06 February 2008

Why Does The Iguana Cross the Road?


Actually, they have zero interest in reaching the other side. On the contrary, Barthian roadie-iguanas stroll down the center of way. They do not waver toward one shoulder or the other. Their goal is not to cross the road, but to cross the motorists, some of whom actually think they have some rights to the use of that municipally owned real estate.

These prehistoric looking creatures are arrogant. Their languorous swagger says it all: "We were here first, and if we could pull up the ladder, we would, but we can't, so we need to find some way of reminding you humans of our seniority." They are uniformly successful.

This is an island full of critters. Locals tolerate them all. Mind you, they don't much love the mosquitoes, biting millipedes, 24-hour spiders (that's how long you think you are dying after being bitten by one), and scorpions (nah, not fatal, I am informed, just very painful), and, of course, rats, which, by comparison to the island's cats, are not so bad after all. So far we have discovered live or dead versions of all of the above in our house or pool, but have donated blood only to the mosquitoes.

We are among the fortunate, however, when it comes to other reptiles: We have all kinds. The small lizards, (geckos, just like the adorable green guy in the Geico commercial, except ours do not have a cockney accent) are everywhere, and quite pleasant. Nice to see them change color when they move from the grey living room wall to the brown railing on the deck. The biggest are about 3-4 inches long, and they do this thing with blowing up a sack below their chin that is wonderful to behold. I'm told it's a courting thing, and it's nice to know they feel free so to express themselves in our presence. Very French. This is not an island for Huckabee's base.

Next in line is a species of lizard that looks far less cute. They are about 6-12 inches long, lack the fearsome longitudinal saw-top crown of the iguanas, and generally will scamper away when approached by humans. Well, not all of them scamper. Le Jardin, a lovely restaurant near the airport, is the involuntary host to a neighboring fat Green Lizard who begs at table like a dog. Not kidding. He does not get up on his hind legs like the Geico Gecko, but he approaches the table and stares until his "victim" throws him a crust of bread. (Not your humble correspondent. I am opposed to pet-begging and have trained all our Labrador Retrievers not to engage in that activity and see no reason to change the rule for reptiles.)

A Le Jardin Green Lizard cousin has set up housekeeping in the outdoor bathroom off our guest room. Ricki Herzfeld has named him Lenny, and it stuck. Lenny does not yield turf. He bakes in the sun on the tile floor of the shower, and is willing to share the space while you wash at the sink. Turn on the shower and he will remove to his home (nest?) under the bathroom cabinet-sink, but otherwise he stands (lies?) his ground. The other day, we discovered he is not alone there. Why is that not a surprise? A smaller, reddish companion (Lenore) also hangs, and yesterday we spied a diminutive version of the two in their company. Ah, nature.

All these guys, except perhaps the one who begs for bread at the restaurant, are insect hunters. We saw Lenny with a millipede in his mouth. Nice. I hope they eat spiders and scorpions too. I dunno.

But I have to say, the iguanas creep me out. When I first saw one three years ago, in our back yard, I jumped a foot off the ground. He was four feet long, with a head that is a dead look-alike for Tyrannosaurus Somebody. To see one sparks instant recognition of the inspiration for Godzilla.

The Creationists err in pushing their anti-Darwinism drivel by arguing how offensive it is to think humans have descended from monkeys. Forget monkeys. They ought to focus on iguanas.

When the roadies choose to stroll, they stop traffic in both directions for hundreds of yards. (That is the L.I.E. equivalent of three exits.) There are some motorists who will exit their cars and remove the creatures to the shoulder. Run one over and you have an obligation to rush the injured snob to the vet in L'Orient. Dofie rescued an injured iguana recently and came away with scratches all over his arms because his patient protested involuntary exfiltration and struggled to defend its turf notwithstanding earlier-incurred serious vehicle-inflicted injuries.

Dofie put the critter in the bed of his truck and drove it to the vet. Most of the rest of us have cars, and mostly small ones at that. Can't you picture this? You run over a 4 foot long dinosaur and put him in the back seat of your Daihatsu for a 15 minute drive to the middle of the island? I guess you leave the back window open so his tail can hang out, right? And depending upon how injured the critter was, how would you drive, knowing that thing could just lift his head and front legs, and slither into the copilot seat while you are driving? Yikes.

No surprise--I leave the iguana removal chore to others. Turtles, yes, iguanas and snakes, no. Yes, we have a few snakes on the island--tropical versions of garter snakes. Harmless, except to tourists, in whom they have been known to provoke strokes, heart attacks, and shingles.

Lots more wildlife to talk about later, but I need to get ready for another hard day at the beach. Gotta rest up for the game.

Go Big Blue!

Yes, I know that by the time I post this the game will be over, but if my satellite reception does its usual thing, I may not know the outcome for days. Don't tell me how it ends.

A bientot.

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