Iverson still best for cooling off, parenting and other vices
I pulled a transgression, and it’s time for confession.
No, it’s not public commission of poetry, although that’s almost as bad and definitely related.
I am the epitome of a worthless citizen-consumer and unfit parent, because I read a book in Iverson Park. Two, in fact.
Yep, that’s right. Shortly after returning from our family trip to Costa Rica, I took the kids over to Iverson. Even after squandering my entire vacation, lounging around with e-reader in hand, I hauled an actual printed volume over to our local riverside beach and stationed myself in a lawn chair, barely moved until it was time to go back home.
I might have gotten away with it had the book not been so massive – almost 500 pages regarding the international football scandal that is the 2022 Qatari World Cup.
As I sat some distance from the water, some guy and his girlfriend were walking down the gravel path between me and the Plover River when he glanced over, caught me red-handed and audibly derided me to his gal.
“Huh,” he sneered. “Why would anybody read a book in the park?”
Three weeks later, the memory still burns me like a sizzling jalapeño cheddar brat from Ski’s Meat Market, which is to say not at all – I may be stupid, but at least I wait until our state pride is cool enough to consume.
And like a good brat with cheese, the temptation to pair reading with the outdoors is simply too much to resist. So, when our weather turned hot this week, I made the conscious decision to spit in the eye of modern entertainment etiquette, leading to this week’s ruminations on reading, Roosevelt and roasting in the sun.
Yeah, it’s hot, but …
I talked to my folks in Texas this weekend, gaining a sad reminder that if the Lone Star State secedes, patriots likely will cut the phone lines between there and civilization, and then it won’t be as easy to gloat about how wonderful our summer is.
Mom told me they usually wait until the temperature drops to 90 degrees – around 9 p.m. – to take out the garbage, which means they sometimes don’t take it out. Stories like that make a Wisconsinite appreciate our rare mid-year forays into the 90s a bit more.
Having spent most of my formative years in Texas, with a bit of experience in Georgia, Arizona, and California’s Central Valley, I still regard with some wonder those “Sconnies” who lack not only central air conditioning, but even window units.
When Wisconsin starts hitting the 90s, my family alternates between two small AC boxes upstairs, occasionally supplemented by the bigger clunker downstairs. But on the whole, we’ve learned to embrace energy conservation as a way of fully experiencing the fleeting nature of our summer, a season which, had I not renounced my Texan citizenship, I would characterize more as “a late-fall weekend” or perhaps “a week in early spring.”
Most of my Texas friends and family seem to keep their AC around 72 degrees, although many keep it down in the 60s. When we last had central air, we parked it at 78, so we shoot for something that feels like that if we do crank up our ancient window units.
We also take more cold showers. This is easier just after a trip to Costa Rica, because for many Costa Ricans hot water, especially for showers, has never been a custom. It often requires installation of a separate, small hot-water heater plugged into the cold-water-only system and operated from within the shower.
Because much of Costa Rica is very humid and consistently warm, my visits mean a constant feeling of stickiness, and I quickly learned to appreciate cold showers as a summertime habit.
When in Wisconsin, however, our main strategy is to go outside more, and that’s where Wisconsin’s best natural resource – its water – makes that as easy as skipping over to Iverson for a quick dip in the Plover.
Or, in my case, a plunge into some pages.
Let me count the ways …
Call me weird, but I can find plenty of reasons to read a book in the park.
For one, I like to write, and because I read, I never run out of ideas to write about. This week is a perfect example; I had another column idea in mind, but shelved it when the mercury rose and I saw the opportunity to spite Mr. Huh-Who-Reads-A-Book just because I could.
So I took my daughter and our neighbor Connor and headed to Park Ridge.
Admittedly, He Who Denounces Literature could simply be too young to remember when all we had for virtual entertainment was books and the oppressive, unmanageable world of ideas those volumes introduced. Maybe he doesn’t realize that we never had it as good as he does now, when our entire existence can be compressed into a single Pokémon superimposed on a screen the size of his empty palm.
To be fair, maybe he isn’t hooked on technology. Maybe he simply despises or fears books because he is a delegate to a national political convention.
Regardless, just like somebody has to take out the garbage, someone else has to winnow through all those words, so I guess I’ll do it.
When my little cerebrum gets overheated, I can still shuffle over to a brain-freezing river. And because turning a page doesn’t take much more pep than does tapping an e-reader, I still have plenty of energy left for hefting a cold drink if I have to.
If the Land of Ideas becomes too draining, I can relax by staring at trees and other inert objects, such as functionaries in the American two-party system.
And speaking of parties, my Iverson reading this week was about the days when a party was a party – not the cold-drink kind, but the ones whose members had sensible ideals and therefore acted accordingly.
Specifically, I’ve been taking on pre-eminent environmental historian Douglas Brinkley’s “Rightful Heritage,” his exploration of Franklin Roosevelt’s importance in protecting our natural resources.
While not as well-known as his fifth cousin Teddy for his environmental accomplishments, the younger Roosevelt deserves every bit of praise for his actions – which Brinkley addresses in 700 pages, or roughly enough trees to cover a softball-diamond infield at Iverson.
I haven’t read far enough to do a proper review, so maybe that will come when winter hits Wisconsin, or even later, like September.
But I did find it interesting that FDR also was a bit of plagiarist, according to Brinkley – at least in his first published piece, an article on birds for a children’s magazine, written when Roosevelt was already a respected ornithologist at 14.
We have to hold him accountable for such misdeeds if we expect to do the same for all the other adolescents running for political office in this country.
Anyway, it was soon time to head home, so I gave my daughter and neighbor some soda to ruin their teeth, loaded them into the back seat with a bunch of books to rot their minds, and called it another beautiful Wisconsin summer day.