Summer's mango-riffic end, swim time, rehearsing apocalypse

 

FIVE-FINGERED MANGO DEATH PUNCH!

The end-of-summer pool party isn’t just about saying farewell to a season — farewell to the Vegas heat’s wilting, buzzing languor whose reign lasts for two narcotized months. It’s also about cashing in on sublimated regret: I should have relaxed more this summer. Made more time for fun. Wish I’d taken a little more vacation time. Wish I’d swam more, barbecued more, drank more. If the proper emotional tenor of an end-of-summer pool party is a desperate elan — rage against the dying of the languor! — then the proper thing to do is overdo it a little: Eat one too many plates of grilled meat, linger a little too long in the sunstruck pool, and drink a little too much of the wrong things. 

Wrong things like Mike’s Hard Mango Punch. Have you tried one of these? Padding barefoot and dripping into my brother’s kitchen, I opened the fridge and meant to reach for a golden bottle of Modelo Especial. But what was this? This bottle glowing chemical orange with a stylized fist embossing its raggedly Courier-fonted “Mike’s Hard Mango Punch” logo into my consciousness like a bro keg-standing on my cortex. (Momentary ghost of regret hitchhiking across my mind: Wish I’d drunk more wrong things.) 

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I had to try it. And I’m glad I did, if only to be reassured that America’s alco-industrial complex is hard at work developing adult beverages so compellingly, so fruitily sweet and universally drinkable that said beverages such as Mike’s Hard Mango Punch double back in time and tickle the part of your memory center marked “CHILDHOOD: REALLY SWEET THINGS” which sends you into a bathetic nostalgial backwards somersault into the plush, smiling sensorium of preverbal basics like sweet, good, happy, safe. The bottle boasted only an alcohol content of 5 percent — really, not any more than your average beer. However. Taking into the account that, upon making mouth contact with the bottle, your vestigial suckling instinct will kick in to all but ensure you’ll shotgun the entire thing with greedy, vaguely monstrous infantile need in about 4.5 seconds, in real-time, this drink has the stun-gun instaneity of a fat bong hit. 

I drank three and lived an entire summer in an afternoon: ate some things and said some things I may regret, but now I’m certainly not regretting anything I didn’t do. Stay hard! [Punches a mango.] Andrew Kiraly

 

SWIM, GIRL

I eased into UNLV’s new natatorium the way one always gets into a pool — by figuratively dipping a toe in the shallow end. Brighter, bigger and better-appointed than the university’s Buchanan complex, where I learned to swim laps after moving here a dozen years ago, the natatorium of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center built in 2007 kind of scared me at first. Not being a full-time student, did I deserve the peaceful view of coeds riding their bikes and throwing footballs that the south-facing floor-to-ceiling windows offered? Sure, I pay the $25-per-month community membership fee that accords full gym access to any Clark County resident, but I’m not what you could call a serious swimmer — 20 laps is a good day for me. At the old pool, I’d grown accustomed to waiting in line for a lane, or splitting one with my husband, as the UNLV swim team took up most of the available space. But here at the new SRWC, whose construction coincided with a revamp of Buchanan dedicated to the school’s competitive swimmers, I could have a 25-yard lane all to myself. I’d creep in at 6 a.m., do my half-hour of freestyle, get showered and dressed, and be on my way to work before the lights in the adjacent dorms began flickering on.

Then a couple things happened to help me feel more at home there. Last year, Vegas’ summer temperatures started getting to me — to the point where exhaustion, headaches and heat rash now prevent me from going on the long group bike rides and hikes for which I set aside my Sundays. And this year, a couple girlfriends from said group started swimming with me. One 110-degree weekend, as we pondered what to do during our normal biking time, I tentatively threw out the possibility of visiting the SRWC pool together. To my surprise, they were game. Emboldened by the posse effect, I found myself suggesting that we could play in the big, circular therapy pool if we were too tired for laps. Not necessary; it turns out my friends enjoy the refreshing challenge of a cold-water swim as much as I do. This weekend, we spent a long afternoon at the natatorium, enjoying a soak in the heated whirlpool after a set of vigorous back- and breast-strokes in the lap pool. When cool weather returns we’ll be back on our bikes, and I’ll miss these Sunday swims. But for now, the pool is ours to enjoy. Heidi Kyser

 

AFTER THE DOOM

Apocalypse has been trending at least since John of Patmos busted out The Book of Revelation back in the day. In Armageddon’s more recent iterations, the Nevada Test Site has played a starring role — a kind of rehearsal hall for the end of the world. Among other things, the site radiates powerful metaphor and symbolism, which has worked its way into art (Robert Beckmann’s Body of a House series), high-end documentary (Michael Light’s book 100 Suns) and literature (Chris Abani’s The Secret History of Las Vegas). Lately I’ve been absorbed by the essays in Joni Tevis’ new collection The World Is on Fire, several of which address the Test Site. The elasticity of the essay form means a piece assumes the jumbled shapes of whatever’s jammed into it, no matter how eclectic, and one of the most appealing aspects of Tevis’ work is that she’s unafraid to stretch — making her work more than simple historical recap. In “Damn Cold in February,” for example, Tevis banks her apocalyptic jitters off the Test Site’s history, the death of Buddy Holly, John Wayne’s The Searchers and much more. There’s an interesting juxtapositional intelligence to this, the way one thematic vein subtly informs the others. Throughout, Tevis shows a knack for the insightful reframing: We’ve all heard about Doom Town, the desert dwellings built solely to be atomized by above-ground tests; but Tevis goes the extra step of pondering the sources of the materials (lumber from Georgia, fabrics from the Carolinas, mannequins from Long Island) and effort expended on this vast exercise in futility: “A crew unloaded telephone poles, jockeyed them upright and drilled them into the alluvium. Down in Vegas, men bargained for cars and stood in line for sets of keys.” There’s a melancholy dimension to creating things to be obliterated. Tevis doesn’t flinch at the big-picture scary stuff, either: “All water exposed to the upper air since 1945 contains radioactive signatures. The A-bomb is in us all, its isotopes in our all our blood: the tests, all 1,021 of them, live on through us.”

Later in the book, she closes the circuit by visiting the cave on Patmos, a Greek island, where John, whomever he was, wrote Revelation. Scott Dickensheets

 

 

 

 

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