What a day for a daydream
What a day for a daydreamin’ boy
– The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1966
it is not quite “Summer in the City”, but a nice spring day will do. From the comfort of my suburban, home owner association compliant beige home, it’s a lovely afternoon. The grass is cut to regulation height, no dandelions in sight, and my freak flag is safely inside the house.
The owners of a house on my cul-de-sac turned their dwelling into a rooming house, exceeding the zoning code on the number of unrelated inhabitants allowed to live there. It was a mess, right on our street, spoiling our version of the American Dream. The neighbors called the local code enforcement officials, and “the man” solved the problem. Don’t rock our sea of tranquility or you’ll get one across your broadside.
The sea is calm again. From my front porch, life is idyllic. When the sun sets, we are all safely inside our home. Dinner at six o’clock, to bed after the late news, and we are ready to dream a little dream for real.
Forty years ago, I would have been one of those troublemakers down the street breaking the city code and upsetting the tranquil ocean of pristine green lawns as far as the eye can see. During my college days, you wouldn’t have wanted me as neighbor. Parties, loud music, drinking and hipster friends. Housing values are falling as I even talk about it.
After I moved in, my mother visited my first apartment, just briefly. She turned around, went home and cried. It wasn’t that bad. She had seen Rebel Without a Cause and figured I was a drag race away from no return. I didn’t drag race, it’s just a metaphor for kids dangerously out of control. Yes, there were Saturday afternoons of Black Sabbath coming from the stereo as football game attendees walked from the stadium, parents eyeing their disapproval at us while putting a protective arm around their kids. We were so proud of our beer drinking skills that we saved our empties and allowed our friends to pose for photos like a shrine.
The freedom was intoxicating, even more so than the Coors Light. It wouldn’t be long before we entered the workforce full-time and had to begin charting some sort of course for our lives. The protective cocoon of college would burst, ejecting us into adulthood. It happened, rudely, and like mounting a pogo stick for the first time, it was not a pretty sight.
Adulthood is like going to a dinner party where you don’t know anyone. It’s a lot of awkward navigation, watching how other people do it, and then slowly following the crowd. Eventually you get the hang of it and begin to solo, and give up trying to find the instruction manual. It doesn’t exist.
Life happens. A succession of jobs, relationships and that search for happiness. It seems like those milestone birthdays come quickly, the extra weight doesn’t come off as easy as it
used to, you find yourself head of the family, and you start giving the kind advice to kids that you didn’t really take when it was offered to you.
In your career, you suddenly find yourself making decisions that carry great responsibility. You look in the mirror and can’t believe someone trusts you to be making those decisions, and even hiring people. You have the livelihood of others in your hands. What idiot gave you that power?
You keep looking in the mirror and suddenly you see your dad looking back at you. How did that old guy get into the picture? Gray hair, baggy eyes, tired look, and worry lines. That old geezer in the mirror will probably tell you to turn your music down and get off the damn lawn. Inside, you still think of yourself as 20 something. You still like the same music, when you hang with your pals you laugh at the same stories, you know what “cool” is, and you gladly hand over big money to see those classic rockers live in concert, or semi-alive in concert.
You’re an educated man, you like to stay informed but you can’t stand to watch the news because you don’t understand what’s going on in the world. Didn’t we solve our civil rights issues? Didn’t we learn from Vietnam and Watergate? We created Earth Day and created an Environmental Protection Agency to undo our damage to the planet. While not perfect, we dealt with many issues to create a better and safer society. Or did we?
Today, you say “good morning” to someone and it turns into a ideological debate. You send your grandkids to school and you hope they are safe. You’ve worked a lifetime to create a financial safety net and you aren’t sure it will still be there. Your identify and financial data is likely on the dark web, thanks to criminals and greedy corporations. Our health system is a for-big-profit enterprise protected by Congress, who campaign for our votes wrapped in the flag and holding the Bible, while pocketing dark money and controlled by faceless lobbyists in thousand dollar suits.
All of that floats by as the soft rays from the afternoon sun kiss my face. If I close my eyes, I can be at Lake Perry in 1978, cooking burgers, playing guitar and enjoying a “back to nature” day as we used to call spring getaways. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sing “Carry On” while we are behaving like 20 year olds, the freak flag blowing in the lake breeze.
What a day for a daydreamin’ boy.