Inside the Circus
Am I alone in feeling as though someone — with a heart of umber and gold — cued Autumn on a dime? After enduring a summer that beheld all the balmy temperateness of a plasma arc welder, I think it’s safe to say the majority of East Enders handled it all with an impressive degree of cool grace. I haven’t been driven off the road for going 20 mph past a busy school in what seems like months! To be perfectly honest — I cannot include myself in the, “cool grace” crowd.
I would open the door to my rear yard — just enough to let my dog, Romeo out — then go back to reading: “Complex Iron Smelting and Prehistoric Culture in Tanzania.” By Peter Schmidt and Donald H. Avery.
For a modicum of good measure and perspective.
Then rush to let poor Romeo back in before his paws and my brick patio became one.
To jump start gratitude, I tried to remind myself of my earlier days: having to sprint up and down Madison Avenue — in August — in a cheap wool suit and even cheaper shirt and tie.
Or, having to descend into the bowels of a hell to catch a SatanTram. A, F, B, — I was always amazed at why someone hadn’t figured out how to bring the temperature down to just slightly below lung-searing. I can still feel, smell, and taste gulping down your last breath before heading subterranean — only to wait with all the other people who felt just as uncomfortable. Every so often the subway car your rump was canned into did not have working A/C. Were any of those LuciferTubes air-conditioned in the 1990’s?
I know the taxis were. However having the fare (ah, expense accounts) was only half the battle.
More times than not, I spent my entire ride in heated debate with the driver:
“Hi, 34th and 10th please. There was no pause — no breath taken and — “Could you pleeeease turn the A/C up to the max back here!?”
“And could I get some A/C back here…the window doesn’t even open…”
“Which one? The window or the A/C?
The following was screamed (by me) through a 2” diameter tube — which is supposed to deliver cold air to the sweltering rear passenger(s):
“I see the breathing tube! Which means you have A/C! I feel like a very unlucky astronaut back here!
“Hey NASA — you heard of that newfangled contraption called, air conditioning?”
“If I put my nose to the tube, I feel a little cool air. Which means you have it on — only up there! On your side of the space station!”
I clearly needed to find anther chip in this bargain. So I continued into the filthy tube:
“Oh, is that your family? Your wife and children? Framed on the dash? Nice family. Nice frame.”
“Look, could you at least open one of your windows? That might help.”
With the exception of me.
I calmly reached into my tote, pulled out an unopened liter bottle of warm water, and decanted the entire thing over my head. That woke him up from his Arctic nap.
“What are you doing (insert indecipherable, yet undoubtedly not nice words here) Crazy! Are you drunk? Get out!”
He was still screaming as I swung the door open just enough so it wouldn’t completely latch closed on rebound. And walked away. Drenched. Refreshed. And deaf to his continuingly fading rantings left in my steamy, damp wake.
And I learned an extremely important lesson that day — have gratitude every day for being out here — and not in there. No matter how high the mercury rises.
And, yes — even if you contract Lyme disease for the fifth time.
Get bitten by an elusive, as—yet—identified spider (see a few columns back).
And survive your first attack of chiggers.
Just pour another bottle of water over your head.
So I loathe heat. I adore the crisp, alarming chill of the present day’s respite from whatever that was this past summer. However making The East End your home does have a short list of drawbacks.
Although we live among some of the most beautiful hiking trails around, venturing into them — in season — safely, requires a vast fortitude of preparation. Take it from me — you really do need to wear a long sleeved shirt, long pants — tucked into ankle high boots. A hat. Lastly, don’t forget the copious spraying of (yes, sorry) an insecticide containing DEET. Is it worth it? That’s up to you. For me — I intend to suit up just to walk down my driveway to the mailbox. Which I won’t be doing — without body amour — until after the first frost — winter’s first, deeply — appreciated chill.
PETER HAMILTON TRAVIS is currently in awe of the stunning, spectral explosions around him. Taking deep, haughty breaths of crisp, leafy air. And savoring every minute of this most welcomed change of seasons. You can’t fault me for not being warned.