Thursday, August 03, 2006

heat wave

I visited New York City for the first time just about this week three years ago. I remember wandering the city in a blaze of tourism, which meant I spent most of my hours outdoors in the soupy heat. The hostel I stayed in didn't have air conditioning, and I believe that has been the closest I've experienced to the heat of hell. I thought it was hot then.... but I would have to say the current state of weather has trumped that. Keep in mind I live here now, have a better grasp and appreciation of the city, and am smart enough to spend all available hours (while not in transit somewhere) in zones of air conditioning. The weather is so miserable now, and happens to be everywhere in the country except for minor oases of Pacific marine layer, I can't even put it into words. Everybody feels this way here in the city too; people sweat through their clothes in helpless misery on the subway and on the street. People are dropping dead with heat-related ailments across the country. I wonder what it was like before air conditioners out here.... particularly when waiting underground for the subway, which is a minor hell of its own in this heat. It's funny to see the train arrive in the station, packed with people, and then one car will pass that is absolutely empty. Empty, of course, because it isn't air conditioned. What did people do before the subways were air conditioned? I can't even imagine.

So, some "cold front" is apparently coming in tonight, which will bring the New York City metropolitan area down to a frigid 90 degrees opposed to hovering at three digits of Fahrenheit as it has for the past three days.

A friend of mine recently moved to Tucson, Arizona. I'm not even sure how they can bear the heat there.... but I am reminded that west of the Rockies humidity isn't even a factor in hot weather, and I'll take a dry heat wave over a humid heat wave any day of the week. So, when observing the mere two or three degrees difference between New York City and southern Arizona right now, I am at pains. So is my air conditioner, struggling.

So, with this massive heat wave and nationwide record-breaking temperatures, of course my mind wanders to the subject of global warming. If there's one subject that makes me uneasy about events beyond my control it's this one. Video footage of glaciers cracking apart induces a strange fight-or-flight response from me, and I feel helpless and antsy. I rant to people about the benefits of public transit. I rant to people about the benefits of soy fuel (which, to be honest, I find kind of a funny prospect.... but hey, it works and it's better for our environment than the alternative), or buying hybrid engine vehicles, or refitting diesel engines to run on canola oil. At this point, it's probably cheaper to go to Costco and stock up on palettes of Wesson than to go fill up with gas. I have no energy to stand on a soapbox about what we need to do to help our environment and all that; I think it's becoming more aware in the American consciousness now. Sure it's a worldwide issue, but we have to start somewhere. That said, I must plug Al Gore's terrific and entertaining (yes, entertaining and important) documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which is a must for everyone to see. Everyone as in you. Have you seen it yet? Well, you might as well go tonight. Bring some friends. Bring neighbors if you see them fanning themselves on the porch. Don't pout, or be afraid.... It's not some doomsday vehicle at all; it's actually quite hopeful. I wish that my undergrad chemistry classes had such informative and understandable presentations. I'll leave it at that.

Back to when I first visited NYC: I was with two of my friends, both who lived in New England at the time, and I told them, while sweltering underground waiting for a local subway train that took too long to arrive, that I would take an East Coast winter over an East Coast summer in a heartbeat. I was guessing, of course, having grown up on the beach in California. They both said in unison, "No you wouldn't." Three years later, I'd still pick the snowy winter, hands down.


Writeprocrastinator said...

"Keep in mind I live here now, have a better grasp and appreciation of the city, and am smart enough to spend all available hours (while not in transit somewhere) in zones of air conditioning."

I've been back East, nine times or more since I've been married. Yet, I've only been in Manhattan just once when it wasn't hot (a mild October) and if there's one thing I've noticed, everybody lingers ten minutes after they've finished in their meals, in air-conditioned restaurants.

Hey, Pacifica and Daly City have hovered around a sweltering sixty-two degrees, not including the wind. Go West, young man!

amy said...

The Tucson heat definitely makes me miss CA & OR but I can't complain when you're dealin' w/ humidity!! I need to make sure to come visit you when it's not East Coast summer or winter time!! Miss ya!!