Before Air-Conditioning*

Later on, in the Depression thirties, the summers seemed even hotter. Out West, it was the time of the red sun and the dust storms, when whole desiccated farms blew away and sent the Okies, whom Steinbeck immortalized, out on their desperate treks toward the Pacific. My father had a small coat factory on Thirty-ninth Street then, with about a dozen men working sewing machines. Just to watch them handling thick woollen winter coats in that heat was, for me, a torture. The cutters were on piecework, paid by the number of seams they finished, so their lunch break was short—fifteen or twenty minutes. They brought their own food: bunches of radishes, a tomato perhaps, cucumbers, and a jar of thick sour cream, which went into a bowl they kept under the machines. A small loaf of pumpernickel also materialized, which they tore apart and used as a spoon to scoop up the cream and vegetables.

~ Arthur Miller, Before Air-Conditioning (The New Yorker, June 22, 1998)


Notes:

  • *Inspired by temperature now in Dallas, TX: 103° F and Rising!
  • Photo: Radishes by El Oso Botas. “Madrid-based, Guatemala-born and raised, photographer, food stylist, chef and digital content creator. I’ve had a keen interest in art, colours, and shapes since I was a child.” More photographs here.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

airconditioning

“There you are, turning the ignition of your car,” he writes. “And it creeps up on you.” Every time you fire up your engine you don’t mean to harm the Earth, “let alone cause the Sixth Mass Extinction Event in the four-and-a-half billion-year history of life on this planet”. But “harm to Earth is precisely what is happening”. Part of what’s so uncomfortable about this is that our individual acts may be statistically and morally insignificant, but when you multiply them millions and billions of times – as they are performed by an entire species – they are a collective act of ecological destruction. Coral bleaching isn’t just occurring over yonder, on the Great Barrier Reef; it’s happening wherever you switch on the air conditioning. In short, Morton says, “everything is interconnected”.

~ Alex Blasdel, ’A reckoning for our species’: (Timothy Morton) the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene (The Guardian, June 17, 2017)


Photograph: Residential house in Shinagawa, Tokyo by Jan Vranovský, 2016 @ Parallel World. Jan Vranovský (*1986, Prague) is a Czech born architect, graphic designer and photographer, currently living in Tokyo.

King’s Orders: 72° F. Period.

thermostat-funny

I glance at clock. It’s 1:12 am. I see that Zeke is sprawled out and nestled next to his Mom. Room is airless, sweltering – – think rain forest. I turn over, fluff my pillow, kick the comforter off my legs to let some air in, and lie there. Too early to get up.

I read somewhere that if you stay motionless for 15-20 minutes, your body will enter sleep paralysis. Your body will believe you are asleep but your brain is still functioning. I’m staring at the clock. And lay motionless. One minute. Two minutes. I’m glaring at the digital clock. What’s wrong with me? 15 minutes, huh? No chance. This chassis is built for motion.

I notice the cable box flashing. Researchers say that to get a good night’s sleep, you need to increase darkness, which means turn off all lights to avoid suppressing melatonin, whatever that is. So, I take inventory.

  • Digital LED clock: large fire engine red lettering.
  • Cable box and its Greeks: LED light in a soft blue hue.
  • Television: red dot power-off button.
  • Apple Wireless Router: Pea-sized, lime green, LED power-on button.
  • Laptop: LED soft yellow charging button. (FEED ME. FEED ME.)
  • Blackberry: Laying face down. I can see the notification light blinking Red. (READ ME! READ ME!). No. No. Don’t pick it up.

The only thing not emitting light is the stack of unread books on the night stand. And this too gives me anxiety.

I hear footsteps in the attic. And then a laugh. Followed by undecipherable words. I lie and I listen. A predator waiting to pounce.

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