Summer is a beautiful thing, a season that truly captures the definition. Winter comes and goes, through the wonder of family and holidays and snow, but also drags on. It shows first signs by the time you've had your Thanksgiving meal, but mercilessly freezes all warm feelings as sub-zero temperatures drag on into March. Fall lasted just long enough, often teasing you with the first dusting of snow by Halloween and also giving us random hot flashes as the corn crops start to dry out, sometimes holding off the bite of winter nearly until the calendar expires. When the iron fist of winter finally weakens, the mud and allergies of spring wash over you. Constantly teasing at the warmth to come, but still capable of dropping snow and cold at a whim. And then there is summer.
Summer is the freedom that everyone seeks. From children, between school years, happy to have free reign while their parents are at work, to adults, who drag their children across the country to see sights they will soon forget, and the in-betweeners, the ones who held off children, but are old enough that they need to request "time off" from their jobs. Everyone loves to escape, but that escape of summer isn't possible if not for the restrictions of the other seasons.
So many things can be your summer. The sight seeing, the road trips, the unsupervised freedom - all are pieces of what make summer so grand. But, it is more than that. The warm weather, no matter how many layers of clothes you shed, it will never be enough to escape the pounding heat, and occasional humidity, of summer. The heat, the active body, freeing you from the winter edition of your body, the pounds you packed on evaporating like dew with the morning heat. Summer is a free-for-all that drops itself right into the middle of the calendar, daring you to try to avoid it, but you never can. Sadly, as you grow older, it can be more difficult to take advantage of summer's call.
I hate the heat. Can't handle the humidity. I live for fall. It is the best season with the best holidays. There isn't anything like it for me. Still, it can't replicate what summer provides us, which is a state of mind, just as much as a state of body. And that is why there is a type of catharsis that comes with the end of each summer. More than just catharsis, for first there must be the loss of something, in this case it is summer. Why does this season's end feel like such a loss, even to people like me who prefer the season that follows? There is something unique and wonderful about summer, there is no doubt.
I have an office job that strangles life and fun and vitality out of me. I don't think it is the particular job, though that doesn't help. I think it has more to do with who I am as an adult, the focus isn't so much on now anymore, it is one where I want to be. So, I miss things. Like vacations, and going out on the pontoon with my friends, and afternoon movies and day baseball. I just prematurely age under the fluorescent lighting of another day that is similar to all those before.
When I was younger, the summers meant free reign of the house. I'd watch a lot of sports on TV, going skateboarding, sleep in, eat too much, and wander around town with my fellow middle school parolees. We measured the time until our freedom would be revoked, not in increments of days, but in the volume of fun and mischief we could engage in before the sun set earlier and homework was once again our regimen.
In the awkward hours of the day when my friends weren't available or it was raining, time was devoted to making hundreds of mixtapes. Dubbing track after track from CD to cassette, having to manually manage the start and stop of each action, knowing the precise moment the song would end and how much time you had to pause it before the next song would start. So many of those cassettes from the 1990s were lost, destroyed or simply played under the tape disintegrated. Not all of them suffered their fate in my hands. Some of those tapes made it to the few local outcast types that I would go skateboarding with before they all moved on to other towns, other parts of their families, or juvie. Some of those tapes were made specifically for a kid who was goth before goth. He was picked on and beat up regularly, committed to wearing all black, even in summer, he was never going to fit in to the small farming community he had the misfortune of being dropped into when he was just a kid. We had a small, brief link and it was that music. Some of those tapes ended up in the hands of the weird, skateboarding types that I met randomly late at night in central Wisconsin. Some of those tapes ended up with some kids who were clearly strung out, hitchhiking up I-5 in central California, and just happened to cross my path.
The one thing that connected me and those mixtapes to all of those people - summer. Summer is when I was free from school and could travel with my dad, a truck driver. Summer is when I could go skateboard all day. Summer is when I would hang out, reluctantly, in the basement of a church with a kid who was very openly struggling with his pain of not fitting in. Summer gave me all of those experiences because summer is the only season that grants us the license to explore freely in the world around us and the people who are doing the same.
I can only imagine what a majority of the content on those old mixtapes consisted of now, but I imagine it was a healthy does of 1990s straight edge hardcore, mixed with some emo and alt-rock type stuff. One blazing Shai Hulud track giving way to something from the early days of Further Seems Forever or Twothirtyeight. Or, it could have been any one of the other thousand bands that I was obsessed with at the time. It doesn't matter, whatever it was, I'd still love it today.
There are a few "classic" summer sounds that would frequent my mixtapes, which eventually became mix CDs, before simply becoming playlists in my iTunes with stops at Muxtape, Last.fm and others along the way. I'm sure that someday I might learn how to do something really easy like make playlists on Spotify or Apple Music, but maybe I won't. Either way, I'll always hate the end of summer, but love the mixtapes that it gave me and the memories tied to those cassettes which will never die.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)