Monday, June 27, 2011

Life at camp. Or not

Lots of talk about camps these days. Friends are sending kids to swimming camps. Others are going to basketball camps. Teenagers we know are headed to acting camps. They're all sleepaway camps, a chance for young kids to stay away from home for the first time and an opportunity for teens to leave the nest and enjoy some freedom before returning back to their parents, a nice preparation for life after college.

My parents never had any desire to send me off to any camps other than basketball ones and for that I'm forever grateful. I understand their appeal. City-dwellers pack their little ones off to camps in the country where they see real pigs and real crops. Suburban moms and dads load their kids onto a yellow bus that takes them to a green lake where they get to be around water for the only time all year. They learn how to interact with other kids. They learn, I don't know, woodworking skills, so when they return home they can show off the shabbily made hat rack they constructed at camp. It boosts their self-esteem, at least when it's not being stomped out of them by a goon named Billy and his giggling 11-year-old henchmen.

I dreaded the idea of those types of camps as a kid.

Here's how I spent my summers during my elementary school years:

Shot baskets at the city park for five hours a day. Pepper with friends at the baseball field. Played quarterback or wide receiver in pickup football games. Stood on Mott Street alone, throwing a tennis ball against a rock wall for hours at a time, practicing my fielding. Ran around the tennis court for three straight hours, took a half-hour break, went back for two hours. Rode my bike around Janesville, including trips to Lake Elysian. Bought cheap baseball cards at Wiste's with my friend Brandon. Beat everyone in town who had the guts to challenge me in ping-pong.

And I was supposed to give that up for a week or two or three spent at some lake with dozens of kids, none of whom I knew, many of whom likely displayed sociopathic tendencies when lodged in poorly constructed cabins and supervised by horny teens who look the other way at camp shenanigans while getting to second-base with their fellow counselors? Certainly the fact I was not an outdoorsman played into my perhaps-ignorant disdain for camps. I loved being outside, but not if it involved fishing, hunting, fires, tents, bugs, hikes or treks. I wasn't a Boy Scout, at least not an upper-case one.

Only once did I ever come close to going to a real camp. In the summer before sixth grade, I learned I'd been selected to attend the school safety patrol camp in Legionville, near Brainerd. The camp - which supposedly is the only one of its kind in the United States - lasts a week and teaches kids to be crossing guard captains. It's on a lake. I wanted to remove myself from consideration, but I don't know that anyone had ever been done so in the program's history, which goes back decades.

Crossing guards are apparently a Minnesota invention, like Bisquick and the Green Giant. At the camp you learn safety patrol essentials, although I'm not sure what the essentials are: how to hold the flag, how loud to yell at students who walk outside the lines? You learn how to lead your fellow crossing guards. But you also swim and canoe. The camp apparently works, as does Minnesota's attention to school safety patrol. According to this trooper, "since the school patrol began in 1920, there has never been a fatality at a crossing where the school patrol has been on duty."

It's a great achievement. Still, I'm not sure if the camp deserves all the credit for that great safety record. Specifically, how does canoeing and swimming help the junior safety patrol members? What's the connection? Do they teach crossing-guard training at swimming camps?

I fortunately never found out what exactly happens at the crossing guard camp. My parents had already planned a vacation for the week in question, a trip to Kansas City to see my uncle Jerry. Later I heard some stories about the camp, some of which I believed involved depantsings of weaker children. Instead of spending that week in Legionville, I spent it in K.C., taking in a Royals game in their beautiful stadium, seeing Top Gun on the big screen and watching the Celtics clinch the NBA title. All right, so not everything about the week went well.

I missed the camp and missed out on my chance to be a captain. In fact, I didn't become any type of crossing guard, though I did enjoy their efforts as they helpfully kept us safe on the mean streets of Janesville.

My prejudices weren't restricted to sleepaway camps. For a few years, Janesville's Catholic church, St. Ann's, ran a little camp early in the summer, where we gathered with other little Catholics from other little towns for a week of bible study and games. It was as boring as it sounds - sorry, Mom. And with the church one alley away from our home, I had no chance of avoiding the camp or scripture.

Finally, in the summer before seventh grade, I went to my first sleepaway camp. A Pacesetter basketball camp. A week-long camp where I knew no one and had to show off my Janesville skills in front of southwest Minnesota's young hoopsters. It wasn't too stressful, though. The camp was in Fulda. And instead of sleeping in a bunk bed with a snoring roommate, I stayed with my grandma, in an upstairs bed. Instead of eating burnt marshmallows, I ate French toast and bacon - every morning - and hamburgers, roast beef and chocolate shakes at night. It was the type of sleepaway camp I could handle.

Louise didn't have much time for camps as a kid either. She hated the sports and other activities but did manage to capture one honor - the prestigious Boy Chaser Award. She still has the certificate. As parents, we'll probably ignore our own youths and pack our bawling children off to sleepaway camp, where they'll learn crafts and woodworking and improve their self-esteem. They'll swim and canoe and write letters home, telling us how much they love the camp, or at least that's the letters we'll read once the camp censors are finished with their edits.

Or maybe we'll schedule some family vacations for those weeks.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

While crowning the new Tiger, don't bury the old one just yet

Padraig Harrington suggested it, others agreed. Rory McIlroy might have a better chance of passing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championship victories. Rory McIlroy, winner of one major. Rory McIlroy has the better chance and not Tiger Woods, winner of 14 majors.

There are a hundred reasons someone might believe it, although relatively few that make much sense. McIlroy's effort was awe-inspiring, because of the results and the ease with which he dominated. The winning score of -16 would catch your eye if it happened in an August tournament that no one cares about, one that doesn't even end on CBS because it drags on past the 7 p.m. hour and 60 Minutes must start on time. To do it in the U.S. Open is mind-boggling. Yet that score might not even be the most impressive aspect of McIlroy's performance. The when is just as important as the what. He did it two months after collapsing in the final round of the Masters, when he trudged around the course looking like a kid who'd been beaten up on the way to school.

How many sports equivalents can you think of that compare to McIlroy's rebound? It'd be like Buckner hitting three homers in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, or Nick Anderson burying 15 straight free throws in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the 1995 NBA Finals. Athletes who collapse don't bounce back like this, at least not immediately. They can rebound in a year, maybe two, but rarely will it happen in the next big event and often it never happens at all. There's likely never been anyone who's ever dominated like McIlroy did just one major following his disastrous final round. I struggle to think of comparisons. In tennis, Jana Novotna blew the 1993 women's final at Wimbledon and cried on center court. She eventually won her Wimbledon title - five years later.

No, McIlroy stands alone, in more ways than one. But as people praise the kid from Northern Ireland and pronounce him to be the main threat to Jack's record, it's worth stepping back and looking at the guy who's still the dominant figure in golf - even if he's no longer it's dominant player.

With his physical injuries and mental maladies, Tiger Woods has never seemed so diminished, as McIlroy's youthful dominance reminds people of what Tiger once was while making them wonder if he'll ever be close to that again. But this isn't football, baseball or basketball, where athletes peak in their 20s or early 30s. This is golf - the sport where a 60-year-old could be within a par on the 72nd hole of winning a major.

The leg injuries make Tiger seem older than he is and they might ultimately end his career prematurely, along with his chase of Nicklaus. But the calendar says he is still 35, even if his body and our eyes say different.

He's 35. And he's won 14 majors. It seems like he hasn't won one in forever and it seems like he never will again. Think of the columns that run after every one of his major failures. He might not catch Nicklaus. He's losing time. He's blowing too many opportunities. Nicklaus is out of reach. The articles have been written since his dramatic U.S. Open victory in 2008.

But then think about this: If Tiger wins one of his next 11 majors - just one out of the next 11 - he'll be ahead of Nicklaus' career pace. Jack didn't win his 15th major until the 1978 British Open, when he was 38 years old. He didn't win 16 and 17 until he was 40. The last two and a half years Tiger's gone winless in the majors and to hear commentators - who dissect his swing with the intensity of Oliver Stone looking at the Zapruder film - you'd think he had the ugliest game outside of Charles Barkley. Terrible swing, he's lost it with the putter, no confidence. Yet since 2009, these are his finishes in the majors:

2009: T6, T6, Missed cut, 2.
2010: T4, T4, T23, T28.
2011: T4.

And that's with a bad swing and no game. What if he gets more comfortable with his swing and with his new life? Is it that difficult to picture him again reeling off victory after victory?

This drought is also nothing new for Tiger, even if the circumstances - crashes! women! sex! Perkins waitresses! rehab! golf clubs to the head! - are unlike anything else. He's played in nine majors without a victory. After his 1997 Masters triumph, he went 10 majors without a victory, before winning the 1999 PGA. Then, after steamrolling golf in 2000-2002, he went 10 more majors without a victory, before winning the 2005 Masters. During those dry spells, the same columns were written - he's lost his confidence, he's lost his swing, what's he doing, who's the next Tiger? But both times he figured it out. And when Tiger begins to win, when he does figure out the new swing that everyone thinks looks worse than the old one, the victories come in bunches - three majors in a year, four in two years. We've seen these struggles before, but we've also seen the turnaround. He's gone nine majors now without a victory. Maybe it will again be 10. But then?

The injuries, of course, provide a driver-sized asterisk to all of this. If he can hurt his knee while swinging under a tree at the Masters, what's going to happen the next time he takes one of his vicious cuts from a vicious lie? Health is the great unknown, as it is for any athlete. But we should know what will happen if he does stay upright.

And one more note on McIlroy's victory and how it compares to Tiger's 2000 romp at Pebble Beach. Was it more dominant? More impressive? It was certainly a lower score. Rory won by eight, a nearly unfathomable number. Yet Tiger nearly doubled that margin of victory, winning by 15. And this year, 38 players finished the U.S. Open at +2 or better. In 2000? One player - just one - did that.

Does it mean Tiger Woods will ever be that good again? Of course not. But chances are - whether it's this year or next, two majors from now or five - he'll again be great.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reverend George and the Lakers

I'll never forget June 13, 2004. I remember it on the anniversary every year.

The Detroit Pistons defeated the Lakers 88-80 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead, despite 36 points from Shaquille O'Neal. At the end of the night I knew the Lakers' dynasty was all but dead. The championship run had ended the year before and now the Shaq-Kobe-Phil era was entering its final days.

I also got married that day.

Happily, the details of the ceremony remain more vivid than those from the game.

The ceremony took place near a pond in Central Park. Perfect setting. Nice weather - which prevented me from having to answer my dad's earlier-asked question, "What are you doing if it rains?" My parents, sister, and two of my oldest friends flew in from Minnesota. Louise's mom was there from Cape Town. A small group of friends gathered. People enjoying a picnic in the park cheered after the vows.

And then there was Reverend George.

We found Reverend George in the Yellow Pages. An interfaith minister who could perform any ceremony for the right price, the reverend said he possessed decades of experience and came highly recommended - I believe there were two exclamation points next to his Yellow Pages ad. A few weeks before the ceremony, George came to our apartment for the quickie equivalent of pre-marriage counseling. I suppose he had to make sure we were a male and female and he said he wanted to chat with us about the ceremony and get to know us better. Instead the night turned into a therapy session for the reverend, who expressed his frustration with an ungrateful daughter. He complained about her and cut her down. For every question he asked us, he delivered a pair of stinging insults about his child. At various times I retreated to the kitchen with Louise, leaving Reverend George with her mom, where I asked her, "Did we hire a psycho for our wedding? But you said he's pretty affordable, right?"

Still, he seemed competent. Perhaps even licensed. On our wedding day, he showed up wearing a robe and a smile. Very personable man in public. He joked with my folks and organized the gathered guests. He didn't know anything about us - our histories, personalities, likes or dislikes - yet he collected a few scraps of info we provided and cobbled together a short speech about "Shawn and Louise." He mentioned the long-distance relationship we had and said Louise's accent must have surely made it easier. It did. Good line.

Then he started talking about the vows and he brought up the accent again. He knew I wouldn't forget hearing Louise's vows, not with that accent. Oh, that accent. The accent. Finally, because it was getting weird and because I felt like I had to defend my role as Louise's husband - even if in the law's eyes I wasn't technically fulfilling that role yet - I interrupted the reverend and said, "Hey, who's the one getting married here?" It snapped him out of his accent-induced haze.

He stammered, regained his composure and finished the ceremony. Later, as we accepted congratulations from our friends and family, Reverend George slid up to me and apologized if he had overstepped his bounds. For a brief second, he flinched, as if he thought I might belt him in front of all our guests and all his gods. I assured him I wasn't offended. We invited him to the reception back at our apartment. He politely declined, perhaps spooked off by the possibility that in his inebriated state he'd reveal even more about his love of South African accents and his hatred for his daughter.

We were lucky we still had a reception to offer up. Two days earlier, Louise called a few friends of hers, telling them the reception - although not the marriage - was off. The cause? Our pilot light had gone out. Now, we had just moved into our apartment. I came from a land of electric ovens, Louise came from a land where you cooked outside over fire. When the pilot light went out, and the smell of gas polluted our small kitchen in our studio, we both expected the worst - death, perhaps by explosion, maybe by poisoning. Before I had a chance to look online, knock on the super's door or call my parents - pilot-light veterans - Louise hopped on the phone and called the whole thing off. Without a pilot light, she couldn't cook the food she had planned for the reception. Not to mention the logistical difficulties that arise from holding a wedding reception in a burning apartment.

A few minutes after those calls, our super came and relit it. Then I talked to my parents and they said it happens all the time. And in the seven years since, it has happened several times and we've managed to light it back up every time.

We had a blast at the reception, figuratively. My parents were able to talk to Louise's mom for the first - and thus far, the only - time in their lives. My old Minnesota pals met my new New York friends. My sister got sick because of too much South African wine and not enough food. Throughout the night I glanced at the TV, and watched the Lakers take the lead, before they fell into a tie, and then fell apart for good.

The night concluded with us taking the train to the Pennsylvania Hotel. We enjoyed our wedding night in a gorgeous suite. Our first night as man and wife. I turned on ESPN to see the final score of the Lakers game. I knew that night was the end of an era.

But even better, I knew it was the start of a new life.

Happy anniversary, honey.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The night Magic and Barkley both had 30-20 games

Late November NBA games are usually forgotten by early December. It's the first month of an eight-month season and barring a season-ending injury, the results are all-but inconsequential, at least in terms of division races or playoff positioning. But special performances, even at the start of the season, will be remembered long after the end of it. And thanks to dedicated fans with internet connections, old game tapes and time on their hands, those games are now preserved decades after they were played.

Such is the case with a game between the Lakers and Sixers on November 28, 1988. The Lakers won a close one, but the individual performances from a pair of Hall of Famers are what stand out. Barkley played all but one minute and scored 31 points - despite making only 5 of 14 free throws - grabbed 23 rebounds and had six assists. Magic kept pace with 32 points, 20 assists and 11 boards.

The '89 season was a strange one for the Lakers, one that marked the end of a career and an era. It was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's final season and there was no doubt it was time. Kareem was no longer the Kareem of 1975, or even '85. In 1987, at the age of 40, he scored 32 points in Game 6 of the Finals. A year later, again in Game 6, the Lakers went to him in the closing seconds and he hit a pair of free throws as the Lakers held off the Pistons and clinched their second straight title in Game 7. But he struggled throughout his final campaign, a season that saw him honored and celebrated in cities throughout the league. Before the games would begin, the teams would present Kareem with gifts - some heartwarming, some corny, some ridiculous - honoring his efforts and unparalleled career. He often played like the old man he'd become, averaging only 10 points per game.

As a team, the Lakers were now firmly under Magic's control. He won his second MVP in 1989, averaging 22 points, 12.8 assists and 8 rebounds a game. Michael Jordan - the second-best player in league history after LeBron James - finished second in the voting, despite averaging an absurd 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for a Bulls team that went 47-35.

The Lakers started the 1989 season 15-3, but soon lost six of seven and meandered through the remainder of the never-ending campaign. They finished 57-25, but found their game in the playoffs, sweeping the first 11 games before facing the Pistons in the Finals, in a series where David Rivers and Tony Campbell played prominent roles. It didn't end well. I forget the details.

But all that was still far down the road when the Lakers traveled to Philly. The Lakers had lost their previous game to Detroit and Magic must have suffered some type of leg injury - his season of course ended with a hamstring injury against those same Pistons - as Chick Hearn says, early in the game, that Magic isn't limping.

The Sixers managed to win 46 games in 1989, despite running out a lineup that had prominent roles for Mike Gminski and Chris Welp. Barkley was, of course, the star, averaging 25 and 12 rebounds. He still had a lot of the roundness that gave rise to his nickname and he was still a year away from a season that saw him finish second in the MVP voting. But he was certainly a force.

To the tape.

* I always loved watching games on television from Philadelphia's Spectrum. The games somehow looked different in the famous old arena, whether it was the distinctive color scheme or having the benches on the near-side, so we see the back of Riley's perfect hair instead of his strained face.

* Magic starts the game with several patented drives, showing off his ability to slide through the defense with the ease of a player six inches shorter. Perhaps the short shorts helped by providing less resistance as he flew through the paint.

* At the 2:20 mark, a low point for Kareem - Mike Gminski easily blocks the Captain's shot. It wasn't a hook, but humiliating nonetheless. The all-time leading scorer, one of the most dominant forces in league history, perhaps the most dominant college player in history (I know, I know, Walton was a "better" college player, but Kareem's the one with three NCAA titles), and now, here, in his 20th season, he's rejected by Mike Gminski. A Dukie. It was time to retire.

* I love the pass from Magic to A.C. Green at the 3:05 mark. Green was no Worthy on the break. Still, he often found easy baskets by running down the middle of the court, ahead of Magic, who had the ability to laser or lob a pass to the power forward. Passes like the one at the 40-second mark of this video. Green had a reputation, deserved, for blowing layups. At least he converts this one.

* Worthy put up 14 points and seven rebounds in the first quarter. Never known as a great rebounder, Worthy proved it by grabbing only three more the rest of the game.

* At the 5:12 mark, a Scott Brooks sighting! Scrappy, short, not very good. The player Timberwolves fans would come to know in the coming years. Michael Cooper easily rejects Brooks' shot at one point, a play that looks like me defending my 11-year-old niece. Create, Scotty. Pass. Scrap. Annoy. Don't shoot.

* The game is a dunkathon for Barkley, who one minute, as he wanders up the court after a rebound, looks like a 54-year-old banker trying to keep up with a 21-year-old at a noon YMCA game, but the next looks like the heaviest sprinter in Olympic history as he rumbles down the lane, filling it in a way that A.C. Green could never imagine.

* Brooks defends Magic. Forget this looking like me going against my 11-year-old niece. This looks like my 11-year-old niece trying to guard Magic. Not the highlight of Jim Lynam's coaching career.

* Stu Lantz is now in his fourth decade as an analyst for the Lakers. Today he talks constantly on broadcasts, dominating the conversation. He's the analyst in this game with Chick. He doesn't get many words in, other than providing wrong information five seconds into the broadcast when he says the Lakers have won seven straight games in Philly. Chick corrects him - they'd won seven straight overall. Otherwise, Lantz delivers three-second remarks while Chick carries the broadcast in his unique way, commenting that the mustard's off the hot dog after an errant fancy Magic pass and controlling the pace of the broadcast with the type of ease and confidence Magic used while controlling the game on the court.

* Magic's assist pace actually faltered. He picked up his 12th at the 5:20 mark - of the second quarter. But as he did in so many Lakers games, especially when he took over as the primary scorer from Kareem, he looked for his own offense when the game got tight in the closing minutes.

* The force of nature Barkley displays his jaw-dropping abilities at the 10:20 mark, making the steal, pushing it upcourt and delivering a perfect behind-the-back pass for a layup. Awesome to watch.

* After the Sixers take their first lead of the game, Magic responds with a 3-pointer, which Chick says is just his third of the season, in 16 attempts. The '89 season would actually be the first when Magic showed any real ability to threaten from beyond the arc. He made 58 three-pointers total his first eight seasons. He made 59 in 1989, 106 the following season. In 1988 he hit 19 percent of his three-pointers. Horrific, yet quite a bit better than 1983, when he went 0 for...21! By 1990 he was hitting 38 percent. Yeah, he worked on his jumper in the pros.

* At the 14:29 mark, with 30 seconds left in the game, Magic throws in an impossible lefty shot in the lane that puts the Lakers up six. Chick, somewhat surprisingly, puts the game in the refrigerator, even though it was still only a two-possession game. The Sixers still had a shot, actually. They had Hersey Hawkins, a threat from deep. They still had Barkley who could barrel to the lane quickly and turn it into a free-throw shooting contest.

But Chick still puts in the fridge, shuts the door with the light off and the eggs cooling. Why? Because he knew the Lakers had Magic.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Heating up before cooling down

Louise says fuck maybe 20 times a year. She used 15 of them today. It's what happens when we install an air-conditioner. Today it was the bedroom one.

We moved into our apartment in January 2005 and the bedroom A.C. went in about four months later. It stayed there until this past January, through six summers and just as many winters. We knew we'd have to put the old gal out of her misery after last summer, when it seemed ready to die every time it powered on. It coughed and wheezed, rumbled and sputtered. Occasionally we had to adjust the power cord because if you held, it would run.

The A.C. lasted as long as it did simply because we dreaded replacing it. We don't have a good history with air conditioners. More specifically, I don't have a good history with them.

Years ago - I think when they were still dreading their upcoming 50th birthdays instead of lamenting being on the other side of 60 - my parents bought a three-ton apparatus that still survives. It lives in the rear of the garage nine months of the year. Every year my mom fights to get the beast installed the first time the Janesville Bank announces a temperature of 80 degrees, and every year my dad fights it off until temperatures reach triple digits. You'd think the person who's melting would hold the upper-hand in the debate, but it's not always so. When I lived at home I carried it in with my dad, up the flimsy porch steps that verge on collapse even under the best of circumstances, through the sliding door and around the TV.

The curse words fly there too, usually in relation to a bad back, a wayward chair or crushed fingers. It never goes smoothly. Occasionally feelings are hurt, in addition to limbs. Legend has it my brother-in-law, or was it one of his friends, carried the damn thing by themselves one year but that might just be a Janesville myth. The A.C. goes in the living room, an old bucket sits on the porch underneath it collecting water. It's a monumental moment the first time someone flicks it on. A 747 on takeoff makes less sound than my parents' air conditioner but the thing keeps blasting out that cold air in the hot summer months. My nephew has taken over my role in the installation process. It's nearly a hundred in Minnesota now. I'm guessing there's some cursing and aching backs in the near-future for those in the Fury household.

During my time in Fargo, I never paid for utilities. I took this as a reason to abuse the environment. In the summer months my A.C. ran constantly, even if I was at work. When I lived in the infamous Universal Building, I had an A.C. that cost about as much as a supersized value meal at McDonald's. Remarkably it worked, and I got the most out of my purchase. It ran night and day, when I was at home and when I was away. To turn it off meant courting death, as the temperature and humidity in my upper-floor apartment rivaled anything found in the tropics. Eventually ice formed in the window. Big chunks. Large, white chunks. It looked like the inside of an unthawed refrigerator. It was time to turn it off.

In New York, we went without an A.C. in our living room for two years. My two oldest nephews visited in the summer of 2005, right when a suffocating, evil heat wave hit the city. As we relaxed in our cool bedroom, they slept on our living-room futon. I think there's probably still some bitterness there on their part. One morning I walked out and saw Brady sprawled out on the floor, a miniature fan - really miniature, like three inches high - pathetically blowing about three inches from his face. It was a sad sight. He's a teenager, I figured. He's in New York, on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. He shouldn't be complaining. Actually I felt terrible but there was nothing I could do so I retreated back to the safety of the bedroom.

A few years later we put one in the living room. We fought and perspired. We wept and swore - at the machine, and each other. Finally we stuffed it into the window, convinced it'd eventually plummet six floors down to a vacant lot, killing our chances at a cool summer, if not an actual person. Louise plugged it in. She hit power.


If this had been a badly written sitcom, the credits would have rolled down the screen while I held the power cord, baffled. The crowd would cheer while someone said, "SHAWN AND LOUISE IS FILMED IN FRONT OF A LIVE STUDIO AUDIENCE." We tried a different socket and received the same result. Uninstalling it proved as difficult as installing. But soon enough I hailed a cab and hauled it back 40 blocks south to the electronics store that sold it. Ninety minutes later I found Louise in a puddle of a sweat - or were those tears? By that point, with our spirits broken, we had no time for anger or swearing or annoyance. We installed the new machine, hit the power button and relaxed, knowing we wouldn't have to do that for another two, three...four years.

Today was the day. Temperatures will reach into the upper 90s in NYC this week. For a week or so, Louise has left the bedroom in the middle of the night, surrendering to the heat, so she can sleep in the cool living room. So we gave it a go today. I did the heavy lifting, Louise did the heavy work, handling the drill, screws, fans, sides and swearing. I hovered on our fire escape at one point, six floors up, again imagining what would happen if something - an air conditioner or, say, a 35-year-old man who weighs about 215 pounds - fell six stories to the cement below.

Our security gate complicated the efforts, caging Louse in at one point, pinning her against the window while I went to the bathroom to find a Band-Aid and some NeoSporin for a cut, which came courtesy of some stray metal at the back of the air conditioner. While Louise helpfully told me I would likely die of tetanus, I climbed back onto the fire escape as she put the final screws in. We slammed the window shut and plugged it in. We hit power. And it came on without a problem.

Louise is relaxing in the bedroom now. I'd join her. But first I'm going to let her cool off.