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Tuttle

Summer is unofficially here; welcome to the Burnt Pueblo

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With Memorial Day upon us, it's time to celebrate the official, if not the temporal, start of summer. Wait. Maybe celebrate isn't the right word. Maybe, since it's a Tucson summer we're talking about, I should say it's time to brace ourselves for a continuing onslaught of record-breaking, murderous heat, followed by more heat with the added bonus of humidity.

Newcomers to the Burnt Pueblo will have to learn to endure strings of days with triple-digit temperatures as well as some other nasty surprises. But since these recent arrivals are largely responsible for the absurdly inflated real estate market--thus making it impossible for persons of modest means to buy a house--I say they deserve their misery as a kind of karmic punishment. (I mean who, other than Californians--and maybe New Yorkers--ever heard of offering more than the asking price for a home? But that's another story.)

And it's not just the heat I'm talking about. Folks foolish enough to buy into the new subdivisions turning the city's outskirts into a Tucson version of Levittown are going to find their mortgages come with bonuses the Realtors never mentioned. Just where do you think all those displaced critters (whose ancestors lived here long before any white person set foot on the continent) go when you blade their habitat and appropriate it for humans?

So if you happen to live in some dumb new locale with a name like Desert Waterfalls, eventually you will have to deal with the scorpion in your cupboard, or the rattlesnake in your garage, or (my favorite) the kissing bug in your bed. And even if you spray loads of toxic chemicals all over your spanking-new abode, the beasties will seek you out and torment you, because it is cosmically ordained they do so.

You don't have to fret too much about a scorpion's sting; after all, the worst it can do is kill you. But it's more likely it will just incapacitate you for a week or so. Expect pain accompanied by a burning sensation that feels like a hot poker impaled in your flesh. Oh, let's not forget the swelling. Lots of swelling. Perhaps if you think of your misadventure as a necessary rite of passage to desert life, a stinging insect's version of a Welcome Wagon, you can forego the histrionics often attending one's first tete-a-tete with a scorpion and instead adopt a more sanguine attitude toward an otherwise unpleasant occurrence.

You won't have that option with a kissing bug, the Dracula of the desert. While a case might be made for the elegance of a scorpion's shape, or its sportsmanlike reticence to attack unless feeling threatened, kissing bugs will seek you out while you sleep in order to suck your blood. Also known as the Western conenose, or Triatoma protracta, these hideous creatures spring from the nests of pack rats, among other rodents.

Kissing bugs are nocturnal creatures that hide during the day only to make their way into your bed in order to painlessly pierce your skin, drink your blood and deposit a bit of venom in the process. Charming buggers, these brownish-black insects are approximately three-quarters of an inch in length. If you happen to be especially sensitive, a kissing bug "bite" can send you into anaphylactic shock. But then, you always said you wanted to die in your sleep, right?

Newcomers who opt for a home in the city, rather than the bladed beauty of barren acres, have their own set of anticipated summer delights. As science has conclusively proven, high temperatures bring out the beast in all of us, especially when living in close proximity to other rats, uh, humans.

So if you think police helicopters were annoying during the winter months, just wait. Come the height of summer, that distinctive propeller sound will be your lullaby almost every night. And don't go berserk should you find a bright light bouncing off the walls; it's not an alien landing, merely your local constabulary keeping you safe from the bad guys.

Should you be unfortunate enough to have only a swamp cooler as your futile method of heat relief, be sure to keep the windows shut and doors closed. Even though this cuts the cooler's effectiveness to near zero, it's a necessary precaution against the heat-crazed miscreants out there are just hoping you'll leave a window open so they can sneak into your bed and suck your blood. No, wait, that's the kissing bug. (Sometimes it's hard to tell one insect from another.)

Of course, there are also positive things to say about a Tucson summer. For one thing, there's less traffic. And I'm sure if the heat hasn't totally fried my brain cells, I can come up with at least one other.

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