Colleges are in session and the leaves are starting to turn. On Labor Day, I always think of the restaurant job I had on Cape Cod during my college summers. I did much of my morning prep work at a picnic table on a screened porch adjacent to the walk in refrigerator. A large horse chestnut tree stood in front of the library next door. Every August, I would watch for the leaves to start turning brown, as they did by the middle of the month. The Sunday of Labor Day weekend was always my last day; I would return to college at the end of the weekend, tanned, rested and energized for another academic year.
This was in the seventies, when we lived off our summer earnings during the academic year. Internships were almost non-existent; my entry into the job market after graduation was an unplanned void. I was an English major, able to do everything and nothing. My summer days consisted of double restaurant shifts, morning prep and evening dinner service, with three or four hours off in the middle of the day for reading, tanning, and day dreaming. The restaurant was closed on Mondays, library and laundromat day.
I read my way through the local library, always careful to shake the sand out of my books before returning them. Hesse, Vonnegut, Woolf, Fowles, Styron, Roth. And I started to write, not a tedious literary journal, but descriptions of people and places, word snapshots of the restaurant workers: the morning produce delivery guy, the fisherman who dragged a huge bluefish across the kitchen floor, the owner and head chef, stirring his Sunday pot of lobster bisque.
I took early morning walks on the deserted beach, watching the sanderlings run at the water’s edge and the osprey tend to her chicks in the nest on top of a telephone pole in the marsh. The song sparrows were nesting in the dunes, singing their distinctive calls. On August nights we huddled in blankets watching the shooting stars. The beach was my home, the restaurant and village my world.