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I think (or at least I hope) that everyone has a favorite summer, one that's stuck in the back of your brain and is always there, shining and fun and always compared to the summers that follow.

I've been thinking about the best summer of my life because this last one is winding down on an aborted, messy note. This summer was spiked with poison at the end, and we all just want to put it behind us, get it away, move it and get on with fall, winter and the rebirth of a different spring.

Right now, we've got an early autumn in Austin. October is absolutely the best time to be here, weather-wise. Everything cools to a perfect temperature, but there's still sun and that gorgeous expanse of blue sky. Everything feels crystalline, still.

I sleep with the windows open. It's sad, I stop to think, that I now mark the end of summer by the drop in my electricity bill. The cool air clears me somehow and things that didn't seem possible in the claustrophic, air-conditioned outside heat-Hell of summer now reawaken with possibilities.

What I remember, almost every day, is that best summer, the one between high school and college, 1993.

I had made the best friends of my life that last year of high school, and we were inseperable. We all went to the prom together, with our dates, and when graduation was ended, we stayed together, that entire summer.

I remember nights we'd spend lying on the floor talking, my friends and I, at my parents' den. The house we lived in then had an added-on room with funky orange/black nightmare carpet. It was a good four inches lower than the rest of the house, and always a few degrees warmed and cooler. The room had a sliding door, and I love that door now because I remember it opening and closing when my friends arrived.

Sometimes we'd all meet at Whataburger and as soon as I'd get off work, we were off, either to hit a diner or go to someone's house. Sometimes we'd see a movie or check out a play, but mostly it was just driving to a place, sitting in a booth or on someone's living floor, and just talking for hours.

I remember parties: Jeremy would sometimes bring his black accoustic guitar and we'd sing Pink Floyd songs. That ritual stretched on through college.

But it started that summer. There were nights when Christopher and Yvonne and Marcus and Matt, Jeremy, Rocksye, Tawnya, Keith, Jim... sometimes we were all there, just hanging out. Other times it was just three of four of us.

I remember it was almost every night that summer. College seemed like a faraway unfathomable vista. Christopher's move to Los Angeles to pursue acting at the end of the summer seemed equally unimaginable.

Staying up late. Driving around in the ugly beige '82 Buick Skylark that would occasionally break down. Listening to Pearl Jam on the radio. Cashing my checks from work and buying a new CD every time I had that new money in hand. Backrubs and cups of coffee, hundreds of video games at someone's house or in the mall, the biscuit dance (I'll have to explain that one some other time).

There was a moment when that summer ended. I know that. But I can't pinpoint the moment, even though every other detail of that time seems emblazoned like neon in my mind. All of a sudden, college began, I was writing for a newspaper, living in a dorm, past the tears from the short drive from my last afternoon at home to the new life.

I still can't believe we were ever that young. (That's me way in the back, by the way.)

Maybe it's because I kept seeing most of the people who made that summer so vivid and incredibly important to me. Maybe it's because they never left. They don't live soley in the imagination because I still talk to them, still love them, still know where they are and am confident that they're only an e-mail or phone call away.

Saturday night, I was out with Heather, who was visiting from L.A., and some other friends. I got home really late and, having had a couple of beers, I stayed up and watched the TiVo'd SNL.

Jeremy, whom I haven't heard from (at least by phone) in at least six months, called me out of the blue. At around 3 a.m.

After we'd established that I was awake and that he was at a coffeehouse somewhere and just felt like calling, he mentioned that he's been reading Terribly Happy.

"It's good. But I'm not gonna buy any of your stuff, though," he said.

"Oh no?"

"Yeah, man. I worked at Kinko's. I could make all that stuff myself."

I started laughing, uncontrollably, as much from missing my friends and missing the laughter of that summer than from the joke.

"I don't just send photos of that stuff. I actually send out products," I told him, in between trying to catch my breath from all the laughing.

"I figured here's what I'd do," Jeremy said. "I'll make some products for myself with the Terribly Happy logo and then I'll just send you a dollar. How does that sound?"

There was probably more, but I couldn't hear it. I was laughing too hard, little tears coming out of my eyes as I rolled on the futon.

It was the end of another summer, and it was okay, all of a sudden, that it wasn't as good as the one I remembered, the one that gets farther away each passing year..


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