A Eulogy for New York Summer
It’s gone and we’re fucked.
Summer has always been more of a feeling than a season for me in New York. It is characterized not just by sticky heat and its side effects — air conditioner condensation dripping on your head as you walk too close to a building’s facade on the sidewalk, rainbows in the misty fringes of playground sprinkler paths and busted open fire hydrants, dogs sprawled on the pavement as if in prayer — but by the change in attitude that it brings out in the people here. We show our skin, stay out later, care less, and drink more. We lay out on rooftops and fire escapes while we “should” be working, or eating, or sleeping, until a smattering of the faintest glimmers of what might be stars come, briefly, and then go away again. (They’re probably satellites surveilling us, but still.) We buy bodega iced coffees every day, and we wait, near suffocation from the wet heat, for subways that seem to feel the same way about arriving as we do about going to work.
I never got that feeling this summer, or, at least, I never got enough of it. There was one day in May, a Thursday, when I went to the beach in Rockaway and got badly sunburnt. Now, in September, I can still see its shadow on the small of my back where I couldn’t reach to rub in the sunblock, like a forgotten continent where summer lingers forever. That day felt more like summer than the months in which it was promised and never really arrived.
There are more than a few people who seemed perfectly content with the high concentration of breezy days that peaked in the mid-to-high 70s in the months of June, July, and August this year. I contest that none of them are real New Yorkers. Yes, I too enjoyed feeling comfortable outdoors in the middle of the day, but I sorely missed the ways that the heat and discomfort shape the culture of this city in the summer. That sensation was fleeting at best, and mostly completely absent.
There were a few days, maybe a stretch of a week and a half or so, in which we reached the perilous 90-degree temperatures that drag us out of our jaded stupors to face our sweaty demons, but that wasn’t enough. Instead of having enough time to battle the demons and come out on top, we just looked at them for a second and then continued living our miserable lives in the cool breeze.
I know I’m being petty. There are much more important things to worry about than the #summervibes of which I felt robbed this year, not to mention the past few summers, too. First of all, the world is completely terrible and in lieu of the heat on the east coast, we got white supremacists and literal nazi uprisings, a bunch of devastating garbage from the White House, and, to cap it all off, a slew of natural disasters. Not to mention “Despacito,” which started out cute but quickly got annoying and then was unseated from its #1 spot by something even worse. And of course, summer’s non-appearance is a result of the very fact that we have fucked up the world so badly that its most basic operations are now malfunctioning. Kudos to capitalism, colonialism, and the global industrial complex for that.
The iconic first scene of the 1996 Nickelodeon movie version of Harriet the Spy begins with the protagonist lamenting the last day of summer. For Harriet/Michelle Trachtenberg, summer is synonymous with freedom, a liberation from the nasty backstabbing fucks that fill her middle school classroom. But the truth is, all New Yorkers are backstabbing fucks for three seasons a year, including Harriet, which is why she wrote all that mean stuff about everyone in her Official Spy Notebook.
Summer frees New Yorkers from our own personal tyranny, literally melting the icy shells in which we shield ourselves for the rest of the year. The less we feel the heat, the less we melt, like some kind of reverse global warming bullshit. We need it, lest we forget that it’s actually possible to relax or say hello to people we went to high school with on the train instead of pretending not to see them.
I spent most of this summer waiting for it to finally arrive and #wakemeupinside like a beautiful steaming barge full of garbage in the New York harbor, but it never came. I never got to stop being in a bad mood in order to better deal with the catastrophes of fall, and now it’s fashion week, the world is still ending, and Taylor Swift is releasing a new album. Maybe I’ll finally just move to LA, which is so hot that it is literally on fire. Thanks, everyone.