Re-viewing Summer: the Way to Highland Park, A Selection From A Walker In the City

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Kazin's Summer: The Way to Highland Park

Sitting on the marble steps of the old, traditional American church, I began to feel cold. Two oriental lions, carved out of old white marble, surrounded me. Their faces were mean, and they seemed to be staring at something. As the beasts remained perfectly still, tiny creatures – black ants and brown bugs –very busily walked on their backs.

As I looked around from my cold spot on the step, I could see an old, brick house. This house was like none other on the block. With a large American flag hanging on the door, this house – a symbol of the American dream – stood taller than all the other houses. My attention then shifted to two great big evergreen trees on each facade, and the beautiful bed of flowers, of all shapes, sizes, and colors, wrapped tightly around the base of the house – the tracings of an American summer.

There was a light through the upstairs’ window of the house. I could see a mother sitting with her baby son. Although all I could hear were the many crickets singing softly in the night, I knew that the loving mother was telling a bedtime story to her sweet and sleepy child.

My America is a very beautiful place, not only because of the big cities, tall buildings, stone statues, and pretty flowers, but also because of the people who make America what it is today. Knowing within every blue, black, brown, green, and gray eye you see on the streets of America – and like me, every window you look through – there are stories, hopes and even dreams, this thought brings me the greatest pleasure, as it did Alfred Kazin. Kazin’s greatest pleasure came looking at the many historical landmarks that New York had to offer and thinking of the many people who struggled to make those astonishing contributions.

In “Summer: The Way to Highland Park” (1951), Kazin takes us into his childhood in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, describing his America with such tactile distinction that we too can “taste the damp sweetness of Italian cheese” and “see the clumps of red and brown meat dripping off [the] sausage rings” (Kazin 332). “You cannot grow up in that kind of environment, without absorbing and re-expressing a fantastically physical world,” states Kazin in an National Public Radio news recording.

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