COLUMN: The long fade

This is my weekly column for the Sunday, Aug. 2, 2009 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A version of this piece was broadcast during a recent episode of 91.7 KAXE‘s “Between You and Me.”

The long fade
By Aaron J. Brown

There’s a moment during any popular song in which the singer, songwriter and/or producer essentially agree upon the following : 1) This song is pretty much done, but that 2) This song must not yet end. Bruce Springsteen did a lot of songs like this, as have most of your garden variety gansta’ rappers. We’ve been introduced to the tune, the tempo, the refrain. We can sing the chorus. We’ve lamented the woeful fortunes of the New Jersey working class and/or popped a cap in what or whoever needs poppin,’ respectively. And yet, the beat still thumps, the band didn’t get the memo and the lead singer is left saying either “uh, huh” or “hey, baby” over and over again, as though it were planned.

I have come to the bitter conclusion that many of the same truths now apply to summer. For a Minnesotan who may have been accidentally frozen in a block of ice last January and thawed today, the experience would be similar to catching the last 40 seconds of “Dancing in the Dark.”

Some disclaimers here. I live here year round and I work in the education field. These factors mean that summer as a season is a highly limited commodity. You get a specific number of weeks before the workload spikes and the temperatures drop. Summer is what many residents look forward to all year long, which means that we sometimes experience a strange combination of performance anxiety and sensory overload when the warm days finally arrive.

And then there are summers like this one in northern Minnesota, where the warm days are few and far between. Our Alaska friends who spend their summers here have been complaining because they would have been warmer hanging out with the caribou. It reminds me of some of the cold, wet Minnesota summers of yesteryear, where there were few opportunities for swimming, playing outside or riding my bike. (I was about to tell you the years, but then I decided to save those details for a time in the future when most people were not yet alive to see them).

But one thing has remained the same about this summer compared to any year in memory. It has gone too fast. It’s another application of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. What you want to last won’t, what you want to leave remains. Come to think of it, that could also qualify as a “Theory of Relatives.” Anyway, summer is supposed to be the island of refuge for Minnesotans, the justification for our choice to live here instead of Arizona, California or Florida. These are the places for our classmates, our siblings and our neighbors who are weaker than us. Weak, weak people who cannot stand the winters anymore, or the economy, or our Charlie Brown professional sports teams. We who remain, we are strong, but oh how we need a good summer to get us through the year.

Summer is a time for projects but we have now passed the tipping point where only weekend jobs enjoy any hope of completion. If you haven’t started digging that elaborate underground bomb shelter or building that 32:1 replica of Devil’s Tower that’s been on your mind ever since you saw those lights in the sky, well, you might have to wait a year.

Indeed the song of this summer is winding down. The docks are already out on the water. The kids have been swimming and we’ve consumed a watermelon or two. The Fourth of July was a blast and we saw those old friends of ours at the street dance. Or were those drifters? Either way, it was fun. This week we took in the county fair and the back to school ads in the paper and on TV are getting louder and more insistent. There is more summer, but not much more. The music is getting quiet and the voices are getting louder.

Hey, baby. Uh, huh. Yeah. Uh, huh.
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog His new book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” is out now.

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