By ROBERT RECTOR
We know this because Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off the summer season in this country, even if your Christmas decocations are still up.
We know this because this weekend is the Indy 500, a blend of our love of fast cars with the prospects for death and destruction that attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year to Indiannapolis, a place they would otherwise never visit.
Vegetables are vegatating, graduates are graduating. Or, as an old blues song once observed: "The neighbors are fightin', the mosquitos or bitin'...it's hot."
So what are your plans for the summer?
On the travel front, about 200,000 more bodies are expected to pack LAX this year compared to last summer, according to published reports. At the same time, the number of seats available for U.S. destinations remain flat.
You don't need to be a genius to see that air travel this summer will amount to squeezing toothpaste into the tube.
"As load factors have crept up, we have been seeing involuntary denied boardings go up proportionately, and we'll see them go up even more so this summer," one airline official blithly told the Los Angeles Times.
In other words, it also means the chances of you getting bumped, or "involuntarily denied boarding," will rise in direct proportion to your blood pressure.
And stick this in your carry-on: The increase in traffic will mean longer lines at ticket counters and security checkpoints where LAX is already down 150 screeners.
Heard of Road Rage? Airport Angst is here.
So maybe a driving vacation is the ticket this summer.
Only if you refinance the house first.
The Energy Department announced earlier this month that drivers will pay more at the pump this summer than "previously thought."
"Previously thought"? We previously thought gas was going to cost us an arm and a leg. Now what?
Well, nationwide, retail gas prices will average 34 cents more than a year ago and 9 cents a gallon more than predicted a month ago, according to the energy folks in Washington. Stay tuned.
And if there's a hurricane in the Gulf? "Signaficant supply uncertainties remain," the Energy Department said.
Well, you can always stay home and fire up the grill.
Except that a recent study stated that while consumers perceive gas as a product that empties out their wallets, in reality, they pay much more for groceries. According the Consumer Price Index, long-term grocery inflation has exceeded gas inflation (89.4 percent versus 84.6 percent) over the past two decades.
Maybe we could try organ meat. If you put enough barbecue sauce on it, who knows the difference?
But there is a ray of light in this gloom.
If you have to spend a summer of discontent somewhere, I can't think of a better place than Los Angeles.
That's why I plan to spend part of my summer reexploring my own hometown. And by hometown, I mean the greater Los Angeles area.
I haven't been to the zoo in years. Or Grauman's Chinese. Or Farmer's Market. Or the Santa Monica pier. Or Olvera Street. I plan to go.
I'm planning on a visit to the Hollywood Bowl. And the Greek Theater. And the Getty.
There's a day trip to Santa Barbara by train in the works. A couple of visits to Dodger stadium.
Adventerous? Exotic? No. But in an era of limits, try exploring your own backyard.
If Heull Howser can do it, so can I.