The Lizards of Oz

The wife and I were watching an episode of Penny Dreadful on HBO the other night and there was a scene with one of our favorite characters, Mr. Lyle. My wife referred to his appearance as “The Wizard of Oz,” and I initially heard it wrong as “The Lizard of Oz.” Which reminded me of a wonderful lizard experience we had a few years back on St. John, USVI. In truth I haven’t had many lizard experiences at all, which I think is pretty much OK, but this one was something to remember!

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We were sharing a rental villa with our regular vacation partners, my brother and his wife. It was a compact but very comfortable masonry house that was beautifully embellished with local stone in a style common to many homes on the island. Perhaps the greatest feature of the house was a long covered stone and tile porch that ran along one side and allowed lots of room for outdoor dining, relaxing with the morning coffee, or just admiring the view. Sort of a long sheltered gallery with several archways from which you could look out onto the small yard or the scenery beyond. There was in fact quite a view because the house sat near the edge of a craggy bluff with crashing surf below in a small bay formed by the spit of land that accommodated our neighborhood and a substantial peninsula across the water to the east.

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There were a few parts of the back yard where I suppose you could have just taken a running start and jumped off the jagged cliff! That would certainly have been a leap into eternity.

Sometimes a rental house will come with the unexpected benefit of a friendly dog who comes to visit daily, or maybe a friendly local cat who likes to hang out and be worshipped by whoever is renting the place. This particular rental, by virtue of the terrain I imagine, came with a whole gang of iguanas! The long side porch looked down on a small grassy yard where they would gather daily looking for some yummy handouts.   We quickly learned that the iguanas were wise to our daily routine! Typically by late afternoon we would drive up to the house and unload after a day on the beach or some shopping in town. We would then frequently mix up a rum punch or some other refreshing beverage and cool off in the shade of the side porch.

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The iguanas would gather right there in the yard looking for a snack of their own. They just loved any fruit or vegetable parts they could get, such as a banana peel, a chunk of mango, or even scraps from slicing up broccoli for dinner. They were quite active and would jump over each other for a bite as we tossed bits of this or that down to them. It was somewhat routine to see these big lizards around the island but this was the first time we had essentially had a bunch of them “come with” the house. They ranged from about a foot long to maybe 3 feet for the older guys. They really had a dinosaur-like prehistoric look to them, particularly the older ones! We came to look forward to the daily lizard feeding frenzy and took to deliberately saving scraps for them.

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One afternoon I actually laid down in the yard to get a few close-ups and they were not shy at all. I hightailed it back up to the safety of the porch when they started getting a bit close for (my) comfort.


St John 2009 M 358 I don’t think I’ll be submitting these headshots to any modeling agencies!


The Working Stiff



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