AT THE HELM: HEAT AN EXCUSE TO HAVE FUN

May 17, 2008 12:00 am

By Scott Graves

Pilot staff writer

As the temperature soared this week, so did the number of gripes from people unaccustomed to the heat.

I heard it from folks inside the Curry Coastal Pilot office and out in the community. I even heard it from my brother-in-law, visiting this week from Missouri, who said he had come here on vacation to escape hot weather.

But complaining about the heat doesn't make it cooler. Believe me, I've tried. So instead of joining in the chorus of "It's so hot!" I've decided to look at the benefits of the high temperatures:

•It heats the water of the Chetco and other rivers faster, making it more pleasant for swimming.

•I don't have to dress in layers – which means less laundry at the end of the week.

•I can enjoy breakfast outside in the backyard in my pajamas (although doing so made me late for work this morning).

•The family can enjoy leisurely barbecues long into the evening (as opposed to grabbing the meat and running inside to escape the cold).

•I can lounge barefoot and wear a T-shirt and shorts in the backyard at midnight, enjoying the warm breeze while looking for shooting stars.

•We can leave the bedroom window wide open and toss aside the heavy blankets.

•We can listen to the pine cones in the trees crack and pop, allowing their seeds to fall out or blow away.

I could go on, but I'm too hot and sweaty. (Oops, was that complaining? Sorry.)

I thought about calling my parents to let them know how hot it's been in Brookings-Harbor this week, but they live in Southern California where 90-degree weather is not unusual this time of year. They'd just laugh at me.

I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, where coping with 100-plus degree weather all summer is the norm. Perhaps that's why I'm not complaining much about our so-called "heat wave" here.

The hot weather sparks childhood memories of summers past. I recall many evenings when the mercury still hovered around 90 degrees at 11 p.m. and the sidewalks were still warm to the touch. Forget about sleeping!

My boyhood friends and I developed foolproof "beating the heat" strategies that involved running through the sprinklers, visiting the public swimming pool, riding our bikes to the nearest air-conditioned movie theater, and drinking ice cold Slurpees while reading magazines at the 7-Eleven convenience store.

A special treat was taking the hour-long "Beach Bus" trip to Zuma Beach every Wednesday. That's where my life-long love of the ocean and surfing began.

Anyway, this recent heat wave reminds me something I discovered long ago and sometimes forget: Hot weather is not something to complain about, but to celebrate. It gives us an opportunity to break the routine and do something different.

So instead of griping about the heat, use it as an excuse to spend your lunch break running through the sprinklers with your kids or making a giant jug of lemonade or simply finding a shady spot under a tree to read a book – or take nap.

Enjoy it now. Come July 4, we'll likely be shivering in the fog, straining to see the fireworks. Now that's something to complain about.