Sunday, September 19, 2010: WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER

A mariachi ensemble of six musicians played, another DJ was cranking out beats, a singer in a ball cap accompanied himself on guitar over a concert-like speaker system  – RV’s and buses were neatly sardined in parallel stalls – people of all ages AND all sizes were dressed in bright red – others in yellow – BBQ’s of every colour and shape were fired up.  The smell of BBQ’d beef wafted in the 102 degree heat at the place they call The Mall – a long green space just outside the University of Arizona football stadium.  This was the day we experienced an Arizona State Wildcats vs Iowa Hawkeyes TAILGATE party.  Over the top!  I’m a big sports fan but I still can’t even comprehend the doodads and the crazy paraphernalia that some of these fans were wearing!

That was a prelude to a play that my wife and I attended in Tucson yesterday.  The play “What I Did Last Summer” was a wonderful reminiscence of the warm summer days at Crystal Beach on the shores of Lake Erie in southern Ontario.  As kids, my parents would load up the car for the day, take the hour drive to Crystal Beach where we could swim and experience the midway.  For a kid in the 60’s, it was like Disneyland.  The Magic Carpet Fun House was a walk through laughing voices in the dark, air blasting under your heels to lift the skirts of the girls (crazy!) and the finale of the ride which rumbled the rider to the end of the line on a giant carpet.  It was like an escalator that was padded with billowy pillows that rode you to the ground level from the second story.  And the cyclone was the roller coasters of roller coasters back in the day.  The coaster was said to be “the most thrilling roller coaster ride in the Western Hemisphere”.  Screaming teenagers rocketed down the main drop toward Lake Erie at warp speed.

The play brought back those times for me – the rhythm and tempos – the ebbs and flows of the play through its characters were like one of those days at Crystal Beach in the 60’s.  It was especially meaningful when our daughter Lauren played Grace, the mother of the family from Buffalo.  Her family life at the nostalgic lakeside vacation site of Crystal Beach vascilated between the pretenses of “white-washed capitalistic society of 1945” and the hovering hope of post war.

The high pitched calls and the cacophony of  sounds at the football tailgate in some ways were like the ones I experienced on the midway at Crystal Beach.  Yesterday, the anticipation in the air was exciting – and so was our little escape to “What I Did Last Summer”.

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