Friday, August 26, 2011


For better or for worse this has been a very strange week. It began with the attack on me in
my own home by Atilla the Bird and is ending with an attack on my loved ones on the east coast by Irene the Hurricane. Between these event the week was filled with sleepless nights, mild dehydration,heat prostration and sick children. These calamities can all be attributed to temperatures which did not go below 96 all week and even at night, maintained a steady 70-72 degrees.
Now for a "Floridian", even one who came to that designation as late in life as I did, these numbers are hardly daunting. Except this ISN'T Florida and this isn't usual weather for Hungary, even at the end of August.
There is a much more holistic approach to health and well being in this part of the world than what I have always taken for the norm in the west.Here,air conditioning is considered to be an unnecessarily aberrant interference with the body's system of humors, which keep all systems in balance. When the humours are in order we sweat in the summer in order to keep cool and our internal furnace keeps us warm in the winter.

The attitude toward air conditioned hotels is that if Americans want to make themselves sick
with all of this chemically treated, recycled frigid air that's their business but at home a Hungarian looks forward to a warm bath and a cold beer for comfort.

These challenging circumstances have given me the impetus to consider what really is necessary and what is possible to forego in life as I move forward on the path of trying to minimize my footprint with the goal of maximizing my impact on the world in which I live.
To my great amazement, I have come to know that air conditioning is not essential. I can hear the universal guffaw at the last sentence but I think it deserves, and requires some clarification
Of course chilled clean air is infinitely preferable to hot steamy lung clogging heat any day.
I'm only saying if I had to chose between a freezer and an air-conditioner which one would it be?
A cool breeze through open windows is something that was mostly done away with during the era of cheap energy when central air became central to life as we know it and the "best" houses were built without a thought to cross ventilation. But I knew it differently. I remember summers at Beaumont Beach ( next to the stoop of our row house in SW Philly) where we would cool ourselves with a hose on our feet during the day and catch a breeze on the porch glider at night. I remember exhaust fans that kept a steady stream of warm air blowing in on my Grammom and me all night and let us sleep in restfulness.
What we also had though were screens in every window. We had ventilators (metal half screens that kept the windows propped up) and full window screens and screen doors. We had wooden screen doors and aluminum storm doors with interchangeable glass and screen panels.
We had all of these things in our little row houses and apartments. We had them in the rooms we rented with shared kitchen privileges at the shore and we had them when we went to the playground or the school yard summer camp.
If we could just retrofit all the gorgeous buildings here with something as simple as a screen, the incidence of encephalitis could be dramatically lowered and a whole new industry could provide jobs to lots of folks.Homes would be cleaner, schools would be cooler and people could be put to work.
I really fail to see the humour, or should I say, the lack thereof, in perpetuating a system that is impractical uncomfortable and most importantly, fixable! And it would keep birds in their nests and out of mine too

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