Baby, it’s hot outside*

*With apologies to Frank Loesser, who wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” 

It’s that time of year here at Lake Chapala…..the hot, dry time of the year, that is.  For weeks it has been hovering around ninety degrees Fahrenheit here in lovely downtown Jocotepec.  The saving grace is that the humidity is, as a rule, not high; usually in the low double digits.  But when all you have is a fan to cool you off, that’s still pretty darn hot. 

By about 5PM every afternoon, this delicate flower is about to wilt, as are all her delicate flower friends. 

It’s the time of year when I occasionally go get into Stormy the pickup and turn on the air conditioner for a while just to cool down some.  I don’t drive anywhere….I just sit in the truck with the a/c and CD blasting for a while.

Or I go soak in the pool for a bit.  [This is the first time I’ve had this private luxury available to me.]  Oddly, even though the air temp is so high, the water temp in the pool is still only about 80.  Presumably this comes from the fact that during the night the air temperature drops so much.  Thank heavens!

Since we’re all breathlessly awaiting the beginning of the rainy season, my friends and I have a wager going on when the monsoons will begin.  The winner will be accorded the title of weather goddess and will be deferred to in all discussions weatherwise for the following six months.  So there are some serious bragging right stakes involved here.

So what is a delicate flower like myself to do during the heat of the day?  Well, I read.  A lot.  I’ve been plowing through an inordinate number of books recently.  Averaging one every two days or so. 

This would probably be a good time for me to do some serious reading.  You know, books that would enlighten and/or educate me.  Improve my mind.  Yup, probably a good idea.  But I swear it’s too hot for that.  There may be a reason why most great writers are NOT from the tropics.  Perhaps writing as well as reading skills just kinda shut down in the heat.  [There ya go, comp lit majors, a dissertation topic.  You’re welcome.] 

So no classics for me.  No philosopy books.  Not even any nonfiction.  Too hot for those.  If I had to use my brain in this heat, it might spontaneously burst into flames as the result of synapses lapsing and neurons misfiring.  And while, in cooler months, I love reading about freaky things like spontaneous combustion, I prefer not to be an example thereof.

So I’m reading mystery novels.  One after another.  Old ones, new ones.  Short ones, long ones.  Those by well known authors and those by authors of whom I’ve never heard. 

A couple of months ago I went to a moving sale and picked up 40 paperback mysteries for $200MX [about $17US at today’s exchange rate].  Then a friend gave me about 15 more that she had finished and wanted out of her house.  So that’s what I’ve been working my way through for the past month. 

I’ve always enjoyed mysteries.  As a kid I read all the Nancy Drew books and discovered for myself why Sherlock Holmes has been so popular for so many years, and why people were still reading Agatha Christie so many decades later.  I stumbled upon Erle Stanley Gardner, Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, and Dashiell Hammett.  All writers well before my time, but greatly beloved by me.

Then it was on to Georges Simenon, P.D. James, Ross Macdonald, Ed McBain, and Dick Francis, among others.  Simenon’s Commissioner Maigret, James’ Adam Dalgliesh, Macdonald’s Lew Archer, the men of McBain’s 87th precinct, and Dick Francis’ horse racing novels all became particular favorites of mine.

In the early ’80s, I started college as a nearly 35 year old freshman.  Most of my time was spent attending classes, writing papers, taking care of my son, and working full time at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, but I still found time to read mysteries.  They were a great break from all those badly written textbooks that I needed to read for my classes.

It was during this time that I found Tony Hillerman, Andrew Vachss, and Ruth Rendell, among others.  My absolute favorite was Tony Hillerman and his Navajo tribal policemen, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn.  One year I was working at an election polling place on the campus of Indiana University.  As I recall, there were 12 of us working at that particular precinct.  Of the 12, eleven were reading books, and of those 11, six of us were reading Hillerman.  When I pointed this out to one of my coworkers, she and I started talking about Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.  Almost immediately, the other Hillerman readers joined in.  Republican or Democrat, we all loved Hillerman.  After a while, the one person there without a book said, in all sincerity, “Are these two guys students here or professors?”  Because apparently the six of us were speaking about Leaphorn and Chee not only as if they were real, but as if we knew them personally.

Continuing through the nineties, through grad school, working in the US national parks and being on the road for two years installing computers at motel front desks, I continued reading mystery novels.  Faye and Jonathan Kellerman; Carl Hiaasen; James Lee Burke; Janet Evanovich; and John MacDonald, among others. 

And I continue to read and love mysteries to this day.

Why do I….and all the others who read them…..love them so much?  Maybe because they’re escapist literature?  Maybe because lots of us like solving puzzles?  Maybe because, at least in the series novels, it’s like spending time with an old friend, catching up on what they’ve been doing since you last heard from them?  Maybe because, in the end, the bad guy gets what’s coming to him….unlike in real life?

Or is it because they all tell a story from beginning to end?  You’re never left hanging at the end of a mystery.  There’s always some resolution…….again, unlike in real life. 

Also, depending on which author you are reading, you can travel through time.  In Elizabeth Peters’ novels, the reader is transported back to Egypt in the 1880’s.  The Sherlock Holmes’ stories take one back to about the same period in England, as do Anne Perry’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novels.  Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey series is set in London in the ’20s and the mysteries of many American authors are based on life in the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s.

Or do we read them because they always address the BIG issues:  good versus evil; right versus wrong? 

Okay, enough philosophizing.  I can feel my synapses lapsing and my neurons misfiring!!  Back to the Perry O’Shaughnessy book I’m currently reading!

Have a cool day, mis amigos!

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About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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11 Responses to Baby, it’s hot outside*

  1. Craig says:

    Barb, With this you’ll have all requisite ingredients for the perfect hot weather literary appreciation solution. Don’t you get HSN on your Canuck satellite system? Oh, wait. I just noticed its sold out. No matter. I’ll keep digging for you from the land of the NAFTA-free and the home of the (consumer) brave.

  2. Craig says:

    You need to add edit functionality to the blog. Hitting “post comment” is always intimidating for revisionists like me without one. This was the intended direct product link –
    http://www.hsn.com/improvements-floating-pool-chair_p-5478245_xp.aspx

    • Barbara says:

      craig, i actually was taken right to the website about the product from the first message you posted. maybe it just looked odd to you.

      at any rate, that does look like something i need…..only in extra large! but i DO really like the drink holder.

      if you ever get your butt back to mexico, i will allow you to enjoy my pool!

    • Craig says:

      i DO really like the drink holder.
      I figgered that would be a clincher.
      Driving isn’t an option, being on the NL aduana’s “most wanted to deport” list. Still waiting for a major airfare capitulation or else return in Jonnie’s trunk with other duty-free (NAFTA) contraband 😉

  3. Cheryl says:

    Barbara,

    I am really impressed that you can remember all those authors. If you were to ask me what I read 2 days ago, I probably wouldn’t remember.

    • Barbara says:

      cheryl, i too suffer from CRS. i remember these authors because i’ve read them so much and so often.

  4. Gigi says:

    I’m with you, Cheryl! I’ve read and loved most of those authors, but apart from Leaphorn & Chee would be hard pressed to match characters with author names. She probably remembers the PLOTS, too! The heat hasn’t really addled her brain…yet!

    • Barbara says:

      gigi, the brain is addled, but i can’t blame that on the heat! too many hippie years and bourbon nights!

  5. Pingback: More for the collection! :) « Kaet's Weblog

  6. Karen says:

    Great list of authors, Barbara. John D. McDonald has always been one of my favorites, along with Tony Hillerman, too. Have you ever read anything by Nevada Barr? I love her books, as they’re all set in U.S. National Parks.

    • Barbara says:

      i DO read nevada barr, although i’ve never been as big a fan of hers as lots of us who have worked in the parks.

      for whatever reason [past life?], i’ve always related to/enjoyed the most those mysteries set in the ’20s and ’30s in england!

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