A bit too thick to breathe, a bit too thin to plow

The National Weather Service assures us all that autumn officially arrived last Saturday. It also assures us all that something approximating autumn weather should arrive in North Texas by this coming Friday. As usual, I’ll believe it when I see it. We’re currently getting the weather that was held up last August, which means sun, heat, and dryness. It’s great for stargazers, because the humidity is regularly hitting 15 to 20 percent in the evening. My plants, though, are screaming.

I could bring up all sorts of anecdotal and chronicled evidence as to the horrible air quality in Dallas right now. I could mention that ragweed pollen levels are at the highest measured in fifty years. I could remind you that we had several air pollution alert days. I could bring up the natural history of how North Texas is the depository of all of the garbage in the air from Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, thanks to our unceasing summer southern wind. I could go political and mention the cement kilns in Midlothian, just south of here, which still burn all sorts of garbage without pollution filters. (Hey, at least they’re no longer burning toxic waste, no thanks to our governor, who threw a tantrum and threatened secession when the EPA stepped in.) I could list all sorts of factors, from the ongoing drought in South Texas that leads to pulverized earth blowing hundreds of miles north, to the amount of rubber coming off car tires that has to go somewhere. Any way you slice it, North Texas air is, to steal an old gag from Mad magazine from the Seventies, thick enough that a cubic foot can be mailed anywhere in the continental US.

However, all of this book-larnin’ isn’t enough. Two pictures sum things up the best as to why the end of September is so hellish out here before the rains come. Two weeks ago, the Czarina and I changed the air filter on the air conditioner in the house, figuring that things weren’t quite so bad this year. These are standard air filters, which should be replaced every two to three months. I’ll remind you: this is after two weeks.

Air filter, top

Air filter, bottom

And before you ask, yes, these used to be white. After two weeks, they normally might have a tinge of dust, not enough schmutz in them in which you could plant potatoes and carrots. No wonder nothing seemed to allow me to breathe at night.

Well, this leads to a few discussions of the future. I can accept that most of the detritus in the filter comes to us by way of the drought. However, if this keeps up for next year, it may be time to move to a place with better general air quality. Los Angeles or Houston, say. At this point, figuring that this also illustrates the condition of my lungs, Gary, Indiana isn’t out of the question.

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