Odds & Ends south of the border

LIFE CONSISTS of details strung together, some good, some bad.

We live next door to a hot-springs motel that was constructed over a decade ago in what was an empty lot where a lonely cow lived. The motel has not provided us with as many interesting moments as we had imagined.

The traffic there is fairly constant. It’s a nice, well-maintained place.

Recently, the owner installed an automatic gate opener in the exit lane. It makes a whirring sound every time it’s activated as satiated customers depart.

We hear the whirring in the Hacienda, and we call it the Sound of Satisfaction.

* * * *

Credit card fraud, etc.

We’ll be going downtown early this morning to the bank. If you get there at 8:30, the wait isn’t bad before you can talk with one of the officers.

We have a number of issues to resolve. My child bride’s debit card is about to expire. The electricity bill for the Hacienda was not paid automatically from our checking account last time, as it’s done for years. And I need a new credit card because we had to cancel one last week due to hefty fraudulent charges.

odds&endsI only use credit cards online, never out in the real world. How do crooks put charges on it? This is not the first time it’s happened, but this week’s bogus charges are considerably higher than ever before. Good thing I keep a sharp eye on card movements.

Due to such perils, I consider four a minimum number of cards. All of my credit cards are issued by our Mexican bank. I had American credit cards when I moved south, but they’ve fallen by the wayside.

Anyway, if you live in Mexico you should have Mexican credit cards.

If you don’t care if your name is engraved on the card, and I don’t, you can pick up another credit card immediately at the bank. Ditto for the debit cards.

Our bank is BBVA Bancomer, the best bank in Mexico.

The worst bank is HSBC.

* * * *

Sonogram of my insides

More has happened on the health front. Recently, I got a colonoscopy, which I wrote about here, Getting a hose up my butt, and then a few days later I wrote a companion piece, An inkling of death.

The gastroenterologist who put the hose up my butt, due to some blood work he found suspicious, recommended I get a sonogram of my liver. I did that yesterday, and the doctor said everything looked okay.

The doctors keep trying to kill me, but I defy them.

The sonogram, done by a doctor not a technician in a high-tech lab in the state capital, cost the peso equivalent of $27.

Beats the devil out of ObamaCare.

* * * *

Nasty little birds

New ImageI’m battling birds. Some years, but not all, I have to fight off swallows around this time who want to build their wretched mud/spit nests on the roof beams along the edge of the Hacienda’s exterior.

They stick muddy spit up there, and I scrape it off from below with a hoe. They try it again. I scrape again, and so on. This has been going on for a week. Some years they bypass us entirely. Most years, actually.

But they are stubborn this year. Some people say it’s bad luck to remove their nests, but I don’t care. They’re nasty.

* * * *

Cheese and chairs

Within two blocks of the lab in the state capital, we found a cheese shop, so we bought some superlative cheese off a huge wheel. We also found a specialty workshop that we’ll be using. It’s a guy who renovates old office chairs.

At this moment, I’m sitting in an elegant office chair that I bought about three months ago at Office Depot. It was a replacement for the previous elegant office chair I had used for many years.

Alas, the old one is in bad shape, even sporting tape on one arm.

How fortunate to have found a shop that renovates old office chairs. When we return next week to pick up the official results of my sonogram, I’ll be dropping off the old office chair. Perhaps it has many more years ahead of it, supporting my butt because I prefer the older one.

Mexicans do everything.

We’ll likely cross the street for more cheese too. It was wonderful cheese.

 

An inkling of death

AFTER A POINT on the Highway of Life, death ceases to be a concept that has little to do with you, and it becomes considerably more real.

I have passed that point.

My father developed colon cancer when he was about 70, younger than I am now. He previously had dealt with prostate cancer. Both were in remission when a heart attack killed him with no warning when he was 75.

JM15_2_1024x1024In spite of my father and I appearing to be clones, I’ve had no significant health issues at all until relatively recently. I’ll be 74 in a couple of months.

Generally, I avoid the medical community when possible. If my body doesn’t bother me, I don’t bother it. We made a deal.

I keep my head firmly plunged into the sand. I am my own ostrich and worst enemy.

However, one of the many great aspects to healthcare in Mexico is that you can do lots of things on your own, things that would require the permission of a doctor above the Rio Bravo.

Due to this liberty, I give myself an annual checkup, a simple one that hits the high points. I go to an independent lab, and leave some blood. Sometimes I leave other things too, stuff that comes out of other orifices.

Cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides, blood in the stool, etc. That latter is the old test for colon cancer. It’s marginally effective but better than nothing.

Due to my father’s having colon cancer, “they” say my chances are increased. I wonder if they are right. They probably are. Due to that, I got my first colonoscopy in Houston in 1997. No problem was found.

When I moved to Mexico, I read somewhere that colonoscopies are done under full anesthesia. I don’t want to do that, so I opted around 2005 for a barium enema, better than the stool test, not so good as colonoscopy.

You do not get anesthesia for a barium enema. By the way, barium enemas are no fun, but not nearly so bad as you may have heard.

Again, no problem was found. In 2011, I did it again with the same outcome.

Here we are in 2018. For some reason, I had decided not to do those tests anymore. I was sticking to my guns until about two months ago when my usual pattern down south changed noticeably. Every morning.

This is one of the warning signs of colon cancer, so my ears perked up.

Many physical issues clear themselves up if you’re patient. I waited. It did not clear itself up, but it did make a significant move toward normal. But not entirely.

I started checking around, and discovered colonoscopies are available without undergoing full anesthesia. I did it last Saturday and wrote about it in the eloquently titled post Getting a hose up my butt.

But today’s post is not about the procedure. It’s about the dark days before.

* * * *

Again, an inkling of death.

I kinda wigged out.

Sometimes the internet is great. Sometimes you should steer clear. Something I did not know was that colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and it’s one of the slow growers.

That means by the time you have symptoms, it’s made a bit of progress.

This put me into a funk. It wasn’t too bad in the daytime, but nights were another matter. You know how actual, trivial problems seem, well, trivial in the light of day, but at 3 a.m. they become catastrophic, an odd phenomenon.

Sleeping became a challenge. In the daylight hours, the situation was more manageable in my head, but it was still serious.

I became mostly convinced I was dead meat. This causes apathy, and I grew extremely apathetic and glum.

I was worried mostly about my child bride, less about myself. I am not young, and I have no more goals to reach, as if I ever had many in the first place.

I subscribe to no organized religion, but my experiences with LSD and psilocybin in the 1990s mostly convinced me of an afterlife. That was somewhat encouraging, and I was looking forward to it a bit.

But mostly it was a dark apathy.

The colonoscopy, however, found no polyps, not even precancerous ones. But the doctor did extract a bit of liquid and told me to take it to a lab for biopsy.

Biopsy!

And come back in a week, he said. We’ll have the results.

So there I was again. The cloud had dissipated somewhat, but I viewed the biopsy matter with a very dark eye.

The followup appointment was yesterday. The biopsy found nothing bad. The sun began shining again. I was good to go for a spell longer.

My only aunt, my father’s only sister, also was an ostrich. Her cancer — I do not know what type — appeared quickly and beyond repair when she was about 86. She died shortly after. She, my father and I  have the same surname.

My mother, on the other hand, made it to 90 and simply died of old age, too many things in her body just ran out of steam.

Turns out that what caused my bowel issue in the first place, what led me down this dark lane, was diverticulitis. I am being treated with antibiotics and intestinal flora.

I wish my body had just told me that in the first place.

I thought we had a deal.

 

 

December means medical checkup

lab
This is my wonderful lab.

WHEN I WINGED south over the Rio Bravo way back in the Dark Ages, I had the hysterical healthcare mentality of a typical Gringo.

Live without health insurance? Why, that would be sheer madness, so I purchased coverage with a system called IMSS. If memory serves, it was the peso equivalent of about 300 U.S. bucks for a year of full coverage. But after that first year, I knew better and did not renew.

One must go to an IMSS clinic, and I didn’t want to. They’re dicey.

Health insurance? Who needs health insurance? Pick your own excellent doctor and pay cash or yank out your debit or credit card.

After marrying in 2002, my child bride talked me into getting a complete checkup in 2004 at the Star Medica Hospital in the state capital. I repeated the process in 2007. In 2013, I decided on a simpler approach.

Every December I pick a day and head to the outpost of a lab downtown at 8 a.m., and I get my cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and poop tested. The last I hand over with some cute comment. On some years — not all — I get an EKG and chest X-rays. I do those elsewhere. The first in a doctor’s office ($25 U.S.), and the second ($16 U.S.) in a different lab.

I skipped those this year because I did them last year.

After the pretty nurse takes my blood and poop sample, I head home where I arrive by 8:30 — there’s rarely any wait at the lab because I get there when it opens — and I dine on a nice, warm croissant accompanied by hot café Americano negro and a beautiful woman.

In the afternoon of the same day, I return to the lab to pick up the results. Yes, same-day service and, of course, there was no physician’s referral required. Charge: $27. Now that’s healthcare for you.

That all took place yesterday.

How you folks lovin’ that ObamaCare?

This year’s results: I’m in tiptop condition.

Tale of two births

old long
Crawford W. Long Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

MY WIFE AND I entered the world in very different times, places and circumstances.

The top shot is where I debuted on the morning of 30 August 1944 at 4:23 a.m. I reportedly kept my mother sweating and hollering for hours, but she finally pushed me out.

World War II was still in progress. Hitler and Mussolini were still alive. Napoleon was not.

The hospital’s name was Crawford W. Long Memorial. It’s still in Atlanta, but it’s now Emory University Hospital.

house.jpg
A street in Uruapan, Michoacán.

This is where my child bride entered the world on 22 September 1960. The Hippie Era had not begun, but it would not be long in coming. Hitler and Mussolini were dust.

This is not a hospital, as you can plainly see. It is where her family lived. I took the photo about two years ago, but I imagine it didn’t look much different in 1960.

She was born at home, delivered by her father who was a surgeon and family practice physician.

This house in Uruapan, Michoacán, was both home to the family, and it housed Dad’s medical office too.

Yes, the two of us entered the world in very different times, places and circumstances, but we ended up together.

The Goddess works in mysterious ways.