Monday, May 26, 2008

Your Sinister Summer

It's Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. (The REAL start is the summer solstice, coming in a few weeks.) And it's our job to make summer as sinister as possible.

What is a sinister summer?

A sinister summer is where the shadows are still found in the corners, where you're sure that eerie adventures are lurking around the next corner as you explore and sniff out something new. It's taking time out on a hot afternoon to read a shuddersome novel, or retreat back into the air conditioning to watch a favorite horror film. Or taking a less stifling afternoon to do a little touring and exploring.

A while back, I made up a list of experiences and sensations I associated with my newly-minted concept of a Sinister Summer, and here it is.

Book sales at the library

A milkshake in an old diner

A sundae in an old drugstore

Watching horror films in the A/C

A ferry ride over a choppy river

Dry marsh grass swaying in the breeze as a red-winged blackbird flies overhead
Crashing waves on the beach as the sand blasts your legs

Being inside a dark bookstore in a small town on a blindingly bright summer day

Reading a gothic novel on the patio as storm clouds roll in from the west

Long drives to places you’ve never been, through small towns with crumbling gas stations

Melons and veggies and fruit from roadside stands

Exploring an old or historic home

An estate auction

Impulsive purchases at a flea market

Driving by wide, flat farm fields with big equipment operating

An unexpected road in the woods

A trip to the mountains

BBQ from a roadside restaurant

A cone from a windswept, lonely pine

A shell from the beach

Dry grass scrunching underfoot in a cemetery

A wild, late-night drive

A midnight meal in a diner

A prowl through a dusty antique store

A picnic in a shady spot

Knee-high grass

Toes in the sand

Telephone poles by a country road

Windows open during a gentle rain

Hot french fries in a paper cup

The wind in the pine trees around an old church

Lemonade in a styrofoam cup

Country/folk music on the car stereo, driving as the sun sets

The sounds and lights of carnival rides

Stopping by a yard sale

Exploring a park

Sitting under a shady tree by the waterside

A crumbling tourist trap

A walk through a strange town

A moonlight stroll


Fossils and feathers and other oddments

Turning down a side street to explore

Resting on a grassy hillside, looking at the clouds overhead

Green trees swaying in a strong wind

Under a picnic shelter during a thunderstorm

Storm clouds rolling in with green trees in the foreground

Of course, this is specific to my own experiences, and my own locale (Washington DC, with forays up to my parents' place in western MD and much-desired-for trips to Chesapeake country and Maryland's eastern shore). I'm sure folks may have a different set of ideas and expectations, which is all well and good, and I'd love to see and hear them.

Gas prices are insane this year, alas, and I hear that more and more people are doing "staycations" or limiting their travel in some way or another, which is understandable. I'm expecting a trip to the Monster Bash convention in Pittsburgh in a few weeks, but other than that, I have almost no plans for vacations, mainly because of the expense. But...let's be honest's freakin' SUMMER. Get out! Do something!

Of course, there's always the idea of going out for a walk, which I've explored already on this blog. If you can manage it, get out to another town and walk around. Poke around in all the interesting-looking shops, explore the graveyards, visit museums and historic homes. Save up your gas money and take a drive through the country, keeping your eyes open for any adventure that may come along. Take a picnic lunch and bring a notebook for writing down any ideas you have. Go to a local carnival. Hit a local festival. At least go down a street you haven't been down before, or go to some local tourist attraction you've never visited before. Break out of your routine, and go to an open-air concert or play. Plan a picnic with some friends, or your special someone if you're lucky enough, or both.

And, naturally, don't neglect the beauty that summer can bring. Pick flowers. Stargaze. Watch the fireflies. Take a class and learn to draw or paint. Take lots of photographs. Visit those outdoor art shows that spring up here and there. At least try something you've never tried before, even if it's trying some new recipe, or starting (and completing!) a craft project you've never done before. The hallmark of a Sinister Summer is not just the potential for eerie adventure, but also for just sheer plain fun. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends. Gather the ones you love for a picnic or dinner, at least once, and raise a toast to a Sinister Summer.

(And for a domestic tip, a food writer once said that the correct type of wineglass is a minor thing. The glass is less important than the wine, and the wine is less important than the person drinking it. Keep that in mind!)

The photo above is a path through a park near my home. Don't let the quiet green pastoral scene fool you. I was standing on the sidewalk of a busy street when I snapped that.

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