Saturday, July 22, 2006


When the backyard thermometer hit 110 degrees, I decided it was time to decamp for the library, where there is air conditioning and free wireless. I was not alone. But it was peaceful, the silence broken only by the occasional cell phone tinkle and the grating symphonics of Windows starting up on numerous laptops.

I read a McClean's Magazine from cover to cover (a fascinating survey compared Canadians 30 years ago with today. In 1975 they were pretty stodgy and conservative, but now are way more open-minded than Americans. They value personal freedom above all else and that extends pointedly to other people's personal freedom. The most significant difference with Americans is that, though they are about as religious as us, they don't have any truck with fundamentalists. Or, I might add, the politicians who represent them.

Then I did some blogging and some blog-reading, with an occasional weather check. The official temperature went from 106 to 107 to 106 to 103. Then it was 6:00 and the library closed. I wandered over to the movie palace, but there was nothing I wanted to watch even with the promise of air conditioning. Then to the Apple Box, whose outdoor seats next to the river are the coolest place outside of an air-conditioned theater. But the Apple Box was closed, and all its outdoor tables were inside. Went to Jungle Vibes, where Wayne showed me the floor-to-ceiling fountain he is building along one wall. Not yet flowing, unfortunately.

Finally I went home, a short enough trip that I didn't quite suffer heat stroke in my non-air-conditioned car. At home I opened all the windows and turned on the fans, but what's the use? The air was just as hot outside as inside. I turned off the fans--waste of energy--and went out to the screened tent in the yard and tried to concentrate on my blogging while the cat registered her distress at not being able to get at me. (Sorry, this is a no-flea zone.)

A weather check revealed that the elusive weather-station on the Arctic fringes of town now showed a mere 87 degrees. By nightfall, it was down to 79. Time to go in and turn on the fans again. The air blowing from the fan now feels marginally refreshing because it is actually cooler than the air inside.

Steve went to Lake Berryessa, arguably the hot spot in our vicinity, but he drove his air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned house to do what he likes best: play music with friends. I could have gone but, no, I wanted to get some work done.

And it was work, trying to get away from the heat. Tomorrow, I'm going to San Francisco for some fog and ocean breezes.

Days like this were common in San Jose where I grew up. No one had air conditioning. The only recourse was to find a shady spot and spread-eagle yourself on the lawn. The only real relief came when the evening dew fell and the lawn was cool and damp. But the relief was short-lived; in those days they made kids go to bed even before it got dark, in hot bedrooms we had to share with a sibling. On hot restless nights I had to resort to sneaking out the window after my parents went to bed and taking long walks through the darkened neighborhoods.

But Petaluma cools down most evenings around 7 p.m. Nights like this are rare, and thank God.

And thank God for libraries. No, actually, thank the government for libraries. Wonderful as the private sector is, they haven't gotten around to building free lending libraries where anyone can go without a membership card. It doesn't fit their marketing plan.


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