“Showing off?” a friend texted in response to one I sent him at 4:06 a.m.
No, not showing off because this is summer, even if the official kickoff date is June 20. One hundred degrees is summer. One hundred and five is summer. One hundred five can be no other season than summer.
Actually, it can because Bakersfield has five seasons including fall, winter and spring. It’s like Thing One and Thing Two in Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat.” In this case, it’s Summer One (hot) and Summer Two (real hot). The last week has been a perfect example of Summer Two.
“Summer Two” to quote Clint Eastwood, “will focus your mind.” Encourage specificity about what you will and won’t do and when you will or won’t do it.” Summer Two can deliver clarity and, if not, pain when its cues are ignored.
When Summer Two arrives, we compare notes and trade heat stories. Heat brings people together because, as with a bad back, it’s all anybody can think about.
I had forgotten how hot a steering wheel can be inside of a truck that has been sitting in the sun. Especially when chunks of the rubber steering wheel cover have fallen off leaving what feels like a stack of 2⅞ J55 8rd EUE tubing in Oilfield Russ' yard.
I grab the wheel, scald my fingertips as well as some of the soft padding on the inside of my hands, which instinctively fly off the wheel in an act of self-protection. Steering either requires donning fireproof gloves or planting my nose in the middle of the wheel to keep the truck from jumping the sidewalk and mowing down a fire hydrant and some lawn flamingos.
The truck doesn’t have air conditioning other than the 2-60 type — two windows open at 60 mph — but this is when you find out about your air conditioning in general.
Some people, and we are some people, cave in on the first really hot day. They switch on the air conditioning at 8 a.m. If hauled into air conditioning court, they might say, “We’re taming the beast before it becomes untamable.”
Friends, more than one, consider it a badge of honor not to use their air conditioning until their house is near hot yoga status. Turning it on is like giving into “the Man.” When a friend told me earlier in the week that he was fighting to keep his air conditioner off, I suggested he might wait to save money until after he was dead. He accused me of being morbid. Nobody won but I was cool and presumably he was not.
Cool is available even in the jaws of Summer Two. A sliver of cool. Early mornings between 4 and 8 a.m. are golden and we guard those zealously.
Why is this? Why do some of the most beautiful mornings of the year precede the hottest days? Is the universe throwing us a bone or another example of silver linings even in pandemics?
There is no better time to ride a bike, walk the bluffs or work in your garden than those early mornings. Cool mornings are a summer gift. If you aren’t dancing already, join the party and experience the magic hour.
Along with vigorous tomato plants, summer gifts also include iced coffee. Iced coffee with heavy cream and sugar. Not only is iced coffee refreshing but it goes right to the center of your brain. Your brain goes, “Ding. You were up, but now you’re really up.”
After I sent the text at 4:06 a.m., I checked the weather app and it said 99. Ninety-nine at 4 in the morning? Epic just became alarming. I shook my phone, turned it off and it read 75. It was as if the phone was still stunned from the day before.
Tomorrow is supposed to be cool but today Summer Two has its way. Epic, and when you include the beautiful mornings, quite a thing.