The end of Summer in Southern California always announces itself with scorching fury. The sudden rise in temperature and bestial craving for water usually means fall is just around the corner. This summer was quite the record-breaker. The season wasted no time and already in July downtown Los Angeles’ digits broke records. The L.A. Times reported on July 6 that a 131-year-old heat record had been left in the dust, with our beloved melting pot hitting 98 degrees Fahrenheit. By late August the Valley would swelter in temperatures reaching into triple digits with a historic wildfire setting the mountains near Burbank ablaze.
How is one to survive in such conditions? I asked myself this question several times considering I found myself in a curious situation. On June 21 I was informed at my usual day job that I had acquired too many working hours- it’s a student job- and was asked to take a two month vacation before returning to work. I suddenly found myself with more than ample time to write, read, keep up with North Korea’s antics, and experience the Summer in all its crushing glory.
But during the whole odyssey, I came across some vital survival techniques which will come handy in this final stretch of sunshine.
Since the beginning of civilization one summer necessity remains essential: Staying hydrated. The always helpful site FamilyDoctor.org suggests we need about 6 to 8.8 ounce glasses of water every day. I confess that while I enjoy water, I have quite a passion for sugar, but juices are just as effective in keeping the body hydrated. Hot weather can make getting rest uncomfortable and difficult. This combined with low hydration can cause headaches, stomach problems and other uncomfortable symptoms. I have found myself stepping off the bus or Metro train in the city, and amid the crowds of wandering pedestrians and occasional asylum escapees, the sight of a Trader Joe’s or 7-11 felt like a salvation. I imagine this is how wandering Conquistadors in the desert imagined seeing El Dorado. If there is a perk for me in the summer it’s losing a little weight considering my usual, ravenous appetite is subdued. Now I would rather drink a gallon of water than eat a Pavarotti-sized meal.
Short-sleeved attire is also essential for survival. Colors do not matter. You might think that avoiding black is common sense. But while scanning sites, I came across the fascinating revelation in the nerdy page Gizmodo, where a report confirms through physics that black not only absorbs the sun, it also absorbs energy from the body and does not reflect it back. Wearing black in breezy conditions will actually cool you off.
The following tip is unscientific, but it helped me – music. I find it unbearable to walk long distances under the Apollonian torture without having some melody to distract my ears. The Doors, Brahms, you name it. Interestingly enough I can’t tolerate songs about winter or cold. It simply doesn’t go with the environment, like a poorly selected soundtrack in a movie.
Reading material that goes with the scorching surroundings also helps survive the season. I began the year devouring Russian satire, but as the temperature started rising I found myself gravitating towards literature full of humidity. I spent many hours at home and on the bus escaping in the world of the 1960’s Dominican Republic with Mario Vargas Llosa’s “The Feast of the Goat,” about a plot to kill Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. The great Cuban film critic Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s catty collection of essays, “Mea Cuba,” was also good reading with a fan on and socks off.
You may wonder, is there anything productive this person accomplished during his two month heat exile? I wrote, but mostly in the evenings. I found myself being more productive when the sun went down and the weather became more bearable. The day was dedicated to essential tasks, but the evenings were extremely enjoyable because I could focus on real hobbies and interests without the sensation of living in the glass blower’s shop.
I cannot offer romantic advice, because in the words of Timbaland, “I ain’t got no money,” but I will say that getting ice cream with the occasional friend also provided relief. Sometimes just friendly interaction is all you need to survive Mother Nature’s whims. Now I have returned to the world of air conditioning paid for by the fine folks of the Hammer Museum. May Nature’s summer whims pass soon, so we can then ponder how to stay warm in the coming winter.