David Bouchier

U.S. Department of Defense

Fifty years ago I lived for a while in California, and spent as much time as possible hanging around in San Francisco. This was not because of any special devotion to picturesque cable cars or overpriced fish restaurants. At that time San Francisco was ground zero for the hippie phenomenon. Young people had flocked there from all over America, and the world, to create what they called a counterculture, and 1967 was the Summer of Love. What could be more counter to our regular culture than love?

A few days before school.started here on Long Island I went to a big office supply store in search of something old-fashioned, like filing folders or yellow pads. Dozens of eager young scholars and their teachers were there before me, stocking up for that long-awaited back-to-school moment. The mass of shoppers didn’t worry me, because I assumed they would be crowding the aisles of computers and electronic gadgets. But no, they were interested only in paper, and all the charming products that accompany paper – pens and pencils, crayons, glue sticks, and folders in many colors.

Mark Lennihan / AP

We have so many anniversaries, big and small, happy and sad, that it’s hard to keep up with them all. Every day is the anniversary of something or someone, and most of them, we are willing to forget. But not this one, not yet.

Here we are, it’s Labor Day weekend. The slow, easy decline of summer is upon us, and it brings a certain relaxation, not least because we can stop pretending to relax. Very soon we can cast aside those never-finished mega-books from the summer reading lists and consign them back to the library, or the yard sale. Soon we can abandon the uncertain pleasures of the beach, hide the barbecue under its black cover, put away the insect repellants, and live normally for a few weeks, at least until The Holidays arrive.

Gemma Billings / Flickr

Supermarkets don't scare me anymore. For years I was terrorized by the health police. Guilt and anxiety fought a losing battle against a healthy appetite, and a hyperactive food industry. When I went food shopping, I felt I should carry a magnifying glass to read the tiny lists of ingredients and nutrition information on every package, and a chemical dictionary to translate them.