How to Survive New York in Summer…Without Air-Conditioning

I like holding competitions with myself.

I like to see, sometimes, how far I can push something before giving in. I’m not a masochist, by any stretch of the imagination, rather, I see some situations as an endurance experiment. Take my marathon training, for instance. After my friends inspired me to train for and run 13.1 miles, I thought, “Well, now I want to see what happens when I try to run 26.2 miles.” I was afraid. I was unsure. I had the opportunity to do research and put together a plan. And then I watched my leg muscles and appetite grow, my desire to sleep balloon , and my patience with a variety of situations expand to something I had never before imagined.

Breaking my foot was never part of my carefully cultivated tests, yet somehow my training became a study of human resilience and acceptance. Running and walking would make me “sick,” so I had to stop.

I then started yoga to see how and what it could do for me and, if you have read my previous post, it modified my thinking and allowed me to embrace a new way of life – a calmer way of life and one that is going to lead to a fresh start. This wasn’t really a test of will;  I wanted to see what would happen when I started practicing more frequently. I wanted to learn if I could ever do a headstand. And I was curious to discover how I would feel, overall, when yoga became a bigger part of my life.

Today, to say I am grateful for my “research”  is an understatement.

Now, I’m testing the length of time one can go without air-conditioning in the summer in Astoria.

Upon writing that sentence, I actually felt a slew of readers recoil in absolute horror, this being the worst situation they could imagine. I’m not going to lie. There was one super steamy evening where it felt like my body swelled uncomfortably until the fan sucked in air that had dropped a few degrees. I used to fear this feeling – fear being too hot and not knowing what was going to happen. In England, it never became as warm as here, and our American summers of my youth were spent in the chilly freezer of my grandparents’ house. When we’d go to my aunt and uncle’s, I volunteered to sleep on the screened porch, wanting to experience the warm, slick Virginia evenings. I didn’t melt then, even though I was frequently jarred awake, terrified, by katydids, rogue cicadas and the occasional cat shriek.

My Astoria apartment is small – big enough for my and my Ikea-bought and salvaged furniture. I have high ceilings and brick walls – not exposed – and I’m surrounded by neighbors, families, kids, adults, the blare of Telemundo and plenty of stray cats that seem to think this is a dockside in Greece, whereas in reality, they are sadly lost. My bathroom is the size of a good closet, and my fridge looks like an anorexic alcoholic resides here, being mostly filled with proteins, vegetables, Greek and German beer, wine and condiments. It’s small, but it’s mine. And I don’t want to introduce air conditioning.

At first, my reasoning was “well, let’s see how this goes,” thinking I could save on the electric bill. Now, I realize I spend less time inside during the summer and more out at the running, my favorite spot in the park, the airy bar next door, or out of the city, escaping salty-sweat crowds and irritated faces. With the air moving inside thanks to several fans, my cool den is pleasant. At least in the evenings. And my determination not to crack and crank up the artificially cooled air just grows as the season progresses. In part, it’s rebellion against the hermetically sealed cubicle in which I am forced to spend my day, chilly and wrapped up in layers before bursting forth into the sunshine to sun myself and warm up, like a displaced lizard looking for just the right rock – any rock.

The other portion of me has decided that I want to use my non-AC summer as a scientific experiment. I hypothesize that I will easily adjust to the season’s actual temperature and climate. I will understand how I change physically and otherwise as a result. Because I’ve realized that shutting off from every experience is not living, not truly. It’s remaining comfortable and cocooned in the status quo. And as my experiments and broken feet have taught me, living here in this thoroughly confusing, marvelous and frustrating city, the status quo is no way to live.

So how do you survive in New York in the Summer without air conditioning?

You become a New Yorker.

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