It is 6 pm in New York City as I type this, and it is 92 degrees out.
Years ago, during one of my first summers in the city, I read Carrie Fisher’s first book Postcards from The Edge. At some point, the main character, actress Suzanne Vale, calls a friend who’s spending the summer in New York City. When she asks how the weather is, the friend tells her: “New York in the summer is like a cough. It’s like the whole country came here and coughed.” I instantly knew what she meant, and even though I have not read that book in 20 years, I think of that quote every year.
New York can get downright tropical in summer – swampy, humid, oppressively hot. And it was ever thus – there are plenty of stories of people sleeping on the fire escapes outside their windows in the summer, and Henry Miller wrote in one of his books about walking through Central Park in the 1920s and seeing people who’d come to sleep in Central Park – not because they were impoverished, but simply because they were hot. Today, most people have air conditioning – but many don’t (including, incredibly, many people in the city’s housing projects).
For most of my own time here, I actually didn’t have air conditioning either; it’s in the living room in my current apartment, but we can’t put it up in the bedrooms, and have had to come up with a few ideas to make do. I keep a bottle of Dr.Bronner’s peppermint soap handy to shower with during the summer – there’s so much mint oil in it that the menthol chills your skin (for a while, anyway), and I wash up before bed. I’ve also lately taken to taking a sheet and dampening it under the faucet, and then sleeping underneath that at night; it’s a little messy, but it cools me down long enough that I can fall asleep.
Today, though, I was indoors most of the day – it was hot enough that the mayor himself cautioned everyone to stay inside, and reports that the city’s cockroaches have developed flight also kept me inside. My roommate and I have been staying in the living room, but at some point I poked my head into my own room and was nearly knocked back by the wall of heat coming out of it. I had to do something to take the edge off.
That little pan of ice water in front of the box fan was my feeble efforts at making a swamp cooler, which – as near as I can ascertain – has had no effect whatsoever.
My roommate is heading out of the house for a drink (she’s going a bit stir crazy) and I’ve bribed her to pick up a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s. I may also wet a sarong I have and wear that around the house some as well.
Pray for us.