Here in San Antonio, despite the continued triple-digit temperatures, summer is most definitely winding to a close. School inexplicably begins the week before Labor Day (this either has to do with bureaucratic hokum or with air-conditioning), so we've got little choice in the matter: The new lunch boxes, backpacks and shoes have all been procured; the outdoor pool at the health club is now closed so the lifeguards can get educated; even our own pool has become mysteriously chilly. Last week I tried to get my kids their umpteenth pair of replacement goggles only to find that the pool section at the sporting goods store had been subsumed by the hunting and fishing department. No more wacky noodles, no more inflatable recliners. All of which leads me to believe that there's a conspiracy to make us forget that summer actually ends on September 21, not August 25, so we'll sooner submit to the lash of structure and routine and punctuality and carpooling and early-birds-always-getting-the-worm. Bleh.
But before it's too late, before Summer turns into a pumpkin, I wanted to share this dreamy coffee table tome I picked up at the used-book store at our city library (a signed first edition—I love that store!): Summer Places, written by renowned critic/bon vivant Brendan Gill and photographed by Dudley Witney. Published in 1978, it's a quintessential hostess gift—a visual survey of the great, historic summer towns and summer homes across North America, along with some nostalgic summer rhapsodizing courtesy of Gill:
Unfailingly, summer places have been the agreeable ghosts that accompany me throughout the winter and help me survive its bitter humors. They are robust and yet tender-hearted ghosts, not shadowy, unfeeling ones, and I hold out my hands to them for warmth. As I grow older, these ghosts of mine remain ever the same age, ever youthfully on tiptoe. It is morning with them; there is dew on the tops of the hedges among which they stand and somewhere far off a glint of sea.I spent the bulk of my childhood summers at the Jersey Shore, a place that's full of robust yet tender-hearted ghosts so I think I know what he's talking about...
But does anyone read the text in a coffee-table book? It's all about the photos. Some of the ones in this volume are a bit blah to my eye; too many architectural details of grand old seaside hotels, too many empty landscapes. It feels a little lonely, like maybe it should've been titled Off-Season Summer Places. I prefer the photos that feature actual human vacationers (maybe because I like to look at the clothes, hairstyles and eyewear). Still, it's all here—the salty breezes, the smell of lake on your swimsuit, the creak of a saddle, the clamor of the boardwalk, the clink of boats nudging the dock... Sayonara, Summer.
Playing shuffleboard and beanbag in Quebec
On the beach in Galveston, TX
East Hampton, Long Island, NY
Asbury Park, NJ
Camp at Lake Timagami, Ontario
Ranch near Cody, WY
A shell shop in Galveston, TX