Love NOLA: A newcomer's guide to summer in New Orleans
To hear Brett Will Taylor talk about summer heat and fairy tales on WWNO radio, click here.
As someone who is just nearing his third anniversary in New Orleans, I use this space from time to time to share some of what I’ve learned about adapting to this lusty lover of a city with my fellow newcomers. Here, we’ve talked about general rules and how to costume. Today, we address the hot as hell topic of New Orleans summer.
If this is your first summer here, this top ten guide to summer is for you:
10. This is what summer feels like. Many of you have moved here from cooler environs. Places where you have a “summer sweater” for when the sea breeze kicks in. In my former hometown of Boston, it’s breaking news when the mercury hits 90, which it does precisely once in June, three times in July…and zero times in August. Please. Dat ain’t summer. Dat’s winter.
9. You’re going to save money. All that money you used to spend on moisturizers? Darlin, you now live in a sauna. Even if you tried to apply a moisturizer, it would just slither off your face and burn your eyes. Dry cleaners? No need. Just put on that wrinkled shirt and walk outside. Viola! Wrinkles gone.
8. It’s going to take you longer to get dressed. There ain’t an air conditioner or ceiling fan around that’s going to keep the humidity out of your house. So, you make adjustments. For example, you must now allow at least one hour to dry off after showering.
7. Your sense of compassion will expand. I hate flies. But in the summer, I invite them into my house. I just can’t stand to watch them all pressed up against my kitchen window with their little tongues hanging out. The way I figure it, a fly only lives two or three days. Why be cruel and force them to live that time in a heat index of 150? Last year, a fly buzzed in and went directly into my open refrigerator. I closed the door. Mercy killing? I saw it as an investment in good karma.
6. Your pets will never forgive you for what you have done. If you think it’s hot, imagine how your dog feels. Poor thing. Out there, low to the ground, walking around in a fur coat that would make Aretha proud. I’ll never forget the look on the face of my Scottie, Tyra Banks, when I first set her outside on an August day. It was the same look Toto had when Elvira Gulch tossed him in her basket and took off across the sky. Tyra still gets that look. From May to October.
5. You turn on the kitchen faucet…and wait for the water to cool down. ‘Nuf said.
4. Warning: Extreme heat causes some people to go mad. There are some people in our swamp of a city who keep the thermostat at 85 during the day. And 80 at night. It’s not because they can’t afford air conditioning. It’s because they think that little to no air conditioning makes it easier to adapt to the outside heat. Right. It just means you sweat more. I feel sorry for these misguided people. I blame years of heat stroke for their delusion. And avoid them at all cost.
3. Heat does not change what we do. Tuesday night, I found myself standing on the balcony above Three Muses on Frenchmen for their Supper Club. Everyone was in work attire. I even had on socks. Turning to a friend, sweat pooling between my neck and shirt collar, I said “You know it’s nice out tonight.” It was almost 90. If this is your first summer, you will find that we keep doing what we do here in New Orleans no matter how high the mercury. Bars keep their doors open. We still sit on our stoops. And, come August, we will second line down Rampart for Satchmo Fest. At high noon. Because, you see, the sun may burn you, but it ain’t about to burn our fun.
2. But it does change how we do it. We may keep doing what we always do during summer months, but our pace change. My next-door-wife Meg said it best when a tourist asked her why New Orleanians looked a bit like addled zombies, barely shuffling from this place to dat. “We’re not lazy,” she explained. “We’re just hot.”
1. Brace yourself. You think it’s hot now? Oh child. It’s only June. Wait until August. Or Thanksgiving.
Listen to Brett Will Taylor's thoughts on New Orleanians and air conditioning this Monday, June 17 at 8:35 a.m. on WWWNO/89.9 FM.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie. He now shares his stories at Brett Will Taylor: A Storyteller and his Stories. Follow him @bwtshaman.