Saturday, August 1, 2009

Close Your Eyes & Think of Siberian Huskies

Getting through the heat this summer requires a reliable air-conditioner and a vivid imagination. Here are some strategies I've been employing while sitting at home in darkened rooms:

1) Read books set in cold places. This summer, I've taken to reading the mystery novels of Swedish writer Henning Mankell, which feature the bloated, bleary-eyed but always intense detective Kurt Wallander, a cop who regularly pushes himself to the edge of self-destruction in the pursuit of killers. The series is set in a small city on the southern-most tip of Sweden. The narrator, like the main character, is a stickler for details, letting readers know at every turn just how cold it is outside. Wallander wakes up every morning, pours coffee down his throat, and, after looking at a thermometer reading of, say, -4 degrees celsius (that's 25 degrees to you and me), decides just how many sweaters to wear. Plus, it's always windy, sleeting, or raining. Wonderful. (For those who don't have time to read, you can check out the PBS/Masterpiece Mystery versions of three of the Wallander novels, which are already available on Netflix and feature the once-glorious Kenneth Branaugh as Wallander. The shows don't do justice to the detailed plots of the books, but the Swedish scenery is gorgeous. Watch the night scenes--you can see the actor's breath fogging in the cold. Woo!)

2) Watch movies set in cold places. Just by chance, several of my Netflix flix have been set in cold seasons and cooler places. A terrible movie that has great atmosphere is Two Lovers, with the still-angular Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix as a suicidal schlub who manages to bed two beautiful women for no good reason. The story is set in Brooklyn in late fall and early winter. The characters are bundled up in coats and freezing their photogenic heinies off in outdoor scenes. More satisfying are Seasons 4 and 5 of The Wire, set in Baltimore's gritty inner city during fall and winter. In one scene, two corner kids, hustling in big, puffy jackets, discuss global warming. "Where it at? Why is it so cold already?" Answer: "It's not cold. We're just getting old." (No, no. It's really cold. Brrrr!)

3) Refill your iced tea glass and think cold thoughts. Imagine Husky dogs racing across the Siberian tundra. Picture Russia's Lake Baikal, the world's largest, deepest, and once purest lake. Or the snow-covered peaks of the Alps. Whatever it takes. Remember, fall is still officially six weeks away. 

(Again, dog art is by Christine Throckmorton, found at DogArtToday and at

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