Summer in the city

In New York, there ain't no cure for the summertime blues. Here's the one downside about living in Manhattan: We don't do summer very well.

Winter, you can't beat the city. Look at the displays on Fifth Avenue, or the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Bundle up and take a carriage ride around Central Park with that special someone. Or hide out in your apartment building, with the cable TV and the fake fireplace, order in from one of the dotcoms, and let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. And here's the one upside to paying absurd real estate prices: You don't even have to shovel.

Spring's great, too: You can almost hear those cash registers ringing as everyone in Manhattan buys that one gorgeous-looking, must-have, light-wear fashion item. And there are little children and dogs playing everywhere. They were probably there during the winter, too, but who wanted to take the time to look? Stroll through Riverside Park or the Village and watch some of the city's finest and strangest denizens at work and play. Be careful, though: Look, but don't touch.

Even fall has its good points. Fall is World Series time, and these past few years, it seems like that means that there's a ticker-tape parade honoring the Yankees on an annual basis. This is especially good news for all those ticker-tapemakers, who have been hard hit these last few years, what with the stock market switching over to those newfangled television monitors and all.

But then there's the summer. (You knew there had to be a catch somewhere.) I'm not going to complain about the heat. Sure, the sidewalks get hot enough to fry eggs, but what's so bad about outdoor cuisine?

And yes, it's muggy and you sweat a lot, but that's what designer spring water bottles available for $3.50 each were created for.

No, the real problem with summer in the city is that American rock songs just don't apply to New York City very well.

While my knowledge of rock music is certainly less than encyclopedic - I tend to think that the Everly Brothers were named Jan and Dean, and the grammatical permutations of The Who, The The, and Them often escape me - I know the main themes of rock as well as the next FM radio listener. And they're just not made for Manhattan.

For example: "Cruising down the highway, the wind in my hair, my best girl at my side." This may work perfectly well on US 1, or somewhere in the Midwest, but you can't cruise in Manhattan. This is due to a phenomenon known as "traffic," which seems to be absent in most rock songs about driving.

Admittedly, Steve Winwood, always sensitive to transportation issues, formed a band called Traffic - a cri de coeur for better road conditions, I suppose - but the point still stands.

Another example: all those songs about going to the river, or the beach, or any sort of water-based activity.

Sure, Manhattan is an island, and so there's plenty of water. But as an immortal poet once said: "Water, water, everywhere, but have you seen the pollution index for the Hudson recently? Blech! And who can afford to join a gym to use a pool?"

There's only one song that seems to accurately reflect summer in the city. Perhaps unsurprisingly it's "Summer in the City," by the Lovin' Spoonful, with its immortal first couplet: "Hot town/Summer in the city/Back of my neck/Gettin' dirty and gritty."

So while other people are cruising with their best girls, going swimming, and generally living it up, we're sitting here, sweltering, worrying about proper neck hygiene.


*Jeremy Dauber is assistant professor of Yiddish literature at Columbia University.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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