAs with the Sarah McLachlan soundtrack come on. But in the case of this cause, which cuts very close to the bone for me personally, I tend to resent the introduction of frivolity. I’ve cringed at many of the videos I’ve seen because they’ve had a little too much frat-boy attitude, a little too much of the “Woohoo! All right, Bro!” tone. I have found myself wondering how many of the people who’ve dumped water on themselves to prove to their friends what good sports they are have followed through and actually donated to the cause. Truthfully? I’ll concede that a lot of them probably, if not most of them, have made their donations. I know I often tend to suspect the worst of people. But I can’t help it, considering how closely related this thing seems to be to dumb competitive horseshit like that cinnamon challenge that went around a few years ago.

What’s that? You don’t remember that one? Well, that’s something else that troubles me about this IBC thing: These viral sensations are just another kind of fad, aren’t they? Novelties that come out of nowhere, soak up lots of attention for a brief time, and then flame out and disappear without a trace. Sure, the ALS Association has been making a ton of money right now, but what about a month from now when a new shiny bauble has come along to distract everybody? Will anybody give any mind to ALS or think to make another donation six months from now? Wouldn’t it be better to do something to increase the steady annual flow of money to ALS research, even if only incrementally, then to generate this one-time Bell curve of donations? I don’t know… maybe I’m missing the point. Maybe every dollar collected is for the best, regardless of whether future donations drop back to regular levels. Maybe this subject is just too touchy for me to think rationally about it.

In any event, given my less-than-enthusiastic embrace of the IBC, you can imagine I wasn’t overly happy when a friend of mine tagged me to do it. I debated for a while over whether or not to just ignore his challenge. But after another friend offered to increase his donation if I went through with it, I decided to go ahead… and to try and make a point while doing so. I don’t know if my speech made any difference, if I managed to get through to anyone who mistakenly believes this whole thing to be nothing more than a childish game, or even if such people exist or if I’m just being a misanthrope. But I did it, and I did it my way, as the song says. Here’s the video:

The Ice Bucket Challenge seems to be yesterday’s news already, just as I knew it would become — I did this two weeks ago, and I haven’t heard much about it at all in several days — but maybe by reposting my video here and now, I can reach somebody who hasn’t already seen it and encourage them to write a check. I’d really like to see a cure for this shit in my lifetime, so no other 16-year-old boys have to learn compassion the way I did… and no one else has to die the miserable, undignified way my uncle did.

spacer

Passages

I saw my first wild moose this afternoon.

What a shame she was roadkill.

Anne and I were riding in my Mustang with the top down, transiting north over Trappers Loop Road from Weber Canyon to the Ogden Valley. It’s a lovely scenic drive that ends in one of our favorite destinations for an afternoon road trip, a little farm town called Huntsville. We’d just passed a field full of cattle, so at first glance, I thought the massive black heap laying in the dirt off the side of the two-lane highway was a cow that’d gotten through the fence and wandered into harm’s way. But as we got nearer and the true size of the carcass became more evident, I realized it was no cow. And then I saw the head and the unmistakable Bullwinkle nose. I felt a twinge of sorrow for the poor beast, even as I noted that anything smaller than an eighteen-wheeler must’ve been totaled by the collision.

And then we were past it, our noses wrinkling at the stink of such a huge quantity of meat left out on a warm day. The wind currents swirling through the open car quickly cleared away the odor and replaced it with more pleasant scents, like alfalfa and sunshine and even exhaust from the truck in front of us, but the sight lingered in my mind for a long time after.

Not far past the moose, we crested the top of a hill and began dropping toward Huntsville along a series of broad, gentle switchbacks. We gasped at the sight of Pineview Reservoir ahead of us, which had been brimming over the last time we’d been this way, but was now depleted and outlined with steep, rocky beaches. Sandbars were visible beneath the shallow water, but that hadn’t frightened away the holiday weekend mobs of speedboats and jet-skis. They swarmed over the shrunken lake, seemingly too thick for safety.

At the intersection with the main road, we turned east toward Huntsville, then back north, then east again. We drove down a tranquil two-lane road with no sidewalks, where log-cabin-style houses alternated with cultivated fields, following a familiar path leading into a secluded corner of this high mountain valley. We passed beneath an archway made of welded pipe, then down a narrow lane shaded by colonnades of ancient oak trees, finally arriving at at the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity. I’ve written before about this Trappist monastery whose monks have been peacefully working the land here since 1947, living and working in war-surplus Quonset huts. In that earlier post, I lamented the end of an era because the monastery was no longer selling the honey that had drawn Anne and me to this place every summer for years. The monk who tended the bees and made the honey had grown too old to do the job, and there were no young initiates coming in to take his place.

Anne and I knew then that the days were numbered for the abbey. That was two years ago. Now those days are even fewer. A news article published Friday informed us that the abbey’s bookshop, where we’d bought the honey and other foodstuffs in bygone days, is closing for good. There are only 10 monks left, down from 18 when I last blogged about the place, and there is talk of the abbey itself closing soon as well. So I suppose we made the drive this Labor Day for old times’ sake, to bid farewell to one of Utah’s unique treasures, a place that we have enjoyed so much over the years.

We weren’t the only ones. The news story had brought out a lot of other tourists as well, mostly couples older than ourselves who wandered the grounds taking photos with the mournful air of people who know they won’t pass this way again. Anne and I took our turn doing the same. We stepped into the bookshop and winced at the sight of so many empty shelves — everything at 50% off, close-out prices! We bought a CD of Gregorian chanting for Anne, and I finally picked up a St. Christopher’s medal, something I’ve toyed with doing many times over the years. I’m not Catholic, not even particularly religious, but I identify somewhat with Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. It seemed a fitting souvenir… even if I didn’t have the courage to ask one of the fathers to bless it.

After that, we went over to the chapel and soaked in the quiet for a moment. We saw the kindly old monk who’d often sold us the abbey’s famous honey, now grown thin and feeble with time. We took a look at the cemetery, at the 29 neat white crosses standing over men who devoted their lives to this place, to simple hard work, to the dream of building something bigger than themselves. I’m sure they would not have seen all that work as vain, but I’ll be honest, I can’t help but think it was. Their home will be gone soon, closed up and abandoned, the Quonset huts torn down, the fields left fallow. I suspect the whole area will be subdivided building lots within five years.

No, I’m not Catholic. But the thought of that serene place vanishing from the earth makes me profoundly sad.

Labor Day always makes me a little sad anyhow. It’s the traditional end of the summer season, of course, as well as a reminder that another birthday is just around the corner, and that’s something I’ve not welcomed in a long time. And my regret at the passing of this particular summer is especially keen because it seems like summer never really got off the ground this year. Oh, sure, my social calendar has been full — it always is, it seems. But somehow, the last three months have never really felt like summer, if that makes sense.

I’m not sure it does make sense, even to me. I don’t know what I expect “summer” to actually be like, aside from my obsolete childhood impressions of being carefree and unscheduled for months at a time. And we all know that’s not realistic for a responsible adult, certainly not one who actually has to work for a living. But like I wrote the other day, I hardly ever feel the absence of urgency anymore, at any time of the year, for any significant length of time. I always feel like there’s something that needs to be done, usually something other than whatever I would prefer to be spending my precious allotment of time on this earth doing. These annual mileposts we call holidays tend to remind me of how many things I’ve failed to accomplish in the preceding block of time, whether that’s a season or a year or a decade. For example, I had an idea back in April or thereabouts: I was going to re-read Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series during the summer months, blogging about each novel along the way and exploring how well the series actually conforms to my adolescent memories of it, how well the books have held up over the years, that sort of thing. My ambition was to give Pitt the same treatment Michael May has been giving Ian Fleming’s Bond series over on his AdventureBlog. Well… you can see how that turned out. I have been reading the books, but the blogging part… not so much.

There have been other things I’ve failed to write about, too… notably a series of three deaths that hit me very hard: an eccentric neighbor who was often, frankly, a pain in the ass, but whose loss has left a surprising hole in the texture of my days; my great-aunt Luann, the sister of my late grandma June, who I didn’t see very often but always liked and now regret not seeing more; and my beloved Hannibal-cat, one of the three kitty-boys who’ve shared my life for the past several years. Hannibal, in particular, was my little buddy, the one with the strongest, most unique personality, who followed me around the Bennion Compound like a dog and jabbered at me like a little kid telling me about his day, a fat little clown who seemed to know he amused me and liked to do it. Like that poor damn moose, Hannibal met his end in the road. I should’ve have written about him before now, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it, just as I wasn’t able to write about his brother Jack, who preceded him into the undiscovered country a couple years ago.

So many deaths, so many things changing and running out… the days pouring through my fingers like water through a flood gate. They’re running out, too, aren’t they? Another summer gone to who knows where. The season that I used to live for and now barely even notice in between commutes. I couldn’t tell you the last time I drove my beloved old ’63 Galaxie. Or whiled away an afternoon reading comic books… hell, books of any kind. Or hit the sweet spot while I’m writing something and felt the universe inside me open up and gush out onto the screen or the paper with virtually no effort. It seems to get harder and harder, not merely to find the time, but to access whatever it is that used to just… be there… and now seems to be locked in a trunk someplace very far away.

In retrospect, that moose was a harbinger of a very dark mood…

spacer