Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sounds of the Season

NPR has a new feature on their All Things Considered evening news show. They have asked listeners to submit short essays on the sounds that will forever say "Summer" to them. It is called Sounds of the Season and I thought I'd take a crack at it. I couldn't decide among three aural memories that fairly scream "summer" to me. The first is the sound of blueclaw crabs steaming in a big white enamel pot on the stove. The second is the sound of crushed clamshells and gravel under the wheels of our old wood-paneled station wagon as we pulled into the driveway at my grandparents' beach house. And the third is the one I settled on--the sound of baseball cards flapping against bike spokes as I pedaled around the suburban streets of Wilmington, Delaware. Here it is:

In 1972 I turned seven years old and Richard Nixon won re-election in a landslide. More important than either of these milestones, I got my first two-wheel bike as a present from my parents. It was bright orange with a golden-speckled green banana seat and it ROCKED. I lived in suburban Wilmington, Delaware and my brothers and I had free run of the entire neighborhood on our bikes. We had aunts and uncles and cousins in all directions and no matter where we went, someone had an eye out for us.

I loved that bike. And to make it even more special I used to attach baseball cards to the front and rear forks using clothes pins. As the wheels spun, the baseball cards would click against each spoke. I think the intent was to sound like a motorcycle, but I can’t say for sure. What I can say is the faster I pedaled, the faster the clicking. My goal was to go so fast the clicking sounded like one continuous noise.

That year was momentous to me for another reason. It was the year I finally got tired of what I saw as my family’s mindless loyalty to the professional sports teams of Philadelphia. I had my dad write down the rivals of Philadelphia’s four major sports teams—the Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Eagles---and I immediately adopted the four teams he wrote down as my favorites. 37 years later, I still root for the NY Rangers, Boston Celtics, Washington Redskins, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Today, baseball cards seem to have become solely something people collect as an investment. So a sound that I will forever associate with summer is one I just about never hear anymore. The soundtrack to my summer memories from those idyllic suburban Delaware summer days has the click-click-click of Wayne Twitchell on my front wheel and Denny Doyle on the back, each being slowly mutilated as I put on the miles.