Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When Juices Run Clear

Maybe you heard about our heat wave here in Portland. We were in for a good three days of temperatures in the mid-hundreds, followed by a cooling-off into the merely obnoxious nineties. The forecasters had this horror in their sights over a week ago and the local news was all over it, breathlessly spewing out strategies and warnings. The first and most important bit of advice was to begin panicking early so as to save time later. After that came earnest tips such as "try to stay cool" and "stay out of the heat" and "check on the elderly," many of whom were otherwise expected to sit and rotate quietly until they were evenly browned. In spite of this, no one has yet checked up on me, but one of the benefits of being elderly is that I grew up without air conditioning and I have skills.

The first day, it got up to 106, although on account of the breeze it only felt like 102, assuming you are in a quickie mart at the time, draped over the popsicle chest. Our house has so far remained in the eighties. We have our routines of opening up the place at night and exhausting the air with window fans, and shutting everything up and pulling the drapes in the morning. Tater, as a member in good standing of this household, has her routine too. First she goes to the hottest part of the house and sits in the sun, plugging herself in like a rechargeable battery. When she has accumulated the maximum survivable amount of thermal units, she wanders methodically through every other room in the house in order to radiate heatness into it, and ultimately beaches herself on the kitchen counter, where she puddles out to platter size and slowly turns into paste.

It takes a few days of this in a row to really get this place up to pork-roast temperature, but I remain on the alert for the smell of cracklin's, at which point I will find the nearest popsicle chest and make a nuisance of myself until I'm booted out. Then I guess I'll go to the basement. The basement is always the coolest part of the house. Science has shown this is because of the cooling effect of the spiders, all of whom are massively cool.

So, not so bad. At least, not as bad as the hottest day I ever experienced. It was July 1976, and it was 115 degrees in Salt Lake City. We were passing through on a bicycle trip. Fortunately, we were going downhill at the time, so it could have been worse--and it was, the next day, when it plummeted to 110 degrees and we decided to cross the Bonneville Salt Flats with a pint of water each, because our mothers were not there to stop us. Science has shown that the Salt Flats were formed over many years as dull-witted bicyclists passed through in a state in which they were no longer capable of perspiration, and had begun to flake out into a salty powder instead. This layer plinks off and settles to the ground, eventually forming a thick, flat surface. This does take a long time but there isn't a scientist in the world who will tell you that the salt flats were built in a day, and there's no shortage of dull-witted cyclists. Because of the complete lack of lumps in the landscape, scientists further surmise that deceased bicyclists turn entirely into salt and blow away.

Anyway, good news. After suggesting we might get as high as 113 degrees, the forecasters have revised the temperatures downward somewhat because British Columbia is on fire and a fortuitous wind has blown smoke in from the north. In similarly good news, I plan to stay warm this winter by slaying a cow and climbing inside its carcass.

We remain doughty and stout of heart. Thanks to all of you for your concern; we are especially grateful for the kind words of sympathy coming out of the Phoenix area ("Grow up, bitches").

36 comments:

  1. Here in Delaware, a normal summer for us used to be hot, humid, with a drought every year that was lasting enough for the governor to declare watering lawns and washing cars off limits. The last few years, however, have seen us having cooler summers, with more rain than we need. Our tomatoes are wearing little life preservers, and are cracking under the pressure. I actually wore a raincoat the other day, not just because it was wet out, but because I was chilly. In August. And climate change is "fake news". Riiiiiggghht.....

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    1. Those people...just about nothing makes me furiouser than those people. We don't have time for this!

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  2. Your heat reminds me of our summer which is beginning to loom large on the horizon. Of course we need to finish winter first and get through spring, but this weekend is tipped to be sunny and about 22C, which is a nice comfortable 71F and if springs past are anything to go by, it's more of a token warming period and fully hot before summer officially takes over and then never wants to leave. I admire you greatly for managing without airconditioning, there's no way I would get through summer comfortably without mine now.

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    1. It's really no big deal here (yet). Maybe in a few years it will be. I mean, who can't make it through just a few days of heat?

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    1. You know? Not really. But definitely not in Washington DC category.

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    2. Sitting here in DC, I"m kind of flabbergasted that you don't have any kind of A/C. Yes, we did grow up here with pretty much no air conditioning. But we were pretty young. And as I recall, air conditioning slowly crept into our lives, starting about the time we were in Jr.High or High School. (I remember that one of the language labs at Yorktown HS had 2 window A/C units -- that was considered high living!) The problem that I see with air conditioning is that once I get acclimated to it, I'll continue to use it even when it isn't necessary. Its about getting addicted to an environment that is conditioned and controlled. Really takes me out of touch with nature. So I can't live with it, and I can't live without it.

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    3. Remember there is one WHOLE lot of human history and pre-history in which no one had AC. As you point out, we didn't either. It's easier to go without here; no more than about a week of elevated temps to deal with, usually (when we used to have a "usually"). So it does kind of gripe me to see all these houses with their ACs roaring even when it's 75 degrees out. You're right. People get used to it, and I don't think it's all that good for them to insist on one temperature all the time. I know it's not that good for the world!

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    4. That pretty much describes my neighbors. I think we're the only house in the neighborhood that has our windows open. I'm sure they just think it's one of our little quirks, like having a xeriscape instead of a lawn and hauling our own trash to the dump.

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    5. If it matters, I salute your quirks.

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  4. I got to spend many summers along the shores of the Delaware Bay so I always had the option of jumping in (except at low tide when I would just get a mouthful of sand)and that was enough to stay cool. Do you have a nearby water source that isn't at cooking temperature?

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    1. We have the Columbia River, but you might recall my aversion to getting in water? Did you know you can't BREATHE under water? Did you?

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    2. When I was about 8 I realized that fish breathed water into their mouths and out through their gills and got enough oxygen to get by. I convinced myself that if I breathed water in through my mouth and out through my nose I could get enough oxygen to get by. I tried and quickly realized that theory didn't hold water as well as my lungs did.

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  5. Oops! I mis-read your closing para.Thought you were remaining doughy...

    Maybe things will cool a little when the sun's eclipsilated.

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    1. Wait just a minute--you think I'm DOUGHY? Maybe in spots.

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  6. Ack. Our summer is looming. And I hope she doesn't copy (and try and surpass) yours. She will though. Sigh.
    Your description of Tater made me smile. And quietly shout True, true...

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    1. What IS it with cats? Larry always gravitated to the warmest part of the house. And Tater is all black. She can really soak it up.

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    2. We had a black cat who insisted on getting so close to the heater that her fur would start to smoulder. When the air filled with attar of burning cat hair one of us would move her. And she wasn't happy.

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    3. Oh good lord. Really? I think that cat might have bordered on defective.

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    4. Only where heat was concerned. In other areas she was true cat and smarter than us.

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  7. When I was a kid, I remember the adults all remarking about the few times it hit 100 F here - not often, for sure. But I don't recall ever really feeling hot ... until I was about 18, and nearly fainted after 10 minutes in the sun one day. Ever since then I get nauseated and dizzy if the heat gets up past 85 F. So we do have two window air conditioning units, one up, one down. But I also make full use of nighttime cool air, breezes, drapes and blinds, closing off unused rooms, etc. to keep their use to a minimum. Don't hate me! Some of us can't sit around in the basement with the spiders all day!

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    1. Oh I can't either. It's gross down there, nothing about the spiders. When I was about sixteen, I nearly fainted after a whole day baking at the Chesapeake Bay slathered in baby oil. Had to put my head between my legs and everything. Did I learn anything? Not so's you'd notice.

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    2. In our summers the night time air is often as hot as the day time air :( and I sleep with a frozen hot water bottle.

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  8. And I'm the mother who's not there to stop her Portland son from going out to work in weather fit only for mad dogs and Englishmen....For your sake and his, I hope it cools off soon.

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    1. It has cooled to the nineties! More importantly, it's down to about 62 at night, and that's the key to the whole thing. Open the dang house up and start over every day. I'm quite comfortable. But I guess I wouldn't be if I expected it to be 72 all the time...

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  9. Driving through the Mohave Desert in Rich Chakrins Chevrolet convertible ( that leaked) in 105 temps heading from Santa Barbara back to Worcester just having or about to (depending on geography of which I have none) see Elvis Prestly in Las Vegas.

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  10. When I lived in Arizona there was at least one yahoo a week who would intone that it was a dry heat so it wasn't as bad as back in Minnesota. Try this, bonehead, put your oven on 115 and stick your head in it. Then, try it with a bowl of water in there and tell me if it feels different.

    I live in Canada now - long story there - and we have AC. I turn it on about once a summer, just to make sure it's working. The AC of my neighbors roar around me. Canadians.

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    1. My sister lives in western Colorado and in the summer it is quite hot and dry--you can hang your laundry out on the line and as soon as you get to the end you go back to the beginning and take them off again. So it's better than hot and humid but I still don't get the attraction.

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    2. Hot is hot. Don't care if it is wet or dry! Here in Seattle we are being protected some what by the smoke pouring down from Canada. That is, if you are not suffering from COPD and told to hide indoors. Holy Cow! We Pac Northwest folks looked forward to our wonderful two days of summer and now cannot see our lovely mountains at all. Not to mention the end of the block! All I can say is it is sucky! But we won't have to worry about losing our eyesight during the upcoming eclipse. All we will notice is that it is a bit darker through the haze of smoke. Always a bright spot if you look hard enough!

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    3. Gah. We see your BC smoke every day but I can't smell it. Obviously you're a lot closer. You have to squint right hard for that bright spot, and you dunnit.

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    4. On behalf of Canada ... sorry.

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