Nancy Lemann

       Actually I was adjusting better before the iguana thing. A new trauma has arisen. There was a note from my neighbor saying that his four-foot iguana escaped and if I see it I should bring it back. I had to seek iguana therapy for the next four hours. Am still seeking it. If I saw a four-foot iguana in my house I would consider ending it all. Perhaps iguanas are not carnivorous but after all, four feet is twice the size of my daughter and more than two-thirds the size of myself. You have to admit, it would be startling to run across it in the bedroom. The iguana is named Puff, apparently.
       The talk of the neighborhood is Puff and his demented escape. Actually, that is inaccurate. I’m the only one who talks about it. It does not seem to faze anyone else. Iguanas, monitors, beavers, coyotes, hyenas, you name it, it’s probably down there in the canyon. Not to mention the misfit neighbor, who sometimes drives his motorcycle in it, or hacks away at it with his golf club.
       I live in a land of barbarians. Here at the quiet limit of the world.
       We joined a club. A swim and tennis club. It is in Hotel Circle. This is an area directly on the freeway that used to be the glamour-glitter hotel area. Why someone would build their glamour-glitter hotel area right on the freeway I could never fathom no matter how hard I humanly tried. Then later some brighter soul planned the next new glamour-glitter hotel area on the harbor, and Hotel Circle became the pathetic, decaying, sleazy, ruinated hotel area, right on the freeway. I always feel as if I have been demoted by several social classes here. It isn’t exactly the New Orleans Country Club. Ironically, Hotel Circle on the freeway is the most ancient part of town, site of the Mission, where Franciscans, Spanish explorers, and so on arrived. In the palm-laden hills above the freeway you can sense, if you try very hard, the ancient history of the place and try to visualize it etc. That is, if Ricky’s Hideaway and other ‘60s mod precincts of Hotel Circle don’t blot it out.
       While giving his sales pitch the manager of the club soon devolved or deteriorated into telling us that he could have been somebody, if he had stayed with Bally’s, and how his career went off track, and basically, I’m paraphrasing, how he has now been stuck in this dump for 15 years, plus his wife left him.
       After this glowing report, after plummeting ever lower in social status, I joined.
       If I want glamour I’ll go to Hollywood.
       It’s fun being bitter about Southern California. I learned that from Raymond Chandler. Don’t be shy. Don’t be sorry. Just go with it. The great thing about the biography of Raymond Chandler (who lived in and around L.A. for more than 30 years, having come over from England at age 24) is that it depicts the heart of this malaise: exiled to a barbarous region of the world.