Monday, July 18, 2011

The Combination Of PMS And Extreme Heat Makes Me A Terrible Person

Things That Have Caused Me To Fly Into Near-Homicidal Rage Today

The truck driver idling outside my house this morning for at least ten minutes ("Really??? On a day like today, what you think we need is MORE air pollution???")

The ham and Swiss sandwich I bought for lunch mysteriously had no Swiss on it. Also, it appeared to have been made by a person who was either unfamiliar with the concept of the sandwich, or actually functionally retarded, as it was cut into sections and placed in a narrow plastic case, with layers that went bread-ham-bread-ham-bread-ham-bread, so there was no way to pick up the sections without leaving at least one open-ham-faced.

Any number of things to do with Powerpoint (there aren't enough expletives in the WORLD for how I feel about Powerpoint)

The grocery store is STILL (after like three weeks) out of vanilla extract ("It's like shopping in the fucking Soviet Union")

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Other Lives, Other Summers

Summer In Ridgecrest

These are the summers of your childhood. Popsicles and kiddie pools (the hard plastic kind that you had to chase down the street if it was windy and you didn’t get it filled up fast enough, and the soft sided kind that sat on a square of astroturf in the backyard) and earthquakes. You would go to the base pool for hours and hours. During adult swim Mom would give you money for fudgesicles from the snack stand, or she would bring summer fruit in tupperware and boxes of triscuits. You weren’t allowed to run, but the deck was blisteringly hot, so acrobatics were a necessity. You could look behind you and see your wet footprints evaporate, as if you were a ghost.

Later, when parental supervision was no longer required, you’d go up to Emily’s for pool afternoons. The dogs would be briefly annoyed that they couldn’t join, but they would calm down and you would lie, baking, on towels spread on the concrete in the 115 degree heat until you couldn’t stand it any longer, then jump into the pool where you once found a scorpion during a birthday party. Then lay out again until your bathing suits are bone dry, then into the cool house for Alias episodes on DVD until Betty gets home and you make margaritas before going home for dinner with the family.

Summer In Calabasas

You spend the days in the grubby worn classrooms and labs of CSU Northridge, but when you get home you collect your swim things and drive the short way to the big fancy house behind the fountain and the gate. You swim in the pool with the tile edges and the lovely foliage border while Brandon reads the paper under the broad porch. Then you eat what’s in the fridge or order takeout and walk the dogs. Back at home, you pretend to work on your organic chemistry homework, but it doesn’t take long before you abandon it to rented movies with chardonnay and popcorn served hot with lots of black pepper.

Summer In Malibu

It’s one of those cool, foggy summers, with June gloom well into July and lasting sometimes all day. You drive to campus and park on the curving street with, on one side, smooth grass all the way down to the road and the bluffs and the massive expanse of the Pacific, and on the other, climbing the rugged hills, the cream stucco and red tiled buildings of the university. You climb the stairs in front of the chapel and put your lunch in the staff room fridge, and go to the lab. You don’t mind the lab work but you don’t like the people from the tour groups peering in the narrow windows in the door. You feel like you are a zoo exhibit and you contemplate taping up the doors but never do it. In the late afternoon you go sedately back down the stairs and drive home and change into swim things and lie by the pool for an hour, reading Harry Potter and listening to little kids play with their moms. Then you make a little dinner – something light, maybe a veggie burger on arugula with sweet grape tomatos and cheese, or half a ready made Indian meal with some naan. Always, of course, with very cold white wine.

Summer In Australia

You take two cold showers a day and spend a lot of time lying on the marble floor, which is always cool, the kind of cold that soaks up into you the longer you lie there until you aren’t hot anymore (of course, in the winter, this same floor will necessitate the wearing of Ugg boots all the time, even when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night). On the weekends you take the train a few stops to Cottosloe Beach and walk from the station down, under the sighing pines and past the golf course, to the big iconic building on the beach with the echoing sandy changing rooms. You lie on the grass and watch thousands of people; you lie in the warm Indian Ocean water and let it rock you, womb-like.

Summer In Chicago

You get to the lake about five, when the light is already slanting. You climb down the rusted pipe ladder at the tip of the point and into the sloshing cool lake water, standing on the huge broken chunks of old breaks that litter the bottom (preferably the ones not slimy with algae). Some people swim out to the buoys, or across the curve to the 57th St beach, but you stay near the ladders. It’s enough to be out of the heat. After a while it gets to be almost cold, so you get out into the warm evening air, lie flat on the rocks and watch the ants crawl around and plan dinner. Which is mojitos with fresh mint and lime (add more sugar than you think), and bratwurst with mustard and chopped grilled onions, and grilled bok choy, and salad with dried cherries and walnuts and feta, and Leinie’s summer shandy. And the fireflies come out in the dim garden and you eat until you are super full and then go upstairs to watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog for the 4,532th time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chicago In Summer Part II

fresh berries
breezes off the lake (technically present in winter, but much less pleasant)
the way the trees meet over the top of the street
the smell of sunscreen wafting from passing pedestrians
flowers in gardens, flowers along the railroad tracks, flowers in planters on Michigan Avenue, flowers on the corner by the grocery store
sunbathing on the breaks by the lake
sleeping with the windows open
not having to layer
walking through people's sprinklers on the way home from work
lemonade that tastes like it did when you were little
long slow dusks

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chicago In Summer

Chicago in summer is lush and beautiful and humid and full of tourists. I went downtown today, and it was exhausting. The Mag Mile is full of Europeans and Okies and cops. (I don't remember there being that many cops last year. I'm as cynical about cops as the next person, but for the record, these cops seem to actually want to help people. They are remarkably good natured for people who are walking around in black Kevlar in 90+ degree heat, and appear to spend most of their time giving directions to tourists, ignoring jaywalkers, and looking relaxed and nonthreatening.) Everyone smells pleasantly of sunscreen and half seem to be on their way to or from the lake. It's a whole different city than winter Chicago, and it reminds you why people live here, delivers a healthy dose of amnesia, makes you forget that other city, the one with the cold wind and dirty snow and bare trees for months and months and months on end. It is a relief and a blessing, a reminder that summer means more when you have to pay for it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Today I Am Badass

As a grad student, there are very few days I feel like a badass, but today is one of them. Pending final corrections, our paper has been accepted for publication by Journal of Biogeography. Yay!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Archetypal Weather

Certain holidays call for certain kinds of weather, otherwise they don't really count. In our heads, the holidays of our childhood were always exactly like this (even though they couldn't possibly have been, and what we hold in our heads is some complex blend of memory and fiction and cultural genetics).

Halloween should be cold, but not so cold that you have to wear a coat over your costume, because that's lame. There should be, if at all possible, a full moon, and clouds scudding occasionally across it in the chilly fall breeze.

Thanksgiving should be cold too, brisk, even. It can be brightly sunny or overcast, but the crispy leaves should be blowing in the gutter, and when you go out at nighttime, full of turkey, it's always nice if it smells like snow.

Christmas should be snowy (sorry, Australia). New snow, so that it isn't dirty, preferably falling on Christmas Eve night, but gently, not a blizzard. More snow should hold off so that after presents and lunch, you can take a walk, but its ok if it starts again in the evening, as you curl up in front of the fire to admire your loot.

Easter should be the most perfect spring day imaginable, so that when you step out of church and are confronted with the impossible sweetness of the blue sky under a wash of sunshine, you truly do feel reborn.

4th of July should be hot. It should be so hot you feel like vomiting most of the time. The air should smell like sunscreen and barbeque smoke, your legs should stick to the vinyl of your lawn chair, and, by the time it gets dark, the heat should have addled your brain so much that lighting off cheap fireworks seems like a good idea.