The Middle Ages

Summer, like second chances, can sneak up on you

Some of us measure our summers by the amount of time we spend barefoot. There are few sensations better than a morning breeze around your ankles and a warm cup of coffee in your hand. I persist in the antiquated pleasures of a daily paper. Like polar bears or sitcoms, you never know when you might spot the last one.

Summer just seems to remind us that when we have free time, we crave money, and when we have money, we crave free time. We are programmed to crave, but for some reason summer seems to dial that back for me. In summer, I'm more inclined to just be in the moment.

When I was young, I loathed July, felt it the deadest zone of the year, sweaty and motionless. It didn't offer the fury and excitement of a winter storm, the romance of an autumn hike, the budding buzz of spring. Hot and harsh, summer never soothed me the way it did normal people. Summer meant too much baseball and a family couch that smelled like dirty socks.

Somewhere along the line that changed. It was an imperceptible thing, like the moment you go from loving your buddies to noticing girls.

Summer started to win me over when I reached 40 and first appreciated the underrated thrill of having nothing to do. A sultry summer day stops you in your tracks. You have to take off your watch or remove your cellphone, for fear of falling in; many of summer's baser (and better) pleasures are water-related. Maybe that's one of the reasons I've grown to appreciate it. Summer demands of us a digital skinny-dipping.

So, somewhere along the line, summer managed to reel me in. I think also that we tend to give certain things a second chance as we mature. Tea drinkers consider coffee; dog people consider cats; those who never cooked much immerse themselves in shellfish and linguini.

There is, in each of us, an internal clock that we start to hear ticking at 45 or 50, making us crave new things. It ignites in us a risk-taking, sort of a second adolescence. Last year, my buddy Bob took off on his motorcycle and rode through 48 states. His whole life a banker, my pal Craig opened his first restaurant. My college roommate Jack took up woodworking.

There is a late-in-life wanderlust in all of that, and it makes me wonder what might be next for me.

I've always loved the rodeo, but I lack the suppleness in the vertebrae that falling off a bronco or a barstool might require.

Equally, I lack the suppleness in spirit that I would need to teach school. Plus, I just recently started hating kids. It's now a hobby. I find them expensive and often clinically ridiculous.

The other day, one said, "Hey, Dad, we know you're older than dirt. But how much?"

"Three years," I say, "When I was a senior, dirt was a freshman."

"Did your prom, like, have a dinosaur theme?" another asked.

"No, but we did have actual dinosaurs. Before Priuses, that's what everybody drove."

The kids were only half-sure I was kidding.

Oddly, and despite all indications, I'm now thinking I might have a future in humor, that it could become what road trips are for my buddy Bob and high-end burgers are for Craig, my whimsical late-in-life renewal.

After all, since Sawyer, we've also measured our summers by the amount of time we spend laughing at the silliest damn things. Summer can be measured by how much sand we get in our laugh lines.

Now, I am not by nature a very funny person, though I do have what I think are some amusing thoughts on how to survive a suburban cocktail party: (1) Grope the host; (2) grope the hostess; (3) leave early, feigning illness, before the conversations kill you.

And I did add a humorous flourish to the grocery list Posh was assembling the other day. As is her way, she left her list out on the kitchen counter so all the inmates could add what they needed that week: sunscreen, Percocet, grapes.

When she wasn't around, I added these items to Posh's grocery list:

• Humility

• A youthful exuberance

• Lust

Sure enough, Posh didn't laugh — at least not immediately.

Actually, it's been several days.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Twitter: @erskinetimes

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MORE FROM THE MIDDLE AGES:

Summer days just made for wasting

Light a candle, glisten a glass for a generation's passing personalities

Seeing L.A. through new eyes as Chicago kin hit Venice Beach

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