- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2009

This is it. The first week of June, the initial breeze of Washington summer. The blue-sky-tempered time between the unpredictability of spring and the oppressive heat of the full-on season.

It is a time when Washingtonians are full of plans. Summer stretches out with nearly three blank months aching to be filled with the stuff of J. Crew catalog layouts: farmers markets, clambakes, cookouts, long bike rides, fishing, picking up brie and fresh veggies for a picnic, hearing the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap.

Maybe this summer.

Summer plans are rife with personal goals. Forget New Year’s resolutions. Your chances of sticking to that low-carb diet and to thrice-weekly spinning classes have no chance when it gets dark at 5 p.m. and fired-up TV weathermen are warning about black ice. Summer has real incentives - the bathing suit you need to wear this weekend, the beach trip next month, the class reunion Labor Day weekend. Summer has you envisioning a better you - one who is tan and fit - even if the true you is Thus, the goals: I can walk around the block. I can work up to three miles. I will run a 5k and skip dessert.

Summer plans are all about the leisure benchmarks. I will enjoy the beach trip. I will play golf. Why not tennis after dinner, too? I’ll get the Nissan Pavilion tickets, swim with the kids, sign up for the summer beach share, use the grill. I’ll lug the folding chairs to the shore, even though they don’t really fold, barely fit in the car and I don’t like the beach as much as I should.

Maybe this summer, I will look the part.

Nothing says summer like a tan. Yeah, yeah, ozone and skin cancer and SPF and wrinkles and all of that, but a tan says you are young and don’t care about the what-ifs of sun damage.

A trip to Target is filled with summer possibilities. There are molds to make ice cubes that look like palm trees and bright-colored glasses in which to pour cold drinks. New beach towels! A slushy machine! A sun hat, a Slip ‘N Slide, a sand-castle mold. If I buy the accouterments, it will be a perfect summer.

Maybe this summer, I will get it done.

Summer is also about time goals. The roads are a little less crowded, rush hour a little more manageable. The office is a little emptier Friday afternoons, your schedule - unless you’re a camp counselor or a happy-hour waiter at Sequoia - a little lighter.

Somewhere, a Washingtonian is making a resolution to enjoy the lighter load. I’ll leave work early; take the kids to Dairy Queen; use Friday to reorganize my files in the nice, quiet office. I’ve got the week off; I’ll hit the Newseum, the Spy Museum and the water park.

Summer is about stress goals. This is the summer it finally will feel like summer. Turn off the BlackBerry while on vacation. Unplug. Recharge.

But summer, for Washingtonians, eventually is full of reality. The tan-and-fit persona really should have shown up in March to be ready by June. That’s why last year’s shorts are still a tad too tight in July.

The office is quiet, but not quiet enough. The interns have messed up the files again, which means you’ll have to stay late to sort it all out. (While the interns, tan and fit, all of them, go to the Hotel Washington for drinks on the roof deck.)

Rush hour is lighter, but not light enough. They’re working on the mixing bowl again. Forever. Constantly. It should be a breeze to get to Interstate 395, but it’s a smogfest on a 90-degree day. At least you’re not one of the guys on the construction crew. Those guys are really sweating.

Speaking of sweating, at least you’re not a tourist. Washington in summer means entire families - tan and fit, none of them - panting on the corner of Constitution and 10th, scanning their Smithsonian maps, wondering if the National Air and Space Museum would be a good place to get some sweet relief from the everlasting, oppressive, hot-as-Hades air.

The truth is, except for a very few young-and-fabulous, check-out-my-new-dress-for-the-Gold-Cup types, summer in Washington is not the stuff of which J. Crew layouts are made.

Life becomes a tad easier around here in the summer, but not easy enough. It still will take an hour to get out of the Nissan Pavilion parking lot. Your backyard looks lovely until about Aug. 1, when no citronella candle is a match for the Amazon-size bugs and no amount of watering can keep the grass alive. Go ahead, turn off the BlackBerry - and be welcomed back from your vacation bubble with 45 e-mails about a mistake that was cleared up a week ago.

The heat, in fact, oppresses the best-laid plans of many a Washingtonian the way winter dictates dress and activity for a Wisconsin resident. Substitute “humidity index” for “wind chill,” and it’s the same. They aren’t jogging around the block in Sheboygan in January or in Silver Spring in July.

By August, it will be too hot for the kids to have a lemonade stand and too late to book the beach-house rental you procrastinated about in April. The hammock will give way to the sofa, with AC blowing overhead. The long, lazy days of summer eventually are turned over to the plans of cooler days and back-to-school to-do lists.

Maybe next summer.

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