[Abby's Road] Summertime, and the living is easy?

While I can appreciate the beauty of a jumpin’ fish and a nap on a warm day, I am not a fan of the summer months, in DC anyway. If you’ve ever experienced the sticky un-pleasantries of living as a skint undergraduate in a sweltering, almost windowless, 2nd floor row-house apartment with no AC, a place so hot that your lifeblood (read: ramen) has to be eaten in front of an oscillating fan at midnight in a getup consisting of underpants and maybe a sweatband, you know of the embarrassing hell I speak. Public transport of any kind, mid-July? No, thank you. Only because of my 2009 European holiday travel snarl due to the east coast Snowpocalypse did I have some (recent) complaints about winter weather. I quite enjoy the snow and the cold and the frosty breeze of autumn and early spring. Despite my respectable, adult comforts like central air conditioning nowadays, summer remains nothing more than a necessary evil; a fiery bridge I must drag my feet across from one season to another, more reasonable one.

It’s quite ironic then that I, without reluctance, have planned a road trip this Memorial Day weekend from DC (it was 90 degrees when I began writing this, mind you) to a show situated on a stage in the woods in Tallahassee, taking a pit stop breather, in of all places, Savannah, Georgia. I am risking life and limb on fabled swamp monsters and, more realistically, monster mosquitoes. And the heat? It is sure to be unspeakable. One of the few gifts that makes the summer bearable is the music I unearth and experience while in its molten grasp and, in my defense, this trip is music-driven. More anon.

As the stank of June, July and August envelops me, specific songs seem to crawl out of hibernation and worm their way into my head and heart for a short time; long enough to make me forget (a little) about the sweat stains forming on a blouse or the rat’s nest my smooth hair morphed into moments after stepping into the humidity. By the end of August/early September, after they’ve done their job, they fade out as quietly as they faded in. These are songs that, over time, have come to rescue me; pacify my bad summer attitude. I can’t say that I crave them at any other time, really. They aren’t literally about the summer months, but remind me of something that happened while they were once playing. In 2009, Melissa Block had a lovely series about summer songs. She asked a variety of people (interviewees, the listening public, celebs) about their ultimate summer song. I anxiously waited for her reports and marveled at the reasons behind why a specific song was someone’s favorite. Many of the contributors recalled a past summer’s day indelibly burned in their memory because of the music in the background. Just like me.

I am not one for blogging mixed tapes. I know lots of you do it and I usually skip them (no offense). To me, mixed tapes are exquisitely personal, despite one’s attempts to cater and make it palatable to the listening public. I fear treading on someone’s personal property/privacy when I listen to them. It’s a totally different ballgame when someone makes a tape just for me, which I adore. Anyway…I asked several friends and acquaintances about their ultimate summer songs and they had lovely musings to share. The beauty of their stories far outweighed that of the songs. I would share their yarns with you but it is not my place to. If they (if anyone does!) wish to comment and share, please do so. Thank you kindly.

I have a long list of my quintessential summer songs I could rattle off, most of which are not indicative of my daily playlists. Remember, this is seasonal. I will spare you the run-down and mention but two (an oldie and a newie) to get the ball rolling, perhaps (hint hint)?

I played the hell out of this song (it was the last track and the stand out song on the record – the best record in the band’s catalog, in my opinion) as I packed up my dormitory room at the close of my first year of college. Excited to get home, I accomplished this feat in record time, in record heat, surprising my father as he walked into my building to find me ready to go, standing in front of a pyramid of teetering crates containing books and clothes, topped with a crusty hot-pot.

Simply stated, this song makes me want to roll down the windows and drive like a hooligan. I received it from an old friend via post a couple years back.  I recall driving to a Thai grocery with my boyfriend for dry noodles and tamarind paste with this on repeat. Give it until 1:13 to see what I mean. To drive the “memory” point home, I can even tell you what shoes I was wearing that day, though, sadly, they’re so old the color combo (royal/yellow) doesn’t exist anymore.

Remember, living is never as easy as we want it to be. It’s nice to have something to lessen the blow.

Happy weekend.

[Abby’s Road is a Knox Road feature published every other Friday.]

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