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
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
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
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
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
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.