"When there's things to do, not because you gotta
When you run for love, not because you oughta
When you trust your friends, with no reason not 'ta
The joy I name shall not be tamed
And that summer feeling is gonna haunt you
One day in your life." — Jonathan Richman
My favorite summer memories hearken to childhood, growing up in the Brighton Green neighborhood on the South Side and enjoying those meandering, sylvan days that seem to last forever.
It was a more communal time in the late '70s and early '80s, when packs of kids still roamed neighborhoods without technological chains. We rode our dirt bikes at the gravel pit, built complex forts, skateboarded, met at the rope swing, fought and made up, played basketball or kickball in the cul-de-sacs until our parents signaled us for dinner with some loud whistle or by our names echoing in the distance.
Summers revolved around the community pool. There were splash dives with names like can openers and layouts, pool games such as Sharks and Minnows or Crosspool, and insurance rates had yet to do away with the almighty high diving board perched within a canopy of watchful trees. We also had plenty of shared family barbecues in evening yards almost spectral with slow-blinking lightning bugs. If those kinds of things happen these days, I don't see them from my current neighborhood.
I especially remember the summer of 1982, when a group of my friends walked for an entire day à la "Stand by Me" through the densely wooded creeks behind the pool, past the occasional water moccasin and rushing sewer system masked by the sweet smell of honeysuckle. We were probably looking for a dead body, too. Boys are twisted that way. Back then Midlothian Turnpike was mostly undeveloped, with brownish-red clay where today's strip malls stand. Luckily, we emerged from the woods near Putt-Putt, which had our favorite arcade games like Track and Field, Punch-Out, Galaga and Tron.
Those were the days, full of physical activity and early childhood crushes on bored lifeguards and babysitters. Except on the days of swim meets, when we rested by going to cheap double features at the former movie theater behind Putt-Putt. It was a hell of a year for movies, too: From "Poltergeist" and "E.T." to "Rocky III's" introduction of Mr. T to the world, as well as "Blade Runner," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan." Movies that have aged pretty well.
There was no Google or Amazon home delivery. You had to be resourceful. Like one neighborhood kid, later to become a Theresa Pollak Award-winning artist, who showed us how to stick two toothpicks simultaneously into the tethered, brown cable box in order to descramble movie channels that showed R-rated fare during the day.
Where am I going with all this? It bears repeating that summer is a time for making memories, no matter your age. The days are long, hot (and getting hotter) and as you'll see in the coming pages, there's more to do than ever.
Americans also work a lot more these days, get paid less when adjusted for inflation, and enjoy less free time, usually with constant stress, rushing and juggling involved. Studies show that we spend more on health care than comparable industrial nations and rank dead last in health. However, we are number 18 in happiness -- much higher than I would've guessed based on my Facebook feed alone.
It seems accepted now that far too many of our addictive online distractions are mentally exhausting at best and legitimately health-destroying at worst.
From someone who just got back from vacation out West, let this be a long-winded, nostalgic reminder that while making plans with our phones, incessantly tweeting, arguing online or posting selfies on Instagram, we shouldn't forget to unplug, too – hopefully, for longer and longer periods of time.
It's summer, people. Take a walk in the woods to nowhere in particular.
To quote another song: "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think." — Brent Baldwin
The Great Outdoors
Get some fresh air (hopefully) this summer with healthy outdoor activities.
Festivals for Foodies
Here are the food-and-drink festivities that you don't want to miss this summer.
Summer Concert Preview
Haven't you read Forbes magazine? Richmond is the place for live music.
This summer offers a wide variety of arts and culture events with a global theme.
It's the summer of movie sequels, but a few noted auteurs slip through.