Things to Do and See in the Summertime

daniel thomas

THE SWOON starts in small-town Cottonwood, MN ‘round about 1975 when my family moved into town and became next-door neighbors to the amazing Dacey family. Us kids lived in the perfect Norman Rockwell dream of small-town America—a world of bare feet and banana-seat bicycles, without rules or boundaries where you could see to the horizon in every direction. Every house on the block had children our age. I think there were fifteen or sixteen of us in those days. Every summer we ran wild. We did everything together all day long every day all summer long: building forts, exploring the drainage ditch, waging wars, watching Star Trek, playing matchbox cars, playing football, kickball, freeze tag, Ghost Ghost in the Graveyard, and eventually, playing Dungeons & Dragons. In the early eighties, the Dacey brothers and I spent most of our spare time adventuring in those fantastic imaginary landscapes, rolling dice and living large through paper heroes in the never-ending war against evil orcs and goblins. Austin and I even tried to open a hobby shop in his basement, but Emmett was our only customer.

By the time Emmett and I hit our mid-teen years, we added girls and Rock & Roll to the mix of things to do and see in the summertime. Then in 1984 we slammed up against the Satanic Panic of the 80s which censured both D&D and Rock & Roll. LPs and 45s fell victim to the Peters Brothers crusade against Rock which banned most of the good music. We got swept up in that superstitious mess, and I think we might have got a little lost. So did our innocence. Without D&D, there wasn’t much left to do in the summertime but start our own band.

I wait for the streetlight to come on; I know the magic isn’t gone.

The song “Things to Do and See in the Summertime” became our own personal nostalgia trip and tribute to one another. It’s a song for brothers-in-arms growing up together with the neighborhood kids in Cottonwood during those seemingly endless summer days of pure freedom, big skies, and boundless potential. The chorus of the song has Jeana and Austin stringing together a series of syllables constituting a list of things we used to do together when we were kids. On the surviving bootleg recording of the song, it’s impossible now to make out the words of the chorus, and we’ve all forgotten them. They included “things to do and see in the summertime” like Kool Aid, movies, cornfields, mud pies, tree forts, rhubarb, Star Trek, football and lots of obscure neighborhood references like “Adam” and “gassa.” (You don’t want to know what gassa is.)

That’s how it all started. For thirty years, fans have asked about THE SWOON getting back together for one more show or one more album, but if the band ever did get back together, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be to play music, it would be a D&D game.

Things to Do and See in the Summertime

I took the big book off the shelf.

I took the first look for myself.

I wrote the words down in my head.

I left the last chapter unread.

It touched me soft as my own mom.

It stirred me on all summer long.

All summer.

I pushed my cousin in the swing.

He closed his eyes and spread his wings.

I drew a card the queen of spades.

She was the fortune that I made.

I took my dog down to the lake.

We watched the sunset very late, quite late, rather late.

All summer.

I listen to the neighbors speak.

I have a window above their street.

I wait for the streetlight to come on.

I know the magic isn’t gone. It’s not gone.

All summer.

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