Archive for September, 2022

It’s hot

It’s hot. But you already know that if you live anywhere on the left side of the continent.

Weather reporters, including KABC’s cute but glum Briana Ruffalo, filled my Samsung screen with heat statistics that seemed to portend the end of the world. First it was the hottest day on record. Then it was the hottest month, and finally the hottest since man invented the thermometer.

Ginger Zee is ABC’s chief meteorologist…I always think of asteroids crashing into the Earth whenever I hear that title. Ginger is less volatile than others, perhaps because her maiden name is Zuidgeest and her married name is Colonomos, both of which sound like medical procedures that are best avoided.

Dallas Raines takes over in the evening and demonstrates his remarkable agility for a man born in the 19thcentury by leaping up and down, showing me a tight fist, and finally contorting his legs in a manner that makes him look like he just filled his pants. I probably would do the same thing if my assignment was to scare the hell out of viewers who think Armageddon is just around the corner.

The addition of wildfires to the mix only added to the devastation that I was sure was on the way. No doubt as punishment for our willful disobedience in rejecting the once popular Make America Great president who now finds himself on the verge of more indictments than Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.

I’ve tried dealing with the heat in various ways. Adjusting the thermostat was at the top of my list until I received text messages from Edison complete with warning sounds that reminded me of my smoke alarm on steroids. They threatened to shut down my power if I didn’t turn off everything, including my nightlight, between the hours of 4pm to 9pm. Rolling blackouts followed by a visit from the Inquisition’s Torquemada were to be my punishment if I missed even one light bulb. 

Ever the planner, Jackie suggested, “Let’s turn the thermostat down and make this place a frozen palace. You know, just like the way we used to feel in Chicago waiting for a bus on Michigan Avenue in January. That way, when they turn off the power, we can be nice and cool waiting for it to go on again.”

With visions of an electric bill the size of Montana floating through my cerebral cortex, I offered several reasons why she might reconsider her plan. Promising to take her on a weekend in Beverly Hills and a bone-in ribeye steak at Mastro’s did the trick.

On Monday, having spent enough time indoors doing mindless tasks including sorting my sock drawer, I decided to challenge the 100-degree heat. So I made myself a giant smoothie with frozen fruit, nuts, and anything else that wasn’t moving in the refrigerator. I grabbed the Saturday NY Times crossword, my favorite ballpoint pen, my cellphone, and my stylish safari hat.  Even though shaded by the house, I wore the hat for insurance, like a guy who wears a belt with his suspenders. Ready for anything, you’d have thought I was going to the beach.

Instead, I opened the sliding door to the patio, pushed through the opening, and felt that I had been transported to another universe.  Just like a Marvel Comics sci-fi fantasy movie, the world was no longer cool and inviting. It was as though a crack in the earth’s crust had been caused by the villain Thanos, and the stupefying heat of its viscous core would melt anything coming within six feet of it. I thought…maybe I should forget this mission.

But, like Captain America, I would not be prevented from my quest. I closed the patio door behind me, severing my relationship with my home’s cool interior. I sat myself in one of the four patio chairs, sipped some of my smoothie for extra courage, picked up my lucky pen, and began what was supposed to be a journey to a better place.

The Saturday crossword is the toughest of the week. I sometimes wander through all the clues and come up empty-handed. If I sit back and meditate, I can usually return to the field of battle, wrestle with the puzzle’s editor, Will Shortz, and struggle to victory.

But this was a different day. I could not even read the clues. I was transfixed by the heat. There was no breeze; the leaves on the trees appeared painted on the background. The mountain in front of me looked two-dimensional; I almost reached out to touch it. With every other sane person indoors, the silence was like heat waves moving over my body. I felt as though I was being cooked. It was like I needed someone to turn me over to assure uniform browning and succulence.

I was afraid that the crossword puzzle would spontaneously burst into flames, leaving me at the mercy of the evil Thanos. Saving that adventure for another day, I gathered my stuff and, like the transporter on Star Trek, converted my body to pure energy, sent it in a flash to the cool inside of the house, and reconverted myself. Or something like that.

Can’t wait to see my next Edison bill.


Hawaii had served us well. Eleven of us came and eleven went home. Kids, grandkids, and faux family members spent a week living in a rented house on the Maui seashore. Although the house was not as pretty as its pictures, we sucked it up, went snorkeling with the sea turtles, played pool in the den, and wrestled with the petulant wi-fi.

And we ate. Costco was our dear friend as were the smaller shops in the neighborhood. We drank, made sandwiches out of anything that didn’t move, and nibbled away at stuff that came out of cellophane packages with a list of ingredients that should have made us sick but didn’t.

The weather was cooperative, reaching 90 degrees most days and what seemed like 100% humidity every day, all day. We had neglected to check on the house’s air conditioning. When we did, we discovered its absence. I spent a lot of time thinking about my childhood in Chicago, where much of the summer was like Hawaii but without the azure blue ocean and the gentle trade winds.

Every night had a planned event. With three rental cars, daytime was left to the imagination. We went to the obligatory luau where, after a few alcohol laden Mai Tais, we seemed to be as much on display as the performers were.

My favorite event was a dinner and magic show at Warren and Annabelle’s in Lahaina. Around nearly 25 years, it’s much like Hollywood’s Magic Palace but on a shrunken scale. I couldn’t stop laughing and remembered doing the same thing at a 1990 Jackie Mason show at the Fonda Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

Everything you’ve heard about how expensive things are in Hawaii is true. Fortunately, everyone takes credit cards. I came to Maui with less than $200 in cash. I came home with all but $25 and a list of purchases on my credit card that scrolled off my smartphone and onto the kitchen floor.

The last full day of our adventure brought Jackie and me to the Montage, a hotel that believes everyone should live like a millionaire so that it can be deposited with them before leaving the Island. Apathetic about spending nearly $2,000 overnight for a bed and bathroom, we instead settled for his and her massages. Although the cost at the Montage made the Ojai Valley Inn look like a Motel 6, the outdoor setting, warm breezes, and expert masseuses left us with a memory that will linger a long time.

Then, with the food and the money gone, we were off to the airport for the flight home.

Kahului Airport is about 45 minutes from our rental house, just about enough time to learn how to pronounce its name. There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, five of which are vowels. The ratio of vowels to consonants probably accounts for the repeated use of the letters U and I in many words, like Kahului. The opposite title, the one for the most letters, is held by Cambodia with 74 including 12 vowels. Phnom Penh is my favorite word displaying their predilection for P’s, N’s and H’s.

Before we began our Hawaiian trip, we were warned by friends to allow a lot of time getting through Maui security on our return trip to the mainland. Many of those friends, having never even visited the Islands were echoing the warnings of their friends, who were echoing other friends, and so on. Jackie’s hairdresser, Joyce, was prominent on the list of those who believe that being early means getting there the night before your trip and sleeping on an airport bench. But Joyce can be discounted because of her failure to be on time for anything, including hair jobs.

Some of us were willing to ignore the warnings. But, having paid for most of the trip, my influence had some importance. It also confirmed the absence of any morning alcohol that might have made my companions less agreeable. A first-hand report from daughter Nancy who had left the previous day confirmed things, “Better get there three hours early or you’ll miss the plane and have to sleep in the parking lot. It’ll be awful. People will die.”

So we left, three and a half hours early. My normal we’re never going to make it to the airport routine starts with mild concern, then escalates to silent hysteria. I sat back and imagined likely disasters that included sea monsters rising from the deep Pacific and blocking Highway 30.

But Godzilla was busy with other assignments and things went well until we stopped for gas to avoid paying $20 a gallon to Enterprise Rentals. The gas station was super-saturated with others who refused to be robbed by car rental companies. We were only a mile from the airport, but I was sure we had crossed the Rubicon, would miss our plane, and much like Sisyphus, be doomed to cruising the highway for the rest of our days.

I had never seen anything like it. The TSA security line, like a sleeping Python, wound around the inside of the airport and didn’t seem to be moving. It exited the airport building and continued to twist itself up and down the sidewalk. We marched to the end of it, probably in Honolulu, and deposited ourselves. I guessed that the first person in line probably had arrived last winter.

We were surely doomed. I began to think about spending a night at the Montage and doing it all over again in the morning. Or maybe two nights.

They had even brought out the drug sniffing dogs. Even though I didn’t have any pot, I added it to my list of things that will make me miss our plane. I smiled at the doggie nearest me in the hope that it would recognize my innocence and lack of any criminal intent.

A TSA security woman came up to us and pulled us out of the line. Why would they do that, I thought. Maybe they had found out about my cheating on Mrs. Nudelman’s fourth grade reading test. Or for playing “Doctor” with Brenda Goldberg when I was ten. Too late for sure. We’re going to miss our plane.

And then she said, “Follow me.” We would have followed her anywhere; anything was better than the living hell we had just come from.

Suddenly we were at the front of the line. She had randomly selected me as an old guy who needed help. She hadn’t noticed by bulging muscles and had instead focused on the crevices in my face, much like those in the Grand Canyon. It was the luck of the draw.

I didn’t have to remove my shoes. I was waived through the x-ray machine like Lady Gaga.

We spent the next two and a half hours sitting at the gate.

Sometimes being old has its benefits.



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