Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Seventeen, Twenty-One, Twenty-Five: 1998, 2002, 2006

In the summer of 1998 I was 17, I was surrounded by great friends, and I had a helluva lot of fun. I was about to go into my senior year of high school, I was finally mobile thanks to a hand-me-down Mercury (a rural teenager without transportation is a bored teenager), and my friends and I were eagerly exploring life. I remember a lot of discovery that summer. I remember a lot of introspection in the warm summer evenings. I remember a lot of loud electronic dance music, old-school hip-hop, industrial, and They Might Be Giants played over shoddy car stereos via a discman and a tape adapter since most of us only had tape decks in what teenagermobiles we had managed to obtain. I remember philosophizing and gossiping. I remember lusting. I remember dreaming. I remember lolling about Lake Siskiyou for hours on end. I remember commandeering the stereo at the bowling alley in Weed and listening to the Chemical Brothers through our game. I remember inventing the sport of "barrel throwing" while listening to ear-bleeding industrial music in a friend's back yard. I remember sweltering heat and the siren call of "Ebeneezer Goode." I remember marveling at life.

The summer of 1998 was a good time for me. I don't know what exactly it was that made it so. Perhaps it was something about that age. Perhaps it was the adolescent confidence. Perhaps it was my friends. Perhaps it was a confluence of factors. Regardless, I have held that summer in high esteem ever since. Afterwards, I often reflected on that time and longed for it.

Then in 2002 I had a similar experience. In the summer of 2002, I was 21, I had a slightly changed yet equally strong group of friends, and I experienced another high-water mark of fun. This time I was heading towards my senior year of college, my interests were rapidly expanding into the world of craft beer, and I again had burdgeoning confidence. Much like the summer of '98, that of '02 was filled with long, warm summer evenings spent on a friend's porch philosophizing and gossiping, only with beer in hand instead of generic soda. Again, my personal world was expaning, and I was filled with wonderment. I remember longer and more frequent excursions on Lake Siskiyou. I remember incessant filming with a friend's camera: our parties, our conversations, the feral cats, etc. I remember suspecting a friend of alcoholism. I remember my joy at discovering
matryoshkas in the house my friend was house-sitting. I remembering spending $250 and 14 hours preparing food for a backyard barbeque, and loving every minute of it. I remember eating the best hamburger I have ever eaten off a grill in my friend's front yard, sitting in a folding lawn chair. I remember grass in my toes. I remember IPA's tasting "too bitter" for me. I remember brewing my first batch of homebrew, and how bloody horrible it was. I remember trolling for girls in Ashland and Medford. I remember being turned on to Indian food. I remember being outside under the hot Montague sun for hours on end each work-day. I remember being tanner and blonder than I have been at any other point in my life. I remember hours at the gym bullshitting with my friends and turning my health around. I remember being in the thrawls of a growing obsession with Slavic science fiction. I remember reading voraciously during my lunch break. I remember turning down an evening out because I was so bloody wrapped up in Stanislaw Lem's His Master's Voice. I remember my mental and physical health both being on a definate, positive upswing. I remember feeling like I was being the best possible me I could be, and having a damn fine time doing it.

Much like the summer of '98, the summer of '02 has since been looked upon with a longing fondness. Why the summer of '02 was as it was, I don't know. Perhaps it was the age. Perhaps it was my decision to make a concerted effort to turn around my physical and mental health. Perhaps it was my damn fine cohort of friends. But again, regardless of what it was, it passed, and I have longed for it since. However, since that time, I have often wondered about the timing of my two superlative summers. 1998? 2002? Four years apart? Betwixt the junior and senior years of both high school and college? Perhaps there was something in the numbers. Perhaps every four years I was bound to experience such a summer.

And then today came. As I was driving home from work today, I was in remarkably good spirits, especially considering the funk in which I began the day. Perhaps it's the fact that the weather has finally turned in California and the Sun is shining down unabashedly. Perhaps it's the fact that I've finally adjusted to daylight savings time. Perhaps it's the goodwill that's been showered upon me as a result of this day being my birthday. Or perhaps it's something else...

As I was driving, I was listening to
Respect Is Burning, Vol 2, a compilation of French-scene house from the late 90s - we're talking the fuzzed-out, uber-funky stuff expemplified by the likes of Daft Punk. Listening to this album triggered intense memories of that idyllic time, 1998 (odd, considering that the disc didn't come out until '99, but oh well). As I drove, I reflected on that summer, and subsequently, on the summer of '02. And again, the four-year interval occurred to me. And very soon I realized, to my absolute amazment, that 2002 was four years in the past. It occurred to me that the summer of 2006 loomed before me, and that it may, according to the numbers, be another of the magical summers. And I was filled with glee at its certainty.

This coming summer will I will be on paid (sort of - only through the debiting of my paychecks through the rest of the year) vacation. It already has the ingredients of a grand time on par with '98 and '02. There will be a bachelor party consisting of fishing and craft beer in the Bend, Oregon area. There's a spelunking trip in the works. And I will have enough time on my hands to enact much more based on what I should dream up. Now I turn my attention to what I should do during the coming summer to make the most of it. I should hit the gym, hard. I should read, a lot. I should write - four years ago I told myself I'd use my summers off to become a published author. I should listen to loud electronic dance music. I should bask in the sun and laze in the dusk. I should take a pochade box and a stack of canvases up in the Sierras and not return until they are full. I should brew another lovely saison. I should go backpacking. I should go weeks without shaving, and then delight at a smooth face. I should never wear slacks. I should track down my now disparate friends and force my company upon them. I should live, having worked all year.


Have you any grand ideas for the Summer of Zac, please leave them in a comment...

5 Comments:

At 4:26 PM, Blogger brenda said...

Not to doom you or anything, but you might find that your 2006 summer is a little different, seeing as how you'll pretty much be the only one of our friends with a traditional summer off...

But I think you should go for it anway.

And: I think the feral cats were 2001. And 2003 was a pretty good summer too, right? And did you ever really go trolling for girls?

 
At 9:14 PM, Blogger Zac said...

Yeah, but I can travel. In the middle of the week, at least.

And as for the feral cats, they were most definately in 2002. And 2003 was alright, I suppose... But our trolling for girls was very clumsy. So clumsy as to not really be trolling. So, yes - er, no.

 
At 8:25 PM, Blogger Drakage said...

When you mentioned that second awesome summer, I immediately thought of the bbq and the feral cats. They were definitely the SAME summer. The video camera is the proof. That was indeed the best summer in recent memory.

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger Zac said...

Drake - you know if Scott has school this summer? 'Cause if he doesn't, even with the two jobs, and what with Bill being not too far away, we might have the critical mass to make things happen...

 
At 2:17 AM, Blogger Ryan said...

man, i regret not making it to that party so much. i'll never be able to laugh quite as hard at that video as you guys. promise i'll make it down your way for some stuff this summer.

 

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