The sun beat down with a sickening thud. Thick patinas of sweat lubed each passerby’s forehead, with a few sporting perspiration-darkened underarms on their shirts.
The soundtrack was the constant whine and chime of cicadas.
Online, my friends celebrate the start of September, pledging allegiance to and posting stati longing for summer’s dark mistress, the killer of leaves and creator of approximately 50,008 new artisanal pumpkin-spiced brews, each one promising to taste more like pie than the last.
They want to “break out” the autumn wardrobe. They long for boots, sweaters, crunchy leaves and the chilling of this delightful thick thud of heat.
These traitors to summer long for autumn. And I say thee no.
No, I do not accept the end of summer.
Strangely, I used to actually be a fall guy, and some years I still am. I too know the joys of wandering around in sweaters and lattes, whole swaths of the North Side looking like a J. Crew catalogue came to life and decided to smell like pumpkin.
I like pumpkin pie and finding that perfect leaf to crunch underfoot. I like picking apples and carving up certain species of squash into Jack O’Lantern faces to ward off goblins.
I’ve already got a Halloween costume in mind.
But I wasn’t ready to see the men on Milwaukee Avenue unload box after box of slutty plastic costumes from a truck, converting an empty storefront into one of those terrible-smelling Halloween stores.
I’m not ready for the glut of bicyclists who will clog my bike lanes, the chumps who wait to ride until they can get to their destination without arriving in a puddle of sweat and funk.
And I’m absolutely not ready for pumpkin-spiced anything. Screw your pumpkin ale, your pumpkin-spiced lattes, your pumpkin-flavored artisanal bottled water that pledges to give one cent of each bottle’s proceeds to a charity distributing pumpkin milk and pumpkin-scented scarves to single mothers in our nation’s pumpkin-deprived inner cities.
While I do realize my refusal will not stop the world from turning, the grass from browning or the bars from serving craft beers designed to taste like a big mug of hops and pie, I don’t have to play fall’s sick game.
I don’t have to put away my bike until it snows. I don’t have to don henleys (see for reference) until my arms would otherwise freeze off.
And long pants are the devil’s work.
Chicago is lovely in the fall, with crunching leaves filling the parks and jaunty-looking fashionistas strolling the streets with Starbucks mugs of coffee chemically spiced like Thanksgiving food. I look good in sweaters. Damn good.
But fall, I spurn thee. I want my sunburns and sweat, T-shirts and swimsuits. I conscientiously object to any conversation about weather that doesn’t include the phrase “another hot one.”
I can’t stop fall, but I can stop my mouth from tasting like pie.
So this is my challenge to myself: The first pumpkin-spiced anything I consume in Q4 of 2015 will be the pie after Thanksgiving dinner.
It won’t be easy, and I won’t be rude. If someone makes me a pumpkin something and looks really happy about it, sure I’ll choke it down. I’m willing to give up all matter of personal fulfillment in pursuit of politeness — I am a Midwesterner, after all.
But when I taste that first bit of creamy pumpkin goodness topped with home-whipped cream, I will cry with joy. It will be perfect because I didn’t force it, didn’t choke down a pumpkin beer or a coffee flavored like squash and cinnamon just because I’m sick of summer heat.
It will be perfect because I will be ready. I will let the actual turn of the seasons, not nostalgic longing, determine the clothes I wear and the food and drink I put in my mouth.
And the first time I hear “Jingle Bells” on the radio, I’m punching someone in the face.
Note: I few minutes after posting this, I googled to see if it’s “pumpkin spice latte” or “pumpkin spiced latte.” This search revealed that M&M’s came out with a pumpkin spice latte M&M. Not a pumpkin spice M&M. They’ve had that for a few years. A pumpkin spice latte M&M. Pumpkin pie Pringles are real too.