Hasta la vista, Andres

On August 29, a friend died. His name was Andy. He often left comments here on The Moon using the name Andres until four or five years ago, when he stopped. I never understood why. We continued to communicate fairly frequently, but via email.

I thought of him as a friend although we only saw each other in person one time when he rode a bus to my mountaintop town, and we sat on the central plaza with cafecitos. I later joined him for lunch before driving him to the bus station to return to Uruapan, the city where he lived for 15 years about 35 miles southwest of here.

That was some years ago too.

Andy and I had lots in common. We were born in the same year. We graduated from high school in the same year. We were in the Air Force at the same time though in distant bases. We both moved to Mexico alone. I came in a plane. He came in his car, which was stolen about a week later. He never bought another one.

Andy didn’t have much money.

We both grew up in Florida. He became a social worker. I almost became a social worker too, surprisingly.

He had serious respiratory issues (COPD) due to chain-smoking for decades. He quashed the habit two years ago, but that was not soon enough because the Kung Flu shoved him over the edge.

A week before he died, he emailed me that he had awakened that morning feeling much better after days of a high fever and that he’d also had trouble breathing. He thought he was on the mend.

I asked if he’d had a covid test, and he said no, but he suspected that was the problem. He said that if he had not quit smoking two years ago, he would probably have died.

In the following week, I emailed him a couple of times on other matters and asking how he was doing. I received no reply. The week after that, I emailed again, and I received a reply from his email but from a Mexican friend who told me Andy had died. He was 76 years old.

—–

Initially, I planned to end this post with a list of Gringos and Canucks I’ve known here, both in person and online, who have died since I moved to Mexico. I started to list them on a sheet of paper, and I was surprised. Were I to include them here with a few words about each, you would be reading nonstop until tomorrow.

Most, of course, were retirees like me. But I stopped working early at age 55, and most did not, so their time in Margaritaville was briefer than mine has been.

One day I’ll be on that list, but someone else will write it.

I hope Andy is doing okay.

An incurable affliction

I’M AN OLD MAN, and I don’t like it one bit.

New ImageThis phenomenon sneaks up on you like a rat snake. First, you feel the energy level slipping. I initially noticed that about a decade ago when I was in my mid-60s.

That’s when I quit mowing the yard in summertime.

Then your body begins to jig and jag in various ways, nothing that puts you out of commission (yet), but it’s noticeable. Your balance becomes unreliable. You feel this most on standing from a chair or bed.

What separates the sickness of aging from other afflictions like a bad cold, the flu or injuries from a motorcycle accident is that you can recover from a bad cold or flu and, with luck, from accident injuries of every sort.

But there is no recovering from getting old. There is no pill to take. You will not take an aspirin and feel better in the morning. It’s a downhill skid.

This is rather disturbing, that there is no cure for the first time in your life. But I have been fortunate. I can say there is no cure for the first time in my life because — knock on wood — I’ve never had anything incurable befall me. Others are not so lucky.

I have no vices, and I’m skinny svelte. These things work in my favor. I used to have vices. Smoking, drinking. But I quit smoking about 30 years ago, and I quit drinking on a March evening in Houston, 1996.

I started smoking at age 19 when I was in the Air Force. I smoked pipes like David Niven, cigars like Fidel Castro and cigarettes like millions of people. Oddly, it was not very difficult to stop smoking. I tapered off. No cold turkey for this boy. I recommend that method.

I started drinking in my mid-20s when I was married to my first wife. It was moderate at first, and I favored Southern Comfort, which is ghastly now that I think back on it. Syrupy swill.

After the first divorce at 26, I got serious about drinking, switching to alcohol for adults, and I remained serious about 25 years. I wasn’t a falling-down drunk nor a nasty one. But I did drink daily, every single, solitary day. Then I quit. Life improved immensely.

Oddly again, quitting was easy, easier than stopping smoking.

And I was not always skinny svelte either. I weighed about 55 pounds more than I do now until I was in my early 30s. Heftiness is bad for your health, and you’re less likely to reach an advanced age if you’re a meatball.

I weigh now what I weighed at age 21.

So, no smoking, no drinking and skinny svelte, all positive things if you don’t want to die prematurely, and I will not die prematurely.

It’s too late for that. I can only die via the normal schedule.

I’m hanging in there, but I don’t like it. And there’s no good solution. There is only one cure. And you know what that is.

Water & chocolate

AFTER A FIVE-DAY, unusual dry spell here last week, it’s raining again, which is what the Goddess intends for our neck of the woods through all of September.

And, as usual too, I headed downtown yesterday afternoon for a café Americano negro, which I normally get free at my sister-in-law’s coffee shop. But she closed yesterday to rest.

Seems the Independence Day festivities over the weekend pooped her out. She had to sit with her cigarettes and Coke while watching the cash register fill with tourist pesos.

Darn near did her in.

So I walked to another side of the plaza and sat at a different coffee shop where I had to pay. I ordered hot chocolate. It started to rain. I grabbed my camera and panned around.

You might have heard of our latest earthquake. It did quite a bit of damage in Mexico City, more than the previous one a couple of weeks ago. When it struck yesterday we were in a supermarket in the nearby capital of our state.

I was walking down an aisle, and about five little cartons of something fell off the shelf directly in my path. I had felt nothing, but the store alarm went off, and we had to stand in the parking lot about five minutes.

Then we went back in and finished shopping. It was only later that we learned of the extensive damage and deaths in Mexico City. We had initially planned on making our twice-yearly visit to our condo there the first week of this month.

That was when the last quake struck. It was centered far away in the Pacific and didn’t do much damage, if any, in Mexico City. But our neighbors emailed us it was quite a jolt.

We rescheduled the trip for the first week of October, but now I’m a bit concerned. Gotta do it, however. We’re in the northern part of Mexico City, and our building suffered no damage yesterday. Bet it scared the neighbors, however.

Would have scared us too had we been there. Our apartment is on the fourth floor of a five-story building.

Death and cigarettes

A SISTER-IN-LAW lives nearby. Most of the family reside elsewhere. Distance assists good relations.

This sister-in-law, whom I see almost every day, smokes nonstop. It’s not pretty, and it smells awful.

I smoked cigarettes, cigars and pipes for years. I was not a heavy smoker, however, and I stopped in the early 1990s using a tapering-off routine that was pretty easy.

In a supermarket checkout line today I got a good look at a cigarette rack and was amused by the packaging. It was a popular brand in Mexico called Montana.

At least a quarter of a package face displayed a dead rat. Another was a photo of an open human mouth full of cigarette butts, the implication being that you’ll stink like an ashtray, which is quite true.

Cigarette packages, last time I paid attention, simply informed buyers that they’re dangerous. Times have changed.

Candy-Skull-01b-1Of course, tobacco companies do not put photos of dead rats and mouthfuls of butts on their packages voluntarily. They are legally obligated.

My sister-in-law will tell you in all seriousness that she won’t stop smoking because doing so increases the risk of lung cancer. She says  she knows too many people who stopped smoking and immediately died of cancer.

Her twisted logic always leans her way. She smokes to maintain her good health, her stinky well-being.

Are dead rats on cigarette packs in the United States?

* * * *

Speaking of death, our Day of the Dead celebration is about a week away, and the town is putting on its best face.

Streets are being cleaned. Tree trunks are whitewashed. Curbs are splashed yellow, and road stripes are repainted. We look almost new — as new as a six-century town can look.

The Hacienda is getting cleaned up too, unrelated to the Day of the Dead. Workmen are here painting, scraping, cementing, attaching, repairing, all manner of improvements.

It’s a yearly event.

The downside is that I’m trapped here today because much of the work is inside, and going off and leaving them here alone isn’t a bright idea. I don’t know them.

An upside is that I’m killing time by typing away.

And thinking of you.