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Summer Memories

 

When I was a kid, the local pool had specific blocks of time in which it was open to the public. A single quarter would get you into one of the two-hour sessions. Despite my extremely sunburn-prone skin, my sister and I often got our mother to let us go for both sessions. There was a 20- to 30-minute break between the two sessions in which we had plenty of time to run two blocks over to the little grocery store and grab some snacks, charging them to Mom’s account. We usually got a Yoo-Hoo and a Moon Pie apiece, snarfed them down as quickly as possible, then ran back to the pool to camp out in the much cooler ladies’ locker room while waiting for the second session to start.

My sister and I lived in the pool as much as possible during the summer. We especially got excited for family reunion time every other June. We got to have three full days in the pool with our distant cousins while the adults visited. Occasionally, I’d be so sunburnt halfway through Day Two that my mother and grandmother would ban me from the pool, so I’d stay indoors with the adults and play cards.

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Summer: The Worst Season

 

I haven’t liked summer for ages. Sorry, folks. I’m the guy who is stomping on everyone’s good time. I mean, let’s face it, ever since about high school I’ve hated it. Summer has always been hot and uncomfortable with the guarantee that there’s always a limit to how much of your clothes you can take off and be socially accepted. Not that I’ve tried. That anyone can prove. I’ve experienced dry heat and high humidity and just about all between and I can safely say it’s all bad. All of it.

I hated walking in Minnesota summers that felt like you were swimming in the air, hot and muggy and uncomfortable. I don’t like the high desert summers where the air sucks out every single ounce of moisture in you and brings the temperature in your car up to three digits. It makes people crazy, too. Just ask my totally existing detective friend who notes that all the crazy and stupid crimes go up in the summer. He’s an autumn/winter guy too.

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Love of Flying: AirVenture

 
2017 Boeing Plaza

Each year near the end of July, about 600,000 people make a pilgrimage to AirVenture, sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. For EAA members, their love of all things flying brings them back every year. One local EAA member has been to Oshkosh since 1978, missing only twice due to work and a house move. Like many of the 5000 volunteers, he answers questions from those who fly-in (where are the bathrooms…) and helps tie down their planes. AirVenture is a major tradeshow for aviation vendors, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) usually makes a major announcement. For many, the afternoon airshow with special aircraft, such as Warbirds (mostly World War II), military jets, and great aerobatic flyers such as Sean Tucker is the reason to attend.

Two of our family vacations combined a trip to Oshkosh with the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. Our 1992 trip went to Oshkosh for 2 days, followed by 3 days of wilderness canoeing. We reprised this vacation in 1994 with 3 days of Oshkosh and 4 days of canoeing. The highlight of Oshkosh ’94 was to see the three Apollo 11 Astronauts discuss the 25th anniversary of their moon adventure. Instead being in the crowd up front, we went behind the platform and saw them up close (<20’) as real people. Within the Oshkosh crowd, there was no apparent security present.

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Yeah, But It’s a Dry Heat

 

Through most of the ’90s, I worked for a software company in Dallas, doing vertical market insurance administration software. We were the market leader, due in large part to how responsive the company was to customers desires and satisfaction. Part of making this happen was bringing the customers into the process twice a year, for the Product Showcase and the User Forum.

The Product Showcase was always held in Dallas, demonstrating all the new products and features that had been built in the previous year. There was no canned demo software or proof of concept versions; everything we would show was real, working software at least theoretically ready for release, so that was always a stressful event of those of us showing new stuff.

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Sunshine on my Shoulders

 

The ultimate destination of that vacation with another family that I mentioned yesterday was South Manitou Island in Michigan. The island had been taken over as part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but those who owned property there were grandfathered in. When those people died, their land would become part of the park. However, one of those people owned a cabin and was a friend of Mr. Leonards*, the father of the family I was traveling with. So, Mr. Leonards got this cabin for two weeks in the summer every year, and I happened to be with them in the summer of 1976.

The cabin was not a log cabin, but more of a small bungalow home. It had two bedrooms. One taken by Mr. and Mrs. Leonards. The other was a small bedroom with a captain’s bed. Like a car ferry, a captain’s bed was something I had never encountered before. It was just a single bed with a built-in chest of drawers. I thought that space-saving idea was the cat’s pajamas. Still do, and while my current bed is a larger affair, it does have drawers beneath it for linens and for Miss Morgana to open and crawl into. (She likes drawers.)

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The Faded and Tattered Memory of a Car Ferry

 

I think it was the summer I was 12. I don’t remember precisely. It was more than 40 years ago now, at any rate. Family friends offered me the chance to go with them on vacation. They may have offered it to my immediately elder brother first, I’m not sure, but it came down to me, and I jumped at the chance. They had two kids, slightly older than me. I learned about a lot of things I had never heard of before on that vacation. The route was up from where we lived near Chicago to Milwaukee where we took a car ferry across Lake Michigan to some city on the Michigan coast, probably Muskegon. Then from there to the rest of the vacation.

I had never heard of a car ferry. Even at that age, I was a history nut with two elder brothers, the elder of whom was also into history, especially military history. I had heard of Harper’s Ferry, of course, but that rather predated automobiles. My vision of a ferry was basically a raft that was pulled across via a rope or was poled across a river. I am not sure what I thought I would see when I heard we would be taking a car ferry across Lake Michigan, but when it arrived at the dock, it was not what I expected. To my eyes, it was a ship, a big ship.

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The Sunshine of My Life

 

“The sun of real happiness shines in your life when you start to cherish others.” — Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

When I think of summer, I experience a restorative state of mind: easy days, dazzling sunlight, leafy trees, blooming flowers and cheerful moments. I think of a bright, yellow sun, bathing the skies and shooing the clouds away. A sunny day lifts me up, even when things might not be going well.

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Boundary Waters Canoeing

 

After our two daughters were old enough (eight and five), I approached my wife about going to the Oshkosh Fly-in (now called AirVenture) in 1992. Living in the Kansas City area, we planned to stop at her parent’s house in northern Illinois for a night and drive to Wisconsin the next day. Since the minimum camping charge was for three nights, we planned to be at the airshow for two full days. I remembered being in the Boundary Waters near Ely, MN, in 1975 and 1976, so I asked if we should try wilderness canoeing.

“Sure,” she said, “I was there in 1969 and 1970, and I carried a canoe.” After being married for over 13 years, I was flabbergasted that I didn’t know this. We had camped a few times (before and after having kids) and decided on a three-day canoeing trip. After calling a few Ely outfitters, we chose the one I used in 1976. Our total bill was about $420, which included an 18-foot canoe, paddles, tent, food, sleeping bags, and three Duluth packs (kitchen/food, clothing, sleeping) to carry everything.

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