There"s really no way to beat the heat

I"ve never been much of a hot-weather person. I"m an ice person. Give me 3 feet of snow on the ground and I"m happy. To hell with this 90-degree stuff. No AC in my car means that every trip this summer is a sweatfest. When it"s in the 90s, a Frosty from Wendy"s will liquefy in a few minutes and an ice-cold can of Coke gets warm in mere seconds.

When there"s no relief available, and trust me, there won"t be until October, you have to make do with what you can.

I"ve always been good at identifying the most air-conditioned buildings in the city. For a long time, the Broad Ripple Library was the coolest place in town. The Osco down the street from my house is also kept at a nice and chilly temperature.

Freezer pops have long been my friend, from the cheapest dollar-store brand to the expensive season-sized boxes of 250 pops. I used to know kids whose families would go through dozens of freezer pops and gallons of Kool-Aid a week.

The common garden hose, usually limited to a strictly utilitarian role, takes on an elevated importance during the summer, at least for kids. Ignored the other nine months of the year, access to and control of the garden hose among siblings can make the difference between a good and bad summer.

One frequently overlooked way to beat the heat is to go into an air-conditioned store and stand in front of the fans on display.

To my mind, there"s no more reliable box fan than the good old Lakewood 200/I, generally available for around $10 at any store in the country. It"s not much for pretty, but it"s a workhorse of a fan, that rare appliance willing and able to stay active for days at a time.

Of course, wealthy people generally don"t own any of the fine fans in the mighty Lakewood line; they have good air conditioning.

If you want a clear-cut example of the division between different classes of people in America, you don"t need to look any further than those who have central AC and those who make do with cheap fans.

It"s one of those things you don"t think about too much, except when it gets really, really hot or really, really cold. There are those who call air conditioning the most important technological achievement of the 20th century.

Hundreds of people used to die of heat-related complications every summer. The notorious Indiana summer of 1936 claimed lives on an almost daily basis. Riots would break out over deliveries of ice.

Those who lived in rural areas were at special risk of dying from the heat. It was on a 98 degree day during the summer of "36 that my grandma gave birth to my mom.

She never liked hot weather, perhaps because she entered the world during one of the worst heat waves in 100 years, and passed it down to me.

People don"t literally drop like flies from the heat as much anymore, of course, but many more people than you think suffer the indignity that comes from being held hostage to the weather in a way more affluent people aren"t.

It"s a quality-of-life issue, one of those small things that show you that we aren"t all so equal after all.

One of the greatest music videos in history was "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith and Run-DMC. There"s a really profound moment in it that is so accurate, so dead on, that it paradoxically was largely unappreciated in its time.

Whenever I hang around downtown during Black Expo week, I"m reminded of the moment in that video where Joe Perry smashes through the brick wall dividing his band and Run-DMC"s practice spaces. He gazes through the hole in befuddlement and amazement at the (black) rapper, looking into a world unrecognizable to his daily experience.

Run-DMC gazes back as well, so it"s a two-way street. But I know more than a few people who like to go to downtown nightspots who held back last weekend because of Expo.

You can see it in the faces of out-of-towners driving by, people who don"t understand that it"s a party, a black thing, and they hate it.

It"s something not often discussed in the media, and even bringing it up subjects one to charges of racist beliefs, but the gaps between races, both socially and culturally, are growing wider and wider.

I"m not saying I have any solutions; it"s that the everyday inequalities seem to be getting bigger and bigger these days and not many people are talking about it.

If forced to come up with a solution, I think it would involve the distribution of window AC units by the government, the institution of compulsory ethnic studies classes, more Run-DMC on the radio and more strawberry Kool-Aid.

Streak broken

Wow. I was sick last week and missed only my second week in more than nine years of doing this column. Thanks to the well-wishers who sent me notes, Peeps, alcoholic beverages and e-mails. I"m feeling much better, thanks; I"m rested and ready to rip up the city once again.

I am currently compiling a list of satiric targets and will begin firing salvos here very shortly. Thanks to Jim Poyser for filling in for me last issue. It"s not the first time Mr. Poyser has come to my rescue, by the way.

And I"m happy and excited to be back on the job. I"ll do my best to represent my fellow Southside playaz. I am now and will always still be the thug you love to hate.