Hey, don’t feel bad that you’re not going anywhere over the summer break while all your friends are holidaying in beach houses. Or traveling to tropical islands. Or sipping mojitos at the swim-up bar of a resort-pool while their feet get massaged by an underwater-podiatrist named Bevin who only comes up for air between calluses.
You don’t need all of that fancy, far-away, footsy stuff to have a relaxing summer break. All you need is a cheap rectangular piece of fabric commonly known as a "hammock". You also need a couple of anchor-points to tie the hammock to, because if you have nothing to tie a hammock to, it just becomes a “ground rug”.
A hammock is a very simple device. It has no mechanical parts or electronic componentry or Bluetooth connectivity. But it does have truly magical properties: the moment you lie down in a hammock, your body gives out, your mind drifts off, and you are transported to a tropical white-sand beach with ocean breezes gently rocking you to sleep between swaying palms. No longer are you in a small suburban backyard, suspended between two sick-looking trees that will be dead soon because you strangled their branches with hammock rope.
A hammock is not just for leisure, it does other amazing stuff too. It’s a very effective Romance-Instigator. If two people get into a hammock together, both of them will automatically slide into the centre of the hammock, known as the “Parabolic Canoodling Zone”. You can’t fight it: limbs will become entwined, skin will make contact, and at some point, the knee of one person will penetrate the ear of the other person in a mildly erotic way. Sometimes a person’s knee may even penetrate their own ear, but who cares, it all feels good.
A hammock is also a source of great entertainment. Watching a non-hammock-user use a hammock for the first time is a three-act masterpiece of theatrical tragi-comedy. Act Ι is the person trying to get into the hammock, which can take anywhere up to 15 minutes. Act ΙΙ is the person lying awkwardly in the hammock, looking like a sea-mammal in a sling being transferred between aquariums. Act ΙΙΙ is the person trying to get out of the hammock, which can last up to 25 minutes, most of it upside down.
A hammock has a million other uses … well three, definitely three more. It’s a handy guest-bedroom when friends want to stay the night and you don’t like them enough to let them sleep in the house. It’s a fun children’s playground-apparatus: just pop a kid in a hammock, spin it until they’re wrapped up like a cocoon, then let them get out themselves – it will keep them busy for hours. And even when you’re not using a hammock, it acts as a Wildlife Excrement Catchment-Net, making sure your backyard is free of bird and possum droppings, but only the tiny sliver of backyard directly underneath the hammock. Then you just need to shake out the hammock before you use it - or if you prefer, you can lie down on the possum droppings and use them as tiny back-and-shoulder acupressure balls.
And after a long, lovely summer of hammocking, your hammock will have transformed into a magnificent piece of conceptual outdoor art, all frayed and mouldy and dung-stained, representing an ephemeral narrative of summery memories that may not be fancy or far-away or footsy, but they’re still pretty nice, in a dialectical backyardy excremental context.
Danny Katz is a regular columnist.