New York in the summer is for oppressive heat and simmering anger, for being tempted with the sights of more female flesh while blanketed with heat and the sweaty intrusions of more people.
City life is a trial of patience and suffering in the summer. Concrete and blacktop absorb and reflect the heat, exhaust fumes are trapped by tall buildings, and everything in the city is hotter than everywhere else. Cramped onto subways and buses, we bristle at the sweaty touch of others, suffering further in one another’s vulgar heat.
Summer tests everyone’s patience. The heat and humidity magnify the unending slights and annoyances that are the fuel of city angst. The unavoidable heat and its sweaty unpleasantness works to erode our patience and our souls boil over with anger and white-hot rage almost daily.
The sad realization of summer hit me just yesterday while I stood waiting for the 7 train in Flushing. The 7 train is populated mostly by Asians with sharp elbows who scramble for seats that they’ll only sit in for about 25 minutes at most and are less comfortable than standing. I prefer to stand so I can read the paper and not fight for a seat. But like other subway lines, the 7 train is a strange beast that operates on its own whims and curses its riders with frequent malfunctions. I was jolted to the realization of summer while standing and waiting for the subway at Main Street, which is underground – most of the 7 line is above ground. “Signal problems” caused a delay in subway service, and there was little to do but stand motionless and suffer as the platform became more crowded and sweat soaked through your clothes.
Summer in the city has its fun moments. It’s sometimes nice to stay in the city while everyone else is away, especially Labor Day weekend to end the summer season. New York is forever populated with young women and the degeneration of our society has dictated that popular fashion becomes more and more revealing with each summer season.
But at some point, you must leave New York City for at least 48 consecutive hours every summer in order to preserve some shred of sanity. Being baked in a concrete, glass and body odor oven for three and a half months will make even the strongest person go mad.
I’m going to Connecticut to light off explosives with a few good friends and then to California where I will try to trace the steps of Henry Miller and light bonfires in tribute to John Steinbeck and the ghosts of Portuguese whalers. But I shall return soon to our sweat-soaked city to grab it by the throat once again.