Between Two Seasons

 

When I was a kid the summer ended when Jerry Lewis sat on a stool and smoked and cried.  I got to stay up late to watch the Telethon, and was always amazed when it was still going on after I woke up. I always felt as if I’d missed something, as if they got loose and carefree and messy at 3 AM. 

I thought of Jerry Lewis primarily as a telethon host, just as I thought George Gobel had no existence prior to Hollywood Squares, or didn’t know the entire cast of “The Jungle Book” had careers before they voiced their characters. We all come in at the end of something, but we never know it until we look back later.

Summer ends today, and we all know it in our bones. Which is odd, since bones cannot read a calendar.  Why, summer goes on for another three weeks! Uh huh. Sure. I guess it’s bred deep from childhood: Labor Day is the last day summer can call its own. After that, no matter how warm, how sunny, how green and sweet, the days belong to Fall, raking in our chips on behalf of the house. The month marches towards the playground graveyard of October, then to the iron gates of Winter. It’s a good season, with all the necessary lessons. But this is Labor Day, summer’s property, and Fall can cool its heels outside while we play. 

I always end up at the State Fair the last weekend, for work. (Haven’t gone to the Fair just to be at the Fair for years. The job requires columns, videos, and recently, appearances: I stand on a small stage and hector people into answering questions for prizes.) The day before Labor Day was a perfect day at the Fair, without a hint of what’s to come. There was no end-of-summer mood, no get-it-all-in-before-it’s-over mood. It was a perfect day in our communal Brigadoon.

COVID killed the Fair last year. This year there’s a minor mask request in the barns. Wait a minute, I have to wear a mask in a poorly ventilated room full of flatulent pigs? Forget that! Uh – hold on, let me rethink that.  It didn’t kill it in 2021: The streets were filled, like a dry creek bed after a downpour. It was as if nothing had happened. 

Except it had. The lack of a mask mandate made the timorous stay away. Attendance was halved, I think. (The Fair after the Thanos snap.) In a way, it made for an easier day: you can get to the Fair by parking in a distant lot and taking a free bus. I park at the U of M, my old alma mater, and for years have known better than to expect an open spot in the free lots on the weekends. You find a meter and hike. But the lots never filled. The buses were full, but not packed. The lines at every wonderful food stand were halved. It was a demonstration of a new world where some will resume life, and some choose to stay home.

On the way to the parking lot I passed all the frats and sororities. It’s pledge week. Parties on every frat lawn. One sorority had all the members out front in cheerleading costumes. All the usual fertility rituals.  I always felt divorced from that side of college when I went to the U, but you can’t help but smile, and remember what it was like to be that age, at college, on a perfect day that was all the better for being not yet Fall. On the Minneapolis subreddit I saw people clucking about these parties, predicting the ICU would fill up in two week’s time. You wish, I thought. 

Anyway. The Fair ends, the summer ends. The last fireworks crackle and fade. The next day is usually exactly like the one that precedes it. The buildings on the Fairgrounds are still there, after all. But the knowledge that the Fair is going on, even if you’re not there, is something that sustains you in the last ten days of summer, the trailing edge of the green smooth fabric that ran through your hands with such constance you never thought to grab it and make it pause. The day after Labor Day, you know the Fair is over –  the friers are cold, the rides knocked down, the Grandstand cleared, the gondolas that crossed the sky taken down and put in the shed. It’s time to get back to work, even though you never really stopped. It’s time to get ready. Fall is our ally right now, our friend, but it will leave our side soon enough. Jerry Lewis has ground out his cigarette, and that means winter is next. 

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  1. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Thanks. I rode my bike to U of M in the fall and spring. 1971-1973.  I really liked winter. 

    • #1
  2. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    It’s exactly the same in Alaska. After the fair the leaves are yellow, all of your guy friends go off on their moose hunts, the grass crunches in the morning, and the motorhomes head back south along with the geese.

    • #2
  3. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    It’s true. The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon became, like Bob Hope’s USO trips overseas, the only thing that many boomer kids knew about them. In both cases, it was a benevolent association. Also in both cases, as we entered our twenties and thirties, we boomer kids gradually became cynical, maybe over-cynical about them. At least Hope never tried to present the US armed forces as “Bob’s Kids”.  

    This particular Hopper painting always reminded me (for no provable reason) of the very end of summer. It’s still warm enough not to need an outer jacket, but it’s getting dark early. 

    • #3
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I remember Jerry Lewis, too, but the hypothetical end of summer has the opposite significance for me.

    In Minnesota, summer is the golden time of the year.  In Arizona, not so much.  For a desert rat like me, winter can’t come soon enough.  :)

    I’m glad that you enjoyed the fair.  We have our fair in April, at the end of our best season.

    • #4
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Spring tornadoes, summer thunderstorms, and then it was autumn with a nip in the air and falling leaves.

    • #5
  6. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Here in western NY, fall has a distinct celebration: the day the U-Pick apple orchards open. We have one about four miles from home that has 350 varieties of apples on 6 acres, all grafted onto dwarf root stock so the kids can reach them. The folks who work there can tell you stories about the different cultivars. My favorite is the Mortgage Lifter, a keeper that sold so well the fellow who discovered it not only paid for his farm but bought two neighbors. 

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    For some reason, the school district had most of Jerry Lewis’ solo films available for screening, and the end of the elementary school year was marked by showings of The Nutty Professor, Geisha Boy, The Bell Boy, and the like. Then, there he was again, announcing the beginning of the school year on television.

    • #7
  8. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    We used to watch the Telethon, too, over this weekend.  The late stay-up, the early-up, to see how Jerry’s doing after his inevitable series of smaller and larger meltdowns over a ridiculous period of time.  

    Charo was always a bonus, for some reason.

     

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Fall comes much more subtley in Florida. There is that one morning . . . just before you step out the door, the view looks like any other summer day. Except that a subtle nip in the air is there for the first time. I love fall.

    • #9
  10. John H. Member
    John H.
    @JohnH

    Yesterday on the UT Austin campus, I saw quite a few students but by no means a dense crowd of ’em, wearing masks, outdoors, in 97-degree heat. New habits die hard.

    To the extent I could chat with fellow students during my Zoom-administered summer-school course, I’d expressed the hope that “college” would for them return to what it had long ago been for me, a social adventure as well as an intellectual one. But I wonder if many students these days really want either. Maybe they do, at U of M! 

    • #10
  11. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    James Lileks: All the usual fertility rituals. 

    At that age, what isn’t. 

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    John H. (View Comment):
    New habits die hard.

    Somebody needs to do a study to find out whether new habits die harder than old ones.  (Maybe somebody has already done that study.) 

    • #12
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    James Lileks: Summer ends today, and we all know it in our bones. Which is odd, since bones cannot read a calendar.  Why, summer goes on for another three weeks! Uh huh. Sure. I guess it’s bred deep from childhood: Labor Day is the last day summer can call its own. After that, no matter how warm, how sunny, how green and sweet, the days belong to Fall, raking in our chips on behalf of the house. The month marches towards the playground graveyard of October, then to the iron gates of Winter. It’s a good season, with all the necessary lessons. But this is Labor Day, summer’s property, and Fall can cool its heels outside while we play. 

    I’ve learned from Russian YouTubers that autumn starts on September 1 and winter starts on December 1, etc. 

    Sounds reasonable, but this proves that Sputnik I and Yuri Gagarin’s flight were fake. A country that doesn’t know its astronomy any better than that could not possibly have put objects in space  in a controlled fashion.  

    • #13
  14. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    A few mornings ago, we had our first thermostat reading below the AC setpoint (71°F vs. set at 73°F).  That’s the signal fall is approaching.

    Well, so are opening kickoffs . . .

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Percival (View Comment):
    For some reason, the school district had most of Jerry Lewis’ solo films available for screening, and the end of the elementary school year was marked by showings of The Nutty Professor, Geisha Boy, The Bell Boy, and the like.

    It explains so much about you and others who went to your school.

    • #15
  16. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Here in North Carolina, the State Fair is a fall thing (it’s in mid-October). Since fall is my favorite season, I always look forward to the Fair, and I’m always disappointed if the temperature is warmer than 60 or so.

    Of course, this year I’ll be happy to go at all. The Authorities insist that the Fair will be happening, although I haven’t heard any details about what protocols will be in place. I do expect attendance will be sharply down, but if that means I don’t have to stand in line quite so long for a corn dog, I won’t mind so much.

    • #16
  17. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    For some reason, the school district had most of Jerry Lewis’ solo films available for screening, and the end of the elementary school year was marked by showings of The Nutty Professor, Geisha Boy, The Bell Boy, and the like.

    It explains so much about you and others who went to your school.

    I love the ambulance chase scene in The Disorderly Orderly, especially where Lewis chases the guy on the gurney:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVuxmmhnVgE

    LMAO every time I watch it!

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    For some reason, the school district had most of Jerry Lewis’ solo films available for screening, and the end of the elementary school year was marked by showings of The Nutty Professor, Geisha Boy, The Bell Boy, and the like.

    It explains so much about you and others who went to your school.

    • #18
  19. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Stad (View Comment):
    LMAO every time I watch it!

    I’ll add you to the list.

    • #19
  20. EB Thatcher
    EB
    @EB

    I just looked up the Florida State Fair and apparently they have it in February!   Well, if they had it now it would be too hot – temps are still in the 90’s.

    • #20
  21. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    Legendary comedian; legendary jerk!  How big a jerk?  Read this:

    https://mediafunhouse.blogspot.com/2017/09/mean-jerry-underside-of-deceased.html

    • #21
  22. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    Here in North Carolina, the State Fair is a fall thing (it’s in mid-October). Since fall is my favorite season, I always look forward to the Fair, and I’m always disappointed if the temperature is warmer than 60 or so.

    Of course, this year I’ll be happy to go at all. The Authorities insist that the Fair will be happening, although I haven’t heard any details about what protocols will be in place. I do expect attendance will be sharply down, but if that means I don’t have to stand in line quite so long for a corn dog, I won’t mind so much.

    I live close enough to the fairgrounds that I can hear the fireworks at 10 o’clock every night of the fair. It drives my dog nuts. 

    Fall is by far my least favorite season. The days get shorter and shorter, which is a big thing to me. I love sunshine. The leaves start falling, a sure sign of death. Depressing. Winter is ok because the days start getting longer again. Can’t wait for spring.

    • #22
  23. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Our leaves have been falling all summer, due to the extreme drought here in the Pacific Northwest.  Already, our roof is covered with droppings from the big trees in the mini-forest next to our house.  I am so looking forward to autumn rain, and so are all the plants.

    I love the fall colors, and we’re looking forward to seeing them when we go to Michigan in two weeks.

    • #23
  24. PedroIg Member
    PedroIg
    @PedroIg

    In Maine, each county has it’s own fair, and they typically run from summer into early fall.  I particularly enjoy the last ones running from the end of September into the first week of October.   The days are usually pleasant (upper 60’s/low 70’s) with nice cool nights in the 50’s–sweatah weathah!

    • #24
  25. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Here in Atlanta, Labor Day marks the switch from the hot season to Summer.  Which lasts to about Thanksgiving, when we start the cool season.  Summer arrives again in March.

    (:

    • #25
  26. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Summer begins Memorial Day weekend and ends Labor Day weekend.

    Fall ends Thanksgiving weekend. Real science hasn’t determined the exact time Spring begins.

    • #26
  27. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):

    Here in North Carolina, the State Fair is a fall thing (it’s in mid-October). Since fall is my favorite season, I always look forward to the Fair, and I’m always disappointed if the temperature is warmer than 60 or so.

    Of course, this year I’ll be happy to go at all. The Authorities insist that the Fair will be happening, although I haven’t heard any details about what protocols will be in place. I do expect attendance will be sharply down, but if that means I don’t have to stand in line quite so long for a corn dog, I won’t mind so much.

    Oh man . . . I remember the NC state fair . . .

    • #27
  28. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Stad (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    For some reason, the school district had most of Jerry Lewis’ solo films available for screening, and the end of the elementary school year was marked by showings of The Nutty Professor, Geisha Boy, The Bell Boy, and the like.

    It explains so much about you and others who went to your school.

    I love the ambulance chase scene in The Disorderly Orderly, especially where Lewis chases the guy on the gurney:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVuxmmhnVgE

    LMAO every time I watch it!

    Don’t miss The Big Mouth.

    And, on a more serious side, The Delicate Delinquent.

    • #28
  29. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    And regarding Geisha Boy, Suzanne Pleshette may be the best part of that movie, and maybe this one also:

     

    • #29
  30. Acook Member
    Acook
    @Acook

    I have a theory about the seasons. I’ve never understood why the solstices and the equinoxes (equinoxi?) should mark the beginning of a season. For example, why, when the sun is at its northern most point, should summer (in my northern hemisphere biased viewpoint) just be starting?  Rather, I think those astronomical positions should be the height of the respective seasons. So then the beginning of the seasons would be a midpoint between the solstice and the equinox. Astronomers I’m sure can determine these points down to the second, but generally this puts my new season beginning about six weeks between each solstice and equinox. So fall started in early August and winter will begin early November. And since I care mostly about where *I* am, this works pretty well. I’m in the Denver area, temperate North America. You can definitely feel fall in the air by early August, and our leaves are down and the we usually have our first snow by early November.  YMMV

    • #30