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Of Course It's Hot. What Did You Expect? 

Basic survival tips for summering in Tucson.

Summer in Tucson is hot and long. If people told you different, they lied and your only recourse is moving back to dear old Springdale, or, if you're loaded and totally unimaginative, further west to San Diego. Empirical research has shown that no amount of complaining makes Tucson cooler in the summer.

This is no one's fault. In general in this life, we can only control ourselves, not what goes on around us, and this incontrovertible bit of Stoic wisdom goes, like, triple for the weather. Whining only makes summer worse, by boring and alienating those around you, who, trust me, are aware that it's hot outside. I've said this before: Anything below 110 is not worth mentioning, so don't talk about it or you will end up hot and lonely.

A brief remark about the heat upon coming in from outdoors is permissible, but no more. And don't, for heaven's sake, watch the news or listen to the radio for the express purpose of working up dread about how hot it's going to be tomorrow. It will be hot tomorrow. Very hot. End of story.

So that's the inner yoga of getting through the hot season, and at least half the cure for the summertime blues. Here's the rest:


Is this trip necessary?

Stay out of the car. You probably aren't that tempted to go up on the roof of your house, which is absolutely the hottest place on Earth. You may, however, imagine that you want to go somewhere in your car. If you have a choice, don't. After sitting in some pitiless, shadeless parking lot for 15 minutes, the interior of your car is the second hottest place on the planet. It doesn't matter how quickly the AC kicks in: The less often you and your loved ones plunge into that superheated pocket of out-gassing plastics, the better.

Run around in the evening, or early in the morning, or, if you can, on your bike, which is cooler and in many ways less exasperating. Or just let it wait until November.


Drink cold water all day, every day.

Relentless hydration will make you healthier, cooler and better-tempered. Buy ice by the bag. Of course, it will start melting in the car on the way home, but you can get around the consequences. Drop the dripping bag outside the door to break it up, then drop it again a couple times onto the kitchen floor after it re-hardens in the freezer. (This gravity-based system is much preferable to the classic knife-attack method.) Then use this miracle substance to produce large glasses of ice water, tarted up with a slice of lemon or a sprig of spearmint, if you like. (If you don't have a pot of mint, get one: It's a great plant and takes no effort.)

Diluted lemonade or iced tea are also fine--anything astringent tastes good in the heat--but, basically, the closer your drink is to plain water, the better. Beer and white wine make you drunk and dehydrated, drinking red wine or booze on a hot day is like pouring gasoline on a fire, and soda is a stone rip-off. Besides, soft drinks rot you from the inside out: There's close to a quarter-pound of sugar in a Mondo Big Gulp, and artificial sweeteners quietly pickle your nervous system.

Stick to the plain stuff, and lots of it: Life is better without kidney stones.


Seek frigidity in your amusements.

It's important to keep a cool head--for God's sake, wear a hat--but a cool brain also helps. Books about arctic exploration and mountain climbing are ideal deep-shade summer reading--Into Thin Air, Eiger Dreams, Alone, The Worst Journey in the World and The Endurance are all excellent. Personally, any story in which someone freezes to death perks me up mid-summer.

Movies with snow--as long as it's realistic snow--are also refreshing, but any movie with a shivering major character, especially toward the end, will work. Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times recently picked Steven Soderbergh's luscious Out of Sight--which concludes in a wintertime Detroit that looks like a snow globe--as his perfect summer movie, and he makes a good argument. (George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez packing heat don't hurt.)

Nor will you go wrong with Dr. Zhivago, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Empire Strikes Back, A Simple Plan, The Sweet Hereafter (actually anything based on a Russell Banks novel), The Fugitive, The Ice Storm or--simply the coldest movie of all time for my money--Apollo 13. (Just thinking about that clinking, weightless hot dog makes me want to grab a quilt.) The last hour of Titanic is nice and chilly, too, although it takes James Cameron forever to get to it.


Work up a sweat

This probably seems counter-intuitive, but a hard, soak-right-through-your-shirt indoor workout makes the hottest afternoon feel good, at least for a little while. When you're dripping, endorphin-pumped and starting to cramp from the AC and ever-whirling fans, step out into the full June blast and feel the still, warm air and the sun's palpable heat as a form of benevolence. For about 10 minutes, you'll see summer as it really is.

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