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Hot in the city

August in New York City, in a old Victorian home with no air conditioning, ten thousand steps, and two young children.

I’m melting.

My parents look at Jordan and me languishing on the livingroom couch, and at Tillie & Eva, sweaty and heat-rashed, and declare that we are all hopelessly Canadian.

It’s true. Not so much the Canadian part — Toronto can give NYC a run for its money when it comes to miserable, muggy summers — but after 4 years of Pacific Northwest living, I find the heat pretty miserable.

The cold, too.

When I was 18 I went on a year-long trip to Israel, to milk cows on a kibbutz and plan my future utopian commune and — well, and to disco every Friday night. On my program were a whole slew of Vancouverites, many of whom are still close friends — and two of whom now live, like everyone else in the free world, in Brooklyn.

The Vancouverites were famous for two things. First, they always thought everything looked like Vancouver. The hills of the Judean desert at sunrise? Looked like Vancouver. The ancient Arab port city of Akko? Vancouver.  

Second, they had absolutely no tolerance for heat or cold of any kind. I remember watching with curiosity as they staggered from the bus on a 40+ Celsius day. It was hot, sure. Okay, it was very, very, hot. But to me it was a smoke-in-the-shade kind of day (of course, every 18 year old North American planning a utopian community in the Negev desert must smoke), whereas they looked….ill.

And now it’s my turn.

New York is confusing for me. I can’t handle the weather, but I surprise myself by knowing my way around…navigating through a subterranean subway tunnel last night I thought, isn’t it odd how this is still mine? And then again, isn’t it odd, also, how it isn’t?

I once identified strongly with the city and thought I’d live here forever, and now NY is just the place I grew up. But of course nowhere is just the place you grew up  — the place you grew up is the place. And maybe everyone has that strange feeling of returning home, always a little surprised to find how well home has existed without them. New York is New York.  I’m overwhelmed by it each time. There are so many people, so much activity, and — a personal favorite (favourite?) of mine — so many, many, refreshing drinks to choose from at one of the millions of independent grocery-marts that make each neighborhood.

Jordan says that he could have married someone from anywhere, and been stuck visiting in-laws in, say, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Instead he married a girl from NYC, and gets to vacation regularly, albeit with some physical discomfort, in one of the greatest towns in the world.

But while he’s gotten to know the city through me, his small-city Ontario view of NY has also altered my own.  “New York always looks like a movie set to me,” he told me years ago. It seemed so bizarre at the time, but now I’ll often catch myself looking at something — last night, for example, a restored waterfountain set against a  pre-war Village backdrop — thinking, wow, looks like a movie. 

I have truly a ridiculous amount to say on this topic — has there perhaps been a different NY for each stage of my life? — but…I’m too darn hot.

And now I’ve written an entire post about the weather. Can’t get more Canadian than that.

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3 Comments

  1. Jordan says:

    Not that I have anything, in particular, against Saskatoon. It just isn’t, you know, New York.

  2. Sara says:

    I want to be there, heat and all. Totally jealous.

    I’m taking a writing course for mom’s this fall – the Memoir Project. Do you know about it? Interested? It’s being offered by Island Parent.

  3. Laurie says:

    I married a Californian and get to visit my step kids in Pismo Beach and my mother-in-law in L.A. Sometimes when I’m visiting a beautiful winery or walking along the beach I have to pinch myself. How did I get here from a small Ontario town, population 2000? Where are the groundhogs and the deer flies?

    Miss you guys. Come back to Victoria soon.

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