In Deep South Louisiana, we are born to heat the way North Dakotans come into the world in temperatures low enough to keep elk steaks safe.
My friend Loren lives in one of the Dakotas. He moves back and forth.
One winter, when Loren was living in South Dakota, the temperature in his bedroom was lower than the temperature in my driveway.
The air in Loren’s garage will freeze your hair, but Loren cannot understand how I can live in Baton Rouge, a place my friend finds lovely, green and uninhabitable in the summer.
We in Guatemala North are sorry to see people sweltering in the East. We know, well, what it’s like to go weeks without electricity which in south Louisiana means the cessation of the life blood of air condition-ing.
At least down here the AC hums along despite the oppressive heat, crashing thunderstorms and falling live oak limbs. That’s on a normal afternoon in July when the skies darken and the rain clouds open at 3:13 p.m.
Hurricanes and other terrors spawned by cyclonic winds we deal with in almost a natural way. We watch the storms approach Mexico, juking and jiving, then round the bend to taunt the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
If a hurricane gets around Florida to head up the East Coast, it’s like someone left the front door open and the cat got out.
What irony that casinos dot the Gulf Coast, each place of “gaming” supporting roulette wheels where small balls bounce along looking for a home. On the Gulf, when the ball lands on you, you lose.
If a tree falls across your house, that’s game for the day, week, month. You move in with friends or relatives while the power company, men with chain saws and contractors go to work. If you’re too poor to rebuild, you do what the poor do. Without.
It’s the poor who suffer most in the summer. They start without air conditioning and celebrate the arrival of October still without air conditioning.
The utility company gives the poor electric fans, provided by customers, to move the hot air out of the house so more can come in.
In the long ago, we all endured summer in south Louisiana without air conditioning. At least we get a marine effect from the Gulf. The hot weather extremes are in north Louisiana where the temperature gets well above 100 degrees and sticks like a dart in Styrofoam.
We understand the East’s heat wave. It’s harder to get a grip on the fires that ravage the West. Our forests and marshes catch fire, but they know when enough’s enough.
Wouldn’t it be, uh, cool if we could appreciate more the suffering of fellow Americans, remembering that they are us and we they.
We are a nation of people who bleed when shot and get all moist and testy when the air conditioners quit.