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It’s summer — break out the white bucks and floating docks
You may have noticed that summer has arrived. This, of course, means three things.
First and foremost, it means men can now lace up their white bucks without fear of opprobrium from those raised in families of high breeding where it is understood, at the level of their DNA, that the season for white bucks is that heartbreakingly brief period from Memorial Day to Labor Day. No one remembers when this rule was established or why the wearing of these splendidly dapper shoes should be associated with either honoring the war dead or the trade union movement, but the rule is ironclad — unless you’re from the Deep South, where the starting gate for white bucks opens on Kentucky Derby Day. Just don’t spill your mint julep on them.
I hold that white bucks are a required item in
leman’s wardrobe. And despite the fact that Bad Michael at the Burton Coffee Stand wisely refuses to accept my credentials as a gentleman, the fact is I personally have two pair. I have plain white bucks for casual affairs, which I often wear sockless with jeans, and wingtip patterned white bucks for more formal events, always worn with linen trousers and socks that match the linen (Seersucker is another, somewhat more Retro pairing). It is, by the way, never appropriate to wear white bucks of either trim style with knee socks and Bermuda shorts, unless one is in Bermuda, where the fact that this looks completely dorky seems never to have quite registered on the collective consciousness. But that’s probably because the residents there have spent too much time in the sun sipping Pimm’s Cup with mint. Whatever Pimm’s Cup is.
Speaking of matters of liquid refreshment, the second thing about summer having arrived is that this is also the time when it is finally appropriate to drink gin and tonics without appearing to be (or actually being) a total lush. Gin and tonics are, as is well documented, not simply refreshing on a hot day but deeply medicinal, which is a four-syllable word for “good for you.” And don’t we all want to consume only that which is good for us on this health-conscious Island?
Gin was invented in Holland in 1650 to cure stomach disorders, but really hit its stride as a weapon against malaria (which must certainly be a looming threat on our increasingly tropical isle). Quinine cures malaria but tastes disgusting. Quinine water, a.k.a. “tonic,” is nearly as bad unless, as the British in India discovered in the 1870s, you pair it with gin. Add a generous squeeze of lime and you’re combating the scourge of scurvy right along with the malaria. Talk about good for you! Waiter! Another please; my health is in jeopardy!
And the third significant thing about summer’s arrival is that our quiet off-season idyll has been shattered. The noisy season has arrived. I’m not referring to the decibel level at the Thriftway, the farmers’ market or the shops, all of which are now swollen with chatting summer people. The merchants need them. Nor am I referring to the Fourth of July; that’s just fine (unless you’re an animal, or British).
No, I refer to the roar of power mowers, the whine of weed-whackers and the scream of grass blowers. I confess I miss the oddly soothing clickity-whirr of a push mower and the scrape of a rake, the use of which tools tends to turn one happily contemplative. Nowadays the cacophony of lawn maintenance is so perniciously persistent from dawn to dark you can’t hear yourself think. And when you do get a chance to think, it occurs to you that there’s something deeply absurd about a lawn: you spend a day in the spring spreading fertilizer and then you spend the whole rest of the season madly cutting the grass back. Madness.
And speaking of being driven mad, am I alone in thinking there should be an open season on jet skiers, as there is on deer? This is an island of people who care about the environment; disable a jet ski and you dramatically reduce air and noise pollution and cut down on gasoline consumption. It’s all good, see? Not to mention the sporty aspect: it can’t be easy drawing a bead on these tiny, fast and nimble little devils.
But then there’s also the good noise of summer, like the squeals of children. I wonder if there is any noise more happy-making? I was thinking back to last summer recently and about the magnetic properties of floating diving platforms.
This is something science needs to look into. You build a wooden platform roughly eight feet square, as my neighbors have done, attach floats to the underside and anchor it, and the next thing you know kids are all over it — pushing and jumping, daring and diving, running from one corner to the other to make it pitch and roll. Screams and shouts of happiness all around, year after year, generation after generation.
Young boys playing “king of the platform.” Older girls shoving boys off the edge and shrieking with delight the way only pre-teen girls do when they succeed — the boys, after all, not trying too hard to resist. That’s what most of today’s fretful parents don’t understand. All you have to do to provide seemingly endless opportunities for invention, entertainment and mayhem at a beach is to build a floating platform.
Even today’s plugged-in kids, attached as they are to their cell phone, iPods or video games, as if they were on life support systems — even they unplug and become like all the other kids over the years when the sun is on that offshore platform. It’s magical.
Life is really as simple as an old wood float. Embrace your inner summer…and enough, already, with the mowers.
— Will North is an author who lives on Vashon.