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Summer Lovin':
New Old Tricks for the Dog Days

or, If It's Not the Heat and It's Not the Humidity, It Must Be You!

by Amy Halloran

Summer has hit us with a vengeance, at least here in the Northeast. Spring got the boot early this year, so we haven't had the chance to watch the trees leaf out, musing about love's buds and possibilities. What to do?

Why not take the bull by the hot horns -- wear gloves if you must -- and move backwards in time to some tried-and-true ways to find true love? Or at least some easy-going summertime companionship. The ways our parents met can seem quaint, but our parents did meet. And if you're looking for ways to add some new people to your social circle, maybe the past has some valuable hints.

If it was Good Enough for Dobie Gillis...

The other night I passed a drive-in movie theater at twilight. The car in front of me slowed as a woman walked across the sky-wide screen. (Wait a second. Was she topless? Or was her top flesh-colored?) But even better than what I saw was what I started remembering.

The lore and lure of the drive-in theater was well-established by the time I started practicing kissing, in the late 70s. My lifetime sweetheart and I decided it was time to take in a very big picture show. We watched a movie take over the sky while our babe slept in the backseat. Families surrounded us during the first feature. Then the mating game changed from settled to seeking.

Pickups and convertibles started to roll in for the second flick, the big dating draw. If I didn't already have me a date for this summer, I'd head for the nearest drive-in, bring a hopeful pair of lawn chairs, a blanket, and a bag of homemade snacks. Who could resist a brown paper bag of popcorn, smothered in real butter, offered up by a cute stranger under the stars? Or maybe even sharing a swig from a bottle of Dr. Pepper? Okay, if you're not ready to swap spit before you get around to phone numbers, bring a six pack of whatever beverage suits your fancy. You can also find a wide variety of easy-to-share candy, like licorice whips.

Not convinced that the drive-in is still going strong in America? Well, there are plenty of perky theater-owners who would disagree. Richard Hollingshead opened the first drive-in theater on June 6, 1933. Now there are almost 4,000 in online database. And just a couple of weeks ago, more than a hundred drive-ins across the country to honor Hollingshead's contribution to American dating. Don't worry, there are just a few simple rules that you will want to learn (dim those lights!). And hey, even if you're taking a road-trip this summer, you can just pick up a copy of the Pocket Drive-In Locator and stop in for a quick flick under the stars just about anywhere you go.

So hang out in the B-movie section of your favorite video store, scan the, um, selections, and see if you can find someone you want to invite to a special cinematic event outdoors. If that sounds like a dodgy way to fill your passenger seat, think about your list of Platonic Pals. Which one (or ones) do you want to progress to the next letter of the alphabet, to R for Romantic?

I Scream, You Scream...

The drive-in is not the only ancient mating ground being rediscovered this summer. Consider the dairy bar. Out in the country and even in urban areas that were once on the outskirts of cities, lit plastic softserve swirls stand high on the side of the road, calling on all to stop and get a mixed twist with colored sprinkles. After baseball and softball games these places are packed, and it is so much more pleasant to cruise the menu of flavors out in the open, rather than in a dark bar.

Bear in mind that often, more hungers are served at these joints than sweet tooths - many dairy bars are also full-fledged fish frys and hamburger stands, so you can bring your entirely empty stomach and stay through dessert, stretching your viewing time over the early evening. Freshen up your opening lines and sidle up to something cool.

Note! Real softserve is a food that is actually artificial in flavor and much of its content, though that never interfered with my thorough enjoyment of it. Aficionados of the true frozen twirl appreciate only genuine frozen custard, a product lighter in calories and stronger in flavor than hard ice cream. The Kohr Brother's claim to have invented the stuff and sold it first on Coney Island in 1919. Of course, there are many other custard brands and locations, especially in Wisconsin and Illinois, that boast similar claims.

Find Yourself a Jerk... the Good Kind

Soda fountains are another fabled place of introduction. They have been around cities and towns forever, for almost 200 years. And with a little help from you, they won't go extinct any time soon (it's a mutually beneficial relationship, the one between you and your local soda fountain). Have an egg cream, a sundae, a cone of homemade hard ice cream. If you go solo maybe you'll find someone at the counter to make a summer's worth of treks to these living shrines of Americana. Worried about the calories? Get there by bike!

And, if these ideas don't get your dance card filled, there is always the extreme route, and this is a route indeed. Quit your job and get an ice cream truck! You could pedal a cart while peddling fudgsicles, creamsicles, and ice cream sandwiches. Or you could drive a mini-van, converted postal jeep, or whatever vehicle suits your fancy and holds a small freezer. You can choose the kind of music you'll use to draw young and old to your ice cream parlor on wheels. Whether hip-hop, classical, or traditional, the tune you carry will be an obvious conversation piece. Keep a pen and pad of paper handy for catching and releasing phone numbers.

There are many things we're glad we've left behind in this country, to be sure. But when it comes to a long, lonely, hot-and-humid summer nights, there are still a few classic places we can rely on. And that's good news, too.

Because folks, it looks like it's going to be a scorcher....

Amy Halloran recently advised you, the BTD readership, on how to go thrifting for love.

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