Q: Dear Texanist, I am a recent transplant from Big Sky Country, having arrived this past March, and was until fairly recently enjoying my first summer in my new home of Houston. I was aware that Texas warmed up in the summertime, but I now feel wholly unprepared. How the hell does one deal with this oppressive and unrelenting heat?
Wesley Tiller, Houston
A: Welcome to Texas, Mr. Tiller. And, lest you misinterpret the Texanist, know that he means this genuinely, not sarcastically. Please rest assured that though you may feel otherwise, you are not the butt of some mean-spirited climatological prank concocted by your newly adopted state. In fact, as you’ve recently come to learn, the summertime heat in Texas is no joke. Jokes, after all, are typically funny. And as you are about to find out, there’s nothing humorous about days upon days upon days of triple-digit mercury readings.
To say that Texas warms up in the summer is to put it quite mildly. Every year about this time, weather forecasts become mind-numbingly repetitious, as meteorologists start in with terms like “heatwave,” “heat advisory,” and “record heat,” while folks at the feed store and around office water coolers begin to use expressions like “Ooo-wee, this is some hot streak,” “Oof, she’s a scorcher,” and “Goddamn, it’s one hot sumbitch out there today.” Downtown sidewalks melt the soles of shoes. Park benches blister backs and bottoms, and slides scar children. Car thermometers produce oven-like readings so ridiculous that people take pictures and post them on social media. Eventually, everybody’s brainpan overheats and they’re left in such a state that all they can do is talk incessantly about how damn hot it is, repeating over and over to anyone who will listen what is already so painfully obvious.
The Texanist realizes that it gets hot in Montana too, but that’s a High-Country kind of heat that is accompanied by a saving grace with which Texas is unfortunately not blessed: nighttime cooling. Summertime lows in Montana dip into the forties and fifties. As the Texanist types these very words, at ten o’clock at night from his home office in Austin (the Texanist is working late because he took a long lunch and then there was an afternoon social function at the office that turned into a happy hour at a local watering hole that turned into a few happy hours at a local watering hole), the outside temperature is 92 degrees. And tomorrow calls for a record-busting high of 105. And the next three days are supposed to peak at 106, 107, and 108, consecutively. If that were not enough, the skies are currently filled with the Saharan desert dust that has recently overcome the region, making things seem even more hellish than they already are.
This summer, the Texanist is sorry to have to report to you, is shaping up to be a real doozy. Forecasters are even making comparisons to the infernal summer of 2011, the hottest and driest ever on record. It really is going to be a scorcher. Summertimes in Houston, your new home, are particularly awful. Because it is situated near the coast in a swampy part of the state, Houston’s official climate classification is humid subtropical. The high heat and high relative dampness make for a devilish duo that compounds the problem. When Houston is hot and sticky, Houstonians are hot and sticky.
Unfortunately, the real dog days, the days that have even the hardiest of god-fearing Texans considering the possibility that they have been forsaken by a merciless creator, are still a ways off. It’s not necessarily going to get much hotter, which would seemingly be impossible, but neither is it going to get any cooler. Not for a long, long time. And the cumulative effects of this stretch of unflagging heat, as you will see, can cause a noticeable flagging of the spirit.
As miserable as it all sounds, though, surviving the Texas summer is possible. Experts advise avoiding dangerous heat-related syndromes such as heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke by not leaving yourself in a hot car; staying hydrated; applying sunscreen; wearing loose-fitting, light-colored clothes; saving strenuous outdoor activities for the relatively temperate early-morning or late-evening hours, and seeking immediate medical attention if dizziness, nausea, headaches, or muscle cramps persist.
The Texanist has added to this arsenal the consumption of delicious cold watermelon, frequent dips in refreshing swimming holes, and long hours spent in climate-controlled art museums, dark movie theaters, indoor malls, and grocery store produce sections. He’s also had luck with ice baths and fans, cold compresses over his entire nude body, and summer-friendly margaritas, gin rickeys, and Chiltons. (In moderation, please!)
In the face of the unrelenting blast furnace that is summer in Texas, patience is key. The Texanist, as he’s mentioned before, finds himself to be perfectly acclimated to Texas. He actually enjoys the blisteringness of summer (so much so that he hereby declares that “blisteringness” is a word). But he also really likes it when the heat finally relents and the blisteringnessless days of fall arrive, as they almost always eventually do.
The Texanist knows this may all seem like cold comfort (sorry) now, but the fact is you’re not in Montana anymore. You’re in Texas. And it’s only July. Welcome, Mr. Tiller. Welcome!
And, yes, the Texanist was being sarcastic just then. Sorry, but it’s #@%*ing hot out.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.