If you are reading this in the northern latitudes, you might be wondering why I am writing anything at all with the word summer in it?
April in New York was always a confusing month for me. It could be downright frigid in the morning when I was heading to the train, but by the time I got off the subway in Brooklyn, it was already getting quite warm.
For some reason, I always felt the cold more intensely in April than in February. I reasoned that you expect to be cold in February, but by April, I knew you were close to summer with baseball starting and trees budding. But then you really weren’t, and those thirty and forty-degree days seemed to go right through me.
I have no such confusion in Florida.
It’s freakin hot already, and I can only feel that summer has arrived. So, that is why I am writing about Sumer In The City.
Of course, many of you will remember that Summer In The City is a song that the Lovin Spoonful put out in the summer of 1966. You might not remember that the summer of 1966 was one of the hottest in New York City history, at least on Leland Avenue in the Bronx. On Sunday, the temperature reached 106 degrees, and so every time I hear Summer In The City, I can feel the heat of that particular day.
But it is not the heat that I wish to write about in summer in the city but rather the joy of summer in the city.
I used to love New York in the summer. I got to walk around the city quite a lot when working as a mail clerk for Lorillard Corp. Walking on Fifth Avenue on a steamy hot summer’s day with thousands of New Yorkers walking with and against you like the surf at Jones Beach or Hot Dog Beach. I can still see the heads of my fellow travelers bobbing up and down in uniform precision like the Rockettes leg kicking at Radio City.
It was exciting just to be there walking with everyone.
I never understood how people didn’t love New York City.
These were the days of Woodstock and Goin To The Country when all the hippies wanted to live on a farm or commune far, far away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Not me. I wanted to be in New York.
Despite working a whole week in the city, every Saturday morning would see me board another Pelham Bay local downtown. Heading to my summer haven, Central Park, I had no disdain for yet another subway ride on a hot, un-airconditioned train. After all, the subways were always empty on the weekend, so it was a pleasure, and even the fans overhead, which, on any weekday were but mere feeble attempts at comfort, actually served a refreshing breezed making your journey tolerable.
Going to Central Park on a Saturday was at once Goin To The Country and urbanization at its best. I got to enjoy a stroll through the park and stop at the baseball fields to catch a few innings of a softball game. Then I would make my way to the Bethesda Fountain, where on its plaza frisbees were zooming overhead in a never-ending display of ultimate faith in your fellow human as you were sure to get your frisbee back at the end of the day. (Perhaps this was the origin of Ultimate Frisbee?)
Having enjoyed the beauty of the frisbee toss and the splash of the fountain’s waters, I continued my walk.
I aimed to reach Literary Walk to welcome the coolness of the shade provided by the umbrella of trees lining the walkway. Maybe I would read a bit from my book? But it wouldn’t be long until I sought out the several folk groups that provided afternoon entertainment for all to enjoy.
On Saturday, I continued up the walk to the Band Shell, where Pete Seeger gave a free concert. As I said, it was like going to the country…without leaving the city.
What made these Saturday meandering even more enjoyable was the freedom that summer always represented. School was out, and even though I had actually learned to love learning, not having five or six-term papers to do was liberating. I could finally read what I wanted to read.
I always thought of these summers as times for reading and listening to music. Since then, I try to have a summer reading list and an accompanying music list.
I guess the Pandemic has put all of these memories in stark comparison to days when it was ok to find and live joy. It seems we have to be grateful for what we have and never mind what we have been unable to enjoy.
During a storm, whether a hurricane or blizzard, Lockdown is always a challenge but one that is short-lived. The Pandemic doesn’t seem to want to go away. We have vaccines, but it still seems to be spreading and mutating so that even the hope we have that normality is coming to a place near you may be only a dream.
Nevertheless, I will be going up again to be with my children in the Bronx, and I will be making a reading list and checking it twice and re-doing my summer playlist, both of which will be the subject of a forthcoming Newell Post.
It’s going to be a glorious summer. I still have faith in that.