Don’t like the heat? Get off the planet

I complained about the cold all winter long, now I’m complaining about the heat. Isn’t there some place on this entire planet that’s livable all year round? Some place where it’s comfortable in the summer and winter, not too hot, not too cold – some place that is just right? Of course there is, Goldilocks, but you have to be a multi-millionaire to live there. Normal working stiffs, however, have as much of a chance of living on the beach in San Diego or Kauai as Paris Hilton has of winning the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

The rest of us are stuck in places where it is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Or too cold or too hot all the time. Everyone tries to convince themselves that it’s not so bad, that they would never live anywhere else because there is no place like home. I talk to people all the time who say they would never move to Florida or Arizona. “We’re not Florida people,” they say. “We like the four seasons.” I run into them a year later and they’re as tan as Louis Vuitton bag and they’ve bought a place in Sarasota or Tempe.

“I thought you weren’t snowbird people?”

“Oh, we didn’t move for the weather. We just want to be close to the grandkids.”

“But your grandkids live in Winnipeg.”

“Yes, now they have a place to come visit us in the winter.”

My cousin Louise calls me from Saute Pan Valley in the middle of the Southwestern desert where she lives year round. She says it’s really not so bad in the summer.

“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

I hate to break it to her, but it is the heat. Trust me, you can burn a tray of cookies to a flaming crisp in a very dry heat. I did use a pitcher of humidity to put them out, though.

Saute Pan Valley is east of Near Death Valley and south of Heat Stroke Valley. There is no water within 500 miles in any direction. It was founded in 1992 and now has a population of 250,000.

Since the weather is wonderful in the Saute Pan Valley from October to March, Louise has brainwashed herself into thinking it’s also wonderful in July. It is not, unless you are a Gila monster or a roadrunner. Louise used to be a blonde from Wisconsin who had skin the color of a Band Aid. After living in Phoenix for 10 years, she’s more the color of crispy bacon fat. She doesn’t seem to notice difference.

“Haven’t you ever heard of sunscreen?” I asked.

“I’m their biggest customer,” she said. “I buy it by the gallon. Otherwise my skin would be as tough as a cowhand’s.” Yeah, not smooth like beef jerky the way it is now. The good news is that she doesn’t have to file her nails anymore. Just scratching the back of her neck a few times a week must keep them smooth and snag free.

I won’t bring up the time she burned the back of her thighs sliding onto a hot car seat while wearing shorts. We pretend not to notice the skin grafts. For weeks her car smelled like there was someone grilling a steak in the back seat. She’s started keep a cooler with ice in the car so any fresh food she buys wouldn’t cook between the time she turns the key and they time the air conditioning kicks in. In those 35 seconds, butter could melt, milk could curdle, lettuce could wilt. For six months she dashes from her door to the car before the sun can hammer her into the ground.

But when she calls me to wish me Merry Christmas from deck of her pool, when she tells me she’s grilling hamburgers outdoors in February while I’m watching the snowplow go by, when I realize she’s using sunscreen in March, I start to wonder how much I really like four seasons. Maybe two is enough.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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