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Young Chang -- Notebook

March 11, 2001

Freud would say it's a fear of sex. My pastor would venture it's a

fear of evil. Me? I've no desire to learn why I'm terrified of/get chills

at the thought of/have nightmares about snakes. I've forever been this

way and am fine not knowing why.

I can't touch them, can't look at them, can't even play with stuffed

dolls of them.

Ugh. Just the thought even . . .

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But it's soon St. Patrick's Day. On Saturday, people will pinch you

for not wearing green and pass out clover stickers to ward off the

stigma.

I'm here to remind you of a perhaps lesser known St. Patrick's Day

connection. Legend has it that the sheep-herder-turned-saint rang a bell

and drove the snakes out of Ireland.

My editor, albeit gently, suggested I write about snakes and their

owners. I agreed -- on the condition that I'd do all of my interviews

over the phone -- and so I've thought and talked about snakes all week.

About two, in particular.

A couple of exotic types were reported missing Tuesday from a Fountain

Valley pet store called Prehistoric Pets. Did you hear about that? Did

you see the segment on the news? I turned away. I always do.

In elementary school, I slapped Post-It notes on photos of snakes in

my science book because, without doing that, I couldn't read the words on

the page.

In college, I avoided citywide outdoor carnivals held on campus --

somebody was bound to be walking around wearing snakes like scarves.

I have nightmares about them almost every month and wake up screaming

because in my dreams they are wrapped around me.

The other day, Joy McNamara of Newport Beach told me her ball python

-- named Sonya -- likes to slide around her shoulders and hang out near

her face when the two are watching television.

I winced.

"I know this is a weird question, but what does a snake feel like?" I

asked.

"Oh, well, let me feel her. She's sitting on my bed right now."

This was all over the phone.

"Well, they feel really . . . muscular. You can feel the muscles when

they move. The skin is really smooth."

McNamara said she is fascinated by snakes. Sonya is beautifully

patterned in shades of brown and tan, she said.

Laura Noss, a reptile specialist at Petco in Costa Mesa, said she

thinks reptiles in general are God's special creatures.

"I really do," she emphasized. "[I think that] when he made them, that

he must've really thought of something wonderful and great. For snakes,

just the way they're designed, with no legs, they come in so many

patterns and colors and variations, and how beautiful their eyes are."

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