Summer stinks to folks burned once too often

Essay: Lazy, hazy and crazy from the heat, it's time the puddled masses fulfill their yearning to breathe free. But where?

July 07, 1999|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,SUN STAFF

So the trouble is not just that it's really quite totally hot. That would be one thing. The trouble is you seem to have been transported to another planet where it never rains and the sun always shines with this sickening white glare and the fragrant air that you remember from your childhood or even the month of May has been replaced with fumes from a bus terminal.

In other words, it's summer.

What a confusing thing that is, eh? Because this is America and you have been raised to "Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days" and think longingly about the pretzels, the beer, the magic of a summer night, the boys of summer and the girls of summer and how the "livin' is easy" and the "cotton is high" but meanwhile you feel like that guy in the opening of "Apocalypse Now" getting drunk in his underwear with the ceiling fan going. Saigon, you're still in Saigon.

Worse, pal. Much worse than that.

You're in summer. You're in Summertime summertime sum-sum summertime. Perhaps you remember that cheery ditty from the Mesozoic era. Perhaps you remember countless other songs, jingles, dreamy advertising images describing some mythical summer nobody who ever lived south of Cape Cod ever actually experienced. But there you are, burdened with an expectation as insidious as a glistening Charles Dickens Christmas dinner, being set up to stumble around with your sticky collar and your damp armpits and some sort of chafing that even Jerry Springer wouldn't discuss and wondering: Is it me?

This is to say: No, it is not you.

This is to deliver the big scoop that you are merely the victim of the Summer Lobby, a diabolical power which for your entire life has been peddling the joys of a season that anybody who lives south of Hyannis Port and east of Seattle knows is as joyous as oral surgery.

Let's face reality, let's have an intervention. Let's all say it together: "GIMME A BREAK ALREADY. THE SUMMER TOTALLY STINKS!"

It's OK, shout it in the streets. Because it's bad enough to feel sticky and irritable without having to continue this sham. The Summer Lobby gets its hooks into you when you're a kid and you don't know any better.

School is out and whatever comes with that must be a wonderful thing, right?

Right. But then this horrible thing happens. You grow up. Then you have a job in a business that actually stays open 12 months a year, including July and August when your big ambition in life is to get naked in front of an air conditioner, drape a cold towel over your head and sit on a pint of Haagen-Dazs rum raisin.

Summer is the naked emperor's parade with a throng shouting: "LOVE THE FABULOUS OUTFIT, YOUR GREATNESS, IT'S YOU, IT'S YOU!" Summer is an overhyped movie, a crummy beer with a great advertising campaign, an overrated ballplayer with a multimillion-dollar contract and a .240 batting average. Summer sweeps in with the great public relations and the Beach Boys soundtrack and by the time you're in the thick of it, you realize the only surfing you've done lately is with the TV remote because you can't leave the house except to get another three bags of ice to relieve your overheated schnauzer. You thought the cotton was high but then you saw the electric bill.

Once I tried finding something to enjoy about the summer around here and went for sailing lessons in Annapolis. This was on a weekend in July. It was like trying to sail a boat in a hot telephone booth.

"What's with the wind?" I asked the instructor.

"Oh, that's how it is in summer here."

On the Chesapeake, sailing capital of the universe?

Afraid so, he said. Yessir, the best sailing is September and October, even November.

Oooooo-kay, so scratch one more thing off the old Fun Summer Activity List. Along with waking up, leaving the house, taking a walk, eating something other than cracked ice and lettuce, thinking clearly, smelling good, wearing something more attractive than a loincloth, breathing. Because the joy of summer is hard to see, but at least the air isn't.

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