The dogs and I visit the sere back lawn a few times a day. When we can’t stand it anymore, we slump back inside through the furnace that is the kitchen, trudge up the stairs and head back into our master bedroom sequester. The air conditioner is in there.
For a week I’ve been running my professional life from my bed surrounded by notes, books, and computers – I am a heat-born invalid. Across the hall my office reaches 86, , 88, 90 degrees as the afternoons progress and the high humidity threatens to reanimate the long dead, road-kill flattened, dried frog hanging on my office wall. A zombie frog. That might be interesting. I would be too hot to run away.
Old houses were designed to draw breezes, to vent, to cool themselves in summer. So I’ve been told, so I’ve read. It isn’t true. I think the old timey folks created this mythical cannon to convince themselves that they weren’t miserably sweaty and uncomfortable in their endless layers of wool, cotton, silk.
It seems no coincidence to me that the window A/C unit became commonly available in the 1930s – exactly when clothing shifted from breathable natural fibers to rayon, nylon, viscose. Rashy families cooking in their summer plastic wrap probably would have sold their children to get relief from the soul-sucking heat.
If there are ghosts in my 104 year old heatsink of a house, they are likely in here with me, hogging all the cool, fresh air.
(*All images from the NYPL Digital Collections: ditigalgallery.nypl.org. Digital image identifying numbers in order of appearance: 816671, 816553, 1599845, 1599912.)