There is an annual ritual that occurs on the steamy late summer streets that breaks the heart of many a young person, for it signals the end of carefree days, at least for a year.
The elders welcome it. Sanity and quiet will be restored.
I speak, of course, of the annual repainting of the crosswalks. That event was one of several signs that summer was soon to draw to a close.
As a child, the jolting appearance of the traffic cones designating the third of the crosswalk that was just repainted sunk my heart. Around noon, when the first part was dry, the trucks and personnel would return and paint middle segment, further tightening the ratchet that squeezed the remaining days from our summer calendar.
Finally late in the day, the process would be completed, and the lines would reach across the road, creating a symbolic torniquet that would remind me on each of my bike rides to the town beach, that school was soon to reopen, and
there was nothing I could do about it.
My parents took delight in this. Obviously, they had passed the point of being saddened by the end of summer. In fact, they relished it. Quiet days at home and children busy with homework at night were soon to return.
“Go outside and find something to do!” meant just that.
I’d ride my bike to the town lake in the morning and hang out with the guys from the Department of Public Works as they got the beach ready for the day. This was long before those pesky bureaucrats from the various state and federal health agencies interfered with our fun.
“Bill” and “Ed” (I’ll use pseudonyms because environmental crimes are a federal offense and I don’t know if there is a statute of limitations on that.) from the DPW would pour several spackle buckets of Chernobyl-grade chemicals into the water, and like magic, the fish would turn white and float to the surface. How cool was that?!?
This scorched-water policy ensured there would be no interruption of summer fun. No creatures or bacteria would survive that assault.
Bill and Ed would give me a fishing net and let me scoop up the expired—and sometimes glowing—sunfish, which were to be dumped ’round back of the road garage or some such unregulated future Superfund site, and voila!
Thanks to mid-20th century applied sciences, the lake was ready for use, scrubbed cleaner than Hillary’s emails.
But then one afternoon in August, I was riding along on my bike, trying to avoid eye contact with the renewing crosswalks, when I saw Bill and Ed, my buddies, operating the very apparatus that sprayed the paint.
How could they betray me? How could they be turned? The guys who mentored me in the ways of dangerous summer fun were now part of the conspiracy to see those heady days draw to a close.
“Part of our job,” they lamented, acknowledging my pain.
Then with a wink, they allowed me to ride over the just-applied paint, and I registered my feelings of the end of summer with a white stamp of my bike tire tread every 36 inches or so on the street until the marks faded, just as the summer soon would.
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.
Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.
Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.
Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.