“… and in the early mornin’ fog, I looked into those Mystic Eyes…” (Van Morrison, with Them, “Mystic Eyes”)
Had a little extended email exchange with our old pal Shawn Casey today.
See, he’s about to turn the Big Five-Oh… and I offered him the same gift that Gary Halbert offered me when I turned 50: An open invitation to hear about all the horrific shit he has to look forward to as his body slams full-force into official middle age.
Halbert used to absolutely delight in detailing for me some of the more evil indignities of waving bye-bye to youth.
Let’s just say your days of indulging in a bar brawl, and sleeping it off so you can do it again the next night, too…
… are over.
(Bonus insight: However, you can still have fun minus the dangerous stunts and life-threatening bravado that used to cap a good night out. Who’d a thought?)
I’m still laughing from that exchange with Shawn.
In truth, if you’re healthy, it ain’t all that big a deal sliding into your fifties. If you’ve spent the last four decades thrashing yourself, then yeah, you may be looking at getting your ticket punched early.
But if you listen to your body, keep the stress under control, get some freakin’ exercise once in a while, and avoid chunking out like Jaba The Hut…
… well, it’s actually kinda nice being a grizzled, older ape.
The real pleasures of life are just as intense… and you’ve pretty much identified which ones you want to focus on. (I spent my youth sampling almost every forbidden fruit in the feast… which I felt was my duty as a buddng writer. Many of those experiences were just downright awful, and yet they’d looked so good from a distance…)
And — even if you dinked around a lot for the bulk of your youth (as I did) (and, boy, was I good at dinking around) — you can’t help but have gathered a ton of experience.
And whatever mangled philosophy of life that got you this far must have something going for it… or you wouldn’t have made it.
Now, the reason I’m writing this post…
… is to soothe the fears of my younger readers.
Dudes: Your brain does not melt in your 30s. Sex can actually get better (though it may require a little extra management). And…
… wait for it…
… here’s the Big News: Most of you won’t even begin to hit your intellectual peak until you hit your fifties.
So, as smart and hip and nailed-down as you believe you are right now…
… it really can get even better.
Right after your second mid-life crisis, if my own experience is any gauge. (I’m on Crisis # 4, by the way. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every damn one of them.)
I am seriously at the peak of my ability to think clearly.
And my writing — if I can be immodest for a moment — has absolutely morphed into something killer these days. Plus, I’m prolific as heck (notice the brilliant and yet subtle use of slang there).
And it’s all because so much of the flotsam and jetsam of life’s distractions have finally drifted away.
I am over being “cool”. It’s a dumb pursuit, anyway… cuz, in most cases, the young man’s quest for coolness becomes ideological, and deprives him of a broader appreciation of The Feast of Life.
I don’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks about my conduct, either. Halbert used to say “You know you’ve earned a certain self-made status when you can look any maitre’ d in the eye and walk him back.”
And he was right. I’m just a working class kid who clawed his way into the Good Life… and you can bite me if you think I’m intimidated by anything you bring to the table.
At this point — after 25+ years in the cutthroat front-line trenches of the business world — I’ve seen ’em come, and I’ve seen ’em go.
That perspective has taught me to be humble (mostly), and to appreciate life on it’s own terms.
Cuz “life” always wins in the end. The reality of moving through this world can be truly frightening when you finally leave the nest and meet the monsters.
The indifference of the universe just takes a while to sink in.
Who you are after a few years in the thick of it is a direct result of how you deal with the challenges. It’s easy to be a winner while you’re winning. It’s more revealing, though, to see how someone copes with adversity and, yes, losing.
(There’s an old saying that you’ll never really “know” someone until you’ve seen them cold, wet, tired, hungry… and lost. Nietzche would be proud.)
This is where living through a few more years comes in handy.
Both Shawn and I have had the same experience (and it’s truly weird).
For nearly all of my career as a professional copywriter and marketing consultant, I was the Young Punk With Attitude in the room.
That was my job. To afflict the other know-it-all’s with better chops and edgier energy.
I did it well.
Then, one day (and I swear to you this happened literally overnight) I realized I was 20 years older than the rest of the group at the table.
And some of them were treating me differently because of it.
I understand the tendency. A lot of folks bring baggage with them into adulthood — issues with daddy or older men in general.
And it can screw with your ability to deal with semi-geezers. Which is a shame.
I recognize the younger guys who have no “age issues” instantly. They treat me like an equal, and we get along without problem.
I escaped the confinements of my peer group as soon as I was out of high school. I’d been lucky to have friends of different races growing up. Next expanded awareness step: Hang with people of different ages.
My Pop was typical World War II guy: Work hard, don’t complain, don’t explain, provide for the family and let ’em figure it out for themselves.
So my first real experience with getting into the heads of older folks was in college. I had an anthropology teacher who forced us, for the grade, to go out into the community and collect stories from the most doddering, near-death oldsters we could find.
I’ll tell you what: If I could force every young person to do anything in life today, it would be that exact assignment.
Because of the segmenting that goes on in our culture, we’ve been isolated from a wealth of stories, insight, advice and good vibes.
When you only deal with older people at work, or in situations where you’re at odds with them (cops pulling you over, supervisors firing you, store owners suspicious that you’re stealing) then of course you’re not gonna get to know them.
This assignment, however, was specific: Get them to tell you a single story about what it was like to be young in their time.
As we go through life, we tend to consider that everything is, right now, the way it’s always been. That tree has always been in the front yard. The mail has always arrived promptly at ten on Saturday.
And Old Man Harrison over there has always been an asshole about kids on his lawn.
But things have NOT always been thus. Harrison, in fact, was once a vibrant young buck, full of piss and vinegar, shooting down Japanese Zeroes over the ocean in his P-51 Mustang. Back home after the war, with all that death and adventure under his belt, he was still just 22 years old.
And he didn’t just nibble on life.
Naw. He and his buddies gobbled up the experiences of being young and alive and in America in the post-war boom. (Just a hint of post-traumatic stress in the old guy, self-medicated with tobacco and beer, but never so much he couldn’t handle it.)
For most young adults, the only “glimpse” they get of Life Before You Were Born is from Hollywood. And I’m here to tell you that’s a piss-poor way to fuel your belief system of how things really were.
Books are better. Biographies are best.
And raw stories, straight from the mouths of those who lived it, simply cannot be beat.
I have hung out with people with absolutely no regard to their age ever since that assignment. Halbert and my now-biz partner Stan and I used to get together now and again… Halbert fifteen years older than me, and Stan twelve years younger than me… and we got along great. Total equals.
There are lots of excellent reasons not to like someone.
Being younger or older than them is not one of those reasons.
Look. I’m not gonna play rugby with you anymore. I would have a few years ago.
And I’m not gonna go to some nightclub where I’m the oldest dude in the room.
That’s all part of the long menu of stuff I used to do, and have decided not to do anymore.
Instead, I’m focusing on doing the things I truly enjoy doing. Turns out, I like to work hard sometimes, especially at writing. And teaching. And playing the kind of music I like to play.
And learning new shit, like marketing on the Web.
This is a very cool time to be alive, and be part of the fast-moving paradigm that is the Internets. (That’s a joke. Bush used to call the Web “the Internets”. He’s a few years older than me, but he’s a fellow Baby Boomer… and regardless of what else you may think of him, his true failing was to lose touch with modern life… which is, and will be for some time, centered on the Web.)
I consider most of the top online marketers out there to be colleagues of mine, and many are friends. For some, I’m the first old guy they’ve ever hung out with… and while I’m hardly an average salt-and-pepper-haired dude, I appreciate the comraderie and sense of equality we share.
Bigotry has always been a stupid way to go through life.
You have no idea what value the other person brings to the table…
… until you hear their stories.
And I’ll tell you this (from my perch in mid-life): You’re never as smart as you think you are, and the other guy is never as dumb as you’re convinced he is. (He may, in fact, be dumber. But your intuition, until it’s been tested and honed in life, will be inaccurate more often than not.)
There is a very nice Zen middle-ground to living well… where you experience things as they are, and not as you think they should be or wish they were.
If I inherited my father’s genes, I’ve got another forty to fifty years left of top-of-my-game living left. (He is a sharp dude, at 89, with no signs of slowing down yet.) (And I don’t mean “sharp for an old guy”… I mean he’ll clean your clock at critical thinking.)
I may very well outlive many of my compatriots who are still young enough to believe they will live forever. This is neither fair, nor unfair. It is how it is.
People shut down their brains and become sleep-walking zombies at all ages.
I’ve met many folks shy of 30 who might as well be brain dead for what little critical thinking they’re capable of. And I’ve met people of all ages who seem ready to cash out — fried, tired and exhausted by what they perceive of as a “hard life”… which around 4 billion impoverished and soul-crushed people elsewhere in the world would kill to trade up to.
One of the advantages of piling up some years is the perspective you attain (whether you want it or not).
My perspective: Life is complex, messy, and gorgeous, all at once.
You can lose sight of this, at any age, when you lose touch with the stories that fuel understanding and comprehension of what this strange ride is all about.
Stop relying on Hollywood for your stories.
Develop your own, and sample some from outside your little peer-group prison.
Life is a banquet. And most poor suckers are starving to death…
Okay, rant done.
I’d love to hear some of your stories here in the comments section.
Here’s a starter question: What was your “best summer ever”?
What happened that made it a turning point for you, or what fueled the adventure you had?
For me, there are multiple “best summers”. I’ve been lucky. And I can go on and on about what happened.
Often, it was nothing more than a transistor radio with great tunes, the beach, a new girl suddenly entering my radar, long days of catching great surf…
But that’s me.
What happened to you?
Stay frosty, in the meantime…
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My best summer was when I saw my first explosion.
My batch of friends (born in January) were starting to get their licenses. And the rare prize of a good fake I.D. found its way into my tribe.
Converted my slave wages (from making sloppy hamburgers and eggs on a bun at McDonalds) into beer and gas.
On the days off jumped in a beat up old buick regal, bought liquor from apathetic store clerks, and then camped and cottage hopped.
It was my first taste of freedom.
Learned how to unclasp a bra, sang and danced by campfire, and tested and exceeded my poorly formed alcohol limits.
Near the end of the summer, my friends and I were lying in chairs on a sandy beach, looking across a lake.
A building company was making way for a new cottage with TNT. We heard a count down from 10 to 1 then…..BOOM! A mushroom cloud of debris and smoke erupted out of the forest.
A round applause erupted from my friends and I.
It was a fitting end to a great summer.
Ahhhhhh. Great times.
Nice, Ian. Good piece of storytelling, too.
Happily, I came of age during a time when the cool girls stopped wearing bras (Women’s Lib movement)… and I am eternally grateful, cuz I was awful at the reverse-unclasping thing. I am still awed by the technology that goes into bra construction. Back then, it was easier to tear down a Chevy transmission…
As always, John, you have a way of jolting us out of our self-imposed stupor and slapping us with ice-cold insight that never fails to shove our faces straight into this porridge filled bowl we call ‘our perfect lives’ and re-evaluate the way it tastes – first at the lips, then the tongue and later at our grissly insides before it gets slopped up into every single cell of our ‘bio-hard drive’.
Anyway, I have always thought of myself as an early bloomer.
I was preparing dinner for my siblings at the same time that my peers were wading and playing in knee-deep mud puddles. I was helping out my father do home fixes at the same time that my peers were ranting about the kind of brakes their bikes should have. I was working in a minesite as a laborer shoveling rocks and mine goop at the same time that my peers were enjoying high school summer vacation. I was already initiated into the sinful indulgences of the flesh at the same time that my peers were giggling like schoolgirls about their first kisses. I was starting out a career in teaching at the same time that my peers were still unsure what to study in college. I could continue on but I’m sure you get the picture.
With these ‘advanced experiences’ I have always held my head over and above my age level (and sometimes those a bit older than myself) and saying, “I’ve seen more than you can possibly dream. You haven’t seen anything yet, buster.”, albeit silently as I feigned interest in their stories.
But after I read this post, I simply realized an entirely new perspective in my life’s experiences that I’ve never ever seen before.
You see, I’ve long since stopped savoring my moments. Food is fuel so you just gobble it up. After all you don’t see a car lingering in the gas station ‘savoring’ the fresh injection of diesel in their tanks. A beach in any part of the world is simply the same – salty water meeting sand and sometimes testing its resolve against rock cliffs.
I have stopped compiling my stories thinking I had enough.
You just showed me how wrong I am as effectively as a sticking a bunch of dynamite up my butt. 🙂
Now I have a newly reborn desire to pile it up, absorb it all and to try to breathe it out in papaer and ink.
Simply put, if at this stage (I’m 31) and I already have stories that will make most people I know who are in their 40’s look like kindergarten, what more if I was older?
Summer has ended where I am now but after reading your post, I feel like the sun’s beating at my shoulders and stinging my eyes as I feel sweat trickling down my back.
It’s summer all over again and this has got to be the best I’ve had ever.
We never stockpile “enough” stories, Marvin, as you’ve discovered.
A life well-lived is a life full of stories.
Thanks for sharing yours.
Amen to that. 🙂
I wonder how my future grandchildren will come around to learning about my stories…
Will they gather around me mouth gaping in wonder as I sit on a comfy rocking chair ranting about ladies in distress and slain dragons, or will they learn about it through twitter or through my blog or some holographic device that’ll soon be invented?
We’ll soon find out…
I’m writing my own bio. That way, I have at least a little control over how the stories about me are told…
GOOD for you, John. Keep the world posted on your progress. Better yet, email me a draft! Your message is right on.
Indeed, as “knight errant” off on a literal quest, Gene Hackman, snickers in sneering, sardonic delight at his DA boss in the second version of Narrow Margin, vowing, “It gets better.”
At 77 I’ve come to believe that life begins whenever I decide.
I’d guess it was you dad who embued you with whatever it took to appreciate this. I’ve encountered so many genuine, though closet, experts, myself included, to whom the prospect of writing “their book” was about as likely as going to the moon.
A crying shame. You perform yeoman service each time you invoke your particularly-plangent through line, “The Unbearable Lightness of Story-Telling.”
I’ve worked my entire life. Saved my buckage instead of over leveraging into wage slavery or bankruptcy as so many of my peers seem to have done. Worked to earn freedom, instead of stuff. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop working.
Now, at age 48, I’m starting over. From scratch. I have the freedom, need to solve the income problem. Stories are key… I have a lot of them… now learning how to tell them.
Eben Pagan is right – you are the best copywriter out there! Your message came at just the right time.
My best summer ever – well, I hope I haven’t had it yet, but so far, it was about 13 years ago, living in Phoenix and waiting for our pool to be put in. It was July, hot, and I had a 3 year old an a 1 year old and we were staying cool in the plastic kiddie play pool. Seal was playing on CD and I was videotaping the kids a lot that summer and feeling sorry for myself that the pool was taking so long.
I watch those videos now and love every minute of them. Too bad we often don’t realize what a good time it is until later. Thankfully, I have them on “memorex!” And, have learned to better appreciate what I have going on right now.
It’s great to have photographic evidence of great times. However, I have both photos and memories… and when I use imagination to either retell the stories, or enjoy them again in my head, it’s the images that arrive, dream-like, that pack the most punch for me. Especially when I use memory enhancers like smells and sounds. I can close my eyes at the beach and be zoomed back thirty years to another time and place, where an adventure I’d nearly forgotten about suddenly replays.
I, too, hope your best summer is to come, Jackie. Enjoy them all…
That was a great post John, I could read your work all day.
My best summer was when I was fifteen and I wrote my first novel. I was fascinated by the authors who wrote everyday without fail and I vowed I would be one of them. I wrote every night between 1am and whenever I finished. I tacked out 2,000 words no matter what and didn’t make any excuses for myself.
I was sleep deprived and ended up writing a very poor, but respectable 85,000 word novel by the end of that summer. I worked harder than I ever had before and I learned two things:
1. There is magic after midnight despite what Ben Franklin said.
2. Hard work can be the most fun you ever have.
I was proud of that summer and I’m proud to be reminded of it again. Thanks for always sharing your stories.
Fifteen? Wow. That’s some accomplishment, Daniel.
And you’re right about the midnight magic…
Great article and another motto you should live by…
Once you hit 40 you are over the hill!
The statement is true and I tell my clients this often. Why?
If you look at what the statement says it is true…
Walking up a hill is harder than walking down. So when you are over 40 live becomes EASIER, not harder.
It is easier if you have more energy, better health (physically & mentally), more wealth, more fun and enjoyment.
The saying actually states this … “over the hill”
It also says nothing about time. Where I live if i was to walk from one side of my island to the other, the journey from one side to the other being my life span. Well the top of the hill is about a quarter of the way – so 40 is only a quarter of my life span.
Too many people believe in the crap they are told about life being harder as you age. It isn’t true if you look forward positively, learn to be healthier by learning some simple self help techniques and then adhering to the other two saying I live by…
With ages comes wisdom -so you get older and better at what you do – physically and mentally …
I think therefore I am – if you think life is crap, it will be. If you think it will be better and better, it will be.
Thanks for all your words of wisdom and your teaching of copywriting. It inspires me to write better copy.
Clever way of looking at it, Graeme…
You young guys are all the same. You got some aging to do, but it will be fun.
Best summer, easy, Viet Nam 1965 and 1966, point man in Airborne Infantry and Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols. Talk about adrenaline rush…Nothing like a good firefight to make the day go by faster. Going into a hot LZ? Sublime. Living through it? Awesome. Here to tell about it? Crazy cool.
I’m actually jealous of the guys in Iraq and Afghanistan!
I hung out with Nam vets back in college, when I was one bad grade away from being drafted and sent over myself. (The draft ended in my junior year.) Great guys, hanging out in school on the GI Bill… but they did have trouble relating their stories to me. They had trouble talking to each other about their stories, too. Sometimes, though, one of them would confide in me, and it was hair-raising.
I still have several close friends who are vets of that war, and I wish I could help them tell their stories… but it’s a personal thing, and too many are convinced there is no way to share with someone who wasn’t there. That’s not true, but I’m not about to push it. My own father couldn’t talk about his experience in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII until he was in his seventies…
Thanks for the comment, Bruce.
Hey John, I did not know your dad was in the Battle Of The Bulge in WWII. I did not know my dad’s brother, that died a month before my mom in 2007, was in the same battle. He served in Hdg. Co 1st BN, 42nd Rainbow Division. For his heroic actions in their defense of Holten, France, he received the Bronze Star with 3 battle stars. The Rainbow Division received the “Presidential Citation” for their valiant defense of the city. Out of 805 men, in 52 hours, 532 men were killed, wounded and missing in action. My uncle Jerry was most proud of his “Combat Infantryman Badge”, the one that was placed above all others on our military heroes chests. When I went to his funeral to create a video eulogy for him, was I in for a surprise! The few remaining members of his squad told me hair raising stories that I never knew. My uncle Jerry was a humble man. He never told me of his war heroics. If your dad wants to see my Uncle Jerry’s video eulogy here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/n2wgu2. I think I will take the time and publish the written story of my uncle during those frightening times as told by his fellow soldiers in arms.
Good stuff John!
I used to just love sitting around the kitchen table when I was a kid and listen to my grandpa tell his old stories. And, even when I was over 40, and he was still going, I still loved to hear the same old stories over and over. Something about the way he told ’em.. the gleam in his eye and the excitement in his voice made it enthralling. And today, I love to sit with a cup of coffee and listen to one of the several older men friends I have at church talk to me about the way things used to be. Just gripping!
Now, at 48, and raising an 8-year old boy, my life has regained some of the vigor that it had previously lost. I haven’t ridden a bicycle so much in such a long time as I have been this summer. Perhaps this will end up being one of my all time favorite summers. I just wish this ole’ body had the same youthful stamina it once had.
But some of my favorite summers were when I was in my early teens and spending the summers at the grandparents, carefree and footloose. There’s just something about jumping on a bicycle with a fishing pole and tackle box, spending the day, and some of the evening, at a pond somewhere, hoping for the “big one”. Oh, and all those gigantic bullfrogs I bought home for grandma to make dance in the frying pan. Good times bro!
This one was easy for me…….the best summer ever? It was the summer of 1977, 8 track player, 1968 Pontiac Catalina(2 door, was there anything else), farm boy(me) meets girl next door. She was 16, rail thin……braces and huge aquarium glasses(it was the 70’s), I knew her for years before that but that summer but…….WOW! Something changed that summer be it Hormones, being in the right place at the right time, or the fact that she said YES to me asking her to the drive-in. I’m still not sure what it was but it doesn’t really matter, because you see and this may sound corny to alot of folks, that summer hasn’t ended yet. Yes the hair is grey(what’s left that is), and the cars have come and gone, the 8 track is now an MP3, but that’s just stuff. Next year, we are having a party called the “130” celebration and we are inviting a ton of people. We are both turning 50 and will be married for 30 years! My midlife change is happening as I am getting out of private practice as a chiropractor and will be full time on the internet.(thanks to John in showing me that my second passion in life……..writing can support us even better than practice….that’s hard on the body!) I took his online copywriting secrets course it was great. I used his teaching to do two internal launches to my email groups writing my own copy…to say the least it was very successful. Anyway, that summer is still going on….we have a blast everyday even if we are going through any tough times……they’re just tests and after every test comes knowledge. I can’t wait for each day to begin…..up before 6:00 a.m. everday! No alarm clock either, just amped to be able to make each day something special. Everyone asks us our secret…..my answer is always “don’t get too busy to live the way you want to, don’t live someone else’s life”.
staying as John says frosty(don’t worry)
8-tracks and hormones.
Aaaah, the memories…
Yes! the memories………. I still have the 8 tracks. The Bee -Gees (hers), Skynard,Stones (mine).
Just a peek at those……and back in time I go.
Do your thing;
I really need to ask this… what is a mid-life crisis?
I’m in my 40s now and I still feel (at least mentally) as I did when I was… say… 20 or 25.
Am I supposed to feel different or do I still gotta wait for my 50s?
It’s more of a joke, really. Both men and women have a tendency to wake up one day and believe they must change everything about their life RIGHT NOW.
Hollywood uses this a lot. The image of the 50 year old guy with a new toupee in a convertible leering at young women on the sidewalk is the classic depiction of the crisis. Your youth is gone. Your dreams remain unrealized. Time’s running out…
I had my first crisis at age 29. Resulted in a 2-year period of upheaval, homelessness, desperate grabs for new lifestyles, and some really bizarre adventures in Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. Eventually, I became John The Copywriter we all know and love, because of that upheaval.
My second one came at age 39 — I realized I had just months left if I was gonna write “that” novel before I turned 40. So I quit advertising, wrote the novel, and then wandered deeper into change — moving to Tahoe, forming rock bands and playing in biker bars, writing a lot, and getting back in touch with which goals I truly wanted (and which on the Master List were bullshit or now inoperative and could be ignored).
It’s not “feeling younger”. It’s panicking and making radical changes in your life.
I was lucky, and the changes all worked out.
Others aren’t so fortunate. It’s a crapshoot.
And you do NOT “have” to go through one.
Most folks manage to ignore those feelings of “need to change, NOW”, and just mosey along with things as they are…
Huh, so there’s no need for any change then.
I reckon there might be one thing people might say about me one day when I’m long gone, and that would be…
“Ah yes, Rezbi, isn’t he the one who never grew up?”
Memorable one summer was something my grandmother told me when I was in a curious mood.
I asked her what her greatest frustraion was and she said…
“being an 18 year old stuck in a 88 year old body”
Great rant. At 60 this year, I appreciate your perspective. HOW TRUE! Growing up as a Babyboomer proves that reality is stranger than fiction. Like you, if I documented my life before a conversion experience with Jesus, it would seem one step short of the “Twilight Zone.” Growing up and living in Ocean Beach, CA for 50 years, summers were always awesome…surfing, swimming, skatebording, bike riding the point loma cliffs, working out, playing tennis. Fortunately, in San Diego it is always perfect summer, no matter what time of year; compared to the rest of the world. Now that I am in Dallas, the heat is a sizzling 105 in the shade. OOOuch!!!! Thankfully, I am heading as my alter ego Captain Biorhythm to the San Diego Comic Convention July 23-28 to search for more heroes who want to make a positive difference in their families and communities before the vagaries of old age sideline them for good. The goal is to find more heroes who are willing to inspire others to NOT FEAR the poverty, plagues, earthquakes, volcanos, super-storms, gravity shift, mega-solar storms and the end of the world December 21, 2012 predicted by the Doomsdayers and Soothsayers. We need 10 times GOOD NEWS about the good people are doing to counteract and negate the FEAR regurgitation of the corrupt, Apocalypse-loving media.
ralph zuranski aka captain biorhythm
One of my favorite summers was in 1969. I had taken my younger brother with me to get a hamburger. I spotted a handsome guy in the car beside us and decided that I wanted to meet him. So I coerced my brother into going over and asking him if he would like to join us and hear my new James Brown tape. He said yes and I decided I wouldn’t mind getting to know him better :). The next day I happened 😉 to see him in town washing his car for a date he had that night and I stopped to say hello.
He looked up from washing his tires and all he say’s he saw was legs! Ah the 60’s and mini skirts…. We dated every day for the next three months, then he asked me to marry him after a playful watermelon “fight” at the lake, but that’s another story.
Next month we will celebrate our 40th anniversary!
Lot’s of great memories and still making them.
Not my typical lingo; but, I have to hand it to you – you are a kick-ass writer. I thoroughly enjoyed what you chose to share with us, both for its content and for the manner in which you express yourself.
I cannot speak of ‘best summers’ per se; however, at the age of 49, I have recognized that the times in my life that have produced for me consistently high levels of gratification have incorporated the essence of ‘do unto others,’ typically as some variation of solving some problem(s) of significance. I have also experienced joy through both mental and practical creativity as well as when I have arrived to those moments of clarity that accompany each epiphany.
You mention critical thinking in this blog article. Many I have met throughout my life do not seem to appreciate the value of critical thinking, and consequently, to most all of the preparation that precedes it. No great surprise here. It reflects those with whom I have associated on a regular basis.
What I find to be interesting, however, is that many such people are highly educated professionals. For the majority among them, there is a distinct attitude that conveys a ‘leave it at work’ attitude, clearly representing their having ‘learned what was necessary to meet eligability requirements’ for their respective professions – with no interest or intention of expending effort to learn more than they ‘must.’
I find it sad that so many people do not recognize the connection between their ability to ‘think’ and the results they are able to produce in their lives . . . for themselves and for others. Expanding our knowledge literally expands how we are thus able to ‘experience’ our lives: refining our beliefs; expanding horizons of ‘that which is possible;’ and affecting our willingness to consider options that may otherwise have gone unrecognized. I believe that many have interpreted the meaning of ‘the pursuit of happiness’ to be ‘the pursuit of recreation and entertainment,’ as would seem consistent with such thorough promotion throughout our society. For those to whom this applies, lacking knowledge of this distinction also precludes the nature of behavior that holds greater promise to produce results in kind. People generally don’t prepare for things of which are unaware.
Thanks for sharing, John. Be well.
Interesting that as I think about the question all the best options center around dramatic shifts in my life – a new bike, a new house, a new girl, and even a new phase in my life. This last option provides, quite possibly, the most enjoyable memory.
Summer of ’96 and I just graduated from UC Berkeley. I barely scrapped by, but I finally did it – to this day still have dreams that I forgot to turn in my final and I’m not going to graduate. But at that time, all I could remember was the absolute relief of achieving something no one else in my family came close to doing. It was a feeling of unshakable confidence, complete freedom, and unbridled debauchery.
I spent the summer taking a bartending course so I could land a gig at a snazzy club and show all the women I hit on that I was educated and ambitious – thanks Tom Cruise for implanting that idea. I also landed a job as a resident assistant for an English language school based at an all women’s college. It was basically party patrol, and an excuse to hit on beautiful foreign birds looking to spend two weeks in the States learning the language and some American culture – I aimed to provide them culture to spare.
Sure there were moments of worry when I would realize that I was on my own and there were loans to actually have to pay back, but it couldn’t compare to the thrill of feeling alive and in control. That summer featured some of the best parties, road trips, late night discussions with friends, and all around life connecting moments because I lived in the present moment.
I guess that realization of experiencing life today, right NOW, was by far my biggest take away. I love to go back to this experience because it refreshes why I do most of what I do – to enjoy my right now. Thanks for the chance to share.
Great post as usual. I turned 58 just a few days ago and for the first time in my life feel older than I am.
Got to change this thinking in a hurry as feeling young keeps the excitement for me.
Feeling 60 when I’m not sucks big time. Keep up the great writing John. Hoe you publish your bio as I’d love to read it.
Best bio I’ve read is called “A Fortunate Life’. It’s the life story of an Australian 1st world war digger. He lived through some horrendous things during his life especially his childhood including being sold as a virtual slave etc.
The bottom line is he always looked at the good and even put a good spin on the bad. Lovely way to live I think.
I love your rant! As you said – multiple ‘best’ summers come to mind. One that sticks out is when I spent a weekend in Israel at a retreat called the Tents of Rachel (in Hebrew) in the middle of the desert. Took a half hour walk and found myself standing on the edge of a massive crater valley – blue sky, barren landscape with here and there a tiny plant breaking the surface. I sat myself down on a boulder on the edge and just… sat. So still that a troop of four legged critters calmly walked by 4 feet behind me, their hooves clacking on the rocks.
And as I sat there absorbed in the view, I started to hear a sound I couldn’t identify. I glanced around trying to figure out where it was coming from – a really subtle sound with a slight pulse to it… Waited and waited to see where it was coming from… nothing. I got more and more puzzle… and revelation struck! It was so quiet, so silent, so soundless where I was sitting, not even a breeze at that moment, that I could hear my own blood moving in my ears.
In that moment I realized that the closest we get to that degree of stillness and silence in LA is after an earthquake knocks out all the electronics in our world in the middle of the night when there’s no traffic and no chirping birds – absolutely amazing.
The summer of 1976 was exceptionally cool. Or rather, it wasn’t: it was long and hot and the sun just kept on shining, for several months – in the UK, where it never does that. At least it never did back then – climate change has moved the margins a bit since.
I remember returning to London from holiday in Belgrade to in-your-face heat that just about matched central Serbia. It couldn’t last, I thought.
But it did. I went swimming every day – in an unheated outdoor pool where half the city seemed to congregate. I fried in my motorbike gear, my city centre flat was an oven, and the newspaper office was unbearable – no AC, of course.
But we all adapted, we relaxed, we tanned without burning, we took the indoors outdoors, we partied a lot, and London was transformed into a cafe society, for a brief few months.
It had to end, of course, and so it did – shortly after the government appointed a Minister for Drought. He’d barely made his first announcement before the heavens opened and the Summer of 76 came to a dramatic and soggy end.
But it’s still right up there in my memory bank, and remains – so far, anyway – my most unforgettable, magic summer.
Getting older’s fine: it’s what’s in your head and heart that matters, not what’s on your birth certificate. I recently caught up with an old workmate – in fact, from the newspaper where I was working in 1976 – who’s now 94. He’s as sharp, insightful, compassionate, inquisitive, talented, entertaining, and witty as he was back then. What he’s also got, in spades, is perspective, and that’s one thing you can only get with years.
Thanks for this one, John. You totally rock!
Eugenie, I remember that summer with fond memories too. The calendar says I was 12, but it seemed I was much older. Working the summer for a friends mother in a Butlins holiday camp on an ice-cream stall was a magical place to be. Girls love ice-cream, and the sun was hot! Good memories, thanks.
How on point can a blog post be? Wow. I joined that 50 and older group just last month and have been wondering when the crisis is going to hit. It’s good to know that whether it hits or not that there is gold on this other side of life.
My summer was ’79, between college years when I went down to La Jolla to stay with a best friend from high school who had gone to a different university. Suffice to say that there were few boundaries, including time and space, that went unexplored. Meditation, girls, metaphysics, girls, 3-day long discussions about life, the inner and outer universe, the future, and (of course) girls. It was probably the time of my life that I can credit with opening me up to what was truly around me – no fear, no bias, no judgment. A true passage from being a kid to being a person. Youth, friendship and freedom enabled that experience to occur and change me.
But in the end, while I would never want to trade that time, I value my life since even more because it has allowed me to build real experiences and a complete life upon what were, after all, only hopes, dreams and grand intentions. And I think that is what is we who are headed toward “geezerhood” can bring to those seemingly blank-eyed stares of youth – don’t just think about it, act on it, do it, live it. Your whole life is your reward.
Thanks for sharing your story, John, and inviting us to do the same.
Some cool stories here folks. John, thanks for drawing them out.
My best summer was not so long ago. We tried to make it an endless one.
After a break up with the woman with whom I’d had two children, I received some advice from a friend. “Buy yourself a Kombi van and big bag of dope, and fuck off.” With the payout from my dream home and property, that’s exactly what I did.
I caught up with a dutch guy I’d met earlier in the summer who wanted to travel around the country. Seemed like a good idea to me. The direction clockwise, the destination within.
Along that journey I met a fella who taught me to juggle. He was a professional clown. Seemed like he always had been. I admired him because he’d managed to turn his no-hoperness into a living. And it seemed to me he was onto something that had been missing from my own life. I wasn’t really living. I was just trying to make my father proud.
There’s a whole heap to that adventure to tell. It took the better part of a year, and way too much red wine, to complete the circumnavigation of Australia. But by the three quarter mark I had practiced clowning enough to start making money from it. The motivation for busking was because I’d spent my whole payout. A move I thoroughly recommend. Nothing like running out of dollars to find out what your made of (as you rightly point out John).
I was a hit. I showered kids in laughs and balloons and their parents showered me in money. Enough to get by anyway.
I never really figured out what I was going to do with myself when I got back home. Not did I “find myslef”. I didn’t really want to be a clown. I just wanted to smile more.
But I did see country and coastline so beautiful even god herself would cry. And I saw a side of Australian culture that makes me proud to call this country home (and a side that makes my blood boil). Our international backpacking tag-alongs could never understand how it could be that we knew people in every town in the nation. We didn’t. We just said hello and they invited us to their house to camp in their yard.
So my advice, stemming from this story, would be… if you’re at a loose end and don’t know what the next step is, get yourself a Kombi and a big bag of dope, and fuck off. You might not figure anything out. But holy shit will you have some fun.
I lived with some semi-pro clowns once, in Silicon Valley, and learned to do basic juggling from them. Their favorite trick, though, was getting nineteen bowling pins in the air between them — just amazing.
Best part was when they finally screwed up and the entire thing collapsed.
Thanks for the share, Scotty. Good story.
Having just turned 50 myself (May), THIS summer is the best. Had a laugh at the beach the other day (I still look pretty good in my suit!) … a pretty young “20 something”, blond and with hair that reminded me of Bo Derek – the child of one of my friends – came sauntering up and I said that she reminded me of Bo Derek in “10”. Blank Stare. She had never heard of Bo Derek … didn’t know that I was giving her a compliment. Talk about feeling old! But I bounced back quickly. This summer will be spent on my bikes (bicycle & mortocycle), boating, creating a kick-ass business that helps people of all ages have a more pain free life, and watching my 12 & 14 year olds learn how to live. I plan on next summer being better than this one!
I’ve always been a lazy thinking person – I don’t mean lazy as in idle – always got plenty done, just nothing important to me. It is really, easier, to let everyone around ‘create’ you. They ask you to do this or that, so you do it and put off your novel, or your copy business – you do their stuff, not your stuff and you know what? You’re their person, not your own.
My best summer was 2002 – cause all my friends went overseas at the same time and I stayed local, having just forked out for my first apartment which used up all my cash. And you know what? I had to ‘create’ me without anyone dictating it. I had to get off my lazy arse brain and think about me and what I was going to do with my time – I had no friends to hang with so I took a night job in a bar to meet some new people (and my repayments). I also studied 2 nights a week – I had a fulltime day job too and I remember being totally exhausted but entirely turned on by my life at the time – I lived on Red Bull and cheese naan ($2 a piece). I truly had to become my own person without anyone there to ‘tell’ me what to work on. I found out how to love being on my own and really enjoy being myself.
I met my now-husband in the bar and I also spent a lot of time with myself, working on my novel, reading books I always wanted to read, checking out movies none of my friends would’ve liked anyway – just stuff I wanted to do.
I got myself totally straight in my own head – knew who I was, what I wanted and what I didn’t. I got gutsy-minded instead of lazy-brain and became a person I liked and could live with. The lazy-brain girl just didn’t exist any more. If it wasn’t for that summer, my novel wouldn’t be finished, I’d probably still have that group of friends that bossed me around and I wouldn’t have met the man I married.
I would never have become the ‘me’ I now am, and who I really love being.
I went back to school to earn my second degree in journalism at age 42. (I can tell you that I probably didn’t need to get the degree – already had the skills – but it was still a great experience. My first degree is in engineering – so I believe that means I earned one from each side of my brain – who knew?)
There I was — embedded with a bunch of 20-year-olds who all want to be Anderson Cooper when they grow up. And yet, there were only a few occasions when I realized I was “older” than they were.
The first: when we got into a debate about whether or not downloading music through Napster was stealing. I was outnumbered – about 30:1 – but appreciated the other students’ passion. It was an interesting lesson in perspective.
The second: when I suggested that our study group could meet at the local beer joint – only to learn that none of my other group members were old enough to drink (since when did that stop anybody in college from drinking??).
And the third: when one of the students, attempting to make small talk while we waited to shoot our weekly news program, asked me how I was that morning. I explained that he probably didn’t really want my answer, yet he insisted, boasting about the great relationship he had with his mother (OK – maybe I did take offense to that comment). Imagine the look on his face when I told him I was really suffering from hot flashes, and if I had my way that morning, I’d strip naked and jump into a bathtub full of ice cubes. He didn’t “lose his breakfast,” but he suddenly became very busy on the other side of the studio.
While in school, I had the opportunity to do a freelance story for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Veteran’s Day was approaching, and the elementary school in one of the suburbs had a unique way of honoring local Veterans by holding an all day event. With the help of the local VFW, they invited in Veterans from all wars, had a recognition luncheon where the students served the Vets a nice, cafeteria-cooked meal. After lunch, the Vets rotated from classroom to classroom, sharing their stories and answering questions.
Throwing myself zealously into the project, I met with the Vets at the Legion Club a few days before the event. Sitting down for a “cup of Joe” – that’s when you really heard amazing stories – from the Vet who was at Normandy, to the Korean War Veteran who “chose not to talk about his experience,” and preferred to work behind the scenes to continually recognize others.
The Principal of the school – a guy whose passion, energy, and relationships with his students could be a great made-for-TV movie, arranged for Senator Bob Doyle to call the school during the recognition ceremony. The students and veterans were absolutely shocked when his voice came over the loudspeaker, and tears welled up in many of the Veterans eyes, as they stood in the auditorium; dressed in well-pressed uniforms that didn’t fit so great anymore; hearing Senator Doyle thank them for serving their country.
Now that was an interesting day that spanned generations.
No question about it, summer of ’73. It was my last summer in the Navy. I enlisted after pulling number 18 in the draft lottery when I was 19. We were homeported in Athens, Greece and got to make liberty stops around the Med. We pulled into Cannes, France the day after the film festival ended. I was looking over the side of the ship and couldn’t believe it…the water was so clear you could see our anchor on the bottom. I looked up and there were a bunch of guys around the “big eyes” (binoculars that would make it feel like you could reach out and touch something that was a mile away). I looked in the direction they were looking and there was a couple doing the horizontal hula on the deck of a sailboat. the woman got up, facing our ship, stretched her hands above her head and made a dive into the water.
Later that day I made it to shore and was walking along the road. On the south side was a topless beach and on the north side was a big, beautiful hotel. This is no lie… l’Hotel Carlton! Who could have guessed it would make its way into a story 36 years later?
Man, it is hard to believe that was 36 years ago…seems like it was yesterday.
I’d love to write about my best summer ever. But I’d have to talk with my lawyer first to make sure the statute of limitations has run out on that one.
Besides, I’ve learned never to post anything to the internet that I’d be embarassed for my mother to read.
John, of course, is a marketing genius in a class of his own. I’ve known him from his humble marketing beginnings, and from the very start he’s always been a true standout. In fact, from my point of view he’s been THE standout copywriter for over 20 years now.
But don’t buy too much of that “Young Punk With Attitude” schtick he always tries to pin on himself. John may be a marketing rebel, but he’s always been a real gentleman, too.
One thing John said in his above post rings wicked true with me: As a marketer, to get some worthwhile perspective on “real life,” you’ve got to get some AGE perspective. And that means not excluding people from your circle of influence just because they’re not in your age group.
As an old fart direct mail copywriter from way back, I’ve learned to listen to everybody in the marketing business, from the young upstarts who are shaping the way marketing is being done in the New Media, to old-school direct mail copywriters who were around long before me (though that particular circle is getting smaller and smaller every year), and who have a perspective on life and on marketing that’s been finely honed by decades of real-life, down-in-the-trenches experience.
In a nutshell, like John, I’ve learned to never limit who’s in my circle of influence by age alone. I might limit it by other factors (such as attitude, or personality ,or how many hunks of metal they might have hanging from every orifice of their bodies)…but never by age alone.
Why? Because I learn way too much great stuff for use in marketing by listening to people of all ages, and discovering what makes them tick — particularly when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
So if you’re a young copywriter, definitely start including older people in your circle of influence. Better stated, start LISTENING to older people. Pick their brains. Learn where they’re coming from, where they’ve been, what they believe and why they believe it.
One of my favorite questions to ask older people is this: “What’s the absolute best product or service you’ve purchased over the last six months?” And once they tell me, I follow up with, “Why did you buy it?”
Why do I ask those two questions? I do it if for no other reason than to gain insight into writing and marketing to the older age demographic. You should too.
If you’re a young copywriter, consider this: Generally speaking, older people have worked hard all of their lives. They’ve lived rich, full lives. They’ve invested and saved for their old age. They know what they want. And frankly, they pretty much have all the money.
That’s a SUPER-important point. You want to market to the people with the most money. It’s the old Gary Halbert riddle about what’s the single-most important thing you need if you were to open up a hamburger stand. It’s not great food. It’s not a great location. It’s not competent employees. It’s not even a great marketing campaign. It’s a HUNGRY CROWD.
The older, wealthy age demographic is a very hungry crowd. But if you don’t understand them intimately, you can’t market to them successfully. And that cuts you out of a HUGE opportunity to make money. Sure, there are other demographics to market to. But why cut yourself out from such a big one?
If there’s one thing I find to be very common with young copywriters, it’s that they may have talent oozing out of their pores, but in all too many cases they have almost ZERO historical perspective and ZERO understanding of any age demographic other than their own. And believe me, that will absolutely kill you as a copywriter in the long run, because it almost automatically limits you to marketing for one very thin demographic.
Reminds me of the classic scene in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, where two hot young babes in a shiny new sports car cut into a parking space in front of an older woman in a big Buick who had been waiting patiently for the space to open up. “We’re younger and faster,” the two hot young babes yell arrogantly at the older woman, taking great pride in zipping into the parking space at the last moment and stealing it from her.
But the older woman puts her pedal to the metal and repeatedly rams her old Buick into the rear end of their shiny little sports car, virtually obliterating it and she shoves it out into the parking lot and takes the parking space for herself.
As the older woman gets out of her car, she looks casually at the two young girls who are staring at her in abject horror, and says with cool confidence, “Yes, you’re younger and faster. I’ll give you that. But I’m older, and better insured.”
Don’t ever forget it. There’s a lot of money to be made out there from every demographic, including the older demographic — so don’t overlook it.
For many years now I’ve pulled down an average of $1.6 million a year from the older demographic alone, marketing alternative health products and related information to them, basically from my kitchen table. I write maybe two or three new direct mail packages a year at most, geared to the older demographic. And then I tweak them all year long in order to keep them fresh and producing the green energy.
That’s it. Two or three d.m. packages a year, and over a million and a half dollars flows in from them annually, on average. If I wasn’t so darn lazy in my old age, I’d write five, or six, or eight packages, and tweak them all year long. And I’d make probably ten times that much money. But I’m not greedy. Besides, there are other age demographics to mine.
The bottom line is that if you’re a young, up-and-coming copywriter, you ought to do everything you can to learn more about the older demographic. After all, everybody is getting older by the day.
Folks: Steve is legendary among copywriters for being one of the best. He was an established “A List” writer for the Big Mailers when I was introduced to him through our mutual friend John Finn… and Steve and I co-wrote several glorious direct mail packages together in the mid-80s.
I learned a TON from this man in the short time we wrote together.
He speaks the truth.
Thanks for posting, Steve.
24 years old and met my wife at the beginning of the summer, but was still dating someone else. Ditched the other girlfriend, went on a number of solo road trips to visit some awesome friends (the stud football player in Med School at Davis, the day trader in Santa Cruz, my best friend from college in Huntington Beach).
Then I went to Romania to help out with some orphanages for 2 weeks. Man did that put some things in perspective! You just don’t realize how good we have it here until you see the wrong side of a third world country (especially before they became part of the EU). Gratefulness abounds after an experience like that and it’s never really left in the 6 years since. We spent 3 days in Paris on our way home, which was that much sweeter!
Came home, ran into my now wife and the rest is history.
Just hit 30 in April and it was a great reflecting point to get some things tuned up (ie: lose the 40# monkey I’m carrying around, get the venture started I’ve been sitting on the past year, leave the office earlier to spend time with my wife and little girl) that I’ve let get out of hand the past few years.
Very stoked that I have a sharper mind to look forward to as I’m regularly the sharpest guy in the room (even with heavy hitters) and wondered if I might be near the peak!! Thanks for the tip of how the road looks up ahead:)
Loved that rant. excellent. My best summer was in Prague for a short break and the country had just been “freed ” from communist rule. I was with a friend who liked looking at churches all the time!! I like a bit of that but prefer talking to people where I visit. Anyway, I sat down next to an old man approx 85yrs. he had very good english and we just chatted. I asked him how it felt to be free, he said that he had lived under 4 different regimes, fascist and socialist through his life but he had always had freedom of his own mind. I will never forget that day and statement as it puts into perspective what life is about and how valuable old people with their wisdom and experiences are.
Great story, Jo.
A timely post for those of us mindful there are probably fewer days ahead than behind.
This is the second reminder I have had in a month. A friend passed away a few weeks ago, having been diagnosed as terminal a few months earlier. Certainly not “elderly” and not a dibilitating condition, so her “quality of life” was good. However, the diagnosis was such that one night soon she would go to sleep and not wake up – ever. This really made me think. Where would I want to visit one last time? As the last precious days ticked away, who would I call at night for just one more laugh, debate or to say hey – thanks. What would be the last music track I would want to have rockin round in my head as I go to sleep, perhaps for the final harrah? Deep, core stuff. And all great questions to remind one nothing is forever, so make sure you work hard, play hard, laugh loud and get happy – whatever happy is in your world.
My best summer? That’s a tough one. So many good summers. Hopefully there are still a few doozies ahead. If I have to pick, probably one in my early twenties. Just got a great job in television I had been shooting for where I could learn heaps from real pros. Just built my first “fast” car. This itty bitty little Ford chassis with a Lotus twin cam engine. (but unfortunatley with standard Ford brakes!) I made a few new friends in nice shiny police cars that summer. A new girlfriend who’s parents had a great pool, and as we were both doing shift work, plenty of hours during everyone elses work hours to enjoy the house, sun, pool and each other. It was just one of those carefree periods in life where everything was just right.
Two things come to mind. One: I am young beyond my years because I bartended at a Macaroni Grill with a bunch of kids that as I was turning 41, they were turning 21. (5 yrs ago) It has turned out to be the best thing that happened to me.
I got to be 21 again for a summer. I also understand what 20 somethings want out of the Internet and have been able to GET things that otherwise would have passes me by. Like text messaging and the fact email is dead in the next generation.
Second: The best summer of your life is this one, right now today. If not, then make it so…..
Fantastic piece of writing.
I have a group of women I’ve hung with for about 14 years, we get together for dinner once a month. We all have twins, which is how we got together, but the age of our group ranges about 20 years difference in ages. Even though each is at different stages in our lives, we get along great and we learn so much from each other.
I also agree there is truly a “wisdom” that comes with age. I look back on decisions I made when I was younger and wondered where my brain was at. Who knows, maybe 25 years from now I’ll wonder at decision I made today.
Thanks again for the post.
Best summer ever? Hmmm, I’d say when I was a kid of 13 would have to fill that bill. We had a pretty tight budget and food got stretched by many interesting (and mostly bland) additives like bread crumbs, eggs and shredded spuds. My father had put in MANY extra hours and put aside a stash as a surprise. In July of that year he sprang his trap and we were caught in a headlong rush into adventure like we had never known in previous years. Living in California kind of spoils you because there are so many things to see, do and go. That summer we went camping from the Sierra Nevadas to the Coast in Morro Bay. Along the way we hit all the theme parks and oddities in between too. It stands out in my memory mostly because he was so happy that he ‘got us’ and also because we were so happy around the camp fire cooking trout and just goofing off. It was the last time that I remember being so happy with family and has been used as a buffer for more lean feeling in later years. These days I rarely talk with siblings, but try to keep in touch every so often with my parents on the other coast. Sometimes I get nostalgic and relive that one summer in my memory and it makes me smile.
Best summer ever? Easy. Summer of ’67.
Between my sophomore and junior years in high school. I grew up on one of the Finger Lakes in upstate NY. Could get cold as hell in winter, but for three months in the summer it was paradise. My Dad owned a boat. A 17′ Glastron with a 140 HP I/O engine.
Both my parents worked, my sisters were too young so basically that left me in charge of the boat. So I’d hitchhike down to the marina in the morning and cruise over to the public beach and drop anchor. Then swim in and collect a few friends. We’d each chip in fifty or seventy-five cents for gas and water ski all day.
I’d dock late afternoon and walk to work as a busboy in a restaurant near the beach. After work, flush with cash from tips, I’d walk over to the amusement park on the lake.
Since I went to high school with most of the ride operators, I got to ride for free. Some other friends who worked at one of the snack stands would slip us the occasional cold beer. To be consumed under the shadows of said stand.
I kissed my first girl there, that summer. Under the trees that overhung the water. Held hands with her, too. I thought my heart would jump out of my chest.
That summer I passed from boyhood into adolescence. And had a feeling this was only the beginning.
Your writing gives me waves of chill every time I read. I thought I had many Summers of fun. So I sat down to recount all the fun I had all these past years (I’m 28). I was trying to remember the names, the faces, the smell and sound and what came out really surprised me.
I thought my best summer was one of those FUN times when I partied till Dawn. But that seems so small and inconsequential compared to my last summer.
I was at a Beach in a sleepy town known for its Ayurvedic Massage. The sun was down and all the tourists had left. It was just me, the wind and the mighty ocean roaring through the darkness. When I closed my eyes I felt the love of the night breeze across my face. The moon less sky, lit by the occasional stars was just so hypnotic.
As I lay there with closed eyes, I felt a soft hand touch my face. I was fighting hard to control my boyish urge to know who it was… and just savor the feeling. After a bit of gentle caressing, she just slid next to me and I opened my eyes. We both kept looking at the stars for a long time.
Dont ask me what happened later, but that was one heck of a summer.
I’m 33, and a self-proclaimed ‘serial soul searcher.’ The best part of constantly trying to ‘find myself’ comes from the stories I’ve heard from my grandparents, great uncle, and anyone from their generation or older, 80+ years old. The even better part is that there’s never a shortage of these stories! Double thumbs up for the great assignment you’ve passed on!
My best summer is a compilation of them from the age of 12 to 16. I went to summer camp in Pennsylvania, and at the time didn’t realize how precious those memories would be.
The simple fact that I was away from my parents was ‘cool’ enough, and beyond enjoyable, during those years. We would hang out by camp fires, listen to Bon Jovi, try to play sports that I was far from good at, use a counselor’s razor when I barely had a mustache to shave, and tons of other memories all added to those unbelievable times. What really made it so special was that my biggest concern in the entire world was if I was going to grab some ta-ta’s after the evening movie!
Thanks for the opportunity to share, and for sharing with us!
Joey G (aka Joey Buddha)
Good stuff, Joey.
Thanks for posting.
Read Jean Shepard’s books, especially “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash”. Different age, but camp stories you’ll identify with.
Cannot recommend Shepard enough. He wrote “Christmas Story”, which became the movie about little Ralphie wanting the Red Ranger BB gun for Xmas (shown every year). My favorite holiday movie (with “Bad Santa”)…
I’m all over that! How can I turn down a book by the man who wrote “Christmas Story?”
I saw your presentation on Frank’s videos from the Hard Rock. I’m going through a similar situation that you talked about when you were 35. I was wondering if you had any advice or reading recommendations for someone who could relate to your story?
You’re truly an inspiration John!
Joey G. (aka Joey Buddha)
Hi Joey. I gave the recommendations from stage there — Think And Grow Rich, How To Win Friends And Influence People. The basics.
Great observations, John. One of my best summers was back in 1978 when my now wife & I went to Greece to do some island hopping, camping, & hiking for 3 weeks using only local transportation and getting off the tourist path. We headed to Rhodes and went all over that island, took local boats to Kasos (small island east of Crete), Crete, Santorini, & back to Athens, and then flew back to Boston. On Kasos we were invited to a Greek Orthodox wedding and the reception; there were only 2 other outsiders on the island at the time. Wonderful experiences exploring and meeting locals. I had never taken such a long vacation and by the 3rd week it was really feeling good!
What is most exciting is that we are going to Australia for a whole month this fall, renting a car, exploring, camping, hiking, & getting to know the locals. I will be collecting stories, photos, videos, & observations for use when we get home.
My best summer will be this summer.
I have 2 beautiful children with a 3rd on the way. The baby has been diagnosed with Spina Bifida and I have never experienced such a range of emotions before in my 36 years of life. It has allowed me to learn more not only about myself but about my wife; she is a remarkably strong woman. I’ve had to learn how to balance these strong emotions when around my other children as they are only 2 1/2 and 1 1/2. This has not been an easy task but is something I’m continually learning how to do.
I look forward to welcoming our son to the world and helping him through the various challenges that await him.
Thanks for the “rants”. I usually don’t reply to blogs, but being over 50 myself (only admit to 21), the sex diffently gets better. As far as summer memories…there are so many…body surfing in the cold Pacific near SF…tunes by Bread, Peter Frampton, Chiago, Beatles…fires on the beach…cooking ourselves with baby oil…”crusin’ on El Camino with friends…and all the friends. Still have the friends, though they are spread across the county now. Again thanks for all your insites and allowing us “oldsters” to get a new carrer…copywriting, setting up Meetup pages and all other things internet. Have a great rest of the summer! All the best, Tracy
My best summer – must’ve been the one that lasted 1 and a half years.
I got laid off from my job, bought a one way ticket to Brasil three days later and boosted it.
I spent the next three summers working on yachts in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. I was following the trade winds, living life large and meeting with the some of the craziest and interesting people I’ve ever seen.
I made decisions to cross oceans on yachts based on a coin flip, sailed through the Bermuda triangle, had some close calls in big storms in the middle of the Atlantic, watched dolphins play at the bow and lazed on stunning beaches.
And the more I met different people, the more I found I really LIKE people. Everyone’s got some story in them.
And the most unlikely people (like the old rastas on the dock in Antigua) had the best stuff to teach.
Thanks for the great post John.
I probably don’t remember my best summer, unless it is this one. I have a very poor memory, so I throw myself into life as best I can, hoping that somehow, my experiences get imprinted in the protein of my cells even though I won’t consciously remember them.
What I do remember is distant, like I read it all in some surreal book a long time ago, like my friend and I painting our bodies on the rocks at Northwestern beach, and taking Commedia dell’arte (Italian improvisational theater) classes at near-dawn. When I was very young, I might have found gold rocks in a stream, but that might also be a dream.
I am experiencing this summer with my two year old son. Right before we go to bed, I tell him all the things we did during the day. While he’s asleep, I write in his diary, in case he is like me and can’t remember anything. I am living like a child, keeping pace with him. My days are full of sun, rain, swings, sidewalk chalk, sounds, and long periods of exploration. I understand more about people than I ever have before.
This is what everyone is — a child inside, with a core of pure self. It’s just that with adults, that shining center gets pushed under layers of debris, and many never find it again.
My best summer ever was about 6 years ago, when I was 13 years old.
It was the first real summer I had after the “upbringing” I had gone through. Generally saying it was the first ever time I could let my proverbial hair down and just enjoy my day, no worries, no stress, no pains but all pleasure.
Going down to the basketball court near the hostel my mother, sister and myself were staying, was just my starting point. I remember this date more then any other, July 12th 2003. It’s because on that date was the first time I had really got the balls to speak to a girl and not be freaked out by it. I was at the basketball court, it was just past 10am. Me and my friends decided to meet up really early so we could work on my jump shot, You see because of the way I was raised I never played out much or got much exercise so a lot of my muscles were pretty useless. For many of them it was the first time I had but them to use.
As I stood there learning how to play basketball at a more competitive level and doing it on the street ball court is really entertaining because all the people are friendly and playful. This girl decides to walk into the court with the other group of girls who came out to see us play. I hadn’t seen her before and she was a 5ft 5 girl, had deep blue-ish, grey eyes with mousey brown hair. She was a girl of mixed race, quite rare, Indian, Maltese and British… You could bet your bottom dollar she was the envy of the girls and all the guys wanted her attention….Including me.
At this time I wasn’t who I am today, I didn’t have the confidence or the charm to speak to her. I was SUPER Shy, if she came near me I would blush but my Indian Skin tone covered that up so she couldn’t see it….
So while we were playing away, for about 3 hours we decided to get the girls in to play some mixed team basketball. She was on the opposite team and I had to guard her, I let her pass me but I did get a few teases in, in which she smiled…. Looking back at it there was a lot of “playground” flirting going on.
Eventually when we decided to break for a bit, I spoke to her, found out her name was Leanne and she was just visiting the area but lived in the city.
Afterwards I just got her email address and went home. Now I skipped a lot of the day it’s because all we did was play basketball, have a few laughs and relax…
When I got home I added her to my msn and we began speaking… I’ll be honest with you I didn’t date her, then.
Fast forward to June 2009.
I was walking by the hostel and down to the old park to just sit and reflect on how far I had come in the last couple of years… I am now, time of writing this 20 years and 4 days old, I sat there and this small group of girls, maybe only 5 or 6 girls walked by, Now I’m a lot more confident then I used to be so I walked up and just asked them something simple to get a convo going.
What I failed to realize was these were some of the girls who used to come watch us play basketball when I was 13. As soon as I told them my name and smiled, one of the girls came up to me and asked,
“Oh are you that Adil guy who used to flirt with Leanne?”
I ended up thinking for a moment and remembered her, so I said yes and asked why.
From the back a 5 ft 5 girl with blue-ish grey eyes with mousey brown hair stepped up, she smiled and was wearing square rimmed glasses. I held my breath for a moment, thinking to myself…
“Holy Shit this can’t be Leanne, can it?”
She said she was Leanne and playfully punched me in the arm for not keeping in contact. She looked gorgeous, I have to admit. This time I made sure I got her number and arranged to meet her the next day. Her friends were egging this on, so that was always a good thing.
The reason why 2003 was one of the best summers I’ve had is because I met Leanne, got into a good body shape…. Met her 6 years later at the same place we first met and now she has been my girlfriend for the last, nearly 4 months.
That’s one of my best summers :).