Monday, August 1, 2011

Sweat Time, Living in the City

"Summertime, and the living is easy...."

I hear some dissenting harumphs to this, including my own. Mother used to sing that to me as a lullaby. I remember no air-conditioning in New Mexico. The advantage there is, most always, the evenings are cool. They give relief. Mother had this really light-weight bedspread that went on my bed in late May, and that helped, too.

I could wear shorts and a shirt. I had swimming lessons in the town unheated pool at 9 in the mornings when it was really cold and I learned to swim to keep from freezing to death....

But business did slow down in the summers. There was always a pitcher of sun-tea around, and some mint sprigs to go with. The temperatures rarely topped 100, as I recall, which was good.

I remember a summer trip to Dallas with my father,mother and grandmother across the Texas desert in an un-airconditioned car. We had a big thermos jug of ice water in the car but it didn't help much. It was the 1950s, and my mother and grandmother, despite the heat, had on a slip with their hose and a girdle, else how would they keep their hose up? I remember in the privacy of the car, they pulled their skirts up a bit and knotted those hose under the knees to give them more breathing room. I remember eyeing this and telling myself, never, never,never. There must have been a lot of us in that generation...even now, when I insist at least on crop pants for church on Sunday, I don't wear hose in the summertime.

But always, in New Mexico, nearby are some mountains and cool air. Only 30 minutes away from Alamogordo. Too many days of oppressive heat, and off we would go, for an afternoon respite. I think, from the Metroplex in Texas, I just about need to drive the 600-plus miles to get to those same mountains to get away from the heat here.

This year, add extreme drought all over. Only here, in the Metroplex, did we get just enough rain to be merely near-drought conditions. This year, for most folks, the green beans and squash didn't make--too much high heat came on in June. Despite watering, the tender corn shoots just shriveled in the sun. But the cantaloupe are doing well. Resilient okra and black-eyed peas are going gangbusters. Tomatoes? We can still get some but our own gardens have dried up for the time being. They will come back in September, and with any luck, we will be picking batches of half-green tomatoes to finish on the window sills in late November. That's when we usually get a freeze.

The summer of 1980 is talked about a lot here in the Southwest. Our longest, hottest summer ever in history. And we didn't even have a drought then.

I remember the summer of 1980 vividly. I was in my 30s, worked out regularly, and still that summer seemed it would never end. Heard today that with another week of 100-plus temperatures, an absolute surety, we will have broken that record.

So it is summertime. The living certainly isn't easy. Thanks to Gracie, I'm up before 7 most days, anyway. Get in a little watering while it still is in the
80s. I run the sprinkler and Gracie runs through it like a mad dog, barking her version of a cowboy "Yahoo!" Good to see. Good to laugh.

The heat makes families cruel to one another. Parents kill each other. They leave their children in hot cars. They kill extended family. We have bodies all over the Metroplex. They are the minority, of course. Most kids are having a fine summer, even if they do notice the hot. Most adults seem to be behaving like adults and finding genuine pleasure in what is, for now, a sweaty life.

Note to you folks in Minnesota, the Dakotas, etc., who have also suffered horrendous heat. It is pretty horrible, isn't it? And hard for you to endure because you don't have the resources to deal with high heat. You don't need the resources because it happens so seldom.

Remember this the next cold spell when Texans are sliding over the roads due to inadequate sanding or salt operations. Years ago, when I was working for a Metropolitan paper,I remember a forecast for sleet. One of the reporters was assigned an article on how to handle it. The weather didn't materialize. His editor, an organized and thrifty person, stashed the article. Five years later, it finally ran. Ice at last. The reporter even still worked there.

Summertime, and I guess the living is the same in every season. It is as easy as we let it be.


clairz said...

I remember those family car trips before air conditioning. My father always made sure we were driving through the desert parts at night.

With the heat this summer, my garden looks terrible no matter what. I look at photos from this time last year and see the same thing. I guess it really gets going much later in the summer. I don't know how my plants can tell the difference between sprinkler water and monsoon raindrops, but they can.

A nice thing about hot, hot summer afternoons is that they give you permission to stay very still near a fan and catch up on lots of reading!

Stay cool...

Matt G said...

You didn't mention the plague of locusts that has visited our town. 2 and 3 inch brown grasshoppers, swarming, eating all the leaves off of my garden, thumping against my car as I drive beneath streetlights at night, exploding from my footsteps as I walk through the grass in the day.