Summertime and the Living is Freezing

By Ernie Witham   |   September 14, 2021

“Holy ice cubes, Batman,” I said, as a breeze wafted its way up my shorts.

“Fifty-seven degrees?” my wife said. “It was in the 70s when we left Oakland Hills.”

“Guess it’s like Mark Twain said: ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.’”

“Experts claim that Mark Twain never actually said that,” Pat said.

“Yeah? Well, I’m betting those experts were studying at the ‘University of Saint Balmy,’ when they made their declaration.”

The T-Rex at the California Academy of Sciences

We were staying at a house in Oakland for a few days. The owners were staying at our house in Santa Barbara. One of our first home exchanges in almost two years. Being July, naturally we had packed summery stuff like shorts and sandals.

“How long does it take for frostbite to set in?” I asked, looking at my exposed toes.

“Not sure,” Pat mumbled as she rummaged through the car looking for ski jackets.

Today we had decided to venture to Golden Gate Park to visit the California Academy of Sciences. Good old reliable Siri led us right to it. “Turn here,” she said. 

“Loading Dock, No Entrance” the sign read. So, we shut Siri off and looked for parking. About two miles away, we found a spot. “How lucky. It’s in the shade.”

We looked skyward. The rolling fog was the color of tarnished pewter. And the branches of the trees riffled poetically in the frigid ocean air. 

Fortunately, we had purchased logo sweatshirts in Yosemite recently. I gnawed off the price tags and zipped mine up to my chin. We began walking. I imagined myself leaving base camp on Mount Everest, only instead of walking past snow leopards, we were walking past mustangs, rabbits, and beetles. 

There are a few things that drive me crazy. “A few?” One of them is when a car pulls out of a spot much closer to where you want to be than where you are parked. The New Englander in me wants me to run back and move my car. The Californian in me says walking is good for the heart.

“There is absolutely no way I’m standing in that parking spot to save it until you get back.” Ah, the deciding vote.

Another thing that irks me is high metabolism. “Seriously! That guy in the sleeveless Raiders t-shirt is fanning himself,” I said just as we entered the Academy and walked past the full-size T-Rex, appropriately adorned in a giant face mask.

“He just left the Osher Rainforest,” a museum guide told me. “It’s warm in there.”

“Where is there?” Pat and I quickly asked in unison.

Turns out the Osher Rainforest, in the middle of the Academy of Sciences was 80-85 degrees. It offered a spiraling walkway with lush tropical plants in the middle, as well as macaws, butterflies, hairy spiders, toxic frogs, colorless lizards and a couple hundred sweaty tourists. “Would you hold my sweatshirt dear?”

“Sorry, but all the Sherpas are still back on Everest.”

Another really interesting thing about the rainforest is that it sits right above a tunnel-shaped aquarium, so you can look down and see people looking up at huge, terrifying fish. And you.

“Please stop waving like a maniac.”

“I’m trying to get that guy’s attention. He looks kinda like a trout.”

Moments later, we were the ones looking up through the fish to the spiraling walkway of rainforest people. “Again, please stop waving like a maniac.”

Two other great features of the California Academy of Sciences are the Planetarium and the Living Roof. We tried a number of times to get tickets for the planetarium at the do-it-yourself kiosk, but it kept saying try back later.

So, we went out on the roof. “Wow, must be almost 58 degrees out now.” 

The roof has seven hills covered with more than a million plants. It also has round skylights that illuminate the museum. Must be really beautiful in summer.

We hurried to the line for non-ticket holders to get into the planetarium. We were not alone. “We tried the kiosk five times.” “We tried it six.” “Eight, over here.”

Finally, after watching what seemed like a thousand people walk by, they let us standbys in.

“Nice,” I said. “It’s air-conditioned.”

“I’ll hold your sweatshirt for you now, dear.”



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