By the looks of it, our entire country’s shaping up to become a vast, desolate wasteland of ash, rubble and smolder by the end of this summer. Apparently it’s 106 degrees in my hometown of Kansas City right now, and according to the damn near illegible weather map I just pulled up on Google, I think they’re only losing to the few splotches of light pink around New Mexico and Arizona. I could be wrong — I pulled a C- in meteorology class during my senior year of high school and my only source of weather information comes from the drop-down weather app on my iPhone — and there could be a few more miserable places to be in the United States than Kansas City, but it’s still safe to say they’re not having the best time right now.
It’s only — and I’m only saying “only” because the next statement follows the above paragraph — 91 degrees in the city right now. Yes, that’s technically 15 degrees less than it is in the Midwest, but I’m willing to fight anyone who has the gall to say it’s more violently uncomfortable in Kansas City than it is in New York right now.
Imaginably, heat waves aren’t too enjoyable in Kansas City, but they’re a completely different story in NYC. It doesn’t just get hot here — it gets immeasurably hot. Oppressively hot. It-feels-like-twenty-naked-Finnish-bastards-are-dripping-sweat-in-the-sauna-that-has-taken-up-inside-your-lungs hot. When you first step outside, it doesn’t feel like you’re taking a breath; it feels like you’re taking a 10-second drag from the burning end of a cigarette. Once you get acclimated to breathing so hard and deeply that it alone makes you sweat, each new block greets you with long, rusted grates on the ground which allow the Subway system to breathe. God forbid a train pass by below while you’re standing on or near one of these vents. When that happens, the already stifling heat is compounded by the painful blast of dense, steamy air that rockets its way out from the underbellies of New York City onto the pissed off, exhausted and already short-tempered NYC populace.
For those of you who haven’t been in NYC during one of these weekend-long hell fires , or if you haven’t seen Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, It’s a little difficult to understand the effect that all of this has on the people. The five boroughs are home to a little more than 8 million people, and Manhattan is home to approximately 1.5 million people. The fact that so many live here isn’t what makes things difficult in heat, though; it’s the density that makes it hell — the island of Manhattan is only 23 square miles.
For my friends and family from Kansas, I’ll give you this for reference: the entire City of Leawood is 15 square miles with a population of about 32,000. For the sake of visualization, let’s take Prairie Village and a little bit of Mission Hills and herd them into Leawood’s city limits. That should give us about 23 square miles, give or take. Now, add another 1.4 million people, plus about 10,000-20,000 European tourists in capri pants, all-white K-Swisses and Armani Exchange shirts.
“But AJ,” you say. “If we added all those people to this new (and as you could imagine) nauseously snobby, decadent, opulent, depraved Leawood-Prairie Village-Mission Hills hybrid town (or hellhole), where would they live?”
Well, you’re going to have to put them somewhere. Why not build thousands of buildings out of concrete and steel and cram everyone in.
In case you’re an idiot, concrete and steel are good for a lot of things. Not only are they the go-to choices for building solid, sustainable infrastructure; they’re pretty damn good at absorbing every last ray of merciless sunlight and transferring all that heat into the stagnant, breeze-less air.
So that’s why it’s more unbearable in New York City than it is in Kansas City today. I’ve lived through 18 summers in KC and two in NYC, so I feel like I’m at some liberty to discuss the matter. If anyone’s experienced more of both and would like to argue their case, I’m happy to hear you out.
Thankfully, this fucking heat wave is supposed to let up next week. It better.
All the best
P.S. I was originally going to write about my drunken escapades on the Fourth of July, but Mother Nature’s savage punishment for the good people of New York City kind of sapped my motivation. Stories about work and life as usual will come tomorrow.