Today, as I walked to and from work, I smelled the scent of summer. That’s because Third Street has just been repaved, and I was taking in the black, tarry aroma of asphalt.
I reflexively associate asphalt with summer because we lived on an asphalt street when I was a kid. After a rugged Akron winter, come spring the cracks and holes in the street would be patched with more asphalt and a layer of tar. When the hot summer months arrived, the asphalt would reach scorching temperatures and sprout tar bubbles, and the smell was as rich and heady as the sulphur fumes belched out by the rubber factories downtown. You got tar on your sneakers, tar on your bare feet, and tar on your bicycle tires.
Ever since, the dark smell of tar says summer to me, just as much as the eye-watering odor of chlorine in the local pool or the mouth-watering bouquet of burgers sizzling on the grill when the Velveeta cheese is just starting to melt and drip onto the hot charcoal. It’s as integral to the summer experience as the tinny sound of Turkey in the Straw played on the cheap loudspeaker on the roof of the ice cream truck or the smack of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt.
I took a deep whiff of that instantly familiar smell and barely succeeded in resisting the temptation to take off my shoes and stroll the asphalt in my bare feet, as in days gone by. By the time I got home, I put on my shorts and sunglasses and let summer know that I was glad it was here, and ready for it, too.