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7 Ways to Beat This Infernal Heat Wave

Updated: Sep 08, 2022 10:42
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I tolerate the heat about as well as a hydrangea. Like many of you without air conditioning, I spent the last few days on my couch in my underwear with the blinds down, shades drawn, and a fan on full-blast aimed at my drooping tits. In Missouri where I grew up, a heat wave always brought its ugly friend, humidity. It’s a time for sulking like Scarlett O’Hara with a cold washcloth draped over your face, alternating bags of frozen vegetables for pillows. Dramatizing the heat made it laughable. Laughing at it made it more tolerable.

Our historic heat wave is unlike any other weather event. It’s persistent, destructive, even deadly, yet totally invisible. Weather maps show red and fuchsia Excessive Heat Warnings blanketing most of the state. Temperatures in San Francisco hit their peak at 96° on Tuesday following the National Weather Service’s decision to include the normally temperate city in its warning. For the inland East Bay however, this event is far from over. Concord, Livermore, and Walnut Creek will remain above 100° until Friday at the earliest.

There’s a culture of heat in regions where this is the norm. As any Bay Area local will gladly admit, this is not normal. Indeed, something feels very wrong here. Even the city’s characteristic fog seems to be diminishing. Unfortunately, like Abe pointed out, this disappearing trend will continue provided global corporations keep warming their billionaires’ playground. In the meantime, here’s how the Bay Area is coping with the gradual desertification of its Mediterranean climate.

1. Ice-Cold Dranks and Limited Mobility

No surprise here: hydration keeps you cool. Coupled with the sedentary posture of a lizard, continuous consumption of liquids will prevent you from burning up. You must conserve your energy, not only because you need it, but because expenditure naturally warms you. I broke a sweat just from vacuuming a rug. Climbing by even a degree or two when room-temperature is already sweltering puts you in jeopardy of heat-related illness. If an ice-cold Modelo is available to you, put aside the housework and toss one back.

How’s this for a Flex Alert?

Whether or not you imbibe, never underestimate the importance of water. Treat your body like a car’s radiator. Never let it run dry. This is true regardless of the heat wave, but it’s especially relevant now. From the holy trinity of beverages (hydration, energy, #mood), choose all three. Don’t forget that snacks can be a way to hydrate. Sorbet, popsicles, frozen grapes, oranges from deep in the refrigerator; all contain appreciable amounts of water.

2. Hot Soup to Balance the Humors

It sounds counterintuitive. I reserve soup for damp, foggy nights, but in some cultures, extreme heat is soup weather. In the famously humid Yucatan Peninsula, particularly brutal heat calls for a chicken soup made with lime juice, peppers, and onions. On especially blistering days, Korean people prepare a hot soup of boiled chicken and ginseng called samgyetang.

Michael Pettid, professor of Premodern Korean Studies at Binghamton University and author of Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History, explains that the idea refers to balancing one’s ki, the flow of energy that courses throughout the body. “In East Asian cosmology, the idea of regulation of one’s ki is vital to overall health. Food is an important means to keep one’s ki properly attuned to the external environment.”

“The practice of eating spicy or hot foods on hot days stems from the belief that one’s ki is cool in the summer and to bring that in balance with the external environment spicy/hot foods should be eaten,” Pettid said.

If you can’t beat the heat, join it.

3. Sweet, Sweet Air Conditioning

Admit it, you’ve bragged to your inland pals about San Francisco’s “natural AC.” I sure have. This is our comeuppance.

We’re lucky to live where we do. Our meteorological setup conceals its careful symmetry behind its agreeability, such that we only take notice when it fails. The Central Valley’s naturally warm climate usually draws cool ocean air over San Francisco and most of the Bay Area. It’s why we keep our windows open.

All that comes to a silent, stifling halt when a heat wave comes through. Realistically a heat wave is less “wave” and more “bubble,” but the etymology refers to its traditionally short duration, not its atmospheric shape. What’s happening now, it’s as if someone placed a glass dome over two-thirds of California. While smothering the region underneath, it diverts precious cool air around it like a stone does river water.

First I want to thank my loyal fans!

Those able to hunker down in their air-conditioned homes did so. People supplemented their AC with fans and efficient shading, transforming their homes from modern domiciles to sunless caverns. One guy made an impromptu swamp cooler with a fan and an open ice chest. Necessity certainly fosters invention.

The rest of us flee to the Westfield, the Metreon, Safeway, AMC; oases of that sweet AC. Some, desperate for cooler air, even returned to their offices. Why? Because air conditioning is without a doubt the best invention since antibiotics. Who cares if it contributes to the dissolution of our fragile ecosystem? I’ve got underboob sweat.

4. Melting Like The T-1000 Whilst PG&E Restores Electricity

Stepping outside be like… (© TriStar Pictures, Columbia TriStar Films AB, 1991)

While we’ve yet to see rolling blackouts, plenty of residents have lost power at some point during the heat wave, putting vulnerable residents in danger. Palo Alto along with portions of the East Bay reported power outages Tuesday night. Widespread outages have affected Santa Rosa, where roughly 1,600 customers lost power early Tuesday morning. Temperatures there hit a record-crushing 115°.

5. Unnecessary Outdoor Exercise

A plethora of colleges and hallowed learning institutions call the Bay Area home. This is arguably a region filled with educated people. Nevertheless, whenever it gets hot, some athlete usually winds up dead. That’s why authorities closed hiking trails throughout the East Bay until the heat subsides.

It’s a good idea, unlikely to sit well with people dedicated to their workout. Indeed, a tennis player taking advantage of the empty courts soon learned why they’d been abandoned. A weary San Jose cyclist racked up seventy kilometers on his road bike, getting by on eight separate stops to rehydrate.

When it comes to heat waves, you can’t “tough it out,” and you can’t fool nature with a climb in elevation. A heat wave on the ground is a heat wave all around. If missing a workout is something you simply cannot stomach, hit the gym, bro. There’s cold water and AC on-site. Yes, it’s great to feel healthy, but at what cost?

6. Swimmin’ Holes

If you didn’t hit up the beach, maybe you snuck up to Lake Anza and took refuge in the shade. Perhaps you contemplated a dip in Lake Temescal before you remembered the zero trees on the beach. Maybe you got aggressively shitfaced and went pool-hopping throughout your neighborhood. Or, if you’re lucky, you own your own swimming pool.

Who am I kidding. If you’re wealthy enough to own a pool, you’re not reading this article. You’re basking in the power of choosing who you’ll allow in. When I was a kid, you kissed up to peers with swimming pools just like twenty-somethings do their friends with trucks come moving time. “Why weren’t you at Jessica’s pool party? Oh that’s right, she doesn’t like you.”

Don’t worry. Things are different now. You’re a cool-ass motherfucker living the Bay Area. Jessica’s a high school drop-out with two kids and an unsold-product debt to Herbalife. Soothe the sting of that childhood rejection in the luxury of an inflatable kiddy pool. If that doesn’t work, try a cold bath or short shower (but remember, we’re in an eternal drought!).

If at the end of your day you didn’t find a swimming hole, may you find consolation in the sordid details of pool maintenance. The number of times you’d wake to find an animal carcass floating in the deep end, for example. Sometimes a swimming pool doesn’t provide the reprieve you’re looking for. One woman found her pool had heated to 92°, all hope for relief boiled away.

7. OMG, Beach Trip!

Put on some sunscreen, swimwear, and Best Coast and embrace that “other” half of California living. Sun, surf and sand, staples of the SoCal brand, migrate north in times like these. It’s as if we suddenly remember our proximity to the coastline. Many who find San Francisco’s typically fog-drenched, wind-whipped beaches unenjoyable suddenly flock to their upwelled waters.

San Francisco’s beaches all received countless inland refugees. Baker Beach traffic snarled the Presidio, blocking in residents and snaring the 29-Sunset. Parking at Ocean Beach soon became impossible, the streets choked with hot, frustrated drivers. The same was true for Crissy Field, pictured above. Are these exodus-trips to the beach really just miniature climate migrations at heart?

All that idling is just fantastic for the environment, so I have nothing negative to say (/s). When it comes to explaining harmful emissions, I’m simply exhausted (pun intended). The sad truth is, heat waves like these will only happen more frequently as the Earth gets warmer. This “abnormally long drought” may become the norm, and we’ll be dealing with monsoons instead of winters. Thanks, globalization! You’re my hero.


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Jake Warren

Jake Warren

A Potawatomi nonfiction writer and Tenderloin resident possessing an Indigenous perspective on sexuality and a fascination with etymological nuance. Queer decolonial leftist, cannabis industry affiliate, seasoned raver, and unofficial earthquake authority.