Summertime blues

Peter Jackson
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Georges Seurat’s painting “A Saturday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” (1884) is famous for its pointillism, the use of small dots of paint to create a larger image. It took Seurat two years to finish.

I’ve always been more struck by the image than the technique. It depicts well-dressed socialites relaxing on the tree-strewn shores of the River Seine. In the foreground to the right is a woman dressed from head to toe in black petticoat, hat and hoop skirt, holding a small parapluie. On a warm summer’s day. In modern times, most of people would be half naked.

It’s not the issue of modesty that fascinates me as much as that of how some people seem impervious to heat.

Some people can walk around in full dress — from suits and ties to Arabian robes — in sweltering heat without so much as a hint of discomfort.

I am not one of those people.

When I get hot and sticky, become very cranky and panicky.

Last week, on a Michigan golf course, I was starting to succumb by the second hole. And that was only 10 in the morning.

Each cart ride provided a momentary lick of breeze, but the heat eventually won out. I quit at the 10th hole, which at least provided my co-players a break from having to locate my ball after each swing. (My eyesight is poor.)

The game went a little more smoothly, but not near quickly enough. It felt like some arduous tropical trek. I stayed near the cart, keeping an eye out for tigers and snakes. Was I getting a fever? Did I have malaria?

Only the scattered appearance of an angel of mercy riding a drinks cart kept insanity at bay — that and the occasional barrel of cold water from which we drank and soaked our hats like parched prospectors.

I thought golf was supposed to be relaxing.

Compared to the Pyramid of the Sun, I guess it is.


Two years in a row, visited the pre-Columbian pyramid city of Teotihuican in central Mexico — once with my brother and again with my wife. Both times, cumbed at the same point.

It wasn’t climbing the largest pyramid, an effort you feel dutybound to make no matter the state of your stamina.

It was afterwards, winding through chambers in a structure near the Pyramid of the Moon, that the exhaustion kicked in. The guide kept talking about the “ hog-war,” which I only later realized was “ jaguar,” a dominant theme of the site’s wall paintings.

He was talking jaguar. I was thinking agua.

Fortunately, there was a Coke machine in the nearby parking lot, a juxtaposition of cultures that seems to have escaped the product’s marketing experts. The sugary confection is not the best thirst-quencher, but to me at that point it was nectar from the gods, ancient or otherwise. Hot climates scare me. I have no idea how African explorers survived, let alone the native inhabitants. “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Yeah, whatever. Just pass us Gatorade!

And the thought of sitting on some rickety old porch swing in Louisiana, sucking on warm lemonade while cicadas screech in the oven-like haze, sounds like slow and cruel death to me.

I can’t get down two blocks of Toronto’s Spadina Avenue without ducking into a knick-knack shop for a shot of air conditioning.

That’s why I’m looking forward to getting home.

As great as it is to get away to visit family and see the sights, there’s nothing like a bit of drizzle and fog to cool a tortured brain.

Fall is nigh. And not a humidity soaked day too soon, in my book.


Peter Jackson is The Telegram's commentary editor. He can be contacted by e-mail at

Organizations: Gatorade

Geographic location: Michigan, Teotihuican, Mexico Louisiana Toronto Spadina Avenue

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Recent comments

  • Eugene from Town
    August 10, 2010 - 10:28

    Peter, seems the heat/humidity affects your proofreading skills also: 'most of people would be half naked'; 'When I get hot and sticky, become very cranky and panicky'. Not too cheeky of me, I hope.