PRE-SOLSTICE DREAM OF A SUMMER YET TO BE….

I always feel like I’m missing summer. It’s my own fault. I want to catch it, like a wave.

I write this as a thunder storm is sweeping over Tampa Bay, my home at the moment. I welcome those storms — as a dramatic sign of a Florida summer. But I miss the seasons, ultimately. Or, at least, spring and summer.

I see that a female former colleague — a joie de vivre kind of soul, cancer survivor, attractive, single, still working in television at 61, free spirit, frequent Facebook flyer — has posted a picture of herself out in a bight, rocky, open patch of nature, arms flung up in the air, wearing a light pastel shift, tanned, blond head flung back as in some bacchanalian sun worshiping ritual. And her caption says something like, “I’m welcoming summer!!!” …

…as are many up north, especially after the draconian pandemic lockdown that has gently been eased. And it will fly, summer. All time is flying. Or, perhaps, it is, like the distant mountains, never really moving. Never really “past.”

But anyway…

I think of how I’ve abstained, or been too lazy to undertake, summer after summer, the outdoors stuff — the good solitary, watery seasonal things. I’ve already posted things on this blog over recent weeks about summer in the Sierra, etc.. Life lived in the rear-view mirror. But even then never did I fully, boldly partake of any canoe trips, mountain hikes, sailing, golfing. Not in a steady, summer-submersed manner or spirit. Now and then, yes, And never alone. I enjoy being alone.,

Life is short. I hike, sail and golf — that you really shouldn’t do alone — only in my imagination. Timorous and lazy soul that I am — and far from youth — I’ve gone on squandering the hours. Seize the day! Seize the seasons! Seize summer!

Let me be alone for these occasions when you can sink into life. Note that my former colleague was doing her sun-basking ritual — alone. (I suspect she set a camera up to catch it, no photographer necessary. She is, by trade, a photographer. But, it should be noted, she shared herself with the Facebook world. I’d be alone without cameras, out of sight of Facebook. Only in sight of God’s face. In God’s holy season.)

By the way, I’ve NEVER golfed. So expensive! I’ve never skied either, not really. Not past the bunny slope.

Skating ( if I might speak for a moment of that other season, winter) was part of my life in the late fifties. Then the folks sold the camp on the lake and the skates came off – and stayed off. And skis and skates are not to be taken up after a certain age. I think I’m at that age. So it goes.

If I can make it to heaven, who knows what sports are available in that hoped-for destination? (Odd and weird and yet consoling to think in such trusting, child-like terms of what comes after this life. Oh, well. We mortals take our consolation wherever we can find it. At least this mortal does.)

The summer solstice, the astronomical start of the season that for the rest of us started on Memorial Day, is soon to be upon us. It’s summer with an exclamation point. The longest day. I think I’ll plan a summer trip for myself. Maybe I’ll finally take up golf, hang the expense….

My father died on Memorial Day, 1964 at 54 years old. Dead at the brink of only the fifty-fifth summer of his life. I see him putting on skates at the Foxborough camp and, in car coat and work-a-day hat, stepping out on the ice and, after a brief, unsteady lurch, confidently resuming the skill he’d acquired during the Dorchester boyhood on lakes and ponds and flooded playgrounds, skating smoothly up and down. I see him at the beach in summer, sailor cap inverted into a cone to crown his balding head. I see him seated by a small outboard motor steering the small boat that came with the Foxborough camp on Neponset Lake. These were the summers of ’57 and ’58. There were droughts and downpours and sultry or scalding hot July and August days. There was sorrow that always seemed just around the bend. Dad rarely seemed totally happy. Neither, especially, did mom. Can’t or don’t want to get more specific than that. Those nameless sorrows, that darkness, that anxiety.

But I want to welcome and experience and live a bright summer of the kind envisioned in the color pictures of all those home and garden and travel magazines.

If I don’t — well, it’s my own damn fault. I’ll just have to look at the pictures.

Joie de vivre!! Summer’s here! May it linger!

Or, maybe we’ve never truly known summer, not any of us. Maybe only in magazines.

Maybe we just dream of summer….just as we dream in winter of a White Christmas “where treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow…”

So we beat on, with Gatsby, boats against the current

Dreaming of summer. Oh, God, bring me summer!

A LOST ISLAND FRIENDSHIP

I have only his Christmas cards now, the message on each beginning, “Dear Wayland!”

He was Chung. I was Wayland.

I remember well the night his pocket was picked by a “slickie boy” pretending to peddle cigarettes in the dark, noisy Seoul night club called OB Cabins. (OB stood for Oriental Breweries, which was a Korean beer.) I’d been to that venuye during previous forays into Seoul and heard a Korean band do a creditable cover of Iron Butterfly’s signature song, “In A Gadda Da Vida, ” drum solo and all.

In lifting his wallet that night, the thief also robbed Chung of his intention to re-pay me for my companionship.

Our friendship began one leisurely summer Sunday on Kanghwa Island, Korea in 1970. I was a Military Policeman assigned to the Army Security Agency (ASA) and further assigned to the ASA operations company on Kanghwa, which sits on Korea’s west coast, carved off from the Republic’s mainland by a narrow channel – a river estuary– and from Communist North Korea by the Han River on its final approach to the Yellow Sea. I and two other G.I.s – fellow M.P.s Jim Barnes from California and Larry Donahue from Boston, if memory serves me – set out to explore the island by jeep. Our duties usually kept us on our small compound and divorced from the real world of our host country. We knew the 116 square mile island was worth exploring, with its temples and farmland.

We stumbled upon the tiny seaside village of We Po-ri at the far northwestern edge of the island. A Republic of Korea (ROK) naval ensign moved us from a restricted area, then chatted us up congenially. We’d stumbled upon a small ROK naval detachment. (The island, being so close to the hostile north was protected on its waterfront by Republic of Korea (ROK) Marines. This Naval detachment patrolled near the smalleer, surrounding islands, always on guard against infiltrators.

The young ensign was the commanding officer. His name – Jin Myung Chung.

I felt the need to know Chung better. Somehow, we hit it off. I’d made no Korean friends to that point in my tour.

Chung was single, well-educated, about two years my senior. I made many overnight trips to his home in Seoul, met his parents and brother, helped them with their English grammar and pronunciation, shared dinner, slept in a spare room. Chung guided me around Seoul, visiting tea rooms, having long talks about life, family, politics, my native Boston, Korea’s future prospects. He planned to marry and have children.

It seemed his best intentions for me were always being thwarted. He invited me to a soccer match. We missed our rendezvous. He planned to motor me up Inchon River aboard a ROK Navy vessel. The boat was out of commission.

Finally, though I knew he had little money and no taste for Seoul nightlife, he insisted on treating me to that outing to OB Cabins, hearing Korean bands cover the Beatles and Iron Butterfly. Then his pocket got picked. He sat patting his pockets frantically.

“Tonight, I am very unlucky,” he said, distressed and humiliated, as I picked up the tab.

I don’t recall our goodbyes. I wrote him after Army discharge. He apparentkly didn’t trust his English for a letter but his Christmas cards contained long notes: “How is your life recently? …Much regret not to write you, wondering if this card will reach you as you may change address since then.” I was, in fact, moving around, state to state. But the cards always found me.

He’d become general manager of maintenance and repair for Honam Tanker Company, a subsidiary of Texaco. He’d married, had a family. He once asked: “Do you have any schedule to visit Korea?” I didn’t.

The Christmas cards stopped. Then, around 2012 came the surprise – an early morning phone call to my Clinton, Mass home. It was Chung. Stunned, delighted to hear his voice, but in the middle of breakfast, facing a long commute to my television reporter job, we chatted barely a minute

Why didn’t I call him back? It was a busy time. But, why?

Now I have a bunch of old home and business addresses. I wrote some. No reply. I want to find him. Is he still alive?

“I can’t think of my military service time without thinking of you,” he wrote in an undated Christmas card.

Same here, Chung. I pray I find you again. I’ll even let you pick up the tab.