Update: I wrote this last summer long before we had a total non-winter in 2019/20 followed by our current global pandemic in which all bets are off. No telling what we’re up against this summer but I expect I’ll be indoors with the shades drawn for most of it. No Coney Island this year, friends.
Here we are, standing at the brink of another slimy-with-sweat, breathless, humid, miserable summer and I am saying again what I always say this time of year?
What is so great about summer?
See, it’s quite a different story in the winter. We get 18 inches of snow and everyone’s out there with big grins. Kids on sleds, even the guys with shovels are yelling and tossing snowballs. People greeting each other and laughing.
Does that happen when we’re in day four of a heat wave? Is anyone laughing and making dumb jokes about the weather with their neighbors?
Oh hell no!
Already I’m dreading that disgusting trickle of sweat running down the middle of my back and soaking my underpants. And the smells? That’s a special feature of summer in the city when (as Neil puts it) New York becomes the city of a thousand smells. Insider tip: avoid Chinatown in the hot weather.
Now, let’s be clear, I do like weather. Places like San Diego, where I lived for four interminable months, do not have weather. I guess I missed their rainy season. While I was there every single day was an absolute clone of the day before and the day after it: cool and foggy in the morning, hot as a furnace in the afternoon with pounding sunshine and cooling off again in the evening. And that’s fine if you like that kind of thing. Although I will admit that having it cool off in the evenings was a relief we seldom get in the northeast in late summer. But it still bored the bejesus out of me.
Seasons. Give me seasons.
And here I mean more than two. Wet and dry are not seasons. But of the four we are blessed with in New York I could live a long and fulfilled life without summer. Ok, maybe a nice temperate summer with a top temperature of, oh, let’s be generous and go with 85 degrees (about 30 Celsius to my more advanced brothers and sisters around the world). I’m thinking that around 15 days or so of that temperature would be tolerable….just not all in a row.
We had a summer back in the mid-aughts when the summer demons cursed us with three or four consecutive days of temperatures above 100 Fahrenheit. I remember making sure to get out early to take care of anything that needed taking care of and then holing up in my bedroom where the air conditioner lived. I felt a real sense of panic in the afternoons when the walls of the bedroom got hot and the heat radiated from the window. I was trapped and, dear God and all that’s holy, please don’t let the power go down.
Preceding summer by a solid two months is Air Conditioning Season.
That’s already begun here in New York. I got on a bus last week when we’d topped 55 degrees and was glad I’d dressed for the weather because it was fucking freezing on that bus.
Digression alert: Other than on those nightmare days in the upper 90’s I loathe air conditioning. It is the tool of the devil. It is used when not needed on buses and subways, in restaurants, and Jesus Christ, is there some reason the entire supermarket needs to be refrigerated?
That said, I do have an air conditioner because there’s no way to survive those hellish New York nights when the temperature stays in high 80s. It’s not like we sleep out on the fire escape or on the roof anymore, friends. I used to have a window unit that could actually cool the entire apartment but in so doing made the bedroom uninhabitable. On the hottest nights I ran that sucker and slept on the futon in the living room. Now I have a small portable unit that keeps the bedroom sleep-able and can be shoved into the closet during the winter so that my one window can be a window.
They don’t do it like this in Europe
It’s not as if I have a lot of experience as a world traveler but I was in Prague twice in the summer where it gets good and hot. Very few of the restaurants or stores I went to were refrigerated. Thick walls and careful window placement meant that most places were fine without air conditioning. I imagine there was a time in this country when summer heat was taken into consideration when building homes and businesses. But then there’s New York and other cities where everything is built on top of everything else. Those with the wherewithal could up and leave in the summertime (and still do) and the rest of the rabble could suffer. Until air conditioning. Now it’s the polar bears turn to suffer.
Last year, we got up at 3 am one morning in July to take the Q train out to Coney Island in time for the sunrise and stayed until around noon before high-tailing it back to the relative comfort of our apartment where the shades are kept drawn. Then there’s the evil genius of Summer Streets NYC which at least banishes cars from several main thoroughfares in the city but forget having easy access to fun stuff like this:
While streets are being barricaded against cars this year (thanks, virus, nice that you came up with some kind of upside here), don’t be looking for any nifty stuff like water slides.
In addition to suffocating from the heat, there’s the presence of my 8,000,000 fellow New Yorkers to contend with. I’m an urban creature through and through and I still hate being in crowds. Especially crowds in the summer. Beaches, subway platforms, and streets that are packed with other hot, cranky people are not my idea of a good time.
Oh all right. It’s not all bad.
We have the incredible good luck to live two blocks from Central Park with the Harlem Meer and the North Woods a ten-minute walk away. There are wonderful free movies in parks all over the city. You can stand in line with chatty tourists to get tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. And there’s something to be said for not having to suit up in 9 layers of protective gear just to go outdoors.
Acceptance is the answer, I’m told, but I know that I need to kick and scream and pound my little fists in fury first. Otherwise, I’m just stuffing my discomfort and hatred of hot, humid, nasty summer, and that never works. Consider this the Summer of 2019’s tantrum. Now I’ll shut the hell up, dress for it, and hide out when I can in the dim, cool places that can be found.
And you Summer People (including my Helios-worshipping partner, aleXander), go ahead, revel in the disgusting heat, and wallow away in your sweat. Having a good time? Fine.
Before we know it the summer will have passed and we can get back to normal living. And complaining about the cold.
© Remington Write 2019. All Rights Reserved