A wood outside Athens. Some housemaid is speaking ...
What season is more apt for a Queen than summer? Warm nights, golden days, the whole world ripe and flowering -- this is feminine majesty. And we ladies of the house staff have downed brooms and dusters, and are decking all the doors and windows of the Green Man with garlands and banners, to welcome in our Summer Queen!
This year it's the lovely Ellen Datlow, a warm clever queen with a train of lovely memories. She paints us a portrait of beaches and the particular bright joys of youth, in a very special place and year. We'll all be gathering the central courtyard to celebrate her, with a bonfire of driftwood imported special from the coast in her honor; hoping she'll regale us with more tales, since Queen Ellen is famed for collecting stories!
We've had no end of Summer Queens process through the Green Man here; and what better place for Her Bright Majesty to take her seasonal ease? We've had variety like the petals of one of Gus's multicoloured dahlias. We've had shepherdesses, bards and Amazons, each one of them embodying some facet of Summer's richness or poetry or ferocity. There's even been a cat who was our Summer Queen - a fine summer it was, too, where sunlight seemed to always gather in the most comfortable nooks and the cream was especially rich. And betimes it's been Titania herself holding court in the bowers of the aptly-named Oberon's Wood; local legend does say she and Oberon played out some of their courtship here amid the groves and courtyards of the Green Man
The Head Librarian, Ian, says all the Queen are facets of one immortal Lady anyway. Oddly enough so does Gus, and even Reynard the Publican -- but I doubt they're all talking about the same thing... Jack told me to ask the Old Man for an explanation, one evening when I took him out a nightcap where he spreads his bedroll under the oaks. And he just rolled his eyes and then sang me this --
Her stride is the rolling of the round world. Her skirts fill the seas and meadows with the lace of foam and flowers. Her shadow fills with stars; her light is the gaze of the dawn. Heart of the rose, tower of ivory, perfume of heat -- she stands in the thrice-ploughed field and rivers spring from her naked feet. Welcome, welcome, Summer's Queen!.
From your Summer Queen -- Ellen Datlow
Summer, these days means staying inside in my air-conditioned apartment with plenty of homemade iced tea at hand, and avoiding my enemy, the sun, because about twenty years ago my skin decided it had had enough and breaks out in blotches if I don’t cover up when going outside summertime.
This is a far cry from my childhood.
Summers, we headed for Rockaway Beach, the place where my parents first met just after WWII -- my father looking dashing in his air force uniform, my mother gorgeous in her one piece bathing suit. I was told of their courtship by my mother many times while growing up and have seen the photographs to prove it.
My mother, my sister, my grandparents, and I would stay at the beach (my father joining us weekends, as he worked all week at the Kent Luncheonette he co-owned in the Bronx) in a bungalow we rented for the summer or later when I was a teenager, in a set of rooms in one of the big hotels.
When I was very young I remember my grandfather and I walking down the street and me holding his hand but losing him in the crowd -- somehow I made my way back home alone. I’ve recently come to wonder how old I was that I could find my way home and how my grandfather reacted when he 'lost' me and how my mother reacted when I came home alone. Alas, I’ve waiting way too long to question my grandfather (no longer alive) or my mother--who just doesn’t remember. Could it be possible that I misremembered or dreamed it? It seems likely that my mother would remember such a scary event (although not as scary as it would be today).
I also remember that Rockaway is where I first drank cherry lime rickeys, which you can still sometimes find in NYC. And ate the best knishes that ever existed -- Jerry’s--they were sold on the boardwalk and featured potato, cherry cheese, and blueberry cheese. I buy the same type of knishes at Yonah Shimmel’s on Houston street when I’m in the neighborhood, but they aren’t even close to the fresh baked deliciousness of Jerry’s. The crust was like pastry, the insides divine.
Weekdays the mothers played mah jong -- I even learned one summer.
A lot of my childhood at Rockaway Beach is made up of memories that my mother related to me -- the time I came home with a fly (or bee) on my nose and looking cross-eyed at it pointed it out to my mother who shooed it off. I have no memory of this at all. My mother always told me stories or read stories to me (aha... so is this how I became a short story editor?)
My mid-teens at Rockaway -- this is when my mother's hopes were high that my sister and I would meet our mates-- as she did my father.
One summer I hung out with a group of girls who I now recognize as upper middle class snobs who were quite full of themselves -- the year that 'loden green' and 'cranberry ' were the hot fashion colors for that social strata. They looked down upon another girl in the hotel we all lived in -- her family was one generation 'American' after us and she still had an accent (horrors!). She was also fleshy (short, but with a great figure) while their ideal was -- even then -- thin (although only one of them really met that 'ideal'). We lay on the beach sunbathing every day -- almost as if we were in competition as to who could get darker. Those were the days that sunbathers plied themselves with iodine and baby oil mixes to tan quicker. I never did that.
The next year, my family stayed in a different hotel and although I could have searched out my companions from the year before, instead I fell it with a much friendlier, and slightly lower class group of girls -- most of this perspective is hindsight -- I wasn't really aware that so much of this was a 'class' thing. We hung out with some older teens who were our idols -- the two blond twin boys who were very untwinlike other than their mutual blondness. One of the twins' girlfriends -- who (we all agreed) was a gorgeous blonde. I remember being surprised that these older, beautiful teens would talk to us and be nice to us. Sandy Koufax was related to one of the girls we hung out with so we were all Dodger fans (in fact, I've never ever forgiven them for leaving New York).
I had a crush on the lifeguard two years in a row-my friends thought he looked like Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine but I didn't care. Of course, I was too shy to even talk to him but I remember sitting with my friends on our blankets behind the lifeguard tower listening to the hot songs of 1965 and 1966 -- 'Summer in the City', 'Turn Turn Turn', 'Red Rubber Ball', and 'You Were on My Mind'.
In the summer of ’66 one of my friends and I, and her boyfriend stayed out all night innocently listening to the Beatles -- Rubber Soul I think it was – in someone's car and of course got into trouble (but not too much trouble).
So here’s to summertime summertime Sum-sum-summertime!
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