Cockroaches, garbage and sweat: My humid New York summer

Imagine walking into a sauna, fully clothed and surrounded by sulky commuters

‘Central Park on a summer afternoon is one of life’s simple, great pleasures’. Photograph: Getty Images

‘Central Park on a summer afternoon is one of life’s simple, great pleasures’. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Summer in New York City epitomises New York life. If you can tolerate the many discomforts of this city, you will be rewarded for it – but it won’t be easy.

Firstly, there is the humidity… oh the humidity! It is hard to accurately describe the intense discomfort of a crowded subway station on a humid August day. But just try to imagine walking into a sauna, fully clothed and surrounded by sulky commuters, and then just … waiting there. Not knowing when the sweet release of an air-conditioned subway car will arrive.

In addition to commuting, the humidity makes doing even the simplest tasks, like cooking or exercising, almost unbearable. To exercise comfortably, you have to do so at the crack of dawn. And even then, it is nearly impossible to cool down (read: stop sweating) before work. Morning meetings and morning workouts, therefore, don’t go together very well.

Such encounters, and subsequent face-swelling, have done little to squash the ‘fighting Irish’ stereotype

Then there are the mosquitoes, and their apparently unquenchable thirst for Irish blood. This otherwise minor inconvenience is amplified by my body’s response, making me look like I’ve gone 12 rounds with Katie Taylor. Such encounters, and subsequent face-swelling, have done little to squash the ‘fighting Irish’ stereotype.

Perhaps worst of all are the cockroaches and the scent of sweltering trash bags on the street. While New York is never considered a clean city, the filth becomes a lot harder to ignore in mid-summer. In the New York humidity, the stench of sweating garbage clings to the air the way the shirt clings to your back.

Long Island gives New Yorkers a place to escape to when the summer heat descends. Photograph: Getty Images
Long Island gives New Yorkers a place to escape to when the summer heat descends. Photograph: Getty Images

So, why tolerate such discomforts? In short, the highs are higher, than the lows are low.

Central Park on a summer afternoon is one of life’s simple, great pleasures. There is what can only be described as a relaxed energy in Central Park. An oxymoron perhaps, but everyone is riding a mellow high of summer weekend liberation. It’s like a festival of relaxation. Think: Electric Picnic but for runners, readers and dog walkers.

It’s never just an hour, but it’s always happy … until the next morning

When the humidity breaks, the city is rewarded with a dramatic display of summer storms. Watching the bolts of lightning attacking Manhattan’s skyscrapers is nothing short of majestic; the might of nature, striking the might of man.

And when summer kicks off, beer gardens appear to crop up everywhere. They can be nestled in courtyards behind quirky dive bars, or perched on hotel rooftops, with skyline views typically reserved for the penthouse population. With the beer gardens comes the peak of Happy Hour culture. It’s never just an hour, but it’s always happy … until the next morning.

Lastly, the predictable sunshine enables plenty of daycations to Long Beach, just a short train ride way from Manhattan. While it may not be the Algarve, to a stressed mind, it is almost indistinguishable and therefore just as refreshing.

Michael Russell has lived in New York since 2013, and manages communications for a Stock Exchange on Wall Street.

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