Read Old Man Scanlon

Dog Days

22 August 2009

Goldenrods have been blooming gaudy yellow for weeks, and now asters warn us that summer's almost over. We've had abnormally damp and cool weather through June and July (even as we speak someone, somewhere, is blaming it on anthropogenic climate change), but now we are well and truly into the dog days. It's ninety degrees with humidity to match, and not much below eighty at night. Days are significantly and obviously shorter.

It is good to be outside in the shade, enjoying the stridulating cicadas and what slight breeze there is, recognizing that nature is more than the uncomfortable few seconds between an air-conditioned house and car. It reminds us of what our parents and grandparents endured and accepted as normal. But there is more to August than just enduring.

Jess and nephew Matt's outdoor wedding on a comparably scorching afternoon last July was immensely gratifying. The couple, clearly made for each other, are both sharp-witted, full of joie de vivre. I'm a sucker for weddings: generations gathering, sanctioning an essentially timeless rite and the affirmation embodied therein, witnessing two more of my family swear to do what I myself failed at. The reception, normally a recluse's nightmare, started with an astonishing newlyweds' first dance to "Concrete and Clay"; despite the heat it only got better. This wedding will forever be the benchmark against which I must weigh all subsequent weddings.

Less sublime, there's the opportunity to torment Cheryl. She Who Must Be Obeyed has been ranting incessantly about how high the grass is, as if this will inspire me to cut it. Now she phones home from the road, relenting from her mandate; it's way too hot today for an old geezer to mow. She's sincere, no hint of reverse psychology. So, perverse male that I am, I mow, turning my sneakers grassy green and sweat-soaking my shirt and shorts.

Understand that embracing sweat is key. In my kitchen, chopping vegetables for gazpacho is exertion enough to start the dehydration process; it's all I can do to keep rivulets of added piquancy away from the diced cucumber. Even better is playing Frisbee with my grandson. My forehead beads up almost instantly, and soon my eyes are stinging, glasses sliding down my face. My mother—her mother, as well—used to amaze us whippersnappers by being willing and able to throw and catch a Frisbee. Now it's my turn to confound the youngsters.

A couple of nights ago, after the day's sweating abated, friends took me to a concert in the park featuring a bluesy boogie-woogie dance quintet. The average age of the audience was about 100; only one couple, a significant fraction of a century younger, danced. The air, no longer at blood heat, was redolent of freshly-showered and perfumed bodies enhanced with the scent of cigars and gorgeous trombone work. It was an ideal alternative to an evening in front of the computer, and ended just as the katydids geared up.