Monday, June 17, 2013

Love is in the Air

            “We Have Big Peonies,” read the sign outside a Central Jersey nursery.
            It must be June. As the first day of summer nears, the weather reaches a blissful state, the sun shines most of the time, and the fireflies dance for us at night. It’s enough to put love – and lust – in the air.
In 2013, that lust is literally flying through the air, as the loudest loverbugs you’ll ever meet – the 17-year cicadas – now blanket the East Coast. Their mating buzz changes the atmosphere a bit, as they add the sound of high-voltage power lines to an otherwise gorgeous night. It’s an intense sound, not quite what you hear when you imagine romance. But hey, to each his own.
After all, the cicadas are young and in love. It’s a fierce, fleeting feeling, and I hope they’re enjoying themselves. The last time these insects were visiting our skies, I was young and newlywed. Amy and I were in our mid-20s, and we were spending our free time enjoying vacations together, furnishing our new apartment and going out to dinner in Manhattan. It was 1996, which honestly doesn’t seem like that long ago.
In ’96, Bill Clinton was winning re-election and staring down Newt Gingrich in a budget crisis, the Unabomber was arrested, and England was dealing with “mad cow” disease. For baseball fans like me, 1996 marks the first full seasons in which Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte were playing for the Yankees. For music fans, 1996 means Alanis Morissette, the “Macarena,” and Hootie & the Blowfish. At the movies, the first “Mission: Impossible” movie was playing alongside “Independence Day” and “Twister.”
When I was coming of age in the ‘80s, it was common to hear people wax nostalgic about growing up in the 1960s, as though that were ancient history. Bryan Adams’s pop song “Summer of ’69,” for instance, hit the Billboard charts in 1985 – just 16 years after the actual summer of 1969. Can you imagine a singer today penning a hit about the “Summer of ‘97”? I didn’t think so.
There’s just not a lot of affection for the era of our cicadas’ last visit. But then again, these buzzers aren’t interested in any long-term nostalgia. We may save their shells or wings, but they’re not into mementoes. The cicadas are all about living in the moment. That, after all, is what young love is all about.
Yesterday, we spent part of Father’s Day on Governors Island, that extraordinary piece of land in New York Harbor, nestled in between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook, Brooklyn. Yesterday’s big event at Governors Island was the Jazz Age Lawn Party. Hundreds of young New Yorkers took the ferry over to the island wearing their best flapper dresses and Gatsby suits. They flirted while dancing the Charleston and sipping the no-longer-prohibited alcohol.
But later on, as the 1920s costume partiers took the ferry back to Manhattan, another ferry brought hundreds of even younger adults to Governors Island. These folks were wearing neon tank tops and bikini tops, and they were wearing sunglasses even as the sun set. This was an electronic dance music concert, and the DJs were already pumping the beats as the partiers arrived.
There will come a day when this, too, will be nostalgic, and parents in their 40s will be telling their kids all about how cool the EDM concerts of the past were. Maybe they’ll dress their kids up in neon and take them to a nostalgic dance-music lawn party at Governors Island. By then, there will be new sounds of love and romance.
               But every 17 years, when the high-pitched buzzing returns, we’ll be reminded that no matter what the era or the sound, young love is all about living in the moment. It comes and goes so fast, you’d better just enjoy it. Like a firefly’s flicker. Or a cicada’s life above ground. Or – yes, I must say it – the blossoming of a big peony.