After an unusually pleasant May, including the coolest Memorial Day in 23 years, signs of summer are now ubiquitous and unavoidable.
Time to start carrying an extra layer to the movie theater, with the AC consistently cranked up to the "Antarctic" setting. Can't negotiate the front walk barefoot to get the mail anymore, unless you're one of those Indian mystics who can walk on hot coals. And the water comes out of the tap hot when you choose cold, and—for a few precious seconds—cold when you choose hot.
Not all portents of the incipient inferno spell doom. My ancient water pipes absorb so much solar radiation that it'll be September before I have to resume turning on the hot water in the shower, which I figure saves me enough coin for a few margaritas and a flat enchilada at Casa Molina. And you thought passive solar was a pricey new technology.
For true Tucsonans, the heat is our friend, chasing away pretenders and carpetbaggers—pardon me, "temporary residents"—and leaving the city to those who really appreciate it. Traffic starts to thin out in April, but there's one final bulge around university graduation time, when thousands of parents deploy to gather proof that their children really did successfully navigate their way through four years of formal education. For a few days, the central city becomes a clot of slow-moving rental cars by day, and a frenzy of screeching pickup tires, loud music, public nudity and epidemic vomiting by night. Finally—after diplomas are awarded, appropriate arrests made and red tags assigned—there are poignant, anti-climactic brunches; the airport and highways fill up one last time; and the city gives up a massive exhalation of relief as the burden of extra human weight is removed for another season.
This brings to mind a distasteful harbinger of summer: the annual hand-wringing over the price of gasoline. Every year, media stories play up the whole summer-travel gas-price thing, as if everyone's lives revolved around petroleum. Oh, wait—they do!
The Associated Press reported a couple of weeks ago that Americans now piss nearly 10 percent of their pre-tax income into their gas tanks, which is more than they spend on recreation, clothes or the cars they're filling up.
It doesn't have to be this way, but you wouldn't know it from the AP coverage, which quoted the manager of the Department of Energy's fuel-economy website as effectively saying that drivers have no choice, that "there's no magic gizmo that will drastically change someone's gasoline use."
Wrong, bureau-breath! There is a magic gizmo, and it's called "common sense." You could start by redefining where you have to go. Is it really a good idea to live 20 miles from your job? Make a second trip to the convenience store today, for some nasty sweet concoction that only makes you sick in the long run? Third trip to the WalFart this week, for some cheap plastic crap you don't really need? Excise those trips from your itinerary! You'll be amazed at your savings, and not only in gas.
The next time you insert that nozzle, consider your political choices as well. Might be a good idea to quit voting for petrosexual politicians who bend over backward—or is it forward?—for every oil company they meet. Don't swallow the propaganda that subsidizing oil companies is the only way to lower gas prices. Instead, take responsibility for lowering how much you spend on gas. That's the real point, isn't it? The people who live in the countries we bomb to get their oil will thank you, as will the critters clinging to survival on this increasingly petroleum-poisoned planet.
The onset of summer also means a break from the predatory politics of Arizona's medieval Legislature. For a few months, school children, undocumented immigrants, the unemployed, people without health care, prisoners and anyone else with a minimum of political power get a respite from the legislative assaults on their well-being. Unfortunately, our craven governor and sleazy attorney general have chosen to continue hammering the downtrodden this summer with a legal broadside aimed at chronically ill would-be medical-marijuana users. Like our long summers, it seems like they just never quit.
Enough grumbling—summer is to be celebrated! Like the song of the first spring robin, the buzz of the first summer locust stirs the heart, a sure sign that peaceful, 100-degree days have arrived.
Sundresses! Short-shorts! Shirtless men! Thirsty Thursday! See you at the ballpark tonight for Triple-A baseball and dollar beer. Get out and meet the heat.