Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 7, 2007

My Favorite Things for Summer (That Oprah Doesn’t Care About)

“They come all the way from Brazil, where flip-flops are a way of life!” -Oprah Winfrey, regarding Havaianas flip-flops, one of her Favorite Things For Summer.

Great… now I have a good reason to hate Brazil, in addition to hating Oprah. Unless that country isn’t actually as shallow and vapid as Ms. O makes them sound. I’ll let you be the judge on that, while I move on to the main order of business for the day, my own list:

Mark’s Favorite Things for Summer (that aren’t as expensive as Oprah’s, and that therefore she doesn’t care about).

1. Reggae music – Whether its old or new, political or just plain old silly, there’s nothing quite like a reggae tune to give any moment a large dose of “party potential”. Ska, reggaeton, and similar genres have the same appeal, so I’d like to include English Beat and selected Barenaked Ladies songs among the more classic Bob Marley, Shaggy and Peter Tosh tunes you should download to your mp3 player without delay. Oh, and Harry Belafonte, too.

2. Camping – I didn’t camp much as a kid, being the milquetoast suburban progeny of  city-bred parents who preferred city water (which came through actual plumbing). Plus we were working class, so I never did the “summer camp” thing like my wife. But starting in college, I discovered there’s nothing like a weekend in the wilderness with friends and family to bring out the best in people. There’s lots of campfire humor (farts included), a team spirit seldom noticed back home, and often some high drama or a small epiphany about yourself or another person, when you remove the distractions of the daily grind and the noise of honking horns. So plan your trip today… sites are going fast at a state park near you.

3. Swimming – One reason I live in Skokie, Illinois is because it’s close enough for me to bike over to Lake Michigan, without the high housing costs of living in Evanston. I also like being able to easily hop over the border into Chicago, where the beaches are free. Pools are cool, too (pun intended), but I prefer the beach, for the added space and people-watching potential.

4. Baseball – This one’s not inexpensive — not like it used to be, anyway. But it’s usually worth the expense and effort to get to a few MLB games by September. If you’re feeling brave, put your bike in the trunk and park a mile or two away for free. Then get there early without a ticket, and see what a scalper can do for you. The haggling over price is part of the fun, and if you end up deciding not to pay their price, you can always go to a nearby bar and watch the game on TV with other interested fans. Or while you’re in the city, go to an art museum instead! (It’s a whole lot quieter, and you’re guaranteed to see some winners…)

5. Thunderstorms – Under the right conditions, there’s nothing quite like a walk in the pouring rain (remember The Pina Colada Song? ugh… sorry to remind you). My wife Sue was over-the-moon with the look of the sky at dusk last Friday, mostly because the combination of big cumulus clouds with the sunset colors was like God doing his best Post-Impressionist work on a swiftly changing canvas. But even the water itself, and the prospect of a rainbow, and the weirdness of heat lightning–all those summer weather extremes–are one of life’s great pleasures.



  1. I have enjoyed reading many of your observations — particularly about thunderstorms and disliking things Oprah promotes. You have a nice, thoughtful style.

    I hope your trip continues to improve.

    And a prayer was said for your mother. (I did like the parallel between the fireworks outside in inter familia.)

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