Farewell to Summer

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

My best friend, an actor, was once told by his agent that "vacations are sacred to me." The agent had announced that he was going on an African safari for three weeks - "I-m going to be totally out of the loop!" he cried. "This is special me time," the agent said. "Time for me to get to know me again." It was just going to be him, his girlfriend, two of his most important actor clients, and their girlfriends.
"So, it-s not really a vacation," my friend said. "It-s work, right?"
"How do you figure?"
"You-re going with two of your clients."
"Oh. That. Well, they-re friends, too, you know."
"Yeah, but what if something comes up for me?" my friend asked.
"What if, somehow, despite your best efforts to the contrary, I book a job in the next three weeks?"
His agent touched his arm gently.
"Are you jealous about the safari? -Cause don-t be. I had to have a million shots in the butt and the malaria pills made my pee smell funny."

When real people (and for the purposes of our conversation, "real people" will be defined as "people who do not work in or around the 310 telephone area code") ask "How was your summer?" to someone from Hollywood (someone, for the purposes of our conversation, who is "not real") they-re actually asking a complicated question. The crucial elements of summer - sunshine, bare feet, salt water, procrastination, laziness, salads - are pretty much year-round phenomena out here. And since "doing nothing" is an accurate mission statement for most of the enterprises and executives in Hollywood anyway, it-s hard to get too excited about the summer. Put it this way: out here, the only difference between the summer and the rest of the year is that in the summer, when we drive with the car top down, we also have the air conditioner on.

For me, the summer began in 1988, when I sputtered into town in my rattling, oil-burning old Subaru station wagon. It was Labor Day, and I had come all the way from Massachusetts, where the trees were just beginning to turn and the air had that slight mineral cold-weather-s-coming smell. I burned up a quart or two of oil driving up to Malibu, where I stretched out on Zuma Beach, and thought, "I guess this is who I am, now." I was 23 at the time, and I had no idea then that you can-t just become a Malibu person. Your idea of summer - like your idea of fun itself - is hard-wired into your brain the moment you have your first snow cone, or hear your first ice-cream truck, or smell the distinct summer smell of chlorine, Coppertone, hamburger grease, and hot car interior. You really can-t change it.

For the rest of America, Labor Day signals the end of summer, the end of fun, the back-to-work rhythm we-ve all got drumming through us. But out here, it-s just one more day of sunshine and tough beach parking. One day you-re at the beach; the next you-re buying candy corn and pumpkins. There-s no put-on-a-sweater stop in between.

But in an endless summer, you never learn to appreciate the passage of time. You never learn to really savor the first hot days of June, or the smell of wet, hot asphalt, or the crack of thunder, or even the hot steering wheel of a car parked in the sun. In this constant temperate zone, you don-t even get a kick out of a summer ice cream cone. You don-t even call it ice cream, either. You call it gelato. Because, well, it-s just a dessert. It-s not a treat.

Real people feel a little bit sad when the weather turns. It means they-re older and another year has slipped by. When you-re a kid, the end of summer means the beginning of school and that special combination of thrill and dread. And when you-re no longer a kid, you still feel that way, even though you have no real reason to - though maybe that-s part of the sadness. In Hollywood, though, it-s impossible to feel sad about the weather, so we have to invent things to be sad about: our parents didn-t support us enough; our spouses don-t really love us; our cars aren-t expensive enough; our life isn-t enough enough. On the other hand, we never have to scrape the ice off the windshield. Or pray the car starts on a cold morning.

Have a nice autumn. If you want me, I-ll be by the pool.

That-s it for this week. Next week, we-ll crash a screening.

For KCRW this has been Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long