03 Jul 103 in the Shade

I drove south through the San Joaquin Valley on my way out of California. The San Joaquin is America’s garden–more produce comes from this land than from any other. Never mind that it’s desert, fed by water sluiced from the Sierra Nevadas.

It was 103 in the shade. The Valley has always gotten hot in summer but not this hot. Yeah, you know why it’s changed. And then every year too much of California burns, literally. Too many people living on too dry a land.

I drove into the mountains to get some relief. By the time I reached 5,000 feet, the temperate had dropped to 89. I can do 89. After a few days of sweating out triple digit temps, 90 doesn’t feel so bad.

orange groves

Before I left CA, I got a tour of a packing house that processes oranges. They don’t usually give tours but made an exception for me because my grandmother used to grade oranges on the line in a nearby packing house. She did that until she was 72: twelve women standing all day, sorting oranges. They wore white cotton gloves to protect their hands. The orange season lasts f rom November until May, so the lines were quiet when we went through the packing house, but I could easily imagine the busy, noisy scene.

Despite the brutal heat, Cleo has been her usual self: perky for the most part and obnoxious, insisting on climbing onto the console between the front seats — and drooling. She’s drooled so much, the metal side of the driver’s seat is rusting. I gave her a bath in San Diego, but already she’s filthy again because she loves to roll and dig into the dirt, wherever we are.

Next stop is Phoenix, to see my mother. I’ve got another month on the road and several more stops to promote “Missile Paradise,” including some house readings. I’ll stop to read at your house, if you’d like. Actually, it’s not a reading, it’s a slide show. Who doesn’t love a slide show of tropical islands?