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17 May 2011 @ 03:24 am
Bringin' the Heat  
Note: This was written back in 2000 and, though I can't say things have changed much since then, I can report that -- thankfully -- Pro Beach Hockey was cancelled immediately after the 2000 season. Wikipedia states that it was canned because ESPN didn't like the ratings, but I like to think that it was because of the number of times I used to make fun of it in my columns.


Bringin' the Heat
May, 2000

Spring has been in the air now for close to a month (I know this primarily because I'm violently allergic to it) and summer looms menacingly around the corner. Old Mister Sun is starting to wake up, and he's staring down at us with his beady little eyes and his two scoops of raisins, ready to get it on.

We all look forward to summer, some of us more than others. It doesn't mean quite as much to me as it used to: when you're young, you know, you anticipate summer like it's almost a religious experience. Summer meant that school was out, you could finally sleep in and go to parties, lay out in the sun and drink hard alcohol from the bottle until parts of you were forcibly expelled through other parts of you. These days, though, in my decrepitude, all it really means to me is that I may have made a mistake when I didn't get my car's air conditioning recharged, and that the NHL season is over so I'm stuck watching Pro Beach Hockey.

There are, though, certain things that I do look forward to with the inevitable coming of summer… and I'm not at all certain that they're good things. Most of them concern some interesting, and entirely questionable, personal lifestyle choices made by various members of our society and most of them are also very definitely funny. Also, it gives me something to write about.

Well, that is, if this summer goes down anything like the last one.

A prime example of the type of questionable lifestyle choice I'm talking about occurred last summer. In case any of you don't remember it, for a few weeks last year we had a massive heat wave inside the toxic bubble that covers most of New Jersey, and for a few days the temperature climbed well into the triple-digit mark and power started going out thanks to the drain of a million non-Energy Star-compliant air conditioners.

Right in the full brunt of this lead-melting stretch of Venusian-esque heat, when the sun was brightest in the sky and you could cook a hearty homestyle breakfast on the sidewalk, thirty or forty people from around the state decided to get together. Not at the local pool, an air conditioned terrace or even the Venera 14 landing site. No, these people gathered on the middle of a stretch of scorching blacktop to have, of all things, a RACE.

A FIVE KILOMETER race.

On FOOT!

RUNNING!

IN the heat!

What were these people thinking, you might ask. I know I did, and it so happens that, to this day, I keep a quote from one of the runners highlighted on the community rant board. It was a quote given to a newspaper reporter that asked them what they were thinking, and was supposed to answer the question of "why?":

"Because we know we can do it."

… er, wait, what?

But… but if you know that you can do it, then why do you have to actually do it? Doesn't that seem kind of redundant, and sort of pointless? I mean, hey, look, I know I can jump out of an airborne Cessna without a parachute and tied to a Loony Toons anvil or a pack full of silverware or something, but I'm not going to actually do it. The knowledge that I can is plenty for me: anything else is superfluous, and I don't need a demonstration of my free-fall ability to otherwise convince myself of something that I already know that I can do.

I bet that one thing they also know they can do now is suffer from heat stroke.

On a different note, aside from the questionable lifestyle choices like the [dated] one above, with the slow churning of summer I also get to look forward to the return of a person who I like to call Crazy Lawnmower Man: the only guy on the face of the planet who, for some inexplicable reason, feels the urge to mow his lawn four times a week with the loudest, most elderly lawnmower in existence, and always when I have the windows open and am on the phone trying to have an important conversation.

The guy is a menace. Grass doesn't grow anywhere near as fast as he cuts the stuff, and to compensate he's taken to cutting other people's lawns, in a stop-and-go fashion: he stops when I close the windows and when I re-open them, the son of a bitch starts back up. For some reason, people don't seem to try to deter him from invading their yard with his wretched noise machine. He just doesn't quit: he even tried to mow my lawn, once, and not even baseballs lobbed at him from a second story window seemed to darken his mood.

He's not as bad as the chicken, though.

The chicken, you ask? Yes, the chicken: my avian wake-up call.

In the great wonder of biological diversity that is our planet, few creatures have achieved the level of pompous, loudmouthed arrogance that the male chicken has. The rooster is, and preferably will remain, the only bird in the known history of the universe that makes a blood-curdling, belching, Pavarotti-esque squawk at the same bloody time every frikkin' morning.

And my neighbors have one.

Actually, I'm of the belief that there have to be at least three roosters crowing in unison, possibly in harmony, and I believe they may have professional PA equipment: they live a few houses down and yet the decibel level in my bedroom each morning continues to rival what Sam Kinison would sound like were he alive and living inside your Eustachian tube.

That's a fun way to wake up.

My neighbors keep their, ehrm, roostershop quartet locked up in the basement during the winter because, I guess, roosters get cold or something. Maybe they spent the winter rehearsing. Either way, during the colder months, I never hear them. Come summer, though, the barnyard strikes back and the chickens take over with their clucking and yodeling and cocka-doodle-dooing…

What the hell am I look forward to summer for, anyway?!

The more I think about it, the more I realize that, Man, summer sucks! I can't sleep, thanks to my chicken friends; I can't communicate with anyone outside my house because of Crazy Lawnmower Man and his Crazy Lawnmower Noise; I can't even watch a reasonably entertaining game of hockey. What's summer good for, anyway?

I dunno, maybe it's not good for anything… but I've already got a nearly endless supply of eggs for cooking on the sidewalk and, by God, my lawn is immaculate.

I miss winter already.

AJH