News & Opinion » Downing


A humid, sticky day leads to kvetching about the season


Cue George Gershwin.

Summertime ... and the writers are la-zy.

How lazy? Lazy enough to fill this space with chat about weather and pets, just like the other local media do. Don't expect excitement, though. No "Storm Alert!" weather here. Just the usual kvetching.

I write this on a day that defines "sticky." It might rain later: Whole armies of whipped-cream monsoon clouds hang around the edges of an ardently blue sky--the bleached, slightly greenish June blue is gone with the dry heat. I wonder if anyone's ever looked into the connection between the color of the sky and the weather. Why should certain monsoon skies be as intensely azure as the ones we get on cold, windy, winter days? It's not a subject that would attract much grant money, I suppose.

Dampness is always a surprise in Tucson. It's like snow: It's never around long enough for us to get used to it. Our dry, smooth, odorless world is suddenly all different. Glasses full of life-sustaining iced liquids sweat huge puddles next to, oh darn, my laptop. Doors stick; the sheets are damp; I can't count on my hair being dry by the time I get across town, and the soles of my feet stick ever-so-slightly to the tile. The mouse drags, and dog hair clings to everything. (Those of you with air conditioning and without pets will just have to crank up Mr. Imagination.)

Every hour of the day seems perfect for a nap. It's not what you'd call work weather.

Some places, though, are busy. Down in the wash, the spadefoot toads have done their thing, and the tadpoles are already getting legs. Some are out and hopping around, each a perfect miniature about the size of a June beetle. (The little brown helmet-heads who crash into the screens at night, not the flashy green tanks scientifically termed "June bugs.") Life goes fast. Everything has to happen before those puddles dry up, which they're doing as I type. You think we long for another big downpour? We have the Central Arizona Project; the plants and animals have only the tantalizing promise of another big rain.

Out in the front yard, the prickly pears are coming ripe. I used to pick them with tongs and try to make jelly, but it would only set one year out of three, so I gave up. Every year, I think about doing it, though: The mess in the kitchen was such a beautiful color. This year, only the doves and sparrows are eating the fruit, resulting in yet another sign of the season--fuchsia splats on the hood of the Honda.

In my house, the groggy-yet-irritating quality of the long, August mornings has been compounded by a dog that looks as if he's living among the Amish. My big husky mix, Lai Fu (it's a long story), had an abscess on his cheek, probably from cactus spines. The vet at Pima Pet Clinic--where our animals receive faster, kinder and way more reassuring care than we ever do--fixed him up and sent him home with a hangover and one of those huge, plastic radar dishes they put on dogs to keep them away from their wounds. They padded it around his neck with an old towel, one end of which hangs down like an increasingly filthy cravat. The ensemble is held together by many yards of sticky Ace bandage that contributes just a suggestion of hunchback. Or maybe goiter.

Fu is normally an animal whose ruthless, slightly cracked buoyancy and kohl-rimmed eyes eerily recall Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Epic shedder, overlord of our two ancient dachshunds (whether they know it or not), unapologetic thief, stalker of cats and squirrels--he's a pistol. At first, the collar made him a different dog: sad, ashamed and stymied both by his loss of peripheral vision and by the fact that if he missed a treat thrown to him, it disappeared into the collar like change pitched into a toll-booth basket. (He'd back up to try to get it.) Worse, he no longer fit through the dog door. As a former apartment dog who rejoices in 24/7 outdoor access, he was obviously depressed by this, and as the household's sole protector against murderers, pigeons and people who touch the Dumpster, he was anxious. So we whittled the cone back until it looked something like a poke bonnet--picture the wolf in Grandma's bed--and he's now slamming in and out as usual, the collar catching every time on the side of the door. The repeated impacts have bent and scarred the edge of the plastic in a way we can really appreciate when he shoves it up against our legs in what used to be an affectionate brush-by. Don't think we don't know he's getting even.

But soon, he'll be a free dog again, and soon more rain will come (please, please, please), and eventually the Olympics and even the Republican convention will be over, and it will be fall. Of course, it'll still be wicked hot in Tucson.

Add a comment