5 Summer Activities To Be Eager For (If You Like Sadness)
Every year, I tell myself that I'm really going to enjoy summer. After enduring a traditional Southern winter of hearing everyone freak out about the possibility of precipitation and then three months of allergies, I convince myself that I'm going to take advantage of the warmth and the sun like I never have before. And by that I mean I will take any possible opportunity to drink on my porch.
But like most dreams, what starts as a promising rush toward the future ends in unforeseen tragedy. The activities that define summer very rarely work out for me, because despite all good intentions, there are certain, unstoppable factors that will make me wish I'd just stayed inside and played Overwatch until autumn.
Mankind's ability to discover activities that require absolutely no effort is astounding. Our greatest legacy as a species will be our revolutions in the art of remaining engaged while sitting down. Thousands of years ago, if humans were faced with a river, they just gave up and settled beside it. Then we created boats and bridges and kayaks and conquered moving water. And then we created inner tubes so that we could chug beer and piss in a creek for a whole afternoon, getting our final revenge for all of our drowned ancestors. Fuck you, nature. We win.
Tubing always seems like an incredible way to spend the day, until we remember that, unless we want to pay some company to throw us in a crowded bus with strangers on the way to the river, we're gonna have to find someone to pick us up. I have very, very few friends who would happily say, "Get into my car, muddy, tube-addled drunks. I hope you had fun doing this thing that I couldn't take part in because I had to be responsible and drive." This isn't a case of someone being a simple designated driver, either. Someone has to go out of their way to not have fun with their friends but still be in the mood to help them out and also be in the mood to clean up their car seats after they've been drenched in stream water.
A lot of the activities on this list are undone by drinking. Tubing doesn't always have this problem, because the main goal of drinking is to do so much of it that you're rendered immobile. As soon as you sit in your tube, you're already there! It only becomes an issue when it hasn't rained in a while, forcing you to carry your tubes and coolers through the shallow water like you're members of some kind of frat-boy Marine Corps.
Stumbling drunk through dirt-brown water is the best way to need stitches in your feet. You will hit them on every rock that the river has to offer, and you'll spend the remainder of the trip sitting in your tube, wondering if enough blood is coming out of your big toe to warrant telling someone about it. And, if you're like me, you'll immediately assume that the toe cut is being infected by every worm, pollutant, and fish poop-related disease on Earth. The river is having its last laugh. Goodbye, world and/or toe.
Group Beach Trips
Going on a massive beach trip should be an optimal situation, because if the beach is fun for a few friends, imagine how fun it would be with TWELVE FRIENDS. There's going to be drinking and partying, and there will be enough people to combat your natural urge to go out in the sun for two hours and then spend the next four days watching hotel-room HBO. And if there's someone going that you have romantic aspirations for, the trip will become Kid Rock singing a Nicholas Sparks audiobook. Filled with cheap vodka, you'll kiss in the sand under the moonlight and it will be magical. That's just how it is. You don't make the rules.
However, if you want to stay friends with your friends, don't bring large amounts of money into the relationship. As soon as you begin relying on people to "get you back" after you cover more than a round of drinks for them, cracks will start to appear in the foundation of the "We're all lost after college, but we've got each other!" paradise that you've built for yourselves. As you look at the group of people that you're planning this trip with, just know that about 25 percent of these people aren't going to want to pay for shit.
It's not their fault. When you spend so much of your time worrying about the money that you spend on yourself, it can be awkward to have to blend your finances with someone else's. But let's say that you spend $200 on a friend's share of the beach-house rental, along with whatever you spent on yourself. Forget about that. Now, pretend that you accidentally tipped the bartender $200 instead of $6. And now, convince yourself that that is what actually happened with the money. It will ease the pain of seeing that other person after the beach trip is over, as they tell you, for months on end, "I promise, dude. My PayPal is just acting up, you know?"
Every beach trip also comes with unrealistic expectations of spirit overcoming actual energy. Take every day/night that you plan on ceaselessly partying through, and cut that down by two-thirds. Your group is going to be divided into warring tribal factions by the morning of the second day. One group will nurse hangovers for what seems like the rest of the trip, while the other will annoy the headache brigade with its seemingly unfathomable requests of, "Come out with us! Two-dollar Fireball shots at The Dirty Parrot tonight!" And the worst part is, despite all of your confidence at the beginning of the vacation, you never know which group you'll end up in.
In college, cornhole was everywhere. At any tailgating event, it would be set up in the middle of the fucking parking lot lanes, because maintaining proper traffic flow is less important that tossing little bean bags at your yelling friends. In post college, cornhole is still everywhere. Most bars with grassy or concrete spaces that are not currently being taken up by tables will stick a cornhole game in there. It's got super low stakes, and unless someone decides to start throwing the bags at passing cars or swinging cornhole boards in a cornhole-induced rage, it's hard to injure yourself while playing.
However, cornhole games have a very, very short lifespan unless the group of people that you're hanging out with all drink at the same rate and all have the same tolerance for alcohol. And that group of people doesn't exist. When I'm between two and five beers, I'm the greatest athlete that the world has ever known. I have the confidence of someone who has seen the future, and the future is made up of nothing but Margot Robbie telling me how great at cornhole I am. And that confidence makes me a better player, because it decreases all of the general anxiety I feel over the fact that, oh god, I'm a human that exists. What do I do with my life? Oh god.
After five beers, my talent drops exponentially with each passing brew, and I begin playing as if the object of the game is to hit my friend's pants legs until they agree to take me to Wendy's after the bar closes. Inevitably, this decline happens to the best of us. But sometimes, it doesn't take a half-dozen beers to catalyze it. It can take half a beer, and when you start to get drunk and miserable and find yourself locked in a game with someone whose enthusiasm you couldn't dream of matching, you enter Cornhole Purgatory. You already suck at it, and the person you're playing with starts to suck at it before they can beat you, so you're stuck underhand tossing bean bags back and forth and hoping that you might get run over by a tractor or set on fire within the next few seconds. You welcome anything that will let your soul escape from Cornhole Purgatory. In fact, most of us are still stuck there. This is a dream.
Try not to wake up.
General Downtown Gatherings
At the dawn of the summer, cities love to trot out Generic After-Work Summer Gatherings. These don't usually have a theme except for "Hey, it's over 70 degrees, alcohol tastes good, and we have a band, probably!" And they look like really fun things to take part in after you've been cooped up in your house for the last few months like that kid who lives in a wrecked water truck in Jurassic Park III. Basically, they're made for me, because the forgettable preteen in Jurassic Park III was my fucking go-to reference, and it only happens that way when you haven't been around real people for so long that you've given up relating to them. Now you just machine-gun out pop culture references and date whoever laughs at them.
People like to say, "I LOVE the people in this town!" And when they say that, they're mostly referring to their friends (who will be nice to you until you plan a beach trip with them) or the local service industry (who are paid to explicitly refrain from telling you that you're an idiot). In Generic After-Work Summer Gatherings, everyone within the county line is invited to crowd around a small, specific area, and you will be forced to hate your town after you've literally met all of it. This won't just be you, your friends, and other like-minded people getting together to hang and massage your shared biases. This will be you getting separated from half of your group, which is a quarter of the group that you originally thought was going to come. That first half of the group drove around a few blocks for an hour before giving up and heading home.
The Generic After-Work Summer Gathering has never quite managed to understand how traffic patterns function. They take place after work is generally over, when the sun is still up, because inviting everyone in town to a beer-fueled outdoor party that starts late at night may as well be advertised with "Come punch strangers!" But the movement of people coming into town for the event, driving around in circles, looking in vain for street parking, clashes with the people that have been downtown all day and just want to get home before the local band starts figuring out that they haven't plugged in the right cords.
These two groups are mortal enemies. As a kid, I lived and worked outside of a city for long enough to still consider downtown areas kind of magic. You can get tacos and then cross the street to find a book store? IT'S LIKE I'M A CHARACTER IN MAD MEN. So, when a glut of people are honking horns at me while I'm trying to parallel park in a spot that is just wide enough for me to say, "It looked like a parallel-parking spot!" to the person who will tow my car, I reply to the honking with, "Stop trying to fuck with my fun!" I've also talked to people who work downtown a lot, and when I bring up the idea that these things may be fun, they look at me like I'm suggesting starting an orgy in a Home Depot bathroom. Generic After-Work Summer Gatherings are 10 percent beer specials and 90 percent waiting for someone to get out of your way.
Outdoor Music Festivals
I love when festivals last a day. I love going places in the morning, and thinking about all the pseudo-fair food that I'm going to eat, and all the bands that I'm going to be able to see. I love the idea that, when it's over, I'm going to be able to sleep in a place that's totally separated from the other people at the festival. I'm not anti-camping. If I can finish a long hike with a flat surface to lie down on, I will ignore every email that you throw at me for the weekend. But drinking outside all day and finding that I can't go to sleep because the inhabitants of the tent that is -6 inches away from mine have decided that 4 a.m. is the perfect time to argue and hug over a shared love of misunderstanding the election process is a nightmare.
There's a reason that you constantly hear about musicians and celebrities showing up extremely late for these gigs: They also don't want to be there. The contracts for these shows should include "You're going to play in near 100-degree weather for a group of obsessed people that have been corralled into a tiny space so as not to interfere with the tiny space of a musician playing right next to you. Also, half of these people have reached a level of intoxication that, using all medicinal logic, should have killed them by now.
These fans paid exorbitant rates to stay in this dirt haven, so they're already mad at you for not showing up 30 minutes early. And if you don't give the best performance of your life, images of your sweaty, impotent body, along with degrading comments, will be plastered across the internet, making you wonder if you should've taken your dad's advice and just accepted that audit assistant position that he offered you."
It's totally all right for a crowd to get sweaty while they enjoy a band. When you pack people together and give them a rhythm to sway to, sweat happens. It's science. But there's always this misconception that the atmosphere of outdoor music festivals will lend to "special" performances. Audiences will be getting something that's more raw and emotional than their air-conditioned brethren, because stress is always linked to artistic brilliance in the case of music. Maybe it's just something that I don't get, but whenever I see a sweaty guy hoarsely shouting over a crowd of anxious folks in an attempt to please them, I don't think, Man, what a genius! I think, You know what would make this performance better? Any other season.
Daniel has a blog where he reviews Batman episodes, because of course he does.
Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent along with comedians David Huntsberger, Caitlin Gill, and Lizzy Cooperman to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!
Find out which summer activities can get you blown up in 6 Insane Summer Camps That Will Make You Wish You Were A Kid, and learn why teenagers don't get summer jobs anymore in 5 Reasons The Classic American Summer Is Totally Dead.
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