In its aftermath, an inquiry found, unsurprisingly, that the majority of those who died were poor, old, and lived alone. More surprising was the gender imbalance: significantly more men died than women. This was especially strange considering that in Chicago in July of 1995, there were more old women who lived alone than old men.
What made these men more vulnerable than the women? It wasn’t physical circumstances. Both groups lived mostly in “single room occupancy” buildings, or SROs—apartments of one room in what used to be called flophouses. It was social circumstances. The phrase “No known relatives” appears repeatedly in police reports of the dead men’s homes. Letters of regret were found on floors and in backs of drawers: “I would like to see you if that’s possible, when you come to the city”; “It seems to me that our family should have gotten along.” The single rooms of the deceased are described as “roach infested” and “a complete mess,” indicating few or no visitors. The women, according to Eric Klinenberg, who wrote a book on the heat wave, had people who checked up on them and so kept them alive; the men did not. “When you have time please come visit me soon at my place,” read another letter, unsent.
What conditions lead to this kind of isolation? Why men?
Looking back, I’m surprised at how fast I unravelled, how the energyless fog of depression condensed into an electric psychosis, how despair became madness. One day, one of my editors had asked if I was all right. I said: “No, I’m not,” and started listing conflicts and confusions. (I was also surprised that she asked: I mean, it’s generally not the way that bosses look out for their employees.) A few days later I was in hospital.
Madness comes at you fast, to paraphrase the social media cliché.
But when “Frozen” was set in motion, Disney could not have known it would arrive on Broadway during an especially competitive time — directly opposite the new and acclaimed “Harry Potter” play. Another complication: “Frozen” fever is pervasive — the show has been adapted on ice, at Disney California Adventure Park and on a Disney cruise ship, and its characters and costumes are highly merchandised.
Because the “Frozen” material is so familiar, and the fans so intense, finding the right balance between replica and reinvention is complicated.
While Collingham ably catalogues the quest for ingredients that began in the 16th century with West Country fishermen setting sail to search for cod, some remark on the culmination of this imperial adventure would not go amiss. An acknowledgement, even, that the UK is now a neo-imperialist food economy, still using other people’s land and low wage foreign labour to feed its appetite. But perhaps such analysis is beyond the historian’s remit.