It's not about the house.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Never Beat

The thing about the AssVac (well a thing about the AssVac) is that it was very well designed for dog days in New England. I don’t know for sure if it was originally built to be a summer cottage, but we suspect as much, because of the practically-waterfront location, and the fact that all the houses around here just look like summer cottages. Quaint, you know, and flimsy-like. Which means they weren’t necessarily constructed with an eye towards retaining heat in wintertime, but they sure as heck know how to keep it out in August.

This is nice for me, because I’ve never been fond of air conditioning. Except when we lived in that skank railroad apartment in South Boston. That p.u. place was located on street level, so we could never open windowshades unless we wanted to put on a show for all the locals. And let me tell you a little something about the Southie locals: not as charming as they’re made out in the movies. Not by half. Not by quarter, for that matter. Yuck.

(Point in fact: Jill Quigg – the local woman Ben Affleck plucked from a barstool to play the part of the best friend in Gone Baby Gone? Any sane person would have got herself an agent and turned that lightning-strike into the opportunity of a lifetime. Ms. Quigg cashed her check and drank herself homeless. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the real South Boston. Those Affleck boys grew up in Cambridge. They don’t know the half. Or the quarter, for that matter. Yuck.)

Of course (getting back to that old apartment), it wouldn’t have mattered, cross-ventilation-wise, if we did open the windows – what with it being railroaded and all. Plus, there was the smell of moldy dead things always wafting up through the air ducts from the wet dirt basement.

Good times.

So yeah, in that apartment, for the two summers we were there, we sucked it up and got an air conditioner. Actually, Mom & Dad bought it for us. A window one. We used it while we were there and then when we got kicked out (thank god) for reporting the landlord to Inspectional Services because of an annoying lack of heat, we took the a/c unit with us to our fabulous apartment in North Quincy. For the five years we lived there we never plugged it in, not once. And then we moved it here. Even a/c devotees would probably agree that we don’t need it here, but we’re still keeping it around. For the day we lose the house and wind up back in scumbagville with all the other legionnaires. It’s in the basement as I type this, feeling sorry for itself.

We don’t need it here because the AssVac was built to stand against the August heat. She’s a big rectangle, with the long sides (and therefore most of the windows) facing north and south – where lie, conveniently enough, the two bodies of water that the property sits between. Therefore, voilá, the seabreeze blows right through.

Oh hell, I’ll show you. Here:

That little yellow sort-of triangle in the middle there? That’s my piece of the planet. And the grey rectangle on the bottom of it is the AssVac. So you see? The seabreeze – whoosh!

This seabreeze thing is also, by the way, why I have to pay more than you do for homeowners insurance. And why there was a tree branch sticking through the bedroom ceiling when we bought it. And why we had to spend the best part of a year and more dozens of thousands of dollars than I care to enumerate on de-yucking the house enough to walk through without having to throw up out one of those north-facing windows.

Good times.

But this whole keeping-the-warm-air out thing is not as nice in April as in August. That first spring we lived here I refused to turn on the heat – partly because it was freaking May and partly because I was convinced the furnace would blow as soon as we turned it on (it didn’t; it lasted two entire winters after that. Hu-bleedin’-zzah.) – and so that first spring is a haze for me of shivery, chin-wiping vapors. And beer. Buckets and buckets of mind-numbing beer.

Good times!

Since then, we’ve grown accustomed to the notion that it will always be at least ten degrees colder inside the AssVac than out. We’ve apologized to all the spinning New Englanders in the graveyard up the road, and made peace with the idea of turning on the heat in April. We don’t like it, but we do – though I still put my foot down firmly come the first of May.

So April is now, for us, a balancing act. Do we open the windows and let in the fresh air, even though it means we’ll have to turn the heat on when we shut them? Or do we leave them closed and save those dear degrees? I have mentioned how cash-strapped we are, about a billion times now, haven’t I? And gas heat does cost money, after all. Yet, have I ever also mentioned that my husband smokes? Inside the house? All winter?

I’ve been opening the windows. Only on random odd days here and there – when it’s at least 70 degrees outside – and only for a little while at a time. I get home from work, throw the house wide for the fresh air, then sit at my computer shivering until I just can’t stand it anymore (meaning, oh, about 45 minutes), then run around closing it up and turn the heat on.

Good times!

I was complaining the other day to Johnny about this, and he said: “Why don’t you open the windows before you go to work? Shut the heat off and let it air out while you’re away, then close it up again when you get home?”


So that’s what we did. On Thursday. Which happens to be the day I wrote about before, when I wound up asking Johnny for his sweatshirt. Same night on which I may (or may not) have consumed a few too many beers. Because we stopped over at the neighbor’s house on our way home from work that evening (oh yeah: news! We have nice neighbors! More about them later!) and we wound up sitting in their back garden for an hour or four. Good times. Really, this time. Until the chimenea fell apart, that is, and we realized that 42 degrees Fahrenheit is not the temperature most conducive towards sitting in back gardens.

It was well past dark when we got home. And would you like to know what the temperature inside the AssVac was?


That’s colder than they recommend you keep an empty house at so the pipes don’t freeze, but still a whopping twelve degrees warmer than the air outside. So I’d like to think that we are at least gaining ground.



theotherbear said...

There must have been lots of beer involved if you were sitting outside at that temperature (which I had to convert to Celcius before realising how cold it really is). It is freezing here today - for Australia, and for this time of year - with a high of 62F. I am weak and used to the hot sun so it's a shock for me. The last 2 weeks have been freezing because I have been on holidays, which is the only time of year it rains and gets cold, of course.
Still, I'd love to be so close to the water as you to get a nice sea breeze!

EGE said...

Yeah, I'm going on vacation this week, so I fully expect it to snow.

(And yes, there was lots of beer involved, but also a nice warm fire -- until the chimenea broke!)

su said...

Did Johnny get pinkeye?