Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saying goodbye to summer, and a list

The astronomical start of autumn is September 23; in the West it's September 1; here it's August 7, going off solar terms, an East Asian method of organizing the calendar into 24 parts.

In China, the end of summer and beginning of autumn is called liqiu (立秋), marked by no particular festivity but usually bringing a sense of relief to the people, maybe even joy: the most beautiful time of year is upon us -- no sandstorms as in spring, no heat and humidity as in summer, and, of course, no blistering cold.

As for me, I realized summer had officially passed on Saturday. A morning thunderstorm had swept through, followed by an evening shower that left the air fresh as the stuff out of ionizers. Yet as I walked in t-shirts and shorts, an uneasy feeling settled upon me, a looming despair, an anxiety over something desolate just on the horizon. I couldn't really explain it, but I had the sense that an era was coming to an end. Maybe this was another symptom of post-Olympics depression; maybe the departure of a handful of friends was hitting me at last; I'm not sure -- maybe it was just the air, how if it were any cooler I might have felt cold, how if it were any darker I'd have known we were in the downslope in the year's length of days.

Summer's over. That's what it comes down to. And while I don't have the time right now to commemorate what's passed -- my third of four fantasy football drafts commences in about four hours and 15 minutes (update: make that three hours and 15 minutes), and I have my alarm set -- I do want to take a moment to rank this summer with the other summers in my life, since I fear the longer I put off this task the less I'll remember...

The past 15 summers:

1. 2001: Pinehurst Park Ultimate Frisbee every day (or at least five days/week) with Alan, David, Anna, Caleb, Mary, etc. -- that spring was my first year playing Ultimate, if you can believe it (stress factor: knowing Alan, David, Anna, etc. were going away to college while I had one more year of Overland Park)

2. 2002: Summer before college, lots of Ultimate at Pinehurst, lots of disc golf with Caleb; found new friends in Courtney, Maddy, etc.; China trip with traveling to Shanghai; Tool concert (stress factor: know that Eve 6 song "Here's to the Night"? Somehow, towards the end, that tune resonated...)

3. 2008: Beijing, new friends, lots of Frisbee, Olympics (see: THIS BLOG) (stress factor: sense of literary atrophy)

4. 2007: Back in New York's Upper West Side, Smartwhores Ultimate, pickup Ultimate at Prospect Park every Tuesday/Thursday evening followed by caps at Ian/Paul/David's; parties, freelancing for magazines (stress factor: lack of work)

5. 1994: Finished 4th grade; lots of football in the yard with Caleb (not the aforementioned Caleb), Keith, etc.; summer of Ashley and Amber, esp. Ashley, first love of my life.

(Not to be too dramatic about it, but I left for China in July and when I returned she was gone, moved away; two years later, when I was in 6th grade and she in 5th, I saw her again on the day of our Sterling Strings concert tour. ("Sterling Strings" isn't the name of the program -- I forget what it actually was -- but we were a group of kids from different schools who'd get together once a week in the morning for orchestra rehearsal). Anyway, she'd been in my program for months, but it was only on the day of our concert tour -- we'd worked all year for this -- that we realized who the other was. This day is carved into my memory: we toured five elementary schools, playing concerts, I being fifth-chair violinist (and, being the lone representative of Comanche Elementary, not getting to play in front of my schoolmates). I remember the lunch at Oak Park Mall, how she lent me money, how I was too shy to put my tray next to hers, choosing instead to eat alone, only stealing glances at her, making eye contact once. I remember, on the bus, her asking for the radio to be turned to 93.3 FM, which just happened to be my favorite station. Afterwards, as I rose from my seat, silently cursing the fact that I'd have to leave her side, she gave me her number, which I promptly lost. I have not seen or heard from her since.)

(Stress factor: none... truly, none)

6. 2005: First summer in New York, Sports Illustrated Intern with the Time Inc. program, Columbia U. suite with Max, Erika, Tania, Erin, etc., without a TV; lots of Big Two (card game) and General Tsao's chicken (stress factor: work)

7. 1995: A near-stress-free summer, full of playing at other people's houses; one memory in particular stands out, of an afternoon at Beth's; details aren't really important (stress factor: some newly awakened sense that I could not be so young and carefree forever)

8. 1998: Math and Science Institute -- summer enrichment program at Shawnee Mission South, which was to become my high school; developed an infatuation which was to last for a long, long time; China trip (stress factor: girl)

9. 2006: Volunteered for NPR in KC; summer before moving to NYC (stress factor: dad's anxiety; the "future")

10. 2003: visited KU several times, especially Templin Hall, apparently because I couldn't let go of the fact that all my friends went to that school while I chose out-of-state; teaching assistant in the SM Summer Enrichment Program (stress factor: longing)

11. 2000: China trip -- always a pleasure. This was, however, the last of "Old China" in my memory. The next time I'd return, in the summer of 2002, it would be nothing like I remembered. (Stress factor: ???)

12. 1999: Lots of StarCraft/Brood War with Caleb; summer writing program, where I met Aaron; lots of writing; not much else (stress factor: idleness)

13. 1996: China trip; just got done with 6th grade and changed districts, from SM West to SM South; bawled my eyes out night before first day at Indian Woods Middle School (stress factor: losing all my friends)

14. 1997: Magic: The Gathering; sleepovers at Justin's and Brian's; not a great summer in retrospect, but not bad while it was happening (stress factor: I was a middle-school kid; go figure)

15. 2004: Not a good summer at all: worked two jobs as waiter, at IHOP and Winstead's. And I had braces (stress factor: drifting away from friends)

(Wow. What a mind-bending and horribly narcissitic and nostalgic (AWFUL combination) exercise this proved to be. Final thought: 2008 shouldn't feel bad for coming in third. I've had some great fucking summers.)

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