July 2016

Line in the Sand: Summer..Love it or Hate it?

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Opinion 1: Barry Kaufman
When I tell people I hate summer, I generally feel like they agree with me. Or they’re just being polite and stopped paying attention to what I was saying a while back but have continued to nod. Or they’re an oscillating fan lying on its side, and I stopped paying attention a while back.

Point being, I feel like the world is on my side when I posit that summer is super overrated. I know, a lot of you will think there’s something wrong with me. You might be asking yourself, “What did summer do to hurt this poor soul?” I’m glad you asked.

For starters, I work from home and have three kids. Now I love my kids very much—even the one who keeps making those weird noises at the dinner table and the one who keeps breaking my things. They know who they are. But to have them around all summer long, while I’m ostensibly trying to work, really stretches that love. Generally, they’re fine, except for every 12 seconds when some minor infraction causes them to go running to the authorities—the authorities, in this case, being the guy upstairs who is trying to just finish this one sentence before, “WHAT? WHAT IS IT NOW?”

Every case in the Kaufman household’s judicial system goes straight to the Supreme Court of Dad. Can’t find the crayons and have a sneaking suspicion your brother has eaten them? The Supreme Court will now hear the case of “He’s lying” v. “Nuh uh she is.” Can’t agree on what to watch on Netflix? The court defers to the precedent set in the case of iCarly v. Batman and will now take a brief four-hour recess to lie down in a quiet room with the shades drawn, weeping gently.

But even before I was blessed with three sweet but incessantly litigious children, I hated summer. Because summer around here does not gently caress the earth with bright rays of warm golden sunlight. Around here, summer cranks the knob on the sauna to “yikes” and barricades the door. The punishing winds of seven hells come rolling through here for a solid five or six months, turning lush green lawns into charred fields of brown, and choking waterways until they are nothing but mud run through with thirsty cracks.

And who is dealt the harshest punishment by this season of hellfire and torment? Fat people. To me and my corpulent brothers and sisters, summer is a season of extreme social embarrassment, moisture-related chafing and endless shirt laundry. Even those of you who can buy off the rack are sweating it out in this heat. Imagine heading out dressed head-to-toe in a thick cocoon of pizza and various fried meats. It gets a little squishy in places is what I’m saying.

And, of course, if you want to get anywhere, you have to do so in a car: a giant metal box designed to capture the extreme heat of summer and collect it in such a way that every seatbelt buckle slowly reverts back to its molten form. In an ironic twist of fate, that which was designed to protect you from harm becomes a crude branding iron in the summer heat.
“But it’s not always hot,” you’re out there yelling at a magazine because you’re drunk again. “Sometimes it rains.”

No. Sometimes it gushes. As I write this, tropical storm Colin has dissipated, taking with him some of the scariest graphics the Weather Channel hype machine can afford. Mostly, Colin was good for about two solid days of rain. And before him, we had another two solid days of rain.
While I’m no Al Roker (because no one comes close to that man’s style), I’m willing to bet we’re due for about another two solid days of rain. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say those days will be Saturday and Sunday, because it’s always Saturday and Sunday.

I get five days of kids trapped inside because, if they go outside they will instantly liquefy. Five days in which I’m just trying to get some work done. Then as soon as I get two days to spend taking them from one air-conditioned activity to another, the skies open up, and suddenly Bluffton becomes that last part of Oregon Trail where you have to take the wheels off the wagon and try to get where you’re going by floating there.

It’s simply not fair that a season so wide open with possibility would throw so many stumbling blocks in your way. But then it’s kind of like trying to finish a column before, “FINE. IF YOU’RE GOING TO ARGUE, YOU CAN BOTH JUST WATCH DOC McSTUFFINS.”

Now close the door. Daddy needs to have a good cry. Flip the fan on on your way out; that thing gets me. 

Opinion 2: Courtney Hampson

This isn’t how I planned to write this column. In fact, the column was pretty much done, until today. As I settled into my chair at the beach this morning, I heard the news of an old friend’s passing. Quickly, the tears came, streaming down my cheeks, mixing with the sweat already creating rivulets. I walked to the water’s edge, and for the first time this season, dove under.

“The cure for anything is saltwater. Sweat, tears, or the sea.” That quote hangs as a piece of art in my family room. I always believed it to be true, but it wasn’t until today that I experienced all three at once—a confluence of circumstance.

Patsy and I met in college. She was my biology lab partner. We were paired- up based on the geography of our seats and hit it off immediately. We got little accomplished that semester, save for a sharpened wit at the expense of our professor. The professor insisted on calling Patsy, “Patricia,” no matter how many times she corrected her. I didn’t remember that until today. We shared some additional classes and always sat near each other to keep a running commentary. Patsy was, in a word, hilarious. We didn’t stay in touch after we graduated, but as luck would have it, five years later, we met again at my sister’s house. My soon-to-be brother-in-law was a friend of Patsy and her husband, Eric. They went to high school together and were part of a close-knit bunch, who remain tight to this day.

Last Friday, Eric died, after a short battle with cancer. Patsy died this morning (Sunday), after a decade-long battle against the same disease. They left behind their three children, Jack (16), Spencer (14), and Grace (11).

As I lay on the beach, I thought about Patsy and Eric. I imagined them reunited again, after just 10 days, in heaven. And then I thought about what their heaven might be like. And it brought me back to the beach. They grew up at the Jersey Shore. And, kids of the Jersey Shore are bound together by summer, salt water, sea air, and sand.

Now maybe this is all starting to make sense to you, the reader, because… I can’t believe Barry even had to ask me this question. How do I feel about summer? Geez Barry, I have written no less than six articles on summer-related topics in this very publication in which you share a page with me.

I find it hard to believe than an Ohio transplant, who has made Bluffton his home, hates summer. The reason we move here is summer—eight months of summer. We haven’t had to shovel snow in more than a decade dude; what in the world are you talking about?

I suspect that Barry’s distaste for summer has something to do with heat. I get it. I am a heavy sweater, and the summer months do pose a never-ending wardrobe challenge. But, I wonder how much of his disdain is related to all of those tourists from Ohio. Pot. Kettle. Black, my friend.

I grew up at the Jersey Shore; I spent most of my summers on the beach, as a child with my mom and sister and later with friends, collecting beach badges and lathering up with Banana Boat® SPF 2, and spritzing Sun-In in my hair, ever hopeful that I would wind up blonde one day. In the evenings, we spent our time at the boardwalk; as young kids, we’d go on the rides, and play games, as our parents shelled out small fortunes for skeeball tickets. We’d eat our Kohr’s ice cream cone, a race to the finish as it dripped down our arms. As teenagers, we’d walk back and forth along the boardwalk, back and forth, looking at cute guys, and then pretending we weren’t looking.

My first real job was at the beach, as the development and events coordinator for Clean Ocean Action (COA). COA was an environmental organization dedicated to ending ocean dumping in NJ (and they did). Our offices were the former Officer’s Quarters at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook. Sand and the sea, right out my window, 365 days a year.

As a young adult, the first few homes I rented were all just blocks from the beach. I spent my mornings and evenings logging many miles on the boardwalks along Ocean Avenue, from Deal, to Allenhurst, and Asbury Park to the Belmar Bridge. Still, today, I appreciate any chance I get to walk with my dog along the ocean.

There is something about the smell of salt water that lures me to these places. I can’t imagine not living at the beach, where the suggestion of summer is year-round. And salt water offers the cure for just about everything. 

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