Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hot Enough for You?

This is a standard Missouri greeting in the sweltering, humid days of July & August. (For some reason, this segment of the calendar is referred to as the Dog Days, yet canines don't seem to enjoy this weather any better than humans.) The perverse protocol on this greeting is that you don't ask the question unless you're well past what a normal human being would label "pleasant." If it isn't grossly understated, then you haven't waited for the thermometer to get high enough.

Last night I was over at Ma'ikwe's and it was damn hot. (Do you remember the monolog that Robin Williams does in Good Morning, Vietnam, where he's interviewing himself, playing the role of the hypothetical grunt, Roosevelt T Roosevelt, and asks him how he's doing? Roosevelt replies: "It's hot and wet. That's good if you're with a lady, and bad if you're in the jungle." Well, I was with the right woman but the ambiance was too jungly.)

Ma'ikwe's house is still a construction zone and she doesn't yet have screens installed on her bedroom windows, leaving you with a Hobson's Choice between: a) cross ventilation with unfettered bugs; or b) doing without, which translates to still air and temperatures too hot to tolerate skin-to-skin contact. Yuck! Last night we chose no insects and no intersection between bodies. (If I didn't already have a vasectomy this would be a highly effective prophylactic against undisciplined lust.)

On the good side, on warm days it's relatively easy to get limbered up in the morning. On the down side, you have to watch out for the salt sting as scalp sweat meanders past your eyes. The garden crops tend to love the heat, yet so do the weeds. People start looking for chunks of time in the early morning or early evening to accomplish the serious outdoor work, leaving midday for siestas or sedentary tasks. You can stay up to take advantage of the cooling off following sundown, or go to bed with the poultry in hopes of stealing a march on the sun at dawn.

Most of the year we try to feature evening meals that are hot and hearty; for the coming 10 weeks we're thinking light and cool (gazpacho rather than Brunswick Stew; rice salad rather than rice pilaf). For the months of summer, there is no food more precious to me than cold milk. Some days it's hard to get interested in anything solid at all. It's all about managing my liquid intake, trying to pour in as much as my pores let out.

At night, it's about cooling down enough to let sleep overtake my overamped body; it's about bringing my electrons down to an REM orbit. On especially sultry nights I rely on a trick: running my wrists under the cold water faucet for about a minute before lying down.

Luckily, the body adapts (somewhat) to the higher temperatures. The blood thins and before long 85 degrees feels pleasant. If it drops below 70 at night you're scrambling for a sheet. As hard as it is to imagine right now, I'll be thinking wistful of Ma'ikwe's warm bed come November—when we'll be looking hopefully to the wood stove to make things hot enough for us.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Dog days refers to one of the astrological constellations ascendant at this time of year (I forget which one).