Top 5: In the Long Run
Memorial Day weekend marks the official beginning of summer. Of course, the summer solstice doesn't occur for nearly a month yet, but summer is more a state of mind than a set of calendar dates anyhow. It's never been my favorite season--autumn won that popularity contest a long time ago--but I've had some memorable ones nevertheless. Before I take off for an extended weekend, here's a list of my Top 5 Most Memorable Summers.
5. 1981. My first summer living away from home. I was on the air nearly every day, either at the campus radio station or at my paying radio job in Dubuque. My roommates and I grilled out nearly every night, and drank ourselves stupid on a fairly regular basis. Said process was made easier by the fact that we had a dorm-sized fridge full of beer next to the couch in the living room, so there was no need even to get up. Songs that bring it back: "The Stroke" by Billy Squier, "This Little Girl" by Gary U.S. Bonds, and "I Love You" by the Climax Blues Band.
4. 1974. Just before Memorial Day, we had a fire in our house that rendered the upper floor, where my bedroom was, uninhabitable for several months. So that was the summer I hung out in the basement of our house. One thing that didn't change was that the radio was always on. Songs that bring it back: "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" by Steely Dan, "Radar Love" by Golden Earring, and "The Air That I Breathe" by the Hollies.
3. 1971. My last summer as a full-time child (before I had to start working on the farm to earn my allowance), and my first after discovering the radio. I was playing Little League baseball and learning to play the saxophone (both badly), and had already decided that I wanted to be a radio guy. Songs that bring it back: "Here Comes That Rainy-Day Feeling Again" by the Fortunes, "Want Ads" by Honey Cone, and "Draggin' the Line" by Tommy James.
2. 1986. I was doing a Top 40 morning show in Macomb, Illinois, by this time. It seemed like the station was doing a live remote from someplace nearly every weekend, and I became a minor local celebrity. On a personal level, The Mrs. and I were rattling around in a big old rented house--and I had already made a decision that turned out to be a fateful one for my radio career. I'd started taking the phone off the hook when I got home in the afternoon. Up until then, I'd always made myself available to the radio station 24/7--but not anymore. I never looked at my career the same way after that. Songs that bring it back: "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys; "Higher Love" by Steve Winwood; "No One Is to Blame" by Howard Jones.
1. 1976. Everybody has one summer that they will remember after they've forgotten all the others. This year is mine. I had my driver's license and my first car (1974 AMC Hornet, robin's egg blue), and the independence both bring. It was the last summer I worked on the farm--by the next year, I was old enough to get a job in town, so I got the hell out and never looked back. There is no girl to associate with this summer--she would show up later in 1976--just the car, and softball games, and a radio that was on from sunup until far after sundown. Songs that bring it back: "Baby I Love Your Way" by Peter Frampton, "The Boys Are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy, "Get Closer" by Seals and Crofts.
Honorable Mentions: 1980, for reasons mentioned in an earlier post--and because we saw the Eagles that year, touring on The Long Run, with a giant full moon rising over the outdoor stage at Alpine Valley Music Theater near Milwaukee. And 1999, because it would be kind of sad to think I hadn't had a memorable summer in nearly 20 years.
I don't expect much from my summers nowadays--I think maybe that's something you can only credibly do when you're young, and I'm not especially young anymore. But anything is possible--and because that was always the best thing about summers back in the day, maybe I'll be surprised by 2005.
I will be spending the first weekend of this summer on a lake in Michigan (but not Lake Michigan), far away from cell phones, cable TV, and Internet access, so posts will return here no sooner than Wednesday, June 1. In the interim, weigh in with tales of your favorite summers by clicking "Comments."