The second in a series of blog-posts recalling my grandfather’s salty response to intense heat.
And so it came to pass that in the final week of August, in the year of 1973 A.D., the Devil arose from his sulfurous perch in the hinterlands of the wicked dead and claimed the coast of Connecticut for his own.
From Greenwich east to Pawcatuck, Old Scratch exerted his otherworldly hold, turning the air as hot and thick as chowder, acquainting millionaires and ditch-diggers alike with the fury of blinding daytime heat and the frustration of soul-sapping night-sweats.
Like any God-fearing, cod-eating New Englander, my grandfather tried to take Beelzebub’s arrival in stride. But by Tuesday, it was clear that this was no average dog-days heat wave:
By Wednesday, Abaddon’s brutality was clearly starting to skew my grandfather’s mind, spawning twisted visions never seen in more clement conditions:
By Thursday, my grandfather was clearly in the grip of King Crimson himself, scrawling nonsense words that suggest the final, desperate entries found in the logs of long-abandoned ghost ships:
And by Friday … well, you remember the guy in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” who gets a glimpse of the Ark, and then his face melts? Well, I think my grandfather’s face melted after he wrote the following calendar entry:
Seriously: I went so far as to Google this, to find out whether “blisterbitcher” is some common colloquial term for a heat wave that I’d never heard, or some distant New Englandism I never managed to pick up in my time there.
It isn’t. This is completely the invention of my grandfather, fed up with a savage and unrelenting blast of heat, venting his frustrations on his calendar, spilling heedlessly over the black lines as he captures just how infernally freaking hot it’s been all week.
Just as Psalm 22 includes the invocation, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?,” my grandpa’s calendar declares, “BLISTERBITCHER.” They’re really the same thing, if you look at them the right way.
The heat wave of August 1973 spilled over into the weekend, before rains on the night of Sept. 2 and morning of Sept. 3 ushered in more temperate conditions — and freed Connecticut from the tyrannical rule of The Beast Whose Number Is Three Times 222.
Maybe someday I’ll share my grandfather’s calendar entries from Sept. 1 and 2, which are entertaining in their own right.
For now, I’m going to suggest that any heat wave that reaches five straight days over 85 degrees be officially known as a “blisterbitcher.” I might even contact my elected state representative and see if I can’t get that passed into law. (At very least, I expect to hear that term out of the mouths of my local TV weathermen this summer. I mean, c’mon. Isn’t it perfect?)
And I understand that late at night, in certain seedy bars in the shoreline districts of New Haven and New London, when the streets are empty and the mugs are full, the locals still get a certain look in their eyes as they tell stories about the Great Blistahbitchah of ’73.