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.

Petting a Lizard

Pepperdine College Main Campus in Malibu

Pepperdine University Main Campus in Malibu

The Pepperdine University campus in Malibu is, to my mind, one of the prettiest in Southern California. It is scattered across several foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains and boasts a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean.

It was a warm Sunday in August, so Martine and I decided to take a walk across the up-and-down campus. A ring road surrounds it, and it takes about an hour and a half to navigate it.

During our walk, Martine managed a feat that astonished me. She snuck up on one of the little lizards that are scattered through the area and actually managed to pet it for a second or two before it realized what was happening, whereupon it fled into the underbrush in abject terror. Having gotten away with this feat once, Martine tried it on all the other lizards we encountered, but to no avail. The word must have traveled fast.


Deer on the Pepperdine Campus

Then, as we left, we drove around the ring road looking for deer, which we can usually see in abundance around sunset. Of course, it was hours to go until sunset, so we saw nothing.

But we had a  nice walk and an interesting talk about old time TV.. Martine is a bit of an expert on television series in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. She has a collection of autographed 8 x 10 photographs of many of the stars which she got from attending the old Hollywood Collectors’ Show in the San Fernando Valley, mostly in the 1990s and through the late 2000s, when many of the celebs were still alive.