Sometimes, it will be summer, and I will be minding my own business, sipping on a chilled Chardonnay , when a tourist will come up to me, and say, “Why is summer so hot in New Orleans?” As I ponder that question, the inquisitive tourist might helpfully add, “It gets hot where I’m from, but it’s a dry heat.”
Ummm, that’s right. We are in a swamp, not a desert.
Over the centuries, the local homo sapien has adapted to the wet heat of southeast Louisiana. Our particular sub-species goes by the scientific name of “YatUs Excessus.” For months (October through May), our sub-species has tirelessly hunted and gathered (purple tights, red dresses, Marques Colston jerseys), sliced (king cakes) and lifted (40-pound sacks of crawfish). We have faced existential angst (If I don’t wear my Colston jersey backward, so that the hole is under the left arm, something awful will happen in the fourth quarter) and cultural despair (if I do Charmaine at 3 on the second Friday, I will completely miss Sunpie.) And every time we realize that it’s STILL an “R” month, we have to watch strong people shucking oysters, which is a very physical activity.
There are certain northern mammals (I think they are called ” bears”), that need to hibernate in the winter. We are polar opposites of bears. They seek to hibernate in warm caves in winter; we hibernate in cool dens in summer.
In New Orleans, summer is the time when Mama Nature ‘n dem say: “You been workin’ hawd, dawlin’. It’s time to rest.”
The heat forces us to slow down, and appreciate the wonders of a frosty beverage and heavily chlorinated water.
Here is some helpful advice for our visitors:
1. Try to start your day early, before the highest heat. In your hotel room, put on clothes, but not too many of them. For example, DO NOT wear anything unnecessary, like the plastic beads and feather boas you somehow ended up with last night.
2. Walk slowly to your destination, preferably with a frozen drink in one hand. Why slowly? If you walk too fast, like someone from New York, your body will think it is exercising, and you will start to sweat.
3. Watch where you are going. It is easy to trip on the irregular sidewalks of the Quarter while wearing flip flops and holding a frozen drink. No need to cool off the sidewalk. Sidewalks need to stay hot, so tourists can ask us if we fry eggs on them.
4. If the heat is really getting to you, call a medical professional. In addition to Dr. John, we have real doctors here. Just know that if someone asks if you want to go “down to the St. James Infirmary,” there really is no such place.
5. Nighttime is for music, food and booze. Take an afternoon nap, but don’t waste the cooler evening hours sleeping.
6. When you start to feel too warm, stop. Enter ANY store. There is something free in that store. It is called air conditioning.
7. Stay hydrated. Water is fine, but in New Orleans, please use the local word for water. It is called “Abita Amber.”