The Dog Days, a bit early

I don’t know about where you live, but around these parts, it was hot yesterday. And I when I say hot, I don’t just mean kind of warm, I mean it was like the surface of the sun, but where there was a resort on the sun with steam baths in the Swamp of Excess Moisture.

So, I guess, kind of hot and humid.

Basically, I’m talking conditions requiring a change of shirt and undergarments for any kind of excessively strenuous activity, such as walking out to your car or getting the paper.

Does anyone get the paper anymore?

Anyway, it was just plain unpleasant out, and no one would want to be out there in it. Well, except maybe for crazy people and those silly too-skinny girls that complain about being cold in the middle of the summer in Brazil.

It was the kind of day very much representative of the epic Dog Days spoken of by old guys that make a living of sitting around on porches at old country stores.

The Dog Days always make me think of video games.

I realize that for many of you, that probably doesn’t make much sense. But I remember the dreaded Dog Days coming around during those last two steamy weeks before going back to school. It was that time of summer when, after bumming around with the same four neighborhood miscreants for two months, you’d frankly grown tired of their bullshit. Grown tired of each other’s bullshit, really, as well as wiffleball, basketball, baseball, kickball, riding bikes, and building a decidedly not-up-to-local-building-code “treehouse” using pilfered castoff constructin materials.

It was the time when nearly every kid looked a little gladly, admittedly or not, towards the start of school and reuniting with friends chosen rather than the ones accepted because of geographic proximity.

With luck, you made it to the first of day school without being incriminated in anything that burned down.

Those days, the Dog Days, were pretty much always the point when, while sitting languidly on someone’s porch with sweaty hair matted to our forehead, someone would say, “want to play Nintendo?” Back in my prehistoric, Tyrannosaurus-plagued youth, the Nintendo delegated almost universally to a household’s frigid basement, which alone brought thoughts of chilly refreshment.

Hopefully, someone’s parents were feeling magnanimous enough to invite a gang of sweaty neighborhood kids into their basement. If not, you’d go your separate ways for the day and individually conquer Bowser or unlock Mega Man’s fireball attachment. Together though, if you were lucky, you’d get an hour or so to work the puzzle of Tyson’s wicked combination of punishing hits in Mike Tyson’s Super Punch Out. After that, the magnanimous parents would be tired of playing host to a loud group of obnoxious boys in the basement, and would give everyone a popsicle before sending us on our way.

Still, there was some magic there, in the desperate heat of those days. We found a way to fight together rather than fight amongst ourselves, which is usually the first option when the mercury stretches above 90.

Walking to my car yesterday evening after work, with sweat rolling down my back from the 30 second effort, I was transported back to my youth. It was hot; too hot for much of anything but hiding inside. I have to hide inside now, though. Someone pays me to do it full time. It made me a bit nostalgic for video games. Made me wish I still found time somehow to play a game or two. I don’t, anymore, though. Frankly, I’m just not a gamer these days, but that’s another post.

I realized yesterday that the Dog Days of my childhood were really a crossroads. If there was a single point when one transitioned from the old, childish grade to that newer, more mature one, it fell during those days. Days when the extreme heat and humidity meant you had something to look forward to, a new stone to step on in the path of your life.

It was hot, yesterday, Dog Days hot. It made me wonder about life’s transitions as we get older. The changes aren’t so frequent anymore, so easily marked by the passing of a few summer days. I think we all still have stones ahead of us, though; it’s just that finding them becomes harder with every year we stand still.


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