Mail on a misty morning

PO
This is my post office on Calle Obregon.

WE ATE WARM biscuits and honey for First Breakfast* today instead of our usual options of croissants and orange marmalade or bagels with Philly cheese Lite.

At quarter till 9, I jumped into the Honda and headed downtown to the post office, a biweekly trip, to check my box, a service I’ve had for 19 years.

I rarely find anything there anymore, which is why I rarely check it. It has to be checked though. Recently, a threatening letter from the IRS** lurked in there longer than it should. But usually, nothing is there, which is how I like it.

These early morning drives to the post office are fun. Traffic is light, and I see things I don’t see in the late afternoons, which is when I’m normally downtown.

An old Mexican town waking up.

Up until about five years ago, I checked my box on any afternoon. It was easy to drive down Calle Obregon and park near the post office. But then City Hall was moved from the main plaza where, I imagine, it had sat for centuries to the same block as the post office. The block became way more congested and nearby parking is impossible weekdays.

So now it’s early every other Saturday morning.

I park at a nearby corner on Calle Carrillo Cárdenas.

carrillo cardenas
That’s my Honda. Clearly, parking is no problem at the early hour.

I read a local internet forum aimed at Gringos. There are always things to chuckle at there. Most participants seem to embrace the notion that the Mexican postal system does not work, which it does. People are often asking if someone is headed to the border and if it would be possible to take a letter or package to mail in the United States.

Mexican mail works fine. It’s just slow, and if you’re in a rush, it has an express service, which costs a good bit more, and there is registered mail too. You can track both express and registered items to their destinations above the border via the internet.

Not only does the Mexican mail work, so does the healthcare system, another issue that provides me laughter because, as they don’t trust the mail, the Gringos don’t trust the healthcare system either and if it’s anything more than a routine doctor visit, they often flee above the border for “real” healthcare.

Okay, many do it for “free” Medicare, I admit, but even major issues can be addressed here at a minuscule fraction of the ripoff prices above the border. And, more importantly, healthcare here is nicer and more personal.

There was nothing in my post office box this morning except a routine advisory that my pension from the Hearst Corp. had again been sent electronically to my Mexican bank. It’s a waste of postage on Hearst’s part, but they send it anyway.

At least there was nothing dire from the IRS.

* * * *

* Second Breakfast arrives at 11 a.m. Lunch at 2 p.m., and supper at 8 p.m.

** I phoned the Internal Revenue Service and discovered the problem was their error, not mine, and all was ironed out peacefully.

Getting a hose up my butt

MY FATHER HAD colon cancer. He didn’t die of it. A heart attack carried him into the ethers at age 75 back in 1991.

He was in a hospital in Atlanta getting his five-year, remission checkup when he was on the verge of being discharged, cancer-free, just lying in a bed. Bam! Dead. Heart attack.

It’s a good way to go, far better than cancer. But he was only two years older than I am right now. His cancer was found at age 70 via a colonoscopy.

All of which is to say that I have a very close family tie to colon cancer. The medical community therefore recommends that I get colonoscopies on a regular basis. I do not do that. They are unpleasant tests, and I tend to dodge unpleasantries when possible.

This is shortsighted and stupid, of course.

My first colonoscopy took place in Houston in 1997. After I moved to Mexico in 2000, I heard that colonoscopies are done here under full anesthetic, the kind you get with major surgery. Nah, I said to myself.

Instead around 2005, I got a barium enema, which has a reputation of being very unpleasant. It’s no fun, but it’s not horrible either. It’s a good scan of the colon, but it lacks the thoroughness of a colonoscopy.

I was polyp-free. In 2011, I did it again. Polyp-free.

New ImageRecently, I noticed some odd sensations in the nether regions, so I thought maybe I should get another checkup, especially since life was going so well, and I was hesitant to wave bye-bye.

I found a gastro surgeon in the capital city by pure happenstance, which is to say I grabbed a business card from a counter at a hospital. I emailed him, and he answered right back. I told him I would prefer not to have a full anesthetic, so he gave me what I had received in Houston. It’s called “conscious sedation.”*

I did it yesterday. The procedure was done in a small operating room in a huge, new facility called Hospital Victoria. In attendance were a nurse, the gastro surgeon,** an anestheologist in a “Fly Emirates” T-shirt, and the gastro surgeon’s very sharp son, 11,*** who acted as a go-fer.

The anesthetic was not like I remembered it 20 years ago. It immediately shot me into a bizarre world of chaos and colors. It seemed like I was there 30 seconds, but it actually was about half an hour. I came out of it quickly, and my concerned child bride was standing at my side.

I am still polyp-free, but the doc did encounter what was causing the above-mentioned sensations. I return next week to see what can be done about that. With luck, it will be non-surgical.

Amazingly, the full tab for everything, including the crap you have to drink the previous night to flush your gut, was the peso equivalent of about $400 U.S.

I even received a color DVD of the hose’s full journey up my backside and back again. I have not watched it yet, and likely never will.

I paid cash, as I have done with all medical expenses since moving over the Rio Bravo. I am not in the clutches of ObamaCare.

Or Medicare either, for that matter.

Aging is no fun, but what can you do?

* * * *

* Why it’s called that is beyond me. I was not conscious at all, but you do come out of it very quickly and with little hangover.

* * Dr. Angel Arroyo, Office 1005, Hospital Victoria.

*** How many doctors take their sons to work in the United States?  They’d likely lose their licenses.

The paint job

MEXICO IS the perfect land for libertarians. The government pretty much leaves you alone. The photo illustrates this beautifully.

There are no safety nets, no safety harnesses, no safety helmets, no safety nada. These guys are free to plunge to their deaths, and I imagine sometimes they do.

Walking down a cobblestone street yesterday, sugar donut in hand, inhaling the cool air of late May, I happened upon this painting project, and I sighed with pleasure, knowing I would never see this above the Rio Bravo. It would be unthinkable. There are laws, you know.

And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012 — the most recent numbers available — 110 million Americans, about a third of the population, live in a home that receives government handouts, and that does not include Social Security and Medicare.

Won’t be long before the most noticeable difference between the United States and bankrupt Greece is that Greeks speak Greek and Americans speak Spanish English.

These things flashed through my mind as I walked by the sky-high house painters on the cobblestone street. I smiled and took another munch of my sugar donut.

Mexico: Land of the free. Home of the brave.

A rare breed

DECADES AGO, before she ran off the rails and joined a cult, my sister, who’s a therapist or counselor or something of that sort, gave me a standardized personality test, a tool used to determine one’s best occupational fit.

oddballsThe trait that topped the list was that I favored adventure, which was not a surprise to me, and likely explains why I now sit atop a mountain in the middle of Mexico in my declining years instead of on a park bench, feeding seed to pigeons in Des Moines or St. Petersburg.

With that in mind, I was quite interested in this news story headlined “Ten Surprising Facts About Retirement.” Some of the facts interested me more than others and, despite the headline, some were not surprising at all. You need investment growth, sure. Most retirees depend mostly on Social Security, yep. Something about Medicare, which interests me not at all because I don’t use it, and never will.

Forty-four percent of folks over 65 live alone. I don’t like that, and I don’t favor living alone, but living alone is certainly better than living with some people. Yes, there are worse things than living solo.

Let’s go directly now to the item that really captured my attention. And that is the percentage of Americans who retire and move to another country:  a minuscule 0.3 percent.

This percentage is of people over age 65. I bailed out of the workforce and flew over the Rio Bravo when I was 55. Would I have done it at a more settled 65 or now at stodgy 70? I don’t know. I’d like to think so.

Those of us living out here beyond the porous and troubled border are clearly a rare breed, which would make a fine title for an old television Western. Giddy-up, go!