A Date with August

The dog days are upon us, but don't sweat it. Here are 25 ways to beat the heat and enjoy the last gasp of summer.

August 01, 1999|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

It's hot. August stretches out in front of you endlessly -- hot (did I mention hot?), oppressive and devoid of anything interesting. In spite of all your watering, the grass is brown and your impatiens are withering away. The kids are bored and whiny. If you've already taken your vacation, everything good about summer seems over, and only the worst parts, the heat and humidity, are lingering on.

Hey, it's not as bad as all that. Mostly it's a matter of attitude. And just to prove our point, here are 25 ways to muddle through August:

1. Chill out. Take a friend ice skating. The Northwest Ice Rink in Mount Washington has daily public sessions in August. Ice World in Abingdon has public sessions five days a week. The Gardens Ice House in Laurel is open to the public on the weekends. Admission at these and other local rinks runs from $4 to $7; you can rent skates for $2-$3.

2. Pick an unpleasant task and stop doing it for the month of August. Stop cutting the grass, for instance. If the heat continues, it probably won't need cutting anyway.

3. Have your own personal Arnold Schwarzenegger retrospective. Hit the highlights ("Conan the Barbarian," "Predator," "Running Man," "Terminator," "Total Recall," "True Lies") or rent the complete canon. Refrain from saying, "I'll be back." If this is too mindless or too violent for you, have an Audrey Hepburn retrospective. If you prefer Great Art, visit Video Americain (in Charles Village, Roland Park and Lauraville) or the equivalent video store in your neighborhood, one that offers foreign films with subtitles, and spend August watching films directed by Francois Truffaut.

4. Make it a point to go out for dinner at least once a week to a place where you can eat outdoors near the water, even if it's just for a sandwich. If you can pick steamed crabs, all the better. Here are some places that offer both crabs and a view of the water:

* Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis

* Captain James Landing crab deck, Upper Fells Point

* Gabler's, Aberdeen

* Mariner's Landing, Dundalk

* McCormick & Schmick's, Rusty Scupper and Phillips, Inner Harbor

5. Get your car detailed. (This is to a car wash what a European facial is to a Handi-Wipe.) Look under "Automobile Detailing" in the Yellow Pages or talk to your auto repair shop. Costs vary, but $90 is a ballpark figure.

6. Take up salsa dancing. To get inspired, go see the film "Buena Vista Social Club" or check out the video "Dance With Me." There are any number of dance studios out there, and all of them teach the hottest dance craze around. The Moonlight Terrace Dance Studio in Columbia, for instance, is offering a six-week Latin dance class starting in August for $49 a person. The Havana Club gives complimentary lessons Wednesdays from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

7. Eat more ice cream.

8. Buy five magazines you wouldn't usually buy. To get you started, we recommend Outside, Jane, ESPN the Magazine, Utne Reader, the Atlantic Monthly. Lie in bed and read them, ignoring the dirty dishes in the sink.

9. Start learning French by cassette. Buy the tapes at a bookstore or check them out of the library. Promise yourself you'll listen for a month every morning in the car on your way to work or while you're fixing dinner. If you make any progress by Sept. 1, book yourself a flight to Paris or at least plan a vacation in Montreal.

10. Buy yourself one great piece of clothing for fall. Buy it now instead of waiting for it to go on sale in September. You'll get exactly the style, color and size you need. And it will make you happy to know it's hanging there in your closet.

11. Take swimming lessons. Your neighborhood pool, even if you don't belong, and the Y are good places to start. Or check your community newspaper for individuals who give private lessons for the American Red Cross. If you already know how to do the crawl, work on improving your stroke for a month or learn a new one. At the very least, swimming lessons will get you in the water without having to invest in a pool membership.

12. Read "Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster" by Jon Krakauer. It's chilling in every sense of the word.

13. Have a party, and make it easy on yourself. Offer sangria, beer and sodas to drink. Limit the food to what you can pick up at the supermarket. Invite a few people who'll be surprised to get the invitation, just to add an element of the unexpected to the guest list.

14. Fight road rage. Decide to spend the month of August being overly courteous to other drivers. Let them into your lane, move over when someone behind you wants to pass and don't make ugly gestures at the dolts who share the road with you. You'll feel more virtuous than you really deserve.

15. Lose 5 pounds.

16. Go through your closets thoroughly and give away anything you haven't worn in a year. If you take your discards to Goodwill, you'll feel as if you've done a good deed as well as having more closet space.

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