Perhaps it's due to the presence of all those less-than-casually attired college students in the heart of our town; or perhaps it's due to the chronically low wages; or to the vast expanse of nothingness between us and any real cultural center. (Phoenix doesn't count. The capital city is to culture as cows are to quantum chromodynamics.)
More than likely, however, our manly summertime slovenliness is tied directly to this damned heat. Perhaps there are psychological aspects involved as well--say, the utter depression that comes with knowing we're facing a whole string of 115- to 120-degree days with no letup in sight. ("But it's a dry heat," said the devil merrily, as he watched his latest crop of victims roasting alive, licked by the flames of hell.)
The fact that the National Weather Service moved its official local thermometer to a cooler, better shaded area several years ago in preparation for global warming and the inevitable Chamber of Commerce complaints doesn't fool anyone around here. There's a certain feel that comes when the temperature tops 110, a persistent pressure on exposed skin that rapidly escalates into sharp pain as the demon sun muscles up the mercury.
People who work near blast furnaces aren't the snappiest of dressers, either. But they do wear protection, which is more than we can say for your average Tucson Joe climbing into his 1987 Bronco at 3 p.m., when the temperature inside is certainly hot enough to melt lead. And the temperature outside, in the vast black-topped parking lot, where his battered iron hulk has been baking for several hours, is only slightly cooler, thanks to the exhaust-fume breezes stirred by passing vehicles.
Yes, "depression" seems a somewhat inadequate term, considering what we're about to face this summer.
Which is why we have a little proposition for the Prickly Pueblo's oppressed patriarchs of plasma-jet pragmatism, uh, for Tucson guys who have to hang around this bubbling cauldron of a community during the blistering heat:
Let's wear costumes!
If you think there's just a wee bit of overly cheerful desperation in that seemingly wacky suggestion, you'd be wrong. In fact there's a whole lot of miserable, pathetic desperation involved.
DAMN IT PEOPLE! WE'RE GONNA FRY!!
So here's the Tucson Weekly's plan for helping local men survive the brutal broiling and concomitant mental meltdown to come:
A. Some of us will wear snazzy white or cream-colored suits; and,
B. Some of us will wear dignified, flowing robes of the kind favored in the Middle East.
It's such a simple plan, really, that every Tucson guy can understand it. (We figure Tucson women have enough sense to dress decently yet appropriately for the heat. They've long been known for their sensible approach to such difficult issues as clothing, food and, well, just about everything, unlike the men who wind up here. If you want to hear an amazing diatribe from someone you thought you knew, just ask a local woman to discuss the quality of Tucson men. Apparently they've all been secretly judging us for many years, and we've all been found severely lacking. Lacking what? You name it, brother.)
No more torn, sweat-stained T-shirts, cola- or beer-stained Bermudas and flip-flops. Face it, guys, while that's been pretty much our standard outfit here in the summer, it's really just the male equivalent of a muu-muu and curlers, the official uniform of middle-aged women who've all but admitted defeat in the grueling game of life.
Frankly, we think we're made of sturdier stock, even though we're certainly not tough enough to wear those curlers to bed.
And besides, just think how our new male clothing scheme will boost the tourism industry during the hellish summers around here. If we all follow the plan, soon Tucson will acquire an aura of 1930s intrigue, a dreamily romantic clime where deeply sophisticated men go about their somewhat mysterious and certainly glamorous business, much to the delight of the folks from Muncie and Minnesota. The touristas will be clamoring to bunk at our reasonably priced Motel 6s and hang out in our Dennys and McDonalds.
Sure, we anticipate a few oddballs and nonconformists will crop up. Men who insist on wearing the French Foreign Legion hat with its protective ear and neck baffles to block the sun's harmful rays. And there will undoubtedly be some gentlemen who prefer a proper British pith helmet and khaki bushman shorts with matching shirt. Or a Mexican peasant outfit of loosely fitting white pantalones and white guayaberas shirt. Great--we can handle diversity. In fact, we embrace it--as long as the outfit has a certain vague aura of summer saavy, a look that says, "Yes, sireee. Here's a guy who knows how to handle what's hot, baby."
By donning flowing robes or snazzy suits during the summer, we'd be giving ourselves a silent psychological boost--yes, by God, we can do something about this damned heat. The feeling of solidarity with our brothers under the sun would alone make this town much more pleasant during the oppressive months.
Of course we could all still drink beer and lie around in front of our TVs in our underwear during our "off" hours, just as usual, belching and praying that the damn humidity goes away so the cooler will work again. But the rubes from out of town don't need to know about this uniquely Tucson aspect of our private lives, now do they?
At any rate, many of you gents have given your roofs a coating of that protective and reflective white goop simply because it was the manly thing to do. Well, why not do the same for your bodies and your psyches?
Wear white, stay bright! Stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight!
Jeez, someone get me a cold beer.