Texanna | August 2018

By Anna Mitchael

The Rise of Neighbor Larry

Here we are again. Staring down that part of the summer when you can’t walk from your car to the grocery store without blistering in the sun.

When those neighbors you wished would wind up in foreclosure back in February are suddenly funny and so enjoyable to be around. You’re all, “Thanks for the Fourth of July party. And tell me, have you thought about how we should celebrate Bastille Day?” Oh, the difference a pool can make.

What’s even more painful than a surprise sunburn is what happens to my conversation skills in summer. If I bump into someone I know at the grocery store (easy to do while my eyes adjust to a world without the heat haze rising from the parking lot) and that person asks how things are going, I find the heat has taken my interesting words hostage.

And words are supposed to come easy for me. I’m a writer. I’ve written two books — both of which clocked in around 80,000 words. And in my advertising career I’ve penned enough ad copy in newspapers and magazines to line kitty litter boxes from here to the Piney Woods. It’s normal for me to spend my day stringing together all kinds of words to try and convince you that mopping the floor can be the enlightening experience your soul yearns for — if, of course, you use the right mop.

But when it’s this hot, words fail me completely. From here until the Labor Day pool party at Neighbor Larry’s house, my very best conversation starter will be something like, “This heat … oy … can you even believe it?”

Unfortunately, I know I’m not alone. For the last few weeks while I’ve been walking around sweating and not saying anything of interest, I’ve been eavesdropping. Not only is it “hot enough to roast a chicken in the coop,” there are also “armadillos sizzling on the side of the road.” And as it’s been since the very first summertime conversations went south, there are predictions that “you could fry an egg on the sidewalk.”

The sad truth is that, as Texans, we have no excuse for crumbling this way in the heat. Almost all of us have had fair warnings about summers in Texas. Not the kind of warning you get with a pan of King Ranch Chicken and a “Welcome to the Neighborhood — California’s Loss Is Our Gain” card. We have actually lived through these summers before. Multiple summers. Lifetimes of summers. It ain’t our first rodeo, so to speak. Then why, I hear you asking, does it seem so much more difficult to lift the lasso this year?

My best guess for why we can so easily forget the pain of summers past is selective memory. Or if you want to call a goat a goat: denial. To be able to sit on your back porch in winter and gloat while you watch news reports of Northerners shoveling out feet of snow, or to really feel the full swell of your heart when you wear flip-flops on a Christmas Eve hayride, you must be completely oblivious to the price you will pay when the sun returns in full force.

As is typical with denial, it usually comes back to bite you in the asphalt. Or at least that’s what I’ve been thinking lately as I get out of the car at the grocery store.

Should you see me in the parking lot, don’t bother with hello, I won’t have an intelligent response ready. But please do wave. It’s a nice reminder that we are in this together. And also, that we endure these summers for the right reason — it’s good to live in a place where friendliness and down-home warmth are always in season.