Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Existing in New York City: Sweltering in Hell City

Foto by tgw, "Madison Park," New York City, 2013
Say Goodbye to: Toshi Seeger, Pete's wife of many, many years: Toshi Seeger, 91, American environmental activist and film maker, wife of Pete Seeger.
In a Sea of Heat Waves
Friday, the 5th of July, I was down on the Jersey Shore at Asbury Park and Ocean Grove and it was breezy and in the shade exceptionally cool, though exposed to the sunlight, it was blistering, enough Vitamin D to poison your soul.  Today, I'm back in New York City and the temperature soared up to 93 during the afternoon and now late in the evening the heat is still hovering around my body like a fur glove.

I spent one summer in Haiti and sitting out in the 90-degree sun I wrote a Haitian story while ogling a beautiful French woman swimming in the villa pool.  I was basking in both sun and work and ogling and loving it, but that heat was so different from this heat.

And speaking of a different heat, I grew up in West Texas where the temperatures in the summer easily reached 100 in the shade with a father who despised air-conditioning.  He believed air-conditioning unnatural.  We did however have a form of air-conditioning, a squirrel-cage fan that sucked in the air from outside and cooled it down by waterfalling the pumped hydrant water down through straw paddings on the sides of the unit to drip that water to collect it in a pool in a large pan at the bottom of the big bulky unit.  I don't ever remember any of those blazing hot summers being uncomfortable.  That old fan was especially cooling after as a kid I had been out playing baseball in the fiery middle of that sun's demonic licking down.

I've gone water skiing on Lake Brownwood, Texas, one summer in 100-plus degree heat, burnt to a salmon-red crisp by the sun reflecting off that lake, sleeping half naked in a hammock at night and not remembering suffering from that heat one bit.

Later during my early summers home from college, I worked laying down asphalt to resurface highways from Abilene, Texas, up into the sun's anvil country around Aspermonte, Texas, working in blistering heat that rose up near 110 at the height of the day, plus suffering from the heat of the big asphalt cooker tanker that kept the asphalt blazing hot as I raised and lowered the long bar out which the asphalt poured to spill out evenly over the dusty caliche roadbed so it could eventually be steamrollered to form the new surface called macadam for a John Loudon McAdam who had invented the process in the early 19th Century.

Asphalt Laying Machine (I was the guy up on the back of the damn thing)

Later during the Civil Rights marches in the early 1960s, I went boating on Lake Kemp just outside Seymour, Texas, where the temperatures soared up to 120 nearly all summer long.  Except for sunburn, I don't remember minding such heat in the least bit.

After I graduated from college, that July, my college roommate and I drove out to California stopping off in Phoenix on the way to visit his aunt.  When we pulled into Phoenix around 1 o'clock in the afternoon, the temperature, posted up on the side of a bank building, was 118 degrees.  We stayed that night in a motel that had no air-conditioner.  I spent the night writing love poems to my girlfriend back in West Texas and don't remember even sweating in that desert heat. 

Yet, here in New York City when the temperatures hit even in the low 90s, the heat borders on the unbearable, a hellish heat that hovers around you like an unwanted ex-lover.  And out in the streets walking around, the sun attacks you both from above and from below, those rays coming straight down that miss you, bouncing right back up off the concrete and asphalt to hit their target: you.

And my dad's belief that air-conditioning is unnatural has been held over in my contrary mind and I have now survived 44 summers here in the Big Baked Apple without air-conditioning, some summers it being so hot in my apartment, actual heat waves could be seen flooding across the boiling air of my rooms.  After two summers of such endurance without even fans, I finally bought several large electric fans and those are now my nod toward air-conditioning.  And these rather monstrous fans do keep me cool enough though when the temperatures jet up around 100, which they do in bad summers here in NYC, these fans blow air that surely is the same as one once experienced working in the coaling room in the bottom of an ocean-going steamship, like William Bendix suffered in that movie of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape.  On such days, my only rescue comes when I wet a tee-shirt or towel in the cold water out of the cold water tap (it stays cold all summer) and drape it around my naked body.

Of course, here in New York City if you have a job, you are cooled by refrigerated air during the hottest parts of the day since these days every office building or high-rise luxury apartment building has central air-conditioning.  When I came to NYC in the early 70s, this wasn't the case; there were still office buildings without air-conditioning, believe it or not.  Of course, all of these air-conditioned hi-rise office buildings and luxury apartment buildings and hi-rise hotels put a hell of a drain on Con (and I emphasize the Con part of their name)-Edison's power sources, substations (power stations) which they have to be constantly building since our billionaire mayor has rewarded his billionaire developer buddies with permits to build tons of new hi-rise office buildings and hi-rise luxury apartment buildings at a ferocious rate; there seems to be a new hi-rise tower going up on every corner in Manhattan, a scenario that causes me to wonder who the hell is renting or leasing or buying into these buildings?  And I'm not talking small projects; I'm talking humungous multi-story million-square-foot floorspace buildings some filling entire huge square blocks.  Wildly developing with no concern about the future effect of such overbuilding on air quality, electricity use, dioxin and mercury poisons being spewed into the air...GREED (i.e., progress) leads eventually to CHAOS.

for The HOT Daily Growler  

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