Saturday, June 7, 2008

Yeller gal, Yeller gal, flashing through the night, Summer storms will pass you, unless the lightning's white.

It's hot at hell and slow as fuck at the store. I'm closing early but I don't have air conditioning in my room at home so I'll have nowhere to go once I close the store. I hate air conditioning by the way. It's obviously a love/hate relationship. I am highly suspicious of it, but heat exhaustion is a major bummer. I am generally not a paranoid weirdo. I drink tap water, I only use SPF 8 so I can get a tan, I don't take vitamins, I drink Diet Coke which is seriously like cancer in a can, but for some reason air conditioning freaks me out.

I used to have a window unit in my bedroom and if I ran it at night I'd wake up finding it hard to breathe. I think it fucks with people's bodies not allowing them to properly adjust to natural seasonal heat. Coming into a blasting chill from a swelteringly hot day makes me feel just as shitty as sitting in steady heat. I've made it through three New York summers without air conditioning and I am not denying that often it sucks and I do occasionally leave my house specifically to seek refuge somewhere cool but in general it seems fucked to me to be anywhere that's downright cold inside when it's 90 degrees outside.

Maybe it's a specifically Midwestern trait. It's silly this day and age to have a pioneer-esque attitude about the elements, but there is something very invigorating about knowing you can rough it. Even if you aren't really roughing it by merely surviving seasonal weather changes. It's not as if I am descended from early American settlers or anything. My parents are Jews from California, our family's history in Nebraska began a year before I was born, but my place of birth is imprinted on my soul. It was the world as it should be in my eyes for the majority of my still brief time on this earth and it is where I learned to live.

Growing up in the land of tornadoes, hail, October blizzards, and heat lightning left it's mark on me. It took me a long time to get used to the confusing din of New York thunderstorms, their crashes and bangs indiscernible from the city's regular racked. The thing I miss most about Nebraska is sitting on my front porch in the house I grew up and watching the lightning. Storms that shook and rattled your very being were common all throughout the spring. As a child I was always saddened when I would sleep through a storm, those gigantic claps of thunder not quite gigantic enough to rouse a little kid from her slumber. I remember hailstorms with ice chunks the size of baseballs plummeting from the sky. We'd go outside when it was safe and fetch them from the street and put them in our freezer to keep and wonder at them.

In the summer the ground would be so hot the asphalt would steam after the rain. I remember spending several nights huddled around a radio in the basement listening for updates while tornado sirens roared, hoping for the all clear announcement but always disappointed that calamity had left us completely unscathed again. Tornadoes never touched down in city-limits and while there was an occasional major windstorm, the weather was never as dramatic as the books and VHS specials we watched in school would have us believe.

When I was 20 and living back in Lincoln for 9 months I remember it being over 100 degrees for a week straight and having to ride my bike from one job to the next at the height of the day's heat at 3 pm. There was a drought and every night the sky would be ablaze with heat lightning from phantom storms. We'd ride our bikes to the overpass by Cornhusker highway and watch the sky brighten and flash at dusk. On my last night in town before I left to come back to New York, I climbed to the roof with a new friend visiting from out of town. Watching lightning from a rooftop sounds like the dumbest thing anyone could do but it was the also the best thing we could have done in the moment. The storms were too far away for us to hear thunder or feel any rain, the lightning cloud to cloud far in the distance. We weren't afraid. It hadn't rained anywhere near the city in weeks. I sat between his legs leaning the back of my head against his chest and we laughed and talked about our upcoming roadtrip. Tomorrow he would accompany me and my ex-boyfriend (his childhood best friend) on the drive from Lincoln to New York City. We sat on a ridge of the roof hoping to catch a night breeze that never came and snuck our first and last kiss caught up, letting the atmosphere get the best of us, then remembering who we were.

We live in such fierce refusal to let the weather dictate our days, constantly battling the elements that we forget that weather is an essential part of life. It gives us food, gives us light, gives us the core tools for survival. We are still at it's mercy. Despite all of our technologies, if rain doesn't come then food doesn't grow. If frost comes early crops die. These are basic facts of existence and sitting on our air-conditioned pedestals in office buildings forty stories high we forget the earth where we came from and where we'll eventually all return.

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