Tuesday, June 16, 2015

94 and Rising

We're having a heatwave, a tropical heatwave
The temperature's rising, it isn't surprising
She certainly can can-can

With a forecast of temperatures close to 100 degrees for Monday and Tuesday, I declined an invitation to the country. It was going to be too hot to head inland. Instead, I got up yesterday and started for the river.

A mile in and sweat was running down my back. Two miles in and all I could think about was a drink of water, but with cemeteries to my left and houses to my right, there was no water in sight.

I crossed my fingers that there would be a water fountain at Texas Beach, although I knew it was unlikely.

Walking through the neighborhood a different route, I came across all kinds of charming things to take my mind off my unrelenting thirst. A tidy white church tucked onto a corner, with rows of blooming roses surrounding it. A front yard garden labeled "potager" with a rainbow-colored gate behind it. A yard so full of kitsch that it was difficult to take in the hundreds of items that adorned every inch of space.

And when I got to the parking lot at Texas Beach, I was thrilled to see not one but three water fountains, one for adults, one for kids and one for dogs. Drinking greedily, I yielded the fountain to two overheated runners and headed to a bench to sit down.

On it was a large, unopened bottle of water, condensation indicating it was still somewhat cold water. I picked it up and put it back down. Looking around, I saw no one looking for their water. In that instant, it became mine.

Once hydrated, I walked down the stairs to Texas Beach to get in the river and was completely surprised to see ten Japanese rock pile statues dotting the water. I'd been down there just last Wednesday and noticed that all the pilings from last year were gone. Somebody had been busy in the past few days reconstructing them.

Let the summer begin.

Heading back up to the parking lot to start the hot walk home, I got behind two men on the staircase discussing the Koran and how "they" are just as afraid of us as we are of them. When they paused on a landing to get their breath, one guy waved me by. "I can see you're in tip top shape and we're not, so go ahead," said the one in the VCU shirt.

I don't know about all that, but I passed them anyway, refilled "my" water bottle at the fountain and slogged toward home, grateful that the water gods had looked out for me when I hadn't had the sense to bring my own.

Half a mile from home, I heard my name called and there was a friend offering me a brief home in air conditioned comfort. With over five miles of walking under my sweaty belt, I happily hopped in. Maybe my Mom's right and some days are just too hot to walk.

Awaiting me at home was an invitation to spend the day in air conditioned places of my choosing, an offer too good to refuse.

We began at Saison Market for a cold beverage before moving on to Criterion to see "Love and Mercy," the biopic about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. I've never been much of a Beach Boys fan, but I'm on record as loving a good true story and this one is hard to beat given its sordid elements: abusive father, controlling doctor, mental illness.

Probably most fascinating was the glimpse of Wilson's creative process as he tries to recreate the voices and sounds in his head into a record in the studio. Hearing those familiar songs broken down into the abstract components of his complicated vision was mesmerizing and all but a music lesson for the less musically savvy (read: me).

From there, we headed to the air conditioned comfort of Can Can for happy hour deals, enjoying three kinds of P.E.I. oysters (my favorite for the name alone: Salutation Cove) and a charcuterie plate with Morbier, pork pate and prosciutto-wrapped ripe cantaloupe, washed down with Muscadet.

In the bathroom, a woman was making a face at herself in the mirror, holding up a lock of hair. "Why did I spend half an hour straightening it if it's already curly again?" she asked me. Meanwhile my straight hair was losing what little body I'd forced in with a blow dryer to the heat, I pointed out.

"Your hair looks great," she claimed, but only a curly haired girl would say that. We all want what we don't have and my hair was suffering in the heat as much as hers.

From there, we braved the oven-like heat of Cary Street to walk down a few blocks to Chop Suey Books where the Music Circus was in full swing. I don't even know how many years now I've attended the annual tribute to John Cage, but at least since it was held at the old Chop Suey eight years ago.

Moving from room to room, looking at books along the way, I heard the Man About Town reading from his unfinished novel, saw a sax duo that included JC Kuhl upstairs near cookbooks and lingered to watch drummer extraordinaire Brian Jones playing percussion and song flutes. It was a far smaller Music Circus than any I'd seen before but just as cacophonous, which is exactly the point.

Since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped at Belmont Food Shop for appetizers of crab and avocado (one of my very favorite warm weather combos), lobster salad and, wait for it, lamb belly (obscenely delicious and one of my go-tos at Belmont).

As the crowd dwindled, the bartender got tired of the usual soundtrack ("I've been listening to it for two and a half years") and offered up his phone so I could choose some different music. Everyone knows I love playing DJ.

Hmm, so many options. I choose Strand of Oaks because I'd just seen them and Father John Misty because I'm currently infatuated with that album, eventually going with Ryan Adams because who doesn't like Ryan Adams? My date did and that's all I care about.

I couldn't leave without ordering silk pie, a crumb-encrusted dark chocolate mousse-like round that never disappoints, or a few minutes' conversation with the low key chef about his upcoming beach and fishing trip.

Sure, it would have been so easy to just go home at that point, but how could we when it was heavy metal Monday at GWARbar?

A DJ was set up just behind the stools we sat in and while I didn't recognize a single song as a series of appropriately dressed DJs took turns spinning, it's always great people watching there, whether it's poseurs or metalheads.

Not to mention that their air conditioning was working just fine and spending time in it had been our one and only goal of the day and night. We're simple people, although he was going home to sleep in air conditioned comfort while my overnight involved a ceiling fan and two auxiliary fans pointed directly at me. Bliss.

This morning, I considered routes for my walk, taking into account that it's supposed to be 99 degrees today, so desperately seeking some shade along the way.

Heading downtown, I was immediately struck by how few people were out and about. The Jehovah's Witnesses who usually set up shop near city hall were M.I.A. The lunchtime crowd appeared to have stayed inside. Even the guys who usually hang out in front of the barber shops were absent.

But a few brave souls were out. Walking down Marshall Street, from the apartment house stairs above me, I hear a man say, "There she is! There's summer!"

Looking up at him, I remark that it's not summer till next week. "It's summer today, darlin' and so are you!" he calls with a big smile. I have to assume he's referring to my wide-brimmed hat and limbs glistening with sunscreen.

"Nice sunblock!" a man with a backpack and tall walking stick calls to me from across the street, obviously not referring to my pink shorts.

We're having a heat wave, a tropical heatwave
The way that she moves, that thermometer proves
She certainly can can-can

Oh, and, for the record, under that hat that gets me so much complimentary attention, my hair most definitely does not look great. It's summer.


  1. Your water bottle was probably a runner's SAG (support and gear) planted along the trail route before they left. They should probably try to hide it better next time...


  2. Oops! Note to runners: don't leave a bottle of water on a bench on a 97 degree day or it will be absconded with my a dehydrated walker. Guilty as charged! (and sorry...)

    1. Haha you taught them a valuable lesson to hide the SAG better! No worries!

  3. K:

    Caught "Love & Mercy" at the Westhampton last night..[sorry hate the Criterion claustrophobic box of a theatre]. Realize that's all we have left when the Westhampton closes. Was really impressed with this flick. Way better than I expected.


  4. The Criterion was showing at a better time, that's why it won out that day. Agree that the theaters are tiny boxes. The film was so well conceived and presented, I thought. Such a sad story...