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Once More to the Lake. And the River. And the Oceans.


Time to give summer a nudge. Or maybe, since it’s close to triple digits most afternoons, a shove. Fall won’t be here until late September, but I’m already ready for it. I’m also ready for the routine of fall. Twenty students have signed up for my classical tropes course, and this old hambone can’t wait to get back behind the lectern.

Still, summer was good even though Albuquerque is slowly turning into Phoenix (climate change, anyone?). For teachers like the longsuffering Diana and me, summer means travel, and that is what the title of this wonk alludes to. So I hope you will indulge me while I reminisce about our summer jaunts. (Hey, I could have slides, you know.)

The river referred to is the broad Ohio, which means Louisville, Kentucky, and the Advanced Placement test reading. Some of you may remember that I have been doing that reading (i.e., grading) since, like, forever. Louisville is a fine town with fine accommodations—a tenth floor suite at the Galt House—even if we didn’t get our dinner cruise on the Belle of Louisville this year. This year we learned that Language and Composition is now the biggest of the Advanced Placement tests, beating out even Literature and Composition, and History (We’re Number One!). Almost half a million booklets and a thousand college and high school English teachers to get them graded. When I started—I told you I’ve been doing this forever—the Language and Comp readers fit comfortably into a standard college classroom. Wow. I am settling back into my old job as a Table Leader, and but for a violent attack of food poisoning, I was a happy grader.

Time out for home stuff that also involves water. At the height of the fire season the bosque was declared off limits. So I rediscovered the North Valley irrigation ditch trails (see “Water in the Ditch”). And now I have a dog to see me through my old age. Roadie is a spaniel pup and like a son to me (sorry, Dan: Roadie is in the will; you’re out again). Every morning now we hit the ditch trails while it’s still cool. Just a boy and his dog, trotting along for miles and miles. I am blessed.

After a couple of days to wash my skivvies and replenish my dopp kit, off we went to SoCal in our stalwart old CR-V, Wanda Honda. Took two days for the trip. It was 114 degrees at Lake Havasu that first night and the motel air conditioner was barely up to the task. But we bore up and rolled into Laguna Beach the next afternoon to spent a couple of days with our friends Bob and Brenda. Then down to San Diego to see son Dan. We stayed with old friends who had just moved out to San Diego from Albuquerque and the four of us laughed every waking minute. Water? Not just San Diego’s seascapes but lunch at Ruby’s at the end of the Oceanside pier.

The end of July—the cusp of July and August, actually—found us in New England. The East was in the grip of a horrendous heat wave (108 in Newark!), which miraculously disappeared the day before we landed at Logan Airport. Temperatures on Cape Cod were in the seventies. Every once in a while it rained. At night. Days were sunny so that we could enjoy the beaches and I could do some running. Very thoughtful of Whoever is in charge, I say.

That was the beginning of the stay, Diana’s parents being perfect hosts. The end of the stay was the family reunion at Diana’s brother’s place in the Maine woods on Great East Lake, which straddles the Maine/New Hampshire border. About two dozen people stretching over four generations, and two dogs. Hugs, jokes, teasing, catching up. The same excellent weather plan. Listened to rain on our cabin roof for all of one night. (Only if you live in the Southwest can you appreciate that.) Swimming in the lake, goofing around with the pedal boat and Jon’s other water toys. Another strenuous five-mile run with my nephew, Scott. (Some youngster is always gunning for old Chickenlegs, who will likely die with his Adidas on.)

So we’re back now. Diana has already started school and I start mid-month. Soon (please!) it will be time to put away my shorts and moccasins and get out my jeans and boots. In a month or so the ditches will be dry, the cottonwoods will start to turn, and the aroma of roasting chiles will settle over town. Fall, our loveliest season, will have arrived. We won’t begin to miss summer until, oh, January.

Meet Your Macinstructor

Jerome Shea is an emeritus professor of English at the University of New Mexico, where he still teaches his classical tropes course every fall and his prose style course every spring. He has been the Weekend Wonk since January of 2007. His email is shea@macinstruct.com.


 
                          





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