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  • Barrie Kreinik

Summertime, and the living ain't easy

Musings from a heat hater.

Photo by Barrie Kreinik: Brighton, UK.

Hot town, summer in the city

Back of my neck gettin’ dirt and gritty…

- Joe Cocker

Okay, folks. Unpopular opinion coming at ya:

I hate the summer.

I know, it sounds extreme. I’d love to be able to roll that statement back, or at least water it down. I don’t really hate it…it’s just not my favorite season…I suppose it has its perks…

Yeah, no. I actually hate it.

How could you hate summer? you might ask. (If you haven’t already abandoned this blog for a cheerier one.) The warmth! The light! The outdoor activities! The beach! Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but…none of those things are all they’re cracked up to be. In fact, every one of them can be downright stultifying.

Let’s start with the warmth—or should I say, the heat. I’ve always disliked hot weather, but I seem to be growing more allergic to it as I get older. I don’t like sweating while I’m standing still, I turn lobster red if I don’t wear SPF 9000, and I’m afraid of thunderstorms, so relief in that form just sends me diving into a dark room. This means, I fear, that if I manage to live for another fifty or sixty years I will likely have to move to the northern tip of Greenland to live amongst whatever penguins are still around by then. (Are there penguins in Greenland? Whatever. Somewhere cold.) And for those of you tempted to say it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity—it’s both. But blazing heat is annihilating enough even when it’s dry. In fact, I’d love to live in a place where the summer temperature never rises above 75 degrees. (But please don’t suggest San Diego because I did not say I want it to be 75 degrees all the time.)

Summer in New York has its own special kind of heat. The underground temperature skyrockets after the first ninety-degree day, creating a fug of steamy, fetid air that lingers well into the fall, turning the subway system into the Tenth Circle of Hell for approximately one-third of the year. In fact, I learned very quickly when I first moved here that in the summer months I cannot expect to look the same when I emerge from the subway as I did when I entered it. My hair will have doubled in frizz, my makeup will be melting, and if I’m really unlucky and I’ve waited too long for a train, my clothes will be sticking to me in all the wrong places.

As for the light: long days are overrated—especially when they begin so early. I’m all for sunset at 9:00 pm if I’m out and about, but when dawn awakens me at 5:00 am the next day, no one is pleased. Also, summer evenings tend to attract the season’s most insidious citizens: bugs. I’ve been bitten, bothered, swarmed, and stung more often than I care to recall. My skin has been the canvas for entire constellations of itchy welts. On the rare occasion when I venture to an outdoor performance, I inevitably end up under attack—because even when I douse myself in bug repellant, some intrepid insect will penetrate its defenses in pursuit of my blood.

I’m getting itchy right now just thinking about it. I’d rather stay inside and watch TV.

For the preceding reasons, I find outdoor activities far more enjoyable in the spring or fall, when a layer of denim or down lies between my body and the outside world. Give me a woodsy walk, a leisurely sail, or a rousing game of tennis any day—just turn down the outdoor thermostat and kill off the creepy crawlers.

Finally: I will admit that I do love a good beach vacation. The soft shirr of waves stroking the sand, the tang of salt air, the weightless bliss of floating in a liquid cocoon…I have to experience these at least once a year or I feel deprived. But, cold-blooded Yankee that I am, I prefer a New England beach to one anywhere else in the world. Pine trees over palm trees. Frozen lemonade over frozen margaritas. Clapboard cottages and cool evenings and the chance to escape to a quaint little village when I get bored with beach-bumming after approximately a day and a half. But despite my affection for Northeastern shores, I’d be perfectly content to experience a single month of summer and then immediately retreat into autumn.

And don’t get me started on climate change. Watching heat waves push farther and farther into September, I begin to fear it will never get cold again. The heat has begun to feel less like a nuisance and more like an overt threat.

But let’s not dwell on existential problems. It’s more fun to complain.

Maybe one day I’ll consider a northerly migration. (Maine? Toronto? Siberia?) But for the moment, I simply close my eyes, pay my inflated electric bill, and continue conditioning the air.

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