Everybody talks about their favorite month. All the reasons are interesting, and they tell a lot about people. My favorite is September. Soccer season is in full gear, American football season begins, baseball pennant races are heating up, the weather is heating down and for another September I’m reminded that I’m no longer in school. Your favorite month is easy.
But what about your worst?
No one talks about that one. The late great sports columnist at The Denver Post, Dick Connor, used to say, “February kills columnists.” He had a point. The Super Bowl has ended and all you have are the dog days of college and NBA basketball. I live in Rome so my perspective should have changed. It hasn’t. There is no doubt in mind — and there never HAS been a doubt — as my most hated month of the year.
Now. I’m dying. Rome rarely sucks. It sucks now. But nearly every place in the world sucks. Sucks. Sucks. Sucks. I travel. A lot. Yet there is nary a place in the world that isn’t awful in July. Think about it. Europe is too crowded, Asia is too hot, the Southern Hemisphere is too cold and the Caribbean is too rainy. The only places nice in July are Scandinavia, Colorado, Alaska/Canada and Mongolia. And only go to Mongolia if you have an addiction to mutton.
But don’t EVER come to Rome in July. Ever. Every day this month has been 90-95 with 45-50 percent humidity. It’s not as bad as Houston where today it will reach 94 with humidity at 64 percent. But add a good chunk of the 10 million tourists Rome receives every year and put them on a subway system too small to serve Des Moines, Iowa, and La Dolce Vita turns into a puddle of melted flesh.
I take pride in handling extreme weather conditions. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest so rain, cold and eight months without seeing the sun don’t faze me. Neither does searing heat. I lived in Las Vegas for 10 years. Ice and snow? I love them. I lived in Denver for 23 years. But I may have met my match with humidity. It affects me more than I’m willing to admit. Sweat stains are the ultimate in tackiness. I don’t care if we can’t help it. I hate them. I don’t naturally sweat much. Still, I only wear black or white shirts during the day in Rome. I once would rather go out naked than wear shorts in Rome like a common tourist. Now I wouldn’t wear long pants in this heat if threatened by armed gladiators.
These days in Rome remind me of the heat I experienced in South India in March. In the beach town of Varkala, I hardly noticed the gorgeous women walking around in bikinis and sheer sarongs because I couldn’t get my eyes off my extra-large bottles of beer. This month in Rome, even the hottest women walking the sidewalks look like melted cake frosting as their mascara runs like jelly and their blouses stain as if hit by broken bottles of wine.
How do I beat the heat? I sit on my terrace and eat fruit. I’ve eaten more fruit than an orangutan. I’ve eaten so many bananas, a birthmark is starting to look like a Chiquita sticker. Every day I drink three liters of tap water from big glass bottles in the refrigerator which doesn’t quite chill anything quite like it does every other month.
Cooking pasta in Rome in July is like shoveling coal in the Sahara. My top-floor apartment is well ventilated with plenty of windows on both sides, but tending a steaming tomato sauce beats the appetite right out of you. I’m thinking about starting the morning by pouring my cold cereal down my shorts. (I don’t know what that means, but it sounds refreshing.)
Last night I went to a modern wine bar near the Colosseum where my Wine Enthusiasts in Rome Meetup group had a wine tasting. The bar’s lone air conditioner unit was a mere decoration. It was hot enough inside to grow African violets. But the wines were good and they were cold and when I walked outside later that night, Rome returned the cool, comfortable embrace I’ve learned to love.
But during the afternoons, Rome is a beast. Stay away.