Saturday, August 29, 2009

How Hot is It?

"Always remember the first rule of power tactics; power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have."
Saul Alinsky

If the enemy is heat, petrifying, mummifying, melting your eyeballs, triple-digit Fahrenheit heat, then the power to conquer is my air conditioner.

There was a time, in the misty past of my youth, when I scoffed at wussies who needed their air conditioned. I’m talking to you, Gramma. That was when I lived in the swamp that Washington D.C. was built on. Humidity in the high 90s, and it would cool off to a mere double-digit night, when you’d try to fall asleep in a position in which none of your skin touched any other part of your skin. If you so much as moved your elbow into a 45-degree angle, water would drip from the fold in the skin after about 30 seconds. Nighttime was as hot as daytime, just darker. But I was a young teen then, and I was immortal.

That was then. This is now in Southern California, the edges of the Sonoran desert, expanding like bloated roadkill in the sun, into the coastal climate after six years of hard drought. The good news is, there’s virtually no humidity. The bad news is that there’s virtually no humidity, plus I’m not an immortal teen now.

You have to drink about 23 gallons of water a day just to be able to sweat. And sweat – that manages to ooze through your pores – sizzles as it drips down the sides of your face. It’s the same as the way the snot in your nose used to freeze and crackle when you were a kid out sledding down the suburban streets, only different.

So, I managed to get outside today, primarily to take a picture of the thermometer reading 108 in the freaking shade. Then I retreated inside. Perhaps too over-exposed to see, are some drops of water on the thermometer. They are from me wiping the display with water to get a clearer picture, but they make it seem like the thermometer itself is sweating.

There are two climate zones inside. The computer room and adjacent kitchen, where my tomatoes and garlic have been roasting in a 250 oven for just about 4 hours, where I had to close the kitchen window because the breeze blowing in was hotter than the oven-heated ambient air.

Past the closed doors is the living/dining room, cooled by a ginormous room air conditioner that will blow the pollen off a silk plant 20 feet downwind.

So far, we have been spared the winds out of the dry basins to the east of the mountains that separate El Cajon from the Anza Borrego desert in El Centro. Such summer winds often accompany such high temps: the legendary Santa Ana wind that blows from the east, pushing the city’s smog out over the ocean and replacing it with furnace breath on your neck if you venture outside. We have also been spared the back country fires that are raging 100 miles northeast of my house and roaring down the rich canyons leading to Malibu. It’s always a form of entertainment for the masses when movie star houses burn down in metro LA, but still. But still, there’s plenty of regular summer and Native American Summer left to come before the theoretical rainy season begins in November.

The enemy is the hot weather, and huddled here inside my air conditioned cocoon, I hope it doesn’t call my bluff: I don’t have the power to survive on my own out here in the daytime.

Our nights however, are mercifully different from my teenage years. Because there is no coastal cloud cover blowing in from the west, as soon as the sun goes down, the heat rises visibly into the empty sky. If you pick just the right moment to open the windows and doors, reverse the fans to blow in the cooling evening air, you can go outside, water the parched patio, you can moisten the cool evening air the fans are sucking in. Sleeping with the windows open and the fan on is actually a rather pleasant alternative to snuggling under sheets because the bedroom is air-conditioned.

8 comments:

chaiselongue said...

I've just converted 108F to celsius and it's 42.2C - that's HOT! We have those sort of temperatures here sometimes, but luckily mostly it stays in the thirties centigrade. We've just had a hot few weeks when the only way to feel cool was to shower and then lie under the fan-cooled air without getting dry - bliss for a few moments until you were dry again. I still don't like the artificial 'taste' of air-conditioned air, though. It's got cooler here now - hope it does for you too soon!

Martha in Michigan said...

What weird weather we're all having. Here in SE Michigan, it has been such a cool summer that I got no tomatoes until mid-August, when we had a brief blast of normal summer temps. It's back to the 50s at night and barely 70 by day—perfect temperatures to me, but not at all encouraging to the tomatoes. I made one batch of sauce yesterday but wonder whether I'll get enough to do another. Should have replanted peas and beans early this year.

Why is it that the 68-degree interior I love now feels freezing in the winter? While there is probably a good scientific explanation, I prefer to think that contrary humans simply want what we cannot have.

tina said...

No thanks to the heat. That 108 is HOT HOT HOT! It is cooling off here finally-thankfully. Hopefully soon in your neck of the woods. Good thing you have big A/C to cool you off inside.

فرانسيس said...

108?!? Ick. K and I took the train to SF today and the bank thermometer told me it was 52 in the middle of the day. Somewhere between us it's perfect.

JamesA-S said...

That is just being silly.
It sounds like absolutely no fun at all.
I have never experienced heat like that outside a sauna.
Even most sensible saunas baulk at being that hot.
Roll on winter.

Eid Sms said...

i like the winter comparitvely to summar becose of winter beauty...

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