Monday, July 8, 2019

ECHOES OF DISTANT SUMMERS




 Dwelling continuously in the past is for idle dreamers. Occasionally visiting the past can be nourishment for a hungry soul.

 

There are times when I can close my eyes and make the distance of years melt away......

..... and suddenly I'm on the beach again, young and exuberant, immersed in the drowsy haze of a summer afternoon where the silver glare of sky and water mingle as one, where the soft sand burns my bare feet, and the salty scent of the ocean intoxicates my senses. The soothing, eternal roar of the waves seem to echo like the song of a shell pressed against my ear.

 I cherish those summers of distant memories, because now - - in the present purgatory of a different time and place, in the subtle shadows of my rapidly dwindling existence - - I fully appreciate their value. 

Memories often tend to assume halcyon proportions and our distant pasts sometimes seem better than they really were. Careful scrutiny of my past, however, confirms the fact that it did indeed harbor the best times of my life.

There is a fierce pang of sadness wedged in the heart of my memories, because what I miss most is the innocence and the optimism - - two precious things that I will never have again.




I was fortunate enough to have divided my youthful summers between the west coast and the east coast. 

I lived in Southern California which, in my biased opinion, was the greatest place on earth. I also spent summers on the east coast, the Jersey shore, where most of my relatives were. I was particularly partial to the Pacific Ocean, because it was my territory - - but the Atlantic had its own mesmeric powers. The Pacific - always blue, placid, inviting. The Atlantic - greenish gray, remote, moody.

 West Coast

In California, in Orange County, we lived less than five miles from the beach and it was an integral part of my life. I was well-acquainted with all the beach communities up the coast:
Laguna, Newport, Huntington, Bolsa Chica, Sunset, Seal Beach. 

Huntington Beach was the closest. Sometimes I'd ride my bike there. Occasionally I'd hitch a ride. All the kids hitched on Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway.....long ago when things seemed safe.


 The Huntington Beach Pier

Long, hot summer days languishing in the sand at Huntington, absorbing the perpetual sunshine. Eating corn dogs & strips (fried tortilla strips with a mild hot sauce). Drinking Cactus Coolers (an orange-pineapple soft drink that I think still exists). Always swimming. Sometimes surfing. Enduring sunburns and jellyfish stings. 




Midnight bonfires, moonlit walks on the beach when the Grunion were running. Haunting the deserted pier at Seal Beach after midnight. Sailing with friends at Newport Beach on languid, carefree afternoons. Visiting Balboa Island and Catalina Island.

Later, when I had wheels, I'd drive to the beach or go with friends. Day or night, it was my most sacred refuge. 


Sudden flashback:
Driving with my best friend Mike in his red convertible Mustang along Pacific Coast Highway at sunset on the 4th of July. Stereo blaring, the evening alive with magic. Dazzling explosions of fireworks igniting every mile of the shore. The air warm and salty, heavy with the pungent sulfuric smell of  smoke.

  Years later I was best man at Mike's wedding. Marriage inevitably has a way of severing friendships and expunging the exuberance of youth. We lost contact long ago. The carefree days linger like taunting ghosts at the edge of our memories....




The Jersey Shore

East Coast

The east coast was always a blessed escape from unrelenting family problems and my father's insane violence.

I loved the colorful, comforting chaos of being alone in New York City: walking barefooted in Central Park, discovering museums, visiting Lincoln Center. Getting drunk in a sleazy Staten Island bar with my cousin and her husband. Drinking was a new novelty to me then.

Horseback riding with my cousin Nancy on early August evenings in the balmy New Jersey countryside. Boating along the Jersey coast and into New York Harbor (several of my relatives had boats). Watching the moon rise from the water in a sultry surrealistic haze. Long walks on the beach at Sandy Hook. Exploring the boardwalks at Asbury Park and Seaside Heights.


Asbury Park, New Jersey
 

Our once-large family has dwindled drastically. The relatives are all dead, except for my cousins. Friends have vanished. And lovers. All those whom I truly cherished only remain in faded ghost memories, where distant voices still echo with warmth and laughter......

....and those golden summers linger tenderly in the recesses of my mind:  carefree times when the invincibility of youth deceived us into believing that life is eternal - -

- - where distant memories echo like the taunting pulse of a delicate whisper in a seashell pressed to my ear.

Jon V.


Note:
I posted this on my blog last year and thought it is worth a second look. In my humble opinion, it's one of my best. This is a newly revised version.







18 comments:

  1. Oh to be 21 and know what we know now.

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    1. I can DEFINITELY relate to that, Claudia! I'd give anything if I could do it all over again - but without the mistakes.

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  2. Music is my escape. Many a nights during the summers of my teenage years in 1975-76 it was certain songs by Aerosmith, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, 10CC.. way too many more, that soothed my broken heart, dried my tears and lulled me to sleep.
    To this day when I hear those songs, for a few minutes I am 16 again, only this time instead of crying myself to sleep I am instantly calmed. MUSIC IS MY DRUG!

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    1. Music has always been my great escape, too - I feel exactly the same way. There are so many songs from my youth that evoke vivid memories and capture certain times (yes, the Eagles and Zeppelin are among them). When I hear them now, I'm transported back in time as if by magic.

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  3. Sorry, I’ve been MIA (I’m sure you missed meπŸ˜…) I love this post! It takes me back to my growing up, and my younger years. That’s so much for sharing... stay coool.
    Your Tennessee neighbor.

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    1. Louise, I'm so glad that you're still here. When I wrote my recent political posts I lost several readers - - and I know that I even ruffled the feathers of some of my regular (devoted) readers. I sure wish people weren't so damn sensitive.

      This is one of my favorite posts (I wrote it last year). I figured it's worth a rerun. Glad you enjoyed it!

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    2. I enjoyed reading your distant memories, Jon, because my memories are full of war years and bombs.

      Mmmm, must confess that you did NOT ruffle my feathers.

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    3. Valerie, it's such a tragedy that so many people's lives were disrupted and ruined because of the war years. The only war I remember was the Vietnam War, which had minimal effect on my life.

      I knew that I wouldn't ruffle your feathers. But I sure ruffled some Americans who despise my political views.

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  4. Jon- your political views (or anyone else’s) don’t bother me at all. Whether I agree or not- it’s your right to feel, and blog, about anything you wish! I do not comment about anything political one way or another. But this is America and everyone should be able to voice his or her own opinion! I’m done πŸ˜…πŸ˜€
    JMO- this southern humidity is the pits!!!!!! Stay cool my friend 😎

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    1. I wish everyone shared your point of view.
      The humidity has been intense this summer here in TN - it makes the heat unbearable. I'd like to cool off by the ocean.

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  5. This is SO good, Jon. And the images you've chosen to accompany the seasons of your life. Must confess, I particularly identify with the first.

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    1. Thanks, Myra - this is definitely one of my personal favorites. It is a reflection of my soul. And I really love that first image....

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  6. Jon, I'm so glad you posted this. Photos and text are beautiful. I was in New York in '63 --my brother has never let me forget my panicky exclamation as we dropped from that deceptively terrifying parachute tower at Coney Island. Then, in the summer of '64 I was a Boy Scout in khaki shorts and garrison cap in the daily pedestrian crush of Times Square. I collided with a young nun in her habit but we were both saved from falling by the strong arms and quick reactions of a transvestite in a pretty outfit. "You Ok?" He asked. I nodded and the nun said "AhhhhGowwann!" Jon, I learned things about good human nature on both coasts. Glad you did too.

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    1. Those are great memories, Geo - I would have never survived the parachute drop - - my timid idea of adventure would have been the carousel....
      Your unexpected encounter (as a Boy Scout) with the nun and transvestite in Times Square is priceless. I can just picture it!

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  7. As a native of New Jersey, I enjoyed your reminiscences in this post, Jon.

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    1. Thanks a lot, Beatrice! All of my summers in NJ are filled with treasured memories.

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