As a musician, I often use music to define the seminal events of my life. There’s two songs that I believe define the summer of 2005 perfectly – one from the perspective of the summer itself, and one from the perspective of now, looking back at the summer of 2005.
The song that serves for perspective on the summer of 2005 itself is the Ataris’ song “In This Diary”, from their 2003 album, So Long, Astoria. “Here in this diary,” the song begins, “I write you visions of my summer – it was the best I ever had.”
That summer began right where the school year had left off. Since mid-September, I had been at Camp El Camino Pines, in the town of Frazier Park, sixty miles north of Los Angeles. I was an outdoor education instructor for the Outdoor School program that Lutheran Retreats, Camps, and Conferences of Southern California ran at ECP. The program was designed to fulfill the state of California’s education requirement for a week of environmental education.
The final group of students for the school year left on Friday afternoon, just after lunch. A couple of hours later, once the camp had been cleaned and everybody had finished packing, we loaded up into the camp van and headed eastbound, for the sleepy little tourist hamlet of Oak Glen, out on the edge of the Inland Empire – the location of Luther Village.
For a night or so, things were sane – and then, it all got kicked into high gear. Staff arrived, training began. The day that all the first year counselors arrived, I met a number of people I know to this day. However, there were two people in particular I met that day who would change my life – though neither they nor I knew it at the time:
Liz Benforado and Suzie Farris.
Now, if you’ve been following my “Note-a-Day” thing over on Facebook, you know why Liz and Suzie are so important to me, so I won’t rehash that.
Anyway, before long, training had ended and camp began. The first week was fairly run-of-the-mill (well, if you can call ANY week of camp run-of-the-mill)… but the second week – that’s when the fun started.
I had taken the ECP Suburban (a.k.a. The ‘Burban Which Is A Piece) to Luther Village, loaded up with a bunch of beach camp supplies, because I was supposed to spend the week helping out at LV during asthma camp, and then heading south to the beach camp site to get things set up. Things started going bizarre on Friday night, when I had a tire blowout on I-10 between Redlands and Yucaipa, with a Suburban full of LV staffers – fortunately, just a little more than three years removed from my Buick debacle on I-17, I knew what it felt like when a tire was going bad.
Anyway, the spare went on, but it was flat; AAA took care of that. The next day, I was off to Goodyear tire, where it turned out that all four of the ‘Burban’s tires had dry rot and needed to be replaced. Sure, it took me till the end of the summer to be reimbursed for the tires, but it was a damn good thing it happened THEN, and here’s why:
The next day, Sunday, was the first day of Week 2. Liz was the lead counselor for a day camp in Santa Monica, but that evening, she fell deathly ill (and I’m not saying that hyperbolically – she wound up in Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita with a blood infection that could’ve killed her). Now, that, in and of itself, would not have necessarily been a disaster for the day camp itself – but a second counselor at the site was also sick, and the day camp coordinator had fallen off the face of the planet.
So, since I had a LOT of experience as a day camp lead from the last two years, i was dispatched to Santa Monica. And thus, in the middle of the night on Sunday, I rolled out to Santa Monica, with four brand new tires on the Suburban. Just imagine if I had been driving to Santa Monica in the middle of the night with four garbage tires on a Suburban!
As it was, Liz ended up pulling through, and returning to LRCC about mid-summer. As for me, I spent the rest of that summer having an absolute blast. Four weeks at Pacific Beach, and a fifth week in San Clemente. A brief summer romance snuck its way in there somehow. Several people became turtles under my jurisdiction (and they were the last turtles inducted under my jurisdiction, and speaking of which, are you a turtle?). And I got to spend a week in San Clemente working with both Suzie and Liz. That was just a billion kinds of awesome.
As the summer wrapped up, I began thinking about the chorus of the Ataris’ song – “Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up – these are the best days of our lives. The only thing that matters is just following your heart, and eventually you’ll finally get it right.” And hey – I wasn’t grown up yet. I had a lot of fun. And those were some of the best days of my life.
That summer was a long, long time ago. Since it ended, I’ve worked in management at two malls in the L.A. area, I worked the front desk of a resort hotel in Phoenix, I was the controller for two tourist-driven hotels in west Phoenix, and I moved to North Carolina to attend seminary here at Wake Forest. And then, last night…
There I was, looking through all my pictures for a good picture of Suzie to add to today’s Note-of-the-Day. I couldn’t find anything I thought would work well on Facebook, so I turned to my hard drive, and that’s when I came across it – the folder that was titled simply, “Camp 2005.”
I decided on a whim that I wanted to share those pictures with the world, via Facebook. So I began uploading them, and as I went through each and tagged the people in them, that’s when another song came into my head, one to give me perspective on that summer from today.
That song is Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69”. There’s two passages that I think about for that summer – “When I look back now, that summer seemed to last forever. If I had the choice, yeah, I’d always wanna be there – those were the best days of my life.” It really was, just like in the Ataris’ song. The summer of 2005 contained some of the absolute best days of my life, and I would give much to go back and relive it all over again.
But the other passage? “We were killin’ time, we were young and restless, we needed to unwind – I guess nothin’ can last forever – forever, no.” That summer couldn’t last forever. And I can’t go back to what’s in the past.
The memories, however… I can keep those forever. Because those were, in fact, the best days of my life.