Hot Air

Don't talk about summer. Do something to make it memorable.

It hit 106 degrees last week, still in May, a full three weeks before the official start of summer. When Frank Field announced that it might even be hotter the next day, I thought to myself, "If this keeps up, we're going to have to turn the cooler on pretty soon."

Most of us live in the desert by choice; we should all embrace the heat. Not dread it, not tolerate it, embrace it. We know it's coming, we know it's going to be intense, and we also know it's eventually going to feel like it's NEVER going to go away. But then it does (often around Thanksgiving) and we're all better off for its having been here. It makes us better, it makes us stronger. It makes us Tucsonans.

Of course, there are those who can't handle it. That's why Tucson has such a high population turnover rate. People move here in droves and then they move away in mini-droves. Those who move away generally don't stick around for a second summer.

It's empowering to have a screw-you attitude about the weather. When I was a younger man, I used to run the bleachers on the west side of the UA football stadium at high noon every day of the summer. Some friends and I used to play tennis on the empty courts all afternoon. And when we took advantage of the ridiculously low summer prices at local golf courses, we wouldn't have contests to see who could shoot the lowest score, but rather to see who could finish the 18 holes in the shortest amount of time, shot tally be damned. We would tee off, pick up the bag and run to the ball, drop the bag, hit the ball and then repeat the process.

We did this 20 years ago, but now I see that the Mountain Dew crowd is trying to make it into some new kind of extreme sport.

In all fairness, this attitude can have certain drawbacks. I once worked at a summer sports camp at the UA called the National Youth Sports Program. It was for low-income kids, who were mostly minority. The kids would play different sports and then swim at the UA pool for an hour or two.

One day, just for fun, I organized a white vs. black football game with the kids. I got this black counselor to be on my team, but first he had to sing Beach Boy songs so he could be an Honorary White Guy For A Day. For hours in the blazing July sun, we laughed and played, joked and competed. The kids even voted to forego their swimming so we could finish the game.

By the time we got to lunch, word had already gotten back to the program administrators, who were aghast. The head of the program now rakes in tens of thousands of your tax dollars each year in his position as Deputy Assistant Adjunct Secretary to the Special Under-Administrative Liaison to the Superintendent's Office in the Matters of Minority Affairs, Never-Ending Half-Hearted Desegregation Efforts and other Assorted Offical and Semi-Official Scams.

He asked if we had indeed had a black vs. white football game. I told him that we had and then added that the white team had won. He got all huffy and said that I could damage the kids. I pointed to a table and said, "You mean those kids who had never said a word to each other before today but are now eating lunch together, laughing and reliving their exploits?"

He wanted me to promise that I would never do anything like that again. I muttered something about his sitting in his air-conditioned office and not connecting with the kids. So he fired me. Every now and then, I'll run into to somebody who played in that game and we'll share a laugh about it. And if anybody ever mentions the heat at all, it's like, "Remember how hot it was that day?," as though to add to the pleasure of the reminiscence.

Here are a few days you can mark on your calendar to enhance your appreciation of the summer and to make future memories. They include:

June 10. This is the day on which the sun rises the earliest, at an absurd 5:16 a.m. It does so for the next three days, as well, but then ticks up to 5:17 on June 14. It's a "Journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step" sort of thing.

June 22. The official Summer Solstice this year. Get your Druid costume and go dance around that stupid-ass sculpture in front of the Main Library.

June 21-25. Statistically, these days tie for the distinction of being the hottest day of the year. The average temperature on each of these days in 102 degrees, although it often reaches well into the one-teens. We should have a track meet or maybe a softball tournament.

July 1. A likely day for the start of the rainy season, which is defined as starting when we have three consecutive days where the dew point is 54 degrees or greater. (NOT when the humidity if 55 percent or greater, as goes the common misconception.)

July 8. That's when the sun, which had been setting at 7:34 p.m. for several days, will set at 7:33 p.m., headed for just after 5 o'clock in mid-winter. If anybody even whispers "Daylight Savings Time" to you, just imagine a summer sunset after 8:30 at night.

July 21. Statistically, this is the day on which it is most likely to rain, but even then, it has done so only 46 times in the past 108 years.

And finally there is October 8, when you go out to get the newspaper in the morning and you feel the slightest twinge of a hint of a possibility of a Change in the Weather. Another summer defanged, toyed with, vanquished and discarded.