How Did Californians Spend Their Second Summer of the Pandemic?

Janel Kajisa, a reader who lives in San Francisco, told us her best experience this summer was visiting a family cabin in Stanislaus National Forest with her grandpa.Credit…Janel Kajisa

This summer in California was not what we signed up for.

Instead of a “summer of freedom” from the coronavirus, we got a surge in the Delta variant. “Hot vax summer” turned into a literal, way-too-hot summer.

Between the drought, huge wildfires and 17 million gallons of sewage spilled off the Los Angeles coast, Californians were forced to wonder, “Is this the end of summer as we know it?”

But fear not. With summer officially ending this week, I asked you to share the best thing that happened to you over these past few months. And, I’m happy to report, the California summer is still kicking.

You wrote about international adventures, outdoor movies and concerts, adopting pets, bingeing shows, reunions with friends, attending Zoom comedy classes and a whole host of activities that made this summer worth enjoying. The season of celebration and relaxation lives on.

Here’s some of what you shared, lightly edited for clarity:

Kristi Manning, a reader who lives in Hollywood, told us her favorite summer memory was a sunset horseback ride with friends in Summerland.Credit…Kristi Manning

Enjoying each other’s company safely

“Road trip! And the best kind — picking up two longtime friends on the way.

We ate, we drank, we reveled in our friendship of over 50 years! It was a summer solace.”

Melanie Lunsford, San Diego

“My favorite summer memory has been learning cooking and sharing meals with my 87-year-old grandma, without a mask and indoors. I’m so grateful to the scientists who made the vaccine possible so we could enjoy each other’s company safely.”

Amanda Ha, San Francisco

“My Vermont son and wife brought their two children to a cabin at Lake Tahoe to spend a week with my Oakland son, his wife and their child — the first time the three grandchildren got to be with each other.

That love-fest feels like the happiest moment of my life so far.”

— Peter Fisher, Berkeley

“Wine nights with close girlfriends in the backyard after the kids are asleep have sustained me through this summer.

We worry about our kids, about school, about the pandemic and the impacts of wildfires. But mostly we laugh and we celebrate making it through another week, leaving recharged enough to tackle the next.”

— Tracey Weinstein, Sacramento

Doing something happy

Megan Conlon, a reader who lives in Redwood City, told us that the best part of her summer was hiking Half Dome with her brother and friend.Credit…Megan Conlon

“What got me through this summer — and every month since lockdown — was dancing alone in my living room for my Cuban ‘nightclub parties.’

I dress up, put on my dance shoes, perfume, lipstick, and dim the lights. Then I channel Havana and sway.”

Natasha Ravnik, Oakland

“Feeling safe enough to attend an art workshop in teacher’s covered patio area. Everyone was required to show proof of vaccination on arrival. Had fun doing something happy, meeting new people.”

Corinne Schnur, Topanga

The San Francisco Giants against New York Mets at Oracle Park.Credit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

“Take me out to the ballgame! Monday evening, Giants vs. Mets:

It was an absolutely gorgeous evening in San Francisco (read: no fog), enough people in the stands to feel like part of a crowd of excited fans, but not so many that it activated our Covid fears. My New Yorker husband in his Mets jersey, me and my Giants hat — we were covered no matter who won. Happily for me (and San Francisco) the Giants won in a very, very exciting game!”

— Shelly Hanan, Napa

“This summer I decided to make sure I went swimming every single day.

Swimming in the cold, clear water helped clear my brain and remind me to be grateful for everything I have.”

Debbie Beane, South Lake Tahoe

Lake San Marcos.Credit…Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

Finding the good

“Watching my friends’ hair turn gray (and mine WHITE) in August I decided to turn my hair into an adult coloring book. Using temporary color spray, I gave myself a coloring of the week and matched my fingernails and toes to go with it.”

— Carol Bonomo, Lake San Marcos

“These last 18 months I’ve been doing all I can to ‘find the good’ in books, home improvement projects, nostalgia, holiday smells …

On Sept. 8, I ‘graduated’ from my breast cancer radiation treatments — where they put up a banner, played ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ rang noise makers, had me ring a bell to mark the moment and gave me a certificate.

Getting to remove stickers that I had worn since July = ‘finding the good.’”

Missy Castro, Livermore

Ruth Clawson, a reader who lives in Green Valley, told us that her garden has helped her make it through this summer.Credit…Ruth Clawson

“Our backyard garden produced an amazing crop of golden cherry and yellow pear tomatoes this August. To celebrate, we used five pounds of these gorgeous fruits to make what turned out to be a most exceptional gazpacho; peak sweetness and uncharacteristic hue put it over the top. It was like eating summertime by the spoonful.”

— Paul Kimball, Campbell

If you read one story, make it this

In Tennessee, even if a local school district requires universal masking, students don’t have to comply. Gov. Bill Lee has allowed parents to send their children to school maskless, no questions asked.

That tension recently exploded in a suburb of Nashville, where one parent, a self-described “California refugee,” held up copies of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers and the Bible in front of the school board and said: “These guarantee my freedom, and yours, and my children’s to breathe oxygen.”

Read the full article from my colleague Erica L. Green.

Amazon Fulfillment Center in Eastvale, Calif.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

The rest of the news

  • Amazon bill: Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill that restricts warehouse employers such as Amazon from setting productivity quotas that prevent workers from taking breaks or following health and safety laws.

  • Vaccine requirement for kids: Top state officials are considering requiring vaccines against the coronavirus for all children 12 and up to attend school, NBC Bay Area reports.

  • Booster shots: State officials say they are prepared to begin distributing booster shots to people 65 and older, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Wildfire funds: Newsom on Thursday approved nearly $1 billion in new spending aimed at stopping wildfires before they start, The Associated Press reports.


  • Finding a home in the Los Angeles suburbs: A family looking for a four-bedroom house near downtown Los Angeles toured 40 homes to find the right mix of space and amenities. Here’s what they found.

  • Supply chain strained: Sixty-one vessels were anchored off the coast of Southern California on Thursday waiting to unload cargo, a stark reminder of the supply chain woes plaguing the international markets.

  • L.A. sheriff targets political enemies: There’s a special unit inside the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that appears to go after outspoken critics of Sheriff Alex Villanueva or the department, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Teacher raise: Teachers in the Los Angeles school district would receive a 5 percent raise under a tentative agreement announced on Wednesday, KTLA reports.

  • Christmas parade returns: After being canceled last year because of the pandemic, the Hollywood Christmas parade is back on this year, NBC Los Angeles reports.

  • Palm Springs bounty hunter case: New police body camera footage shows how a suspected violation of a private bail agreement resulted in the death of a man in front of two Palm Springs police officers, The Desert Sun reports.


  • Sequoia fire: The KNP Complex fire had scorched more than 33,000 acres and drawn more than 1,500 firefighters and other personnel to the Sequoia National Forest as of Thursday, The Fresno Bee reports.


  • Fire prompts evacuations: The Fawn fire forced mandatory evacuations in Shasta County on Thursday, The Associated Press reports. The same day, the authorities arrested the woman believed to have started the fire.

  • Oakland vaccination requirement: The Oakland Board of Education has voted to require students 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to attend in-person school, The Associated Press reports.

  • Holmes trial: Former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis testified this week in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, former C.E.O. of Theranos, The Associated Press reports.

Credit…Julia Gartland for The New York Times

What we’re eating

In her latest newsletter, The Times’s California restaurant critic Tejal Rao offers recipes to help transition your cooking from summer to fall.

Where we’re traveling

Today’s travel tip comes from Thomas Cushing, a reader who lives in Napa. Thomas recommends Doris Lake in Mono County:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

What we’re recommending

Fall television returns to normal this year after last year’s pandemic wipeout. Here are 31 shows to watch.

And before you go, some good news

The Michelin Guide awarded 45 California restaurants this week bib gourmands — a designation a step down from Michelin’s famous star ratings, but which guarantees a delicious meal nonetheless.

The restaurants are a sampling of the full Michelin California restaurant guide that will be released next week, Eater San Francisco reports.

For now, browse the 45 new bib gourmands on Michelin’s site.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Monday. Enjoy your weekend. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Popular office messaging service (5 letters).

Steven Moity and Miles McKinley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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