Hot Fun Yet?

Magazine columnists deserve to enjoy summer, too, so this one wrote a column of musings scribbled on napkins during the sunny months.

I WAS JUST ABOUT to begin my monthly column-writing regime—which involves hunkering down in a cavelike area beneath my basement stairs for three days and nights, subsisting on instant coffee, soda crackers, and mold spores while banging out draft after not-quite-right draft on a third-hand ThinkPad—when I realized that I was about to sully, yet again, the sacred face of American summer.

By working when I might have been playing, I would not only have been cheating myself of the zephyr-bathed leisure pursuits to which, by rights, I am entitled; I would, according to university-trained experts in satisfaction metrics and mass psychic osmosis, have been cheating you of them, too. (If you don’t believe me, see “Who Moved My Ease?” on page 62. Then go play Wiffle ball. We’re all in this together.)

So I’m off on my personal Great Circle Tour of Upper Midwest Destinations One Must Not Miss Before One Dies, which includes the Dickeyville Grotto, the Amana Colonies, the Corn Palace, the Lawrence Welk Birthplace, and the Judy Garland Museum, to name but a few. In a patriotic spirit of laziness, I’ll fill the rest of this space with random, vaguely summer-themed notes I’ve scribbled on sub-shop napkins. Next month: back under the stairs! Or not.

—Blame the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, et al. “Endless Summer,” “Margaritaville”—empty, unattainable ideals for shallow boomers, or harmless musical fun? Side topic: do summer flings, in fact, mean a thing? Hard to say; experience nil. Except for that magical night in Poughkeepsie under the bug zapper, but not entirely sure I didn’t imagine it.

—Softball. Write about your love for softball. Problem: pretty stupid thing to love. And yet, same team for 24 years; longest relationship of life save for that with immediate family. Is that admirable (loyalty, friendship) or just kind of sad? Or both? Enough with the introspection already—how about a thrilling sports anecdote? Yes: that magical day at Jimmy Lee Field in St. Paul when all the forces of the universe were perfectly aligned—when the teammate-slash-legendary newsman (check: okay to use his name? probably not), possessed of an arm more powerful than a 100,000-watt transmitter, unleashed a white-hot bullet that rocketed past the backstop, zipped through the open window of a parked car, and negotiated the space (there couldn’t have been more than a millimeter on either side) between the steering wheel and the belly of a pregnant woman. Fragility of life; tragedy avoided; laughs all around.

—France/off-the-books job/hotel dishwasher. 7 days/week, 12 hrs/day. Forced to hide in pantry when the work permit enforcement officer arrived to drink wine with the boss. Standing in the dark, listening through the wall; discovering crock full of freshly made strawberry preserves. Best food ever tasted. France, youth, danger, strawberries. Magical moment. Didn’t imagine it.

Then back to work.