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Meditations on August

Posted: August 20, 2011 - 6:14pm

It’s August. It’s been August for weeks already, and it’s going to stay August for weeks to come.

If you call October shoulder season, then surely August is the armpit of the year. This rings especially true where I used to live, in New York City. Take a look at the cover of Neil Diamond’s double-live “Hot August Night 2,” in all its glistening, hairy, mid-80s glory. That photo is the closest visual approximation I can think of as to what August in New York feels like. In fact, permanently ditching New York August was the third biggest reason I relocated to Alaska (after the yearly check for simply residing there, and the relaxed attitude toward personal appearance).

Around these parts, August tends not to be especially hot, but it sure is moist, with a dankness not even Axe Body Spray can alleviate. Not even triple-action Goldbond Medicated Powder.

To continue the aging singer-songwriter metaphor, August in Juneau makes me think of Simon and Garfunkel, specifically their contemplative single “April Come She Will,” which includes the line “August, die she must. The autumn winds blow chilly and cold.” Around here, they sure do, almost strongly enough to make me put on pants. It’s also getting noticeably darker, although on the flip side, at least I can go back to soaking in the hot tub under cover of night. Suffice to say my neighbors got a lot more than they bargained for this past June and July.

With this time of year, naturally, comes a fair amount of indoor time (naked hot-tubbing aside), when there isn’t much to do but think (or enter search terms into Wikipedia, which is almost like thinking).

Some gleanings from my recent thoughts on August, in no particular order:

Originally the sixth month in the 10-month Roman calendar, August used to be named Sextilis, meaning “sixth,” even after it was moved to eighth. Eventually, Emperor Augustus renamed the month in honor of himself. For one, he was tired of everyone snickering at the word “Sextilis” every time they dated a check. He also chose August to mark “the time of several great triumphs.” Plus, that’s when you’re likely to find end-of-season travel deals.

In the Southern Hemisphere, August is the seasonal equivalent of our February. In other words, August is February’s evil twin. Also, gluten-free is the new low-carb.

Aug. 5 was International Beer Day — don’t worry if you missed it; you’ve still got World Whisky Day coming up in March (not to mention National Vodka Day on Oct. 4). Aug. 13 was National Left-Handers Day. There’s something vaguely creepy about this — sinister, even — in a setup-to-a-cheesy-horror-flick kind of way.

In fact, I find August to be kind of unsettling in general. Part of that has to do with all the back-to-school stuff, the mere sight of which still sends shivers down my spine even though I haven’t been a student in decades. Unless you count my Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing, but that was more like a two-year wine-and-cheese than actual school.

But I digress ...

August marks the independence of Bolivia, Singapore, Ecuador, Pakistan, Korea, India, Indonesia, Estonia, Uruguay and Malaysia. It’s also National Immunization Awareness Month, fitting, as you’d probably want to get immunized before traveling to any of the aforementioned countries to celebrate their independence.

August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month; National Water Quality Month; National Goat Cheese Month; National Neurosurgery Outreach Month and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, coincidentally not a bad place for neurosurgeons to conduct their outreach.

During the first week of August, Wales holds the National Eisteddfod, its most important eisteddfod of the year. Honestly, if you’re going to go to one eisteddfod, make it the National Eisteddfod. Although, even bad eisteddfod is good eisteddfod, if you know what I mean.

Mid-August coincides with peak activity for the Perseid meteor shower. Nerd alert.

August’s birthstone is onyx. Onyx was the 90s hip hop group that did that song “Slam.” You know, let the boys be boys? Slam? Etc.?

Zodiacally speaking, August splits its symbolism between Leo and Virgo, hence the famous maxim: “in like a lion, out like a virgin.” Psychic friends will tell you, Leo is a masculine sign and Virgo a feminine, meaning that people born during the month of August have a 50-50 chance of being male or female. I know, spooky, right?

“August” is the title of a 1996 film adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play “Uncle Vanya,” starring Anthony Hopkins. Don’t bother Netflixing it — he doesn’t carve anyone’s face off with a pen, or eat a census taker’s liver with fava beans and/or a nice Chianti. It’s more of a “Remains of the Day” Anthony Hopkins movie.

“August” is also the name of a super-cheesy mid-80s Eric Clapton album. How cheesy? It’s got Phil Collins on drums and vocals. We’re talking “Sussudio”-era Phil Collins.

“August: Osage County” also happens to be the title of a 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which is probably why you’ve never heard of it.

August, Calif. is a census-designated place in the San Jaoquin Valley. Not a city, or a town, or even a hamlet, but a “census-designated place.” Harsh.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the name August comes from “Augustus,” Latin for awe-inspiring. As a first name, famous Augusts include Swedish playwright, novelist, essayist and philosopher August Strindberg; as a last name, John August, a contemporary American screenwriter whose films include Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and (un-credited) Jurassic Park III.

August — just August — is the name of an Adult Video News Award-nominated porn actress, thus proving, yet again, that you can Google anything and eventually find porn. I also discovered that August is the name of a special-edition 2002 Beanie Baby, thus proving, yet again, that you can Google anything and eventually find an eBay listing from some middle-aged, Middle-American woman with a 97 percent positive rating.

Anyway, fellow August sufferers take heart. It will be September soon, and you know what Simon and Garfunkel have to say about September: “September, remember, a love once new has now grown old.”

We can all look forward to that.

• “Slack Tide” runs every other Sunday in Neighbors. View more of Geoff Kirsch’s work at www.geoffkirsch.com.

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