24 February 2017
Every so often, and more frequently lately, I seem to be having mortality reminders. After 64 years of reflection, I have decided there is little or no reason for things that befall us. My current mental construct is that Zeus is living somewhere up there, and from time to time he either gets drunk or pissed off and hurls a few thunderbolts about. And since his aim sucks, the results are typically random chaos inflicted on some innocent and unsuspecting victim. As the famed Captain Ron says, "Sh*t happens."
I had what I hope will turn out to be a near miss today. I won't know for a couple of weeks.
A few days ago, odd things started happening with my right eye. I started seeing black spots and kept thinking they were flies. Then dark shadows lurking around the edge of my vision. Next, some blurriness. About 7 o'clock last night, it pretty much shut down, kind of like someone dropped a big blob of Vaseline in it. Hence I had my first encounter with the Mexican health care system today. It was positive, I am glad to say. Please take a moment and reflect on getting medical care outside of your home country, where the may not speak your language. This is a serious and ongoing discussion among cruisers and expats.
A historical aside as background. I have been very near sighted and highly astigmatic my entire life. Discussions with eye care professionals usually include warnings about my elevated risk of retinal detachment and possible permanent and severe decrease in vision. So far I have avoided this, and instead developed cataracts in both eyes, resulting in painless surgery for lens replacement. I still squirm when I consider the details. Sadly common among my age group, but a miracle of modern medical science.
My Captain Ron reference is not random. I had a serious and not unfounded fear I might soon be one eyed. And despite recent politics, I'm not living in the land of the blind. I am also male, genetically programmed to stubbornly insist that it will get better if you ignore it hard enough, whether it be a hangnail, a cold, a broken limb, or a 10 pound tumor growing out of your forehead. It takes a lot to get us to the doctor.
So, off to the emergency room this morning. Oddly enough, my boat slip is literally less than a hundred yards from a fancy, new, shiny hospital. It's also right next to the casino, but that's a story for another time.
Inside of ten minutes, I'm with a doctor. Walk in, no appointment, random guy off the street. Ten minutes. He does a preliminary exam, speculates that it could be my new high tech polymer lens. Or my retina. He makes a call and books an appointment with a specialist for three hours later. When I tell him I don't know where the other hospital is, he says they will take me. I am impressed.
Out to breakfast, back to the hospital for a twenty minute drive. A new van, and I am the only passenger. Older, slightly funkier hospital in Puerto Vallarta. I am early, but by 10 minutes after the appointed time, I am with an eye specialist who dilates my eye and tortures me with the obligatory bright lights.
The good news is, no issues with my cornea, lens or retina. There is some swelling which is causing the problem. It's also stretching things a bit and making me more prone to retinal tearing. He prescribes some drops, and tells me to rest for the next three weeks. Nothing strenuous, no lifting. There goes my new lap swimming regimen, and some boat projects I had planned. Bummer, but my fears of becoming Captain Ron are allayed. A different driver drops me back in Nuevo Vallarta, right next to the gate to the marina, about 150 feet from my boat. Oh, and the doctor gave me his card with his personal cell number. Call anytime if you have problems.
So, what appears to be a smoking thunderbolt crater next to me. Zeus doesn't aim well, so,we,sometimes get a lucky break. I get another reminder about mortality, ticking clocks, use it or lose it, take care of yourself and carpe that fabled diem. And never forget, and always remember, do it while you can. Your mileage may vary, but please enjoy the time we have before Zeus gets in a lucky shot.
Oh, and my experience with the Mexican medical system was impressive. I understand why so many gringos come down here for treatment. I have had health insurance most of my adult life, so I don't have a handle on full medical costs stateside, but I had two emergency doctor visits, transportation, quick, professional service and a prescription filled. My cost was less than $200, including a tip for the driver. I suspect that's high down here, but it's an urban tourist area.
I'll be stateside for a couple of weeks in March, and have a round of doctor visits scheduled before Medicare kicks in, including one with my eye doctor. I emailed hm, and he asked me to change my appointment with him to another facility where he has more equipment. Quick, responsive, caring and professional. But nobody offered me a ride and I think I'm very glad I won't be paying the uncensored bill.
Hoping to get back to lap swimming when I get back. Sure hope Zeus misses the pool.
Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in town,
Sometimes I take a great notion
To jump in the river and drown.
Wondering Where The Lions Are
21 February 2017
OK, so as part of being a marina resident, I get access to the luxury hotel amenities, which include a lap pool. I finally went wandering about the complex yesterday and found the pool.
So, I went lap swimmng today. I was the only one there. Lovely long pool, good temperature, clear water.
Here's the odd part. The pool is adjacent to the tennis courts. On the other side of the tennis courts? The tiger cages. Yes, tiger cages, with two full grown tigers. I don't know why they are there. They are not native to Mexico.
I started writing my obituary while I was swimming. Seemed like a pretty decent place to go, if I get a choice. I decided it should include something like the following: "Sid Simpson, who has been living happily on his boat, Song Line, at Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, was found in the lap pool at the luxury hotel complex adjacent to the marina. The apparent victim of a heart attack, Mr. Simpson is survived by his four children. Despite the close proximity of two tiger cages, there were no witnesses to indicate that they had been in the pool. There have, however, been rumors that they were seen poolside, wearing sunglasses and sipping amazingly large margaritas. The tigers were unavailable for comment,"
From Bruce Cockburn:
Sun's up, uuh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as frightening as they were before
But I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
Still I remain tied to the mast
13 February 2017
Today marks four months living aboard Song Line. Wow. She has become my comfort space and my happy place, as well as home. I thought I'd post a link to my travel map and do some updating.
I've been in Nuevo Vallarta in the Paradise Village Marina since just before Christmas. I was originally planning on a few months, but Mexico has a powerful attraction for boaters and romantics. I'm flying back to California next month to visit and start the application process for a temporary resident visa. Looks like I'll be here for a while.
Settling in comfortably. I joined the yacht club, which felt a bit strange for me, but it's a home base and a social center. Good folks, activities, tasty food, and cheap beer. It's been since I was playing darts out of The Lord Nelson San Francisco in 1981 that I've had a local where they call me by name. It's easy to like. Hearing lots of good stories and comparing experiences with a real mixed bag of sailors.
The deciding factor with me was watching people's faces when you say "Sea of Cortez." You see eyes light up and smiles blossom. So, April and May I head north to Mazatlan, La Paz, and the Sea of Cortez. Always looking for crew, if anyone has a week or two and a desire for some salt air.
I'm planning on the summer back her at Puerto Vallarta. I understand it's hot and rainy, and many folks split their year between here and stateside, but it's hurricane season and this is a recognized hurricane hole. They tell me they built the Yacht Club so the boaters could have an air conditioned place to hang out. Works for me. I go to activities there two or three times a week, and sometimes just for a meal and to take advantage of the wireless. They are quite happy to have you just hang out. Things could be a lot worse.
So, after that...Lots of places south of here to explore. That could be months by itself. Likely plans are either head south and go through the Panama Canal in the fall, or wait until next March and head to the South Pacific. Still undecided, but going through the Canal would set me up to harbor hop up the coast. Costa Rica, Roatan, Belize, back to Mexico (Yucatan), and back stateside. Lots of waiting on weather windows and likely a boule of rough patches, but it sets me up to cruise the East Coast and the Caribbean. It's also a long way to Tahiti, and I would wind up in either New Zealand or Australia. All good, just very different. I still have the itch to cruise.
I just put in my application for Social Security, and that was a wake up call. I go off my insurance at the end of the year, and move to Medicare, which is not available outside of the US and its affiliated areas, like American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgins. Those are a long way from French Polynesia. It's hell getting older. I will say that I could get coverage here as a Mexican resident, and the health care seems good and incredibly inexpensive compared to the US. I just paid full local price for one of my medications, and it was about the same as my copay, and literally a tenth of US retail.
Well, all is good for now. I have a cruising seminar at the Club tomorrow, a fundraiser next Saturday for a new ice maker, and it's sunny and 80 degrees during the day. I can see palm trees out of my companionway, and see gulls, frigate birds, pelicans, and a variety of other species I don't know every day. Iguanas and lizards are common, and there is a parade of boats ever day. I'm playing lots of mandolin and flute. Life is good.