NEW YORK, NY – As I sit here knocking this out on my keyboard, the relentless sun and scorching temps have turned New York from a figurative to literal “melting pot.” People are so hot here that I actually witnessed someone drinking a Diet Mr. Pibb. Elderly folks are seeking shelter at cooling centers powered solely by Ike Davis strikeout swings, while dogs are taking refuge under the ample funbags of Jesus Montero’s girlfriend. Those not as lucky probably found themselves at Tuesday night’s Major League Baseball All Star Game in Queens. If ever there were an appropriate place to watch millionaires sweat it’s at The House The Wilpons & Madoff Built, and named for Citibank. Perfection. game aside, today I choose to dwell on a more old school brand of midsummer classics that never cost hundreds of dollars to enjoy.
All Day at the Movies. A million years ago, when I was a kid, one of the best ways parents had to keep their kids out of the heat and (mostly) out of trouble was to send them to the movies for the day. Some theaters like my long-gone local haunt, The Dale, helped out by hosting seemingly dozens of Disney double-features all summer long and never really bothered to kick you out if you felt like sticking around for a second viewing. So you really got to know flicks like The World’s Greatest Athlete, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo by heart. Seeing these flicks also made you think that actor Dean Jones was America’s answer to Sir Laurence Olivier. Better yet, when you got bored you could register your displeasure with certain features by blowing boxes of the mini-jawbreaker candy, Orbits, at the screen–the makers of Orbits leaving no illusion as to their product’s true purpose by including a straw with every box.
Jurassic Water Park. Back in the 70s when the temps climbed over the 90 mark you were lucky if you could scam a ride out to the beach or sneak into a pool. On those days you were unable to accomplish either, you had three choices: stay inside, spend all day loitering in your local supermarket’s frozen food aisle, or open up a fire hydrant and let the good times roll. Though the latter is still done today, it’s not close to the water-wasting bacchanal it was back then. Sprinkler caps were easily dispatched and water was turned on with such force it would take the paint off of passing cars. That still didn’t stop you and your bike from trying to Evel Knievel your way through it. A giant strawberry up the length of your leg being your daredevil red badge of courage.
Wiffle, Wiffle, and More Wiffle. If you never played Wiffle Ball in the summer, you never really experienced what would be called a “full childhood.” There were a couple of summers I can remember where, except for the occasional trek out to Rockaway Beach in Grote2DMax’s Dad’s green Dodge Dart, we played wiffle virtually every single day. You could play two-on-two with landmarks for single, double, triple, homer against the side of a building or do what we did, and paint bases in the middle of the street (who cares that Chris Wilson mistakenly painted the first base foul line on the wrong side of the bag?). Today MLB barely allows its pampered players to play two games in a single day. Back then, we would start playing around 10 in the morning, take the occasional short break for lunch, dinner, or one of the many ice cream trucks to rumble up the block, but really not stop until there wasn’t a hint of sunlight left (usually around 8:30 pm or so). For the price of a plastic bat and ball you had hours of fun and exercise.
The Beach is Back. Even in the midst of the most unbearable of urban asphalt summers you occasionally had the chance to hit the beach. Load up the car with as many neighborhood kids as you could fit and hit the road. Failing that, get there by bus (Fordham Road anyone?), train, subway… any means possible. Those trips to the surf and sand all came with a smooth summer soundtrack featuring songs like “Rock the Boat” by the Hues Corporation, “Baker Street” by Jerry Rafferty and George McCrae’s (no relation to Hal) “Rock Your Baby“– songs that always seemed to be on the radio and still remain in your warm-weather consciousness today. The beach also featured no shortage of sporting pursuits from volleyball to Frisbee football to running bases. There was always a game to be played. In fact, we were all so busy having fun that we forgot to put on sunscreen. Oh well, what’s a little skin cancer for a boatload of great summer memories.
The heat’s back on tomorrow with another sizzling column from Cam James… Or Lori Levine?