Hot! Hot! Hot!

Sundown Salty at Anchor

Much of the country, from the Midwest to Eastern Seaboard is in the grip of a scorching heatwave. Today, NYC is expecting a high temperature of 100 °F, while Saint Louis is looking at a heat index of 110 °F. It is high summer, mid-July and as such, a single weather event such as this is not all that exceptional, but it is not just an isolated occurrence. It is part of a increasingly clearer pattern of climate change that in this case has been also aptly dubbed global warming.

NPR had an article on this heatwave and how it is affecting people in northern latitudes more adversely, than individuals who live further south. Basically, this is because northerners are not as well prepared to deal with this kind of heat, as are American who live further south and have had to deal with it on a regular basis. In Brooklyn, our son Dan does not have air-conditioning, while in Saint Louis, our friend Joanie fortunately does. It is certainly hotter in Saint Louis than New York, but having the means to deal with the heat makes a difference.

In 1980, when Anne and I first moved to Saint Louis from Michigan, we were ill prepared for what turned out to be an exceptionally hot summer, even by Saint Louis standards. Neither our apartment nor our black car had air-conditioning. We were young then though and lived in a nice enough neighborhood that we could safely leave our windows open at night. We survived. 112 fellow Saint Louisans were not so fortunate and died heat related deaths. Their deaths did serve to spur city officials to take corrective measures, so that during the heat wave of 1995 only 31 people died from heat in Saint Louis. That same year, in Chicago, almost 700 Americans died from the heat.

Boulder, CO

Male Western Tangier

This is a very wet year. The entire Mississippi River valley is in flood. The height of the Great Lakes are expected to be at record levels. As our gaze turns westward, the implications of this very wet spring are also becoming apparent. When the spring rains and expected higher than normal summer temperatures combine, the rain will fuel vegetation growth, which will become fuel for fire. We saw this last year in Glacier. It rained most of the days that we were there, but come August the place was a tinder box and many notable landmarks were destroyed. Our planned visit to Rocky Mountain seems to be similarly cursed. At least we’ll get to see this “Notre Dame” before it too is burnt.

Today was an epic day of driving, almost 900 miles. Much of the day was spent dodging yellow thunderstorm boxes or not. This weather was all across western Kansas. The most interesting episode entailed having to emergency break on ice. It had hailed, but to such an extent that it looked like snow. Anyway, we made it. We won’t be camping in the Rockies. It’s too cold. The motel is inexpensive, but nice. We saw the tangier in the parking lot after dinner. I’m ready to leave the Midwest storms behind. We’ll explore Boulder and the mountains tomorrow.

We’re listening to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The thought is what better story for a roadtrip than a book about a roadtrip. Kerouac’s story even covers some of the geography that we traveled today. We’re only a quarter of the way through the book, so there are still many more miles to travel yet on the road. Long day.

Bike, Bike, Bike…

Florida Great Blue Heron

We didn’t see this heron yesterday, when we bicycled in the park, but we did see egrets. It was cold, about forty and I’m sure that the egrets were thinking that it was a lot nicer on Friday and why did I come north again so soon? The spring peepers were croaking, but because of the temperature, their peeps were at a much reduced frequency and at a lower one too. (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure that sentence out.) Saturday, was the stormy day and I only ventured out twice, once to retrieve the paper (barefoot) and again to go to the store. There were plenty of other shoppers in denial there, shivering in t-shirts, sandals, shorts and sleet. I felt so manly, while wearing my first pair of big boy pants for a week. It was one of those Unforgiven days here, bad enough to almost kill Clint Eastwood. The sparrows that usually inhabit the bush behind the back porch, were instead clinging to its screen, just to get under the eaves.

There is flooding, as described on the national news, but it is nowhere near as bad as ’93, at least not yet. If you recall, the ’93 flood didn’t crest until summer. For now, it’s just a matter of rounding up all of the usual suspects. That being the habitually flooded. It will take months more of very heavy rain, to come even close to the ’93 flood. Although, we did attend a Science-on-Tap talk on regional flooding and almost every river in the bistate area has experienced higher flood levels then since ’93. Maybe the weather is not the problem?

“Last week, it seemed that all of the bad guys got away with it, Donald Trump, Jussie Smollett and worst of all Duke.” — Thank you, Colin Jost. Last night, at least one bad guy went down, when Michigan State beat Duke, for the Final Four, by one point, in the final seconds. Live by the clock, die by the clock.

Oh yeah, big bike ride this month! Got to get our tender tushes in shape. Turn them into hard asses. You’ll all probably will get tired of hearing about our bike exploits soon enough, but yesterday we did notice one oddity. Three paddle boats had been mysteriously displaced from the boathouse to the “temporary” police pasture west of the park’s department yard (about a quarter-mile, plus 100′). Could it have been from last weekend’s storm? The wind wasn’t that strong and there wasn’t that much rain. One or two would be accidental, but three seems deliberate. Could it be that the police are retraining their horses as sea horses? Nah. Most boats are just holes in the water, but I think that these hulls have been repurposed to become water troughs. 

Jesus Rays on Jesus Day

Jesus Rays over the Atlantic

It was a restless night. The wind was blowing. Causing the back porch screen door to blow open and then slap back with a loud clap. Eventually, I got up to latch it. Anne thanked me when I returned to bed. It had awoken her too. The latch didn’t hold though and the slap clap of the back door began again. This time, when I got up again, I went down to the basement, out the basement door and retrieved my utility brick by the side of the house. Wending my way back and then to the back porch, I placed the brick outside the screen door, but I couldn’t quite place it as close as I would like, which allowed the screen door to still slap clap, but at a much reduced volume. Sleep eventually found me again.

In the morning, it was raining cats and dogs and I was awoken again by the boom of thunder. I got soaked fetching the paper. The morning rain, gave way to a pleasant afternoon and we went for a walk. The sun even peaked out for a while. It was warm enough that we extended our regular walk. We went to Starbucks for late afternoon lattes. On the way home, the skies darken again, but radar indicated that we were in no immediate danger. Later, NPR sounded a thunderstorm alarm, but the squall line passed uneventfully to our north.

The wind came up again, causing the digital broadcast TV signal to disintegrate across the screen. We switched to Netflix and its wi-fi Chrome-casted signal. We binged the remainder of Russian Doll, which morphed into a buddy movie for uptight New Yorkers. Then watched SNL. By then the wind had subsided.

This morning dawned cold, but bright. For some reason, we got up an hour later than we had expected to. Winter storm Taylor had passed to the east, but not without leaving one last calling card. Our sign of inclusion had been blown up the street. This is one of those signs that reads, “No matter where you are from, we are glad that you are our neighbor.” A message that is repeated in Spanish and Arabic. Undamaged, I replanted it. It looks like it will be a nice day.

Barefoot in the Snow

Barefoot in the Snow

Newly fallen snow, as yet untouched and clean. Me, barefoot, moving rapidly with toes getting cold. The paper, wrapped in plastic, lies by the curb. Couldn’t it have been thrown a little closer? Maybe, I should change my subscription to a digital only one. The other two papers that I subscribe to are digital only. Why? Because the Post’s website is that awful. So, barefoot through the snow I go. I ventured out barefoot, once more. The snow was deeper, but my footsteps were fewer. This time it was for recycling. In the afternoon, after the snow stopped, I shod myself and cleared the car and walks for tomorrow. Earlier, I heard that this was our 18th snowfall this winter, which seems like a lot. According to the person telling me this, since our first snow occurred on November 19th, we are due one more, before winter relinquishes itself. If true that would be nice.

The Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch

Beginning with the Civil War and its interruption of Mississippi River traffic, the Saint Louis riverfront began a long decline. Once the third busiest US port, by the twentieth century, it had fallen into decay. Trying to recapture or at least commemorate its role in westward expansion, city fathers hit upon the idea of a monument. Its site, the site where Saint Louis was originally founded, was cleared. An architectural contest was then held to select a design.

Of five finalists, two designs were created by a father-son, Finnish-American pair, Eliel and Eero Saarinen. A mistake sent the congratulating telegram to father Eliel, but quickly corrected, son Eero was named the real winner. This mistake was understandable since the two men shared the same last name, first initial, workplace and even birthday. Eero’s initial design work was performed with pipe-cleaners planted in the living room rug. Preliminary designs called for a shorter arch, built with quadrilateral sections, instead of equilateral triangles, with which it was finally made. At 51, Eero died before his design was built. 

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On NPR this morning, the local announcer was reciting the temperature, first for the satellite affiliates, which were all minus this or minus that. Finishing with Saint Louis, where the temperature was “negative”, negative five to be precise. Anne took exception to being singled out in such a less than positive manner.

When I picked Anne up from school last night, she giddily announced that she had heard a rumor. Hoping for something salacious, she instead told me that two teachers had told her that there will be no school today. The principal later confirmed that an official announcement would be made at 3:30. I hardly call that a rumor. So, no school today and maybe no mail either, we’ll have to see about that. The paper was delivered, but still sits out on the sidewalk. So close, yet so far. I’ll go out to get it, when it “warms up” some. I’m positive! The trash man is working. I saw him pop in-and-out of his garbage truck, with his bald uncovered head and empty our dumpster at the curb. While I kvetch about the weather, it is with the realization that the plunging nadir of this cold snap has already passed. Highs in the sixties are forecasted for this weekend.

Still, this cold front has done its job. I’m not talking about the comradery that comes from a shared sense of schadenfreude. I’m speaking of budget authority for another trip to Florida! I think it was that couple from Chicago, who we met at the arch that tipped the balance. We were thinking of a getaway and Chicago was on the list. They were already heading south and we’ll just be joining their migration. There is plenty of planning yet to be done, but warmth here we come.