Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - A Fan of the Fan

It's been super hot and unusually humid in Los Angeles lately. Of course, this should be no surprise with it being summer and all.  

Out here in the wilds of Los Angeles, the heat doesn't bother me. The 24 hour availability of central air conditioning will do that to you. I go from the super-cooled condo to the car to the super market or the movie theater and back again. A bead of sweat doesn't have a chance of forming anywhere on me.  Of course, there is the formation of perspiration at outdoor venues like Dodger Stadium or the Hollywood Bowl.  Indeed, last Sunday's Dodger game was the most uncomfortable that I have ever experienced there and was quite reminiscent of muggy nights at Shea Stadium.   

But, in retrospect, I used to have it a lot worse.   Because I grew up in a home that was...ahem...not air conditioned.   Neither centrally or otherwise.  As a matter of fact, when my family finally upgraded to one window air conditioner, it was in the living room and that's where you hunkered down when there were no tropical breezes blowing through Mount Vernon, New York.

I remember it vividly. There is nothing more gross than a hazy, hot, and humid day in the Northeast. When clothes have to be surgically peeled off you at the end of the day. When the act of turning a page in the Daily News can be exhausting. You don't want to move for fear that the lifting of a finger will drain you of all bodily fluids.

For us, the only answer was the window fan in the kitchen. My grandmother had one mounted in her kitchen downstairs as well and that must have been how people stayed cool during World War II. Apparently, there are all sorts of scientific solutions on how to use the fan to get gusts of wind going throughout the house. It must have been handed down like family lore, because both my dad and Grandma were experts on this.

If you're in the bedroom, you turn on the kitchen fan and then close all the doors of the house except for the room you're in. Voila. The whole opening in the home gets all the intake and you have a breeze. Naturally, I would
 invariably go into one of the other rooms and then I would hear the wail.

"Close the door!!"

Our kitchen fan was enormous and made the sound of the D train rushing through a local subway station. Like ocean water crashing up against a shore, there was something oddly soothing with that loud whirring of our kitchen fan. I could listen to it for hours. And frequently did. Way up close. I was a weird kid.

Our kitchen fan was in an area where there was a china closet in the corner and another cabinet on the other side. The result was an odd little nook and cranny that provided me with a wonderful little crawl space. When I was really young, I'd take whatever action figures I had at the time and would use the fan as the home base for the little drama I would stage. The fan was the central point of this apartment house which housed Huckleberry Hound, Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket, and Yogi Bear. One character would live on one ledge near the fan. Another would live on top of the fan. That was the penthouse.It was the coolest place for them to live. Literally and figuratively. Usually, at some point during the summer, I would drop one of the toy figures into the fan and there they would live until my father would take down the fan in September or October. I would look through the speeding blades of the fan and see poor little Boo Boo Bear lying on the outside window ledge. All by his lonesome.

When I got a little older, I shitcanned the fan as a home for my cartoon figurines. Instead, I had become a reader. I always had three or four library books out at the same time. Sports and Hollywood biographies. On summer nights when I could stay up late, I'd pull up a kitchen chair and get as tight into the crawlspace around the fan as possible and read. And read and read and read. Sometimes till midnight or later. There was probably not enough light but I didn't care. As long as there was a book, the fan, and a glass of lemonade nearby, I was happy. I can remember reading both "The Godfather" and "Airport" at the foot of the kitchen fan, racing through them so I would finish them before the anticipated movie versions came out.

To this day, my apartment in New York still has a fan. Not a window model, but a box one that stands on the floor or a table. When I am there in the summer months, I still take out a book or a magazine and sit next to the fan as I read for a while. It's not the same sensation, but pretty darn close.

And, of course, during the recent Los Angeles heat wave, I held off on putting on the central air.   I have fans here as well and the whirring sound of a floor fan has lulled me to sleep in the bedroom.

Some habits die incredibly hard.

Dinner last night:  Spicy shrimp and fried rice.

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