Monday, June 22, 2009

Snakes Where You LEAST Expect Them

This past weekend was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. I had planned to bake a banana cream pie for the family celebration – as banana cream is the pie my mom made that prompted my dad to propose to her 50 years ago – but I was too tired to bake. I had just driven to LA from Texas (1,200 miles) and no sooner did I get back to LA, Mimi (from La Posada Milagro) sent me an email telling me the latest Terlingua news: Dyann had a Mojave rattlesnake in her kitchen. Dyann's house is almost next door to mine!
Mojave rattlesnakes are THE MOST LETHAL SNAKES IN NORTH AMERICA. Regardless of how quickly you can get to a hospital, these snakes CAN KILL YOU. They possess two types of toxins, one of which will cut off your air supply, so if the first toxin doesn’t get you, the other -- a neurotoxin -- will.
Equally terrifying is that one bite and your little dog will be dead. I have two little dogs. One of the best things about living in Far West Texas is the freedom to let them run off leash. In the one month I’ve lived there they have never worn a collar, let alone been walked with a leash. They chase bunnies every morning. They sprint through open fields, dodging in and out of the cactus, tall grass and rock formations – all snake hideouts. I am vigilant in keeping a look out, but sometimes I wonder if I’m playing Russian Roulette. A rattlesnake can look just like a big stick. And my dogs love sticks.
So here I was, finally back in LA, safe and happy to be sleeping in my own bed – a delicious nest of down pillows and fluffy comforter – and at last in a comfortable 68 degree bedroom instead of my 100-degree one in Texas. I was so tired I could have slept for a week. But Mimi’s email had worked its way into my subconscious and instead of the deep sleep I had longed for I dreamed all night of deadly snakes. Nightmares. I woke up even more exhausted. And stressed. And wondering if I just made the biggest mistake of my life giving up my Venice apartment in order to live in Poisonous Snake Country USA.

(PHOTO ABOVE RIGHT: Our suite balcony on upper left corner, as seen by the snake)
Our family celebration took place at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel where we booked the Presidential Suite for the night. The Ritz-Carlton’s fluffy beds and million-count cotton sheets made my own LA bedding seem like K-Mart quality. I was surrounded luxury, as well as by the security of my family, and reminded myself that no snakes would ever find their way HERE – in my dreams or otherwise. We spent the evening drinking champagne, exchanging family memories, and I even read an essay I wrote for my parents – about the meaning of banana cream pie in their lives. (If I’m not making pie I am writing about pie.) After lying in bed doing some meditation -- wherein I was “sending love” to all rattlesnakes, making peace with my Mojave anxiety, to ensure a good night’s sleep – I did indeed have a very restful night.
The next morning I stood on the balcony of our suite with my parents and my sister. We were admiring the ocean view, when I happened to look down onto the manicured lawn below. A brown coil sat on the grass. “Is that a hose?” I wondered. I looked again. If it was a hose then why was one-third of the hose standing vertically, craning its head around?
(PHOTO: The view from our balcony; the couple, pictured,went back to reading their paper after the snake left.)
I don’t remember screaming but I know that I did because the couple sitting in the Adirondack chairs on the lawn looked up at us on the balcony. “There’s a snake right behind you!” I shouted. They jumped out of their chairs and watched as the reptile, which appeared to be at least five feet long, slithered past their chairs into the bushes. I couldn’t tell from four stories up what kind of snake it was -- Mojave rattlesnakes live in Southern California too -- but the thing was enormous and, even from a distance, scary looking.
I spent the next hour in a state of giddiness.”Dad!” I kept saying breathlessly. “Can you believe it? I didn’t see one snake in Texas and here, of all places -- at the Ritz-Carlton -- there’s this huge snake!”
The message in this snake sighting seemed obvious. “Snakes are everywhere,” I was being told. “It’s okay to go back to Texas.”
The five-star weekend was fun while it lasted, and I was so happy I could make it back for my parents’ milestone celebration, but I’m ready to drive back to Terlingua this week and face my fears. Besides, Mimi emailed me again. “Don’t worry about the snakes. We’re tough here. The coffee house business is doing well and we need you to come back and bake pies.”