When people talk about the American summer traditions they often refer to bar-b-q, bikinis, cheesy beach music (Santana if you’re Hispanic but that’s different) and the works. While the choice in swim wear differs and obviously so does the choice for barbecue, it’s really all the same. It’s still soccer moms trying to fit into the trim bikinis off the shelves of aeropostale. Dads still drinking more than flipping those steaks, but I guess I don’t mind a little coal on my meat. I never liked The Beachboys, well if I have faith in my good choice of music, I probably never will. But even they sound great while getting fried under the open blue skies. So while you do hear Lil Wayne on somebody’s iPod shuffle every once in a while, the core values of an American summer are still firmly withheld on its origins from the 50s.
So this past Friday (no puns please), I was sitting on the steps with my bud Ronnie while quite thoroughly enjoying a cold bottle of St. Arnold’s. Ronnie is a Vietnam War veteran and is working his last few years till retirement. The guy’s a fun chap and can seemingly never run out of war stories. So I’m waiting on what smelled to be a well-seasoned pepper steak. And the pool is full of Stewies, milfs, Brians, teenagers, Peters; I mean you get the picture. So I’m grabbing a smoke and trying to fish for inspiration under the neat blue sky. The entire afternoon went by and I was treated to what the troops back in the days called “The American Day-Dream”. On a quick note, If you think you’ve had too much to drink, try pouring out the rest of your beer onto your steak while it’s still on the grill, you’ll thank me later.
So as the evening got closer, I got weary as did everybody else. And then from across the pool from my apartment, enters Amy Parks. When you live in Texas it’s not too often you come across a local from outskirt Houston who deserves a second look. But if I’ve ever met a redhead who seemed deserving enough, it was her. She most graciously fashion red polka dots on her two-piece and well needless to say, the redneck population grew quite aware of the details. It was like watching a slow motion Axe commercial. The rest of the lone-star state seemed to fall apart as she walked around the corner and came walking towards the stairs. She stood there with a patented Molly Ringwald-esque smile, and asked why I sat dry on on a Friday afternoon (again, no puns).
Okay, here’s where I fill you in on how I happened to know Miss Parks. I met her on my first day after moving into my new apartment. We did laundry together, had a few laughs and have been “good neighbors” ever since. So she asked me to go put on a pair of trunks while she waited. With much hesitation (yeah right) I went back in and came out in my traditional Hawaiian trunks (Note that I did so in almost record time). We spent the evening playing chicken fights with much fatter women (who were on the backs of relatively thinner men) in the pool. Of course our victories were much owed to my skilled footwork under the water. As the night grew, we made toasts to the starry sky courtesy of Miss Parks. Of course I have a playlist for every occasion on my iPod and Don Mclean’s “Vincent” did not fail me.
One can never comprehend the authentic nature of a southern summer night nor the afternoon; especially when you share it with a beautiful neighborhood of families, friends and classified strangers. It’s the veteran tales of the war. It’s also the testosterone-warped debate of beer supremacy. And of course it’s the soothing company of a laundry mate who every other guy gloats at you for. Sometimes it’s simply about singin’ a Lynyrd Skynyrd song all summer long.