Today, the first of August, is the first day of the last (technical) full month of summer. It has been warm for what feels like eons. Parts of the Arctic are on fire. Europe experienced a heat wave unlike anything in recorded history. There are alligators swimming in suburban pools, and everyone, including your best friend and your best frenemy, are sitting near a body of water and eating pasta salad, while you, sad sack, are not. Summer is (still) here, but it’s bad.
Much like bad winter, a controversial period of time, the August reckoning is the point in the season when all the summer activities you were once excited about have come to pass. July brings fireworks, hot dogs, excitement, and real warm weather—none of June’s namby-pamby, is-this-summer-or-just-rain-and-mild-humidity waffling. The beach, if you want, is there! So is a pool, or a small vacation, or maybe a weekend doing nothing because everyone else you know is at a wedding or a beach house or both, and so you are alone—blissful and free—with your thoughts.
For summer fetishists, August is a period of mourning, with every ice cream cone or outside wine logged as possibly the season’s last. It is still hot, the electricity bill still too high, but the light is starting to dim earlier and earlier in a noticeable way. That quiet darkening portends winter’s arrival—depressing, sure, but also in some ways a relief. Finally, some peace from the sun’s relentless burn. Weather-wise, August’s misery is worse than July’s because the heat feels worse. Every clothing item that was adorable in June is now limp and boring and possibly stained with ranch dressing. If you live in a city with a vibrant cockroach community, they have begun to appear in droves, sometimes alive, and sometimes dead, but still present nonetheless, flapping their papery wings and skittering into the humid night.
In New York, the beautiful city in which I have chosen to make my home, the streets are often filled with mountains of garbage that scent the sweet midsummer air with various aromas. Garbage smell is everywhere, despite the season, but summer is when garbage odor peaks. Every city certainly has its own specific trash aroma. I have pinpointed New York City’s as slightly expired yogurt with a base note of urine and rotten fruit.
August is the month in which plans long put on ice at summer’s start come to fruition—plans that you agreed to, maybe, under the influence of an early-season outdoor beverage or your own brief enthusiasm, only to be greeted with the harsh reality of said plan when it actually approaches. An outdoor concert in the middle of August sounds like a perfect plan in June, but when August actually rolls around, the thought of sitting on a blanket in the sun while trying to hear live music is less appealing. The only acceptable bad-summer activities are largely solitary: sitting inside watching television; making out with someone you like in strong central air-conditioning; re-discovering an appreciation for Jello. These activities can be done in July, June, or even March, but they’re just that much better in August, when the body tires of being hot and wishes for reprieve.
Bad summer is one month with only a few spots of bright, specifically for those who live in towns and cities across this nation that have a high concentration of Burning Man attendees. For one glorious week, the streets feel a little emptier and the bar you like with the dark booths and the nice outside, is actually habitable. Bad summer turns decent. Cherish that.