Monday, September 15, 2014
Life in the inferno
On Friday, according to Weather Underground, the high was 104. Saturday it was 106. Sunday it was 107, but the thermometer in our carport showed it higher than that.
In the months of August, September, and October, the coastal mists abandon us, and the hot wind from the valleys and desert envelope us.
Our house was built in the 1960s, when electricity rates were cheap, and no one in Southern California thought about conserving energy. The house is built facing the canyon view to the southwest, and has floor-to-ceiling windows to take in that view - unfortunately, it also takes in the full blast of the sun's rays.
We have a flat roof, with no insulation, so the sun simply bakes down through a layer of composite and tarpaper, some tongue-and-groove redwood, and then it heats up the house.
Our first week in the house, I remember, we proudly set the table in our southwest facing dining room with some beautiful taper candles that come as a housewarming gift.
By four-thirty in the afternoon, they had softened and sagged, slumping in their holders like drooping balloons.
Keeping our house livable in the summer is a day-long process, with steps to take at each time of the day. In the morning, we close all the windows and blinds, to preserve the coolness that remains from night-time. This lasts until about 4:00, when the southwest windows get the sun's full blast, and the living room and kitchen heat up till they match the outdoors.
When the sun goes down, we open the doors and windows and position fans to blow through the house, cooling it once again.
The upper part of the house is shaded by the massive oaks in our front yard. These rooms stay cool until evening, when the hot air flows up and back into them. We've installed room air-conditioners in the bedrooms, and batten down the hatches and close the doors.
Yesterday, when the evening cool-down should have come, the thermometer was in the 90s, and the air was still, with no relief. I was limp with heat, spent with heat. I tried to read the paper on the deck, but my glasses slipped down my sweaty nose, and my damp hands smeared the newsprint.
I gave up at 9:00 pm and shut myself in the bedroom with a glass of ice water and the air conditioner rumbling full blast.
These are trying times.