Humor by Paul Greenberg

What with August covering the country like a horse blanket, it's definitely time to update this annual list of heat-beaters. Feel free to clip and save, mix and match, and add your own:

1. Forget talk radio and 24/7 television news.

Switch to the classical station. Vivaldi is nice, Beethoven's symphonies much too bombastic, and Mozart perfect as always. Or get out Miles Davis and John Coltrane's "Kind of Blue." Watch an old movie (preferably one set in a cold climate) instead of Glen Beck or the equal but opposite Keith Olbermann. For just one day, don't think about what those two great organizations, BP and your federal government, have done to the Gulf, its coastline, people and wildlife. It'll just raise your body temperature, heartbeat and hackles.

2. Delete all unwanted e-mails without opening them.

Especially if they're from types who are always a little hot under the collar anyway. But if you must open them, under no circumstances reply. Soon you'll be on their heated level.

3. Recall the lightest, most elegant, interesting dessert you ever had.

I nominate zabaglione over half a perfect peach. Or just have a piece of cold watermelon. With a little salt.

4. To borrow a line from the late great Robert Benchley, get out of those sweaty clothes and into a dry martini.

5. Think on the pure, crystalline beauty of the Pythagorean Theorem.

6. Don't try to figure out the infield fly rule one more time; just settle back and watch the game. Linger over the replays in slow motion.

7. Avoid watching sitcoms, playing rock 'n' roll, listening to TV shout shows, worrying about the future or regretting the past. "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." --Satchel Paige. It's possible Epictetus the Stoic might also have said something along those lines, but not half so well.

8. Decorate with green, leafy things, but not kudzu. Turn your back on it for a minute and it'll cover your house.

9. Take siestas; arrange to live in the early morning and after twilight.

10. Don't hurry back, or anywhere else. "Nothing can be more useful to a man than a determination not to be hurried." --Henry David Thoreau. He may have been a Massachusetts man, but surely he was a Southerner at heart.

11. Park in the shade.

12. Key lime pie.

13. Wear a hat. With a broad brim.

14. Give the kids a nap. Take one yourself. Or watch an old Mister Rogers show with a small child; it'll soothe both of you.

15. Sit on the front porch. In a swing. Under a fan. Especially if it's glassed-in, air-conditioned, in the shade, and surrounded by cool greenery. If you must go out in the noonday sun -- like a mad dog or Englishman -- stick a handkerchief in the back of your collar. Adopt seersucker as protective coloration. Breathe deeply.

16. Read last January's weather news, with special attention to blizzards and ice storms. Contemplate Iceland. Wonder if Eyjafjallajokull is erupting again. But under no circumstances attempt to pronounce it. Too much effort is involved.

17. Take a thimble-sized cup of hot soup before supper to whet the appetite.

18. Switch from big band to chamber music, red to white wine, gin to tonic, cornbread to beaten biscuits, humor to wit. Try to erase Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, Goldman Sachs and AIG from your mind. If they do pop up, think ice water instead.

19. Go fishing. Early in the day.

Without fancy lures, rod 'n' reel, and other impedimenta. Pack a picnic breakfast, choose an unfrequented spot off the beaten path, lie down, breathe deep, close your eyes and clear the mind. ("Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." --Thoreau again.)

20. Have a tall, cold one. With a hot dog. At a minor league ballpark.

Luxuriate in the nostalgia. See what baseball used to be like and still is. Don't get involved in who's winning or losing. Just root for the team in the field. And never, never refer to it as the Defense.

21. Think tomatoes, the real kind.

Like Bradley County pinks. Ripe, sliced thin, maybe on toast. With just a suspicion of salt and maybe half a drop of olive oil.

22. Wear white linen and play Great Gatsby to beat the band.

23. If you get the urge to exercise, lie down at once.

If you absolutely must exercise, swim. In cool water. Never run, seldom walk, stroll if you must. Remember Paige's Law No. 2: "Step lightly; do not jar the inner harmonies."

24. See the movie "Dr. Zhivago." Stay to see snowy scenes twice.

Come August in these latitudes, Siberia in January can look like paradise.

25. Sweet tea. If you must attend a political rally, make it one sponsored by the (Iced) Tea Party.

26. Contemplate the coming of the next ice age.

27. Read up on the culture of the Eskimo.

28. Plan an expedition to the South Pole. Read a biography of Shackleton.

29. Stock up on watercress and cucumbers.

30. Carry a bandanna. Maybe two. Mop your brow even when it doesn't need mopping.

31. Walk on the shady side of the street. (Visitors here from Up No'th have to be reminded.)

Whoever designed those treeless parking lots around shopping malls should have to park in one. Every day. In August. Let the punishment fit the crime.

32. Sigh now and then over the follies of men.

Do not judge lest you get all worked up. Erase any thought of BP's Tony Hayward from your mind, or how Washington handled the oil spill. Or didn't.

33. Read "Gorky Park" or some other detective story set in a cold climate.

Check out Howard Hawks' arctic and antic sci-fi classic, "The Thing From Another World." The scary scenes are particularly funny.

34. Send the kids to visit the grandparents.

35. Grandparents: Send 'em back after 24 hours, then take a week off by yourselves. You deserve it.

You've already raised your kids. Alaska would be nice this time of year. Try to avoid Sarah Palin, who needs her privacy, and her new neighbor, Joe McGinniss. Also grizzlies.

36. Think what Stockholm must be like. Also Spitsbergen.

37. Go for a walk at dawn, preferably without having to get up at an early hour.

38. Peaches.

Especially those flavorful Cresthavens from around Clarksville, Ark., where they keep turning out new varieties. Try 'em with vanilla ice cream. Be good to yourself.

39. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. (Mr. Thoreau still again.)

40. Don't fret. Why worry about things till you have to? You may never have to.

41. Cold salads.

42. Wonder about the Laplanders.

43. Go ahead, try the waterslide.

44. Think on not having to put up the Christmas decorations, cook the turkey, or build a roaring fire.

45. Smile in the sure knowledge that the damper on your fireplace is closed.

46. Inspect the refrigerator. At length.

47. Consult the atlas for the location of Novaya Zemlya and the Bering Strait. Read about penguin population patterns. Study up on the Aurora Borealis.

48. Re-read Jack London's "To Build a Fire."

49. Be nice.

50. Take the columnists with an extra grain of salt.

Humor & Satire

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