10 Things to Do During the Doggone Days of Summer
The term, “the dog days of summer,” was initially coined by the ancients around the Mediterranean to refer to the hottest days of the year from about July 3rd to August 11th. It was noted as extending from twenty days before to twenty days after the conjunction of Sirius (the dog star) and the sun.
Doesn’t it seem that the ancients were just smarter than we are figuring out this kind of thing? The last time I figured out something this complicated, I think that my intelligence had been artificially inflated at the dentist with laughing gas. Wait a second . . . I was high! I guess that this negates my “discovery.”
Most of us have discovered that it can be a real dog when temperatures climb, making it a drain just to go outside; there seems to be a collective slowing of activity not to return until September. Here are a few tips to help beat the summer blues . . .
1. Head Toward Cooler Climes
If you live in the valley, head towards the mountains; if you live not too far from a lake, ocean, or stream, head towards the water; if you are close to neither, head north! This may seem like simple advice, but we can all get caught in the rut of remaining in our air-conditioned homes when it’s scorching outside.
2. Visit Museums – Yes, Even the Ones That You Think Are Boring
Visiting a museum is a way of getting out of the heat and expanding your mind. It doesn’t require much exertion (some allowances must be made for people with mobility issues), and there is often a café in which to get a glass of wine or quick snack. If you have the children (which most parents do during the summer), a children’s museum is a great option as there are usually interactive activities for the kids. This will give parents a well-deserved break from being the summer entertainment committee.
3. Go Out to Eat
The summer is the slowest time of the year for restaurants in certain locations (like New York City). In these places, reservations are not as hard to get and service will likely be better and more personal. Additionally, restaurants, cognizant of diminishing profits, may offer specials that they normally would not. You can believe yourself to be a bigger deal than you really are when you get into that restaurant which is really difficult to get into; to further artificially inflate your ego, ask for the best seat in the house.
4. Get Up Early and Go to Bed Early or Get Up Late and Go to Bed Late
When I stayed in the Phoenix area, I was stunned by the number of people getting up before and at the crack of dawn to run errands. What the hell are these people doing? I wondered. Then it occurred to me: They’re taking advantage of the coolest hours of the day. The same can be done by going to bed later and getting up later; however, since most of us are regular Joes and have to go to work in the morning, the former is the best option unless you want to look like Lindsay Lohan after a night out with “friends.”
5. Binge Watch Your Favorite Shows and Then Feel Morally Superior to All of the Characters
Nothing can make you feel more self-righteous than watching a Breaking Bad or Mad Men marathon. How could such a good guy turn into such a criminal? How could Don Draper possibly sleep with that many women and not get syphilis? My favorite mini-series to re-watch is The Thorn Birds. At least I never corrupted or was corrupted by a priest, I tell myself.
6. Finish Reading That Book You Started Years Ago—You Know the One—Scholarly, Esoteric, and Difficult to Get Through
For me it was The Portrait of a Lady. For others it may be War and Peace. You don’t want to admit to your friends that you never finished this book. Now is the time to finish it and feel a sense of accomplishment. If it’s too difficult to read, get the unabridged audiobook. It still counts if you listen to it carefully; at least it does for me.
7. Read a Guilty Pleasure Book
I once had a friend (yes it’s true) who was a biostatistician and epidemiologist (I think that she still is, but she doesn’t talk to me, so I can’t confirm). With all of that intelligence bursting from her lovely blonde head, I expected her to read a biography of Madame Curie or a science article from a scholarly journal. Imagine my shock, when on the plane to San Francisco, my friend brought out a cheap romance novel with a heaving bosom and a man who looked good with his shirt off on the cover. “What are you reading?” I asked incredulously. She heard my contempt and simply stated, “I think all of the time at my job. Sometimes, I just don’t want to think anymore.” There is a lesson for us here.
8. Spend More Time with Family and Friends on Your Balcony or Patio During the Cool Hours of the Day
This will help justify all of that money you invested in patio furniture, a fire pit, and plastic plates and cups with sophisticated designs. Help to make sure that your partner isn’t right: “I can’t believe the money you spent on that crap. We never have anyone over, and I can’t get you to get the yard in shape so that we can!”
9. People Watch
This can be funny, horrifying, or heartbreaking depending on the crowd. Just be warned that summer is the time of sparser clothing. This may affect your viewing pleasure. Why do some people wear belly shirts? Why do some people wear full shirts that look like belly shirts because of their size? Why did these people not buy a bigger size? Why is the street the best place for some couples to have the fight of the century? These are some of the great unanswered questions that come to mind while people watching in the summer.
10. Head to Your Local Farmers’ Market or Summer Festival While You People Watch
You can help the local economy by getting your butt out to the local summer festival or farmers’ market. You’re always telling yourself that you want to do more things for the local economy; well, here’s your chance. If you’re lonely, it will do your reclusive self some good just to get out among people and sunshine (if you’re like me, you have stayed in bed for days during a depression, and have eaten snacks which could clog and stop the heart of a middle-aged man). At least at the farmers’ market there’s a chance you’ll eat something healthy, and who knows? You might actually make a friend. Of course, there is always more people watching. At a festival it can be funnier if alcohol is served, but the clothing is usually skimpier (See No. 9 for a fair warning). Farmers’ markets are usually in the morning and early afternoon and people normally wear more clothes and are not drunk (well, at least most of them).
I hope these suggestions proved helpful. I know that they did for me. Now maybe I can finish that book I started by a Nobel-prize winner. I did have a little trouble with it when one of the characters was skinned alive, but I persevere during the doggone days of summer.