Summertime is awesome. Summer in LA even more so. Summer in LA with no job is pretty damn near perfect. My sabbatical has been going on for almost a month, but only in the past week or so has it finally hit me. Between visiting family and the holiday, nothing has really felt normal, but now I have a new normal, which consists, mostly, of sitting in front of a blank screen. This is amazing and maddening.
The first thing I learned is to build a schedule, however useless it may be. But between working out, forced socialization, catching up on TV and, naturally, writing like it’s my job, it would be easy to simply veg out and enjoy the first true break from work I’ve had in years. But I can’t. I’ve been productive. I upped my workout game to six days a week. Last week I thought of, plotted out, and wrote a complete pilot, a one-hour drama. Last year it took me nearly six months to complete a half-hour, so I feel pretty good about that. Aside from that, in my writers group, we created another half-hour comedy that we are planning to shoot, once we can settle the pesky idea of ownership. Oh yeah, and actually write the damn thing.
Between writing projects, I still have a lot of stuff to catch up on, and in an effort to save money, I’ve also absorbed some of the tasks I used to contract out for – like cleaning my yard, watering my plants, stuff like that. It was while watering my trees yesterday that it truly hit me that it was summer. It wasn’t the sunlight and warmth, LA is pretty much like this year-round. I can sometimes forget what time of year it is with no obvious triggers like seasons. No, the thing that brought me back was a smell. Everyone knows that smell is the strongest of the senses tied to memory, and there’s one smell that can so distinctly place me back in Omaha, in the 80s, as a little kid in the summer. The smell of wet cement on a hot day.
I’m not talking wet cement that’s still forming. I mean just your standard driveway in the 90-degree sun that is suddenly struck with the contents of a hose. That wafting aroma that is like a bitter dry bouquet of playtime, bike rides, dog walks, and unadulterated (pun intended) childhood fun.
My summers as a kid meant a lot of different things. It most certainly meant playing outside, whether it was shooting hoops in our backyard basket, creating stories with my Star Wars and GI Joe action figures, or hide and seek with the neighbor kids. I would spend a few weeks every summer with my grandparents in Iowa, which meant riding the John Deere tractor, running through the acres of land behind their house, sleeping in the Winnebago in their driveway, and then freaking out in the Winnebago because I heard a sound and waking up my grandfather and getting yelled at. He was generally an asshole.
For a few years, I would spend one week in the summer at the overnight camp. I remember hiking the trails, hanging out in the cabins, playing with frogs, but mostly learning camp songs and performing for the parents when they came to pick us up on Friday, especially that one about Amster-Amster-DAM-DAM-DAM. It felt good shouting that.
There would be road trips to nearby Lakes or amusement parks or monuments with President’s faces. These were generally spent with two other families, the Schaefers and the Aguilars, both of whom outnumbered us, even when there were only four Aguilar children. There seemed a bit of a break before the other three.
Summertime was the buffer between grades. When the new school year would start (marked by that glorious time of getting new school supplies, kind of like a second Christmas), everyone would share stories of what they did, where they went, who they hung out with, in a constant game of one-upmanship. I didn’t leave as close to school as a lot of other kids, so I tended to only hang out with those in close proximity, and my neighborhood friends that went to different schools. So much of childhood friendship is based on proximity.
As I watered my trees, smelled the cement, and thought back to those summers as a kid, those time capsules of change and growth, and the end of the summer tales, I wonder what my end of summer tale will be this year. I’ve had many summers of personal growth and change. Nearly ten years ago I spent my summer (and the rest of the year) out of the country. I probably learned more and evolved more in that time than in the decade prior. This feels like another one. Hopefully, I will be able to look back and feel positive about this potentially mind-numbingly stupid idea to quit my career path and launch another.
Feels pretty good so far.