Cloudless Blue Sky Above 27th & Calvert

Picture of a bright and cloudless blue sky with a couple of wires stretching across the top quarter of the picture. Green tree branches peek out on the right side. There's a tiny speck in the middle of the image. It's a bird.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s hot outside. It doesn’t matter where you are, it seems–it’s hot, it’s “code red,” it’s never going to end. (Well, we’ll get a break from the heat this weekend, thank goddess.) So this is a post about how it’s hot, and I rode my bike in this heat, and it was fine.

I spend most of my day in one of the two rooms of the house with AC units, reading fiction, because I’m on vacation this week, and my book was due back at the library because someone else wanted to read it, and libraries are about sharing. Once I finished I headed out on some errands–a walk to the library, where they were giving out COVID shots and diapers along with books, over to the grocery for a couple things for dinner, and a stop at the coffee shop for some iced coffee for me and the ladyfriend. I was a slow mover, because as I learned when I moved to New Orleans, moving with speed in these weather conditions is a recipe for disaster.

I cooled off in front of the AC for a bit before lathering up in sunscreen and hopping back on my bike to meet my Work Wife for a beer. It was windy, but the weather was such that it felt more like riding a bike inside somebody’s mouth after they’ve just eaten a whole can of garbage than any sort of refreshment. It was trash day in my neighborhood, and my goodness, the whole city seemed to smell like trash. Good thing my nose adjusts quickly, which it did as I pedaled my way over and down the hill, taking it especially slow on the uphills.

We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar, ordered a couple of beers and some nachos to share, and spent the next three hours doing what we do–complaining, pep talking, head nodding, and high fiving. I thought about having a second beer (I’m not much of a drinker, but I was having fun drinking), but I knew in the back of my head that the only way home was riding my bike back up the hill. I had that second drink on a weather day like this one a couple of years ago, after a fun afternoon with Work Wife, and I almost made it home but had to pull over at 27th and Maryland and puke my guts out. I remember spraying the curb and the bumper of a parked truck and, unfortuntely, my own feet in their sandals. Nah. Not cool at all. Do that once and you’re kind of off drinking and biking, if you’re me. I could either have the second beer, or I could have nachos, and the nachos won out.

We settled up, reminded each other that we’re both the best and brightest, and then I got on my bike to head home, slowly. The sun was starting to go down, so it was better than I expected, and I was in a cheerful mood. I said lots of how-you-doin’s to other folks in the bike lane and waved to pedestrians. Sweat was pouring down my back, but at least I wasn’t sweating under a backpack. Why do so many people carry their stuff on their backs when a rack and a bag would let the bike carry the stuff so their sweaty backs could at least catch an occasional breeze?

And then I was up the hill and almost home, stopped at another red light. I snapped this picture of the perfect blue sky over my head. What a wildly beautiful day, as hard as this weather was. I think I’m just about there, the place you have to get–just comfortable with the sweat and the heat, knowing that you get to wash it all off at the end of the day. I’m lucky to have window AC units that work and the budget to run them as needed. Everyone should have this, because the heat can be deadly. And yet AC contributes to the very warming that increasingly puts so many of us in danger. What is to be done? New technology, more trees, less concrete, different building designs, and more, but in the meantime, how do I balance my comfort and safety with my own contributions to what has brought us here.

The US Capitol building has a rotunda that features two statues from each state honoring their heroes. One of Florida’s honors the inventor of air conditioning. We’re going to struggle with the idea that we should let ourselves be a bit warmer. Tough, tough sell.

And then I rolled my bike into the basement, greeted by the coolness of the space, kept that way by being in the dark and dehumidified. I walked up to the living room, turned the AC unit all the way up, grabbed a cold seltzer. There’s just nothing better than a cold seltzer after a bike ride. And, like everything else, it’s complicated.

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