Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Tropical Heat

Again, the heat blankets New York City, just like weeks past as the summer finds its traditional mid-point after the early-July national holiday. This is the summertime for which everyone waited long months piled under snow, blasted with rain, winter never losing its grip even through April and May. Suddenly, it is summer's apex, and all the memories of whiteworn avenues have dissipated into the sweaty haze of an underground subway stop; I am dreading my march into the depths of the city for the train uptown.
This heat provokes reflection on Louis Celine's book, "Journey to the End of the Night", whose protagonist (himself as the author) forgoes return to WWI (he was on medical leave from the front) for a one-way ticket to French West Africa. Sent to one of the interior outposts, he lives a few months as a sloppy, malaria-ridden public administrator in the middle of Africa. His description of the oppressive heat, bugs, sickness from exhaustion and bad water (if there was any at all), and interaction with the natives (always pounding tom-toms after dark and screaming mad sex) somehow conjures sympathetic reaction when languishing through the park. NYC will not be confused for Africa, but in these hazy days the feelings of tropical lethargy are palpable from those passing in the streets.
Our minds only need subtle trigger to remember other sights, events, places; we live in our recollections anyway, as senses overwhelm the realities that truly surround us. In this way as I reflect on current readings, NYC has become engulfed by tropical heat.
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