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It’s nice outside and getting nicer. I’ve got a backyard, a dog, and a sound system (“60’s soul, 70’s rock, anything 80’s and 90’s hip hop, nothing new (http://www.jaronlanier.com/spooky.html) ”). I’ve got a fridge full of good beer, some tennis balls, and room to spare, especially if you’re a small four-legged critter. With the sun out and the air warm it’s a perfect time to head out back with a pint in hand and the throwing stick in the other. The little guy follows along, twitching his short pigtail, the excitement unmistakable even in that nub of limited expressiveness. We are going to head out back and have him do a few runs, fetching tennis balls that fly through the air, bounce off the back shed, and tumble across the ground.
I can really get the poor bastard to catch some air. Usually the best way to do this is by lofting the ball to the end of the yard, have it bounce just in front of the shed on the concrete path and then off the brick shed itself. That kind of throw affords his little impatient ass the time to determine the kind of throw it is, adjust his preemptive run, and have an angle on the bounce, so he can spring for it. There is no teaching the last part, not by me anyway, that’s just his impatience and instinct kicking in.
He doesn’t always succeed in bringing the ball down with him. Sometimes he sends it flying off of his jaw or flat face with the force of the velocity behind the jump. The inconsistent results add to the attention and more than occasionally have me offering involuntary yelps of appreciation on particularly good catches. When we pull off a good one I like to turn to the little wooden table and pick up the pint for a supportive sip. I definitely make sure not to turn while the ball is still in play. I do not want to miss any potential highlight reel pull downs.
After a few rounds of playing outfielder to these in the park pop-ups I like to switch it up and have the boy field some short hops. On the off chance he listens to me he’ll head out several yards while still facing me. Then I bounce the ball off the ground toward his general direction. Like a good shortstop he positions his body directly in front of the oncoming ball. Sometimes he does a bit of Jeter-esq theatrics, showboating and catching the dribblers with his whole body off of the ground. But the boy is no Ozzie Smith so he’ll shank some of the grabs sending the ball in any which direction depending on the speed it was coming in and the missile-ing of his body at them. Those are still his to field and like a good captain he tracks them down without fail.
If he does not listen to my encouragement to go into the field I will sike him out by pretending to send the ball flying. He takes off, as usual, as soon as he thinks he reads how I’m going to toss the tennis ball, only to pull up a beat or two later when the expected bounce does not sound. He then looks around to determine what is wrong and how he misread the situation. Once he has scanned the vicinity and looked my way a second later I reward him with a roller. He never seems to begrudge me these misdirections. For him it’s all about the play itself. My duplicitous antics are just part of the game and it never rattles his focus. After a dozen variations of these he usually needs a moment to catch his breath and I take the opportunity for another sip.
He loves the sun and when he is not trotting around sniffing, investigating, and entertaining himself you will most likely find him laying in the sun. I prefer the shade. Gone are my younger day aspirations of laying down the perfect tan. It’s cooler in the shade, literally, more conducive to relaxing, and without the constant glare it is easier to appreciate a wider variety of beer styles. I usually play fast and loose (just ask your mother) with the seasonal recommendations, not really paying much respect to tradition but when the sun is beating down on you and there is no breeze to speak of I’m not going to be a stubborn fool and reach for a Russian Imperial Stout. Maybe a regular stout. Either way I’m backing off the ABV to avoid being walloped by sneaking dehydration that results in a preemptive same day hangover. Once you are out of college day drinking becomes a more rare experience. You want to appreciate the opportunities so don’t throw yourself into it with abandon. Remember, you are out of college. Act a little bit like it.
Besides tossing the ball around, backyards and warm weather are perfect for grilling. We have one of those as well, a grill. Not one of them sophisticated ones though. We have a simple grill that barely holds a couple of hamburgers and a few Frank’s at the same time. It’s so modest in size that we have nicknamed it “The Helmet” due to its appearance and probable resemblance to a World War I relic in respect to dimensions. The only bad part about The Helmet is how long it takes to get through the grilling but that’s also its greatest redeeming factor. Once meats, and yes the occasional veggie and potato, start coming off you’re nearly guaranteed a steady procession of always warm food. And what’s the rush anyway? The Fourth of July may be just around the corner but not everything needs to be turned into an eating competition.
Aside from eating and drinking the next best appropriate (and legal?) thing to do in the shade is chill out with a good book and a beer. There is a time for socializing, a time for playing, and most definitely a time to spend in peace. But isn’t that like drinking alone? You’re never alone when you have a book. Chair, hammock, or towel, it doesn’t matter just as long as you’re comfortable and in easy reach of your pint. With the sun still out and your attention on completing a couple of chapters it again serves you well to stay light on the heat. Of course I’m referring to the heat in the glass. Perhaps in heaven I will be allowed to drink to my heart’s content while still being able to keep my focus and retain the content I read but until then I have to calibrate the balancing act of enjoying my libations without it distracting from my reading too much.
After the tough work of reading a couple of pages, maybe just several paragraphs, you can’t be faulted if you do the next best thing, napping. Man, this is living. Just surrender and let yourself be taken to La-La-Land. While physically staying put you have managed through some minor mind alterations via reading, drinking, and sleeping to take a mental journey. I appreciate the warm and sunny weather also for permitting the non-pretentious use of sunglasses, the perfect cover for heavy eyelids and drifting attention. This day was made for relaxation and rejuvenation. The sun provided the life force, the umbrella the tempering cover, the beer some energy, and the recreational activities the necessary trivial distractions.
Night time and we are still in the backyard. We’ve left it only intermittently to go inside and change our outfit. The first time was to actually strip a bit further in anticipation of an early evening hot tub soak. The pleasures of stewing in a bubbling pool, the jets drowning out distant noises and providing a bit of high pressure massage one feels daily problems and pressures float away.
With the darkened skies, darker and heavier beers. I would never recommend drinking and water sports but a Jacuzzi is the golf version of water athletics. Relax and simply don’t do anything stupid. You’ll be fine.
The final “activity” will require one more wardrobe adjustment following a quick rinse. Throw on a heavy sweater and thick socks for a fireside bull session. Though the least experienced of the other things described here, and perhaps because of its rarity, this has always been one of my favorite things “to do”. There are so many aspects to appreciate and take in, individually and in total: the heat, the hypnotic dancing flames, the rustling sound punctuated by the occasional crackling wood, the smell, and the primordial sense of calm and security provided by a fire from the rest of nature. Stepping back into our present moment the fire also provides an opportunity to feed the stomach and cleanse our soul. The former through either/both savory options or the camp classic sweetness of S’mores; the latter by taking the opportunity to unburden ourselves of things we no longer need to carry: photos, letters, mementos, and finally the last of your beer to snuff out the embers.
By Denali National Park and Preserve (Smores Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons