Somewhere in the deep summer
by John Pixley
I’ve been thinking about Rimini and soup with small noodles. Rimini is a beach resort town on the eastern coast of Italy, about 200 miles south of Venice, on the Adriatic Sea. The kind with large hotels overlooking a mile or two of beaches and row after row of brightly- colored umbrellas on the beaches. Think Campari ads and towel boys.
When I was about 10, my family lived in Ferrara for a year and we took at least one trip to Rimini to escape the oppressive summer heat and humidity of the Po River Valley. We stayed in one of those big seaside hotels, where we ate in the large dining room with our reused cloth napkins. It was very elegant—at least my older sister and I thought it was pretty elegant. My younger brother, who was about 8, would only eat the soup with small noodles.
I have always heard about how everyone who can abandons New York City during the summer for cooler places like Martha’s Vineyard, The Hamptons and Provincetown. I guess Rimini is like this—somewhere to get away to. And the biggest time to get away in Italy is two weeks in August, called ferragosto, to mark the Feast of the Assumption and also, conveniently, the hottest time of year. It is like the whole country shuts down and takes a two-week siesta instead of, or in addition to, the usual two-hour break in the afternoon.
July in Claremont is when everyone who can takes time off and gets away. But when I was growing up here—like when I spent that year in Italy and saw my little brother eating only soup with small noodles at that fancy beach-side hotel—August was when things shut down in Claremont. The joke was that the sidewalks in the Village rolled up at 5; they really did roll up for at least a couple weeks in August, if not the whole month, with some stores shuttered, posting signs that promised they would reopen in September.
The students used to return in September. This was before the Colleges switched to the “early in, early out” schedule, with classes starting around or before Labor Day and students coming into town in late August.
It wasn’t just the Colleges’ students returning in August back then. In the last 10 years, the Claremont school district did the unthinkable and had school start before Labor Day. And not just before Labor Day, but at the end of August.
So July became the new August in Claremont. But it wasn’t just the month that changed. The new August is definitely not like the old August. Yes, the city council and commissions may be on hiatus this month, but the sidewalks certainly aren’t rolled up, with the multiplex cinema and all the restaurants and a full slate of live music throughout the summer. I haven’t seen many Village stores in recent years with signs saying closed until next month.
If anything, on some of these summer evenings, like during Friday Nights Live when bands play throughout the Village, there appears to be quite a few more people than average in downtown Claremont. The stage in Shelton Park makes for a nifty addition for the Friday evening performances. It’s much nicer than perching on the sidewalk or in the crowded, concrete plaza. Far from being a dead spot during the summer, whether it be August or July, Claremont is getting to be a hot spot. Who knew?