Dog Days, Mad Or Otherwise

Last Friday, on the heels of discovering that my flight out of Newark had been canceled due to violent thunderstorms —and that flights the next day were also being canceled in rapid succession—I Googled the phrase “dog days of summer”.

It turns out our ancient forebears coined the phrase “dog days” to describe the stretch of days in late July when Sirius the Dog Star appears at the horizon just before sunrise. To the Greeks and Romans, dog days were associated with fever, war, and general mayhem. In ancient Egypt, the Dog Star would appear just before the commencement of the Nile’s yearly flood season. They regarded Sirius as a “watchdog” heralding of that event.

The way people interpret the notion of dog days has evolved over time. In the 1930’s Noel Coward wrote a popular cabaret song with the lyrics “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.

My adventures in Newark has convinced me that the ancients were onto something when they blamed Sirius for causing late summer mayhem. After an unscheduled overnight stay in Newark, my husband and I finally boarded a flight that took off between squall lines. We had a grand time over the next couple of days at Gene’s fiftieth high school reunion in upstate New York.

But the night before our return to LA, my phone started blowing up with messages and scrolling alerts. It was the airline—they were reaching out to issue dire warnings about thunderstorms in the city where we were supposed to change flights the next day.

I think Sirius is definitely dogging us this year. I feel like I should sacrifice something and throw him a bone.

How are you spending the dog days of late July and August? Has Sirius caused you any trouble this season?

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13 thoughts on “Dog Days, Mad Or Otherwise

  1. While most people like to say that we in the beautiful Sonoran Desert live in a dry heat, that’s only true 10 months out of the year. July & August are miserably humid during monsoon season (my hat is off to folks in the deep south and elsewhere who live with permanent humidity). AND you usually get no respectable rainfall out of the humidity, even though the second you step out the door you are wet. And some of the monsoons this season have been particularly violent (wind violent, though some sections of the state have gotten some decent rain).

    I just returned from realizing a life long dream of going to Glacier National Park a couple weeks ago. Now THAT’s a place I’d love to spend my Julys and Augusts in. I really must figure out how to win the lottery. 😎

    • As a longtime California resident, whenever I go east I’m almost always shocked by the weather. How did I ever survive summers in the South or winters in New England? I’d never last nowadays. Thanks for dropping by, BK!

  2. I live in Phoenix, where summer goes to spend the summer.

    I grew up here. It is true that the summer weather has changed. Used to be, a lightning and heavy rain would roll up from the southeast every other night. Electricity would disappear for hours on end, and to cool the house on those stormy nights, you’d leave the front and back door and several windows open. But nobody called these storms monsoons. They were just called Thursday night’s storm.

    And then probably some back-east television weatherman, likely, decided we needed a name for those storms. So, voilà, instead of weather reports talking about the violent storm on Thursday, we began to get hysterical, televised reports on violent storms and storm damage–trees ripped from the ground, exploded houses, footage of funnels, miles of power lines blown down, old folks rushed from their apartments and housing units to safety. Severe heat warnings began to appear. More hysteria: eat ice, drink water, don’t go out unless and until you have to, Maria telling us nice crispy salad recipes so that we don’t have to cook and add to the heated atmosphere. Helicopter reports of people stranded in washes, the Arizona equivalent of wadis–just all kinds of horror in the desert.

    So, instead of summer, we now have our annual horror show, days on end of doom and deadly heat brought to you by the sponsor of the hour.

    Well, since I’m now one of those seniors susceptible to apocalyptic snatching away to a cooler spot, I do pay attention, and I do eat ice and drink as many different cool, non-alcoholic beverages as I can, but I refuse to give in to salads and cold, jelled deserts.

    Because in Phoenix, summer is here to stay, most of the year.

    • “Jelled desserts”. That phrase alone summoned up a horror show of the culinary kind: tomato aspic and those neon ombré jello containers in the grocery aisle. Thanks for sharing that, Jim!

      • Actually, jelled deserts was a pun–one of the most evil “he-who-would-pun-would-pick-a-pocket” variety. Sorry, but the heat’s making me do crazy things.

    • I had to roll my eyes at a recent news report that identified a dust storm as a ‘haboob’ and people started arguing over it’s name. I don’t care what it’s called. It’s part of the desert.

  3. The East Coast has had a rough summer, and the hurricanes haven’t even started. In NC, we’ve gone from drought to massive rain storms. I had three inches in two hours last week, and I’m still cleaning up and drying out the mess. Hurricanes and tropical storms aren’t usually that bad living inland.

  4. Hope you got home safely! Those squalls can be nasty.

    I grew up in the deep South and miss those hot, humid, melting-into-the-pavement days. I remember piling into the car with my mom, brother, and sister and heading out to get snowballs after dinner. It seemed like it was the only (and best) way to cool off before bedtime.

    When I moved to New Zealand (getting close to twenty years now), the summers aren’t quite as bad as the deep South, but they do get hot and a bit sticky, with little rain. And, they’re in December. Imagine the shock of having Christmas while you’re in shorts, having a beer, and tending to the BBQ on the deck in the hot summer sun.

    July and August here are all about storms, and I reckon we’ve got beautiful storms: dark clouds mixing and swirling, the heavens opening up, the sky turning a deep blue-grey, and the fog rolling in. I think those days are more beautiful than a cloudless day during the summer.

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