Hines Sight / Believe in climate change or not, it's hotter than hot
Published 7:24 am, Saturday, July 20, 2013
We're having a heat wave
A tropical heat wave
The temperature's rising
It isn't surprising
-- Lyrics from "Heat Wave"
Written by Irving Berlin in 1933 and made famous by numerous singers -- my favorite version done by Ella Fitzgerald in the 1950s -- "Heat Wave" is apropos of our current climate. The song, of course, goes on to tell the tale of a woman who can can-can.
Nonetheless, the song works for me. I'd like all those global warming naysayers to keep it in mind over this summer. Just take a look at the weather map. Most of the country felt temperatures in the 90s this week; a couple of spots hit 100-plus.
I only have to think back to my childhood in the 1960s and '70s to remember that it wasn't always like this. We had hot days and nights, but nothing like what we've experienced this week, or weeks or summers prior. Thank goodness we live on Long Island Sound. At least families have a place to go to cool off.
For me, I'm not a fan of the Sound. I like looking at it -- and for long stretches of time, too -- but I don't like going in it. At home, I have no air conditioning -- just ceiling fans in two rooms and two industrial-sized ones that keep the air circulating and me somewhat cool. And I have a pool. My friends laugh at me when I talk about my pool -- a 10-by-5-by-2-foot inflatable, tucked away on my back deck and surrounded by trees and a fence. It even has a chlorine floater to keep the water clean. Obviously, I can't swim in it, but I do lounge. It gets the job done.
When I was a kid, 80-degree days meant time at the beach with the family -- daylong affairs of fun, food and swimming. (Back then, I relished jumping into the Sound, except for the times we went to Southport Beach with the cousins. I hated the millions of tiny snails buried in the muddy, sandy floor, especially at low tide.)
On those extreme summer weather days, our expanded Cape Cod house in Norwalk was stifling. It didn't help that my and my siblings' bedrooms were in what was once the attic. There was an attic fan, which roared and clanged all the time, but it did nothing to cool off the house.
So my parents spent money and time on refurbishing the basement into a living area. It was cool there, and Mom and Dad wanted to make the most of it. There was a complete kitchen set-up, TV room and bathroom. OK, the bathroom wasn't elaborate, just a toilet with sporadic flushing power. And we ate all our meals outside on our backyard cinderblock patio, which Dad also constructed.
Mom was fond of saying, "We practically lived in our basement." Except for sleeping, we did.
As I've mentioned before in this space, one year Mom decided that our lower-level living arrangement needed an above-ground pool. Dad agreed (he realized early in their marriage to use two words when Mom came up with an idea -- "yes, dear"). The hole was dug, the foundation laid, the sides erected and the pool installed.
It wasn't without its challenges, though. Trees had to be cut down and large boulders had to be unearthed. We had an army of people helping, particularly my older sister's guy friends -- brawny young men who rode motorcycles. They were strong, and all Mom had to do was feed them. Sandwiches, meatball or sausage grinders and eggplant parm were among the menu items.
The morning after the pool installation was finished, and with two hoses from two houses filling it with water, we awoke to find the sides had caved in. The work was started all over again.
The pool was a focal point for years, until the family got older and lost interest. The people who bought our house kept the pool, but when they sold the house, the next owners took the pool and deck down.
So as we endure another summer of the three H's, make sure you stay hydrated and find a cool place. If you don't have air conditioning at home, the town's libraries are a good place to be. Or get a pool, inflatable or not.
Patricia A. Hines is a Fairfield writer, and her "Hines Sight" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also can be followed @patricia_hines on Twitter.