I hate the cold. As a result, I find myself shuddering in situations where most people are comfortable. To me, luke warm is freezing cold. I can’t go anywhere without some sort of cardigan or sweater – especially here in Ireland where even a good day in the summer is still fairly breezy and subject to an obligatory rain shower every few minutes.
Have you ever seen the brave souls who get into the Irish sea on Christmas day? Well, I’d rather jump off a cliff than attempt such a feat of cold bloodedness.
The Winter of 2010 has set new records in the cold stakes. It brought snow, floods and frost like never before. It has led to dry, broken skin, sore lips, frozen noses and stinging ears. It’s winters like these that bring on my memories of New York in the Summer.
Most New Yorkers are used to the sweltering heat that comes along in May and fizzles out somewhere in the middle of September. When I first arrived in Brooklyn, in May 1994 – I hadn’t a clue how to handle life in what felt like an oven. But I was a kid, and kids can easily adapt to weather shifts and changes.
It was my mother who suffered the most. Every time she turned on the oven she had to sit down and wipe her brow with a tea towel, sighing, “this bloody heat!”. She used to say that when she crossed the road in the summer, she was so hot and worn out, she was afraid that wouldn’t make it to the other side. At her command, our little sweaty apartment was fitted with the best air conditioning money could buy, as well as a BBQ so we could avoid using the kitchen.
My biggest issue with the hot weather, was wearing a school uniform in it. When I got to Catholic High School, we had to wear these woolen short skirts and since it was far too hot for tights, knee high socks completed the preppy look. It wasn’t so bad on the walk to and from school – but come exam time, it was sure to make the difference in the classroom. You’d sit down on your plastic seat (you know the ones with the little desks attached?) and within half an hour, your whole leg would be stuck in place with sweat. You knew you’d have to move it eventually to get comfortable, the question was, would it be slow or quick, like a plaster. Inevitably, you’d end up with these horrible red marks on your thighs. Very attractive.
Sometimes on the walk home from school, I’d walk through McDonald’s – in one side and out the other – without even looking at the menu, just so that I could have two minutes of air conditioning to tide me over.
One place you definitely don’t want to be for a long period of time is at a subway station in the Summer. The heat is almost unbearable and you stand with your eyes fixed on the tunnel hoping the train will come, the doors will open and the air conditioning on board will dry your sweat and clear your head – which was slowly overheating minute by minute.
But it isn’t all bad. The summer in New York comes along with the most amazing smell -a mixture of cotton candy, BBQs, freshly cut grass and sun tan lotion. It comes in the form of this rush of heat to your face, which is especially noticeable if you’re in manhattan, walking in between two particularly tall sky scrapers. There’s also the whiff of hot dog stands, the sound of an ice cream van, vendors shouting “Ice cold water – one dollar” on every corner and on a quiet block, the sound of secadas buzzing from the trees.
When you’re a teenager, a New York summer is very uneventful, but totally memorable at the same time. The average day would go as follows: wake up at noon (or later), wander out onto the stoop to get the mail (while enjoying the warmth of the concrete on your toes), eat cereal while watching trashy daytime talk shows, pick up the phone to talk to other teenaged humans also watching trashy daytime talk shows, slip on flip-flops, meet up with friends with zero plan of action, hang out on someone’s stoop while gossiping, get pizza, hang out on a different stoop while gossiping, go to the cinema to enjoy the air conditioning, go to a final stoop for more gossip, go home. It may sound dull but it was heaven at the time.
This Summer will be my first one in a long time that’s New York-free. With a full time job here in Dublin, there’s no hope of me escaping to Long Island, Brooklyn or Manhattan for June, July or August. I guess I’ll just have to hope that all those weather-predicting postmen are correct and that Ireland gets a little slice of the bliss that is a sweaty, humid New York season.
Williamsburg Summer 2008