The Journal of Prevarication
“A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.” — Mark Twain
Because yesterday was a slow news day, reporters on the national cable channels had little to report. Considering recent disasters and chicanery, that was good.
So they were wringing their hands over the projected hot weather in Phoenix and Las Vegas. The Weather Channel put out an extreme heat warning for those cities. They’re at it again today.
Like we wouldn’t notice if they didn’t mention it. It gets hot around here every summer, and 116 degrees is not unheard of. I admit the 120 degrees reported over in Needles yesterday was a little extreme, but I rarely go there.
We were in Arkansas in June. It was humid, but not yet hot, in our professional view. Arkansawyers observed sagely, “Y’all have a dry heat out in Arizona.” I replied, “No, what we have in Arizona is a hot heat.”
Every summer. Most of us don’t like it, but we deal with it. We even take a perverse pride in extreme heat, so long as we don’t break down on some desert highway. Then it gets scary.
We tough it out indoors, and drink lots of water, and budget more money for airconditioning.
One of my most useful possessions is a remote indoor-outdoor thermometer. My son gave it to me one Father’s Day, and it allows me to sit in my recliner and observe the outdoor temperature.
Believe me, it gets more use than my other weather toy, the rain gauge, which is filling up with dust and bugs.
Yesterday I tried an experiment. When the outside sensor showed it was 113 degrees in the shade on our patio, I freed it from its bracket and set it out to see how hot it was in the sunlight. No one ever reports that number (it reached 125).
Unfortunately, the signal from the sensor missed the receiver in the den. The signal, magnified by the glass in the patio door, burned a small, round hole in the wall above my computer.
At that point, our other thermometer, a traditional mercury advertising thermometer, went so high that I had to stand on tiptoe to read it: 116.
The air here is drier than a privacy statement, and I was afraid the heat might set off fireworks prematurely, blowing some little town off the map. Or set the air on fire.
If you’re one of the three dozen people who bought my 1992 book Dry Humor, you probably remember my favorite bit of Arizona weather lore. I dug it out of old newspaper files.
In the summer of 1897, an enterprising Phoenix businessman decided there might be a market for the beaded, poisonous lizard called the Gila monster. He figured he could sell the Gila monsters to curious easterners, and to a growing number of tourists visiting Arizona.
He asked a Pima man to supply him with Gila monsters. The Pima recoiled in horror.
Did the white man not know that if a Pima touches a Gila monster during summer, that day would become unbearbly hot? The temperature would continue to rise to the point of incineration.
I have seen only one day that was so threatening. Well, actually, two days. I was living in Phoenix on June 26, 1990, when the temperature just kept rising. The temperature the previous day had been 120.
On June 26, the temperature reached a record high of 122. Several other towns reported the same maximum temperature. It cooled off that evening, but terrified thermometers refused to budge for days.
Frankly, I was hoping for such a day yesterday, so the weather people would have something real to talk about.
Miss Ellie and I had been running around in the heat, and we made a pact to stay indoors yesterday and rest. It got pretty quiet here, which drove me to screw around with the thermometers.
Old Glory waved from our gate post in a slight breeze, the secret ingredient that makes human life possible in this region.
The asphalt got so soft on our street that one pothole repaired itself.
Ellie soft-boiled a couple of eggs with water from the cold side of our kitchen faucet.
Cactus wrens, usually raucous, sulked in the shade. I saw a pair of turkey vultures walking to work.
But apparently no one molested a Gila monster. I put on an oven glove to retrieve my sensor from the sun, and moved a picture over to cover the hole in the wall.
I’ll have to find a new pastime today.