17 July 2006

Hot, Hot, Hot

Or so they say. I guess it was about 98° today (36.5C), and the TV announcers were positively hysterical about how we were all going to be dropping like flies if we spent more than a few minutes out in direct sunlight during the mid-afternoon hours. Except for the usual drunks collapsed here and there in doorways - and I doubt the heat had much to do with that - people seemed to be going about their normal business (as were the passed-out drunks, come to think of it) without too many problems.

I myself had to do laundry so I'd have some clean clothes my trip to California in the morning; I did make one concession to the heat by choosing the air-conditioned coin-free (it's all electronic cards now) luxury laundromat complete with plasma TVs showing seemingly endless Star Trek reruns instead of the more homey and friendly non-air-conditioned one on the other side of Metropolitan. But later, having to get over to the West Side up near 28th Street, I abandoned a barely-functioning subway and half-jogged, half-ran the remaining 9 blocks in full sunlight (well, as much sunlight as ever filters down into the street canyons, which at this time of year can be quite a bit) and arrived at my destination two minutes early.

I was also covered in sweat, despite being clad in about as little as is allowed by law, and found the room cooled to the meat-locker temperatures favored by most New Yorkers in the summertime, so much so that many of the people there were wearing business suits or (!) even sweaters. I was there just long enough to freeze-dry all the sweat off me, before heading back out into the streets. I've come to think of this back-and-forth between air-conditioned restaurants, cinemas and subway cars and oven-baked streets and subway stations as the salubrious equivalent of alternating visits to the sauna and a nearby snowbank, but to tell the truth, it didn't even feel that hot outdoors. Maybe nothing ever will again after that 113°F/45C bolstered by a coruscating desert wind that someone compared to a "nuclear-powered hairdryer" that I experienced in Sydney last New Year's Day. New York on a hot, muggy day seldom gets much worse than hanging out next to a pizza oven, with the additional advantage that there's usually pizza nearby.

Last night was perfect for wandering the streets, though you wouldn't have thought so by the sparse crowds, even for a Sunday night. Most of the tourists have either gone or are staying uptown, and it was a mostly locals-only get-together that I stumbled across in Washington Square around 10 pm. An informal group of musicians and singers that seemed to gain and lose in numbers based on the whims of passersby treated an audience of about 100 to renditions of classic hits from the 50s to the 90s. Both performers and audience were a typically New York mix of white, black, and Puerto Rican. Asians were the only under-represented group, with a few watching, but none singing or playing.

Maybe it was just my mood, or that the song selection leaned heavily toward my demographic (I could have done without the pot-bellied, walrus-mustached 50-something enthusiastically rocking out to "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," but I'm sure I don't conform to everyone's esthetic ideal, either), but it felt like one of those magical only-in-New-York nights and made me not want to go home at all, or at least not until after midnight (I'm so adventurous these days). But my unwillingness to brave the uncertain late-night vagaries of the L train led me to drift away reluctantly.

Which is the same spirit in which I leave New York in the morning. If it were up to me, at least in my present mood, I could happily stay on one of these two islands (Manhattan or Long) indefinitely if not forever. But life as usual has other plans for me, so it's a week with Mom and the immediate family in California, then another week of funeral gatherings and comiserations in London. By the time I get back it will be August already, and another summer will be sliding toward its inexorable end.

Speaking of endings, inexorable or otherwise, Coriander emails to remind me of one of Olivia's curious habits, the compulsive acquisition of orange lipstick. It seems that sometime back in the 1950s or 60s, Olivia decided that the only lipstick that suited her complexion was a certain shade of orange. For many years she happily wore it, until that particular brand became very hard to find, and eventually disappeared altogether. From then until she finally more or less gave up on makeup in recent years, any trip out with Olivia became a quest for the elusive grail of the Right Shade of orange lipstick. Every chemist or department store had to be visited, and at first she would buy anything that looked remotely orange, only to be disappointed when she got home to discover that it wasn't "a proper orange."

At that point, convinced that the shops were using trick lighting to make lipsticks appear orange when they weren't actually, she decided to stop paying for them and start stealing them, or, as the more innocuous British usage would have it, "nicking" them. By the time Coriander, then an impressionable 17-year-old, first met Olivia, she had accumulated an entire drawer of not-quite-orange lipsticks which she would show to visitors while bemoaning the sad state of customer service and mixing large gin and tonics for all and sundry. When I begin the process of clearing up her personal effects next week, there should be lipstick for all and sundry as well.


Pat said...

Okay, from this post I have learned never to rely on your opinion about the weather. It was disgusting today.

Larry Livermore said...

To use a word like "disgusting" to describe what was basically a warm, sunny day that got a bit warmer than usual borders on being just plain rude to Mother Nature. I sincerely hope your house isn't blown down in the next hurricane or tornado by way of retaliation.

pat said...

Keep digging that hole.

Anonymous said...

Its just too bloody hot while trying to work but i suppose in a few days it will thunder and rain.Then the whole of london will complain once again about the terrible conditions we live in, the tube is unbearable though.