All this heat has been pretty cool.
I know that sounds strange, but bear with me for a second.
The roasting weather seems to be moderating a bit – although the 85 degrees earlier this week was still pretty hot for South Puget Sound – but I love heat waves.
A long spell of hot weather loosens things up around here.
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People spend more time outdoors, they wear fewer clothes – even to work – and people start to push the envelope a little bit. I saw Birkenstock sandals on sockless feet!
Heat-befuddled citizens start sleeping outside, jumping around in lakes – and even talking to strangers.
I wandered into Orca Books at the start of the hot days, and I was instantly drawn into an intense discussion on whether it would be better to leave the doors closed – or leave them open.
One employee thought it would be better to leave the door closed to trap the cooler air inside – there was no air conditioning.
I pointed out that every human and light bulb in the building was just another heating element, and warm, fresh air was better than warm, stale air.
The conversation was still going on when I left.
Priorities, and rules, change when the weather gets serious.
Staying cool becomes more important than being cool or looking cool. Clothing boils down to T-shirts, shorts and flops. Everyone starts looking a little wilted. Dinner is served late – no one feels like turning on a stove or oven – and vegetables taste better than steak or chicken.
People hang out at the Heritage Park Fountain for hours. It’s the closest thing to a municipal pool we’ve got – which is sad – but everybody splashes around and buys cool drinks from the little cart. I ate lunch there a couple times, and everyone wanted to talk about the wretched heat.
I pointed out that we’d all complain about cold and rain in just 90 days, but no one wanted to listen.
As the week roasted on, things started getting even weirder and looser.
Kids were staying up really late, as the adults were staying up late – and there was no school in the morning anyway.
On one night, I woke up at 11 p.m. awash in sweat – there is no air conditioning where I live. Kids were riding skateboards on the street, and the hollow sound of a wooden board over rattling ball bearings sounded like summer in Southern California.
The night air felt as thick and heavy – just like any summer evening in Southern California – and I started thinking about what I did as a kid to stay cool at night.
I suddenly realized that I needed something cool.
“Things would be better if I had some Fudgesicles,” I croaked to my empty oven of a room.
Fudgesicles are basically a chocolate popsicle, and I’m pretty sure they don’t even contain real chocolate. That said, Fudgesicles have cooled me off since I was a kid, and they taste really, really good when it’s really, really hot. I don’t care for them when it gets cold.
I got up, pulled on a pair of boardshorts and T-shirt and headed off to Top Foods – which was bustling with shoppers of all ages. Kids loped around the store, and it was almost midnight. But the air conditioning hummed and blew sweet, cool breezes over my legs and arms.
The ice cream novelties section was ravaged, but a few packages of Fudgesicles remained.
I ate two on the walk back to the Subaru – and two more on the drive home.
A few hours later, the sun woke me at 6 a.m. – and it was already 81 degrees. I had a Fudgesicle hangover, and I started thinking about buying one of those rackety window-mounted air conditioners.
It was time to bend a few more rules.
I bailed out of the newsroom at 5 p.m., and I was in Westport by 6:20 p.m. It was a cool 78 degrees or so, and it felt even cooler as I paddled my surfboard out into a sweet 5-foot-high evening swell. The water was about 54 degrees, and my wetsuit felt just fine.
Heat refugees ate dinner picnics, and kids ran around on the beach looking for intact sand dollars.
I surfed until dusk, then took a nice, 50-cent shower at Westhaven State Park. Then I made the short drive to Twin Harbors State Park, where I unrolled a foam pad in the back of the station wagon, cracked all the windows and slid into a lightweight sleeping bag.
I slept the sleep of the cool that night – and woke at dawn for another refreshing hour or two of surfing.
After another 50-cent shower, I hit the road and made it into Olympia at 9:15 a.m. I’m pretty sure I carried a vague odor of saltwater and herring – balls of baitfish were just outside of the breaking waves – most of the day, but I just didn’t care.
It’s better to be cool than be cool when it gets hot.
Chester Allen: 360-754-4226