Life On The Surface Of The Sun

I grew up in the country, outside of a small town, which was itself on the outskirts of Houston. We lived in a doublewide trailer, sharing the land with yaupon bushes, pine trees, stray dogs, and mosquitos. Every summer, we’d gather around the ol’ thermostat and yell cuss words at it, in unison. It was the only time Ma would let us young’uns cuss.

Sometimes we’d harmonize. Daddy would sing bass, Mama would sing tenor. Me and little sister would join right in there. “Fuck that piece of shit,” we’d sing.

You see, way back in 1989, a tornado barreled through our home.

The twister tragically robbed me the most important thing in my world: the reliability of our AC unit. From that fateful day onward, the unit stopped working every single summer. And remember, summer in Texas begins on Easter and ends around Thanksgiving.

If you haven’t spent three months in a Mercury Grand Marquis with the windows rolled up, or on the planet Mercury, then you probably can’t fully appreciate the devastation of losing your AC during a Southeast Texas summer.

Try to put yourself in that place for a minute. I’ll be your guide.

Imagine the air is so thick and humid, it’s like trying to breath with a sweaty jock strap covering your nose and mouth. You are constantly damp, and that’s at best. If your heartbeat elevates at all, you will sweat through your clothes. No amount of antiperspirant protects you. Whichever uncomfortable sweat that torments your gender—boob sweat, ball sweat, both sweat—afflicts the hell out of you daily.

It rains every afternoon around 2:30 pm, and then the sun comes back out in full force. It elevates the relative humidity from “I’m going to get malaria!” straight to “Wow, this Vietnamese jungle is really getting gentrified!”

Every damned summer, I made a solemn vow to myself:

I don’t care how much it costs. I don’t care what else I have to forgo. I will use the AC to the full extent possible, whenever I want, for as long as I want. I pray this prayer in the holy names of ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Mattress Mack. Amen.

Through years of post-secondary education, work, relationships, and the annual apartment switcheroo in pursuit of whatever special was being offered down the road, I kept my oath. Each apartment was a glorious arctic retreat in the midst of America’s own Kuala Lumpur. When I came home each night and opened my door, a blast of icy cool refreshment would send shivers down my sweat-covered spine.

And it wasn’t the kind of coolness you get from the old refrigerator your parents replaced, but then moved it out to the garage to keep sodas “cold” with just a hint of mold odor.

No, I kept my place as cold as ice. Many girls didn’t like how cold it was when they came over, but I was willing to sacrifice our love. What? Stop looking at me like I’m a foreigner. I’ve seen it before, it happens all the time.

Along the way, it occurred to me that I was not actually required to live in the geographical representation of hobo’s taint. I realized that while I’d be leaving my friends and family behind, screw those guys. It was then that I set my sights on somewhere with a much more acceptable climate for my cultural appropriation of all things Inuit.

So, I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Yeah, yeah. Las Vegas is hot. I get it. During the summer, Satan himself often walks around in cargo shorts there. He wears cargos because (1) he’s not going to succumb to any silly Internet tropes about cargo shorts being out of style, because confidence never goes out of style, and (2) he doesn’t have to abide by any of your rules anyway, what with him being the Devil and all. And yes, of course he lives in Las Vegas. Where did you expect him to live, Topeka? Nope. Not enough strippers per capita. Work on that, Topeka.

But what outsiders don’t understand is the absolute truth behind the oft-recited witticism, “…but it’s a dry heat.” It really, truly matters. Yes, 118° is hot, even if there is no humidity. But I’ll take 118° and 10% humidity over 96° and 80% humidity every damned day. At least ball sweat evaporates in Las Vegas, and that’s a win in my book. That’s why I named my forthcoming book, Ball Sweat Evaporates: Your Guide To Winning In Las Vegas (And In Life).

At least ball sweat evaporates in Las Vegas, and that’s a win in my book. Click To Tweet

After five years in Las Vegas, my job offered me a promotion if I’d move to Northern California.

NorCal, in a nutshell, is shorts, sandals, and a hoodie. There’s a reason it costs $3,000 a month to rent a corner in someone else’s yurt: the weather is amazing. It’s almost never objectively “too hot” or “too cold.” Just hella nice.

Sure, it gets toasty here and there for an hour or two, then returns to being paradise. Or, if it’s too hot where you are, you can drive a few miles to a different town, and the weather will be completely different, thanks to the area’s microclimates at work. Or you can indulge in copious amounts of amazing California wine, and just stop giving a shit about the weather. I tried all of these methods on your behalf, and I can attest to their efficacy.

In my four years of living in the Bay Area, I honestly stopped looking at the weather predictions each day. The weather was almost always the same: incredible.

And then, life happened. I followed my girlfriend when she moved cross-country for a new job. I left the sunshine and cool breezes of California and entered the literal and figurative quagmire of Washington, DC.

I’ve been here for a while now, three or four years maybe. I’ve lost track, on account of the heat and humidity melting the tally marks off of the wall in my room. *plays a sad, out-of-tune harmonica riff to punctuate the unfortunate moistness of it all.

The District of Columbia is nestled in a swamp, bordered by the Potomac River, the Anacostia River, a bunch of mud, some mangroves, and a backed up trailer park septic tank. It’s got the kind of climate and landscape that makes a Cajun smile and mumble incoherently while he wistfully reminisces about how his weeping mosquito bites are just like the kind he used to get back home on the Bayou. Bon temps. Bon temps.

 A brief history: the location of DC was chosen on a dare, when Benjamin Franklin taunted Thomas Jefferson by saying, “You, sir, lack the testicular fortitude to build a federal city upon a bog, my good man.” Jefferson, prone to obvious reverse psychology, momentarily stopped shtupping one of his slaves to take Ben’s bait. He then built the city of Washington upon a swamp completely out of spite. Benjamin Franklin laughed and laughed, peering over his bifocals while flying a kite in a thunderstorm. Classic Franklin.

The creative-yet-abjectly-idiotic layout of the city, gifted to us by Pierre L’Enfant and modeled after a 7-year-old’s crayon-drawn fantasy of what a city should look like, allows residents and visitors ample time to take in the smells of the city while sitting in incomprehensible gridlock. Or, you can skip the surface streets and board the Metro, where you’ve got a better-than-even shot of boarding a train with broken AC and the aromas of a myriad of sweaty Washingtonians!

My negativity surrounding Washington is limited to its ridiculous summer weather. The city has served me quite well, actually. I’m glad I moved.

But if someone ever invents time travel, I’m going immediately use it to kick Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson right in their sweaty, revolutionary balls.

Someday, I’ll have the financial wherewithal to base my empire from wherever I choose. At that point, I’ll likely choose a home base that isn’t a peaty bog or a mire or any other Scottish-sounding words. I’ll wear Satan-inspired cargo shorts year round, and don a hoodie when the sun retires. I’ll drink on a patio without needing to ask for a stack of extra napkins with which to dry off my dripping forehead.

And I’ll still keep the AC running all the time, because I can.

 

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