New York City, July 8, 2014

★★ Armpits. Men had given up or allowed themselves to give up and were walking around wearing tank tops. Early clouds, separated by fissures of blue, had drawn briefly together and then dispersed, leaving the sun impeded. Leaves tossed in a not at all cooling wind. A truck forced its way through a crosswalk, sending its rear wheels up over the curb for extra emphasis. A man with a butterfly of sweat darkening the back of his pale orange shirt body-checked his way off the B train, desperate to reach the A across the platform. Up on the street, a woman fanned herself with a folding fan in mid-stride, then folded it away again. BMW motorcycles, plural, were parked at the curb, and Vespas, with innumerable bicycles up on the sidewalk. The air in the shade felt hot and solid; the sun hurt. The buildings on Broadway needed to be taller. Even toward dusk, as the departing light traced the verticals on the Empire State Building, it was still stifling out. Only long after dark did a sudden rush of wind relieve it. READ MORE

New York City, July 7, 2014

★ A pigeon puffed up and hunkered down in the top level of the fountain. The heat was baking, but still not crushing or unbearable; it raised a sweat but not a soaking one. A seed puff floated along at a companionable pedestrian rate till it reached the windward edge of a dumpster and sank. Cold streams of air conditioning crossed the sidewalk. On the subway, a bright-eyed young woman told a young man on other side of the doorway that she was heading to the beach, that she was going to see a movie there, that her birthday had just passed. They smiled back and forth and chatted for a few stops, and then they lapsed into the silence of strangers and he put his earbuds in. A man with a bucket partially tore down some posters from a plywood barrier, then started brushing on a poster of his own. The air conditioning drip pattered on the awning of the office entrance. It was still baking hot as the sun lowered, blindingly. A wash of taxi-colored light passed all the way under a cab, lighting the Broadway pavement. Late at night, the orange sky was raked with lightning bolts. Their shapes registered through eyelids, on uncorrected and astigmatic eyes. Rain crunched against the windows.

New York City, July 6, 2014

★★★★ Out in the open, the clarity was a bit punishing. Noise seemed muffled, the colors bleached out. The side street was tranquilizingly dark and breezy; the avenues piercingly hot. Just inside the Park, liquid birdsong flowed. A sparrow ate a Cheerio in the shade of a parked stroller, crunching it with sharp, predatory strokes of its beak. Indoors, a small and active fly had ridden the fresh air currents through the window, and the relative dimness made it all but impossible to pick out and track. The once-empty blue sky acquired a few ribbons and dotted clusters of white. A hot eddy lifted and spun some sidewalk garbage. Heavy-duty squirt guns took up positions around the playground; a boy in a wheelchair, injured leg elevated, carried one across his lap while another boy pushed him in and out of combat. Even in the benevolently shadowed end of afternoon, the unfiltered sun was harsh wherever it reached. The heat from the kitchen stove, combining with the late-day sun load, was overwhelming. The air conditioning had to come back on.

New York City, July 2, 2014

★★★★ Haze stained the horizon. A man in a sportshirt sat on a bench with a newspaper in his lap, chin on his chest, apparently dozing. The garbage smell of Prince Street was stronger than ever. Storms were closing in, but as thunder rumbled in the late-afternoon, the menace still seemed theoretical. The west was gray, the east blue, the sky in between unsettled. By Columbus Circle, the light coming down the station stairs was dusk-blue, two and a half hours early. At 72nd Street, it was dark and raining hard, but not too hard to walk through without an umbrella. A pedestrian went sprinting across oncoming traffic, unnecessarily unwilling to wait for the signal. The rain abated to scattered drops, just long enough for the walk home from the store, then came splashing down harder than before. Whitish clouds were moving underneath the inky ones. Lighting flashed again and again. The seven-year-old, counting the interval between light and sound, estimated it was a fifth of a mile off. The show continued all through dinner: starkly defined lightning bolts, an amplified snare-drum roll of thunder, the downpour in the dark. And then, from behind the silhouetted apartment towers, a fiery yellow glow appeared. It spread up the western sky, dispelling the premature night, a sunrise in reverse. Photographs of the sky's colors are always disappointing and inaccurate, and there was no sense even trying now. Everything was in that lambent, elusive register. The lemon yellow went to an orange-chased purple, through improbable intermediate stages, as it gradually stopped spreading. Time flowed its usual way again; the bright fraction of the sky got smaller and more intensely orange. Still there were white slashes of lightning above it.

New York City, July 1, 2014

★★ A house sparrow wallowed on its side in a planter, its gray feathers fluffed and disheveled. The air was institutional plexiglass. Passengers on the platform stepped toward the doorway of a 1 train car and flinched back, feeling the lack of air conditioning. The air conditioning on the B train was working and dripping copiously into the car. Outside, a stagnant patch of shade was no better than direct sun. The heat grew thicker in the streets–nothing extraordinary, just conventionally sweltering. Nowhere was comfortable, even as the sun fell behind the buildings. On the way down Broadway to find gelato, the two-year-old was a squirmy, ever hotter and grumpier burden on the neck and shoulders. The return trip would be by subway: the trains inexplicably late, the station air stupefyingly hot. Dessert was soft in its styrofoam box after one stop.

New York City, June 30, 2014

★ What might have been a rural dream broke to twittering birds in the predawn dimness, the sound carrying up to the 27th floor. Out in the real morning, the clouds were interfering with the sun, and a damp breeze from downtown contended against the heat in a low-intensity pushing match. New tar shone wetly at the edge of a repaired patch in the street. In the afternoon, a line of cloud like a wing stretched along the sky in the west. It was hot up on the roof, but a heat cut by breezes, a fine natural heat, superior by far to the grim air conditioning below. A heat for louvered shades and cross-ventilation, for architectural counterrevolution. Dried red Japanese maple leaves lay curled up in the corner like dead insects. Down in the street, the balance of hot sun and breeze was less favorable. On the way toward the river in the late light, the sidewalk texture was overdefined, while everything higher up was impossible to look at. After sunset, the east and west alike were unobtrusively washed with pink, as was the south, at an avenue crossing. Fireflies seemed possible in the twilight, and then there they were, in the deeper shade by Lincoln Towers, brightening as they floated upward.

New York City, June 29, 2014

★★★★ A little yellowish cumulus was showing in the distance up Columbus Avenue. There were some sort of clouds directly overhead in the overall blue, but it was too bright to look at them. It had taken real resolve to put on sunscreen and get out the door. People in medals and bibs, more motivated people, had already finished their morning exertions and were on their way out of the Park. A blur and a shine lay on the Sheep Meadow. Strollers clustered under the trees; sunbathers dispersed themselves in a slowly accumulating gradient fill. The sun raised damp vegetal fumes out on the open grass. The two-year-old had picked up a stick and he exulted in it all the way across the meadow, till his older brother felt obligated to find one of his own. On the far side, a low white hump of clover rose beside the low gray humps stone pushing through the lawn. A dusty-looking bee worked the blossoms. The bright veins in the rock gleamed like glass. Under the oaks there were plenty of sticks, enough for the two-year-old to start passing them out: "This can be your stick! I found you a stick!" There were sticks for sword-fighting, for jabbing into the mulch, for pointing execution-style, as an imaginary blaster gun, at the head of a blameless little stranger. Here and there also were plastic forks, a puzzle piece, a wooden ice cream paddle stained with chocolate. Two abandoned beer cans showing no visible punctures. Dragonflies passed three or four yards overhead. A white passenger jet, a dark helicopter, and a bunch of lost blue and white balloons went their separate ways at their separate altitudes. Amplified music, hardly more than a throb or squeezing sensation on the air, carried from somewhere out of sight, probably in the east. The shade was cool and filled with a floral scent, a paradisal subset of the available conditions. On the way back, along 67th Street, a dead fledgeling lay stiffly on its side. Sundown brought a descending crescent moon, thin and melon-orange.

New York City, June 26, 2014

★★ The clouds deserved a better day underneath them. They were clean white and voluminous in the morning, with deep blue between them. But the air made for difficult breathing; the Citi Bike rack was full. The clouds continued regardless, all through the day: now showing blazing white edges, now piling textured grays on grays, now sending a cotton-pure scout into an open expanse of uptown sky. They heaped themselves up in the west to escort the sun through its lingering descent, darkening themselves into blues, opening a glowing tunnel mouth lined with gold. A silhouetted airplane passed across them. A pink glory ray went angling upward like a spotlight, and then a hot glow suffused the whole underside of the mass. The tunnel opened wider and filled with chopped gray. Then the lurid lights passed, and what was left was sharp pale patterns like frost prints on a window.

New York City, June 25, 2014

★★★ Plain summer, glaring and bad-smelling. A washed-down stretch of sidewalk under a scaffold stayed wet and made the air around it even more humid. After a few false attempts, the sun finally came on high and hot. A woman stepped out into it and in a few paces shrugged off her suit jacket, indoors and outdoors proving irreconcilable. The heat subsided by late afternoon; children on scooters buzzed the plaza outside the apartment entrance. In the night, flashes of lightning came white through the blinds.

New York City, June 24, 2014

★★★ Variables teetered, rather than striking a balance. Here, in the west, the sky was white; there, in the east, it was blue. There was scaffold shade and cloud shade and sun fading in, or partway in. Humidity made itself felt without being the dominant impression. A man gave himself over to summer with an untucked linen shirt and bouncy linen pants. Suntans were developing, and some had already developed. Toenails were out and done in shiny untrue blues or standard reds. The late afternoon settled into a relatively cool, hazy blue. Street trees tossed their branches. The air in the 1 train car, after the mildness of the platform, clung like a sweat-drenched bedsheet.