First Monday in Autumn and It’s 104

Kage Baker loved heat. That is, she preferred to be warm rather than cold – but there was an undeniable element of the salamander in her, too. She was perfectly happy when the temperature got into the 90’s; fewer clothes, more cold Coke, and turning on her big Art Deco floor fan kept her happy as could be. (And a killer fan it is, too – the base and staff and blades are all worked like palm leaves. Nifty.)

This, despite the fact that she could get a sunburn sitting too close to the living room window on a clear day: she was thoroughly a redhead, her skin was like photoreactive porcelain. She kept waiting for the freckles to run together and give her a tan, but it never happened. I made her wear industrial-strength sunscreen through our Faire days, but she hated the stuff –  she relied more on broad brimmed hats and wimples when in costume.

Right now, Los Angeles is in the midst of its annual autumnal heat wave.  Yestreday got up to 105 here where I live on the edge of Griffith Park; it  could get as high as 110 today. The newspapers and news programs are all hysterical about the deadly heat; one would think that global warming is bearing down on the city gates like all 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse, riding a flaming Harley and spraying CFCs with both hands.

It’s another confusion of seasonal weather with global climate change. The weather always turns hot in September, and we often roast here in LA for Halloween. Kage’s theory was that it was the atmospheric effect of all the wool – because the heat wave started as soon as all the kids went back to school. Being Catholic school kids, we went dressed in navy blue and plaid wool, and regularly keeled over in the playground. The nuns advised us to offer it up to Jesus and the odor of sanctity became permanently confused in my mind with kid-sweat.

Lemonade was our afternoon tipple of choice back then: maybe with a drop or two of almond flavouring, and definitely with food colour. Green, blue, red, a startling vermillion – we drank it every colour of the rainbow except the way it was made. In parrot-coloured aluminum tumblers. It tasted colder that way.

In her maturity, Kage preferred mai tais, and rum and Coke, or gin and tonics if she was feeling like practicing austerities. Though even then, she liked an umbrella and a fruit spear and maybe a neon monkey in her cocktail as well … there were several scorching autumns when we all went nuts for Pimm’s Cups, served in Momma’s surviving crystal highball glasses, out in the backyard where the eucalyptus trees dropped leaves like red fish in all our drinks.

Good memories. And my memory tells me as well that this heat wave is  – if not normal – at least seasonal. It’s been a feature of autumn in Los Angeles for the 57 years of my life, so it has to have some vague connection to normalcy, right? And every year, the news announcers jump and down all aghast, reporting in disbelief that IT’S OVER 100 DEGREES IN LOS ANGELES!!!

Yeah, we know. It was last year, too. And in 1954, when I learned to walk and discovered how hot sidewalks can be for bare feet. And in 1958 when I started school, and 1969 when we landed on the moon, and 2000 when the media though the new millenium had come and in 2001 when it actually did. And it’s hot now – it’s 108 now, to be precise, and even if it didn’t do this every freaking year, you know what? We’d notice this. We really would.

So chill, news media. Have a nice cold cocktail with a green plastic monkey in it.

Tomorrow: plot carpentry, maybe

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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4 Responses to First Monday in Autumn and It’s 104

  1. Pingback: World Wide News Flash

  2. Chris Springhorn says:

    Yeah, and all those years between ’58 & ’69 when we sweated away our afternoons in classrooms with the lights out, listening to the Dodgers try to get to the series over the classroom intercom, instead having sports. One thing for sure – the air IS cleaner.


    • Kate says:

      Oh, Lordie, your school did that too? Various Dads with bad reception at home used to show up to pick kids up an hour early, to listen to the Dodgers on the school radio. But we couldn’t play outside, in the nasty, nasty Venusian air. And I remember the smog hanging visibly at ground level, washing over 1-story roofs like the ghost of the Johnstown Flood. Really, some things have improved!


  3. lala palooza says:

    😀 oh gosh you poor things lol
    meanwhile back at the ranch i was up north on the monterey peninsula enjoying clean air and lovely cooling fog when the sun wasnt shining… and when it was the temp was no more than 80!


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