Summertime, and the Living is Not Easy

I recently read an article in my Entertainment Weekly, bathroom edition, written by former striper turned endearing screenwriter turned occasional columnist Diablo Cody that described in no uncertain terms why summer sucks. Though I have never spent much time straddling a shiny silver pole for sweaty, crumpled dollar bills, I felt like Diablo and I were kindred spirits. I also hated summer, but my reasoning ran much more superficial than any of the reasons that she proffered. Though I have enough reasons to fill up a mildly entertaining but poorly selling book from a little known publishing company, I will settle on two for our blogging purposes today: swamp coolers and television programming.

I feel that summer heat is God’s way of punishing us for our persistence in eating shellfish. Going outside in any weather above 85 degrees is intolerable for me. I currently live in a home with a swamp cooler, which means that staying inside during the summer is also frequently intolerable. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the device known as a swamp cooler, it is a gigantic box that is placed on the roof of the homes of those who live in a dry climate. The science behind it comes from a 17th century device used for interrogating alleged witches. They soon found that the cycle of water managed to create a moderate damp breeze. And, with only 453 parts that were completely dependent on one other to operate, it would be a great solution for narrowly avoiding heat stroke in your place of residence.

My wife and I have debated installing a central air-conditioning unit for the past three years that we have owned a home. Miranda has a shockingly short-term memory, and so when the question arises anytime other than during the months of June, July, or August, it seems absurd. “I don’t think it was too bad last year,” she says. “The swamp cooler works just fine. Let’s use the money we would have spent to get a bevy of pirate toys for our children.” I manage to replace the new parts, rig up the devices somehow, and offer prayers laden with curse words that the thing will actually work.

A month past the solstice and my wife is lying nearly naked on the floor underneath the cooler praying for sweet relief. “We have to get central air, Cameron. It wasn’t this hot last year. I know it wasn’t.” When the turbine pulley (yes, that is the correct term, as established by the Salem council of 1689) fell off in the middle of the night, by the time we woke up, four large Italian men wrapped in only a towel were sitting in our kitchen area enjoying a good steam. I have burrowed my way into an attic that was warmed to roughly the heat of the sun to repair a broken pipe. I have shimmied onto the roof and knelt across shingles that felt like they were freshly pulled from the smelting fires to rig up some complex device. I have devoted blood, tears, and a few gallons of sweat to the cooler and in return, I have been given the same relief I could give myself by using my lower lip to blow my own breath onto my forehead.

Whatever I touch starts to melt in my clutch.

As our energy levels quickly diminish with the breath of hell enveloping our household, the only thing that we really have energy to do is maintain stasis in front of the television set and a myriad of differently-shaped fans. Unfortunately, this brings me to the second reason that summer really does suck. Television. Summer television is like watching a close-up video of your cousin giving birth; you would never volunteer to watch it under normal circumstances, but once it is on and there is so much excitement and screaming and crying, you just can’t look away.

Summer is a network television wasteland of T.S. Elliot proportions. Sure, there are reruns of your favorite shows like 30 Rock and Ghost Whisperer, but most of the airtime is filled with advertisements for the upcoming fall lineup of new shows with one-word titles and reality television that is becoming increasingly distant from actual reality.

One of my old standbys is a little show called Hell’s Kitchen. After a short hiatus, this show has come back to make the walls of my home resonate with the non-sensical bleeped language. Hell’s Kitchen is a guilty pleasure of mine as I enjoy fine cooking, competition, and intense berating with foul language. However, the show has become steadily worse over the seasons. Now, I am convinced that it is entirely scripted, what with contestants picking fights with Chef Ramsey and his wimpy Beligan maître d’ Jean-Phillipe. I also find the slew of line cooks that are rounded up for each new season increasingly difficult to look at. I enjoy my reality television covertly scripted and with beautiful people. If I wanted to see Whoopi Goldberg’s less attractive sister serving up risotto through a din of British insults, well, I would probably need to seek professional counseling.

Summer television programming is not a complete loss, however. There is one show that, despite all odds manages to get better and better and provide the entertainment I need as my pores rid my body of all perspiration. The show Wipeout is the most brilliant and exhilarating program currently airing on television. It has everything you might be looking for: copious violence, skimpily dressed, mud-soaked contestants, witty and insightful commentary, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and more ball innuendo than you could ever need in a lifetime.

There are two features to the show that are really the true stars. Contestants on Wipeout must maneuver their way across a series of four inflated big red balls. This elicits commentary that is the dirtiest entendre you will ever hear during a family show. And, what’s more, the announcers manage to make comments that are original and hilarious each and every time. I rarely laugh out loud, but I guffaw every time the announcers discuss how the contestant got smacked around by the big balls while seeing said contestant’s limbs bend in unnatural directions.

The second star is co-host Jill Wagner’s exposed stomach. In the first season of Wipeout, it occasionally made a cameo appearance, like whenever Jimmy Smits would show up on Pee-wee's Playhouse to fix Conky. However, in the second season, Miss Wagner’s entire wardrobe has apparently been furnished by Baby Gap. As big of a fan as I am of the show, I am an even bigger fan of Jill Wagner’s exposed stomach. I am such a big fan that I have started my own Facebook group to network with other fans worldwide. I am sure that an Emmy is forthcoming.

If bouncing off of big balls and an uncredited bare tummy are the only thing worth watching on television for four months, then there has to be a problem. There must be other people like me whom the good people at Neilsen forgot. We are here, in our homes, without enough of a social life or will to move to get up to go outside and do something during prime-time. We are here, flipping between the Antiques Roadshow and episodes of Quantum Leap. Please give us something to watch. How about a reality show featuring a group of gorgeous men and women who race against each other to colonize Mars? What about a TLC program that follows a newlywed couple who are both afflicted by narcolepsy, where most of the show is them just sleeping on the ground? How about an actual scripted television show about the misadventures of a swamp cooler repairman? Until the cool fall breezes blow, please just spare me from a dating show featuring only plus size contestants. I don’t need more to love. I already have Jill Wagner’s belly, and that is enough to last me all summer long. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go replace the Confessional Gear and reinstall the Leaching Pype on my swamp cooler.

Must see T.V.


Cajunazn said...

Ahhh Whipeout. If it even came close to what MXC or Ninja Warrior had to offer I might consider watching it.

The bit about blowing your own forehead gave me beautiful mental images I shall pull out anytime I need a chuckle! Thanks for making me laugh today! :)

doug said...

One of your better posts, Cameron. Thanks! Hell's Kitchen and Wipeout are both staples in my household as well. God love those big red balls. And Jill Wagner.

Camille said...

Huzzah! I love this post. I too loathe the swamp cooler (I live in an apartment with dreadful airflow and a window swamper that was on its last legs about a decade ago) AND most of summer TV--thank god for So You Think You Can Dance and new episodes of No Reservations. They help me maintain the will to live during the hellish summer months!

Joe said...

Good post, hopefully this we will get to hear more of your dislikes of summer.

I love your comparisons of the swamp cooler to the 1600's. My first introduction to swamp coolers was when I was an apartment manager. I had no experience with them and all of the sudden I had to take care of four of them! Four times the climbing in the attic, four times the chance of one leaking and causing a bathroom ceiling to cave in on tenants, (I still throw up a little in my mouth when I think of that one) four times the fun. Now I baby our current single swamp cooler to make sure the huge pan of water that is slowly eating away at the metal doesn't give out and flood our house.

Wipeout is great! I love the nicknames they give the contestants. Let's hear more of your summer dislikes.

Amy said...

Why in Jebus' name did you buy a house without central air? You crazy...that bird is crazy...I'm Brian Fellows...

mh said...

I thought you might like to know that the joy brought to us by Bag Stranded was our topic of conversation around the dinner table yesterday as we enjoyed a few games with family.
Unlike Joe, I have not had the privilege of fixing four swamp coolers, but I have been in the same miserably hot and sickening attic to help. I have also been there to wipe the dripping sweat from my husband's forehead when he returned from his dutiful mission to repair this "cooling" device. So, as I sit here in my nice air conditioned house, I remember back to the good old days, and I feel your pain!

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