Tired of summer

tired of summer

It’s right around now, in late August, when I become tired of summer.



I am tired of humidity, and heat, and perspiration, and intermittent hot rainstorms. I am tired of this blurry blue / gray sky that doesn’t mean anything – not sun, nor cloud, nor rain. I am tired of feeling filthy and sweaty every day.



It was the same (but different) back in North Africa in the 1980s. There, it was dry from April to October. The temperature (in Kenitra, and Casablanca, and Tunis) wasn’t extreme – not like the Sahara, thank god – but the heat just went on and on. And the dust kept blowing in from the desert. By mid-August, everything was dull and dusty and filthy and too warm.



(Question: why do I keep ending up in warm climates? Why am I not living in Greenland, where I’d be deliriously happy?)



Here in New England, I start hearing crickets and grasshoppers in August, and it gives me some hope. I hear them first thing in the morning when Partner and I leave for work, and although it’s too warm, I take heart. It’s late August, I think. Not much longer until September, and cooler weather.



Autumn is the loveliest season here. It’s long and temperate and pleasant. The trees lose their leaves, slowly, north to south; Vermont and New Hampshire have their foliage season in September, but we don’t see it until early October. And apple season comes in September. (Partner and I passed a pear tree on a nearby street recently with pears that looked pretty much ripe. In August!)



It’s still summer, but autumn is right around the corner.



I can hardly wait.


Hurricane Sandy

There’s yet another bizarre unseasonable hurricane headed our way: Hurricane Sandy. (“Sandy!” snorted Apollonia when I showed her the NOAA chart the other day. “And look! There’s Hurricane Tony in the mid-Atlantic! Sandy and Tony! What is this, an Italian wedding?”)

Sandy is churning its way up the coast as we speak. Predictions show it veering inland somewhere near Long Island on Monday or Tuesday. It could bring Rhode Island high winds, and drenching rain, and even snow!

I am philosophical about this. I don’t much care. It’s a shame, though; Monday’s the office Halloween party, when staff members bring their kids to the office, and they trick-or-treat down the halls, and we give candy (or not). It’s a nice system; people who don’t like it just make a point of being absent, or putting a bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on their doorsteps. Some of us dress up. I usually just wear my skull necklace; it’s one of the few times during the year that I can wear something religious and get away with it.

I have come almost to enjoy this particular party. I like seeing the kids (even the kids who are just a wee bit too old for this) go from door to door; I get a kick out of it. Last year one of the athletics staff patrolled the hallway wearing a bear mascot outfit; I nearly died laughing when I saw him.

I would hate it if the hurricane deprived me of innocent pleasures like these.

So, Hurricane Sandy, go away. Come again some other day.

(And you Rhode Islanders: go out and buy bread and milk, and make it snappy!)

Blog extra: Hurricane Isaac


Just a quickie between regular posts.



The above illustration is a weathermap of Hurricane Isaac’s projected path up through the Gulf of Mexico.



Gay conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan opined that Isaac was definitely not a Republican hurricane, since it resembled a large purple penis surrounded by a rainbow halo.



This was pretty hilarious, until I read another comment today, from a woman blogger, sayiing that it looks much more like a uterus than a penis.



Either way, it works for me. 




(Note: this is a silly sentimental blog, about the passage of time, daily life, getting older, etc. If you don’t like that kind of thing, stop reading now.)



Okay. Here goes:



I have always loved the month of August. In the Pacific Northwest where I grew up, it was usually the month in which we got some warm dry weather. As a kid, I knew it meant we were going back to school soon, but it didn’t seem to matter. Time seemed to stop in mid-August. It was (as my mother said) “beach weather”: sunny and warm and pleasant.



It’s no different here in Rhode Island. August can be brutally hot and humid here, but there are also days when it’s just – pleasant. The girls and I were sunning ourselves outdoors at lunchtime recently, and Cathleen said: “It’s a beach day.” And she was exactly right.



Sometimes there are storms, or long angry heatwaves. No matter. We know that September’s right around the corner, and – whatever else happens – the weather changes in September. (Last year there was a hurricane working its way up the coast at the end of August. We lived through it.)



Sometimes – even in mid-August – there’s an occasional cool breeze. It seems to come out of nowhere. It’s a foretaste of autumn, get it? It’s a message that summer is not going to last forever.



And there are the Perseids. This is a meteor shower that happens around mid-August (this year’s peak comes next weekend, around the 11th and 12th of August). It is supposed to be one of the year’s most spectacular displays. (I wouldn’t know. I’ve never seen a single bloody meteor. I’ve tried: I’ve waited up, and gone out in a lawn chair, and faced north. Not a single shooting star have I ever seen.)



Time stands still in mid-August. We know that summer is almost over: but it’s not over yet. The office is quiet, because so many people are away. The streets are quiet, because so many people are on vacation. Labor Day’s right around the corner, and the return to work will happen soon.



But we don’t need to think of that, do we?



Not yet, anyway.



Bring on the Perseids.



For Sunday: A shelf cloud over a 7-11 in Norfolk, Virginia


We have had all kinds of crazy weather here on the East Coast over the last few weeks.



Here is a wonderful video from YouTube, from Norfolk, Virginia, of a rare “shelf cloud.” This is a subtype of “arcus cloud,” just in case you’re wondering. (Look it up on Wikipedia, or buy yourself a copy of the very entertaining and informative “Cloudspotter’s Guide.” I have a copy. I like clouds.)



(Note: the language in this video is not terribly proper, so if you’re sensitive to casual obscenity, handle with care.)



But the camerawork is masterful. And the cloud is beautiful.



Summer heat


It has been very hot in Providence this summer.  This week was pretty awful: mid-90s, high humidity. The air was like the water in a dirty aquarium: warm, and thick, and most likely toxic. Yesterday morning, walking to work, I was sweating like a Teamster. I was carrying a blue-covered library book, and when I got to work I found that it had left blue dye all over my lovely rose-pink shirt. At one point downtown I realized that the temperature inside my body was almost the same as the temperature outside my body; I had the creepy feeling that I didn’t know where my body left off and the outside world began.



I know, however, that we have it easy compared to other parts of the country. We haven’t had any really horrible storms (although lightning did strike our building a while back). We are not spontaneously combusting, like Colorado. We are not getting flash floods, like Arizona.



Still, it’s pretty icky and nasty here.



I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, green and mild, where 80 degrees was considered steamy. (On my first trip to the Northwest with Partner in 2001, we were in Seattle during a (mild) heatwave – mid-80s! – and everyone was apologizing to us for the heat.) Then I came here, to Southern New England, where the winters are bitter and the summers are ferocious, and I suffer every day. (Except during the long beautiful autumn and the brief gorgeous spring.)



I take it easy on these hot days. I drink lots of water and move slowly. (Last summer, I nearly dehydrated myself on a hot summer day, and came close to collapsing. I will not do that again.) On Monday, one of my student employees, an athlete in training, overdid it during an afternoon workout; he spent the evening retching and the next day recuperating. (I told him to hydrate and not overexert himself. These kids don’t listen to me. I lectured him on this yesterday, and he heard me out very meekly, but I doubt that he’s learned his lesson.)



Global warming? Oh, wait, we call it “climate change” now. Nah. Couldn’t be.



As I said to Apollonia the other day: this is good practice for Hell, when we finally get there.



From the Book of Jonah, Chapter Four (King James Version, naturally):



So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city. 

And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. 

But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. 

And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live. 



Speaking for myself: I would be exceeding glad of a gourd right about now.



All the pretty little flowers!


The weather this week has been unbelievably warm for Rhode Island in March.  Monday, the last day of winter, was mid-70s and balmy; I walked to the downtown library at lunchtime and had to take off my Mister Rogers sweater when I got back to the office.



(I say not a word about climate change.  Not a word. I said to Partner the other evening: It’s done.  There’s nothing that can be done at this point, nothing more to be said.  The climate’s changing.  We may as well use up all the fossil fuels as fast as we can, because it won’t make a bit of difference. Oh kids. I hope we’ve got a couple of decades left before we all go phffft.)



The vegetation hereabouts – I can’t even tell you.  It’s in total confusion.  I think the snowdrops committed suicide, I never saw them bloom.  The big witch-hazel tree on the corner of East Manning and Ives is still squeezing out red/yellow blossoms, even though it usually blooms in the January snow.  The crocus (croci?) are on fast-forward: the leaves came up, then the buds swelled and bloomed in a day or two, and now they’re drooping in the heat.  Daffodils realized that it must be spring and bloomed almost literally overnight.  Tulips are leaping up a month early.  Vinca is already blooming (doesn’t it usually wait until May?).  The magnolias on the Brown campus are blooming here and there.  Forsythia is coming out.  The violets in the lawn outside aren’t blooming yet, but the leaves are turning peculiar colors.



(But most of the trees aren’t budding yet.  It’s a strange combination: sunny warm balmy weather, flowers in the grass, and no leaves on the trees.)



(And I see on Facebook from my friends in the Northwest that it’s snowing.  In mid-March!  In the warm sweet welcoming Northwest!)



Everyone’s predicting a hot humid summer.  I don’t know.  I’m picturing one of those stormy summers, with a thunderstorm every evening and lots of hurricanes gestating in the Caribbean.



But who knows?



Enjoy the pretty flowers, kids.  Enjoy the pretty flowers.


Northwest winter


You are sick of listening to me moan and groan about the unseasonal weather, and climate change, and all such hippie tree-hugger liberal talk, I know.  So I will zip my lip and say no more.



(Rhode Island has hardly had any snow this winter so far, by the way.  Our winter has been positively balmy.  I walked downtown with no coat – just a sweater – the other day.  The grass is still pretty springy and fresh in most places around Providence, and I’ve seen things blooming.  In January.)



(Oops.  Zip the lip.  Sorry.)



This winter reminds me of the typical Northwest winter: cool, cloudy, dark, often foggy and rainy.  It’s the kind of winter that engenders “cabin fever”: you stay inside with your loved ones, waiting for spring, until you just can’t stand them any longer, and then you get out the shotgun.



Dark foggy weather doesn’t frighten me.  I grew up in the Northwest.  It’s nothin’.  By April, we’ll be tearing off our winter underwear and dancing among the daffodils.  For now –



Well, but still.  You have to make it through the darkness.



A few years ago, Partner and I were driving through rural Oregon.  It was midsummer, and the hills were covered with beautiful firs and pines, and the sky was wonderfully blue.  “I could live here,” Partner said.



“Yeah,” I said.  “I’m picturing this in mid-December.  You wouldn’t even be able to see those hills, the fog would be so thick.  It’d get light around ten in the morning, and dark again by four in the afternoon.  From November through mid-February.”



Partner regarded me mildly.  He has only ever seen the Northwest in summertime, and I think he has only ever seen it rain there once, one day in Portland.  He doesn’t really believe me.



But oh yes it’s true.



(Oh, did I mention that it’s snowing in Egypt this winter?  Yeah.  Oh, and they’re having a huge and extremely unseasonal windstorm – with hundred-mile-an-hour winds – on the central Oregon coast.)






(Enjoy the future, kids.  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.)


Hurricane Irene: the aftermath, part two!


After our recent hurricane, you generally greeted people with something like: “How was your hurricane?” Usually you got a few words: wry, sad, a fallen branch here, no power there.



There’s a big older guy who delivers the campus mail to my building. “How was your hurricane?” I asked him a few days after Irene swept through, expecting the usual light-hearted reply; he’s normally very cheerful.



Thunk! went the bucket of mail. “I lost five hundred dollars worth of meat!” he wailed. “Freezer was out of power for fifty-five hours! I opened it and I was sick to my stomach! Not literally, I mean. It hasn’t rotted yet. But the waste! I called Narragansett Electric, and they -”



Some people, when they tell you a story like this, turn it into a performance piece. He was one of those people. He was leaping into the air and shaking his finger in my face, and for the first time I was beginning to notice how big he was, and I was desperately hoping he wasn’t going to turn green and bust out of his clothes. “There’s one connection – one! – that runs under Bristol County. And if it goes out, Barrington goes out! And Warren! And Bristol! And National Grid knows it! We’ve told them time and time again! I told them, I’m gonna bring it up at a town meeting, and we’re gonna get signatures together, and we’re gonna make them -”



“You know what I heard?” I said feebly, in an effort to distract him. “It’s the restaurants you have to watch out for. They’re sorting through their food, and they don’t want to throw stuff away – and now there aren’t enough food inspectors – “



“Tell me about it!” he brayed. “My neighbor, he works for [redacted nearby Italian restaurant], and, well you know they’ve been closed -”



“What?” I croaked. “We just ate there – we liked it -”



“It’s been closed for seven or eight days now!” he boomed. “Flies! Flies in the walls! They’re everywhere! Somebody working there turned them in – “



I am thinking now of the very nice meal Partner and I had at that restaurant only a few weeks ago, and am trying to remember if I saw any flies, and I have talked myself into believing that I did.



I used to work for a food distributor; several of the salesmen told me that, once you see the average restaurant kitchen, you will never eat there again.



On the other hand: a few years ago, Partner and I were in Manhattan and ate at a really lovely Brazilian restaurant called Plataforma. It was Restaurant Week, and we got a special deal: special meal, free gifts, and a personal tour of the kitchen. Kids, you have never seen such a beautiful kitchen. Brazilian restaurants are all about meat, and there was a huge multi-rotisserie with at least ten cuts of meat rotating on it; it looked like something on the space shuttle. The staff looked like they laundered their uniforms every ten minutes. Even the salads they were tossing looked like they were meant to appear in a movie about salads.



So not all restaurants are filthy.


I don’t care. I’m gonna eat at that Italian place again. We had a very nice meal there.



(I’d better not see any flies.)



Hurricane Irene: the aftermath


Hurricane Irene was only a tropical storm by the time she reached Rhode Island. She was very noisy, however; she fairly howled around the windows for a couple of hours on Sunday. We tried to ignore her; we watched television a bit (we were lucky to keep our electricity; a lot of people in the area lost theirs), and then I read and napped for a couple of hours.



(I think disasters make me physically ill. I was queasy on the day of the earthquake a few days earlier; now, with Irene roaring and trumpeting around the house, I felt achy and tired. As a kid, I loved storms. Now I just wanted this to be over.)



By four o’clock or so the rain and wind had (mostly) stopped. Partner suggested a walk, and I was only too avid to get out of the house. The skies were cloudy but bright, and there was a fresh cool breeze blowing. Everything felt different. Masses of leaves had been torn down from the trees; small branches and twigs lay everywhere in the streets and on the sidewalks and lawns. We didn’t walk far before we found our first downed tree: a big sycamore. (Why do they have such shallow roots? Are they chumps, for god’s sake?)



Most of the damage was obvious, once we looked more closely: rotting branches, badly-pruned trees, isolated trees in unprotected areas. We did come across a small area on Blackstone Boulevard that might have experienced a microburst: two or three large trees torn out of the ground and a lot of downed branches in a very small area. I was sorry to see some of the big tulip poplars on the Boulevard had lost lots of their upper branches, and the wind had brought down whole handfuls of their graceful-looking flower buds. (Liriodendron tulipifera, the tulip poplar, is the most amazing tree: everything about it is remarkably beautiful, from its manner of growth to its flowers to its big mitten-shaped leaves. I hate seeing these trees damaged. But then, I have a weakness for beautiful things. I see a miserable little dogwood missing a couple of branches, and I sneer: Who cares?)



Lots of wires were down. We saw a cop driving lazily through the neighborhood; every so often he’d stop and take photos of a downed wire or an especially large downed branch or tree.



By this time everyone was out walking. This, of course, despite the fact that we’d been warned repeatedly by TV personalities not to go out walking, that there were still dangers everywhere, weakened branches waiting to fall on our heads, treetrunks waiting to collapse right on top of us . . .



Example: Partner’s sister, up in Massachusetts, was out walking the dog on the day of the storm. She was bathrooming it under her neighbor’s tree (get that?) when she heard the trunk creaking. Time to go, she thought. Half an hour later, safe at home, she heard a creak and a crash, and ran to the window to see that tree fall on top of the neighbor’s house and both of his cars.



Example: A Brown shuttle driver told me that he’d been driving past the small park on South Main Street at eight o’clock on the morning after the storm, and had seen only a few branches down. He made his forty-five minute loop, and came back around . . . And a huge tree had in the meantime split in half and fallen all the way across South Main, blocking almost the entire road. Get that? Sixteen hours after the storm was over.



But the weather that followed the storm was fresh and almost cool, and there was dew on the grass that next morning.



What hurricane?



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