Here Comes Summer

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passes muster with the Constitution. Mitch McConnell and company have had their chance to sputter, spit and go spastic over Justice John Roberts’s betrayal. So summer can now begin.

Summer, at least in the way New England celebrates it, is the season in which parking spaces are available in downtown Boston. Law firms’ business clients are all out on their cigarette boats so the lawyers can relax. The shops are filled with tourists, not locals. Downtown workers leave a bit earlier or skip Fridays. Everyone takes it easier. Except for the Watergate hearings and the beginning of World War II, nothing much has ever happened in the summer.

Families from all walks of life have left town. Some go away for the entire summer. They go to lavish summer houses in Maine or the Cape. They go to small cottages tucked away in the woods or on a lake. If they don’t own, they rent for at least a week. A small surfside three-bedroom cottage on Nantucket is only $2,700 a week, but you can pay more than $7,000 for a large house with 9 bedrooms. Some brokers accept credit cards.

If you thought Nantucket is expensive, try Vermont. A three-bedroom house (they always call it a “home”) is $3,500 a week. It must have better views than the Nantucket cottage.

Cheap is October Mountain State Forest near Tanglewood or Nickerson State Park on the Cape. You can rent a large canvas-sided yurt for $40 or you can take your own tent and pitch it in a campsite for only $12 a night at October Mountain or $15 at Nickerson if you are a Massachusetts resident.

Summer in some places can be more social than winter. You probably understand that if you go to Martha’s Vineyard, where there are parties round the clock, you’re expected to host at least one event yourself. It makes me tired to think about it so I don’t go to the Vineyard in the summer, but the people who do seem to love it.

Summer is a hassle in some of these places. Try to get a dinner reservation in Provincetown or Edgartown, not to mention a space on the car ferry. And the traffic—ay-yi-yi.

Summer in New England is the increasing rustle of the wind as it whips the leaves coming at you through the forest. Summer is blue and green and warm. Sometimes during the day it is too warm, but at night it always seems to cool off. The forest, the mountains, the gardens, the lakes and the ocean beaches are so beautiful that many of us don’t like to take a vacation elsewhere because we’ll miss the day lilies in bloom, the distinctive taste of lake water as we swim or the tomatoes finally in season.

During June, we prepared for summer. The real summer lasts for only two months—July and August. It started with a bang this year with the tall ships. Yes, they’re hackneyed at this point but they are still fun. They remind us that as much as we like to get to the lake or the ocean beach, the city also sings in summer. The Frog Pond is filled with kids. Carson Beach is filled with everyone. If the algae bloom disappears we’ll soon see swimmers racing in the Charles River.

And we’ll see people eating outside. Boston has finally discovered that in the summertime people enjoy patronizing restaurants with outdoor dining areas. Long ago Rebecca Caras wanted to put a few tables out at the corner of Mount Vernon and Charles streets on Beacon Hill right where Café Vanille has them now. The Beacon Hill Civic Association opposed it because people might have too much fun. Thank goodness that organization has gotten less stuffy.

Because of fear of fun and the sound of laughter that might disturb some old or young codger, it took way too long for this outdoor dining custom to get started. We still need more of these outdoor restaurants, especially around the harbor and in Charlestown. And if local restaurateurs would take a hint from San Diego restaurants, they’d install tall heaters so outdoor dining could go on from May through October.

Every summer I think of how lucky we are to be in New England. Temperatures of 120 degrees in the southwest and 100 degrees all over the south accompanied by oppressive humidity mean that people won’t go outside. But then those hot, humid days turned some men and women into our favorite southern writers, so as long as we don’t have to endure that weather, we can appreciate it. I’ve never been in LA in the summer, but I’m betting Angelenos, having been outside all year long—except in January when it rains and goes down to 60 degrees, when they put on their down jackets—barely notice that it is a special season.

Karen Cord Taylor is a journalist who founded, edited and published the Beacon Hill Times, The Back Bay Sun and The Charlestown Bridge, now known as the Patriot-Bridge, for many years. She can be reached at [email protected]. Past columns are posted

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