Bill Knight - July 30
Macomb, IL – Another reflection on a time and a scene prompted one of the best back-handed compliments ever received: "Descriptive, peaceful, heartwarming, intelligent, and a bit scattered: Were you high when you wrote this one? I remain a fan."
Nevertheless, dread grows as the unseasonably cool July fades and husky August looms like a linebacker in pads staring across a sun-baked high school football field where practices challenge endurance levels. August sometimes seems filled with last-minute chores, preparation for back-to-school changes.
But July's been pleasant - even in disappointment. Bittersweet activities ranged from storm cleanup and a college grad's return home before law school to his new puppy and relaxed days on a deck with a wife who mostly embraces quiet time as something to be cherished, like a new romance. Or an old one.
Illinois has encouraged lovely drives, too, from pre-dawn trips for coffee at the edge of Lewistown and short stops at newsrooms in Macomb and Monmouth to more coffee at Galesburg's Innkeeper and an all-day breakfast at Kewanee's Red Apple. Jaunts to Maurie's in Pekin and visits to the folks and the hometown in Hancock County all offered reassurance of things you can count on: good popcorn, a stately courthouse, steady love. Throughout, corn crops make up for lost time, tassling and sprouting ears.
Spectacular Independence Day fireworks above the Illinois River and Bix fest's comfortable jazz traditions along the Mississippi River through the Quad Cities bookended the month, which featured the history and mystery of baseball as the Cardinals' beautiful ballpark hosted the All-Star game, the White Sox gave us a perfect game, and the Cubs returned to the top of their division.
Magnificent and mundane moments: A new coffeemaker and an old recipe for homemade ice cream. Friday-night bellinis with cheap champagne and hard-to-find peach juice; Saturday afternoon Miller High-Life with ice melting down the clear-glass bottle; Sunday sundaes at the Tastee Freez; black raspberries gathered after hours by a caring reporter working at least two jobs, like most newsroom employees today.
Fixing the toilet, repairing a garage door, and mowing - sweating but smelling the fresh-cut grass where the eight-week-old black Lab delights in licking dew at dawn. Grilling steaks and vegetables, and salvaging hot dogs of unknown ingredients with green onions, sweet pickle relish and honey mustard atop the catsup.
Hearing from nice folks, some who agree with columns and other who don't, but most who care about the community and country. Seeing a weekend reunion of college dorm friends, the Commandoes, who all had - have - nicknames: Bro and Speedy, DeSade and Ropes, Termite and Red and so on.
Reading Michael Connelly's inspiring new Scarecrow mystery for fun, the Onion for laugh-out-loud satire, and Marilynne Robinson's disappointing Pulitzer-winning Gilead for a book club. DC Comics launching a weekly showcase of classic characters, packaged on newsprint. (Someone asks, "What do you think of DC putting out a newspaper?" and the reply is, "Somebody better.") Seeking the reissued Woodstock set, stumbling on old-time radio on Canton radio, and searching for musician/humorist Christopher Guest's CD by "the Beyman Brothers": "Memories of Summer as a Child"; enjoying TV's "Closer" and "Burn Notice" but wondering why mayhem makes up so much entertainment.
A town-hall meeting about restoring a park ravaged by storms and hard feelings was cooperative, productive and civil; a series of campus meetings was efficient, positive and collegial. Church services opened stained-glass windows to the world and to sounds of birds and the smells of pastries and sausages available afterward.
Impossibly golden lilies, explosions of brown-eyed susans, teetering irises, subtle impatiens and hardy geraniums all attracting lazy bumblebees and sleek hummingbirds as 8- or 10-year-old skateboarders trudge by wearing skinned knees and scabbed elbows along with smiles. Bats at dusk and toads at dawn, a turtle dove joining mourning doves at the fountain behind the house, and goldfinches that zoom through the yard like yellow watermelon seeds squeezed by a giant.
Feeling bad about actor Farrah Fawcett, singer Michael Jackson and writer Paul Hemphill dying, and worse about good neighbors and strangers who were neither held up as celebrities nor hounded by some who shame the trade of journalism. Feeling good about attending visitations that were sad but sympathetic celebrations of lives.
I pray the next week will transition into a comforting August, where its Dog Days will bridge July and the year's finest time, September and autumn.
(For now, I've still got a summer buzz.)