Looking over the hill

Aging has been on my mind for the past couple of years: Dad’s passing; Mom’s ongoing health issues (culminating with breast cancer and ultimate death from stroke); Liz’s decline and transition to assisted living; and my own body afflicted with more aches and pain, diminished strength and slower healing, even my vision with accelerated presbyopia and my optometrist recently informing me of my cataracts (granted: a level 1 on a scale of 10, so very early stage).

I see advancing age everywhere. We recently bought a Google Nest Hub smart home device which displays random photos from years past, and I notice how much younger we all seem in the pictures. Especially me… I see a far more youthful self in photos just a few years old. And I see Paul aging in pictures too. With his retirement in the past months I see behavioral changes in his daily habits, routines and schedules.. even attitude.

50 was my crossover point. At that age everything started to look and feel differently for me. I’m now 52 years old and have always felt younger than I actually am… and I still do. Just looking at the number “52” doesn’t seem applicable to me. And that’s a good thing: I do want to have energy, health and a generally positive outlook no matter my age.

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Welcome to 2022! It’s a relief to turn the page on 2021 and finally look forward to some exciting prospects and new adventures. While I have some specific milestones, the timeline remains unclear due to the continued COVID pandemic.

We are now in a significant surge with the US reporting several days of 500,000+ new cases. The new omicron virus variant is highly contagious but fortunately not as dangerous as the previous delta variant, which took a heavy toll last year. New studies indicate that omicron doesn’t infect the lungs, so hospitalizations are not expected to rise in proportion to the infection rate. This week South Africa (where omicron was first detected) reported that new infections are on the decline, so researchers in the US are expecting a similar fast climb (and fall) of infections with the peak hitting in the next 1-2 weeks.

Of course this has thrown my company’s return to office plans into question. We were expected to be on site starting January 10, but shortly before our December break they announced that this had “softened” in light of omicron and that we should follow the guidance of our managers. And since my boss was on vacation, I haven’t received any update. But I would be surprised if this date still holds given the rapid spread, and if for some reason it remains firm I’ll give immediate notice since I don’t plan to return to San Diego. And even if I were planning to relocate to San Diego and continue working, I wouldn’t be comfortable right now staying in AirBnBs, apartment hunting, furniture shopping, etc. and this would be an excessive ask from my company.

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¿Dónde San Miguel?

We’ve been in San Miguel de Allende since September 5 to close on our new house that we purchased last June. Except for one week back to the United States to visit Paul’s mother who fractured her hip and was in rehab and fairly confused by all the trauma. This is the start of my new life in Mexico, and so far it’s going well despite my very long “to do” list. I am extremely satisfied with our decision and eager for the excitement to come. I love it here!

San Miguel has changed since I started coming in 2004 in many ways. There are stylish boutique hotels with chic rooftop terraces, restaurants with fancier cuisine, hip bars serving expensive mescals and organic ginebra cocktails, bakeries with lovely fig-and-lavender pastries, savory breads and even decent bagels.

New eateries and shops are popping up everywhere, not just in centro but peppered throughout the neighborhood colonias. There’s a notable expansion of shops and dining along the Ancha de San Antonio near us. A few short years ago the Saturday open-air organic market (known as tianguis here in Mexico) became a permanent food emporium with fresh produce (blooming artichoke flowers!), natural health products, prepared foods and a café and juice bar.

And perhaps the most shocking is the new City Market grocery store just near the Salida a Celaya intersection, which carries high-end Mexican and imported products to service a growing Mexican middle class and the still strong expat community. It features an entire aisle (both sides!) dedicated to Mexican craft beers and fine mescals (currently the trendiest liqueur here). And the fish section is a marvelous display of fresh catch. I asked for a half kilo of thick, silvery prawns from the Pacific Coast and the attendant shelled and deveined them at no extra cost – saving me time and effort! Of course, I gave a nice tip, which is always appreciated, and I’m learning that a well-placed propina can pay dividends on subsequent visits.

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Oh Happy Day! COVID-19 Vaccine First Dose

Yesterday I received my first COVID vaccine shot. I was amazed at how quickly it all came to pass after months and months of waiting. In Florida last week there was talk of possibly expanding eligibility to ages 55+, just days after it was lowered to 60. But on Friday, the state announced eligibility is now 50+ starting on Monday.

To seize the opportunity, I quickly registered on county vaccination sites and set up online accounts at pharmacies and grocery stores. Florida has a patchwork of vaccination paths, which makes it confusing and inefficient. The county-administered sites run on a first-come-first-served basis, while the retail outlets require appointments scheduled directly on their sites. With no centralization, there’s huge potential for overlap, especially for motivated vaccine seekers like me.

So at dawn Monday I had two computers and my phone ready to get in the Publix and CVS appointment queues which opened at 7 AM. I waited as patiently as I could as I watched the availability decrease steadily: 92%… 76%… 48% then to 30% quite rapidly. Suddenly, about 45 minutes after the hour my screen moved from “On Hold” to “Register Now” and I speedily seized the first available slot for Wednesday afternoon at a local Publix supermarket.

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The Perils of Travel: Weighing in the Balance

Pitfalls abound in the world of travel: Illness, injury, political instability, robbery, perilous roads and unfit vehicles. Yet I’m not really a fearful traveler. So far nothing serious has happened to me (knock on wood!) but I’ve had some close calls:

  • The worst is probably the time the young child tried to pilfer my $20 Casio watch at the Lima, Peru central station immediately after I drowsily stepped off an all-night bus.
  • Or the time I was involved in a slow-motion, multi-car accident on a switchback mountain road in the Venezuelan Andes.
  • Or the time I miraculously piloted a scooter many kilometers on the wrong side of a winding road in Bermuda — at night.
  • Or the time our octogenarian taxi driver in Morocco fell asleep while careening down the highway from the Atlas Mountains.
  • Or the time we were sideswiped on a motorcycle by a licenceless, prepubescent driver, mere miles from where Che Guevara met his fate in Bolivia.

I’ve survived so far despite civil unrest in Argentina. Scams in the Maghreb. Trading with the enemy in Havana. Attempted muggings in Madrid and Lisbon. Economic collapse in Ireland. A volcanic eruption in Nicaragua. A ferry accident off Cape Cod. Favelas in Brazil. An earthquake in Colombia. A springtime heatwave in Oslo.

Did I survive because I was invincibly young? Tenacious? Was it simply fate? If anything I was probably just plain lucky. While many things are out of our control, I believe the world is intrinsically safe. Strangers will help. Our bodies are designed to be resilient. It’s why we live so long, on average, despite all the risks and uncertainties that are thrown our way in life.

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Baby Daddy

I wonder sometimes what it would be like to be a parent. I chose not to have children. My decision to be with Paul was a factor in that, given our age difference (he being 11 years older) and the impracticality of having children later in life. But many people do, especially these days. I recall thinking that Dad was relatively old to be a new father: he was 33 when Erik was born, and 35 when he had me. But nowadays this is normal — nearly everyone I know with children had them in their 30’s.

Probably the most compelling reason to be a father is the opportunity to care for and teach someone so intimately and directly. To watch the child develop, learn, engage in the world. And I’ve always felt I would be rather good at this — I could probably find the right balance between control and independence. I’d want the child to have latitude and confidence to explore.

I’d prioritize travel and languages and art and ideas. I’d camp, go for hikes, teach them to ski and ride bikes at an early age. I’d encourage sports but would let the child seek that out without pressure. I’d encourage participation in social groups, and always promote ways to be creative.

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Desert Stories, Desert Stones

Writing Prompt (Natural Abundance): Find five pretty or interesting rocks.

Last month we visited Ray at his home at Sun City in Palm Desert, CA. It was really nice to see him after a year of pandemic-mandated distance — and the last time I saw him was the day Mom passed away. So it was a relief to reacquaint under more normal circumstances, even though we social distanced responsibly with masks and an outside patio visit.

Last June, Paul and I were guests at our friend Scotty’s family cottage on the Isle of Springs — a perfect place to get away from the world’s craziness. We cooked, kayaked, walked through the island woodlands, sipped cocktails, scouted the beaches for sea glass and dug for littleneck clams, listened to music, played card games, put together jigsaw puzzles, and enjoyed fine sunset views over the Sheepscot river to the mainland.

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5:30 AM: I just got back from dropping Paul off at the Sarasota airport, an early wake up for both of us especially since the time changed overnight to daylight savings time so we effectively lost an hour. He’s headed through Dallas on his way to Las Vegas for his second Pfizer coronavirus vaccine shot but the weather looks troubling at DFW.

We just haven’t had much luck with that airport lately. On our return flight from Palm Springs a thunderstorm diverted us to Austin which delayed our arrival by many hours. It was my second diversion at that airport — a few years prior when flying from Querétaro, Mexico storms diverted us to Houston which was a huge pain since we were an international arrival which complicated the security.

But hopefully things will be just fine for Paul today, I’m thrilled he is getting his second shot which means he will soon be free to interact more socially and travel more. Things are looking up, many experts are saying that things will begin to feel much more different in the next 45 days or so as vaccine injections continue to ramp up.

Continue reading “Heritage”