Hot Times

It's summertime, and the living is queasy

Technically, summer is still a couple weeks away, with a June 20 or 21 start date, depending on your Northern Hemisphere locale. But with Memorial Day behind us, summer breaks starting and D.C. already humid as balls, the season has arrived.

And though I have no claim to soothsaying — I’m also a notoriously poor judge of character — I can’t help but feel in my anxious bones that this summer is going to be sizzling. By that, I don’t mean just hot, but that stars will align and Summer 2010 will go down as the Shakedown Summer.

Consider that summers, better than the other three seasons, really know how to secure their places in history. There may have been a winter of our discontent, but there have been Summers of Love (1967, ’68 and ’69) and the Summer of Sam (the movie title fits, even if the murders took place beyond the summer months). The ironic overlap is that Summer of Love ’67 was also the Long, Hot Summer, so named for explosive race riots, and the Summer of Love ’69 gave us not only Woodstock, but the Manson cult murders.

Summers gave us the moon landing (July 1969), the start of Watergate (June 1972) and the end of Watergate (August 1974). Summer 2009 stood out perhaps for the Iranian pro-democracy riots, the mid-flight crash of Air France Flight 447 and the H1NI pandemic. World War 1 was ignited by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. The Nazis closed out the summer of 1939 by invading Poland on Sept. 1. After the Nazi defeat, their Axis-ally Japan offered a summertime surrender on Aug. 15, 1945, though not formalized till Sept. 2. Our own nation launched its rebellion in July.

History is made in every season, but summer is conflicted by its very nature — the heat slowing us and irritating us simultaneously — making it the prime season for human events. The sun-basking rattlesnake still ready to strike.

Summertime gave us the start of our own modern LGBT-rights movement, the Stonewall Riots, June 27 to 29, 1969.

“Perhaps it was Judy Garland’s death (June 22), or the summer heat, or the fact that police had been especially busy that summer raiding bars and patrons had become angry and frustrated,” partially reads the Stonewall entry at the online encyclopedia, glbtq.com.

Moving into 2010: Shakedown Summer, we’ve got an energized Get Equal made more so by the recent movement toward “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) repeal, as well as new focus on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). America is only beginning to grasp the ramifications of the country’s worst environmental disaster, pairing tar blobs and oil slicks with the most iconic of summer images, the beach. There is financial chaos. We wonder if the Icelandic volcano might again shut down travel in Europe at any moment. Or if austerity protests will continue. Perhaps the Korean conflict will escalate? Here at home, Arizona’s xenophobic immigration law is set to take effect July 28, assuming it’s not blocked. And the National Weather Service estimates an 85 percent chance of an “above-normal” Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1. What perfect timing.

An exciting — or nauseating — summer, depending on one’s constitution, lies ahead, no doubt. My dubbing it the Shakedown Summer, however, is an optimistic moniker.

Perhaps through all the BP blundering, flared political tensions and humidity, we’ll actually experience a collective catharsis. As shrimp farms die in the gulf and unemployment remains high, maybe the National Organization for Marriage will realize there are far more important things than battling marriage equality, even if you are opposed. On Capitol Hill in a wool suit on a 98-degree day, maybe Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will decide that an anti-DADT filibuster is an awful waste of time.

However the summer plays out, I’m certain it will be one for the history books. If nothing else, I’ll turn 41 — like Stonewall — at the end of June and hit my first Provincetown “Bear Week” in July. If you can’t stand the heat, head to the Southern Hemisphere.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.