Dear Glutton: How Do I Survive the Depressing Summer of 2016?
Summertime sadness remedies
Is it just me, or has this summer been the worst so far? There are just so many terrible things happening, and everyone I know, including me, feels incredibly depressed. Send help!
– Summertime Sadness
This summer really has been the worst, hasn't it? Between the crushing heat (which yes, everyone keeps insisting is not that bad for Texas, but still makes me feel like I'm melting into an increasingly dysfunctional pile of goop) and the constant stream of violent and terrible news, things have rarely been worse. And so, in keeping with the theme of this issue, I suggest that you take some time off from the rigors of the adult world and return, if only for a few moments, to the innocent sugary embrace of childhood.
I don't know about you, Lana, but all of my least sad summertime memories involve frozen desserts. Austin has its fair share of artisanal ice cream parlors (and really, it's hard to go wrong with Amy's Mexican Vanilla), but even ice cream seems too dignified for the kind of heat-worsened depression you're talking about here. Ice cream is something respectable adults eat, at least occasionally, in respectable circumstances, scooped on top of flourless chocolate cake, floating in espresso, twirled into perfect prolate spheroids at fancy restaurants. Ice cream can't fix anything. It's too terrestrial, too substantial. When you've finished eating ice cream, even if it's in a cone, the dessert's most childlike and impractical form, your hands are sticky, your belly full. You feel weighed down by the experience. You are unable to forget the confines of your heavy adult body, still subject to the sadnesses of the world.
Fortunately for you, Austin is also rich in sno-cone stands. Sno-cones share many of ice cream's summertime joys (the cold, the sweetness, the nostalgic appeal) but they are also gloriously, delightfully impractical. When was the last time you ate a sno-cone? For me, it had been years, at least a decade, until your letter inspired me to go exploring. And I was glad I did, because the joys of sno-cones are manifold. There's something compelling about their insubstantiality, the way the shaved ice melts off the tongue, disappearing into the heat of your body, only the faint sweetness of the syrup left behind. It's like consuming the ghost of a dessert.
There are as many types of sno-cones as there are varieties of seasonal depression, from the old-school decadence of Casey's New Orleans Snowballs with custard and condensed milk, to the hallucinogenic bright-hued creations of Jim Jim's Water Ice. The hip East Austin bar and sandwicherie Haymaker even has a summertime happy hour where you can get an alcoholic sno-cone for $3. All of these are excellent options for days when you've suffered through another long day at the job you're not crazy about, another boring first date, or more bad news, and want to grab a quick pick-me-up on the way home. But if you really want an escape, take yourself out for the evening. Turn off your phone; leave it at home if you can. Stop by Sno-Beach, which is right down the street from Zilker Park, and open 'til 8pm. Walk through the park eating your sno-cone, preferably my favorite combination of half horchata, half tiger's blood, with a cold thickened sluice of cream on top, resisting the temptation to check your phone or acknowledge the existence of the outside world. Wash the syrup from your chin and fingers with a dip in Barton Springs, which has free swimming every night between 9 and 10pm. Float on your back. Look at the moon. Taste the sugar on your tongue. Feel better.