Sunday, May 26, 2013

Climate's Control: How the Weather Is Running My Life -- and My Travel Plans After Buenos Aires (Plus 10 Great Hot + Cold Songs)

I can't believe it's come to this. I used to dismiss discussions about the weather as the ultimate in undesirable small talk -- and I certainly couldn't imagine ever devoting an entire blog post to it. Meanwhile, I was perplexed by people who let so many of the important decisions in their lives revolve around hot or cold, rainy or dry, cloudy or clear: where they lived, where they went on holiday, what they thought of a city in general, if they went out or stayed in. I couldn't believe it when anyone criticized London, my beloved favorite city, because it was too overcast and damp.

Now I'm one of them. I still love London -- at least I did the last time I was there three years ago. But that was then, before Bangkok destroyed my tolerance for cloudy and cool and made me the sunny-weather lover that I am today. Friends haven't started calling me Heat Miser yet, but it's probably just a matter of time.

Yes, it's often unbearably hot on the streets of Bangkok (even Heat Miser would sweat a torrential downpour and probably pray for a blast of draft), so much so that I once wrote an entire blog post about it. But after spending 16 months there, I became pretty accustomed to extreme heat and humidity. I could still live without the humidity, but bring on the boil!

When I arrived back in Melbourne in January, it was at the end of a heatwave. It was even more steamy than it ever had been in Bangkok (over 40° C, which, I was told, never happens in Melbourne), but I may have been the only person in the city who wasn't complaining. The next day's high dropped by at least one-half, and signaled too many days to come. I believe I spent much of the next three and a half months, summer and early autumn, wearing a jacket -- outdoors and frequently in.

Meanwhile, everyone I know was griping that it was too hot in therre. Their fragile bodies, accustomed to Melbourne's capricious weather and big chills (even during the spring and summer) -- couldn't bear anything that went over 30° C. Meanwhile, there I was, sitting in my apartment with a jacket and the heater on when it was something like 25° C outside. Marcus explained that the stone walls of my apartment building, like many that were built in the 1960s and earlier, were so thick that heat had a difficult time breaking and entering, hence the unseasonable coolness inside of my studio.

I can actually handle a frigid apartment. Despite my newfound appreciation for heat, I'm still someone who lives for AC. I'm likely to turn it on in the winter because I like the background noise it makes, I like to bundle up inside, and I like my indoor chill to be artificial (which gives me total control over it). Since I'm not prone to prancing about my home in the nude, it works out fine.

Outdoors, though, it's a different story for me, one in which a shining sun and a high temperature can turn a scowl into a smile. It's also the perfect setting for an excellent run. Unfortunately, in Melbourne, even on a pleasantly warm day last summer, there always seemed to be a chill in the shade.

How could I ever expect to live in New York City again? Recently, I've occasionally thought about going back, but then I remember that the Big Apple only offers a few months of heat each year -- from around my birthday in May through the end of August. That's simply no longer enough for me.

In about a week and a half, I'm leaving Buenos Aires to fly back to Australia. It couldn't be happening at a better time because the summertime highs of my first weeks here have turned into autumnal lows, and the dropping temperature has taken down my mood with it. I don't plan on sticking around Australia for long, though. It's heading into winter there, and if summer gave me the chills, I don't even want to think about what winter will do.

I can fly a straight line from Sydney to Cape Town, which has always been at the top of my what's-next list, but my friend Adriaan just confirmed my worst fear that June, which is the beginning of the Southern winter, might not be the best time to come:

"If cold weather is not your thing, avoid winter in Cape Town as your first acquaintance with the city... it gets STORMY and WET (Mediterranean climate, winter rainfall, etc...)."

It's at the same latitude as BA and Sydney, so I wouldn't expect to be hitting those beaches Cape Town is so famous for and that have become a huge part of its appeal for me -- yes, Thailand turned me into a beach lover, too, though I prefer to be in its vicinity as opposed to sitting on sand.

"Come in spring or summer, land at the airport, drop your bags at the hotel/guesthouse, and head for one of the Clifton beaches before sundown. Take some bubbly. The sun, and as a result, the sky, mountains, and your bubbly, will be the most beautiful pink you've ever seen."

Apparently, spring in Berlin, though lacking beach-side retreats, can be just as spectacular, or so I was told the other day by my friend Cara, who was just there and praised both the weather and the city itself.

"Berlin actually had really great weather. It was warm, sunny, and I felt like the whole city was out and about in the streets. It had a really good vibe. I was thinking of you!"

That's sounds like quite an improvement over the time I went to Germany in the autumn of 1995. I've always said that holiday in Munich and Berlin were the coldest I've ever been, and although I loved Munich anyway, I think it was part of the reason why I didn't take to Berlin. Will nicer weather in Berlin change the way I feel about the city?

And then there's option No. 3: back to Bangkok. It's rainy season there, but I'm always up for a hot shower. Which reminds me, since the mercury has dropped considerably in BA, so has the temperature of the running water in my rental's shower. I've always lucked out with great water pressure and temperature control in the showers of the apartments I've lived in. For the first time in my life, though, every time I step into the shower, I can't wait to get out of it. The water never seems to get warm enough (though, oddly, the water that flows from the sink faucet almost always manages to burn my hands), which only serves to hasten my departure. I haven't felt 100 percent clean in at least a week.

If I'm going to be running around town feeling a little dirrty, I might as well be sweating while I'm at it.

10 Hot + Cold Songs

Hot Heat Music

"Melting in the Sun" INXS 

"Red Summer Sun" Third Eye Blind

 "Sweat It Out" Elton John 

"The Heat" Toni Braxton

"Sunshine and Ecstasy" Tom Tom Club

Big Chills

"Cold" Annie Lennox

 "Cold" Tears for Fears

"Cold" Elton John

"Cold" The Cure

"The Freeze" Spandau Ballet

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