Is The Living Easy Yet?

by Belle Waring on May 30, 2017

Summer is stipulated to begin on Memorial Day in the US. I’m pretty sure everyone else just starts it on June 1 like normal people. At any rate it’s almost summer in the northern hemisphere. Here in Singapore the days are lengthening by…seconds and headed for the solstice when the day will be 3 minutes longer than the night–which is totally imperceptible. Why not listen to Hot Hot Summer Day, an underappreciated but very awesome song from the Sugarhill Gang.

The more obvious classic is DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s Summertime, which has the advantage of having a great video.

Is it hot where y’all are? Are your kids about to get out of school and be on your hands the whole summer? Do you have screentime limits for them so people don’t just play video games and dork around on the loserweb all day? We are struggling to implement this. (Perhaps because this may be one of those ‘do as I say not as I do’ situations.) International school here ends on the 16th and John needs to be back in early August, so on the 20th we begin our dizzying yearly trek across all of fracking America, including stops in Arizona, D.C., West Virginia, and South Carolina, flying via Japan and Los Angeles. Kind of a drag but got to see that beloved family. Tell me of your plans Plain People of Crooked Timber (I am aware that they may be ‘work all summer you idiot; not everyone is an academic or has children to entertain’).



John Quiggin 05.30.17 at 2:21 am

In Queensland, we usually hold winter on a Saturday in June or July. Last year we had two, which is kind of like a Blue Moon.


George de Verges 05.30.17 at 2:45 am

When our children were young we lived in Massachusetts, and every summer we would drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where our families lived. When I was young, we drove every summer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to New Orleans, LA, where my parents’ families lived. Lots of funny stories, none that would entertain anyone else, but just the sort of family stories that constitute part of your life narrative. Now everyone is grown, and we have no trek scheduled. Much easier for the old, but with a loss of a sense of family purpose. As awful as your trek across the US will be, has been, and is, (and you do have my sympathy) you will miss the trip when your children are grown.


J-D 05.30.17 at 3:42 am

Is it hot where y’all are?

No, it’s just started turning cold enough for people to complain a little about it.

Are your kids about to get out of school and be on your hands the whole summer?

It’s her twenty-first birthday on Monday …


Yankee 05.30.17 at 4:14 am

Here on the Oregon coast we had a few days of sunshine last week where it got well into the 70’s. Today was overcast but it didn’t rain hardly at all. ‘Taters are doing well. Also, and you kids can just hip and hop off my lawn.


Yankee 05.30.17 at 4:16 am

well I did something wrong, sorry. Lovin’ Spoonful:


derrida derider 05.30.17 at 4:19 am

Oh come on, John, I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate. I believe in southern Queensland the winter can last anything up to a week.

Maybe you’re just anticipating AGW a little early – don’t worry, in time your house will be closer to the beach.


dr ngo 05.30.17 at 4:55 am

I’m amazed I’m the first to link the classic Eddie Cochran, “Summertime Blues” –

As for those of us in our sunset years, summer means getting in the pool at last, but otherwise – no travel, no vacation from our retirement, no kids within a thousand miles (alas) – pretty much the life of the Reillys, if they were old and clapped out. If your travel to South Carolina falls short, we’d love to see you in North Carolina, once famous as a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit [SC and Virginia].


pomo queer theorist 05.30.17 at 6:11 am

neither an academic nor a parent but i do still get to live in my parents’ basement and eat their food (occasionally) three months out of the year.

I’m starting HRT in exactly seven days (small yay) and plan to hang out with some old friends at Boston Pride.

I’m also spending a lot of time on programming projects I didn’t want to start in the middle of the year for fear of distraction, among them a news aggregator for the new JSON Feed syndication standard, following up on a microkernel tutorial I started months ago and didn’t finish, and some problems on Project Euler and Google Foobar.

And of course reading tons of books that I barely understand only to butcher them regularly ’round here with “the enthusiasm of a youthful convert to an ideology” if that’s more your speed. (I kid)


Ingrid Robeyns 05.30.17 at 11:03 am

it’s very hot for it being the end of May in the Netherlands. But I’m not sure it will last long. Kids are still in school until the end of the first week of July, and have only 6 weeks of annual Summer holidays. Somehow I think this is quite short in international comparisons, but I may be wrong. And, frankly, as a working parent this suits me well. Any countries having shorter (primary) school holidays?


SamChevre 05.30.17 at 12:23 pm

Well, when I moved to Massachusetts one of my neighbors in Virginia warned me that it was one of those places with only two seasons–winter and the 4th of July. But I love the endless spring that gets called summer. My wife and the children will go to Virginia for a few weeks, and in August we’ll go to Kentucky to see my family and the eclipse.

Otherwise, I’ll be working; spreadsheets don’t really care much about weather.


Russell L. Carter 05.30.17 at 2:33 pm

Since you’re likely flying into PHX in June/July, you’re going to get to experience real heat. Not 2-3 line to Brooklyn at 5pm in July heat. *Real* heat. I’ll wave from my cool mountain perch as your plane descends into hell.

My wife’s parents used to pack two kids into a an ancient volvo station wagon and every summer drive two days from Athens GA to western Minnesota for two weeks, and then drive back. They did this 20 years in a row. I did it once with them, oh so many years ago. That made five in the car. You can imagine. It was an experience. We all still get along, amazingly.


Rob Chametzky 05.30.17 at 3:17 pm

” . . . (I am aware that they may be ‘work all summer you idiot; not everyone is an academic . . . .”

Through no fault of my own, I was born of academics. I recall as a child FIGURING OUT that not everyone had “summer vacation”. We were going to Cape Cod or Maine, or someplace, as was our wont (we started in New England, so not a big drive), and I noticed that the local stores were open and the people who always worked in them were, indeed, working in them. From these facts I deduced the nonuniversality of summer vacation.

I suspect this combination of general ignorance, observation of the obvious, and reasoning to the given has marked me ever since.



Dave Maier 05.30.17 at 4:10 pm

I hear you, Russell! When I was a kid, every year all four of us piled into the Galaxie 500 and drove from PA to Colorado and New Mexico (with stops for uncles and grandparents in Kansas and Oklahoma). Once we drove to Vancouver, and once we drove to Acapulco (!) [you want hot, try El Paso in August]. On the Canada trip my mom made us for lunch, every damn day, cheddar cheese sandwiches on whole-wheat bread, with butter (bleah). I would have killed for a hamburger.

As for this summer (since you ask nicely, Belle), I plan to fire up my new (ok, used off eBay) Kyma Pacarana and mangle some shortwave sounds I’ve been recording within an inch of their lives, and layer them into a hellish miasma of sound (although tbh they already sound pretty mangled). Or possibly a serene reverb-drenched dreamscape, we’ll see. Although I suppose indulging in this hoity-toity coastal-elite pursuit might mean that I am not a Plain Person after all (your call).


Omega Centauri 05.30.17 at 5:12 pm

Out here in a place I think of as The Daeth Valley of the Bay area, I figure summer is May through
the end of September. We’ve already had 100. But mostly we’ve had low pressure system after low pressure system, bring cool winds, (like today).

Grownup kids are not too far away -in fact two are living at home, the other is only 45miles away. He was to spend the summer in Europe, but an achilles tendon problem meant that is off. Had them all home over the long weekend. Parents have already departed this earth, so not too
much in the way of travel to visit family.

As a kid, we belonged to a “beach club” -actually a swimming pool. Spent summers in the water, and doing swim team workouts and such.


Bill Benzon 05.30.17 at 5:49 pm

Currently 60º in Jersey City (1:49 PM), with is a bit cool for this time of year. It has been up to 90º within the past month, which is a bit warm.


bjk 05.30.17 at 5:55 pm

Hang out around the pool at the Terror club, that’s what I would recommend.


Doug K 05.30.17 at 7:10 pm

in South Africa summer started on the spring equinox, September 21st or thereabouts.
After thirty years in the USA I’m still not used to a summer that starts 3 weeks before midsummer night.. always feel cheated.

Similarly the long US summer holidays are odd to those of us who came from elsewhere. We never made long summer trips with the kids, preferring to visit family in the Southern summers, taking the kids out of school to do it. That ceased to be an option once they hit middle school though. Most summers since then involved a number of Boy Scout trips, each of which nearly killed me. I’m glad to have survived to a summer that is just desk work..

This year, going to work all summer as usual, with a week in Tijuana building houses at an Orthodox monastery, on a church trip. Then five days in San Diego to recover.
Hope for a backpacking trip to the high Rockies on one weekend or another, depending on work schedules of the kids, poor brutes.


Ogden Wernstrom 05.30.17 at 7:41 pm

When I was a child, our family summer road trips were usually planned around art shows and galleries – where my father would sell his work. For fun, we would go on family backpacking trips (or join a group of the Obsidians). (When I later tried joining the Boy Sprouts, I did not much enjoy the swath of destruction that was “camping”.)

I was over 40 before I had the more-traditional road trip. When we have had foreign-exchange students staying with us, my wife likes to give them the suburban-American family road trip experience in the western US – for example: Crater Lake NP, drive through a redwood tree, some touristy sampling of San Francisco, amusement parks in Southern California, maybe the San Diego Zoo. A couple of the students were interested in seeing cowboys – and got to go to a Roundup.


TheSophist 05.30.17 at 9:12 pm

My solution to the Phoenix heat (we’ve already had a 109 this year – I believe on the Fahrenheit scale, but it might have been Celsius) is to get out of town for as long as possible. We get done for the year 6/9, and I’m on a plane to Europe on the tenth. The former E Germany, and the (hopefully still uninvaded) Baltic states are the itinerary.

Belle- if you guys are going to be in Phx after about 7/27, drop me a line. I’d love to buy you all a coffee and some gelato.


J-D 05.31.17 at 2:13 am

Ingrid Robeyns
In Australia six to seven weeks is typical for the summer school holidays.


Harry 05.31.17 at 2:52 am

Summer holidays in the UK are roughly 6 weeks (for schools).
In most US schools it is 10 weeks. Some districts have gone to a non-agricultural economy based schedule and have only a month (and longer vacations at other times of the year). I can’t imagine why — as every school board member knows, 95% of US children still work on farms which is why we have to start and end very early and have long summers.

Belle — forgive the visuals (no idea where they come from), but here is one of my favourite Loudon Wainwright songs — Summer’s Almost Over:


ozma 05.31.17 at 3:11 am

We have weak limits but our main method is distraction. I like Ogden’s idea. We sort of do that in a less extensive way. Minor camping trips, one international visit-the-relatives trip, a lot of roaming around when there is free time that they complain about with great ferocity and yet still seem to enjoy.


ozajh 05.31.17 at 3:37 am

Where I live in Australia (a lot further south than JQ) we’ve just had the first series of night-time temperatures below zero (Celsius). Nothing by the standards of many parts of the US, but here it means winter has definitely arrived.

Out of idle curiosity, does the title have any connection to the chorus of the late Billy Thorpe’s It’s Almost Summer?


Jason Weidner 05.31.17 at 4:31 am

My son’s last week of school in Miami is next week. Here in Mexico, where he will spend the summer with me, the last day of school is … July 17. Insane. So there are no summer programs until the second half of July. Oh, and university classes resume the second week of August. No bueno.


Jason Weidner 05.31.17 at 4:34 am


Belle Waring 05.31.17 at 8:48 am

My mom is a Wainwright btw he and Rufus are cousins of ours. I don’t really know them but my mom does.


harry b 05.31.17 at 12:13 pm

I know that!
One of the reasons I like Loudon so much, and liked T-shirt in particular, is that he is so unlike me in just about every way… (two songs on T-shirt — Summer’s Almost Over, and Prince Hal’s Dirge — revealed to me in my teens with particular force that there were other ways of being. And they weren’t mine!)


Katsue 05.31.17 at 12:47 pm

I was taught in school that May Day was the first day of summer, though it usually doesn’t feel like it. Secondary schools are generally closed for the months of June (the exam month), July and August.

The weather lately has been swelteringly hot, with occasional lashing rain, particularly last Saturday and at lunchtime yesterday.


Brian Weatherson 05.31.17 at 1:52 pm

Following up on J-D and Ingrid, Victoria has 5 week summer holidays, and that includes the time off for Christmas. Term Dates for Victoria


Jim Vandewalker 05.31.17 at 7:06 pm

People who don’t live here think of Florida as all beaches or swamps,
but the part I live in is sandspurs and palmetto and oak hammock.
“Hammock” comes from an Injun word that means “shady place,” and
starting about two weeks ago, “shady place” is what all us old lizards
look for.

I was brought up here, way before home air conditioning, so I know that
when it gets like this you just find a place off that hot sand and don’t
move much. Old time Florida people estivate. When I was a kid, at the
begining of summer we went down to the lake that was three blocks away
from my house and laid in the mud right beside the gators and catfish
and we stayed there until Labor Day.

But the crazy people who moved here since the Advent of the Amana run around a lot even in the hot weather. The men wear coats and ties and
turn the office thermostats down to about 68, and the women pile on the
pantyhose and power suits, and then they scuttle from office to car and
don’t think about how much gas they’re burning while they try to cool
down that huge expanse of windshield. They live in apartment complexes
with big pools but they stay in their apartments with those thermostats
turned to Blast Freeze and watch tennis players sweat on TV.

They talk fast, and wave their arms and summer is always a big surprise.
“This heat is just unbelievable. ” It’s not the heat, you know, it’s the

The old-timers had their limitations too, though. April is the cruelest
month in Florida, because it’s the dry season. Summer rains don’t
usually start until about June, and every April and May the crackers
would start talking like it wasn’t never gonna rain again. But every
year June would see the afternoon and evening thundershower-machine
cranked up one more time. Just about every day between the first of
June and the end of September if you go outside in the late afternoon
you could drown if you look up.

That hasn’t started yet this year, and the e-coli count’s too high in
the lake and anyway I’m not personally acquainted with them new gators
and catfish, so I’m thinking about when we used go to the beach.

Tourists know about Daytona and Miami, but Daytona’s just a parking lot
with water on one side and Miami’s got the worst beach of anywhere —
it’s got the texture of pounded concrete and it’s covered in globs of
oil. No kidding. The set of the Gulf Stream is such that all the swill
from all the bilges of all freighters in the Gulf of Mexico and the
Carribean washes up on Miami beach and sticks to your feet. Standard
giveaway in Atlantic beach motels is a little foil packed towellete
pre-moistened with mineral spirits to wipe the sticky globs of oil off
your feet. And other body parts, too, I guess, if you’re dumb enough to
let ’em come in contact with the beach.

No, we went to where all decent central Florida people go to the beach,
and that’s the Gulf beaches. Anna Maria (pronounced by the
knowledgeable as “Ann-a Muh-RYE-uh”) and Holmes Beach are old Florida
funky places off the coast of Bradenton. Longboat Key, just to the south
used to be pretty good, but it’s covered with condominiums now, with names
like “The Breakers at Cay Royale,” and looks just like Vail, CO, with
salt water. It’s full of Republicans who stay inside.

We stayed at an old mom-n-pop motel a half a block from the beach. The
rooms were hardly big enough to turn around in, but for old lizards it was
just a place to get out of the midday sun. Since the Gulf beaches are on
the west side of the peninsula, it could be quite pleasant on the beach in
the morning. If you hit the beach early you saw old people. They fell
into two categories: The leathery walkers may have had some belly on them
but they had legs like ostriches. Also, many of them had stitch marks
up the center of their chests indicating various cardiac intervention
procedures. They were generally tanned like rich Cordovan leather. The
other group tended to be stationary with tubular legs. They stood in the low Gulf surf and smoked. Early in the day they were pale — later on they would be flame red.

In the morning the best place to go for breakfast was Ato’s which was a
Polynesian (actually Samoan) place. You could get pancakes with pineapple
and coconut syrup. It was no bigger than your living room and had about 12
tables and there was a 20 to 30 minute wait, and the staff really were
Samoan. After that you were ready for the beach.

Along about 11, when the sun really stared to get authoritative, we’d head
back to the room, replenish fluids, have a little siesta, blink back to
semi-consciousness late in the afternoon, slither back to the beach and
watch the sun go down. A restrained round of applause was not out of place
for a particularly fine sunset. Then we’d find a seafood place and eat grouper
and redfish and shrimp. St.Armand’s Circle on Longboat Key has an
extremely pleasant sidewalk cafe where you can eavesdrop on rich people
(most of whom are dead boring — they spend all their time talking about
real estate and financial planning, nothing about sex, drugs or where you can get really good crab cakes).

Back up at Anna Maria the eateries are funkier. Rotten Ralph’s is at a
marina on the bay side. The best place to sit is out on the dock right
over the water where you can look at a huge expanse of incredibly
expensive and seldom used toys. They are up to 40 feet long and have
enormous diesel engines. The waitpersons clear off the tables there by
scraping the plates of leftover fish into the water. Where other fish
know they can come up and get a snack of their relatives and friends.

Not the sort of thing you want to meditate on when driving back home
through the parched Florida scrub with the sunlight coming down like
spears. Those miles of two-lane blacktop with turkey vultures wheeling
overhead breed some dark thoughts in the searing light before the rains
finally come.


js. 05.31.17 at 7:23 pm

Up here in the Northeast (Boston / NYC), it’s been unseasonably cold and gray and rainy all month. Frankly, this is not the global warming I’d been promised* and I’m quite unhappy about it.

*This is a joke.


oldster 05.31.17 at 7:40 pm

Jim Vandewalker–nicely done.


Russell L. Carter 05.31.17 at 8:30 pm

“Those miles of two-lane blacktop with turkey vultures wheeling
overhead breed some dark thoughts in the searing light before the rains
finally come.”

Jim, I once nearly blinded myself driving from Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale after the end of spring quarter at school. Growing up in south Florida I never used sunglasses. Or sunscreen, quite idiotically, leading to complications later on. The “searing light” from the southern third of GA to past Orlando in May is a thing. However, it’s got nothing on AZ at elevation in June.

I’m a third gen south Floridian too, living in the west since I escaped my cracker family. (I’m a cracker, *and* I’ve read my Matthiessen, so I can call myself what I want) True fact: my wife and I lived in Gainesville for two years with no AC in the house or the car. Movie theatres are nice and cool and dark in the summer afternoons. We didn’t think anything of it. Speaking of Matthiesen, I read “Killing Mr. Watson” and even now I get goose bumps thinking about it because for me, that’s not fiction, that’s exactly the way real life living in the Everglades and traveling all over FL was for my family. Uncanny. That’s how those people are! My people. Sanchez’s Mile Zero is a little too accurate too. I spent a lot of time in the Keys growing up.

Though here’s the thing. We moved from G-town to Tempe AZ with the no-AC car, and entered a different heat dimension entirely. Now it’s true the humidity is the killer, but non-Zonies don’t generally know that July-August in AZ is monsoon season. You can enjoy your 110F along with a thunderstorm only generating virga (to make it nice and moist) and a windstorm that kicks up a dust storm (coating your sweating body). If you don’t have AC in the car, it’s a good idea to roll up the windows when traveling on the freeway in the summer. We *love* AC now, and have ensconsed ourselves at 5500′ to fix the heat and monsoon problem. Now I get a wonderful monsoon that looks like summer in South Florida, but 15F cooler.


Val 05.31.17 at 10:36 pm

Since no-one else has linked it yet

@23 ozahj I’m pretty sure this is your answer (if it works)

First day of winter in Melbourne, not too cold yet, probably similar to Boston summer :)
(No I just checked, it is actually colder)


Peter Hovde 06.01.17 at 1:08 am

Well, not only was I sweaty and uncomfortable in Philly today, but I saw my first fireflies of the season. So I guess it’s official:


engels 06.01.17 at 10:38 pm

Turned out nice!

…Only eight miles remain until the crack in the Larsen C ice shelf cuts all the way across, producing an iceberg about the size of the state of Delaware….


Belle Waring 06.02.17 at 2:36 am

Thanks Jim that was really nice. I’t very similar in Bluffton, S.C. at my dad’s, where we had no AC until I was 27 or something, barring a few times when we kids were very little and we got a box window unit and all slept in there. We swim off the dock when the tide is right (not dead low, hopefully not going to kill us). The beach at Hilton Head is quite nice but has the same dichotomous population of old people.


Val 06.02.17 at 3:06 am

yep I refrained from saying anything about climate change before, not wanting to spoil the party. But given that Trump has now pulled out of the Paris Accord, no more tiptoeing around it.

I’m really trying not to blame all Americans for what has happened, but I hope every single one of you is taking time out of any holidays that you may be enjoying to let your execrable leader know what you think of this latest decision.

Don’t let him speak for you if you want your kids and grandkids to enjoy summers that are liveable – for human beings and other species.


Val 06.02.17 at 3:17 am

This is about Phoenix:

“One great challenge for creating climate health equity in cities is the legacy of urban development that has left poor and minority populations in deteriorated urban spaces where there are structural constraints on improving environmental conditions. The locations of neighborhoods near transportation routes and industrial corridors result from historical patterns of enforced segregation, zoning regulations, and other municipal decisions, which are part of an on-going process of environmental inequality
formation (Pellow, 2000). In order to reverse decades of disadvantage, a planned municipal and regional strategy for facilitating neighbourhood social networks, granting greater community control over adjacent land use, and enforcement of
environmental laws will be needed.”

From ‘Neighborhood microclimates and vulnerability to heat stress’ (2006) Sharon L. Harlan, Anthony J. Brazel, Lela Prashad, William L. Stefanov, Larissa Larsen

Hopefully the cities and states are tackling this, because I guess the EPA under Trump isn’t going to. People die in heatwaves.


William Timberman 06.02.17 at 7:07 am

1954-55 in Dothan, Alabama, which is sorta, kinda, almost Florida. Small post-war house with pale yellow asbestos siding cracked and nibbled here and there by errant baseballs, One magnolia tree in the front yard, in the back yard live mimosa trees and dead grass. No proper air conditioning, but we did have swamp coolers and fire ants.

2003-present in but-its-a-dry-heat Arizona. Air conditioning and lizards, lots of lizards, but not so many this year, as the nesting pair of roadrunners in the pomegranate tree next door fed a goodly number of them to their chicks this Spring. Seemed like every time I went into the back yard, the male, who took his duties seriously, would zip past me with one dangling from his beak, on his way back to the missus and the kids. I found myself wondering how you say Honey, I’m home in roadrunner. (And no, the real ones don’t go beep-beep, but they do make several other interesting and unique noises.)

So, summer…. The state legislators here are awful regardless of the season, but the road runners and ravens are both wise and entertaining, and are always available to help shore up a besieged librul’s eroding sanity, along with Panama hats, Hawaiian shirts, and mojitos. God bless ’em one and all.


Thomas 06.02.17 at 9:37 am

I grew up on a farm and during summer vacations we were put to work making hay, spread the cut grass in the morning and raking it together at night so that dew would only get on a small fraction of the cut grass. Then in the morning it would be spread again by means of a horse- drawn contraption. The kids were riding the contraption and directing the horse so that the adults could be freed to do the physically challenging stuff.

So no summer road trips, but everybody around us worked in similar ways so we did not know what we were missing. All gone now, covered by suburbia, the value was not in what we were producing but in the land we were producing on. But a great way to grow up, learning to contribute and be held responsible at an early age. And there was still enough time for mischief.

So this destined to be a sheep farmer became an academic, moved half-way around the globe and will be spending half of his glorious summer hiking the Pyrennees from the Bay of Biscaye to the Mediterranean, from Basque country to Catalonia.


JPL 06.03.17 at 9:26 am

Thanks for the music, Belle. I’d never heard either of these songs before, but you can hear, right throughout Will Smith’s “new [musical] definition” of the notion, the languid chords of Kool and the Gang’s “Summer madness” (1974), maybe (I’m guessing) one of the most sampled tunes of all time. I don’t know who sampled it first, but judging from its importance as an inspiration for this song, this Fresh Prince track could have been an early one. “Here it is, a groove slightly transformed….” Well here it is, the classic groove:


CDT 06.03.17 at 3:50 pm

Amazing number of us Phoenicians here. Summer has indeed arrived and it only gets worse until early October. The City of Phoenix actually has a robust sustainability program that involves, in part, combatting the urban heat island effect with shade and massive tree planting. ASU has a good sustainability program gram as well. And U of A in Tucson has a great Hydrogeology program. If you must be in Arizona in the summer, the higher, the better (say, Flagstaff or Sedona). I recommend the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix and Out of Africa wildlife park, an hour or so north of town on the res. One bit of solace is that summer drives away the snowbirds and makes it easier to get around and into restaurants. Phoenix has a bunch.


Jim Vandewalker 06.03.17 at 8:56 pm

Belle: Thank you for the kind word. I’m always glad when I click on Crooked Timber and find a new Belle post.

Comments on this entry are closed.