By Mark “Mom” Finley
August 3, 2015
How are you feeling? I’m asking because it’s that time of year when everyone usually feels pretty miserable: the Dog Days of summer!
It’s commonly thought that the English phrase first appeared in the 1500s, referring to weather that “isn’t fit for a dog”. This isn’t true, though. While our canine friends do seem to suffer greatly at the hand of warm weather, it’s us humans who are at far greater risk of madness brought on by extreme heat.
The Dog Days are the time of year in which a particularly bright star rises and sets with the sun. Ancients believed this to be the cause of the extreme heat during this period. Ancient Egyptians called it the Dog Star for Osirus, their dog-headed god. It was called Sirius, Orion’s dog, in Greek mythology. And the Romans named the period dies carniculares or, literally, “days of the dog star”.
Modern usage of the phrase also has come to mean a prolonged period of stagnate and languid activity that builds slowly, riding a thin line that could break at any moment, and usually does so without warning.
For example, on August 22, 1972, John Wojtowicz decided to try to rob a Brooklyn bank to pay for his boyfriend’s sexual reassignment surgery. The crime turned into a 14-hour ordeal with thousands of onlookers. It was the first ever media circus and was depicted in the movie Dog Day Afternoon!
Since my childhood, this time of year has always been one of great excitement for me – but also extreme anxiety. My birthday falls smack dab in the middle of it, and I was lucky to frequently celebrate it at my family’s summer lakeside cabin or on some family vacation somewhere around the world.
Then, like now, I tended to overdo it. After a few instances of heat stroke from spending the entire day playing in the sun, often forgetting to eat or keep hydrated, my parents started sending me to a religious sleep-away camp. That was a confusing time for me. While I was physically and verbally attacked on a daily basis by my classmates at school, I ended up being one of the most popular kids at camp!
Once I became a freshman, I started getting cast in Summer Stock Theatre. Summer became one of the happiest times of my year.
When I was a little older, I started spending my summers working at the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park (aka Camp Delacorte). While there, I met and became friends with Bill Mack, an amazing puppeteer who entertained the people waiting in line all day for tickets. Bill used an Elizabethan style puppet theatre that sat on his shoulders. He called himself the r.s.c. or royal short company (short rather than Shakespeare), and famous for performing history’s longest plays in the shortest amount of time with puppets carved out of Nerf balls. Not only did I help make costumes for the company, he even began writing me into his act!
So don’t let the dog days of summer get you down or drive you crazy. If you work it right, this time can be the best part of the summer! Remember to take care of yourself, and use this time to do something that you love. Or just go camping with me!
Be good. Behave. Treat others better than yourself. Always wear a clean pair of underwear. And remember: you’re not alone – you’ve got me!
M’wah – M.