Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.



That’s German for “hot” — a word I heard a lot from my German-American mother when I was growing up. And it’s certainly a word I’m thinking about today.

Because boy is it heiß.

Yesterday a friend in Napa Valley was complaining about the 109-degree heat up there. Well, lucky him:  It was 111 degrees here in Burbank, CA. It’s been so hot that the normally shy baby lizards are out in force, scampering into the shade wherever they can find it.

(Unlike my dogs — who, it turns out, are maniacs.)

On Saturday night I had a couple of friends over for cigars and drinks in my back yard. I sardonically reassured them that if it got chilly I could turn on my patio heater. No one laughed. There was no need for the heater; when the party broke up at 1:30 a.m., it was eighty-nine degrees outside. That’s eighty-nine with an 8 and a 9, ninety minutes after midnight and long after that great hot glowing orb in the sky had revolved away. 

I just now came in from my front yard, where I was yet again trimming my giganimous tipuana tree. I decided to do this because the temperature was a mere 98 degrees, so why not? My elder son and I planted this tree on October 19, 2003, and had I known what a curse I was bestowing on myself, I would have planted something else. It turns out that the tipuana tree is registered by many nations as an invasive species — but, of course, that’s what our city’s arborist happily recommended that I install. This tree grows faster than our national debt. While cutting off its tendrils, I started to mentally calculate just how much of my life I’ve spent trimming this tree over the past 19 years; I could’ve used that time to paddle out to Australia instead. I last trimmed the tree in late May (so: three-and-a-half months ago), and every few years I have to hire a squadron of tree-climbing men with power saws and a crane to scale its heights and lop off the branches that, left untended, would shear the roof off my house and plunge holes through my windows. So there I was just now, yet again, dragging around a ladder and hoisting my branch cutter and guillotining off all the hanging branches I could reach. There’s no money or joy in this, but I know there would be a lot of expense and heartache in not doing it. 

While I was out there, I started thinking about my uncle Art Miller, late of Johnstown, PA. Sometime in the 1970s, Uncle Art went out to trim his hedges and rose bushes and dropped dead of heat stroke and a heart attack. To me, he was a warm presence who wore corduroy slippers around his house, always smelled pleasingly of cigars, and had a general air of kindness and mild joy. I loved my Uncle Art, and think about him fondly, but I’m in no rush to join him. So now I’m back inside, writing this.

One Response to “Heiß”

  1. Dan Says:

    I used to look at your abundant sunshine and warm climate and opine that “Any damn fool can live in California.” Now I may amend that to “Only a damn fool would live in California.”

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