Attic Salt column for April 22, 2012

BY ED CULLEN

As though responding to a cosmic Tweet, Baton Rouge put on its summer face the other day.

It’s hard for newcomers to Baton Rouge to know when late winter has become spring and spring summer.

People who rely on seasons to tell them where they are in a year trust calendars printed in Wisconsin.

Longtime residents know the only real difference in the seasons is relative humidity.

Cold weather at Christmas is a bonus. It’s the dryness of the air that makes Santa Claus smile.

Women in their summer dresses are the first sign of summer for men. The dark blues, browns and reds fade to yellow, white and pale orange. Shoes full of artfully arranged air spaces and straps replace footwear meant to hide the foot from cold.

One recent rainy afternoon, a woman leaving the newspaper paused to pull flip-flops from her purse for the dash to her car. Summer.

Signs of seasonal change among men? A few beards get shaved. Haircuts get shorter.

For men, the change to warm weather wear is subtle: More white oxford shirts, fewer blue, maybe a new pair of khaki trousers.

What men wear to restaurants year-round is a wonderment, but the bar is on the ground come summer. Some men sat together at brunch one Sunday in a nice restaurant. In tropical shirts, shorts and sandals, they might have been driving RVs from the factory to the dealership and stopped for lunch.

It won’t be scientific summer until June 20. By then, we’ll be well into hot weather at this latitude. Hikers will trudge around University and City Park lakes with heavy packs, training for walks in cooler places.

Men, young and old, will troll for women using dogs on leashes as bait. A good looking, big, slap-happy dog is better than wearing a sign that says, “Looking for love.”

Wading pools in frontyards are a sign of early summer. On the last cool afternoon, children recline in icy water trembling, lips vibrating, faces turning blue.

In my part of town, there are college students in some of those frontyard wading pools. The cost of one of the cheaper pools split four ways leaves change from a 20 for beer and chips.

This year’s winter wouldn’t have kept boaters off University and City Park lakes, but warm weather is a magnet for people with boats behind their garages or leaning against backyard fences.

In a neighborhood a short walk from the lakes, I watched as two small boys loaded a canoe onto a two-wheeled boat cart. Fishing rods leaned against the gunwales, bowed by line with hooks and floats attached.

The boys had put on their life jackets before leaving home. I looked for ear pieces with wires running to MP3 players. Saw none.

Open ears meant the boys would hear each other talking as they fished, bird and squirrel chatter and, best of all, the sound of approaching car traffic on the portage to the lake.