Silver Threads: Beating the heat
When my parents bought their first air-conditioned car in the ‘50s, it sat in the driveway beside another, older vehicle that lacked that amenity. Who drove off in which depended on who got there first.
Their Boston terrier, Yogi, was a savvy little canine who figured things out fast. He loved to go riding with either of them, but passed up the chance, heading back into the house with a disappointed air, when the AC car had already left the driveway.
I was used to hot summers when I moved to New Orleans from south Mississippi. But not to the humidity here. When Bobby Anding and I got married in 1959, we lived in one side of a double shotgun on Walmsley Avenue, and I was shocked to see the fuzzy, grayish-green mildew on shoes I’d stored in the tiny closet.
There was an air-conditioning unit in the window of our bedroom, which had French doors opening into the living room. We fixed supper in the kitchen under the minimal breeze of a little electric fan, and then ran with our trays to the front of the house.
A general assignment reporter for The States-Item in those days, I had to be out in the heat a lot — either walking in the CBD or riding in taxicabs with no AC if the assignments were further afield. I remember sliding across plastic seat covers almost too hot to touch. I often felt like that young woman in a “Twilight Zone” episode, who’s trapped in her sweltering apartment as the Earth moves closer and closer to the sun for some reason or another.
I got to thinking about this the other day when the New Orleans Advocate forecast a week of 92-degree temperatures here, and wondering why people from cooler climes bother to visit in the summer.
Researching on the internet, I found that Laura Motta of ShermansTravel has some advice for those who do, and figured that sauce for a tourist can be sauce for an Orleanian.
- Ride a bike. “It might sound completely counterintuitive, but one way to keep cool in the Crescent City is to get moving,” she writes. “A bike tour, particularly in sprawling neighborhoods like the Garden District, can actually help keep you cool. …. the motion of the bike gives you an instant breeze.”
- Have a siesta. “Make like the city’s European forebears and spend the afternoon’s hottest hours resting. (Sadly, not possible for working locals, but try it on weekends.) From 3-5 p.m. each day, when the overhead sun feels hottest, head inside for a late lunch or an afternoon drink or tea, or make an appointment with your bed.”
- Eat smart. “New Orleans cuisine isn’t exactly known for being light. Add an oyster-stuffed po’ boy, a bag of beignets, and a plate of jambalaya to a humid day and you don’t exactly have a recipe for comfort. If you must eat heavier fare (and trust us, you must), have it at dinner when the sun’s going down.”
- Hydrate. “Drink water — and lots of it. Between the humidity, alcohol, exertion and the bleating sun, there’s almost no such thing as drinking too much water in New Orleans. Carry a water bottle during the day, and alternate one drink and one glass of water at night.”
- Re-apply. “Keep sunblock handy while you walk around the city. Re-apply as often as every 30 minutes — one application at 9 a.m. won’t keep you protected throughout the day, and with so much to do after sunset, you don’t want to spend your evening whimpering in pain in your room.”
Good advice for everybody when they’re away from air conditioning, which was unusual enough when I came to town to be advertised with bragging signs out front by the entrepreneurs who’d installed it.
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at email@example.com.