Marolt: Seared like a Bay Watch lifeguard
How can something so bad for you feel so good? I miss the days when sunshine was healthy.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you were probably born after 1970 and have smooth, spotless skin. People who never worked on their base tans at the first sign of spring will most likely die with baby faces.
What on earth is a base tan? Well, it starts with a fairly deep sun searing that quickly peels before leaving behind deep, dark, tanned skin the consistency and feel of a brand new Rawlings baseball glove made from Heart of the Hide leather. Why would anybody desire that, you ask? The answer is simple: it’s so you don’t need to use sunscreen the rest of the summer, or maybe ever again for that matter.
I miss the days of sun-tanning oils that felt like Crisco and smelled like coconuts and had a negative SPF that, with the aid of an aluminum foil reflector held just below your chin, could leverage the sun’s natural strength into something resembling the radioactive effect of a handful of raw uranium dust tucked in your shirt pocket.
In the old days, when Keith Richards was just beginning to experiment with psychedelic drugs and Elvis was still wearing shoes rather than empty Kleenex boxes on his feet, absorbing mega doses of vitamin D injected by ultraviolet rays piercing our skin kept us healthy.
I remember one doctor prescribed for me an hour a day face up to the sun with my mouth wide open as a cure for strep throat. It seemed to work and the moles on my tonsils are, to this day, an inconsequential side effect.
I know what I just said sounds crazy. Many of you know that it actually was Howard Hughes who reportedly wore Kleenex boxes on his feet in his later years rather than Elvis, but I figure if the richest man in the world at that time did this, then the most famous entertainer probably did, too. I seriously doubt that only one mega-wealthy, reclusive, eccentric nut in the world thought to try this and Michael Jackson was still just a child.
It seemed in 1975 we couldn’t get enough sun. Nobody went outside to “get some fresh air;” it was all about “bagging some rays.” It was impossible to be too dark. A common sight in public places was seeing two or more people rolling up their sleeves so they could put their forearms side by side to compare who had the best tan.
People were admired for their dedication to sunbathing. Four hours rolling over on a lounge chair next to a swimming pool and adjusting it’s position every 15 minutes to ensure even tanning was the historical healthy feeling equivalent of running the Leadville Trail 100 today.
Being pale back then was like being stiff from lack of yoga today. Tan lines were an outright embarrassment, like toilet paper stuck to your shoe. While lounging poolside, it was not thought at all weird to bunch your swimming trunks or bikini bottoms up into your crotch to expose as much butt skin as possible to the sun’s healing rays. When it came to tans, every square inch mattered.
I know it sounds ridiculous now when we think about it, but at the time it never occurred to anyone that the sun was strong enough to eat through two coats of exterior latex paint on the side of a house about every five years and fade the furniture in our living rooms if we didn’t pull the shades.
We had no idea that a photovoltaic panel with about the same surface area as the skin on an average size human being exposed to the sun for three hours a day could harness enough energy to comfortably heat a mountain cabin.
No, we understood this about as much as we were aware that solar radiation was powerful enough to disrupt radio waves and telecommunications as well as dictate the atmospheric temperature of the very planet we live on.
In our defense, it can be truthfully said that at least we knew the world was a sphere.
An examination of history will reveal that somebody did make millions of dollars selling us cardboard shields that we religiously unfolded and propped on the inside of our windshields to protect the interiors of our cars when we parked outside. Once we realized the sun was powerful enough to bake and crack the dashboards of our precious cars, we finally sensed trouble.
Roger Marolt has naturally dark skin, which means nothing today. Email at email@example.com.
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