From the monthly archives: "May 2011"

May 16, 2011-

I have seen a lot of life through the windshield of a car.

My 2005 Pontiac has been hit by a tornado north of Memphis, Tenn. I’ve driven through a few floods. I’ve seen a broken heart scattered on the side of the road like a shattered vase of orchids.

But what are the chances of a gecko hitting your windshield—-and surviving?
This happened on my recent drive back to Chicago from New Orleans Jazz Fest.

John the Mailman and I were on I-55, south of Jackson, Miss. We were listening to the Creole String Beans swamp pop I bought at jazz fest. And damn, if I didn’t see this fine-sized gecko crawling across my windshield.
Of course I swerved as I tried to take a picture.

When Hugh Hefner was in Chicago last fall he spoke to the students at Steinmetz High School, where he began his journalism career. The Class of ‘44 grad was asked about the biggest difference he has seen in life. He answered, “These days everybody has a camera!” He was right. I had to verify this experience. It was like some Jimmy Buffett song, “Gecko on the Highway.”


John the Mailman and I don’t  know much about geckos. I told him that when I was a kid my Mom hit a deer while driving down I-55 to Taylorville, Ill. I once saw a lot of dead armadillos around Austin, Tx.

I later heard that geckos are “partheogenic,” which means the female can reproduce without copulating with a male. What would Hef say?

I tried to get the gecko off the windshield. I used windshield wipers and wiper fluid, but the gecko clamped down with its suction-like toes. It was stuck like a bad memory; the Bartman game or a walk of shame.

When I got home I consulted Wikipedia which claimed a gecko can support about eight times its weight hanging from just one toe on smooth glass. Each mature gecko footpad can hold a weight equivalent to 290 pounds. I don’t know how you research this stuff, but if its true, its quite a statement.

We were worried about the gecko getting fried in the engine and toasting wires, just like rats were doing over the winter in the parking lot of my Chicago crib. But the gecko just hung on for the next 30, 40 miles.

It was the promise of a wild ride.
Some stay along for the journey. Others jump off. Or worse, fall away into mystery.

The last I saw of the gecko it shimmied across the driver’s side window into the Mississippi spring and a new world.
It was pointed towards Natchez, where cars don’t move so fast and folks slow dance to a country song at sunset.

And they hold on.