Summers of Love and Hate

by Bill Brenner on July 16, 2010

One would think Revere Beach was the perfect place to spend summers growing up. The ocean was right across the street from our house, after all. But the truth is that summer has always been a time of dangerously fluctuating moods for me, and a lot of it played out in that setting.

Mood music for this post: Summertime Rolls, by Jane’s Addiction:


Let’s start with the beach itself. Today Revere Beach is a beautiful place. The water is clean and the pavilions are all in one piece. The sidewalks have been redone and expanded. But in the 1970s and 80s, before the Deer Island sewage treatment plant was built (it was the site of a prison back then), the water was always a murky reddish-brown.¬†Some of the pavilions were roofless, thanks to The Blizzard of 1978.

Jellyfish were always washing up on the shoreline, further discouraging the urge to swim. On days when we were really bored, we’d put M-80s in them and blow them up. We’d do the same with the dead horseshoe crabs that washed ashore.

Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1980, my parents finalized very bitter divorce proceedings. My mother, understandably undone by the failure of her marriage, was more abusive than usual.¬†I was sick with Crohn’s Disease a lot, and I had few friends. To keep us away from the rancor of the divorce, our parents sent my sister and I to Camp Menorah. My sister loved it, but I hated the place. I couldn’t get along with the other kids and I felt like my freedom was being taken from me. I felt like beating the crap out of some of the kids who taunted me, but I never did.

I remember getting stuck with a lot of needles at Children’s Hospital and suffering vomit-inducing migraines because of the prednisone I was taking.

As a teenager, I started drinking and smoking pot to escape. The big hang-out spot for all the partying teens was beneath the General Edward’s Bridge connecting Revere to Lynn.

I spent my fair share of time there, but I did my drinking and smoking mostly in private.

Even back then, addictive behavior was something to do alone.


Things settled down by the late 80s and my addictions were largely in check, though I was still doing stupid things to offset the binge eating: smoking cigarettes in the concrete storage room at the front end of the basement, collecting beer bottles so I could smash them during my moments of rage, and going on two-day fasts where I’d eat a mug of Raisin Bran in the morning, run laps in the living room area for two hours and crash for the rest of the day.

In the summer of 1991, I decided to live a little. Me and Sean Marley went to California and lived in a rental car for 10 days, driving as far north as Eureka and as far south as L.A. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I wasted a lot of it cowering in fear and anxiety. If I were Sean, I’d have left me in a gas station restroom somewhere in Bakersfield and fled for my life. Fortunately, Sean was better than that.

My unease over the summer months continued into my 30s. I spent a lot of time in work-induced anxiety and had no social life to speak of.

But along the way, something changed.

I think becoming a parent gave me a newfound appreciation for summer. We would always get more quality time together than the rest of the year. That’s still true.

Getting treatment for the OCD and binge eating addiction were huge factors as well. Especially when I realized that the longer periods of daylight are something I need. Now it’s the winter I have to work on, when the longer nights affect my brain chemistry and push me into depressions.

I’m grateful that I can now enjoy a season I used to loathe.

I’m spending a lot of time these days writing from my back deck. The heat doesn’t bother me so much, because it’s better than being cold. The sights and sounds inspire me.

Last night my friend Ann and her family came over for dinner. They are visiting from Virginia, where she’s been living since the mid-1990s. We were first friends in the early 90s when we were both at North Shore Community College. That was a rough time for her because her father was dying, and she doesn’t remember a lot from that period. But I do. We lost touch as soon as we moved on from NSCC, but we reconnected on Facebook a couple years ago.

We had a great night talking on the back deck as their kids and ours ran in and out of the house. It was great to meet her husband, Bob. I wish he were on Facebook so we could talk politics some more.

It’s a gift that I can live in the moment with family and friends without my brain spinning out of control with 14 kinds of worry.

It’s a gift to walk around outside while everyone’s still asleep and take in the scenery. We live in a beautiful part of Haverhill, surrounded by farmland and forest.

Summer used to be something to hate. Now it’s something to love.

That’s the kind of mood swing I can appreciate.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica July 16, 2010 at 10:29 am

Just wanted to share my “Revere beach” experience. My grandmother has a house on Winthrop’s Point Shirley (right near where the prison was). I remember how awful that beach was too. The water was filthy and the tide brought in all sorts of gross objects. But while your experiences on Revere were sad, Winthrop is one of the only places I remember from my childhood as being always happy. Even my parents didn’t fight at the “beach cottage” and many of my happiest memories are from that little house full of sand. It is funny how we all rememeber places and events differently.

Mazoo July 16, 2010 at 11:18 am

Thanks for keeping the posts coming, Bill. Today I’m writing to thank you for continuing the music theme approach. Summertime Rolls is one of my all time top ten favorites and always brings me to a special place. Music bridges personal experience like nothing else. Two of my favorite quotes:
Velvet Underground, Rock and Roll: “My life was saved by Rock and Roll.”
Wilco, Sunken Treasure: Music is my savior, and I was maimed by rock and roll.
I was maimed by rock and roll.
I was tamed by rock and roll.
I got my name from rock and roll.

Keep up the music and memories mix… and thanks again for baring all of this with us.

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