The Summer

The bartender walked over and asked “What brings you here on such a warm and sunny afternoon, I mean, evening like this?”

They each smiled, and Spencer said, “The future.”

The bartender’s eyebrows lowered, his eyes tightened, and he smiled saying, “Okay then, anything to drink with that future?”

Beth said, “Guys, how about if we split a pitcher. This quarter is drawing to a close, so let’s enjoy this thesis design meeting. The baseline work is done, we have a set of working prototypes, let’s get creative and map out how we can close this out next year with a working model.”

Max and Spencer agreed.

“A pitcher of your IPA, and three frosty mugs!” replied Beth with exuberance.

“Okay then,” said the bartender who then turned and left.

“Good summary Beth,” said Max.

Beth replied, “Yeah, we can finish these edits and have the thesis plan ready for Chow by the end of the week. What are you guys planning for the summer?”

Spencer started, “I’m going to take it easy for the first time in three years, and just kick back and reflect on this past year. I’ve been invited to a little vacation lake in Washington, Lake Chelan. I’ve been going there almost every summer since I was a kid with what I call my second family. Sun and fun, and some reflection and forward planning thoughts.”

Max said, “Sounds nice,” and smiled, and then continued, “Beth, what are you up to this summer?”

“I’m heading home. I love the predictable pattern of the farm and my parents. Just knowing that predictable pattern is there to escape to, a sense of protection, is my way of really relaxing,” the presence of the farm and her parents were part of her DNA, always there. While she was totally consumed by this program and all the work the three of them had accomplished in 9 months, and the plans for next year, Beth knew she needed down time, that going at 100%, sometimes days in a row without sleep, and other times going on just a few hours of sleep. She knew doing that across years was a recipe for trouble. She needed down time, and the farm was it.

Beth asked, “What about you, Max. What are your summer plans?”

“I’m going to hang out around here and see if I can get a summer internship, something to pay the summer bills with,” Max responded, smiled and then looked out past his friends, as if considering the future.

The bartender appeared with a clear glass pitcher sweating from the filled cold dark golden IPA and three frosty mugs which he placed at the center of the heavy wooden table.

“Here’s a little golden brew to go with that future,” said the bartender smiling who then turned and left the only three patrons in the establishment on that incredibly warm and clear spring evening.

The three sat and planned out their summer, committing to touch base every Friday evening, and planning what they needed to deliver in each month of the next school year in order to have a functional testable computer based awareness by the end of next spring.

That summer Max stayed at MIT, getting a summer internship, working for a computer science professor debugging some code and helping to build some class content for the next school year. With no looming deadline’s the work was relaxing relative to what he, Beth, and Spencer had challenged themselves with this past school year, on top of their other classwork. The professor that Max worked for was a friend of Chow’s who taught “Introduction To Factory Theory.” Understanding problem patterns, the underlying concepts behind the problem resulting in specific patterns was one of Max’s strengths. Helping to build student exercises and small problems was something Max really enjoyed. The professor also gave Max some computer programs to fix, which was another area Max loved to throw himself into. Max got an adrenaline rush when he solved a problem or got a program to do what was intended. The professor gave Max a table at one of the school labs to work at, the set of deliverables he would like to see, and then left Max alone. Max set his schedule to spend 8 AM to roughly 5 PM at the lab during the weekdays. Max would occasionally visit the pub, have a beer, but it was an empty experience without Beth and Spencer so would leave before finishing the beer. Evenings were spent looking at the stars and reading about particle physics, wondering why what he thought differed so much from what was written. Since high school, Max had consumed everything he could find and had time to read about particle physics. Early on he was intrigued with the ideas of string theory because it seemed to come the closest to describing a unified field of energy which was how Max saw the basis for all things.

Upon landing at SeaTac, Spencer texted Noah and Andy to see what they were up to that evening. The three had been texting about this summer for the last few weeks, so Noah and Andy were expecting him.

“You guy’s can come over here and we can decide where we want to go after hanging out a while,” texted Noah.

The three agreed to that plan.

“Hey, can one of you pick me up at SeaTac”

Andy replied, “On my way.”

Spencer’s home was changing. His parents had divorced a few years earlier, and his Dad had a new wife. While Spencer knew it as home, it was no longer the home of his childhood, even though he and his friends would meet regularly at Spencer’s house, playing games until the early morning, spending the night, just as they had done as kids. He was glad to have somewhere else to go.

Upon arriving at Noah’s, Noah’s dad said, “Spencer, how is MIT?”

Noah’s mom said, “Spencer, where is my hug?”

“Andy, how’s work in the start-up world?” said Noah’s dad.

Andy replied, “Good. It’s an exciting place to be.”

“And how is San Francisco?”

“Incredible. Always something to do.”

“Well, you guys know where everything is.”

Noah’s mom said, “Spence, are you looking forward to Chelan? Just two weeks away!”

Spencer replied, “More than you know.”

Noah’s dad said, “Lisa, let’s leave these three to their evening.”

And with that the two walked upstairs.

Spencer, Andy, and Noah walked to the refrigerator and each grabbed a beer, and then walked to the living room, sat down, and started sharing stories about work, school, and the latest sports stories.

After a few minutes of catching up, Andy said, “Do you guys want to go into Seattle?”

So the three left and spent the evening hanging out at a couple of their favorite bars in Seattle. Over the next two weeks they got together two more times, following the same pattern. They would meet somewhere, talk about what to do for the evening, then decide Seattle was the winning choice.

During the days Spencer would help Jenny, his Dad’s wife, with her store. Jenny owned a pet shop, so there was always something to do form unloading a new shipment of supplies, to cleaning cages and terrariums.

After two weeks of the same routine, Spencer was ready for Chelan. It was an early, sunny, warm Sunday morning. Spencer woke up, grabbed the bag he had packed the night before, and drove over to Noah’s.

Spencer, Noah, Noah’s sister Asher and brother in law Alex left early that morning and drove to Chelan to meet the rest of the family. On the drive they talked, watched the landscape of the mountains, and remembered stories from years past. That week the sunny ninety degree days at Chelan were filled with time throwing the football, hanging out at the pool, then hot tub, then lake, then pool, then football, then hot tub. There were absolutely no memories of MIT in Spencer’s mind until Thursday. Spencer had the sync call with Beth and Max the next day, Friday.

By the end of the summer, On the flight back to MIT, Spencer feeling refreshed, thought very strongly that this project would provide exactly what he needed to develop a highly predictable customer decision model — a computer model based on a combination of a brain model with data representing an individual’s behavior patterns — the kind of data the Zoo has.

At the end of spring, Beth left for the farm. Beth learned that having to work with others takes a lot of energy. She realized there is an amount of tension that results from having to build a shared product, from having to wonder what the others will deliver. She learned to trust her new friends as she learned that they are equally passionate about the success of the project. Over their Saturday sessions at the Big Ben Pub, Beth had come to look forward to and enjoy Max and Spencer’s company, each bringing something unique. She hadn’t shared her passions with others like this. Friendship like this was something new. On the flight home she thought about this past year and how much she had learned about what can be accomplished with the right set of peers, and in this case, friends.

On the flight back to MIT Beth sat remembering the past warm summer mornings, waking to the warm slight breeze and sound through the open window of her dad tooling around in the barn and the hint of bacon from her mom’s morning breakfast cooking. The weeks all pretty much followed the same pattern. She remembered after waking up to the warm breeze hinting at the sun outside and the forthcoming heat to the music of sounds in the barn, making her way downstairs, pouring a cup of coffee, sitting and eating a little breakfast and chatting with mom who would share what was going on with Edna, or Sam’s son who married Jane, and were having a rough time of it. Beth remembered these people from her childhood or high school. Beth savored the memory of helping her dad fix a section of fence. They stared in early morning and by noon it was approaching one hundred degrees when dad said let’s break. They sat under the shade of a canopy dad had set up first thing. Dad started talking, “Hey, do you remember the water ballon fights we use to have when you were seven. Man those were fun. And visiting the theme park with Baka and Papa. That was a great summer. Hey, do you remember evenings of put-put golf? Maybe when you’re done at MIT we can do something like that again.” Beth felt a sad tear remembering the passion her dad has for doing things with her and her mom, knowing that there would be far fewer of those days for her dad in the future. It made Beth sad for her dad. Beth spent the flight back to MIT just savoring the recent memories of this past summer.

It was September, the start of year two for the three at MIT, the “build” year of the graduate program. Beth, Spencer, and Max had kept in touch with each other across the summer, across the summer setting up Friday’s as their online get-together. Upon arriving back at Cambridge Massachusetts, and unpacking, they each headed to “their” pub for their reunion. They had scheduled this meeting at their last Friday online get-together. Spencer arrived first, getting to their regular table and waiting. The place was empty. School hadn’t started yet. Most kids were just arriving to school or just settling in. Beth arrived 5 minutes later, and then Max, no more than two minutes behind Beth.


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