Residents Hit Beaches, Parks to Escape Heat

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It continued to be hot, searingly hot, but Saturday was still Saturday, a day for play and errands--and at least some Angelenos were out and about under the shimmering sun. They played soccer and golf, tended hot barbecue grills, and occasionally scoffed at weather weenies who retreated from the great hot outdoors.

"I was in places way hotter than this--Saudi Arabia," said Herlindo Landavazo, 23, reclining on a blanket in Griffith Park, next to his fiancee, 22-year-old Tina Banuelos.

The couple were among a number of people who found a sloped stretch of park shaded by large trees. Most were refugees from houses and apartments without air conditioning, and they came stocked with water, soft drinks, ice cream and beach towels. A surprisingly strong breeze blew dry and warm but at least it was an alternative to a stifling house.

"The air is fresh," said Raoul Lara, who was bare-chested and sipping a can of 7Up. "There's no pollution and there are lots of trees." He and his wife and young son ditched their South-Central home to stake out a spot under one of the trees.

Norma Escobedo and her family had planned an afternoon in Griffith Park, and a little heat wouldn't deter them. Escobedo even maintained her usual modest dress code--she was encased in long, black pants. "I'm not used to shorts," said Escobedo, 28, who looked comfortable. She brought along a soccer ball. ("Yeah, we're going to play.") And nearby, her mother, Eloisa Huizar, stood over a grill, fanning still-black coals, for the carne asada they would prepare. "It's easy cooking," Huizar said, smiling and wiping her brow with the back of her hand, her fingers stained by the charcoals she was coaxing. "It's terrible in the house. It's not bad here."

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For the record: The high at Santa Monica Pier was a balmy 85. The Downtown Civic Center reached 102. And if you wanted Lycra-melting temperatures you had to be in Monrovia, where the high was 108.

In the San Fernando Valley, temperatures topped 100 degrees for the third consecutive day. Woodland Hills, where the mercury climbed to 106, was the hottest spot in the region. The thermometer reached 104 in Van Nuys and 100 in Burbank.

Temperatures in the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys also topped 100. It reached 104 in Newhall and 102 in Lancaster.

Of course, the beach beckoned many overbaked residents. Los Angeles County lifeguards said that nearly 1 million people flocked to the beaches.

"It's one of the biggest crowds, if not the biggest of the season," said lifeguard spokesman Mickey Gallagher.

The extensive crowds moved lifeguards to wax poetic. "It looks like a sea of umbrellas to the Manhattan Beach Pier," county Lifeguard Ed Craig said. "It's kind of pretty."

Orange County beaches were also jammed, so Jim Spencer of Mission Viejo opted to forgo the crowds and work on his tan elsewhere--nude and surrounded by 30 ultraviolet lamps at a Lake Forest tanning salon.

"Most people are probably thinking, 'Why do you come to a place like this when it's 100 degrees outside?' " said Spencer, 36. "It's a lot cooler in here, and the atmosphere is better."

Others sought out the places they love to go, figuring the heat would drive the crowds away. This logic worked perfectly at the Roosevelt Golf Course in Griffith Park. On a usual Saturday, the parking lot would be overflowing and the waiting list would be long. "You'd have to wait an hour or two to play," said Tom Redditt, supervisor of the course.

But on Saturday, it was virtually deserted. A few golfers hunched over their tees. A course staffer, immaculate in pith helmet, crisp white shirt and black pants, stood in the middle of the course watering the grass.

"There's nobody out there, it's wide open, and they have the sprinklers on," said golfer Joe Salinas, 31, an internist, as he pulled his golf clubs out of his car.

Other golfers, finished with an early morning round, sat out the midafternoon sun on the covered patio chatting, drinking beer and playing gin. "There are only two kinds of people who are out here," said Jose Luis Ruiz, who works in public broadcasting. "Mad dogs and Englishmen. I'm a mad dog."

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But Salinas was about to play his second round. "What heat?" Salinas chuckled. "It's not bad. I'm of Mediterranean descent. I was made for this."

"There's a love of golf involved here," said his golfing partner, Marcel Motz, a 34-year-old nurse. "We could either go to the beach or hit the links. The links won."

But back on the scorching pavements of the cities, wilting residents went grimly about their business on foot. Asked to comment on coping with the heat, one Pasadena pedestrian snapped "not today" without breaking her stride.

Others took it in stride.

"I notice it, it makes me perspire, but I can live with it," said attorney Scott Hodgkins, who was out running errands with his wife, Ruth Kokka, an accountant, and their baby. "We just bring water."

And some Pasadena strollers did the natural thing--they ducked into the cool interiors of boutiques. "She cools off when she shops," said Jenkins Chiang of West Covina referring to his cousin, Michelle Wang, visiting from out of town, as they walked along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena pondering which store to visit next. Actually, Wang is rather accustomed to the heat. She's from Houston.

"This is fine with me," she said. "It's usual."

Times staff writers Ted Johnson and Tammy Hyunjoo Kresta contributed to this story.

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