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It’s halfway through July, the high point of summer, and a run of ninety degree days has given way to mid eighties temperatures and the threat of heavy rain. I’ve noted it before – New York weather lends itself to the city and possesses weight, distinction and authority. When the sky makes up its mind to do something, it does it. I hang on to this notion as I descend the stairs at the Carroll Street subway station to flag a Manhattan-bound F. These charcoal skies and ominous, disruptive clouds aren’t just hanging around for their health. Nobody shows up to this city without some idea of putting what they’ve got on the table. But for now, they’re just making me sweat.

The temperature seems to bump a degree every two steps down for the turnstile. This counters my memories of the basement being the coolest place in the house. There’s nowhere so oppressively suffocating as a New York City subway platform on a hot summer day. Add to this an impregnated barometer and the impending sense that something, somewhere has to give, and you’ve got a recipe for major league perspiration. Not that I have a problem with sweat. I accepted it long ago as the sign of a healthy system balancing its internal thermometer and ridding itself of impurities. I’ve also accepted my own sweat rhythms; the way I’ll typically drip like a maniac immediately post-shower, soak my clothes through, then dry out nicely an hour later in the complimentary chill of subway car AC or the relief of a breezy Manhattan street corner. Deodorant is a must and part of the unwritten social contract, but antiperspirant is a futile gesture, a band-aid on Hoover Dam. It may work for the elegant post-debutante attempting to guard her silk chiffon from the unsightly damp, but not for me. I wouldn’t trust a guy who wears antiperspirant. People pointed to Nixon’s excessive sweating as evidence of his flawed character, but I think it’s an important indicator of where you stand with someone. Obama’s curiously bone dry dress shirts are still standing between him and my vote.

The drops reach critical mass on my upper back, gravitate toward center, and begin their southern river run toward the lower back and areas less mentionable. I wipe my forehead with an equally sweaty forearm then with the bunched fabric of my small umbrella. The sweat takes on a desperate quality as I strain to look down the rail for signs of an approaching headlight; check the dead air for movement and the glorious stirring of atmosphere just prior to an arriving carriage. And then five minutes later it appears, doors opening to refreshing, refrigerated relief. Say what you will about the trials of the MTA, at least they got this right.

Six hours on it’s dark, humid, and still threatening. I’m above ground in the Great Jones Cafe on the Lower East Side, hunched over a frosty Stella Artois and pulled pork sandwich. The Mets are beating the Phils, the jukebox playing Sly Stone on vinyl 45, and the waitresses scurrying to turn the tables over one last time. Suddenly two of them are at the hinged front door, gazing out in gasped wonder at the New York sky making good on a three day promise. There is no build up or pretense this time, only a crack of thunder like ball hitting bat then sheets of monsoon-quality water drenching the pavement. I throw some cash down and grab my umbrella, determined to put it to good use after toting it around all day. Outside, my bumbershoot proves antiperspirant ineffective; it’s raining so hard that the splash-back from the ground is like an inverse sky drenching. Constant electric-blue flashes dominate above with no gap between lightning and thunder. The storm is literally on top of Manhattan, illuminating walls of concrete like some kind of skyscraper freak show. In seconds I’m drenched.

I arrive home an hour later leaving my soaked clothes and shoes in a pile just inside the front door, the ineffective umbrella a disheveled afterthought and useless cherry on top. I’ve gone from wet to dry to wet again, all within a single day’s rhythm. Changing in to a dry pair of shorts, I set the bedside fan on medium-high, click the reading lamp and open my book. Outside it’s quiet and the rain has stopped.

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