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Late summer occupies one of those special places along time’s ecliptic, a season rich in the shared history and anticipatory potential of generations of American children: sand in your toes, or maybe they were splinters, from bare feet on the boardwalk; some patient city’s turn at this year’s pennant race for the ages; that delicate ballast between boredom and promise, between idle time and the first day of school.

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I remember the late-summer blur of my childhood Augusts – hot and dazed by too many hours in the sun, starry eyes emerging from the dark cool of afternoon movies, the inevitable bitching about homework not yet assigned but lying in wait, like some big, heavy cat – and now I get to watch my own kids’ version: the bittersweet trip to  what we all know will be 2011′s last night of live music on the Healdsburg Plaza, with wine, and Mateo Granados‘ superb cochonitas (fork-tender, slightly sweet and smoky, and perfectly balanced by the acids in a salad of Soda Rock Farms cherry tomatoes and pickled Bernier Farms onions); the final trip home, the abrupt re-entry into the school-year orbital: pick out clothes for tomorrow; don’t forget to pack your lunch; but Dad, it’s still summer; no, actually, it’s not.

Still and all, the Giants are still in the hunt; my kids love their new teachers; and quite frankly, I think we’ve all had a bit too much time on our hands. So, while I may maintain that this whole out-by-June/back-before-Labor Day summer schedule ranks as one of California public education’s more dumb-ass ideas, and while I may already miss those indulgent August afternoons, I can’t say I’m not at least a little glad that we’re all headed back to work.

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