Monday -- Memorial Day -- marks the "unofficial" start of summer. It's unofficial because, while the days get longer and the beach beckons, there's a month of school still to go. It's unofficial because it's a random date, chosen by marketers and retailers. And it's unofficial because the official date is June 21, for reasons I learned in fifth grade and forgot in sixth.
But making Memorial Day the unofficial start of summer snags us a few more weeks of the season than we'd otherwise have. And because summer is so fleeting -- the 4th of July arrives a couple of days later, Labor Day ("the unofficial end of summer") the week after that, then BAM! we're back to three hours of fall and 17 months of winter -- we should make plans now to take full advantage of it.
The road to the beach is paved with good intentions. Every year we say we will take full advantage of everything a summer in Westport offers. "After all, that's why we moved here," we tell each other. Every year we make mental lists of everything we're going to do, and every year we get so caught up in worrying about the kids at camp/visiting the kids at camp/scouring the photos of kids at camp to see why she is not smiling -- or alternatively, keeping the kids so preoccupied every day they're home -- that we manage to do one item if we're lucky. Usually by accident, at someone else's invitation.
So in the interest of utter futility, here is this year's list of Things You Should Definitely Do This Summer, And Promise Yourself You Will, But Absolutely Positively Probably Won't.
First, go to the Memorial Day parade. This sounds like a total drag -- a perfectly good morning spent holding a camera waiting for your Little League player/Indian Guide/Brownie to appear, squished between the WEBE 108 car and an imported fife-and-drum corps, but it really is fun. Get there early; pick out a good spot; do some people-watching; cheer for the veterans, cops, firefighters and cute kids -- but when it's over, don't leave. Instead, head over to the green, opposite Town Hall.
This is Westport at its best. You'll hear a few short speeches extolling those who served our country; some rousing renditions of patriotic songs; the haunting taps, and then watch the laying of a wreath near the doughboy statue. It's small-town America at its best, and a lesson in patriotism that even the most cynical citizen could use. Especially these days.
You should absolutely, positively make plans to go to the Westport Country Playhouse at least once this summer. This is a town jewel you always brag about to friends -- "We have one of the oldest and best summer theaters in the country!" -- but too many Westporters use it only as a parking spot when walking their dogs in Winslow Park.
That's your loss. The Playhouse is a very cool facility. Productions are top-notch, and the price is waaay below Broadway. Too many of us take the place for granted. It's here because of the hard work and passion of eight decades of Westporters, and summer is the best time to honor their excellence.
The other place we love bragging about -- but also forget to go to -- is the Levitt Pavilion. For 40 years, they've offered free entertainment "under the stars." This year the Levitt is being spiffed up, so shows (music! puppets! a fife-and-drum corps!) will take place on Jesup Green. That puts you even closer to downtown attractions like, um, four dozen frozen yogurt shops.
I'm kidding, of course. There's also pop-out dining. This year the number of restaurants providing al fresco (Italian for "in the parking lot") seating this summer has doubled. Okay, so "doubling" means there are four spots, not two, but still. And if you pop-out dine this summer, years from now you'll tell your grandchildren stories about being outdoors back in the day, before Bedford Square and a movie theater came to town.
This summer's bucket list should also include a trip to Cockenoe Island. Pronounced "kuh-KEE-nee," it's an old Indian word meaning "rat-infested land of many empty beer bottles." But Cockenoe is definitely worth a trip, because -- judging from the recent regulation prohibiting overnight camping, due to damage from Hurricane Sandy -- it may not be around after our next 100-year storm, scheduled for August.
Also quickly eroding -- but, thanks to yeoman efforts by Parks and Rec and Public Works, nearly back to its pre-Sandy state -- is Burying Hill Beach. Located on Beachside Avenue, just behind Harvey Weinstein's house (can I say that?), this is a perfect spot for picnics and cookouts, without Compo's crowds or craziness.
So add Burying Hill to your list too. You might even head there after Monday's parade -- the day summer begins. Unofficially, of course.