To bid August a proper farewell, I found this column from 2015:
Last week, as August waned, I treated myself to the modern equivalent of a double feature at the Lake Theatre, Downtown Oak Park’s neon centerpiece. Two movies in two nights, an end-of-summer indulgence.
The first night I walked up Marion Street, already abuzz at 6:45 with Thursday Night Out, downtown’s weekly dine-around block party, which has become increasingly successful with each succeeding summer.
Jazz singer Petra Van Nuis was midway through a Bossa Nova version of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” the Jiminy Cricket classic that makes the bold assertion: “If you heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme” — the theme song of every romantic and an appropriate prelude to viewing Hollywood’s dreams, framed on the “silver screen.” Audiences never seem to get enough of Sherlock Holmes, who in his latest outing, Mr. Holmes, shows the mastermind confronting his humanity and finding his heart at last. Ian McKellen has now played two of our favorite wizards, Gandalf and Sherlock (he said no to playing Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series), but he’s never been better.
Emerging from this secular Church of the Creative and Imaginative Mind — and feeling a bit more human myself, which is the point of these forays into the cave where reality’s shadows are projected, Plato-like, upon the wall — I followed the brown brick road back down Marion Street and found the evening’s second act, a reggae band, surrounded by appreciative listeners, some moving slowly in that last-dance-of-the-evening way as the witching hour neared. Bewitching is a better word for the unfolding scene. Overnight, the trees seem to have grown tall enough to tamp down the streetlights, the streetscape evolving from glare to glow.
Those who remained were not there to chow down and gab. They had entered the moment, where music was the food and lovingly played on. Looking back on the scene when I reached the end of the block, I couldn’t help feeling that our village was growing up.
No, not growing.
Continuing on past the dinner conversations outside Poor Phil’s — named for Philander Barclay, a good, if sad, story for another time — I headed east on Pleasant Street with a nearly full moon poised like a ripe peach over Pleasant Home and Mills Park, which has become a more welcoming setting since the park district rehabbed all their properties.
A comforting chorus of crickets bathed everything in soothing sonic microbursts, a reminder that we’re never really alone on summery late-night strolls toward home.
The word “august” means “inspiring reverence or admiration, majestic, venerable, eminent.” Instead, we refer to this month, the underappreciated third leg of our summer tripod, as “the dog days,” named for the constellation Canis Major, which contains Sirius, the “dog star.” Not exactly majestic or eminent.
August provides an opportunity to remind ourselves that we are anything but powerless before the passage of time. We have the power to delight, communicate, amuse, inspire, construct, facilitate, enlighten, persuade, explain, motivate, encourage, persevere, create, console, feed, entertain, generate, engage, clarify, mediate, counsel, attract, interpret, question, comprehend, start, finish, connect, appreciate, simplify, relieve, relive, redeem, predict, heal, reform, renew, collaborate, observe, organize, romance, and summarize.
Not all of these powers are fully developed in each of us, of course, but in August, we only need to live comfortably within our skin, to give hurry the month off, to make peace with our circumstances and briefly taste something that transcends every one of our attached strings.
The following night I returned to The Lake, this time to spend a couple of hours in the virtual presence of the amazing David Foster Wallace, writer extraordinaire, as played by actor Jason Segel, recalled by writer David Lipsky in The End of the Tour.
Another mastermind with a heart, another humanizing experience, followed by another end-of-summer tour through the neighborhood and another scene: this one at Pleasant Home, the mansion with a fascinating history, where over 100 viewers packed the expansive porch and front steps of architect George Maher’s Prairie-style mansion for the last silent movie of the summer. I arrived just in time to catch Charlie Chaplin’s peripatetic Tramp, balanced precariously on a tight wire in The Circus. Having lost his safety cord, distracted by mischievous monkeys and working without a net, the Tramp’s antics generated belly-laughs, crowned by the soaring giggles of children, accompanied by an improvised soundtrack, performed live on the home’s piano.
A 21st-century, intergenerational audience taking delight in an early-20th-century film under the overhang of an early-20th-century porch. Ripening indeed.
Awash in the cricket sound bath (though paying much more attention to each other), high school students, suffused with victory, ambled home following the first football game of a new season under newly installed Friday night lights, something they couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago.
A gentle reminder that autumn is almost upon us.
The season of ripening.