Why summer is almost worth it

This gallery contains 4 photos.

I have survived the dangers of Labor Day*, and summer is unofficially over. Today, as planned, I will write about the aspects of summer that make the heat a little bit less like a demonic torment upon your very soul almost worth it. If you recall, I originally had the idea for this single post back in early July, but instead wrote a weekly series about how awful summer is. Fresh produce While I have a couple of dedicated vegetable haters in my life, basically everyone else loves fresh produce. … Continue reading

Melted dreams and other objects

You've fought the good fight, window fan.

You’ve fought the good fight, window fan.

I wrote this post earlier in the summer, but held it back because August was so cool. But now that it’s September and summer has returned to toy with us some more, I have decided to call it out on some of the things it’s done. Here is a melodramatic list of things that melt in summer and ruin my life.

  • Coconut oil deodorant, because I am a hippie. My deodorant is made of cornstarch, baking soda, and coconut oil, a substance which melts at 76 degrees and then needs to be stirred.
  • Shoes, when placed in close proximity to a summer campfire. Before the invention of vulcanized rubber, sneakers melted on hot days. We’ve come a long way, but fire still beats sneaker.
  • Skin, from my thigh, when backed into a summer grilling apparatus.
  • Chocolate, when left in my car, a thing which is fine to do at sane times of the year.
  • Ice, from my iced coffee. Even if I made it strong (and you can bet I did) it will devolve to an unacceptable level of wateriness before I am through drinking it.
  • Ice cream. Eating ice cream could easily have gone in the post about summer activities that are better in winter. You mean I have 30 seconds to eat this before it’s just milk and corn syrup? It’s like defusing a bomb.
  • Crayons, when left in the car. Sure, they look cool all blended together, but sometimes I want to draw things that don’t look like an acid trip, and I can’t do that with 64 colors which have digivolved into MegaCrayonmon.

This should be the penultimate post of Humidfest 2014.  Maybe I’ll write some more if the heat continues into September, but at that point I think I’d need to change the name to GlobalWarmingFest.

Here’s a recap of the earlier posts in the series:

Awful features of cookouts

Cookouts are a hotbed of danger, awkwardness, and yard games. It’s bad enough trying to sit comfortably at a sun-baked picnic table splattered in bird shit, but really, that’s only the beginning. With Labor Day in just two days, I figured that the penultimate entry of Humidfest 2014 would be an opportune time to discuss some of the unsavory qualities of outdoor barbecues.

A lake!

You are in less danger from the many drunken boaters on this lake than you are from every single thing that happens at a cookout.

Purposely attracting yellow jackets

Soda is a mandatory part of every barbecue ever. This is stupid, because it attracts yellow jerkbags jackets to the picnic table, placing everyone in grave danger.  Bumble bees and honey bees are just in it for the pollen. Yellow jackets are like the asshole Aqualish in the Mos Eisley Cantina who picks a fight with Luke Skywalker for no damn reason. Or, because fighting. Basically, the fact that they were in the same location is enough. Either way, Obi Wan Kenobi slices his arm off, and it’s all good. Unfortunately, I live in Massachusetts, and there is no Obi Wan Kenobi here to come kill the yellow jackets with his lightsaber. So, it’s only common sense not to have soda at a picnic, when you don’t have a Jedi to defend you from the consequences.

Potato salad roulette

Unless it’s garlicky, olive oil-soaked Italian potato salad, potato salad is something that mostly sucks anyway. So that’s already a strike against both it and summer, which is when it comes out of hibernation to give us salmonella.  Enter potato salad roulette. How long has it been out? Are you willing to risk it? YOUR LIFE IS ON THE LINE.

Undercooked hamburgers

When meat is ground, the bacteria sitting on the outside mixes with everything else in squishy meat curls. That means that the inside of a hamburger needs to be cooked to well done. No, it’s not 1000% percent definite that someone will get food poisoning if they eat a bit of meat that’s still pink. But is it worth the risk? Not really, in my book, and I happen to prefer my burgers blackened anyway.

Most of the cookouts I’ve been to in the last two years have had undercooked hamburgers. And not all cooked by the same person either. There have been four culprits. If I so much as mention that the meat is undercooked, I’m told it’s ok, and I’m over worrying. It’s like being the only person in a movie who sees the whole conspiracy, and everyone is just trying to silence me.

Volleyball

Gym class volleyball always turned me into an exemplary Apathetic Loner Girl, Daria style. In my eyes, the other kids didn’t seem to grasp that there was no reason to get excited over, or invested in the outcome of the game. To me, it was perfectly acceptable to watch the ball fly by instead of bothering to try hitting it. The gym teachers didn’t care, but my team mates were not cool with this, and they let me know. With gusto. Or zest. Also, yelling.

Volleyball went from a slightly fun game that I had no enthusiasm for, to something more akin to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Plus, it’s not something I want to attempt while suffering the consequences of potato salad roulette.

Oppressive heat oppressing us

Last week was a busy week, so my previous update to Humidfest 2014 was two weeks ago. In that last Humidfest 2014 post, I wrote about summer activities that are actually better in winter. There is a whole other category of activities that are not only better in winter, but that the tyrannical oppressor of Hot Weather makes impossible this time of year. Here are some of the ones that I miss the most.

Thai red lentil curry

You’re the one I miss most of all.

Eating soup

Soup is one of the best food-forms in existence. Delicious umami slurpiness with chunks of whatever vegetables, meat, or noodly goodness your heart desires. I know gazpacho exists, and it’s a summer soup, but it doesn’t make up for the loss of every other kind of soup. Sausage and kale. Chili. Pho. Tortellini. Red Lentil Thai Chili.

Sleep

This one seems like it should be obvious, but apparently 72 degrees Fahrenheit is the national average room temperature. This probably explains a lot of culture-level problems. Obesity epidemic? How could anyone do anything BUT eat corn chips and watch TV with lethargy-producing 72 degree air lulling them into a fog? Kids are underperforming on standardizing tests? Maybe if the school’s thermostat weren’t sending them mixed messages they’d do ok.

I always find that anything over 70 indoors makes me start to nod off, and yet, I can’t actually sleep at that temperature.

Do things at home

Maybe I’m unique in this one because my air conditioner is a lazy piece of crap that won’t exert the effort to cool my entire apartment, which is small enough that my air conditioner has made itself an embarrassment to its species by not cooling it. Yes, I have personified my air conditioner. How could it be my nemesis if it were just a badly designed appliance?

Drink hot cocoa

I am apparently considered a good cook, but really, I’m mostly good at picking out recipes. I am not the cook in my household, and I’m extremely slow at chopping things.

But.

My hot cocoa is amazing. And I like experimenting with different kinds. In eighth grade, we had an assignment to demonstrate to the class how to do something. I taught my english class how to make peppermint hot cocoa with peppermint patties. A few of my classmates came up to me the next week to tell me that the cocoa was amazing! The best ever! Had changed their life and now they were going to quit middle school and LIVE, dammit!

I got a bad grade on that project because instead of bringing in a microwave and cooking the cocoa right then and there, I typed instructions and brought in the ingredients to show everyone. Yes, my language arts teacher apparently expected a scrawny eigth grader to carry an entire microwave to school, on the bus and everything, because “It would have been better if you had made the cocoa in class.”

Eh, fuck it. I’m making cocoa tonight anyway.

Summer activities that are better in the cold

Laments about how short summer is are a common thing at this time of year. Hitting the beginning of August means that this dreadful time of year only lasts for another month. Lucky for us, the actual equinox doesn’t get a damn say in this. Summer ends when the mustard-stained labor day paper goods are thrown in the trash, and we all know it. There also seems to be some sort of summer-guilt brought on by not doing enough summery things. I don’t have the emotion of summer-guilt, but I can understand because that’s how I feel about fall.

No one needs to experience summer-guilt at all. As it turns out, a large number of common summer activities are superior in cold weather.

Running and hiking

Running in the summer, I am one with my environment, in the sense that my environment is a foul terrarium of pervasive humidity, and I am a sticky, sweaty humidity-wraith. No skin, no bones, only sweat and unhappiness.

Running in the winter, I am alive and joyful. Pushing myself through exhilarating cold, muscles pumping, the cold is manageable as long as I don’t stop. Plus, no one thinks you’re a badass if you go running in the summer. You’re a just a runner. But running in zero degree weather? Viking level badass points.

Hiking is the same deal, with one added benefit. In the summer, the trails fill up with people. Winter scares them off, and you can enjoy nature in all its frigid, austere beauty.

Kayaks on a beach

The birth of an armada.

Kayaking

Kayaking is easily one of the top things that makes summer bareable for me. I get the same exhilaration powering through choppy waters that I do running in the snow. Even in the summer. In fall, the waters are calmer. Jet-skiers have given up until next year. Autumn leaves ring the lakes, and reflect off glassy-smooth surfaces. Wood fire smoke fills the air.

Getting married

After physical activity, the worst way to exacerbate the heat is to dress poorly. All formal wear in existence is the epitome of dressing poorly for summer. Most people want their friends and family to be happy for them on their wedding day, not resentful of their life choices because of easily avoided discomfort.

Years ago, I went to a December wedding. The couple played Christmas music at the reception. Cupcakes with mountains of snowy white frosting were topped with candy snowflakes. The bride wore a hooded wedding cape over her dress. How cool is that? And it could never happen in the summer.

Wearing white

It’s not just at weddings. Wearing white, in general, is a lot cooler looking in the winter. This is coming from someone who hates to wear white. Imperious ice queens. The white witch. Princess Leia on Hoth. Actually, all I can think of here are female royals. But no one pulls off white like they do.

Star gazing

Ever notice how much clearer the night sky is in winter? Cold air can’t retain as much moisture, therefore you don’t have to squint up at the stars through a veil of humidity. Perfect clarity.

A holiday to fill the august void

Summery green, humid pond.

August. You can see the humidity.

In my family, the 4th of July is big enough to imbue much of June with a Christmas-like anticipation. There are even a few days post-4th with same lazy quality as December 26th. Then the rest of the summer lasts for five hellish eternities, eternities as tortured as though they were all spent drinking weak, acidic coffee and listening to that noise the baby from Eraserhead makes. The vicious heat of July stretches into August, and from August to infinity, or so it feels to my heat-addled brain. Even as a kid, my hatred of the endless heat outweighed my hatred of school, and I would wish for September to start. It may not be so hot that I can’t sleep, but it’s still hot enough for the middle part of the day to be an unacceptable, activity-preventing haze. And there are no redeeming holidays.

The only official August holiday I can think of is VJ Day—Victory over Japan Day—and Rhode Island is the only state that still celebrates it. I grew up in Rhode Island, and I don’t think too many people there want to give up a Monday off from work, even while acknowledging that VJ day is creepy and outdated. And even in Rhode Island, VJ day doesn’t do very much to improve August.

Then there’s Lughnasadh. Celebrating the start of the harvest season and honoring the Celtic god Lugh, Lughnasadh is one of eight neo-pagan high days. Celebrations usually involve competitive games. In a group where the attendees tend towards bookishness, this can involve things like thumb wrestling and rock, paper, scissors, rather than races and feats of strength. Voice of experience. While it’s a fun holiday, and a great excuse to celebrate seasonal foods, it is ultimately a religious holiday. So I don’t think it’s going to get the widespread adoption that a Big August Holiday needs.

There is a an enormous roster of made-up* holidays out there, and I think one of them must qualify. Some of them are too specific, or dedicated to foods I don’t like. I’m looking for something that can justify a day off of work, a cook-out, and possibly some activities. After doing some reading (mainly here and here), these are my top candidates.

Sister’s Day

I am a sister. Not a nun, just to clarify, but a female with siblings. This is a self-serving choice, but not one that would do anything for me, since I can’t even imagine my brothers showering me with presents and grilled meat on Sister’s Day. Plus, it would probably suffer from the same food-gendering as Mother’s Day. Dads are supposed to get steak, while Mom wants breakfast in bed and quiche? Who thought of that one? What about steak in bed?

Senior Citizens Day

Acknowledging Senior Citizens, giving them a pat on the back and a steak, and congratulating them for having gone through decades of shit is not a bad idea. Better than pretending they don’t exist. This is also a self-serving choice. It will take decades to pay off, if I live that long, but I will gladly contribute to creating hoopla around Senior Citizens Day if it means that, thirty-six years from now, the youth will prostrate themselves before my throne (ok, it’s a recliner. With a heated blanket) and shower me with gifts they picked up an hour ago.

Left-handers Day

Banks will switch their pens on chains to the left side. Even if banks also decide to close for this auspicious day, they will still do it. Activities could include left-handed games. Like, instead of going out to play normal badminton, everyone plays left-handed. And those of us who are left-handed or ambidextrous defeat them easily. It will get old very quickly for the right-handed folk.

National Aviation Day

I saved the best for last. This is already a federal obversance, and this year it’s on Tuesday, August 19th. I’m not sure if it’s always the same day, or if it moves around based on the full moon or day of the week or airline schedules. According to timeanddate.com, here’s what people do on National Aviation Day:

On this day, some schools organize for students to participate in classroom activities that focus on the topic of aviation. Activities include: discussing aviation history, including the efforts of the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart and other aviation pioneers; and engaging in interactive tasks about airplanes and other means of flight transport, as well as careers associated with the aviation industry. Aviation enthusiasts and students may visit museums about aviation history and technology.  Some people visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina at this time of the year.

That sounds mildly interesting to me, but not if I’m going to do it every year. First, there needs to be a cookout with aviation related activities. Kites, paper planes, and toy rockets can all be brought out to celebrate this day. Maybe a historical storytime for the kids. Of course, there will need to be more movies. Christmas and Halloween have tons of movies. Thanksgiving has a few. Even Independence Day has one. We need to have a movie like It’s a Wonderful life, only about Amelia Earhart, a movie that we can expect to see on TV to every National Aviation Day’s Eve

The point is, National Aviation Day is the most ripe with possibilities for celebration. And even if you don’t do a damn thing besides have a meal with family, if any of that family had to fly in from afar, you’ve participated.


*recently made-up, that is. When someone says something is a made-up holiday, what they really mean is that some person invented it rather recently, instead of a government or religion inventing it quite a long time ago. All holidays are made up, even Christmas, which was designed by a committee including Jesus and Santa.