Summer’s Swan Song

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As the season of meats comes to a close, I find myself wondering: What will we miss? It was a long, hot summer marked by awkward stutter steps. Who went out, who remained locked in? Did we behave or misbehave? When do we mask, and with whom? Can anyone still define “quarantine?” Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

Necessity is the mother of invention. Plato said that around 450 B.C. However, Plato’s wife did not live 833 air miles miles away in the middle of a soul-crushing pandemic. I nervously left my apartment by car in late May. By August I had racked up 9,000 driving miles shuttling between NY and Chicago. Why not convince my wife to vacation in Maine? What’s one more 1,300 mile trek?

We learned after booking our room that Maine wanted nothing to do with us unless we were virus-free. Is there anything more stressful than a Covid test? Yes. Trying to arrange one 72 hours before you travel and then praying you have the results back in time or suffer vakay interruptus.

We passed, the results arriving by text somewhere in Indiana out on I-80. We continued east and found a vacation refuge that, but for the masks, felt nearly normal. Did we? It seemed somehow odd that we could join the throngs of masked hikers, bicyclists and lobster-sucking tourists, even as our relatives back home ripped another page off the calendar, secretly wondering if we had lost our minds. Were we insensitive to post such lovely holiday pics? Or was it our duty to wipe down the glass in this Alice in Wonderland world and let others see that you could get out of the rabbit hole.

Now Labor Day has passed and September looms large. Will the subways fill and the offices slowly re-populate? In the states that allow it, will people timidly re-enter the restaurants and breathe some small semblance of life into their ravaged favorite establishments? Will we mask up and beat this damnable virus down, or are we in for more invisible, slow motion misery?

These days it seems a .006 micron aerosol droplet and November 3rd are the only thing anyone thinks about. If you even bothered to get the white pants out this summer, they are now at the laundry awaiting winter storage. The skies over Manhattan are azure blue and the breezes crisp and from the north. Autumn has always been my favorite season. I wonder what it will hold this year.

All photos by Ken Carlton

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