As mentioned previously, we have definitely entered the ass-end of August. Even the most measured and serene of observers have expressed their displeasure with the closing of the season. Salon’s Rebecca Traister goes so far as to call it “one of the most cheerless on record.” But is it really as bad as all that?
I can certainly see the argument. The oppressive heat and humidity have made the act of venturing out so unpleasant that even when you arrive at an event which might otherwise bring you some modicum of joy you are already so wilted and irate that there’s no salve to restore your cheer. Plus, you’re counting your pennies and drinking the kind of crap you haven’t slugged back since college and wondering whether you should make an early exit lest you find yourself on the hook for another round.
There’s not much to do if you stay in either. Except for “Mad Men” and “Louie,” TV is a rocky shoal littered with reality-show detritus and “Lifetime” movies, which you now watch unironically and without guilt, and your acceptance of this passivity inspires more self-loathing than any hour you devote to “The Bachelor Pad” ever could. Maybe you could read a book, except your attention span has been decimated by years of blogskimming, and you can’t go more than three pages without giving yourself some excuse to see if someone has tweeted at you or forwarded an amusing Taiwanese CGI take on the news. You’ll buy the new Franzen, but it will sit there unopened, silently mocking you. Then it will audibly mock you, probably in that annoying, draggy voice poets use when they read their work in public. Eventually you will shove it under the bed, where at least it can stay up late having college-dorm conversations with Chronic City.
The world at large proves no more uplifting: clear and present environmental disasters on nearly every continent augur the looming worldwide environmental disaster we all know is coming but refuse to do anything about. We are still at war, and if the more aggressive elements have their way we will find ourselves involved in even more conflicts. At home, our politics are defined by invective and intransigence; our flawed system and damaged economy has caused so much frustration that the electorate is poised-after the briefest of exiles-to return the levers of power to the feckless cynics who brought this disaster on us in the first place. Duplicitous commentators condemn our nation’s destruction of its proud manufacturing base without ever noting the role they themselves played as handmaiden to the architects of that destruction.
God knows if there’s ever going to be a new James Bond movie.
And still, let me offer you one bit of hope. It is anecdotal, to be sure. I have no facts or figures to back it up, only my limited powers of observation. But when I look around these days, at the bars, at rooftop parties, on the streets and avenues of this still-great city, I see an army of young people out there having a good time. They retain all the optimism of youth. Their prospects may be just as grim as everyone else’s, but they don’t let that affect them. They use their relative poverty to their advantage, creating fun through thrift. They are building the very memories that they will look back on a couple of decades from now and think, “Man, that was the greatest summer ever.”
And it will absolutely be true. Two decades from now we will all be bog people living in warring tribes among the marshes of the New Jersey Meadowlands, skinning rats to provide pelts for warmth and eating their chemically-infested flesh for the tiny bits of protein we are able to provide to our bodies. As the kids of today huddle around the tire fires of tomorrow, they will tell stories to their undersized, two-headed children (assuming mankind remains fertile then) about those balmy summer days before the floods and fires when a six pack of beer and a bittorrented rip of the new Arcade Fire were very heaven. It will sound like paradise.
Then they will be eaten by mutant alligators.
In the scheme of things, this summer could probably be worse.