Friday, August 31, 2007

It’s Takes A Labor Day of Love to Fully Appreciate the Summer

Ask Mr. Long IslandBy Michael Watt

Is there a more melancholy holiday than the Labor Day Weekend?

Think about it. Nobody even tries to guilt us into not enjoying ourselves by reminding everybody that the day was originally created to give American laborers a much-needed day off. To many of us Labor Day simply serves as the unofficial, summer-ending bookend to the unofficial, summer-starting Memorial Day weekend. To the thousands of schoolteachers living throughout Long Island it denotes the end of the party, the extended-summer-vacation equivalent of somebody turning the lights up and the stereo off as a signal for everyone to go home – or, in this case, back to work. After having ten-plus weeks with no alarm clocks ringing, that must be one nasty transition.

The Labor Day weekend also serves as a good time to assess one’s summer. I like to look back and ask myself if I accomplished all that I set out to accomplish way back in May. Of course I never do. I’m 47 and I have no recollection whatsoever of ever experiencing a summer where I felt I made the best possible use of my time. This summer, for instance, I spent zero hours with my family at the beach. Not one second frolicking in the sand and pretending to go into the ocean. Shame on me for that. I plead baseballus parentus, but still. What’s the point of living on Long Island if you don’t take advantage of all it has to offer? One little barbecue on the sandy shores of Robert Moses? Is that asking too much?

In the meanwhile, thanks to endless hours on the ball field wearing shorts and a t-shirt I find myself sporting a baseball tan – bronzed lower legs, wrists, neck and face. My chest and belly, however, are whiter than a Love Child produced by Gwen Stefani and Edgar Winter would look should such a human being ever come into existence. I should also point out that because I wore sandals whenever possible this summer I have tan lines that make my feet look like I’m wearing white buck shoes even when I am barefoot.

It was a strange summer, too, in the sense that it never really seemed to get off the ground. I blame the lackluster Fourth of July, and I blame the lackluster on the fact that the Fourth of July took place on a Wednesday. We didn’t get that extended Fourth of July break and, as a result, I never got into a summer groove.

The Yankees never really seemed to get going, either - this past week's sweep of the Red Sox notwithstanding. No long winning streaks, no running away with the pennant. They didn’t completely stink, either, as they have in other summers. Nineteen ninety, for instance, was horrific – one loss after another. If it hadn’t been for the birth of my son Alex that year the summer would have been a total loss.

It’s funny how you remember different summers, and how some summers are more memorable than others.

Since 1999 my summers have been dominated by baseball – Little League baseball initially and now travel team ball. I would not have it any other way, with the possible exception of working in a little more beach time, anyway. The summer of 2007 will be remembered by me as the summer of the weddings: my niece Nadya’s and my sister Ann’s. I have written quite enough about them of late, thank you very much, but it is funny how you spend the days counting down to an event and then the next thing you know nearly a month has gone by since the event took place.

It’s also interesting how certain songs instantly remind you of summers past. Every time I hear any of the following songs my mind is instantly transformed to good times celebrating sand, surf and sunshine: “Heatwave” - Martha Reeves & The Vandellas; “Summer Wind” – Frank Sinatra; “The Girls on The Beach” and/or “The Warmth of the Sun” by The Beach Boys; anything by The Beach Boys, really, and of course, the ultimate summer song, “Summer In The City” - The Lovin' Spoonful.

Which brings us back to Labor Day. I started the column with the notion that it is a melancholy weekend. But there is something pleasant about it, too. Donning a sweatshirt and watching the sun go down on Sunday night is something special. You feel the chill of the autumn onset and you know it is time to get back to work, time for the third act of the calendar year. Ideally you get a chance to play Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” a few hundred times, fire up a stogie, draw yourself a Scotch on the rocks and then reflect back on what was and what should have been. Then you wash the sand off your feet for the last time this year and head back to the house, knowing that the alarm is going to go off the next morning and its back to the grind.

Oh well.

Thank you for reading this column.

No comments: