The accepted definition of a serial killer is a person who kills at least three times with a cooling off period in between his murders. —Pat Brown
Climatologists and meteorologists have been warning us since April that 2016 is going to be the warmest year ever. There were a few days earlier this month when I would have challenged that forecast. We went through roughly a week where we had to fight with the kids to get them to wear coats on their way to the bus stop of the morning.
“But, it’s summer,” they would complain.
“But it’s 38 degrees,” we would respond.
That blip was apparently just a cooling off period, though. This summer may be a serial killer in the same sense as 2012 with daily temps over 100 and prolonged periods with no rain. We’re going to need some cooling off periods and we may have to create them ourselves.
No one should be sweating at 4:30 in the morning, but I was today. I took the dog out for our normal walk at 4:00 and by the time we returned my back was damp. Mind you, we don’t run, though the pup probably wouldn’t mind. We take a slow, casual stroll around the block to give him a chance to do his business while I think about what I’m going to write when we return. There’s usually a light breeze and the quiet solitude of being the only one on the street except for the paper boy (yeah, we still have one of those, but he drives a minivan now with one front blinker out). This morning had a breeze and was blissfully quiet (except for the helicopter making a quick pass over the speedway), but it was 74 degrees and humid as hell, if hell has humidity issues. Belvedere took straight to his water bowl upon returning while I took straight to the coffee pot. Cooling off is different for each of us. I am worried, though, to need a break so early in the morning isn’t a good sign.
Being hot on Memorial Day weekend isn’t that unusual, of course. In fact, the Indianapolis 500 isn’t the same experience without the sun bearing down into the snake pit, making sure everyone wakes up the next morning both hung over and sunburned. Race fans think cooling off is something one finds in a can of beer (bottles are not allowed), even though all they’re doing is dehydrating, which makes the hangover worse. Not having grown up here and not being a huge fan of watching cars go in circles, I have difficulty understanding the attraction to such inherent misery but, for many people, it’s a tradition they wouldn’t dream of missing no matter how hot it might get.
The rest of the summer is the greater challenge, though. Mother Nature can become a serial killer in July and August most any year. If we look back at 2012, the severe heat started in June and that seems to be the way things are shaping up for this year. Will she give us any cooling off periods? Better to not count on it. I think the more prudent move is to plan our own cooling off activities. Here are some of the considerations we’re entertaining at the moment:
- Adult party in the kiddie pool. Our next door neighbor has a really nice above ground pool with a great deck and everything. He has regular parties over there (including one tonight) that are always fun and a bit rambunctious. The challenge is that pool takes a lot of his time to keep clean and at a temperature that doesn’t induce hypothermia. I don’t have that kind of time or energy. Instead, we have a kiddie pool. The little ones love it, but I’m thinking it can be great for cooling off our adult friends as well and we’re less likely to need a lifeguard. We can sit along the perimeter with our bare feet in the water while enjoying ice-cold adult beverages. Add some cool, fresh fruit and hors d’oeuvres and we’re set.
- Naked mud photoshoot. We’ve not done one in a while. The pictures above were taken in 2010 and I don’t think I’ve done anything in the mud since. Two of the three young women have moved away, so we have opportunities here for new people to participate. Actually, this particular shoot was in April and turned off colder than we expected, especially when it came time to clean up. Rolling around in the mud is great for your skin and is very cooling for your body (which is why pigs like the mud as well). The pictures are always fun, sexy, and make all your friends jealous (not kidding).
- Cook dinner on the grill. Air conditioners have to work hard enough during summers like this without adding to the challenge by heating up the whole house just to prepare a meal. Almost all your favorite foods can be prepared on the grill if you are willing to take a bit of time. Grilling is a great summertime tradition, anyway, so why not experiment with more than just hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, and ribs? I’m planning on grilling brats and a beef roast tomorrow and am considering possibly grilling a lamb roast within the next week or two. The flavors are great, the heat stays outside, and everyone loves the food.
- Explore new places to eat. Summer is, in my opinion, the best time to try new and different dining experiences. Food is more likely to be fresh and their attention to creating a pleasing environment usually means it won’t be too warm, even if the experience is al fresco. The menus also tend to reflect dishes more appropriate for summer: lighter cuts of meat, fewer heavy sauces, and plenty of fresh herbs. We tend to look for restaurants within easy walking distance of other activities good for cooling off, such as visiting a bookstore, art galleries, or live music. Sometimes we can even get lucky and find it all in one place!
- Camping. The logic here is elementary: cities hold heat. A great way of cooling off, both physically and emotionally, is to “get the hell out of Dodge,” so to speak and go camping. Indiana is blessed with some really incredible state parks, most of which have cooling canyons and ravines and water that is appropriate for either swimming, wading, or boating. Tall, old trees provide plenty of shade and a gentle breeze, the kids have plenty of opportunities to explore, and if you plan well you might just find yourself relaxing a little bit. Granted, there are a number of uncontrollable variables with this option, and a good trip can go South in a hurry through no one’s fault. Still, the benefits outweigh the risks in most cases.
There’s nothing I can do about how hot this summer might be. Mother Nature doesn’t pay any attention when I gripe, so it’s just easier to find cooling off options that work regardless of the weather. We’ll survive this hottest year, you and me, and we may even have some fun in the process. We just need plenty of cooling off periods.