You are What You Wear

August 1, 2017

When I got to the garden party they all knew my name

But no one recognized me, I didn’t look the same

Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band – Garden Party

Most of us are aware that when we retire our lives change, sometimes drastically. And when we retire to a foreign country, the changes can increase exponentially. Some things that are affected by retiring and especially when moving abroad include the language that we speak, the foods we eat, the amount of alcohol we drink, the health care available to us, our circadian rhythms (including when we eat, when we sleep, when we wake, how much we sleep, when we exercise), the religions that influence us, our social relationships including our sex lives, and how we entertain ourselves and spend our leisure time.

I’ll bet that you never thought that you wouldn’t even “look the same”.

If you are like me you’ll be wearing a whole set of different clothes. You may have a picture in your mind of the northern retirees who have moved down to Florida wearing Bermuda shorts (men) and muumuus (women, and some men too). But a move to the tropics will have a much greater impact. You don’t see those white suits and pith helmets and flowing dresses with bustles and large floppy hats like you see in the old movies about the British Raj anymore. But you will look different. Here is how it affected me.

 

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I got shoes you got shoes all of God’s children’s got shoes

When I get to heaven gonna put on my shoes

I’m gonna walk all over God’s heaven

Since retiring to Thailand I haven’t worn a pair of “real” shoes even once. And the pair of leather shoes I shipped here have since disintegrated into a powder. Leather stuff seems to do that here in the tropics.

A “good” pair of American shoes after a couple of years in Thailand.

The closest I come to wearing real shoes is occasionally putting on a pair of lace-up running shoes. In the house, everyone here walks barefoot. You take off your shoes before entering a person’s house, or a temple, and sometimes even a shop or someone’s office. Look on the floor in front of a shop or office you are about to enter. If there are shoes lined up in front of the door then you should take your shoes off before entering. When visiting a person’s house ignore anyone who says you don’t need to take your shoes off, especially if they themselves aren’t wearing any.

I see Expats who insist on wearing footwear they were formerly accustomed to. They bend down to untie and later to tie their shoe laces a dozen times a day.

 

So, because of all this taking-off-of-the-shoes, very few people here will wear lace-up shoes. I wear sandals (with Velcro straps) when I go out to a place where I might meet someone I know (my formal wear).  More informally, I wear knock off Crocs when I go to the market. (Note: Real Crocs are sold here for about $30. Knock off Crocs sell for about $2.50).  I wear knee-high rubber boots when I work in the garden. The only lace-up shoes I regularly wear are my golf shoes. It’s also the only time I wear socks. (Note: For some reason Thailand has great socks. Three pair for about $2.50; that is if your feet aren’t too big for them. Mine just about make it.)

My suggestion:

When in Rome, wear the same kinds of shoes that everyone else wears.

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Pants on Fire

Before moving here I went shopping for dress pants, bought a number of pairs that fit perfectly and shipped them here. They are now hanging in my closet, the tags still on. And I am afraid that the waists nowhere still fit me after 10 years. But no problem. I haven’t worn a real pair of pants since I retired to Thailand.

What I do wear are these ¾ length pants (150 baht) with elastic waists, and occasionally shorts. Although things are slowly changing, it used to be that no adult Thai males would wear short pants. These were reserved for school boys and not for “men”. Women also did not wear shorts. It is still that way for older Thais and I will bet that you have never seen a 70 year old man (whose club I am proudly a member) wearing shorts, except for Expats.

I also wear sweat pants and some warm up type pants with elastic waists. These look like “real” pants but don’t need belts (which I also haven’t worn in years). These are my “formal” pants.

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Anthropologists would argue that the tie directs a viewer’s attention downwards to the wearer’s genitals (hence the arrow-like shape). A kind of displaced cod-piece.

Linda Ellerbee (US journalist) is quoted as saying: “If men can run the world, why can’t they stop wearing neckties? How intelligent is it to start the day by tying a noose around your neck?”

I did a search on wearing a dress-shirt and tie on Google and there are lots of opinions about where and why this all started. Above are two of my favorites.

Needless to say I haven’t worn a dress-shirt or tie since arriving here. Before coming we packed all our stuff. All our clothes went into boxes, one of which, after more than 10 years here I opened the other day. In it I found a plastic bag full of my old neckties. I used to have to wear them to work. BTW, I never (unlike a red-tie-wearer we all know) let the tie drop below my belt. Sad!.

I used to be so proud of my ability to tie a perfect Windsor Knot. I think I have lost that ability. But at least I now never have a noose around my neck.

Note: I do own a short-sleeve black dress-shirt. One thing that increases with age is the number of funerals I go to. Sadly, this shirt is getting a lot of wear.

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Long Sleeves and Jackets

Although Chiang Mai gets nice and cool in the winter there is rarely much of an opportunity to wear sweaters and jackets. Except that they are on sale just about everywhere. Why is that?

I’ll explain that using a scientific study I once carried out.

I stood on a street corner on a hot afternoon watching the traffic roll by. I counted the number of motorcycles that passed by noting how many riders were wearing long sleeves (shirts, jackets, and sweaters). The results: 95 Thai motorcyclists out of 100 who passed me by on that day were wearing long sleeves. Zero Exapts who drove by were wearing long sleeves.

Why the long sleeves? Well, besides the sun being really hot beating down on bare arms, Thais don’t like dark skin and will do what they can to protect themselves from getting tanned (Just check out the number of TV commercials for whitening cosmetics.) But Expats might consider using long sleeves while riding motorcycles for a more serious reason.

I know a number of my Expat friends who have had to deal with skin cancer here. Usually it is of the non malignant type but they still need to deal with these in a drastic manner. Each has had chunks of tissue cut out from their nose, face, hands and arms.

A helmet will protect you from the sun too, among other reasons for wearing one.

My suggestion:

When in Rome, wear long sleeves when everyone around you is wearing long sleeves.

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I should note that Thais occasionally do wear dress pants and shirts and ties and even leather shoes. And there is a bit of history that goes along with this.

Many years ago, along with the first of the Thai constitutions, came a movement to modernize Thai society. This is when the spoon and fork came into popular use, as opposed to simply eating with the fingers (still in vogue in the north and northeast though). Note: chopsticks are Chinese and used mainly with noodle dishes (Chinese) served in a bowl. No Thai would use chopsticks for anything served on a plate unless they were food in little easy-to-pick-up pieces.

People, especially government workers, were required to wear shoes too. When I first came to Thailand I often encountered people, usually villagers, who still walked barefoot. But the flip-flop changed all that. The flip-flop, or thong, may have been one of the most important inventions that have influenced the health of the world’s population (Diseases from going barefoot.) Today I almost never see bare feet except inside the house.

And in Chiang Mai, where ladies going topless was once acceptable, a la the famous topless Balinese at that time (which I was lucky to have encountered), I sometimes came across an older grandma who, on a stifling hot season day, had shed her upper garments (but by that time the younger ladies had made the change to modernity).

Other moves to modernity were the wearing of hats, suits, and ties, and the refraining from chewing beetle-nut.

BTW, It is obvious that women going topless today is severely frowned upon. What isn’t so obvious, especially to Expat men, is that men going topless is also a no-no. Except for an occasional laborer or a farmer out in the field, (and someone on the beach) you will probably not see a Thai male going topless. As for Expats, although it is sometimes difficult to endure, you will see this often.

BTW-2, Expat woman have their own way of dressing, but I try to follow one of the major rules to being a writer: “Write what you know about.” I am only 71 and been married for only 46 years, so I haven’t been around long enough to learn much about women. I will leave the descriptions of how they deal with retirement in the tropics to people who know more than I.

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Today I am sitting here at my computer, writing this post barefoot, wearing a tee shirt and 3/4 pants with an elastic waist, possibly unrecognizable to my friends back in the U.S. but as comfortable as I can be.

My suggestion:

When in Rome, if you’re retired and old enough not to care what anyone thinks of you, wear whatever makes you feel good.

Beware the Jabberwock

July 1, 2017

One of the first articles I ever wrote was titled “Cobras in My Garden” (Bangkok Post, circa 1980). I told the story about finding a couple of monocled and venomous slithery friends who had invaded my garden. They didn’t fare very well after an encounter with my garden hoe though. I had chopped one in half (a big no-no I later found out), the head flying off into the bushes. The whole neighborhood screamed at me for being such a fool. About a half hour later their fury was corroborated when the head part, with its fangs flaring and cobra viscera trailing, and still very dangerous, came wiggling out of the shrubbery.

And ever since then I have had to answer the question about how dangerous snakes are in Thailand; the latest being an email telling me that a perspective female retiree to Thailand had decided not to migrate here because she was afraid of the snakes.

Personally, I love snakes. Maybe because of that I see snakes often. Most are harmless and non-venomous. Some are dangerous but sadly all snakes usually run away from me as fast as they can. In fifty years here I have never heard of anyone I know being bitten by either a venomous or non-venomous snake. So are snakes a reason for not coming here? I think my emailer is making a mistake.

Yes, you should be careful if you see a snake although most will be harmless. But there are lots of other things lurking here that, on the danger scale, rank much higher than the 200 or so species of snakes.

Before I get into things to “beware” of, I should emphasize that none of the following “Jaberrwocks” would stop me from a move here.

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The tiny danger

The most dangerous animal in Thailand (besides humans that is) is not a snake, or a tiger, or a water buffalo in heat, or a rampaging elephant. All are dangerous, but nowhere near as dangerous as the tiny mosquito.

Dengue fever is a real threat, although for adults it is usually not life threatening. I’ve had it. Painful as hell, worse headache I ever had, 104 temp, lasted about 4 days, but I am still here. It wasn’t much more of a bother for me than a trip to Immigration. Others have had more severe cases.

Children can be hit hard by dengue and recently one of Thailand’s biggest movie stars caught a lethal strain, ended up in a coma and later died. This was a big deal here not only because of the victim being a celebrity but because it is so rare for an adult to die from dengue.

Mosquitoes also carry the much rarer Japanese encephalitis. As the name implies, it attacks the victim’s brain. There is a vaccine for it but unless you are living way out in the boondocks you won’t probably ever see this. It is also known as “sleeping sickness” because many children who get it lapse into a coma which they rarely come out of. I know of only one Expat who contracted Japanese encephalitis. He lived way upcountry and he later had severe psychological issues due to it. Since the Japanese encephalitis mosquito’s life-cycle includes time spent in a pig, if you don’t live near or around pigs then you’ll probably be fine.

And of course there is malaria. I haven’t heard of malaria up here in the north. There is some down in the south though but I have never met an Expat who caught malaria here in Thailand. If a reader knows of someone please let us know, and tell us the story. There are malaria pills but I don’t know anyone here who takes them. It just isn’t a problem that concerns most Expats.

So what does one do about mosquitoes? Screens on your house would be a good idea. I lived in a non-screened house for about 3 years and slept under a mosquito net (When I wasn’t sleeping under a net was when I caught dengue even though the dengue mosquito is most active in the daytime.) There are many insect repellents available here. The best ones use “deet”. Mosquitoes are definitely “repelled” by it, but many people have side effects using it so be careful. There are also mosquito coils which you burn and do keep the little buggers away. But I don’t like breathing in the fumes.

There are also lots of other little buggers that hang around trying to eat us. If you get a scratch or a scrape or break the skin in any way, be sure to quickly wash it out with soap and water and use an antiseptic. You may not be able to see these bacteria but you are now in the tropics and they will find you. A friend of mine almost lost a leg when he got a simple scratch which got infected and it took some serious antibiotics and weeks walking with a cane before the infection was gotten under control.

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They’ll eat you out of house and home

Probably the most destructive insects here are the termites. If you have any wood in your house, even door frames, or book cases, or books for that matter, they will find them, and eat them. They won’t physically hurt you but your bank account might get eaten away after paying for house repairs. I have some climate-change-activist friends who tell me that if we don’t stop the destroying of our environment immediately then our species doesn’t have much longer to live on this planet. I hope they are wrong, but if that is the case, then I think the termite will be crowned the new “King of the World”.

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There are lots more biters and stingers here who can make life painful and itchy. I’ll just mention the ones I have encountered personally.

 

The stingers

There are many species of bees in Thailand. The jungle produces lots of illegal honey (which sometimes finds its way into our kitchen), and bee keepers produce a good quality legal kind. We once had a hive of tiny bees living inside the walls of our house. They entered and exited the hive from the outside so we weren’t concerned. Their stings are only bothersome unless you are allergic.

It’s the wasps and hornets that can knock you out with their stings and there is a buzzing, hairy bumble bee whose sting feels like a gun shot. Avoid these guys if you can.

Scorpions are just about everywhere. You’ll often see the large black ones, sometimes frying in a wok in the market as they are considered a delicacy. They are huge and look like black lobsters, but their sting is more or less just a bit of a bother. It is the little red ones that give the big stings. Just turn on the lights, as scorpions are usually photo-phobic, and, like New York roaches, they’ll scurry away.

I can’t fail to mention the one time I was walking through my garden and my arm brushed along the underside of a leaf. POW! I thought I had been bitten by a cobra the pain was so intense. I turned over the leaf and there was this hairy caterpillar looking up and smiling at me. It took hours for the pain to go away. Moral of the story, if it is hairy, stay away.

The biters

You will get bitten by ants, that’s for sure. Little black ones hurt, the big red weaver ants, the ones that make those cool woven nests and whose eggs and larvae are so tasty, can give a painful bite. But it is those tiny red ones, the ones that the Thais call “mot khan fai”, the “ants that itch and burn” that can really hurt.

After a heavy rain ants sometimes like to move house. One rainy season morning I went downstairs, eyes still closed, and stepped right into a moving parade of the “itchy burning ants” going right across my living room floor. They flew up my leg and started biting. I looked down and saw what was happening but it was too late. There was so much pain I thought I was going into cardiac arrest. After getting all the ants off my leg my heart was still racing, my leg felt like it was being cut off, and if I wasn’t flat on my back, and if I had a phone, I would have called 911 (nothing would have happened anyway because emergency here is 191). I survived though, and ever since then, no matter how sleepy I am, I open my eyes wide before going downstairs.

Other biters are centipedes, the big long 8” variety that can put you into the ER (Note: Those huge millipedes are harmless and are in fact good for the garden.); during the rains there are tick invasions, especially in houses with dogs; leeches you’ll discover on your jungle trekking experience; and there are little bugs you can’t even see, like scabies. I caught scabies once in a hill tribe village. Little red dots on the skin, the insect is microscopic, that itched like crazy. Made me feel dirty. If I got them in one night in the village what must it be like for the villagers?

But the bites you want to avoid are from our best friends, dogs. Rabies is endemic to Thailand and a large percentage of the dogs here go unvaccinated and are prone to this virus. If you are bitten or simply scratched by a strange dog then to the doctor you must go and you will probably be in for a series of the rabies vaccine. It is a series of shots over a number of days. They are costly and chances are you wouldn’t even have needed them, but peace of mind sometimes costs a bit. To paraphrase Cercei Lannester, the Mad Queen in Game of Thrones, “If you play the game of rabies, either you get vaccinated, or you die.”

Note on soi dogs or dogs you meet on your walks or runs. They will sound really aggressive but they are just doing what dogs do, protecting their territory. Some people carry sticks or stones with them. That just makes the dogs angrier. Here is what I do. When I pass by a yapping pack of soi dogs, I just stop, arms hanging low, palms out, non-aggressive, and I speak sweetly to them and say, “Please let me pass. I know this is your territory and I promise I won’t do anything to mess it up.” And they quite down, sniff my palms, and then let me go on my way. Amazingly this works almost every time, and I have never been bitten.

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So you like it raw?

Do you like sushi and sashimi, raw fish? Live tiny shrimp, still wiggling are favored by many beer drinkers. Lots of people here will eat raw meats including pork. I suggest you go onto YouTube and search for “intestinal parasites pictures”. I would normally put the link here but the sites are not for kids or the squeamish so I’ll let you do it for yourself if you can take it. After seeing them, tell me you still want that nice raw salmon or tuna.

But not to worry. If you cook your foods well and unless you are extremely careless about what you eat, get really drunk often and don’t know what you are eating, or are just addicted to Japanese sashimi, you’ll probably never get a picture of your intestines posted on YouTube. Many old-timers here will do a series of deworming pills once a year as a prophylactic (ask you pharmacist), just as you would for your dog or cat. I used to, but now that I am more careful about what I eat I don’t see the need.

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In Nature, it is always a war. Either something (big or small) is trying to eat you, or something is afraid you are trying to eat it and will throw up protection. Because Thailand is in the tropics, is hot, and damp most of the year, and is blessed with so many and varying species of plants and animals, we tend to come into contact with these battles more than if we lived in the more moderate regions of the world (although if my climate-change-activist friends are correct then every place may soon become tropical).

But is that a reason to avoid a retirement here in Thailand? I mean, America has black widow spiders, alligators, rattle snakes, gila monsters, the zika virus, lime disease, its own share of parasites, the Kardashians, Chipolte, and now the U.S. even has dengue fever. I might be afraid of moving THERE.

For some, maybe there are good reasons for avoiding Thailand and the tropics; they simply want to avoid the Jabberwocks. For others, Jabberwocks just make life a little more interesting, and that is one of the reasons I love it here.

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If you see a snake and want to ID it, first stay back, and then this link might help.

See an insect you might want to identify? Here’s a link.

Deet and other mosquito repellents.

Apologies to Arlo Guthrie and Alice

When we were packing our 40’ shipping container on our way to a retirement in Thailand one of the things we thought about was what stuff should we ship that we just couldn’t get here in Thailand. We made a long list, went shopping, packed it all up in boxes, and sent it on its way. It turns out that we were way off with our list, and in today’s Thailand you can get just about anything you want or need – almost.

Thailand is now quite a modern country where just about everything is available. Maybe a little history will help us see why we were so mistaken about what is available here now. We’ll start with an anecdote about coffee.

I choose coffee because it seems that within just a 7-iron drive’s distance from my computer (for me that’s not very far) there are at least a dozen coffee shops. The shops have on their signs (in Thai) “Kafae Sot”. This literally means “fresh coffee”, but should be interpreted as “freshly brewed” coffee.

When I first arrived in Thailand coffee was rarely encountered. Maybe if you had a meeting with a high ranking official he would offer you a cup of coffee in his office. This meant Nescafe instant coffee, at the time the only coffee available. There were no coffee shops as we know them. If coffee was ordered at a hotel or a high end restaurant, it was Nescafe, the brand name that became synonymous with “coffee” itself. The reason the ubiquitous coffee shops today need to emphasized “fresh” is to differentiate it from the instant, powdered, variety so popular in the past.

I remember when the first real coffee shop was opened in Chiang Mai, circa 1970. Its very appropriate name, “First Coffee Shop”. And coincidentally, it was just one or two shops down from where currently sits the Starbucks on Tha Phae Road.

As with coffee, so many of the things we wanted or needed that were unavailable to us back then are encountered just about everywhere in today’s Thailand.  Here is an example.

My son on a visit here saw how much ice we used (it was the hot season) and he decided that we needed an ice maker. We couldn’t find one in the market here so back in the U.S. he checked out Amazon.com and got one for us and the next time he visited he schlepped* it all the way here in his luggage. It was 110 v so we needed a heavy duty electricity converter, but the thing works great.

We later learned that all we needed to do was a little on-line shopping right here and we could have found just about whatever we are looking for. Ice makers are here. So is the food dehydrator that we were thinking would be our next “schlepping” purchase from the U.S. All are available right on a number of Thai web sites and they are of the 220 v variety so no electricity converter is necessary.

The two on-line sites we have used are Verasu and Lazada. They seem to be reliable and fast, with good prices. Besides these two Thai sites there are Chinese on-line stores that ship directly here and so does Amazon and Best Buy and lots of other international companies.  For many items, especially foreign made, their prices are often much lower than the Thai prices. But to the lower prices must be added overseas shipping costs which can be quite high, and the possibility of having to pay taxes. Because of that our son is bringing a new Android tablet for me on his next visit. In this case, schlepping will be worth it. On Best Buy the price for the Android tablet I chose is 1/3 the cost here in Thailand.

The list of what I need from back home is getting shorter and shorter. But there are still some things that are either hard to come by here, are much more expensive, or the specific brand you like may not be available.

Here are a few examples.

 

Foods

Thailand seems to have a plethora of western sausages, none of which for me are edible (although Thai sausages are quite good). I absolutely love American hot dogs. Not to be found here. When in the U.S. I buy about 10 lbs. of Hebrew National Hot Dogs, freeze them, wrap them really well, and put them in my check in luggage when I travel back to Thailand. They make it here fine, still mostly frozen, but with all their nitrates and nitrites they stay fresh and are a great reminder of home.

We also pack a bunch of good quality cheese. You can get good cheese here but the prices are quite high and the selection is limited.

I also love those Blue Diamond almonds you can get on sale in U.S. pharmacies.

But the food I crave most is Trader Joe’s Belgian Milk Chocolate. I bring about a dozen 1 lb. bars back here with me, frozen. I eat two small pieces each night. It lasts me about 6 months that way. I have one 1 lb. bar left from my last trip. Just thinking about what happens when it is finished sends me into chocolate withdrawal. Locally produced Kit Kats just don’t suffice.

 

Clothes

I am a little guy in America, but large for here. Luckily I am right at the maximum range for Thai clothes and shoe sizes so I can usually get what I need. Anyone larger than I am, and that includes most westerners, might need to get their clothes, and especially shoes, back home. This includes both men and women.

 

Electronics and sports equipment

As mentioned above, electronics, computer equipment, tablets, smart phones, computer games, and their like, are quite expensive here. U.S. on-line sites have much better prices. The same goes for sports equipment. I priced a Ping driver at a department store here the other day and it costs more than $1,000. It is more like $300 back home (I ended up buying mine used from a friend for 2,000 baht.). An archer friend of mine said he had the same experience with his bows and arrows.  Best to check prices.

 

Vitamins and supplements

These aren’t considered medication so they carry a big tax. Vitamins, even the one-a-day kind, can be quite expensive. I take one tablet of Glucosamine a day. Keeps my joints lubricated. Very expensive here. They are pricey at Costco back home but still lots cheaper than here.

 

Other stuff

We like good quality American tools, especially Craftsman from Sears.

I like a specific brand of after shave and deodorant that I can’t get here (It’s as Hannibal Lecter said after sniffing the Edward Norton character in Red Dragon, “The one with the ship on the bottle.”)

If I eat spicy foods for dinner I get stomach troubles at night and America’s Alka-Seltzer it’s the only thing that works for me, but it isn’t sold here.

We can get fitted sheets here but for some reason they don’t come with a matching flat sheet, so we buy good quality sets at home and bring them here. Be careful with these since the mattress sizes here can be different from those in the west.

What I really crave is good ice cream. Most Thai-made ice cream has never seen cream and is made with palm oil as a substitute. That is a big no no for an ice cream aficionado. You can get Haagen Dasz Ice Cream‎ here but a quart costs about as much as a good wristwatch and I won’t pay that much for an ice cream with a made up Scandinavian sounding name by two kids from New Jersey. I prefer Breyers Butter Pecan all natural ice cream and if I find a way to bring it in my luggage then the world will be spinning correctly.  (As a substitute, Thai coconut milk ice cream, sold in push carts, is quite good.)

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Request: For those already living here, to help those planning on making the move, please leave a comment if there is stuff that you can’t find here and that you bring to Thailand whenever you return from a visit home.

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I just checked and it turns out that Lazada website carries the stuff with the ship on the bottle.

I did another search and found ice cream makers and scoops but no Breyers Butter Pecan.

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*schlep: to carry or pull (something) with difficulty: to drag or haul (something).  A Yiddish word that is part of the New York vernacular I grew up speaking. No standard- English word seems to carry the same feeling.

 

Time

We know that time is a relative thing. Einstein taught us that time changes depending on the speed in which we are traveling. I now believe that time also changes depending on how old we are. It is my learned opinion that now a day consists of only about 18 hours (4 of which I can sleep if I am lucky), a week has 5 days, a month about 3 weeks, and a year, maybe just 8 months now. Those 90 day immigration reporting requirements come about every 45 days for some reason. That’s the way it appears to me now that I am 70 years old.

In a few months it seems, I will turn 80. Wow! Where did the last decade go?

Youth is wasted on the young.

– attributed to George Bernard Shaw.

When I dream I am always 18 years old (which makes it a pity that I can sleep only 4 hours a night).

And when I dream:

I was eighteen, didn’t have a care

Workin’ for peanuts, not a dime to spare

But I was lean and solid everywhere

Like a rock.

 Like a Rock, Bob Seger

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Friends

Back when I was 18 it seems like I had hundreds of friends. I’m not talking about Facebook “friends”. I’m talking about real people; people I would hang out with, travel with, party with, get high with, dream and love with. I had time for all that because a day had 36 hours back then.

You would think that the older one gets the more time we would have to accumulate more friends. I guess that I have met more than 10 thousand people in my lifetime (I once counted more than 3,000 former students.) But now I find myself spending most of my days with myself (Pikun is outside in the garden), writing, lifting bags of manure, playing music, Internet surfing, binge watching TV shows, and never missing a Seahawks game.

I have about a half dozen friends that I occasionally take a meal with or visit, and another half dozen that I email or Skype once in a while. Living 10,000 miles away from people you know makes anything more than an email/Skype relationship difficult. But once a week I play golf with a friend I have known for 40 years. We’re not getting any better at golf but our friendship continues unabated.

New friends are few and far between.

Those National Geographic shows on the Serengeti told us how things would be.

They would start out with those lion cubs, romping around all day, playing at hunting and fighting. Then the lions grew to adolescence and they did some more serious life-practice at being adults with their ”friends”. Later they would all join and work together, colleagues, to achieve their group goals, antelopes and wildebeests beware. When the male lion was mature and at the top of his game he would lay around all day, the little ones jumping all over him as he tried to snooze, waking only to go eat the food his ladies had prepared. When he got too old to lead the pride he was left to mostly wander about on his own.

I am happy now, and after retiring probably as happy as I have ever been, and if I could sleep for a solid 6 hours I would be ecstatic.  But sometimes I feel like that old lion wandering about alone. Where did all the “young lions” go?

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Older

I used to laugh when stories would depict older people grabbing the newspaper in the morning and opening to the obituary section first. I don’t read the newspapers anymore but I do note when some famous or important person passes away. I never miss the part of the Oscars when they show the pictures of all the stars who have left us this year.

Before I even look to see the reason for their demise I look to see their age. Are they older or younger than I? And if they are younger, then I look to see how they died. And I check to see if I have any of the symptoms of what they died of. So far so good (as I knock on my wooden desk).

So many of my contemporaries are “less-than-well”, or worse. Just the other day, after visiting a sick friend, of which I seem to have more and more lately, I thought to myself how lucky Pikun and I are to be healthy and happy; a few aches and pains, nothing a good session of senior complaining won’t cure. But we know that the Buddha’s truths will always be with us. If we have been born then we have getting older, becoming ill, and then leaving this mortal coil to look forward to. That’s all there is, but it is enough.

We’re okay with that, but at the same time we will continue to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”, but we’ll enjoy the light as long as we have it.

*****

Politics

I wasn’t happy with either candidate. I was a Bernie supporter and over a year ago I posted on Facebook: “If Hilary is nominated then our next president will be named Trump.

Sometimes I hate being right.

I recently posted the following on Facebook. It describes my feelings about the United States’ next presidential term.

Bizarro World: A world in which everything is opposite from the real world, down is up, wrong is right, bad is good.

Now that the president-elect, whose name shall not be spoken, has selected most of his incredibly divisive billionaire-military-general-Wall-Street-banker laden cabinet, we realize that we are living in that Bizarro World.

In this “post truth” era, a time when the truth is not important and “fake news” and fake accusations help to elect a president, and that president is the prevaricator-in-chief, then down is up, wrong is right, and bad is good. Once again Orwell has proven prescient.

How does one live in this upside down world, without rats attacking your face that is? We now know that almost every stance the Republican nominee took has been modified and revised by the president-elect, that all his promises were conditional, that even his top advisors tell us not to take what he says “literally”.  We should realized that we can believe nothing said by this administration, good or bad. It is the “post truth” era so what can we expect.

My suggestion about how to survive the next 4 years is that anytime he, or his minions say anything on TV, switch the channel. Anytime you see an article on the Internet, newspaper, or magazine, about what the administration is planning, turn the page. Don’t listen to or read any of it because it will change with the weather, and if we do, it will only make us heartsick.

In that way your mind won’t be twisted and turned by these Bizarro machination and we might come out at the other end with our sanity, although sadly maybe not our country, intact.

*****

Annus Horribilis

The horrible year 2016 is over. That’s the good news. Looking forward to 2017. Game of Thrones Season 7 will be upon us. Prediction: Cersei Lanester, the Mad Queen, dies a horrible and much deserved death.  If the football gods are with us, and our defense holds up, then the Seahawks will once again be in the Super Bowl. Pikun and I are going to Hawaii’s Big Island for my Peace Corps group’s reunion (for some reason it is the 48th year reunion), and we have some great friends (2 of the half dozen I still email/Skype) who we once shared a house with in of all places Iran, coming for a nice long visit. It will give us a chance to tour the country and do lots of the touristy stuff we usually put off.

And I just planted a cocoa tree.

If we are lucky then 2017 will be a huge improvement from this year and we will see our first chocolate harvest.

May 2017 be for you happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful.

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