Yesterday, the first day of fall, landed with a beautiful bang — low 70s, intermittent cloudbursts, followed by the gauzy autumnal light that streaks so nicely through the clouds and on breeze-blown trees. I almost wept. Today’s forecast: sunshine and 63 degrees. The soundtrack: rustling leaves. Be still my beating heart.
I banish sweat and sun, beach parties, barbecues and Birkenstocks. People moan about seasonal depression right about now. I get that in the spring; setting the clock forward is a ritual of exquisite distress. It was George Harrison who sang that euphoric earworm of misguided seasonal optimism, “Here Comes the Sun.” Damn him.
Harrison, in my book, is inviolable. Then there are the real musical scofflaws, whose seemingly every tune is a cloying summer anthem, trilling about sand, surf, girls, cars and other frolicsome “fun.” That’s why the Beach Boys are the worst band ever.
Fall is when I shop for clothing, like a trio of chilly-ready shirts and a Bond-worthy waxed jacked from Barbour (on sale, natch). They’re perfect for my annual fall journey, this one to Spain happening the day before that quintessential fall-iday, Halloween. Face it: Halloween beats Easter, July 4th and Labor Day in any back alley brawl.
I fall for fall. I embrace shorter days, cool weather, scattered leaves and natty scarves, while spurning the obnoxiousness of football and cutesy orgies of pumpkin-flavored confections. I read today there are people who suffer “autumnal existential dread.” The article said: “The melancholy we feel is a form of grief, mourning the lost sunlight, the ease of summertime, and the greenery that abounds in the warm weather.” Boo-hoo.
I pity you not. In fact I kick up my heels and do a leprechaun jig to the staccato rhythm of my own gleeful chuckles. Fall is here. And guess what? Winter, that frosty front of misery for most, is right around the corner. Bring it on. I’ve got the jacket for it.
“Throughout August, with almost sadistic joy, I watch summer slowly die.” — musician-poet Henry Rollins
Today, in the first week of August, my niece was rattling off why fall is her favorite season and she slipped into this refrain:
“No bugs! No bugs! No bugs!”
I almost applauded. Fall is my favorite season, too (winter’s a close second, or maybe they’re tied). I can’t do summer. I don’t do summer. August is the cruelest month — it spews volcanic heat, it seems to last an eternity — but when it arrives I count the days of summer’s final steamy breaths. September is around the bend. It won’t be long till I can slip on a jacket. The anticipation’s killing me.
In summer the heat’s too murderous, the days are too long and the pants too short. We know this. But some of us actually like this. Everyone chirps about how nice it is outside at a torrid 88 degrees. They start eating outdoors, drinking beer in blazing sunlight. I’m vampiric. There are outdoorsy people, then there’s me. I’m indoorsy. “Sun and fun” don’t compute. (One word: barbecues.) Like a possum, I’m a nocturnal creature. I crave the dark. Now, where’s the AC?
No one likes humidity, but that’s one of the joyous gifts of summertime. I have pretty curly hair that swells and swirls in the humid soup, until it shares attributes with the protagonist in “Eraserhead.” Humidity is the devil’s flatulence.
I’d rather shiver than sweat. I lived for years in Texas, where summer lasts 10 months out of the year and sweating is a way of life. It’s one of those places where when you sit outside at a bar you get soaked by misters. Sweat and mist. Bring a towel, slicker and umbrella.
I travel a lot but never during the summer — the rigged prices, the crowds, the heat exacerbated by global warming. (Those scourging heat waves in, of all places, London and Paris are a scandal.) Tropical “paradises” are off the table, though I hold dear my spring and fall trips to Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong and India, epicenters of perspiration. I was positively soaked-through the whole time during all of them. From India I flew to Nepal just to cool off near the Himalayas and breathe relatively fresher mountain air. In Thailand, I got sun poisoning. That’s a long, humiliating story, featuring one beach, eight hours and zero sunscreen. (The upshot: I could barely move my swollen legs and I had to drink two gallons of water a day.)
I thrive on fall and winter’s cooler temperatures and shorter light cycle. Long sleeves and jeans happily return. Kids go back to school. Arts seasons commence and prestige pictures fill movie screens. (The monstrous snowfall, you say? I can’t hear you.)
What about blameless spring, with its temperate climes and floral efflorescence? Careful, spring can get you too. That’s why it’s my second least favorite season, with all of its pesky augurs of summer: rising temperatures, plants and pollen, picnics, longer days, and, of course, those bugs, bugs, bugs.
When summer goes skedaddle, these things go with it: outdoor music festivals, flip-flops, exposed hairy legs, beach outings, tank-tops, camping, sunburn, restaurant patios, body odor, baseball, “The Emoji Movie,” hidden tattoos, small-town parades, parasails, Toyota Summer Sales Events, rattling, weeping window ACs, people named Jasmine and Tyler.
Summer’s dragon’s fire will soon be extinguished by the crisp gusts of autumn. Turning leaves, shorter days, harvest moons, soup, fall TV, Halloween. Halloween is a big one. It’s way up there on my niece’s list of fall glories. (Since I travel so much in autumn, I’ve done Halloween in London, Paris, Beirut, Ho Chi Minh City, Kathmandu and Sevilla. Each city bumbles the American holiday. For now, it’s strictly amateur hour.)
And yet there are six calendar weeks left of the warm stuff, so maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. But I don’t think so. August is the last hurrah, the season’s dying gasp, and it’s here and, with sunglasses tucked away, we are ticking off the days, closely, carefully, ecstatically.