Kage Baker loved summer. It was warm, there was no school, the grey fog of California spring had usually worn off by Midsummer’s. There were plums; there were all manner of soft fruits, but the plums were the best. When we were kids, there was – somewhere in the length of summer, soon or later, agonizingly awaited – the annual holiday at Pismo Beach.
And then we eventually moved there, she and I, and she became a self-employed writer: and suddenly the summers returned to their childhood glory – no school, the beach, the Pismo fruit stands, all that glory and all the time! The Summer Country was hers at last, and we dwelt there in the metaphysical sight of the Isle of Glass. Yes, Avalon floats off the coast of Pismo Beach; you can park beside Dinosaur Park and sit on a Maiasaur egg and watch it drift on the horizon.
We never missed the 4th of July celebrations on the beach again.
Kage loved fireworks – no, she worshiped them. Sparks, flames and explosions in the sky were the Voice of God to her. But those only happened for a few days in early July – good thing, too, or her head might have exploded from sensory overload – and summer was the season of many, many passions.
She loved ice cream. Soft serve was what she liked best; when ice cream was hard, she would carefully stir and whip it into a frothy consistency she called “textured”. Which was weird, because what it mostly had was very little texture … her favourite flavours were any variant of chocolate, of course, but she did liked to try exotic old flavours as well.
It’s not easy to find nesselrode or an out-of-season spumoni, though, so Kage undertook making her own. My glorious Kitchen-Aide food processor comes with an ice cream maker, and Kage went to town with that. Maraschino (not cherry, btw), the afore-mentioned nesselrode, all manner of fresh fruit and strange liqueurs. In molds that she hunted down on EBay, so they were shaped like roses and bombes and melons striped in weird colours.
Mind you, sometimes the urge to have ice cream for dinner comes on too suddenly to perform art in order to get it. Ben & Jerry’s usually filled in then; many a summer Sunday dinner for Kage was mostly Cherry Garcia.
She loved soundtracks. Not just particular soundtracks of movies and plays: Kage believed in having a soundtrack to life itself. Her music library was immense and eclectic: Gilbert and Sullivan. Edith Piaf. Renaissance dance hits. Joaquin Rodrigo. The Beatles. Cream. The Mamas and Papas. The soundtracks for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. When she couldn’t get exactly thye mood she wanted from a single album, she made mixes – first on tapes, then on CDs. Making her own private music mixes was one of the great miracles of the 20th century for Kage.
Our summers were never silent.
She loved enormous complicated dinner salads in the summer. We had special huge bowls to make up wild combinations for days when it was too hot to cook – some cold chicken sliced up, 6 kinds of greens, some exotic salad dressing, and anything else in the fridge – croutons, dried fruit, eggs, cheeses. Eating them was a treasure hunt. Is this a grape? she would inquire, holding up some dressing-obscured sphere.
No, a garbanzo bean, I would reply (I love them); and Kage would promptly gift it to Harry, with loud cries of disgust and disdain. But surprises in the salads were half the fun. Sometimes I served them with those paper cocktail umbrellas she so loved sticking up out of them …
It’s hot today in Los Angeles; pushing 80 on my wintergreen-shaded porch, and well over it out in the open between the camphor trees. It’s clear and fragrent and baking – summer is well and truly here, now. A day for an ice cream supper, or a salad; probably the latter, as Kimberly has much more concern over my health than I do and probably wouldn’t approve of my making my main meal off a pint of Haagen Daz.
Although, if I can find orange Dream Sickles, all resistance will crumble. Kimberly has her summer weaknesses, too …
Off to plot dietary evil!