Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How I Spent My Summer (2016)

The Cleveland Summer 2016™. This year the wife decided not to over-program the kids. For years it was necessary to book the kids into as many camps as possible.

When I was a boy my mother’s work was the home, and so she was there and so was I and with the exception of a trip to Maine and maybe a couple weeks at day camp, I was mostly left to my own devices, watching TV or playing behind the railroad tracks in the city dump.

We each used to work year round, so our small children had to go somewhere. Sport Camp, Art Camp, Science Camp, Zoo Camp (they hated that one) or even our Theater Camp, Camp Theater!

Now that the wife is a high school teacher, and acclimated to her position, she declared that there would be few if any camps, spontaneity would be the call of the season, and that she planned to “bite the ass of this summer.” (That’s a reference to the movie Big Night, which by the way was released twenty years ago. Twenty years. Jesus.)

And bite the ass of summer we did, with plenty of swimming at the pool and sleeping in. No, I did not get to North Carolina as they did, but it was a fair trade. I went to Valdez, Alaska for the Last Frontier Theater Conference. Not so much like summer camp, more like a very full week at school. After it was all through I made an absurd number of “friend requests” in a single day. For every one I thought, I didn’t talk to you enough. I am glad to at least stay in touch in this way.

While I was away, I watched the Cavs return from a 3-1 deficit, or rather I received real time messages from the wife on their progress during the day and caught bits of it at the Best Western as it was rebroadcast in the Alaska Time Zone.

If it hadn’t gone to Game Seven (go ahead, watch that last minute again) I would not have been able to watch “The Final” with my family in Cleveland. And I cried. God help me, I wept over a sporting event. Not for me, not really, because I’d never been that invested in winning a game or a championship. But I was overwhelmed with happiness for all those who I call my neighbors across the region who feel pathetic or depressed because we have lost so much, so many times, and take it personally, that we as a city have internalized and even accepted this sense that disappointment is just what happens to us.

I was happy for them, for all of them. I am sorry Dad missed it.

The wife and I went downtown that Wednesday for the parade, not without a little trepidation but now we can say we were there, two among a reported 1.3 million. Can’t say I expect to experience anything like that again.

While they were in Topsail Beach, I labored every day to stain the deck and in the evenings rehearsed Twelfth Night (As Told By Malvolio). Trucking our mini-tour from east side to west, the set (one school desk) all packed up in my tiny car in celebration of a very old booking sitting in the main public library downtown. We were just concluding our final performance right there in that library, in the center of town, as the maelstrom that was the Republican National Convention and a whole lot of kooks moved into our city.

In spite of weeks of dread and concern that there would be violence in our streets the likes which have not been seen since Chicago ‘68, the police and activists and media kept it cool. There were an non-traditional number of essays of congratulations in the paper and websites across the nation, thanking Cleveland for being so darn polite, remarkably hip, and a great place to visit.

And as Sunday is to the weekend, August is to the summer, beginning lethargic and slow, excitement peaking early and then just kind of stretching on interminably until it’s time to go to bed.

(Yes, Douglas Adams put it much better, but we have no American equivalent for “tea time.”)

In brief, we left town. Visiting Maine for the first time without father surprised me in many ways, in fact I surprised myself by become overwhelmed by emotion heading out by car before we had even left Cleveland Heights.

Schlepping our bags into Barnstable that first night in, the sun already set followed by a heavy rain, his absence was larger. Everywhere I looked in this most familiar of places, he was not.

But my brother was and his family, and later cousins and more friends and our time was full and active. We returned by way of Lexington, MA and some friends who used to live in the Heights, and then to see Harris and Liz in Westport, CT.

We took a day trip with their family to Coney Island, and the following day just the four us us went into the city, for shopping on Fifth Avenue, a trip to the Met, Pokemon Go everywhere, and to see Hamilton.

Yes. We made it happen. Months ago the wife and I decided to just bite it and get tickets, and for a time when we knew we would be in the area, anyway, with friends to provide housing and no additional transportation costs.

We also knew that by August most of the cast would probably have moved on, and so they have, but the new company members are remarkable and have become new favorites of the girl, who follows them all obsessively on Snapchat.

Some day I am sure I will have more to say about the performance, but I am myself dealing with the disconnect that comes with looking forward to something for an extended period of time, experiencing it … then having it pass. And it shouldn’t be like that, because it’s a play and the play continues and the album remains and who knows, perhaps we will see it in Chicago next year, or Cleveland.

And here I am sounding like one of those lunatics who catch Les Miz every time they have the opportunity, I mean, what is wrong with those people?

That night, a storm struck Cleveland Heights, what they called a microburst, downing numerous large trees and bringing down power lines with them. Fortunately our tree was not affected, though we did need to pitch everything in the fridge … which was an excellent opportunity to clean the fridge. See? Lemonade.

Returning home meant returning to work and to school, and to soccer games and music lessons and normalcy. And here we are.

Going back over my notebook, one which has taken most of the year to fill, one observation I made on the puddle-jumper to Anchorage, reflecting upon my week:
“Just realized I’m from the big city.”

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