Thursday, August 25, 2005 | It’s still August, with September still a week away, and we have already had a mild attack of Acorn Fever here in San Diego.

For three weeks, it was hot and humid all the way to the coast. The summer monsoon arrived as desert weather patterns pulled moisture northward from the more tropical regions of Mexico. That was not unusual, but this time the monsoon had the extra kick of moisture left over from a Gulf of Mexico hurricane, Emily.

This would be more fun if the clouds and rain and thunder reached all the way to the San Diego coast. Instead, the fun weather usually stops at the mountains, so we can see the big thunderheads but not enjoy their effects. West of the mountains, we just get the heat and humidity.

It was hot and sticky enough, even with the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean, to run our home air conditioners.

Then the weather patterns shifted, and the monsoon was cut off, confined to Arizona and New Mexico. In San Diego, meanwhile, the ocean pushed in cool air and morning low clouds and fog.

Going outside in the morning, after the monsoon conditions, it felt almost chilly. A dangerous condition. This is the condition in which Acorn Fever strikes.

A person with Acorn Fever feels the urge to pull on sweat clothes when he rises in the morning. He takes hot coffee outside and snuggles his chin into his sweatshirt and watches the wispy heat rising off his coffee. He gets the urge to build a fire. He looks around for leaves to rake. There aren’t any, but Acorn Fever has been known to generate mirages. Men and women in heavy jackets will be seen raking invisible leaves into invisible piles on perfectly green lawns beneath perfectly green trees.

He gets the urge for a lumberjack breakfast. He feels a need to go to Julian. He gets a craving for apple products, to go to Julian and drink cold cider sold from the back of a vendor’s truck, and go into town for a thick wedge of warm cinnamon-scented apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese melting into the crust.

He has been thrust into this fever by a temperature that has not dropped below 60 degrees. Sept. 20 is still days away, and in downtown office corridors you see turtlenecks and plaid skirts and wool blazers.

Then out in the deserts the weather patterns shift again. Overnight, the morning fog disappears. Oblivious Acorn Fever victims build fires, take up their rakes and wear their sweaters to work. By noon they are caught in temperatures approaching 80 on the coast and 90 in the inland valleys. Emergency crews are called, but when they arrive, normally they only find puddles of sweat and wet woolens where the Fever attacks were reported.

These are the earliest Acorn Fever conditions I can remember, and I have lived in San Diego for 33 years. You’d think in that time I’d get wise, but in the cool mornings I would pull on my sweats. Then one morning I had a nice bowl of corn meal mush when I suddenly felt hot. I heard the TV weatherman say a high of 85 today. I looked down and saw splashes of sweat on the hearth.

I took a cool shower and felt better, and I was fine after a couple of chili dogs for lunch.

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at www.michaelgrant.com.

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