On the Summer of 2019 (an essay from just short of a year ago)


The summer of 2019 is almost over now. “Time is a jet plane/it moves too fast,” as Bob Dylan puts it. Overlooking the sadness or nostalgia we sometimes feel in response to our awareness that life simply happens then ends, and that thus, experiences do not and cannot “happen again” (except within memory the perception of it as recorded in a an audio or visual medium) I really don’t mind the season changing.

Two years ago, and every year prior…the end of summer and the loss of heat always disappointed me. This is one reason why I moved to Florida three times and to California once (and wanted, numerous times, to return to either the “Sunshine” or the “Golden” State)—that affinity with heat, and summer, both of which I associated with the beach (for most of my life I wanted to live in a house on the beach; that too has changed), and associated also with vacations, peoples’ generally good moods, and sense of freedom and independence while on those vacations. As a teenager I probably never enjoyed more happiness than while on vacations in summer…at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. My mother and stepfather took us there for a week for a few consecutive summers. I think my soul may have been awakened there. I’d walk up and down that boardwalk literally for hours, all day long, listening to music on my discman, observing people, writing poems (which really should have been journal entries or drafts of personal essays) sailing upon my contemplations as if my contemplations were an ocean…. “Faced with these happily uncompromising streams of association…as though on an open boat launched onto the ocean, with no horizon line in sight. You just have to surrender to the waves of sentences that keep bumping you from one idea to another…,”[1] lusting girls though more interested in Lisa, who for a time was my girlfriend; I’d met her and her friend Lindsey there, [and would later meet her friends Holly, Ashley and Seth who all read my erotic-horror novellas and even complimented them…I think it was Lisa who introduced me to Maroon 5 and introduced me to country music…like the Rascal Flatts [to my knowledge, unlike their part of Delaware, I did not know country music to be particularly embraced in my part of New Jersey…I mean I never heard of anyone speak much of country music like they did]) I met other people in Rehoboth too [one might have thought for a week each summer I’d become a sort of socialite which I never was back at home!]…two other individuals I can recall: a girl, I think Ali was her name, and I think she wanted to be a doctor, and this guy…was his name Phil? He played football and was utterly perplexed by my atheism and enjoyed debating me on the existence of a God…

So what robbed the gold metal of my seasonal preferences from summer and its heat? Why, now, do autumn and winter compete for the position of my favorite season? (currently a stalemate, I think). I can’t recall how or exactly when this change of mind occurred. I do recall one late November day in 2015, (was it Thanksgiving?) walking north and south along U.S. Route 130…the highway I’ve come to know better than any other (it stretches from the Delaware Memorial Bridge [speaking of Delaware!] [where the Delaware River separates New Jersey and that “First” state] up to New Brunswick…. No, I didn’t walk that distance…I walked four miles to the liqueur store where I cashiered and four miles back home…anyway, I seem to recall it having been unseasonably warm all autumn long and feeling simply a little bored of it and then when the cold air did finally arrive I found it refreshing … but I think this may have been a first crack in my love for the summery feel more than a shattering…I think the actual shattering in part had to with my hatred for all the gnats and mosquitos in the warm air when I’d do my perambulating…I think it occurred to me that this was not a problem in the cold and that it also had in part to do with my falling in love a bit with how I felt when Ashley and I vacationed in New Hampshire and Maine that last week of December, 2017.

I don’t know that it was necessarily the New England vibe as such (though it didn’t hurt!) as much as it was the power of the broader context. The last semester of my official  junior year of college had just ended (you see, having dropped out after my sophomore year…a year in itself when I mostly failed my classes, and then slowly went in and out of community college, changing my major a few times also thus constantly adding to the lot of courses still to take…)…the course on modern Japanese History in particular had been (and remains) the most overwhelming class I ever took…and still with my anxiety, depression, esophoria, and insomnia all untreated at the time my mental health was rather shaky and I had contemplated suicide because interesting as the class was the workload was literally near impossible to complete as several students made clear in the discussion boards when the professor asked for feedback…the thing was, he was generous with his extra credit and a generous grader (if you overlook that he was a touch pedantic with getting the Chicago style of citation exactly perfect…something about first name or last name first in the footnotes instead of vice versa as I recall) and that semester I’d also started a column for the College VOICE and did a lot of unofficial and not yet credited editing for the paper…and I got up early each morning to do my creative writing…so I was, to almost a freakish and soulless degree, a writing machine…but my point is that the peace and quiet, especially in Durham, New Hampshire and that surrounding area, all of which was so remarkably unpopulated in contrast to New Jersey, and this vibe being accentuated by the snow…and not a fierce, blizzardy snow, but a calm, soft kissing kind of snow…to call it “romantic” would be an understatement…this was the first time I had an explicit, conscious, and hard hitting desire to be a personal essayist, and creative non-fiction professor…I visualized myself teaching there at the University of New Hampshire which was in town…an intensity of peacefulness which has never quite been topped…at least not yet…I think it had to be then that I really fell in love with winter…what did the biting cold matter in the midst of such overpowering tranquility and escape from stress and overstimulation?

Anyway, happy as I am for summer to change to autumn now. This summer is, thus far, the best of my 33 year old life! Better than those beach-bum Rehoboth summers! Better than those three summers (1999-2002 was it?) at Tomato Patch Performing and Visual Arts day camp on the Mercer County Community College Campus where I met Tim—that creative genius and a best friend of mine. (I do not remember those Tomato Patch summers so well, but I do remember feeling, as opposed to how I felt at home or at school: slight competence as an actor or general creative/artistic type person in the company of those with a somewhat similar way about them (why did I not connect with the artistic type at school? It is a very strange and curious thing, as if in school I felt irrationally…somehow…stigmatized…but not at camp…summer camp had actually always brought out a different personality within me…in fact…at “Camp College” (also on the Mercer County Community College Campus) when I was younger, before I’d discovered Tomato Patch, I ran for camp governor! And I won! I enjoyed, thus, one could argue, almost a kind of pseudo-popularity at camp while at school there lingered this seesawing between my conviction that everyone there for some reason hated me, and my conviction that, based on my superficial observations of others, I’d have hated many of them just as much…even the girls I lusted…all that lust, those “crushes,” infatuations, et cetera, and yet in truth, I never truly fell “in love” or anything even like it once…not with the girls in my high school…actually not at the summer camps either, though there were three girls I had irrational crushes on of an irrational sort…Jill then Rachel then Evelyn…Jill I crushed on because I thought she was a genius actress…it was that simple…Rachel? All I remember was that we got on as friends quite well. She may have been for a brief time my best camp friend. And I thought she was exceptionally pretty. And by this I mean…she did not look slutty or like some cliché movie actress or model…maybe we could call it a kind of genuine prettiness…she did not need to over accentuate herself to come across as attractive…still shallow on my part but at least not a piggish, just want to fuck her type shallowness. But Rachel openly preferred “bad boys” and had said as much. Interestingly her friend Tori briefly had a crush on me simply because she liked the romantic quality of my poems. Though Tori and I, based on instant messenger conversations, would find we had very little in common other than a sort of appreciation for the “romantic.” And then there was Evelyn. She made a rather funny joke out of me among my friends at camp. I had confessed to her that I thought she was “gorgeous” and she responded that she thought I had “a gorgeous personality” which I, and everyone I told this to, interpreted as code for her thinking I was ugly. Really that was kind of traumatic because I then felt ugly. Another girl called me ugly once. A girl at my high school. I think her name was Vanessa but I don’t honestly remember with confidence. Strangely enough, I don’t think she meant it. I had this strange feeling about her that she secretly wanted to fuck me. Or maybe I made myself believe that to feel better. But it was the way she conveyed otherwise, no actual sign of disgust other than verbal. Anyway, it was on AOL Instant messenger. I don’t quite recall the context. Briefly I had dated a friend of hers. Megan. And I just remember her saying I was ugly. That was especially traumatizing as I’d already considered myself ugly. Though I found the concept of “ugly” confusing. Why did I manage to have girlfriends here and there if I was ugly? The rationale I settled on was that none of the girls ever actually liked me and whatever their reasons for temporarily being my girlfriend, it had nothing to do with actual romance or liking me as they’d quickly realize their pity was just stupid altruism (though I did not know the actual word “altruism” then, though I understood the idea of what I would learn is referred to as an altruistic ethics). I think I persisted in my attempts to appeal to Evelyn despite her mortifying view of me as we also had an interesting friendship for awhile…she preferred me over everyone else at that camp and liked during breaks to take walks, just the two of us. Obviously, I mistook these episodes of one on one as having a hidden and potential romantic spirit. We also talked on the phone sometimes. I don’t remember about what. Once it was always me calling her I did get the hint. Though interestingly, through her I met Enga who did become, for awhile, my girlfriend. But Evelyn told me about a month in that Enga had told her she was going to break up with me so I broke up with [[[Enga]]]] before she broke up with me so at least I could say I was the one who did the breaking up. Enga had remarked after that at some point that the loss was mine and she had even thought of having sex with me, which I didn’t believe at all. Oh, the thoughts I associate with summer…

 But this summer is far superior to those! Ashley (the Goddess Queen among women! My Goddess Queen!)…she and I moved to Basking Ridge, New Jersey where we now have a view of open space and mountains right from our parking lot, in contrast to flat land and an over-congestion of houses, cars, and people in East Windsor. (Ironically, I wonder, would I mind such congestion if we lived in Manhattan?) Not that Basking Ridge is isolated, unpopulated or deeply rural. (I would describe it as sort of rural or on the edge of rurality…I think the further west one goes from here the more rural it tends to get, where there really seems to be nothing but farms, hills, and fields. To the south, where my father lived until I was 19, in Cream Ridge… this was pure rural—no grocery store down the street, many houses with over two acres of land per house, water from a well…)

This summer I sailed the very rough and stormy seas of my career-related confusions and anxieties (how will I make more money? How do I “market” and “advertise” my monetary “worth?” Should my writing principle be “first thought, best thought” in the name of spontaneity’s beauty or should I revise in the name of greater clarity and succinctness? How do I balance my journalistic/political self with my artistic self and my academic self? Et cetera…)

This summer I began psychotherapy and faced my fear of driving on the New Jersey Turnpike right across from Manhattan and by myself (I know, silly for a man of 33 to fear the Turnpike but with my eyes so oversensitive to visual stimuli and the traffic there at times rather chaotic, plus my unfortunate anxiety, and the whole bag of bad driving related memories including two accidents and losing my license for several years… it can be like poking at a very sensitive scar when I drive sometimes…).

This summer, I changed my stance on the question of whether or not I believe in the universal basic income policy which Andrew Yang proposes, and which my friends Mark and Montaniz have been urging me to support; I think it is absurd to spend [as much money as we do on defense] when so much of it could be invested in our poor who sometimes sink in their economic anxiety and all the while we could still spend more money than any other country on Earth on national security and defense.

This summer I fell deeper in love with my wife, Ashley who turned our new home into an actual paradise, picking out the perfect couch, rugs, kitchen table…who positioned all the furniture like a dancer positions his or her body step after step with eloquence and grace…

[1] Philip Lopate, Kindle location 674; “To How and to Tell”

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