Dry Hot San Fernando Valley Summer

Cheap rent, laid back nightlife, artsy cafes and galleries, hell on Earth for half the year. 

Something that I’ve complained and written many a blog about is the fact that summers in LA – particularly the San Fernando Valley, where I live – are roughly equivalent to getting a Dutch oven from planet Earth. Between the triple digit temperatures that inexplicably persist after sundown, stagnant smoggy haze that settles into the city like cottage cheese, or body odors on the Metro that are also reminiscent of cottage cheese, summer is the time that all the worst things in LA get worse.

I have very few coping mechanisms for LA heat. Summer in Oregon was just a six week break between rainstorms; a mild, peaceful, and beautiful time that every year entices hundreds of vacationing Californians to move north with no foreknowledge of what the other 10 and a half months are like. Every summer there’s usually one unbearably hot week in July during which I would lie on the floor in front of a fan moaning – and then, before you know it, it would start raining again.

If you live in Oregon and want to get an idea for what I’m dealing with this summer, park your car in direct sunlight at the beginning of that unbearably hot week in July and then, after about three days, go sit in it with all the windows rolled up. For the most authentic LA experience, fart a couple of times, listen to a looping CD of a police helicopter, and don’t get out of your car until late October.

I’d love to lie on the floor in front of a fan moaning for five months at a time – that’s actually my plan for retirement – but unlike my lazy childhood summers in Oregon I have bills to pay now, so every summer I have to find a way to beat the heat.

Two summers ago I sublet the same apartment I’m currently living in for two months between my junior and senior year of college while I worked nights logging and capturing footage for a ghost hunting reality TV show. This meant I had to sleep during the 105 degree days in an East-facing room that was as far as possible from the apartment’s sole A/C unit in the living room.

At first, my strategy to beat the heat that summer was to go into the living room with my roommates and stand in front of the A/C unit in my underwear. Unfortunately I couldn’t sleep out there since my roommates needed the living room during the day, so before long I just lay in my sweltering room and allowed the heat to beat me, hoping that either the sun would get tired of ruining my life or I’d grow to love my Arrakis-style environment.

It was a character building experience, and like most character building experiences I’d do just about anything to avoid repeating it. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot I can do about that – my 40-year-old apartment complex doesn’t have central air,* and even if I could fit comfortably inside our refrigerator I doubt I could live in there all summer long.   

*There are only three things that have ever made me consider the possibility that there might be a benevolent God taking care of our race: Pretzel bread sandwiches, Alison Brie, and central air conditioning. 

The only cooling technology in our apartment is our aforementioned wall-mounted AC unit in the living room, which effectively cools about 40% of the apartment and sounds like a bus crash doing it. I’ve experimented with box fans, which have proven to be very useful for blowing hot air around the apartment and not much else.

I was fully prepared to just move back to Oregon for the summer when I discovered the existence of portable air conditioners – mobile A/C units that cool down a room without having to be painstakingly (and dangerously) mounted in a window. The only downside is that getting a portable air conditioner requires you to spend money, something I have a well documented aversion to, but in this case I hate sweating far more than I hate spending.

Once purchased and installed, my brand new portable air conditioner looks like this:

I can’t help but think that there could be something a little more elegant about this design. You don’t see a lot of enormous collapsible ductwork anymore these days, and having a contraption that looks like an iron lung in my room has taken some getting used to.

But I really shouldn’t bitch about appearances – this thing keeps my room so frosty cool that it could look like Rick Perry’s big dumb face and I’d still love it. The machine blasts cool air and vents the hot air in my room back outside via the big tube; I get a certain assholey satisfaction from knowing that I’m making the outdoors slightly hotter in order to make my space cooler.

Now that I have such precise control of my climate, though, the rest of the world is an even bigger letdown than before. My room already has TV, the Internet, video games, and a private bathroom – now that I can turn it into a walk-in meat freezer at the touch of a button I can’t see any reason to leave until October, short of a pretzel bread sandwich or Alison Brie.

Truman Capps prefers climate control to social interaction.