About that Orlando humidity. In my Hispanic journey post and in my Orlando is our “eventually” city post I promised I’d also write about the heat and humidity of Central Florida. Well really, about my oddball, sick, are-you-kidding-me love for the heat and humidity of Central Florida.
It’s true. One of the benefits of Ryan and me eventually moving to Orlando definitely is the sub-tropical six-month swelter. At least for me. I know you think I’m crazy. Don’t worry, Ryan does too.
There’s precedent, though. During my GLYNY years in my late teens and early twenties, I loved visiting my old friend, Angela, in Phoenix. The Valley of the Sun was my first experience of many things I love about southwestern cities–mountains on the horizon, dryness in the air, and heat, heat, heat. Not just your entry-level heat, either. I’m taking about real, honest-to-goodness Sonoran desert heat. Burn your fingers on (remember when there were) pay phones heat. Burn your thighs on park benches heat.
Pick up that small roadkill and throw it like a frisbee because the sun has rendered it flat and crispy heat. (Allegedly a 1970s Phoenix thing, but I digress…)
I can’t explain why. I’ve just always been like a lizard looking for the best possible hot rock. When I lived alone in Brooklyn and during early Chicago years, I used to keep my apartment so warm in the winter, that when you would open the door to the colder air, steam would form in the doorway. Not always the balcony door, either, mind you. Sometimes the apartment door to the hallway. I remember often feeling cold whenever I would step outside my apartment door–and feeling shockingly warm upon my return.
Meanwhile, for the past seven years I’ve lived with a polar bear. Ryan lives in mortal fear of heat and humidity. He sleeps with an air conditioner in the middle of winter. And a box fan. On high. While I run around the house as zero-degree weather arrives and tape up every possible crack and cranny that might let the merest hint of chilly air inside. He always wants the AC on in the car. I always want the windows open.
Clearly one of us may not survive Orlando.
When we first visited Walt Disney World in 2013, back when we hated it–before we fell madly in love with it–that first trip was at the beginning of an Orlando summer. A batshit-crazy, 95-degree, ninety-percent humidity, depth of sweaty hell Orlando summer. Ryan remembers almost dying of heat prostration.
I remember never feeling chilly. My first experience of outrageous heat coupled with outrageous humidity, and my biggest takeaway was how blessedly warm I felt.
Returning and falling in love with what we started to call “Sweaty Disney” last year, again in the middle of summer, Ryan again wilted in the subtropical Central Florida climate, though not as badly as before, since we knew in advance what to expect. Meanwhile, I started marveling at the gigantic, towering rain clouds that would form every early afternoon. I spent a lot of time telling Ryan how beautiful I thought they were, and how much I would miss them when we got back to Chicago. I started realizing the last thing I ever wanted to again was leave Central Florida’s weather behind.
Since then, I’ve run into an observation made more than once by Tim and Jenn Tracker upon their own returns to their native-Orlando weather from trips to Disneyland in California–that it’s wonderful to return to the humidity of Central Florida, to be able to feel the wetness of the air again. I know what they mean. The way the almost superhuman, others might suggest life-threatening heat and humidity combine to wrap you in warm, drippy tentacles of supportive, embracing warmth and goodness. Joyfully warmer than I have ever felt in my entire life. As if you would never, ever have to worry about ever feeling cold or chilly again, because mother humidity would never allow that to happen to you. Not ever again.
The smell of the hot humidity got me as well. How every bush and every tree and every blade of grass, every patch of dirt and every parcel of planted ground gave off this vital, fecund smell of life. I am not ashamed to say I was even delighted to see a palmetto bug scurry across the ground in front of me one day at hour Disney resort in that sticky and wonderful world. And last year I also learned that I really didn’t care about being poured on as long as the water that was pouring out of the sky was as warm as the air causing the sweat to drip off my body.
To me, it all just feels somehow primal and completely right.
You might say it’s in my blood. Not just because, as I recently discovered in such detail, most of my extended family spent most of their lives living in the hispanohablante Caribbean and Central and South Florida. But even just because I’m a New Yorker, and everyone knows the stereotype of where New Yorkers love to retire. It’s the same place as the stereotype of where middle-aged Chicagoans love to relocate. Or where Jews like me love to send their parents. In all cases, that place is Florida. And never, ever North Florida, either.
So on all stereotypical accounts, it’s a wonder I never expressed an interest in moving to Florida sooner. Stereotypes aside, that in my own middle-age I have discovered an affinity for the same heat/humidity combination that was my family’s comfort zone for so long makes me very much aware it really is in my blood.
A thing that happened last August in Orlando made that clear to me. One day at our beloved Coronado Springs Resort–one of of Disney World’s sizable moderate resorts with beautifully planted grounds, an enormous lake, and, importantly, rooms that you enter directly from outside–Ryan had the shock of his life when he left the room for coffee. Outside was a sweltering late afternoon, but in the room it felt to me like Ryan had set the air conditioner on death-by-meat-locker. So when he set off for the food court, I waited until he was out of view and then I turned off the AC. And opened the door to the outside. And held it open until the 95 degrees and 95-percent humidity outside the room equalized within the room, as well.
Ryan wanted to kill me when he got back. But standing in that doorway welcoming the hot, wet air in, I knew. It was the moment I finally felt my comfort zone. It was also the moment I knew I wanted to live in Orlando. I yearned for that moment when we returned to Disney World over the Christmas holiday last year. The couple of super-hot/super-humid days in an otherwise merely hot early Florida winter were my favorites.
I’ve thought about Sweaty Disney, and Orlando weather in general, every day since then. Frankly, I yearn for it. I can understand why most of my great aunts and great uncles returned to the climate they were used to from their upbringing in the Caribbean by spending their later years in Florida. When I say I no longer want to live in a city with winter, with apologies to my NYC hometown and my Chicago adopted town, I honestly don’t think I ever really wanted to. Winter is nice enough. You can visit winter. But it’s even nicer to be able to leave it behind.
I know when we finally get to our Orlando “eventually” city, I’m going to have to enroll Ryan in some sort of twelve-step program to deal with the change in climate. On the weekends, we’ll probably text each other as he sits inside our frigid apartment and I bask out on the hot rock of our balcony. They say you get used to the OMGWTF heat and humidity. I hope that’s true for Ryan’s sake.
As for me, I look forward to a new stereotype–to being that Florida resident who can’t eat outside at a restaurant when it’s below seventy degrees unless I’m under a heater. Who complains that my skin gets dry whenever I travel away from the wonderful wetness of home. Maybe I’ll even adopt the completely fictitious TV stereotype of the Golden Girls wearing sweaters all Florida summer long. Then again, my high-summer Sweaty Disney comfort zone is already two layers of shirts and a pair of sturdy jeans.
So maybe it’s not so fictitious after all.