Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It’s baaaack! That scorching desert summer.

It’s baaaack! That scorching desert summer. This week we’re peaking at 113 degrees here in the Valley of the Sun. These are the miserable days just before the monsoon storms begin rolling in. We look forward to the monsoon rain, when we gather at the window and watch the lightning, rain and hail, as though it were a fabulous television show. Okay, so maybe the heat fries our brains a little bit.

You have hot summers, too, you say? Temperatures in the 90s, you say? Nineties shmineties. But the desert is a dry heat, you say? So’s my oven, is my snappy retort to that one. And we get plenty of humidity with the monsoon, which comes during our hottest months. Okay, okay, I’m not unsympathetic. Your heat is miserable for you. I get it. Really, I do. I’m not fond of too much humidity. Who is?
But you’re still curious, right, about how do we survive our desert summers? What do we do when stepping outside makes us feel like a pig on a spit, slowly roasting over an open fire? I mean, really, you can feel the sun burning your skin when it gets above 110 degrees. So, pull up a chair, folks, and I’ll spin a jaunty summer tale for you. Well, not really. This is just a blog, after all. But if you’re new here or live in another part of the country or world, you might learn something. Or not. Either way, here are things we do during a typical desert summer.

We break out the 50+ SPF sunblock and reapply it every two hours or so. This is most important. As are sunglasses. I currently have six pair of sunglasses, one each in my and hubby’s cars, one in my purse, one for outdoor walking and sports, and two in a drawer in case I break a pair. We put our hat collection by the front door, and move our coveted collection of shorts, tees, tank tops, and sandals to the front of the closet for easy access, since that’s all we’ll be wearing until October. Whoever made the idiotic don’t wear white after Labor Day rule didn’t live in a desert. That rule means nothing here. And we keep seat covers or towels in our cars, so we don’t get third degree burns the backs of our legs while wearing those coveted shorts in a car with leather or vinyl seats. Have you ever sat on vinyl in 120 degree heat while wearing shorts? I don’t recommend it.

Okay, you say, that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. What do you do for entertainment when it’s so darn hot? Ah, here’s where we have to get creative. Kind of like spending winters in the northeast, I would imagine. I don’t really know, since I’ve never lived where it snowed regularly, if at all. We don’t have basements or attics as a rule, but we have something much better. Pools!

Desert rats spend a heck of a lot of time in the pool, also known as an Arizona shower. Here, you can find a pool just about anywhere. If you don’t have one in your backyard, chances are several of your neighbors do. So, making friends with your neighbors is a good idea. Pools are also popular at condo and apartment complexes here. If you still don’t have access, there’s always the public pool at the local recreation center or water park. We have several manmade lakes, too, which are great for beating the heat and feeling like we have some semblance of a normal summer life.

That’s great, you say? But what if you don’t feel like swimming? What? Not feel like swimming? Are you daft, you non-desert person, you? Okay, now that’s just a little sarcasm, so don’t start posting about how mean I am, please. Yes, gasp, there are times when we don’t feel like swimming. Or maybe it’s too early or late in the day and we don’t want to disturb the neighbors. Or the pool happens to be closed for cleaning or some such nonsense. What else can we do when we’d prefer to stay in the air-conditioning, rather than roast outside? Plenty.

At my house, we have a home gym set up in one room, because we don’t want to get up at 4 a.m. to hike or bike or play tennis, which are our preferred low-cost workouts. Indoor ping-pong and Wii gaming are also popular summer pastimes for us. You’d be surprised how much you can sweat when playing sports and dancing games. Even the bowling game gets us off our butts and moving around. And it’s extra fun when I beat hubby, because he was on a bowling team when he was younger. But what do you do when you don’t feel like a workout out, you say? Ooh, napping is good. Okay, seriously, movies and shopping are big, especially in the summer months.

Movies are the ultimate, low-cost, air-conditioned entertainment, where you don’t have to sweat to accomplish it. Aren’t most shopping malls the outdoor type, you say? Isn’t that hot, you say? Well, yes. We do have a couple of old indoor malls, and some people get up early to mall-walk before the shops open. But what kind of fun is that? If I’m going to a mall, I at least want to window shop and have lunch, or maybe a frozen yogurt. But what about those outdoor strip malls? Well, most have misters attached to the eaves to cool off passersby. And, yes, they really work. We even sit on the outdoor patios and eat when there are misters going. In fact, we had misters on our home patio for several years, but they broke and we haven’t replaced them, yet. We really need to get a new set.

Isn’t central air-conditioning expensive, you say? Yes, it can be if you keep your house too cold. We keep ours at 80 degrees in the summer. But we also have ceiling fans in every room. You’d be surprised how much warmth you can tolerate when the air is moving about and cooling your skin. I can’t imagine not having fans here. We used them regularly in California, when a hot day was about 85 degrees, because we didn’t have air conditioning. After twelve plus years in the desert, I can’t believe that we ever thought 85 was hot. We don’t even close the windows here until the temperature reaches above 90 degrees outside. I guess we’ve acclimated a bit.

So, there you have it. A jaunty summer tale. Hope you enjoyed it. And if you come for a visit here in the summer, be sure to stock up on sunblock and drink lots and lots of water. I don’t want one of you passing out because you decided to hike one of our mountains. Our mountains look small compared to other places, but they can be deadly, especially in the summer. And if you have to be rescued, it’ll be all over the news, and locals will shake their heads at the poor visitor who didn’t know better. You don’t want that, do you? Stay cool!

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