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Beware the Hype

Beware the Hype

Features
By Jackson Hogen
posted: 04/21/2003

I've had it with summer. I'm fed up with the season's smarmy superiority, with its stranglehold on the national media, its tireless spin machine grinding out scene upon scene of family joy filled with bright sun, blue sky, sand, beach balls and cocoa butter. The whole sun-drunk world is so carefree that most summer-dwellers gad about largely unencumbered by apparel-the better to reveal bodies cut like diamonds and every bit as flawless. Summer: where mankind lives in a state of idealized nature, a sanitized Disney vision of benign rays basting immaculate bodies on sandy beaches.

I'm not buying it. I've been to the beach. Have you looked at your contemporaries lately? Wouldn't you rather see these people in a ski suit than a swimsuit? Most of summer's PR is a similar sham.

Peel back the oily veneer of summer's signature beach scene and what do you find? Radiation so severe it can turn flesh into blisters-or worse, if you're persis-tent. Crushing heat that so sears the sand that anyone foolish enough to go barefoot on the beach loses a layer of skin. Sand, lest we forget, is dirt's rich cousin, only more invasive. Read about sand in a travel brochure and it practically sounds like the staff of life, when its only real talent is for embedding itself into, and grinding away at, every tender orifice known to man or machine. And I don't mean to be indelicate, but there is also the pungent matter of sweat.

What sand is to summer, snow is to winter. Where sand is gritty, filthy and seemingly eternal, snow is soft, pure and ephemeral. It leaves behind the water that makes life sustainable and summer bearable. What does sand create, left to its own devices? Deserts.

I realize that summer's antipode also has its drawbacks. Winter can get cold. This explains the surge in the popularity of clothing during the snowy season. If it gets colder still, you throw on another piece of clothing. Reversing this process in the summer months isn't as satisfactory. When the heat climbs past oppressive, you can't take off your skin.

Where does summer get the chutzpah to lord it over the other seasons? I think our culture's fascination with summer stems from our youth, when school was out and vacation was measured in months, not days. Take the vacation out of summer and what's left? Kids in today's new year-round school programs discover that summer's not so nifty when it includes sitting in stifling classrooms, the thick, still air stalling the engines of learning.

My biggest problem with summer is it won't stay put. It's always popping up in the middle of winter, sometimes (shudder!) sticking around for weeks at a time. Does winter ever do this to summer? No. Yet it's hard to recall a winter when we didn't have summer crash the party at some point. If I want to experience summer during winter I know where to find it. The tropics are always there whenever I feel the need for heat, sand, beach, plague, pestilence, famine or some other wallow through human misery. But I digress.

I hope I'm not making it sound as if I don't like summer. I have nothing against months without an "r." I manage to amuse myself without descending into madness after the last snowfield melts. I just think summer gets special treatment, like a Hollywood grande dame filmed through a haze of flattering filters. It riles my sensibilities to see winter get such short shrift in comparison.

To prove my sympathies for the sunnier season, allow me to share a vignette from when I was a young ski bum pining for winter's return. On a bright and warm August morning, fun seekers convened on the stoop of Fatty's restaurant in Breckenridge, Colo., for the proprietor's eponymous annual golf tournament. The objective was to hit a plastic golf ball from bar to bar across the town, which was brimming with tourists by the time the first foursome reached the fifth "hole." I don't think anyone actually completed the course, or was even capable of keeping score after noon. I do rremember embedding one prodigious drive into the grill of an oncoming Ford Bronco, taking several swipes at a bobbing ball while waist-deep in the Blue River and enduring the honor of host Fatty driving over my ball with his Harley.

So I don't think summer's bad, it's just over-promoted. On its best days, it's almost as much fun as winter.

The author can be reached at jacksonhogen@sbcglobal.net.

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