Saturday, June 4, 2016

Summer Breeze and Other Hazy Hot Muddy Memories from Seventies Geekdom

I can hear Seals and Croft's "Summer Breeze" and it completely  takes me back to 1973.  My family had just moved from San Antonio to Lake McQueeney.  Dad built a house on this thing called "Treasure Island" in the middle of a man-made lake between  Seguin and New Braunfels.  He had built a house earlier adjacent to  Hotshot's Fishing Camp and lived there in his bachelor days.  The Lake was the water-skiing capital of Texas.  Home base for that honor was the Lake Breeze Ski Lodge.  Needless to say, I spent a lot of time there.

Our house had a canal running behind it.  Therefore, we had a boathouse to store Dad's new outboard (and eventually my skiff which I used to catch turtles more than fish).  And the
overarching smell I remember consisted of the lily pods and moss that I dutifully pulled out of the water --wearing the latest designer rubberweighters--to avoid propeller trauma.   The houses on the island had that wonderful mid-century design.  And some lake houses had the "stilt" effect to repel the flood waters (which was not unheard of here).  Full plate glass fronts with high-arched ceilings; seahorse murals and saltillo tile deck tops were the order of the day.  Sunny and bright and waterlogged.

Turning 10-years old, however, my mind was on two things.  One: My continuing obsession with the media:  comic books, television and cartoons.  Common for those with no siblings, natch.  More about that later.  Two: my sense memory, the one that really matters, concerns those other things.  And this is where Seals and Crofts come in.  At the ski lodge, there were many members from Houston and all of those Texas style cheerleaders would haunt my hangout on vacation.  That usually involved these newly fashionable two piece bikinis and feather shagged hairstyles.  Before you yelp about my  misogynistic  comments, I'm coming from a place of adolescent innocence.  Believe me, I was innocent.  But for this geek--a little romantic brat with his catalogued comic book collection--the sight of that beautiful girl climbing up that pool ladder; the smell of chlorine (at the pool) or  that wonderful combination algae and boat motor oil as she splashes into the murky green waters are the stuff dreams are made of...and, well, lived I guess.  When some sad middle aged writer or filmmaker creates these images for public consumption, it's not science fiction.  It's real.  No iPhone, the word "fuck" was hardly heard (at least in my circles), and if something illicit was occurring you just didn't know about it.

Well, I didn't. As I said I was a geek.  When I talk to peers my age, they were smoking pot and getting down.  I had no idea about anything like that.  My adult beverage was Norman Lear and the raciest instance I had was sneaking peeks (or peaks)  at my Dad's Playboys.  But that's what made the time so sweet.  The seventies weren't innocent but I was.  Therefore, I'm left with those almost storybook memories with a yacht rock soundtrack.  The color was orange--hazy sunshine..the drug inspired images and sounds that permeated the airwaves  became my tableau...I had no idea what it meant but it sure felt right.  Kind of like watching Roger Corman 70s  flicks now as an adult.  If I saw an edited version of one on TV then or even just  the mind-shattering movie posters, I had no idea of what I was seeing.  But if sure FELT right.  It felt like the mid-seventies.

If you go to a low-rent comic book show you can see it.  It's that combination of fanboy geek for the simple cartoons and TV programs of the 60s and 70s and 80's mixed in with this fascination with all things cheesecake.  I think that's why so many comic artists love the female form in all its, well, exaggerated attributes.  I guess we don't grow up.  We're still living on the lake in 1973 with our 6" Sony color TV and eight track player.  Are videos around the corner?  But comic book culture is now ruling the world.  No-shame
voyeurism is now a mainstream digital industry.  That's why I'm glad I retained those memories.

That leads me to the geek part of the summers.  This blog has covered alot of this before--but in a nutshell:  the Brady's and their wonderful house; the all-new 50's craze encapsulated by Fonzie and American Graffiti; the subversive joy of DC's Plop Comics (which may have contributed to my sick mind); the glorious ecstasy of Saturday morning what with the Krofft psychedelia and all the cartoon rock and roll crime-busters.  I wasn't a rock n roll kid.  I hardly bought albums outside of Disney soundtracks.  However, my musical memories were formed from TV variety shows--therefore:  Tony Orlando and Dawn; Captain and Tenille; Sonny and Cher.   Yeah, that.  What a freak.  But when I hear Tie a Yellow Ribbon, it takes me back to the Ski Lodge jukebox at night, eating that overpriced cheeseburger and watching the greasy mayflies fluttering to their death against the fluorescent pier light posts.

Later summers became all about driving up 35 to Dripping Springs for one month out of the year to attend Friday Mountain Boys Camp.  I had memorized the Steve Martin albums to recite to my cabin-mates.  The sharpshooting, the starvation hikes, the horses, and the sweet tea became my paradise those four  years.  All year long, I looked forward to it.  I had eleven other months to wax romantic.  However, we did have two "dances" over at the girl's camp.  I actually ran away with one of them and got in trouble.  I don't even remember what we did (I was a geek, remember) but it was magical at the time.  But even then heading north and being close to Austin just did something to me.  If you watch "Meatballs" that pretty much represented that whole lake/camp feel.  (Thanks, Canada!) Damn, Bill Murray's been influencing youngsters a long time hasn't he?

As I got into high school I wanted to be a Bad News Bear.  I wanted so much to be one of those long-haired blond kids from grimy Southern California suburbia (before Speilberg Disney-fied such).  "Jaws" had just started the tent pole summer movie phenomenon so theatrical releases  weren't really a part of my retinue outside of a Clouseau  or Disney comedy.   I watched a very young SNL and Monty Python and understood none of it.  I danced to my Blues Brothers album when my folks went out to dinner on Friday night.
Dont' ask me how, but I missed "Star Wars" and binged on "Star Trek" reruns from the 60s.  "Buck Rogers" was my sci-fi fix.  And, tantamount to everything I had "Charlie's Angels"...kid's today can navigate puberty with the most vile, blatant and explicit bacchanalia...but I had a poster:  Farrah.  And Cheryl Tiegs.  And the Time Magazine with her fishnet bathing suit caused me untold agitation and wonderment and pretty much diverted my attention from the Superfriends hour.  But once again, I digress.

So those summers, from 73-'78....I sometimes think that they are informed by the media...but they really weren't.  It was a funky feel....a  musty smell...a smooth sound...drenched in lake water...clothed in post-activist tie dye and frayed denim....make sure your hair is over your ears, kid ...horseshit and gunpowder...fireflies...boat exhaust and nachos...perfume and mud....and I still have the friggin' comic books.

Here are some highlight photos:

Entrance to Ski Lodge

Treasure Island.

Waterskiing Capital!
The canal.

Powering dreams.
my schoolbus stop

Our Lake House

Our backyard/Boathouse.

This was the perfect midcentury lakehouse on the island.

Can sort of understand this.
I just wanted their house.
Geek cool.
My subversive materials.
When TV meets comics, it's nirvana.
This was my culture bible.
Seventies were the new fifties.
Friday Mountain camp
This was every picture taken in front of Friday Mountain.
My summer league.
The shit.
As cool as I got.

And they got me.

Worshipful grand priestess.
New summer fascination.

Geek summer heaven.