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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
April 22, 2002

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.


Hot Fun in the Summertime

Perhaps you've noticed that we've been having some Junelike days lately. The sun shines, the thermometer pops up into the nineties, and middle-aged white people start showing their pasty, veiny legs under baggy shorts.

I know, because I'm one of them.

So, premature as it might sound, I'm going to pass along some fascinating tips for making your summer more pleasurable.

*

The common wisdom is that the most intense sunlight lasts from two hours before noon to two hours after.

In the Outer Banks, that's true. But we're far enough west from the longitude line that the sun reaches its zenith twenty minutes after the hour. So, during daylight savings time, the most intense sun runs from 11:20 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

I don't have much to say about sunblockers and suntan lotions. Just look for the PVC or PBS or PTA rating (or whatever those initials are) and take into account how your skin reacts to sunlight and how much fun you think skin cancer might be and whether you have someone in your life who is willing to look at every square inch of your body every few months, looking for incipient melanomas.

Treatment for sunburn, though -- I can tell you about that.

Because my skin, by nature, wishes to be beet red. It will seize every passing ray of sunshine and turn it into dry, burning skin.

So afterburn lotions are very important to me.

And the absolute best (for ordinary, not savage, burns) is Coppertone's Cool Beads. I have no idea if their little friction-released beads of special ingredients are anything more than hype. All I know is the lotion makes me feel better instantly and it isn't sticky or smelly and it doesn't leave a shell on my skin.

Unfortunately, this year it isn't in any of the local stores where I've bought it before. Coppertone's website says that CVS, Eckerd, and Target all carry it, but around here that just ain't so. Haven't checked WalMart yet.

For a truly wicked burn, however, you need something stronger, with aloe vera in it. My two favorites:

Ocean Potion "Ice" -- the blue stuff with aloe vera, lidocaine, and tea tree extract. It has a minty smell that isn't bad, and it goes on just a little sticky. It also has a wide-mouth bottle, which can be very hard to work with -- too narrow to scoop the stuff out, but too wide to get the last of it out by squeezing, and the stuff's too thick to pour.

But it works. It goes on cool, you feel better immediately, it isn't oily, and if you keep using it every few hours, a miracle happens, or at least it happens to me: All but the worst burned skin turns tan instead of blistering and peeling.

The alternative is the Eckerd store brand -- the blue stuff with aloe and lidocaine. It's not as sticky as Ocean Potion, but it has some kind of menthol in it that makes it feel almost too cold, and if your burned skin has been abraded at all (i.e., by toweling it) it can sting for a few minutes.

But in its favor, it works every bit as well as Ocean Potion on bad burns (most others don't, at least on my skin), and it comes in a humanely designed bottle with a very tiny opening so you can squeeze out even the last drops of it. No waste!

*

Here's why middle-aged men take off their shirts while running, even though nobody wants to look at their bodies:

Abrasion, that's why. When you sweat wearing a cotton shirt, while your body is moving vigorously in a repetitive motion, salt gets into the abraded skin and inflames it.

This is especially likely to happen at the nipples (ouch!), which is one more reason why I'm quite irritated that men have such useless protuberances. Definitely a design flaw, probably included for no better reason than consistency with related models. It has the stamp of Microsoft on it.

So when we peel our shirts off, it's not because we think we're beautifying the neighborhood by doing so. It's because we're in pain. Think of us with compassion. And just be glad you only have to see that body on the street, and not in the mirror, the way we have to.

The nipple problem can be prevented with ... you guessed it ... Band-Aids. Fun to wear, fun to peel off, especially if you have a hairy chest.

But Band-Aids don't work to prevent abrasions of inner arms or inner thighs. Vaseline aloe lotion, applied liberally before exercise, does a pretty good job of preventing abrasion injury for the first half hour. After that, though, you're on your own.

If you are a runner/biker/walker/sweaty person who got a bad sweat-soaked abrasion, I can tell you from experience that there is no lotion that relieves the pain.

That's because this is not a "skin care problem." It's actually hundreds of tiny little injuries, each with its own dedicated nerve cell making you crazy with pain. And the cure? Neosporin with Pain Relief. No Band-Aid. Just smear on the Neosporin. You might have to apply it again later, but it's the only thing that helps at all.

*

In Eric Snider's column in the Provo Daily Herald (also at www.ericdsnider.com -- funniest humor writer in America), he recently made fun of Florida for being so humid.

Guys from Utah have no business making fun of southern humidity.

Out west, the air is so dry, it literally sucks. All the moisture out of your body, that's what it sucks.

Especially the air in Utah. Summer and winter, it's bone dry. Dry as dust. Dry as the moon.

It's so dry there that when snow falls in winter, it doesn't melt, it evaporates.

It's so dry you can leave packages of crackers and potato chips open for days and they don't get moist and start to bend. (Oh, wait, that's a good thing, sorry.)

It's so dry that Utahans will dive into empty pools, and they don't even realize it, because if the humidity at the bottom is over 15% it feels like water to them.

If you visit Utah in the summer, your lips will chap -- and I mean the kind of chapping that leaves deep bloody crevices in your lips. (Recommended product: Blistex daily treatment aloe balm, applied thickly every hour or so.)

Your nose will also bleed a little bit all the time. Just get used to it. If they have any salves for raw and bleeding inside-the-nose-skin, I don't know about them and frankly, I don't want to know. When I'm in Utah, I just do what the natives do, and breathe through my mouth.

There are lots of bottled waters in the local convenience stores. Stock up on them. Half of them will be for drinking, but the other half you periodically pour over your head.

Seriously. Around here, if you pour water over your head during the summer, you're going to be wet all day. But in Utah, it will evaporate so fast that two minutes later nobody will know you did it.

Which may explain why baptism is so popular in Utah that they export it.

*

Great new album: Jane Monheit's Come Dream with Me. Instrumental jazz these days is so be-boppy that you can't find a melody with a searchlight and a crowbar, but when you add a terrific singer like Monheit, then jazz is as wonderful as ever. Monheit has the guts to tackle two "signature songs" -- songs that have long belonged to one singer. Her "Over the Rainbow" is sweetly downtempo, and her cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" soars like Mitchell's own voice in its glory days.

Understand this: I'm a diehard fan of the great Streisand albums. But Streisand's new "inspirational" album, Higher Ground, is just awful. One fervently bad song after another. Apparently her vanity is so impenetrable now that she thinks that, in the wake of 9/11, America actually needs her to bring us comfort. Puh-leeeeze.

Neil Young, even though he can barely sing, has had two brilliant, unforgettable albums in his career ("Harvest" and "Harvest Moon"), and several really good ones. Alas, his new one, Are You Passionate, is full of songs so empty that even while you're listening to them you can't tell, musically or lyrically, what they're about. I think this album was released solely so his very bad 9/11 song, "Let's Roll," could sell while the topic is still "hot."

Still, nothing on his album makes you want to puke the way the Streisand album does.


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