Friday, June 30, 2006

pining for summer

It's the last day of June, but this morning it was all I could do to refrain from turning the thermostat dial up to 70. Yep. I would've turned on the heat if my conscience had let me. Instead I layered a black sweatshirt over my t-shirt and black sweatpants. This bit of accessorizing had the happy side-effect of making me look like a small disheveled ninja warrior with severe bedhead. Or so I was tactlessly told.

San Francisco has no summer.

I'm not wearing this black sweatshirt as a fashion statement, buddy. I'm no ninja. It's cold. And damp. And there's the morale-crushing weight of a summer fog hanging over the city.

Did anyone mention to the powers-that-be that it's almost July? My patriotism will be stifled if I can't wear flip-flops while I'm setting off my Safe 'n' Sane Fireworks on the 4th.

I don't bring up this business about the unseasonal cold and damp to just anyone. It's something I don't like to do, because every fool feels that it's necessary to quote Mark Twain. Or misquote Mark Twain. Or misquote what they think to be Mark Twain. They always do it with a sly smile, as if they're the first one who thought to sagely quote that bit of wit and wisdom.

Unfortunately they usually stumble over some part of it: "The coldest summer -- I mean, the coldest winter -- uh, no. I mean, the coldest SUMMER -- oh, you know what I mean. The thing Mark Twain said. You know."

I do know. That's why I don't mention the cold. I just don't want to hear it. Perhaps it's obligatory. Maybe there's some rule I don't know.

If I do the standard journalistic trick of googling for "Mark Twain" "San Francisco" quote, I get more than 326 THOUSAND hits, most with variations of that damned quote, and many with earnest travel-writerly advice to Bring a Sweater. It'll be colder than you imagined. Wear your galoshes. Wear your motherfucking down parka! And your earmuffs! Mucklucks too. In case there's a freak snowstorm. Bring an ice axe!

According to the authoritative Snopes.com, the quote is reputed to be, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." And according to Snopes, which I've always found to be reliable, Mark Twain never said nor wrote this.

If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. Say that instead. It's just as trite, but admirably inappropriate and loony. The Summer of Love was 40 years ago. The summer cold kept the flowers fresh and unwilted, I'd imagine.
So I don't complain about the lack of summer very often. Except when I'm talking to myself. Because I know better than to say that bit about the coldest winter. I know that I'd slap myself silly if I did.

But last night I felt it -- the summertime chill -- acutely. My flight landed at SFO at about 10pm. I scuttled away from my detested fellow travelers and ran up five flights of stairs in the parking garage to avoid even the distant possibility I'd get trapped in an elevator with any of them and their bloated rollerboards and sticky squalling offspring. And burst out into the summer night.

It was fucking freezing. The cold wind even made my eyes water, as if it were a brisk day in late fall and I was on my way to the homecoming game. To quarterback the team to victory! Yes, I can feel it in the cold air. The rustling of blue-and-gold pom-poms. The cheering crowds. First and ten and do it again! First and ten and do it again!

See: the unexpected chill has brought on actual delusions. It's plain old cold. Not inspiring. Not brisk. Cold.

Damn it! It's late June. Even Redmond, where I'd been during the day, had been warm. I'd felt a pleasant sense of lassitude as I wandered back from a meeting through my company's verdant corporate campus. It's a beautiful corporate campus; I can't even say anything nasty about it. Even about the use of the word "campus." I can't bring myself to do it. I'm used to a setup that's more building-building-building-parking lot-building. Maybe a marked-off place for emergency evacuations. But mostly buildings and parking lots and perhaps some HVAC apparatus in a chain-link enclosure. Like those architectural temptresses R6 and M5. Or the beguiling Building 1. Or even the lovely and talented SVC-4. Oh, maybe there's a weathered old picnic table somewhere, covered with bird shit and globs of mostly dried catsup. But nothing like this.

This corporate campus has what amounts to well-groomed hiking trails with pine needles crunching underfoot and lush expanses of grass tempting you to nap in the sun. Or at least, to bring some reading outside. It's very nice.

"Do they spray Chemlawn on the grass here?" I asked one of my colleagues.

It was warm enough that I was really tempted to sprawl on the grass. And who knows -- once you're that comfortable, soaking in the afternoon sun, maybe a primordial urge to graze will come upon you. To graze and ruminate. In the warm summer sun. Thus I needed to know about the Chemlawn.

"Chemlawn? No. I don't think so," he said.

I wouldn't be thinking about Chemlawn here in San Francisco. Because it's too cold to be ruminating. I'd be shivering and thinking about going inside. I'd be able to retain my cynicism about corporate campuses.

Not far from my building in Redmond there's a small pond. Koi circle in the just-right murkiness. A few geese wander on the shore. There aren't enough of them to be a menace, just a few. Clusters of nerds migrate from Building 4 to Building 9. And it's warm. Winter's over. I'm tempted to take off my shoes.

But now I'm back in San Francisco. Oh sure, there'll be a few hot days in September, days that'll remind you that no-one bothers installing air conditioning in San Francisco. Days where the boys down in the Castro will be wearing their short-shorts and strutting their stuff. Nights where we'll open all the screenless windows and lie in the dark, serenaded by the endless whine of mosquitoes.

There aren't very many days like that. And because we don't have them, I miss them.

So until global warming takes hold, I'll be following my errant suitcase and going somewhere else -- anywhere else -- because IT'S WARMER.

4 Comments:

Blogger xm said...

i always thought the whether influences peoples' hinking and their writings. nobody ever believes me. i guess that this is true now!

btw, where/how do you get the cool images, annotating your thoughts?

/xm

1:38 PM  
Blogger xm said...

sorry, thinking (not hinking)!

/xm

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Jaina Bee said...

What I want to know is, who did say that quote, and how did Twain get mixed up with it?!?!?

4:02 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Since the quote is unattributed, we could auction it off on eBay and use it to buy gigantic space heaters with which to heat San Francisco.

I'm sure I'd go outside more.

4:33 PM  

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