My Lizard Life

Gecko and Opuntia Cactus

As the heat dome over the Western US continues, I continue to make like a lizard. Unlike a lizard, however, I seek shady cool places rather than sunny rocks or cacti for my perch. Today, I even went to see a movie: Bullet Train with Brad Pitt was no winner—but at least I sat for three hours in air-conditioned comfort while the people outside the theater looked decidedly wilted.

My dinners lately were very appropriate to a desert dweller. Several days ago, I went to the Persian market across the street and purchased Persian lavash flatbread, French feta cheese, and Turkish pickled vegetables (2 varieties). For breakfast today, I made two quesadillas with flour tortillas, Monterey Jack cheese, and pickled rajas de jalapeño. Despite the hot morning, I had my usual cup of hot Indian black tea with honey and a squeeze of lime.

Tomorrow, while Martine braves the dead hot air of downtown LA, I will probably make my way once again to Burton W. Chace Park in Marina Del Rey to catch stray breezes while reading O. A. Bushnell’s 1963 novel Molokai, about the Hawaiian leper colony. During that time I will constantly hydrate myself with mineral water to keep from getting dehydrated.

This weather is no fun.

Make Like a Lizard

Peruvian Wood Lizard

I have discovered that the best way to survive a hot spell in Southern California is to make like a lizard. We have neither insulation nor air conditioning in the 75-year-old apartment in which we live. All day long, the hot sun heats up the building, and the building holds the heat until just before dawn. We have fans, but use them primarily in the evening, when the inside temperature spikes.

So how does one make like a lizard? For starters, don’t be in much of a hurry—about anything. While Martine went downtown, where it is even hotter, I drove to Trader Joe’s in the Marina, put together a simple picnic lunch, and parked at the end of Mindanao Way at Chace Park. At the peninsula on which the park sits, there is always a cool breeze, a breeze that suddenly disappears a few hundred feet inland.

I sat in a shaded pavilion at a picnic table, ate my lunch, and re-read Ernest Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa. I managed to be comfortable while, in the next pavilion, a group of loud ex-con types were laughing and shouting. They made a snarky comment about my straw hat, which did not faze me because a good straw hat from Latin America is also part of making like a lizard.

Am I beginning to resemble a lizard? I don’t think so, not yet anyhow. What’s more, I have no interest in sitting atop a rock in the hot sun as lizards are wont to do. The species to which I belong seeks the shade.

“The Fair Breeze Blew”

The Boat Channel from Chace Park

Whenever the summer heat of Los Angeles becomes too unbearable, I pick up the book I am reading and head to my magic peninsula, Burton Chace Park, which is surrounded on three sides by the boats in Marina Del Rey.

There is a Hungarian expression from my youth that aptly describes this week’s weather: dög meleg, or, in English, damned hot. Although the temperature has been in the low 80s Fahrenheit, the humidity has generally been over 50%, and there has been no cooling breeze.

Even when the area even a few hundred feet inland is like a blast furnace, there, for some reason, always a cooling sea breeze blowing at Chace Park. Unfortunately, the secret is out, especially on the weekends. Even if it can get crowded, it’s always nice to have a respite from the dög meleg.

The title of this post comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”:

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free:
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea. 


Burton W. Chace County Park in Marina Del Rey

delightful It was another warm day, though nowhere near as blistering as those inland areas euphemistically referred to as valleys. Whenever I’m feeling too hot, I always know that it will be miraculous cool and breezy in that park at the west end of Mindanao Way.

So I stopped in at Trader Joe’s for a picnic lunch of a Mexican chicken salad, watermelon chunks, and watermelon juice and found myself a picnic table in one of the three covered picnic pavilions in the park (shown above). Then I moved closer to Stone Point, at the tip of the peninsula, and took out a copy of Roberto Bolaño’s short story collection entitled Last Evenings on Earth and began reading.

Wouldn’t you know it? There are in big cities three things that militate against enjoying a book (or even a good night’s rest): motorcycles, rap music, and helicopters; and I got a 30-minute dose of the latter as it lazily and raucously circled the park without any clear end in mind. I kept thinking to myself how opportune a shoulder-mounted Stinger missile would have been.

But then, one of the drawbacks to big city life is that your neighbor gets all het up and doesn’t give a damn about your need for a modicum of silence. One fantasizes about a gruesome conclusion to each incident, but that never seems to happen. Tant pis!

Keeping Cool

Pigeons at the Marina’s Burton Chace Park

At a time when most of the United States and Canada are burning up in the heat, I decided to spend the afternoon at the one place that is always almost preternaturally cool: Burton Chace Park in the middle of Marina Del Rey. No matter how hot it is in Los Angeles, there always seems to be a cool sea breeze at Chace. Today wasn’t particularly warm along the coast, but I was in the mood for a good breeze.

So there I sat at an isolated cement picnic table, finishing a French noir novella by Pascal Garnier entitled Boxes. As I had my new Kindle with me, I decided to sign in to the county park’s wi-fi and check out if Jeff Bezos was actually discounting something I wanted. Well, he wasn’t, but that’s okay.

I took a short walk around the tiny peninsula looking at boats and trying to see where the sea lions were. I had heard them while reading, but they had disappeared by the time I took my walk. I did, however, find these pigeons.

All in all, I spent three hours at Chace, returning home to my apartment, which is infested with fruit flies. Martine and i threw out a lot of the pasta they were feeding on, but somewhere they are being nourished by something else. As I sit here typing this post, they are landing in my hair, and I am reaching up to squeeze their little lives out.

Escaping the Heat

Deep Shade, Ocean Breezes, and Boats

Burton W. Chace Park in Marina Del Rey is no longer a secret. Many people have discovered that, even when the rest of Los Angeles is searingly hot, there is always a cool breeze blowing on the peninsula that sticks out into the Marina. So I took the #16 Santa Monica bus (to avoid the stiff parking fees) to Lincoln and Mindanao Way and walked the half mile from the bus stop to the park. On the way is a handy Trader Joe store where I buy a healthy picnic lunch to take with me.

While there, I read Kaouther Adimi’s delightful book about an Algerian Bookshop that also served as Albert Camus’s first publisher. In the sun, the temperature easily reached the 90s, but in the shade I was comfortable. Martine stayed home resting.

One of the Massive Shade Trees at the Park

The park is so excellent that I am surprised that Donald Trump has not tried to bulldoze it and turn it into a tasteless high rise hotel with gold plumbing fixtures.

Curiously, the predominant language of the park visitors is Russian. They seem to know how to enjoy themselves. Good!

At home, I prepared another vegetarian curry for myself made with potatoes, tomatoes, and peas with rice—and a combination of Serrano and Hatch chiles that challenged this chile-head. All the while, Martine, who is suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome looked on ruefully while I ate something that would have exploded her intestines. All she could eat was a banana and a can of Progresso Chicken and Wild Rice soup. She has been suffering with this condition for two weeks now. Tomorrow, I’ll drive her to see the doctor.




The Best Laid Plans…

Chace Park Seen from the Air

In my post of July 3 entitled “Plotting a Holiday Picnic,” I wrote about my plans for a 4th of July weekend picnic for two (Martine and me). It’s sometimes laughable how circumstances can change. I decided to choose today, Sunday, July 5, for the picnic—because I suspected that there would be too many people with too many fireworks on Saturday.

Martine wanted to go to Chace Park in the Marina because, regardless how hot the weather was near us, it always had a comfortable sea breeze. Originally, I thought of getting a picnic lunch at Chick-Fil-A, but I forgot that the restaurant is closed on Sundays. So we headed to Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica, but saw a humongous line waiting to get in. Ditto for Trader Joe’s in Marina Del Rey. So on Martine’s suggestion, we got our lunches in the deli and produce sections of a nearby Ralph’s Supermarket.

The only real negative about going to Chace Park was that parking cost ten dollars on this holiday weekend. No matter, I paid the fee and resolved to make myself comfortable with the peninsula’s sea breezes. There were no seals in evidence today, but we were able to eat our lunch and take a walk around the peninsula.

There were a lot of young males who flouted the social distancing rule, but we managed to keep our distance from them as they attempted their abortive “herd immunity” practices. I kept thinking back to my days working with U.S. Census data. In the United States, there are 21 males born to every 20 females; but, by around the age of 18, the number of females exceeds the number of males. Why? Because young American males find their way to an early grave through sheer stupidity.


Unaccustomed Cool Breezes

Burton W. Chace Park in Marina Del Rey

Burton W. Chace Park in Marina Del Rey

As the siege of hot, humid weather continues throughout Southern California—fed by moist monsoonal clouds from Mexico—it behooved me to find someplace where I could be cool. There is one odd little park in Marina Del Rey which is on a small peninsula surrounded on three sides by boat channels.

For some reason which I cannot understand, even on the hottest days of the year, a cool breeze is always blowing. On Sunday, Martine and I spent several hours there with Bill and Kathy Korn. Today I went by myself, taking a new Santa Monica Big Blue Bus line (the #16) that takes me from within three blocks of where I live to within three blocks of the park for a measly half dollar.

Once there, I found myself a bench in the shade and proceeded to read Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation by Laura Silber and Allan Little, and also parts of a Henry David Thorough essay called, simply, “Walking.” I had my earphone and MP3 player as well and enjoyed a concert of Peruvian folk music.

It was, altogether, a good afternoon. I must do it again a few more times this summer.