If you have to be in Atlanta in the summer, you'll want to spend the day standing near an air-conditioning unit, with the vents aimed at your face. By August, walking to your mailbox leaves you flushed and perspiring. Atlanta in the summer is like the steam from a pot of boiling water. People say, "It's so hot the mosquitoes are sticking together."
I was born in Macon, Georgia, and lived in Savannah, Athens and Rome, Georgia (and Dayton, Ohio), before moving to Atlanta in 1982. When my husband and I were first married and lived in Rome (Georgia), we couldn't afford an air conditioner. So we lived as my parents and grandparents had lived in Macon in the pre-home-air-conditioning era: we went to a lot of air-conditioned movies and we opened all the windows at night, to welcome the occasional cool breeze, and then closed them again before dawn. We spent a lot of time strolling slowly, slowly, up and down the freezer aisles of the local Piggly Wiggly grocery; we set up a bowl of ice in front of an oscillating fan; and we finally, on a summer night of supreme misery, sat in our living room with our bare feet resting in a cooler filled with ice water.
I once visited a friend in East Lansing, Michigan, who is an entomologist, studying mosquitoes. He invited me into the closet in which he raised his mosquitoes by the thousands, on dozens of shelves filled with Tupperware containers of still water. It was unpleasant in the closet, hot and close and clammy. "You like this?" he asked.
"You should," he said. "It's Atlanta, August 2, 1985."
Why travelers choose to visit Atlanta in the summer is a mystery to us.
Why they would expect us to step outside our air-conditioned houses to scale, in sneakered blistered feet, the granite bulge called Stone Mountain, in order to achieve an even greater closeness to its Confederate engravings—and to the sun—also eludes us. Why they imagine that we would want to stand with them in a line of sticky untucked people on the parking lot outside the Coca-Cola museum is beyond understanding.
The greatest mystery of all is why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose to bless Atlanta with the 1996 Summer Olympics.
"It's...Ah..." began IOC president Juan Samaranch in the famous announcement on September 18, 1990, the "Ah" sound ruling out everyone but us and Athens, Greece. The entire city fell silent around a hundred thousand radios and televisions, waiting for the next syllable or syllables. "...tlanta," he finally finished.
"Is he crazy?" we asked one another. "Has he actually ever been to Atlanta in summertime?"