City Paper is not for tourists
Aug. 19Under a shady pine, near the reflecting pool at the base of the U.S. Capitol, Raymond Johnson is doing push-ups. He does 24. Not bad for a 50-year-old who’s exercising outside in the District in late summer.
Johnson’s been whacking weeds for two hours this Tuesday morning. His gray long-sleeved National Park Service uniform shirt is soaked with perspiration. But Johnson won’t complain about today’s weather. “It’s not bad,” he says. “A beautiful day.”
“Normally,” adds Johnson’s coworker, Corey Fielder, “we’d be baking out here.”
Actually, the weather is almost exactly normal. It’s partly sunny and 75 degrees at 9:20 a.m., according to WTOP. The station is forecasting a high of 86one degree below the historical average for Aug. 19 in D.C. The Washington Post is calling for 86, as well. There is no heat advisory and no storm warning, and the air quality is “moderate.”
Around 10:30 a.m., in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Kisha Kantasingh is filling in a crossword puzzle. An art history major at Trinity College, Kantasingh spent most of the summer abroad. “This is nothing like Angola,” she says. Compared to her month in steamy Rwanda this June and a week afterward in cold, rainy Amsterdam, Kantasingh considers the District a happy medium. “It’s perfect weather,” she says.
“There’s low humidity,” explains John Wenchel, taking a cigarette break with Washington Gas coworker Gene Wiggins, at the corner of G and 12th Streets NW. “That’s what makes the difference.”
Nearby, a group of couriers hang out on the G Street sidewalk beside parked scooters. “Today, it ain’t blazin’ hot,” says Thomas Dutch, chewing on a toothpick while revving up his yellow Kymco scooter. “If it stays like this, I can ride all day.”
The conditions are roughly what the public should have expected, one expert says. “We associate heat and humidity with August around here,” says NBC4 meteorologist Gene Broadwater. “But it’s nearly average today. We just have high-pressure systems dropping in from the north, bringing some north winds and a little drier air than usual.”
Around noon, as the thermometer at National Airport is passing the 80-degree mark, Samuel Waddell and Robert Sylva mill around the Navy Memorial, sporting white sailor suits beneath black jackets, waiting to watch the rifle-spinning drill performance. Even in their heat-trapping black jackets, they say they aren’t too toasty today. “Usually,” says Waddell, “we’re sweating like hound dogs.”
On a park bench close by, construction worker Nick Kane takes drags off a cigarette and swigs from a can of Bud in a brown bag, after finishing his sandwich. Kane notes the “nice breeze.” He calls it “comfortable workin’ weather.”
At 1:30 p.m., the digital sign outside Citibank on Pennsylvania Avenue SE reads 88 degrees. Two Jehovah’s Witnesses hand out pamphlets to passersby. “It’s a very mild, pleasant day today,” says Roy Jones, offering a paper titled “The Greatest Name.” Jones is sitting in the shade. “A couple of days from now,” he says, “I understand, it’s gonna get hot again.”
TV forecaster Broadwater confirms Jones’ assessment. “Everybody’s been happy with it the last couple of days,” Broadwater says. “But they’ll start complaining tomorrow through Friday.”
Up the avenue, near the corner of 3rd Street SE, Danny Hinton strips off his black Three Stooges T-shirt and uses it as a towel to wipe the sweat from his chest and arms. To Hinton, who is homeless, “It’s hotter than hell.” Informed that the temperature is normal for the season, Hinton replies, “Yeah, I know. That’s what everybody’s tellin’ me. It’s usually hotter than this.” He bums a buck, puts his shirt back on, and heads up the street.
“You hot?” Cheryl Stevens asks her teenage companion, Kassidi Schaufele, at the crosswalk outside the Dirksen Senate Office building along Constitution Avenue NE.
“Nope,” Schaufele initially replies. Stevens says the pair picked today to travel down from Laurel, Md., to see the Library of Congress because the forecast had called for cooler conditions than other days this week. Still, it’s not cool enough for Schaufele, dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans.
“You should have worn shorts,” Stevens nags.
“I’m a little hot,” Schaufele admits.
Just before 3 p.m., a trio of 20-something female friends finish off a late lunch outside a cafe# on 2nd Street NE. At the airport, the temperature is 82.9 degrees, on its way to a lower-than-expected peak of 84. Channel 4 will report a peak of 88.
“I think it’s really nice,” says Santi Duewel. “There’s a breeze.”
“Beats the thunderstorms,” interjects Anne Merwin.
People whine about the weather too much, Duewel adds. “For weeks, it rains, and they complain,” she says. “Finally then it gets sunny. People are like, ‘It’s too hot.’ I mean, what do you want?” CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photographs by Charles Steck.