Alan Asnen

A hummingbird flew up to the new feeder we had placed outside the breakfast window of our new (to us) home this morning, breaking the thought we’d had that hanging such a feeder there or anywhere so late in summer was hopeless. Perhaps, come October, we thought, a stray commuting down from Minnesota or Canada might stop by for a drink. Not any locals now up here from Mexico, all committed to feeders or late blooms elsewhere.

Hope springs eternal, so they say, like a hummingbird — not such a mythical creature — even when times are dim, growing darker. Or conversely, when bright and so bright that one cannot even see ahead to the future, when young and full of energy, vibrant and wanting to do everything all at once, fortunate enough to have friends and to be alive in one of the densest parts of the world at one of the most exciting times in history.

When the music was perfect. Not, I’m afraid, like now…

Oh, no, not like now. Summer music especially now is so oppressive! Such a — what is that word? — such a downer!

Perfect summer music died, I think, during the 90s, but…well, that’s not what this is about… Don’t get me started.

This is about a much worse time for everyone when the music had to be so much better simply to keep everyone’s spirits up. And did it ever.

Had I mentioned we recently moved? Not being wealthy, we did a lot of that moving ourselves, in this summer heat (and me, in an un-air-conditioned car) around what is commonly referred to in these necks as the Midsouth. Lordy. I ain’t from these necks. More on that later, gator. It was an hour’s drive, each way from where we were to where we are and lots of trips to gather the small stuff (and we being us there was lots of small stuff — books, CDs, cat toys…)

On the way, almost by divine accident, I rediscovered a group of songs, and one in particular that I had shared with a gang of high school friends in the Summer of 1966, and I sang those ditties from memory, whilst sweating and driving, every mile through back roads, waving at Midsouth cows and horses,

quite cheerfully, mind you, shouting out lyrics such as:

The taxman’s taken all my dough

And left me in my stately home

Lazin’ on a sunny afternoon

And I can’t sail my yacht

He’s taken everything I’ve got

All I’ve got’s this sunny afternoon*

This was out of 1966, mind you, coming from the Davies brothers via foggy old England. Like so many of their hits, the music was a complete rip off from either Fats Waller or Bessie Smith (in this case I believe it was Waller). Full of joy while belting out the blues.

Now, about those friends…

We were all very special people, I’ll have you know, and they were all so much more special than I could ever have been. I was definitely the pee wee in the bunch and so lucky to find myself among them. (Look at me! Just imagine what superstars they are today!) Karen the beauty queen and virtuoso on violin. Audrey, her mate and literal second fiddle. Robert, the deep and quiet writer. Maurice, the Broadway dancer and me, the all-around-everything-wannabe. Five fourteen-year-olds and newbies let loose in Harlem at New York City’s most exclusive school for music and art.

High School of Music and Art (https://www.geni.com/photo/)

This song, that summer, had us arm in arm chorus-line-dancing up and down those very stairs you see in that photo, in the streets and singing away, through Harlem, in the subways, in Times Square (no tipping, please, not in those days) in Washington Square Park and all throughout Greenwich Village at all hours of the day and night.

Yes, we danced and sang while babies were being napalmed in Vietnam. And we knew it. While the poor were rioting, and cities were burning all over America. And we knew it. We knew all about it. We joined in the protests against it and danced and sang and joined hands there as well, then went back to singing “Sunny Afternoon” the remainder of our time together and the rest of our days alone.

Because off in the steamy, cloudy vista were visions of Kennedys and McCarthys and King to save us and dancing around the Pentagon to raise it off the ground (with singing!) and somehow we knew it, we knew it all… The Saviors were coming…

My girlfriend’s run off with my car

And gone back to her ma and pa

Tellin’ tales of drunkenness and cruelty

And now I’m sittin’ here, sippin’ at my ice-cold beer

Lazin’ on a sunny afternoon

Help me, help me, help me sail away

Well give me two good reasons why I ought to stay

’Cause I love to live so pleasantly

Live this life of luxury

Lazin’ on a sunny afternoon

In the summertime…*

We were SO SMART…

AP Phtoto (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/remembering-1968-the-election-of-richard-m-nixon/)

Yeah, I sang to those cows and horses. Those were long drives in the hot Midsouth summer. But the music was still great. Nothing else has changed, either. It’s still summer.

*

And where is my head??? Very special thanks to that very special LUCY for giving us all this opportunity to write about our summer experiences! Sorry to be so late to THAT party, Luce!!

Possessor of Paul Newman eyes. Author of many things straightforward and strange. Some of them appear here. “Women zai shuo ba” as the Mandarin say. Born 2016.

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