Last day of this week’s summer classes. Knowledge gathered: zero, as far as I can tell, but that wasn’t the point. The morning class was “Pokemon Training,” and the kids – all boys, save Gnat – learned the gentle art of cockfighting at the hands of an older lad who had probably passed his own Pokemon period years ago, but remembered it fondly. They traded cards and did Pokemon charades and drew pictures. Fun for all. It was part of the Southwest High program we use every year, and I’m sad she’s done with the class; it has come to mean Summer for us. Up and out in the morning, park, walk hand in hand to the school, into the humid close unairconditioned hall where everyone meets: chaos. The first year I was certain I would lose her in the daily riot, but every parent feels the same way. You see the school as a giant whale’s mouth, the children as teeming plankton, and you wonder how you’ll find your own before Scary McRaincoat pops out of an empty room and takes them off to the Land Below the Stairs.

But this is nonsense, right? The fears of roaming predators are overstated. Not exactly. We’ve had two cases in towns of evil men trying to lure children into their cars, and I’m tempted to suggest that ought to draw mandatory life. Because they’ll do it again. And if they don’t do that they’ll do something similar.  Not because they can’t help themselves, as Peter Lorre’s character blurted pathetically in “M,” but because they want to do it and they like to do it, and that’s all that matters. They know it’s against the law, which ought to tell them they’re wrong, and consequences will follow. But they try it anyway.

There was a creepy old man at the park the other day, my wife told me. Dressed in a ragged suit, carrying his possessions in a plastic shopping bag from a store that has no local outlets anywhere in the neighborhood. Disheveled. He wandered over to the swimming pool and watched the kids. Then he left and wandered away and came back and watched the kids some more. Then he went into the community center, where the kids play unattended sometimes; one of the neighborhood dads followed him, then followed him outside and took him aside for a chat. The fellow said he was homeless, heard about a new shelter in the area, and wanted to live in the neighborhood.

Now. You could say that there’s nothing wrong with a fifty-something guy with a grey beard and a raincoat and no fixed address wandering around a playground looking at the kids in their bathing suits, and that it’s unfair to deny a fellow the simple human pleasure of watching kids enjoy themselves just because he happens to be homeless.

I don’t care.

First of all, there aren’t any shelters in this area. Second, I don’t care. Third, it’s possible he’s homeless because he spent a lot of time in prison for kiddie-diddling. Fourth, you don’t get to look like the fellow who shows up to collect the Hellraiser cube and hang around the kiddie pool. Good bye.

Anyway, I picked her up from class, and the bogeyman didn’t get her, and all was fine. We didn’t get to ice cream day, since we were in a hurry. If you asked the hundreds of parents who participate in this program, they’d all nix ice cream day. For one thing, the kids don’t need more ice cream, especially at noon, right before lunch. But that’s the least of it. The kids all line up in two long queues, a hundred kids per, then hit the tables, grab the bars, and disappear into the crowd of moms (with the occasional dad) waiting like Holden Caulfield to catch them before they vanish. It’s an utter madhouse. We had to get home to get ready for the afternoon class, which was Groovy Girls Camp. (No camping involved.) The kids made a stage for their Groovy Girls, a process that took three days; there was also swimming. Same counselors she had for Tie-Dye Camp. Same place she had Bug Camp. Every year: the morning at Southwest, the afternoon at the community center. Every year, the same sense of summer eternal, summer on its throne, summer spent at play.  What’s different this year, of course, is, which means I’ve done everything – including office jaunts for meetings and other duties – while ferrying her to and fro. The end result: not a moment’s rest ever. So you can see why I’m looking forward to next week’s quasi-hiatus.

By which I mean: I don’t quite know. Buzz postings will be limited to one or two a day. The Bleat will take its semi-annual vacation while I sit and read books and look outside my own clattering head for a change.

Part of my effort to make this The Best Summer Ever, a title it has so far earned. I can think of another that was equally eventful: ten years ago, when I first joined the paper, got my own domain, had my own radio show. That was a good year, 1997. Gosh, I wonder what I sounded like.

Well, by some peculiar turn of circumstances, here’s this week’s Diner: two live shows from July, 1997, complete with news and commercials. Enjoy! If you wish, of course.  No downloads necessary – these will stream. Thanks for all your patronage & patience – the Bleat returns on the 30th of July, with tales of my hiatus. And not a few surprises. Enjoy the rest of the month.


Off to - see you there!




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