Don’t tell me about August. I know all I need to know. It’s Leo/Virgo, a Peridot Stone and the eighth month of the year in which my two younger brothers, my granddaughter and I were born. It’s arguably the most boring month of the year, breeding lethargy as a cicada’s rhythmic drone mesmerizes us on a sultry, late summer day.
Webster’s Dictionary defines August with lofty adjectives, “noble, exalted and eminent,” but we all know that absolutely nothing happens in August. Even the persuasive geniuses at Hallmark have yet to come up with a reasonable excuse (birthdays, anniversaries and weddings aside) for sending anyone an August greeting.
In August Congress retreats from public scrutiny, psychoanalysts send our neuroses on sabbatical, releasing their own repressed libidos on the beaches of the Hamptons, chefs abandon the heat of kitchens in Manhattan’s best restaurants, and Hollywood marks time awaiting Autumn for Oscar-push releases. Broadway plays listless to enthralled tourists from Des Moines and Kansas City. Even the fervent gardener grows weary of the demands of the geraniums and the front lawn, and less patient with bored children complaining incessantly about having nothing to do. Met fans commence their annual countdown to mathematical elimination, as fragile hope springs eternal for beleaguered Jet football fans. And yet there’s something curiously satisfying about this long, slumbering month when golden rod releases gossamer, gently anesthetizing us. Corn is ripe for the picking, (none better than on Long Island), basil is thick and tall, waiting to join toasted pignoli nuts for the pesto sauce, and tomatoes are so heavy with flavor they almost touch the ground on bent stalks. Blazing mums of yellow, rust and gold and budding orange pumpkins begin to make their appearance in the fields, a harbinger of approaching Autumn. It is a reflective time without mandates and designated activities. The parades and fireworks of early summer are a fading memory and, mercifully, the chaotic madness of holiday revelry, beginning with Thanksgiving and culminating in the exhausted stupor of New Year’s Day, is months away.
Perhaps August, rather than January, is the month to recommit ourselves and make resolutions. Take off a few pounds and inches; avoid restaurants boasting, “All You Can Eat Buffet $10.00,” shopping malls seducing us to purchase what we didn’t know we needed, and other places of commercial mediocrity, and disconnect from marketers who want to vinylize your noble home built five decades ago.
Drop “amazing” and “awesome” from your vocabulary when describing an ordinary event or situation, stop referring to groups of two or more people as, “you guys,” regardless of gender, and lose, “no problem” when you really mean, “you’re welcome.” Walk or jog barefoot on Rockaway’s sandy beach, crack a fresh-trapped lobster, or slurp a dozen briny-scented oysters washed down with a cold Bud or a glass of chilled white wine. Re-visit Mark Twain, Billie Holiday and George Gershwin, and redefine, “Significance,” to your significant other. Give some thought to your ancestral roots, and remember to tell your children and grandchildren why you not only love them, but also like them as people. They’ll remember those words long after the birthday gifts and Christmas presents are garage sale castoffs and forgotten.
But I shudder to think, will Hallmark or American Greeting Cards violate the sanctity of August by following the mindless talking heads on television who persist on wishing the viewer a banal, “Happy Tuesday” or Happy Thursday?” Will they see a market to squeeze two more dollars out of us, pander to our latent sense of guilt, issuing a “Happy Nothing Month” card for required purchase?
My God” It could happen. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David created a “Nothingness” empire, which ran for more than a decade in prime time, and still enjoys popularity in syndication. Prior to the Seinfeld episodes, the French existential philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, penned a landmark work in the Forties, “Being and Nothingness.”
OK, OK, this is getting much too heady. As I do every year I always look forward to August, and I don’t want to agonize over Sartre’s expositions, or callously dissect August.
Let me be so I can pinch back the spent flowers on the geraniums, mow the crab grass on my lawn, kick back with a cold one as I watch the Yankees chase a playoff spot and, later, devour a good Margarita pizza with crisp, thin crust, while watching Seinfeld re-runs. August is the only time of the year when I owe nothing to nobody and I intend to, unapologetically, enjoy it once again.