I moved to a subtropical environment when I was fifteen. During the month of July. In a trailer. Our first base camp was somewhere outside of Deland, Florida. I had never seen so much SAND passing for the ground. At least they had an alligator pond where we could watch the feeding every evening, which was pretty exciting. It cost more for a space abutting the pond. God only knows why. They should have paid us.
I would not, could not, leave the trailer during daylight. Mom was out West attending family business. "Dad for Pete's sake....we'll die down here.....lets go home to Wisconsin...". Prompting the somewhat scornful reply "Son, you have to get out IN it to get USED to it. Don't whine." I felt like I running a fever of 103. Because I was running a fever of 103. My little brother's measles from a month or so earlier coming home to roost. To his credit, my Dad did apologize for criticizing my manhood when I was near death.
Years pass. I start my first real job in 1983. After three years of glorious mountain air, I found myself back in the subtropics. A friend of mine is the fellow who is in charge of the physical plant at the office building where I work. One day some years ago, in June, I greeted him at the door...
ML: "Good morning! Man, do you think it could get any hotter"?
RV: "Yes, it is plenty hot. But it can always get hotter...and Mr. July, he ain't even in TOWN yet."
In the years since, I have come to love the Southern summer. But it took a long time. I should have known I had Epic tendencies if I, a Wisconsin boy, could find things to love in this sort of oppressive heat. The following is a list of some of the things that make this time of year so special to me:
1. Lawn sprinklers in action. At dawn or just at dusk.
2. The scent of newly cut summer grass.
3. The scent of salt water.
4. The early morning, when the impending scorch is only a whisper on the sunrise.
5. Evening, when the days are long and gloriously indolent.
6. Bourbon on ice, held while sitting in a wicker rocking chair in the shade.
7. Grill-outs with the other residents of my cul-de-sac.
8. Sun Dresses.
9. Driving out of town and buying corn, peaches, and Vidalia onions on the road side.
10. Returning home and eating corn, Vidalia onions and peaches bought on the road side.
11. Swim suits.
12. Coconut scented suntan lotion.
13. Bird calls as I step outside early in the morning with a cup of strong New Orleans coffee.
14. Having my son the Future Rock Star home from school and left to his nature boy devices while I have the privilege of watching from afar.
15. The particular, diffuse glow emitted from golf course driving range lights late at night.
16. Little paper cups of Pistachio ice cream with chocolate sprinkles.
17. Small town parades on the 4th of July.
18. Grocery stores that grill ribs and chicken and brisket out front that you can take home or eat right there off paper plates with plastic forks.
19. Miller Hi-Life in long neck bottles.
20. Rain storms that break out just when you are considering getting out of bed.
21. Sailboats on the water.
22. Seersucker suits.
23. Linen suits.
24. Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.
25. Crickets singing at night as the Earth cools.
Last month, it was close to 100 degrees for two weeks in a row here. In June. And Mr. July, he wasn't even in town yet. Now he has taken up residence. With gusto. Trust me, it took a lot for me to acclimate to this sort of weather. But the discovery of so many gifts taught me that even in apparently inhospitable situations there is so very much to enjoy. Every sultry, sweating, unbearable, humid, Epic summer day.
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