Q & A

It’s been a busy year so far at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. We’ve had illnesses, cancer scares, and various and sundry other medical issues that needed treatment.

I  had the Mexico City Flu, and a couple of precancerous lesions by my right eye that were removed in January. At the same time, our roommate, Todd, had a Shingles outbreak around his right eye. It took about three weeks, but that has resolved, so things are getting back to normal for both of us again.

Our kit-tens, Mollie and Mika, are doing great. Mollie is helping me type right now, so this could take a while. Kit-tens are apparently immune to the flu. And Shingles. They’re still the cutest kit-tens ever.

* * * *

We’ve had visitors in February. Our beautiful and talented oldest daughter, Gwen, and her husband, John, were here for a week. While they were here, we had a major plumbing problem with the kitchen sink. It started leaking. And then it stopped draining.

I can usually fix most simple plumbing leaks on my own, but this is Mexico. I’m not sure if there are any construction codes in Mexico, and if there are, they’re probably viewed in the same manner that traffic laws are. They’re more like unto suggestions than anything else.

The pipes under the kitchen sink are a perfect example of that.

traffic jam

The plumbing looks something like unto this…

So I called Jaime Mendoza, our property manager, and he called Tacho, our general fix-it guy. Tacho looked at the weird configuration of pipes and started swearing in Spanish.

“Now you know why I wanted you here.” I said.

It took Tacho two weeks to fix the leak because he would fix one leak, and another one would mysteriously appear. After the first week, we were pretty sure that dynamite would be the best solution because houses in Mexico are made of concrete. But Tacho preserved, and he eventually fixed all of the leaks and cleared out the huge clog from somewhere under the kitchen floor without having to resort to explosives.

* * * *

We also had a couple of issues with our swimming pool. The solar heater stopped heating, and there was a leak in one of the pumps. Those problems took closer to a month to fix because the replacement parts had to be ordered from Guadalajara, and then the repairmen had to be reminded that they had to come back to install the new parts, even though they had the parts that needed to be installed.

There was a defective valve in the solar heater. Once that was replaced, it worked better than it ever has. Our solar heater isn’t the top of the line model, so we ordered five solar heating lilly pads to augment the heater from a guy named Rodrigo. He owns a garden store that sells a lots of pool equipment. We’re going to pick them up later today. The total cost on those is less than $50 US.

And the leaking pump was sorted out with a new gasket.

Mischief. Managed.

* * * *

The heat shields on my propane grill needed to be replaced because they had more or less disintegrated in the eleven years that I’ve been using it. Finding replacement parts for your grill isn’t a big deal in the States. It’s a huge deal in Mexico. The easiest way to replace the three heat shields here seemed to be to buy a new propane grill, and while a lots of things are way less expensive in Mexico, propane grills aren’t one of them.

And then I met Ed and Kat. Ed is grizzled-looking gringo who kind of retired down here, but still wants to work for some unfathomable reason. Kat may or may not be Ed’s wife. She’s a very attractive Latina, probably thirty years younger than Ed. She has really big eyes, so she’s a lots of fun to talk to.

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I love the Google Image Search!

Ed opened a shop called Baja Grills that sells propane grills and smokers. And fishing bait and supplies. And hot tubs. And fireplace inserts. And stuff…  He didn’t have the replacement heat shields I needed, so he made new ones for me. They probably cost me $60 US. 

Winter in the Lakeside Area lasts about a month — from the middle of December to the middle of January. It doesn’t get freezing-ass cold here, but there’s about a ten degree difference between the outside temperature and the temperature inside of the cavernous gringo mansion we’re renting.

It’s colder inside of our house than it is outside. We have three gas fireplaces at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa, but none of them have the requisite inserts that make them functionable. Probably because propane fireplace inserts are outrageously expensive down here, too. 

We have three portable propane heaters that we use during the coldest month of Winter. But one of Ed and Kat’s fireplace inserts might work perfectly in our living room fireplace. Lea and I are going to go take a closer look at it later today…  It’ll all depend on what kind of deal we can get.

* * * *

And there’s been golf. Todd and I play at least three times a week, sometimes more often depending on how we feel. So far, we tend to take turns having reasonably decent rounds of golf. Last Sunday, we played 36 holes of golf. I beat Todd by three strokes on the front nine with an 89. We both shot 88 on the second 18.

Yesterday, we both sucked.

I started playing golf back in my thirties because it was the only way I could talk with my dad. He loved to play golf, and he was a wicked good golfer. My favorite part about golf back then was I could drink beer and smoke cigarettes while I golfed. And there was that whole hitting the shit out of a little white ball thing…

The more I golf, the less it resembles what I thought it was in my youth. “Good golfers hit the ball as hard as they can. Great golfers hit the ball as hard as they need to.” I can’t remember who said that, but he was right. I would add this: Good golfers have a strategy. Great golfers are able to execute it. 

Golf is like unto playing chess with an opponent that never moves any of its pieces. Hitting the shit out of a little white ball has become the least important part of my game anymore.

Strategy was something I had no concept of until I started playing in the Go-Go tournaments at my country club. Go-Go is like unto regular golf, except with a twist. Or two. And that’s where all the strategy comes into play. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dave Naisby and Bill Merrell. They’re the guys that organize and coordinate the Go-Go tournaments at the Country Club de Chapala.

I can’t say they’ve made me a good golfer, but I suck a whole lots less than I did three years ago.

And then there’s that whole balance thing. I need to be physically relaxed when I hit a golf ball because my fucked up back can take only so much abuse. If my swing isn’t relaxed and fluid, I’m going to be in for a long and very painful day. But my mind has to be laser-focused because half of this game is 90% mental. And trust me when I say this: I can be too relaxed when I golf sometimes, and that’s not good.

It’s an odd set of contradictions that I have to manage every time I pick up a golf club. Sometimes it works very well. And those are the days that keep me coming back for more abuse.

It’s kind of like being a psych nurse, except the pay is worse. But you meet way fewer assholes.

* * * *

I’ve spent a few days trying to imagine this post as a question and answer piece about my nursing career. Or just a question and answer thing about anything. There’s one major obstacle to this concept. No one ever asks me anything about being a nurse. Come to think of it, they don’t ask me about much of anything else either.

So if I’m going to do this, it’s going to be all my imagination.

There’s one compelling reason for me to go down this road. A couple of my former patients have been on my mind lately. And I’ve learned not to ignore those things when they happen.

* * * *

What was the most heartbreaking thing that happened when you were a nurse?

The suicides. I was a psych nurse for thirty years. I couldn’t tell you how many of the people I had a role in caring for killed themselves after they were discharged from the hospital. There were dozens of them. In 1990, twelve Vietnam veterans at the MVAMC took their lives in one month.

I remember my first patient who took his life at the Minnesota State Hospital in Anoka. He drowned himself in the Rum River. I remember the last one, too. He was at St. Luke’s in Phoenix. He had had a stroke, and the day before he was discharged he met with everyone on the evening shift to thank them and say goodbye. He shot himself two days later.

And I vividly remember each of the five patients that killed themselves while they were still in the hospital. Those are things you never forget, no matter how much you try. If I exclude the suicides, there’s one person who jumps to the top of the list. That said, I probably have a hundred stories similar to hers.

* * * *

Her name was Audrey. I met her at the Minneapolis VAMC. She was a sweet woman in her forties. She was admitted for depression, and if I remember correctly, a lengthy list of somatic complaints. She was a cancer survivor, so one possibility was her cancer had returned.

As I’ve said before, diagnosing is essentially a process of ruling out all of the things that aren’t wrong with you until your doctor figures out what’s left. The first thing her doctor did was order a full body CT scan.

One of the great things about working at the VA was the ease of doing consults with other specialty clinics. Sometimes the consulting physicians would come to the unit, but usually we had to transport our patients to the various departments, then return them to the unit when their consult was done. 

I was transporting Audrey in a wheelchair to Radiology for her CT Scan. And she told me this story:

“I remember when this began. I had just turned 30 when the pain started. I went to see a doctor. Hell, I went to a lot of doctors. And none of them could find anything wrong with me. One of them said my pain was a figment of my imagination. You know, like I was crazy. After awhile, my friends all started thinking I was crazy. It went on for months. After about a year, even I started thinking I was crazy.

“It was so frustrating. There was nothing wrong with me, but the pain was unbearable. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t have a life. All I did was go from one doctor to the next, only to hear the same fucking thing: All your tests have come back negative. We can’t find anything physically wrong with you…

“And then I was diagnosed with cancer, and this is going to sound really crazy, but I almost felt happy! I think I cried genuine tears of joy when I heard that! I was so relieved because it wasn’t just all in my head. There really was something wrong with me! I wasn’t crazy!! That’s just so fucked up, isn’t it?”

I couldn’t answer her. She looked back over her shoulder to see if I was still there. I was trying unsuccessfully to choke back my tears. 

* * * *

What’s the weirdest thing you saw in your nursing career?

There’s a lots of competition for this one. Lesbian encounters in the night. Guys accidentally getting foreign objects stuck up their asses. Guys jamming foreign objects into their penises. The list goes on. And on…  But the hands down winner has to be the guy that drove his girlfriend from Arizona to Michigan. It doesn’t sound that weird, except she was dead for most of the trip.

I don’t have any other stories like unto this one.

Her name was Christine. She was 31 years old, and was a frequent flyer at Aurora Behavioral Health in Glendale, AZ. She was a dual diagnosis patient, meaning on top of her psychiatric issues she was also chemically dependent. In layman’s terms, Christine was a trainwreck. She was one of the most exhausting patients I’ve ever met, and I wasn’t her nurse. Now that I think about it, she wasn’t even on my unit, and I probably spent more time interacting with her than I did with all of my patients combined. 

Christine lives forever in my Top Five Patients From Hell List.

In June of 2014, Christine was discharged from the hospital. She was picked up by Ray, her 62 year old boyfriend, and Ray’s 93 year old mother. We cheerfully waved goodbye as they all climbed into Ray’s van and headed off to Michigan. We prayed that they all made it there safely and never returned to Arizona again. Ever.

Christine probably accidentally overdosed on her discharge medications by swallowing the entire contents of a bottle of OxyContin on purpose, and then died to death somewhere in Oklahoma. See? I told you she was a trainwreck.

And then the weird part happened. Rather than stop and report what happened to the police, Ray put a pair of sunglasses on her face, placed a teddy bear on her lap, and kept on driving.

Across hot and humid Oklahoma to steamy Missouri, through sweltering Indiana into Illinois — you get the picture– stopping only for gas, fast food and bathroom breaks until he made it to Michigan. And then Ray decided to notify the police that something had happened to his girlfriend. It didn’t take the police long to figure out what was wrong because Christine’s body had begun to decompose. 

Police chose not to press any charges against Ray. Or his mother.

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This is Ray. The story of his road trip made National News. You could look it up on the Google…

* * * *

When I first envisioned this post, I had imagined a lots more questions and a few more stories. And then I realized most of my stories bear a lots of similarities to each other, so there’s that.

It might explain why no one asks me a lots of questions.

One Thing Leads to Another

It rained here early this morning. It’s probably safe to say that the Rainy Season has officially started in the Lakeside Area. It’s a good thing. The fires will stop burning. The Chinese Mountains will turn green again. And maybe my seasonal allergies will settle down.

I started this morning the way I usually do; drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and contemplating the vicissitudes of life. I will freely admit that I find life confusing. It’s one reason why I drink so much coffee in the morning.

My lovely supermodel wife drinks cappuccinos, but only because she can’t get find Coffee-mate® Flavored Creamers in Mexico.

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She used to be able to find them at Super Lake, the gringo supermarket in Ajijic, but about four months ago they stopped stocking it without any explanation. We’ve asked about it several times.

“Vuelve la proxima semana…”

“Come back next week…” Next week, much like unto tomorrow, is something that doesn’t actually exist in reality. That’s why Lea drinks cappuccino now. 

Coffee is one of the weird tastes you develop when you become an adult. It smells like heaven, but it tastes kind of god-awful. Over time, you eventually get used to it. Unlike my wife, I don’t use creamers of any kind in my coffee. 

 “Café, negro, como mi alma.” That’s how I order it.

Black, like my soul. The baristas always laugh. I find it ironic because I’m not joking.

* * * *

The other thing I do in the morning is my daily Dualgringo lesson. That’s what I call my language app. Duolingo® is a platform that includes a language-learning website and app, as well as a digital language proficiency assessment exam. It keeps telling me that I’m doing great and having a good time, so I guess I am.

Lea and I stopped going to Spanish lessons, but neither of us have given up on the idea of kind of understanding how to sort of speak Spanish. We’ve both given up on the idea of ever being fluent in it.

I think if you really want to be bifocally fluent in more than one language, you should start when you’re six, not sixty.

* * * *

I’ve been looking forward to the Rainy Season. It moderates the temperature, and I generally feel better when it’s cooler and there’s less dust in the air. On the downside, the Velcro grass will grow thick on the golf course, and my scores will probably suffer for the next several months.

It’s probably a good thing that I beat Cheryl on Thursday because it might be the only time I ever do.

My golf wife, Phyllis, and I regularly play golf with Cheryl and her real husband, Tom. Cheryl is Madame Champion at my country club. She’s a very good golfer, most of the time. She had a bad day on Thursday, and that’s the only reason I beat her. It certainly wasn’t because I was tearing up the course.

I’m consistently scoring less than 100 now, but still more than 80, which is my current goal. It’s something that I only dreamed of doing a year ago, so I know I’m slowly getting better. I have a lots of almost great shots. I’m practicing for the day that I actually have a lots of great shots. I figure I can’t miss them all, so it’s theoretically possible that someday I will make them all.

Attitude is everything.

Cheryl will probably beat me by twenty strokes on Sunday. I’ll need to bring my ‘A’ game, if I have one, just to stay within five strokes of her score. In terms of following up on my last post, I need to golf like unto a porn star.

* * * *

Golf has become one of my most frequent topics in my blog. Probably because it’s the only thing I do on a regular basis, besides eat and sleep. I could start writing restaurant reviews, I guess. But then more people would want to come down here, and I don’t want that.

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By the way, the food sucks here.

* * * *

I don’t write about porn stars often, but I can’t say that I’ve never broached the subject. And that’s how I got to this point. After I finished my last post, I started wondering why people become porn stars. And I drank a lots of coffee.

* * * *

What do you want to be when you grow up?

No one ever says they want to be a drug addict. I doubt that 🌟Porn Star🌟 ever ranks in the Top Ten in terms of future professions. I’m guessing Garbage Collector rates higher than being a porn star, and who the fuck wants to be a garbage man when they grow up?

So, how does this even happen?

* * * *

Possible Little Known Fact About Being a Porn Star: You don’t require any special schooling or training to become one. It doesn’t appear that you even have to know how to act. I have yet to find any Juilliard graduates working in the Porn Industry. As long as you don’t have any qualms about having sex in front of a camera, you probably have all of the qualifications you’ll need for a career in adult movies.

The process of becoming a porn star appears to be fairly simple:

Step One: Fill out an application form. I know, right! I couldn’t believe it either, but there’s even an online form available. Step Two: You have to be at least eighteen years old, but there doesn’t appear to be an age limit! So, if you’re looking for something to do after you retire…  And, it would give you the perfect opportunity to get back at your children for all of the times they embarrassed you. Step Three: You have to pass a physical proving that you don’t have any Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

If you can survive that strenuous process, you’re probably in.

* * * *

After that, it gets tricksier. And by that I mean, Why?

As a guy, I can totally understand it from a male perspective. There’s probably no such thing as a guy who wouldn’t want to be a porn star. Guys are essentially pigs that have learned to walk on two legs and wear clothes. The idea that a guy could have sex and get paid for it is essentially the Guy version of Heaven. That, and there probably has to be beer…

have to admit that I was surprised by the reasons women gave when they decided to become porn stars, mostly because there were so many of them.

* * * *

Why do you want to be a nurse?

It was one of the first questions we were asked in nursing school. You can probably guess the most popular answer.

I want to do something to help people.

99% of the the people in my class gave that answer, or something like unto it.

I was much more interested in helping myself when I decided to become a nurse. I was tired of working a bunch of dead end jobs and being unemployed. I wanted a career.

* * * *

Working in the Porn Industry doesn’t appear to be the first career choice for many people, even men, though I have to assume it has actually happened. But working in Food Service isn’t anywhere near as much fun as they make it look on TV, so there’s that.

I’ve had two jobs in the Food Service Industry. I was fired from both of them. If I had gone into the Porn Industry, I’m sure it would have killed me to death. I’ll come back to this later…

Interestingly enough, the most popular reason why women become porn stars is economics. More than half of the women surveyed said they did it for the money, and it can be a lucrative career.

One young woman said she was working three jobs to make ends meet somewhere up in Canadia, and she figured there had to be a better way. She filled out an online application and moved to Los Angeles. Apparently, if you really want to be a porn star, you have to live where porn movies are made…

One woman was working as a social worker before she changed careers.

Becoming a social worker isn’t easy, though it’s probably easier than actually being a social worker. You could ask around, they have shit jobs most of the time. You have to have a lots of education and training for a job that might pay you $50K a year. Many social workers have a Masters degree, which means even more education and training. They might make around $70K a year.

Yep. You read that right. It’s ridiculous. A good social worker is worth twice her weight in gold. Maybe three times.

I’ve worked with a lots of social workers over the years. I can think of at least a dozen of them I wouldn’t have minded seeing naked. So, if any of you are reading this, please let me know if you ever decide to change careers.

I haven’t found any information about nurses becoming porn stars, but then, nurses make more money than social workers, so there’s that. I can think of about fifty of my former co-workers that I wouldn’t have minded seeing naked. Nurse-themed pornography is apparently quite popular, and, they already have the wardrobe…  I almost hope none of them read this because I’m sure they’d all tell me to Drop dead. Or worse.

For some women, pornography was an opportunity to explore their sexuality, to travel, and get paid. “It sounded like fun.” Anyone who frequently travels for business will tell you that there’s nothing fun about it. That shit gets real old, real fast.

Interesting Fact About Porn Stars: None of them use their real names. They all have 🌟Porn Star🌟 Names. Vicki Vette. Aspen Rain. India Summer. Carter Cruise. Ivana Sukyurkokov. You can have a 🌟Porn  Star🌟 Name, too. Your first name is the name of your pet. Your last name is the street you grew up on. My 🌟Porn Star🌟 Name is Rusty Cherry.

Some women had friends working in the industry, and, “It sounded like fun.” More than a few porn stars said that. What I think is telling is they all said it in the past tense.

There’s a fair amount of evidence that indicates the life of a porn star isn’t all fun and games and multiple orgasms.

Between November 2017 and January 2018, at least five adult performers died due to alleged drug overdoses or by suicide. One of them was the young woman who had been working three jobs up in Canadia. She was 23 years old. “We are in a crisis in the adult industry. It’s almost becoming like an epidemic.” That’s a quote from a female porn star who wanted to remain anonymous because, you know, Snitches get stitches.

No one likes bad reviews in the movie business, even if they’re true. Probably, especially if they’re true. #metoo

There’s another saying in Hollywood. You’ll never work in this town again. It means, You’ll never get another part in a film. If Hollywood is a small, cinematic community, it’s even more true of the Porn Industry.

Suicide actually appears to be one of the leading causes of death for people in the adult film community, whether it be from ‘accidental’ drug or alcohol related overdoses, or a more direct method. You can look it up on the Interweb. It’s a pretty long list.

If you can’t speak out against injustice in your occupation, it can only lead to despair.

You can quote me on that line.

“After a year or so of that so-called ‘glamorous life,’ I sadly discovered that drugs and drinking were part of the lifestyle.” That’s another anonymous quote from a female porn star. This is where I would have died to death. In a profession that glamorizes excesses, I wouldn’t have lived long enough to get into The 27 Club.

* * * *

The 27 Club is the name given to a group of influential rock musicians who died at the ripe old age of 27. Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. Jim Morrison. Kurt Kobain. It’s another pretty long list.

* * * *

I’m sure there are plenty of reasons for drug and alcohol abuse in the Porn Industry. There always are. Some of them might even be reasonable, not the least of which is societal scorn and shaming. The Porn Industry makes billions of dollars a year, but no one ever watches it. Porn stars are easy targets for cyberbullying/harassment.   #andyouthinkyouhaditrough

If you work in the adult film industry, there’s no such thing as Bring Your Child to Work Day. And those Parent/Teacher conferences at school take on a whole new light.

I couldn’t find any statistical analysis of drug/alcohol abuse/depression specific to the Porn Industry, but there are a lots of articles about the prevalence of it. Somewhat ironically, the profession with the highest rates of alcohol abuse and depression is healthcare. Yeah, go figure on that.

It would appear that literally getting fucked at work has the same net result as figuratively getting fucked at work, which is something almost all of us are familiar with.   #andididntevengetkissed

Divine Intervention

Hola, amigos.

I’d apologize for not writing more often, but I have no regrets about not writing, so I won’t. I hate receiving insincere apologies, so I hate giving them, too. I’ve been busy working on my golf swing with my golf wife. Judging by our scores, we’ll both be busy refining that aspect of our games for awhile.

If you thought this story was going to be about the miraculous hole in one I shot the last time I played, you’re going to be disappointed. Not as disappointed as I was, but still…

I’m not sure why I love doing something I’m so mediocre at, but life is full of mysteries. Golf is but one of them. I might feel the same way about bowling, but there aren’t any bowling alleys here, so I can’t fall in love with bowling.

I broke down and joined the Chapala Country Club a couple of weeks ago. I was spending roughly the amount of my monthly dues there anyhow, so it seemed like the thing to do.

I hear membership has its privileges, but I have no idea what they might be. I got a membership packet when I joined, but I haven’t read it. I figure if there’s something important, Phyllis will tell me. Phyllis is my golf wife, and she reads instructions.

And there’s our Spanish lessons. I think I’m picking up Spanish about as quickly as I’m improving in golf.

There are basically three types of gringos here. The ones who spoke Spanish before they got here. The ones who have no intention of learning Spanish, and act like fools when they go to the Telmex® office. And then there’s the ones like us who feel they have an obligation to learn the language of their new home.

We’re probably the minority of those three.

Poco y pinche poco. It’s a slow process, and frustrating at times. But it’s not like I have all that much on my schedule anymore. And the money we pay to learn Spanish is donated to help pay medical expenses for needy children.

As Lea says, at least someone is getting something out it.

* * * *

How’s everyone doing?

Life is still pretty sweet down here south of the border. It’s been chilly enough for us to use the fireplace, but seeing how someone who reads this might have actually frozen their ass off this winter, I’m not going to make too big a deal about the weather.

I’m still not sure how we ended up here when we did, so I tend to attribute wondrous things I can’t understand to God. If I didn’t believe in God I might attribute them to our cat, but I’ve never seen her do anything I could remotely call miraculous, so that’s too much of a stretch even for me.

I’m not sure I’ve ever outlined the chain of events that led us here in my blog. I’ve told the story a lots of times, and I’m too lazy to go back and read through my previous posts to find out…

I’m pretty sure all of this started when we moved from Minnesota to Arizona in 2007. My lovely supermodel wife became Phyllis’ boss. Phyllis, as in my current golf wife, Phyllis. Lea and Phyllis worked together for several years and eventually became good friends. In 2012, Phyllis and her husband, Max, were getting ready to retire. They were thinking about North or South Carolina because they were big NASCAR fans, and there’s a lots of race tracks in that part of the country.

Max has a brother, Rick. Rick was living in Ajijic, and he suggested Max and Phyllis come check the place out before they moved to either of the Carolinas. And that was the end of that plan. Max fell in love with Mexico. When Phyllis returned to work, she put in her notice, and my wife just about had a heart attack. Six weeks later, Max and Phyllis jumped in their car, and their retirement days began.

And that was almost the end of this story, except Phyllis sent Lea an email at work long after she moved away, I think it was 2014. A lots had happened in a couple years. Max had died. Phyllis missed her friend, and really wanted Lea to come visit her. After multiple invitations, we decided to check the place out in September of 2015, and flew to Guadalajara.

Phyllis had a little party for us while we were visiting. We met all of her best friends, and we listened to the promotional speeches they gave about why we should move to Mexico. We liked the Lakeside area. It was as pretty as a picture. However, at that time, neither of us were thinking about retiring, not for several years at least. And neither of us had even remotely considered retiring in Mexico. But it was certainly something to consider.

And then a whole lots of kooky things happened in rapid succession. In February of 2016, Lea’s company went through a major reorganization, and Lea found out she was going to be reorganized out of her job.

Just. Like. That.

Thanks for all your hard work and dedication. Please clear out all of your personal belongings by the end of business today.

Lea called her daughter, Gwen, who just happens to be our financial planner, and Gwen crunched some numbers. Gwen told her mother based on our savings and our Social Security income, Lea didn’t need to work anymore if she didn’t want to. And by virtue of that fact, neither did I. That memory still makes me smile.

It was at that precise moment that moving to Mexico started looking like a very real possibility.

Lea called Phyllis and they would have a lots of conversations over the next several months. Phyllis was instrumental in helping us navigate the obstacles of moving to a foreign country. Additionally, our landlord, Planet Janet, and all of Phyllis’ friends have been a great resource in assisting us in our transition. We haven’t had to face most of the pitfalls many expats run into when they move here.

Getting back to my story, we put our dream house in Surprise on the market and sold it in seven days.

Lea flew to Mexico and found a very spacious rental house three doors down from Casa del Phyllis. And she met Janet, who has become one of my favorite people.

The Mexican Moving Company came and packed up all our stuff, and headed south.

We rented a condo about five miles from the hospital I worked at and stayed there for three months until I retired at the end of September. Our furniture was waiting for us in our house when we arrived.

Everything that happened in this process fell into place so neatly. If we had planned it for years, it still wouldn’t have happened so perfectly. It was that slick.

Some might say it was nothing more than a series of coincidences. But I tend not to believe in coincidence. I’m more of an everything happens for a reason kind of guy. Besides, it’s more romantic when there’s a reason.

And that’s how we ended up in Mexico. I had a vague feeling something devastating was going to happen, you know, like unto a natural disaster. The Yellowstone Supervolcano was going to explode. That’s why we needed to get out of the US as quickly as we did.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. See? Still not a prophet…

Also, the fact that nothing terrible happened has left me wondering why we needed to get here so quickly. Well, Trump was elected President…  And however tragic I might view his election, it still wouldn’t have added up to anything equalling imminent danger to myself or Lea.

I’m not complaining about being here. I’m merely curious about the why.

Lea says that God is blessing us with this time together because we worked hard and we’ve been granted some peace and relaxation time.

It makes more sense than the volcano thing…

* * * *

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that almost everyone that believes in God has a Divine intervention story, and if it weren’t for God, they wouldn’t be here right now. We have, all of us believers, certainly prayed for divine intervention for any number of reasons.

Health. Illness. Love. Relationships. Life. Death.

The Bible is full of stories about God interceding for his people. There’s a lots of stories about prayers being answered by God and lives being changed for generations. I might write more about those someday. I spend more time thinking about that kind of stuff than anything else.

Lea’s not a big fan of my spiritual/ religious ramblings. She thinks it makes me appear, you know, crazy.

When I was a nurse, I used to pray for my patients. I used to pray for personal patience, understanding, and wisdom. When I was drunk I used to pray for a life changing intervention. Or death. And then I realized that’s one prayer that will always be granted, eventually.

It just never happens at the moment that you’re praying for it.

I see a lots of divine intervention in my sobriety. I doubt it’s an achievement I could have done on my own. Something greater than myself or my addiction came into play, and without that, I shudder to think what my life would be like now.

You can think what you like. For me, God saved my life, though I often wonder why He chose to do so.

* * * *

If you know me personally, or follow me on Facebook, you know my lovely supermodel wife and I are Minnesota Vikings fans. The Vikings had a very good season and are in the playoffs this year.

If you know anything about the Vikings history, you know the Vikings haven’t had the best results in playoffs. I have drowned many gridiron sorrows back in my drinking days, and celebrated scores of regular season wins. The Vikings have been to the NFC Championship game ten times. They’ve been NFC Champions four times. In their four Super Bowl appearances, they’ve come away with exactly zero Lombardi Trophies.

Divine intervention hasn’t been on the Vikings side in the playoffs. Miraculous plays always happened to the other team. But all that changed last Sunday night when the Vikings came from behind to beat the New Orleans Saints by scoring a 61 yard touchdown with ten seconds left on the clock.

The Vikings played a perfect first half, scoring seventeen points and shutting out the Saints. The Vikings defense was stellar, intercepting Drew Brees twice and keeping two of the best running backs in the game out of the end zone.

The second half was another story. The Saints scored twenty four points. The Vikings only six, and with twenty five seconds left in the game, the Vikings were down by one, and their season was about to end.

Lea and I were devastated. I was trying to figure out if we had enough medications to successfully overdose.

And then came the Minneapolis Miracle.

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For once, God decided to favor the Vikings. For a brief moment, Jesus wore a Vikings uniform, and as Stefon Diggs trotted into the end zone, there was surprise and disbelief, then jubilation! Even the players couldn’t believe what happened. You can Google® it if you haven’t seen it. It really was incredible. And beautiful.

On Sunday, the Vikings play the Eagles for the NFC Championship. The winner goes to the Super Bowl, which will be played in Minneapolis this year. The Vikings might be the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium.

It could happen. Hopefully, they won’t need any miracles to beat the Eagles because there were at least three miracles involved in the winning touchdown play last Sunday. It was kind of an Angels in the Outfield thing. Seriously.

I’m not sure how much more miracles they have left.

I don’t know how much God has to do with the outcomes of football games. Personally, I’d think he’d have bigger fish to fry. But if God truly orchestrated a miracle or three to beat the Saints, then please keep the miracles coming for two more games.

I’ve never prayed for something as trivial as a football victory before. Like I said, I think God has better things to do, but I’m going to pray for not one, but two more wins for the Vikings this season. Let there be any number of miracles, and let the Vikings win just one Super Bowl, before I die.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to any of us. Just because the Vikings had a great season this year doesn’t mean they’ll have an equally impressive season next year.

I’m not getting any younger, so they might as well do it now.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Part II

Two people I know, or knew, have died in less than a week. There’s a saying that these things tend to happen in threes, so I’m almost afraid to breathe right now. If that’s true, there’s one more to go…

On Saturday, I found out my cousin, Jimmy Clark, had been killed to death. He had been hit by a car while crossing the street in Rapid City, SD. He was 64 years old.

But getting hit by a car? Cancer, I get that. Heart attack or a stroke, I’d understand those. Getting hit by a car, in Rapid City? That just seems to be the most unlikely way a person can get dead.

I guess they knew what they were talking about when they told us to look both ways before we crossed the street when we were kids.

Jimmy had a great sense of humor. I’m sure he’d see the irony in that if he were still alive to talk about it. And then he’d laugh. He had just about the greatest laugh of anyone I’ve ever known.

Jimmy’s family lived in Wall, SD. It’s arguably the most famous town in the US with a population of less than one thousand people. And its’ notoriety has everything to do with an advertising gimmick, and one small pharmacy.

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard of Wall Drug?

Wall Drug hasn’t always been world famous, but it started becoming famous because of a billboard sign campaign advertising free ice water to tourists heading to Mount Rushmore. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I think it was Jimmy who told me there were two kinds of people in Wall. Tourists, and people who hate tourists.

The once humble pharmacy is now a tourist magnet drawing in a couple of million people a year. The drug store has become a mall that includes a cowboy department store, an art museum and a chapel, I think. It’s been a while since I’ve been there. In fact, I’m not sure there’s even a drug store there anymore.

Wall is pretty much in the middle of fucking nowhere, South Dakota. It’s on the edge of the Badlands, and if there was ever an apt name for a terrain, that’s a good one.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, I just saved a couple of dozen paragraphs trying to describe the Badlands. It’s a wild land that has been shaped by wind and water for centuries. Not much of anything grows there, meaning not much of anything can live there. And that’s where my family would go every year or two when my dad wanted to see his sister.

When we were kids, we’d play King of the Hill in the Badlands with our cousins while our parents sat around the kitchen table drinking a lots of highballs, smoking cigarettes, and laughing their asses off. The hell with Disneyland®. When I was a kid, Wall, SD was the happiest place on Earth.

I was always sad when we had to leave Wall and head back to wherever we were living. And once I grew up, I lost contact with my cousins. Its probably been over thirty years since the last time I saw Jimmy. Maybe longer.

Vaya con Dios, primo. The world will be a sadder place without you. With your passing, I think I become the oldest male on the paternal side of our family. Another reason I’m afraid to breathe. I might be next.

* * * *

The other person I knew was one of my virtual friends. We had never met in person, and now, we never will.

Mercedes was young. And pretty. She was from Canadia. Facebook suggested I send her a friend request, and she accepted. I liked her posts. She seemed to have a lots of energy, and she posted a lots of photos of herself smiling as she traveled around the Great White North. She had a pretty smile.

One of her posts was different from all her other posts. No pictures. No smiles. She stated she was fighting a battle against depression. She said she was okay. She had a lots of friends and family, and was taking antidepressants. She was going to be okay. She just needed some prayers and support.

That was about a month ago, maybe two. I told her I would say a prayer for her, and I offered my services, such as I could. After that, her posts always showed her smiling, apparently having a great time and enjoying her life.

Someone who probably knew her in person posted an update about her for all of her virtual friends today. She was found dead yesterday from an apparent overdose. She was 23.

* * * *

It’s hard to end on a high note when you’re writing about a topic like unto this. Death will come for us all, soon or late. But twenty-three is too goddamn young to die, and it’s even worse when the cause of death is suicide.

Please, think twice before you chose that as a final option. There is help available. All you have to do is ask. I know it’s hard, but do it anyway. It’s only by doing the hard things that you can truly grow.

And look both ways when you cross the street.