Letters of Life

A Song of Summer


Do listen to this while you read, thanks.

Now that we’re officially into August, it is high summer in the Northern hemisphere, though for some reason, we’re into terrifically cool and rainy days heading into the National Day weekend.

Kokomo (1988), by The Beach Boys, is one of summer’s quintessential songs. Every summer needs one song to identify with. This one, the first #1 hit for the band after 22 years (the last for the band was Good Vibrations in 1966), is my all-time song of summer. It’s the perfect cocktail of steel drums, layered harmonies, an accordion, and lots of drums. Yes, it is also in the movie soundtrack of Cocktail (Tom Cruise, Elizabeth Shue), released that summer.

Kokomo is a fictional place supposedly set in the Carribean, although the song also mentions many places in and around the Caribbean, including Aruba, Jamaica, Bahama(s), Key Largo, Montego, Martinique, Montserrat, and Port-au-Prince (Haiti), along with Bermuda.

At the time, I was a student in Bloomington, Indiana. And there was a small town up north, called Kokomo, so there was a geographical connection in my mind. I remember one Saturday afternoon, I was emptying out a dorm room and moving into a summer rental. The local radio station was playing Kokomo. And right at that moment, my phone rang. It was an old Singapore friend calling me out of the blue from, of all places, Florida. How cool is that? A phone call comes in from Florida at the same time the radio is playing a #1 hit about—Florida!

And I was pleased as punch to chat with the familiar voice so far from home, even if homesickness doesn’t usually strike in the summertime.

It so happened I had already shifted out of the dorm, but had come back that Saturday to clear the remnants. He didn’t have my new number and called the dorm thinking I was still there. The odds of me being there to answer his random call are so great that it reinforced my belief that there isn’t such a thing as coincidence.

Later that year, we made plans to meet after Christmas in Texas, where he’d switched universities. I suppose that is another story in itself, but it did, in my mind, begin with the song Kokomo.

Back to summer. Indiana being landlocked, I didn’t get to go to a beach by the ocean, but there are freshwater lakes all around the state. One time, I waterskiied in a freshwater lake a two-hour drive north of Bloomington. Falling into the water felt like falling into a large bathtub. No stickiness. Another time, I took a scuba-diving course and went 30 feet down into the murky depths where an old fridge–or was it an old car–was rumoured to be lying half-buried in the mud. And I swung from the bough of a tree and let go the rope over the lake. Like in the summer movies of yesteryear.

Summer to me is all about wearing madras cotton blouses, espadrilles (now in August 2010 make that strappy gladiators), watching all the summer movie releases in the mall, and catching sight of a mini-constellation of fireflies in dark bushes when going grocery shopping at midnight. That and having conversations that last way past the witching hour.

Madras clothes always remind me of summer.

And always, the songs of summer.

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2 Responses »

  1. Somehow, I always link Kokomo with Enya’s Orinoco Flow. I know I shouldn’t, but well… there you are. 🙂

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