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The Days Grow Short When You Reach September

Labor Day went well around here, with the Wichita Wingnuts heading into the double-A American Association playoffs with a 4-1 regular season finale win over the Salina Stockade that featured several defensive gems, a hospitable old hippie friend of ours charbroiling copious amounts of bratwurst and burgers and other red Kansas meat while handing out Pabsts and blaring old Doors records on the sound system, and the weather was nice and hot. Still, there was no shaking that melancholy feeling the holiday always brings.
Although the autumnal equinox is still a couple of weeks away and the warm weather is likely to linger past that, today nonetheless marks the end of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. School is back in session, Congress is ending its recess, and by longstanding social agreement everybody else also gets down to serious business. The rigorously timed violence of football has already started to supplant the more leisurely paced and gentlemanly sport of baseball, the white shoes and straw hats are replaced by more somber apparel, school buses are once again slowing traffic, and conferences are being convened all over to assess the various messes the summer has left us in, and what might become of it in the fall.
The reconvened Congress finds itself with plenty of work to do. Summer’s end brought a thousand-year-flood that left America’s fourth-most-populous city under several feet of water, so they’ll have to find some way to pitch in on the calamitous cost of that, which wouldn’t be easy in the best of circumstances. In these circumstances they also face hard and fast end-of-the-month deadlines to pass a continuing spending resolution to keep the government fully open and a debt-ceiling increase to pay for it, which is always hard enough even without a thousand-year natural disaster to help pay for, and that’s not to mention the nutcase North Korean dictatorship that’s been making increasingly plausible threats to start a nuclear war that would make that thousand-year-flood look like a minor inconvenience.
There’s also the complicating factor of Trump, and everything he’s been up to over the summer. The Republican-controlled Congress was never technically in recess, for fear that Trump would make some crazy recess appointment to inoculate himself from the ongoing congressional probes into “Russia,” and nothing that has transpired during their unofficial vacation has likely been reassuring to them. Trump threatened to force a government shutdown unless all the spending resolutions and debt ceiling increases and whatnot included funding for his campaign promise of a border wall, which is a cause few other Republicans and absolutely no Democrats are willing to fight for, but that was before the thousand-year flood happened so there’s some hope Trump once again won’t make good on his threats. He’s also ramping up the anti-immigration rhetoric on other fronts, and although there are plausible arguments for some of them this probably isn’t the best month to be making them.
Throw in the nutcase North Korean dictatorship threatening a nuclear war and Trump’s intemperate responses, the leaks about “Russia” that are reaching thousand-year-flood levels, and the more open animosity between the Republicans in Congress and the relatively newly-fledged Republican in the White House, along with the ongoing fact that the Democrats are as always a complete disaster, and it looks to be an anxious September. The political consequences of not offering needed help to the flooded fourth-most populous city of the country or allowing the government to shut down its assistance would be dire, though, and the federal default that would shortly follow a failure to pass another damned debt-ceiling increase would be comparable to a nuclear war, so we’ll hold out hope that all the self-interested parties involved will reach some mutually beneficial agreement just ahead of the hard-and-fast deadlines.
In the meantime we have own bills our to pay, as we’re sure you do, and we’ll trust that most of the rest of us will somehow get down to such necessary business. There’s still some baseball left to provide solace, and not long after that ends basketball season starts up, with the Wichita State University Wheatshockers looking like a championship contender, and there will always be another summer, perhaps one more lazy yet not quite so hazy or crazy as the past one, and hope springs eternal.

— Bud Norman

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The Longest Day

There’s nothing the least bit Pagan about us, as we’re far too Christian and Burkean and Rationalist and downright fuddy-duddy for all that veneration of harsh nature and dancing-naked-in-the-moonlight nonsense, but as is our wont we nonetheless took time out on Sunday to observe the summer solstice.
After our habitual Sunday morning worship at the West Douglas Church of Christ, where our learned preacher delivered an inspiring sermon drawn from Hebrews’ chapter two, verses seven through 13, and shared the pain he feels following the recent deaths of some long-cherished friends, and his looming sense of his own mortality, which had a special poignance for us after the last rough couple of weeks of death we’ve endured, we drove with the top down on our aging but still chugging automobile to Riverside Park. A couple of local artists whose work we enjoy have built a decorative solar calendar there, right near the fountains where the impoverished but adorable children from the nearby barrio frolic in the cool respite from the summer heat, and at high noon of the summer and winter solstices and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes the sun will shine on a cloudless day through an eye-shaped hole in colored glass directly onto one of three precisely placed pieces of marble. It’s really something to see, and there are always at least a handful of interesting people who show up to see it, and as always one of the artists was on hand to explain how the miraculous alignment of the Sun and the Earth and its tilting rotations and constant revolutions create this pleasing artistic effect. He explained it terms of how the Sun is moving across the horizon, then quickly corrected himself that the Sun is keeping its usual place while we’re the ones moving along through the universe, but in either case the gist of it was that at approximately 1:27 p.m. in the lovely Riverside Park of Wichita, Kansas, right near where the barrio children were frolicking in the fountains, the sun shone through the cloudless skies right onto that precisely placed piece of marble and summer had officially and meteorologically and undeniably arrived.
This was much-needed good news, and it was nice to have it meteorologically and artistically confirmed, as summer is our favorite time of the year. We attribute this to our childhood memories of summertimes with no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks, and the exhilarating freedom of nothing to do that the season provided. Summers are hot as hell around here, and this one already has been even before the sunlight hit upon that piece of marble, and given our warm-blooded and cheapskate ways we haven’t yet turned on the air-conditioner, which has had a discombobulating effect on our sleeping, but all that seems a small price to pay for the glorious feeling of summer. Even when the thermometers hit 115 and the electric bills start climbing, this is a good time around here. The city looks great, with a veritable forest of trees and grass and gorgeous flowers flourishing in the middle of what the original Spanish explorers described as a “treeless desert,” and our cheap-but-fashionable Riverside neighborhood looks especially good and full of flowers, with even our own neglected yard in pretty good shape thanks to the delightful high-school girl who just moved in next door with her friendly and artistic parents and mowed our lawn just because she’s so damned nice, and the city work crew that showed up and trimmed the front lawn tree, albeit so early that it further discombobulated our sleeping, and the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers that border the neighborhood are still high from all the drought-ending rains that came in Spring. Last week we joined a dear friend at the Wichita Botanical Gardens just down the street for a concert by some more musically-talented dear friends, and with the latest impressive improvements the garden has made that’s also really something to see.
Sunday was Father’s Day, too, and we had a heartening telephone conversation with our most excellent Pa, who will be be coming back to town with our most excellent Ma soon. We also got the news, via the miracle of Facebook, that two of our most favorite people gave birth to a son on Father’s Day. All the world really is a stage, as William Shakespeare shrewdly observed, and it truly is full of entrances and exits, and we hew to a faith that this most recent entrance and newly-fledged friend will eventually prove a full recompense for all the painful exits. Our newest pal picked a good day to be born, because those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer really are the best the time of year. It’s the time of year when we adjust the playlist on our cheap stereo, adding The Rascals’ “Groovin'” and The Rivieras’ “Warm California Sun” and almost anything by The Beach Boys, and the many versions of Irving Berlin’s “We’re Havin’ a Heat Wave,” and all of  the even more numerous versions of the Gershwins’  classic “Summertime” to our turntable, and of course the great Jonathan Richman’s cautionary song about “That Summer Feeling.”
Summertime is when there’s things to do not because you gotta, when you run for love not because you oughta, when you trust your friends with no reason notta, when the cool of the pond makes you flop down on it, when the smell of the lawn makes you drop down on it, when the Oldsmobile has the top down on it and when the teenage car gets the cop down on it, and as the great Jonathan Richman also reminds us, if you’ve forgotten what we’re naming you’re going to long to reclaim it one day, because that summer feeling is going to haunt you one day in your life.
We also head down to Riverside Park’s solar calendar for the the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, and especially on the winter solstice, when on those occasional cloudless days the sun shines through that eye-shaped colored glass and assures us that we have reached the shortest day of the year and that the sunlight will begin to linger two minutes longer with each inevitable rotation of the Earth. The summer solstice also proclaims that the days will grow shorter by the same inevitable measure each day, but until the autumnal equinox the days will be long, and our daddy is rich and our mom is good-looking, and the cotton is high, and the livin’ is easy. We hope it is for you, as well, and wish you a happy summer.

— Bud Norman