The following is an essay by Neil S. Friedman, Sheepshead Bites’ newest freelancer. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent the last 15 years as a features editor at Canarsie Courier. Aside from reporting, he did public relations work for brands including Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. In addition to his reporting for Sheepshead Bites, Friedman will contribute occasional columns on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.
It’s the end of the summer, it’s the end of it all,
Those days are gone, it’s over now were moving on…
— Theory of a Dead Man’s “End Of The Summer”
Labor Day has traditionally become the unofficial last day of summer. Children returned to classrooms, vacations have been taken, lifeguards no longer patrol public beaches and, with today’s chill, a trace of autumn seems to be in the morning air. Nonetheless, according to the calendar, there are still several weeks left before fall, but the hazy, crazy carefree days are behind us.
However, this was a summer to remember — news, weather and otherwise.
Days before the season kicked off, Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned, following weeks of media accounts about his involvement in an online no-sex scandal. Though he apparently never engaged in physical contact with any women, like so many embarrassed colleagues before him, in the eyes of the public and the press his online activities were deemed improper for an elected figure, particularly since he lied about the details when they were first revealed.
Perhaps if he made a clean breast (or another body part) of it when the reports seemed like idle gossip, the scandal would have gradually vanished instead of snowballing to prematurely end what was once a promising career.
A few days after the summer solstice arrived, New York became the sixth state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage, following weeks of divisive arguments in the state legislature. Conservative-minded and provincial people were appalled by the decision, while gays, liberals and many moderates applauded the long-awaited legislation that had been brewing since the genesis of the gay rights movement more than 40 years ago.
For New York Yankees fans and baseball purists, Saturday, July 9, 2011, became a memorable day as team captain Derek Jeter accomplished a milestone never attained by any other pinstripe player — notching his 3,000th hit. And he did it with a home run.
The count got to three and two before Jeter fouled off two pitches to heighten the already tense drama. On the eighth pitch, he connected and as the ball soared over the wall of the left field stands, the standing-room-only crowd erupted in a thunderous ovation.
For me, the day was extra special, since I was in right field seats with my oldest and closest friends — Larry Lichtig and Steve Richman — to witness the once-in-a-lifetime event.
Almost two weeks later, summer in the city was personified when the temperature reached 104 degrees.
Not only did temperatures make things uncomfortable, but, in addition to excessive heat and humidity, a heckuva lot of summer rain soaked our city, too. That was magnified when the season’s first hurricane to hit our shores, causing death and destruction up and down the East Coast near the end of August.
As residents from Florida to New England cautiously kept track of weather reports about the path of the first hurricane to strike the U.S. in three years, Mother Nature gave us a bit of a bump. Before the wind and the rain, we got tremors and vibrations. Tens of millions of residents from Boston to the Carolinas got an unexpected and taste of a 5.9 magnitude earthquake, centered in Virginia. East Coast residents felt the earth move under their feet. They were all shook up when they got a little taste of shake, rattle and roll.
The rock & roll references are clichéd by now, but they made for instant jokes when most New Yorkers felt a 10-second tremor just before 2:00 p.m. on August 23.
The heat, the hurricane, the earthquake, good news and bad are just grist for this essay and now seem trivial. For me August 11 turned the season into my summer of discontent. I was fired from a job at which I labored and mostly loved for 15 years. When I contacted old and new friends and started to network with acquaintances, they were shocked, but offered heartfelt words of encouragement that helped me get though the first anguished days.
The future, as my past, is up to me.
“Life is what happens (to you), while you‘re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon