There was a song from my childhood Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer, sung by Nat “King” Cole. It was catchy because, even today, after almost sixty years, I can’t get It out of my head sometimes.
It was a Summer where my father had his gall bladder removed, in the days before laparoscopic surgery. This required opening up the abdominal cavity to excise the offending organ. It took a while to recuperate, but it did leave a cool scar. We kids were farmed out to our extended family; my elder brother and I stayed with our Uncle W and Aunt J, my sister and younger brother to Pop and Grandma Eva.
I guess I remember all this now because of my son’s episode with his gall bladder. And this Summer is almost over. I did not swim outside rven once this year. I don’t “tan”. Sitting around outside is not my thing. During the Gall Bladder Summer, our aunt took us to this fancy recreation center, Ginter Park Recreation Association. There was a nice pool. It was architecturally impressive, kind of a Tudor Style building, consistent with the anglophilic spirit of Richmond. That was the summer I saw my uncle eat dinner in his underwear, actually with just his trousers off, his shirt and tie remained on. Maybe he had a meeting later, with the Masons or the Republicans or a Vestry meeting,and the press of his trousers needed conserving, but Daddy never ate in his underwear.
This is also the year we played strip poker with my cousins. I lost, was totally naked. They teased me and I hid in a closet. So, is that why I am somewhat “peculiar”? It was powerful humiliation with homosexual overtones. I don’t know. This little incident, coupled with my uncle’s choice around dressing for dinner, were truly formative experiences.
Getting back to the song. It seemed to fit. These were times of lunch counter sit-ins, The Cold War, Cuba. People went to drive-in everything, movies, burger joints, even churches in Southern California..
There were psychopathic killers then and executions of psychopathic killers. Westerns were on television, along with cigarette commercials, quiz shows, and, of course, Sitcoms, all in summer reruns. The new tv shows came in The Fall, along with new car models. The season change was about New Stuff. We didn’t know it then, but popular culture was controlled by advertising agencies in New York. Think Mad Men.
We wanted to believe we were a modern world, making progress. People waited on line for vaccinations against polio. Imagine that happening today.
Simpler time? Actually pretty damn complex, hierarchical in ways we can’t imagine. We live still in reaction to that time, while still buying in to the notions of material progress that set the tone of yesterday and today.