Monday, March 2, 2015

In My Next Life I Want Hair

                                                In My Next Life I Want Hair
            Recovery from surgery has multi-faceted aspects. In my considered opinion, most aspects don’t bear the attention we tend to give them. The grim reality is that we get to go through the discomforts, fears, outright pain, immobility, etc., whether we want to or not, whether we give energy to the process or not.  Eventually, discomforts pass.

            Take a simple thing like learning to walk. When an infant learns to walk, she is cute. The baby pulls herself up onto the lip of the chair cushion, with concentration, turns around, jerks forward two steps only to land on her well-padded bottom. We, who watch, laugh, clap our hands, murmur nonsense words of encouragement. She gets up and tries again. We take her hand and ferry her around the room. She keeps going until she masters the arcane achievement of placing one foot in front of the other, until she artfully eliminates the jerks and the bottom-falls.

            Not counting infancy, this is my fifth time of learning to walk—again. At near seventy, one-hundred sixty pounds, five foot eight, and minus the diapered bottom, I am not cute. Nobody laughs and claps. If I fell on my bottom, definitely that would not be cute. But I have a system. Long years ago I reduced the process to a one-two-three-four cadence, with each number receiving a corresponding body movement. All walking requires in adulthood, much the same as in infancy, is time and practice. And balance. A walking stick helps.

            Let’s agree from the start that physical therapy is evil. A necessary evil. Enough said.

            Every time I have surgery, I lose my hair. Vanity or not, I hate this. I have been cursed with English hair, fine as a baby’s fuzz, each strand straight as a stick. I’ve never had a bad hair day. I have had a bad hair life. Nevertheless, I have grown rather fond of my hair. I hate to lose it. The first time, nearly bald (in my mind), I resorted to wigs. Since in my early twenties I had three surgeries in three years, mathematically that equals four years of being wigged out. In retrospect, I cringe to think what I must have looked like. I had three wigs, each a different style and length. I alternated them. Cringe again.

            Fortunately for my vanity, I don’t go chemo bald, though I have considered simply shaving my head and starting over. While I’m losing my hair, new baby fuzz grows beneath what’s left. That is not cute either.  These days, instead of buying wigs, I entertain fantasies.

            In my next life, I want to be a wooly mammoth.

            Seriously. I’ve given this a deal of thought. A lot of hairy cats and dogs and rabbits look like mops. Common. Too much like giant dust balls under the bed. I considered a beautiful rosy haired tarantula but, while not afraid, I’ve never been fond of spiders.

            A super hairy monkey from the rainforests of Southeast Asia with a long white mustache makes me smile. However, I have enough trouble keeping my own mustache under control.  I’m fond of pigs and again, there is a lovely hairy bearded pig. While I don’t have a personal problem with beards, I don’t care for them. So nix the pig.

            Nope. I’ve set my mind. In my next life I want to be a wooly mammoth, covered with thick dreadlocks of curly hair. While most people think this beast is extinct, I wouldn’t be too sure. Consider the frequent sightings of the Himalayan Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, the eastern and western versions of Bigfoot. Extinct? Imagination? Real?  Who knows?

            I understand there have been recent sightings of a strange being in the wilds of Alaska. People call her Sara, the Pale One. She seems to have a predilection to tea parties, which makes no sense to me. I simply repeat what I have heard on Fox News. Rumors abound.

            My mind is set. Let me be a wooly mammoth, with long, thick, dark, musky, tangled locks of hair and never a cause for vanity, never a bad hair day. And if you squint a certain way when you are hiking the wilderness, you might just sight me, especially if you catch me admiring my beauty in the mirror of a mountain lake.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

February 26, 2015

Carnival, the Mardi Gras of Mazatlan

                Carnival, the Mardi Gras of Mazatlan
            The 117th annual Carnaval! This year the theme is Los Suenos del Rey Momo—the Dreams of the King. Momo—a  mythological Greek god who wore masks of satire, mockery, and censure, the god of writers and poets.

Carnival in Mazatlan, similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a riotous round of celebration and merry-making with abandon, which screeches to an abrupt stop on Tuesday night. Ash Wednesday ushers in Lent, the forty day period of penitence and fasting in somber preparation for the joys of Easter. Parties, parades, fireworks, dancing and songfests, a unique blending of traditional, religious and modern festivities. Smaller family events juxtapose with crushing crowds along the Malecon, the ten kilometer walkway along the waterfront. One may partake in official community fiestas, rub elbows with kings and queens. Feast on gourmet food. Watch a naval battle fought with fireworks.  Burn the Bad Humour in effigy. Always, for everything, there is music. 

            Jostling passengers, many in costume, crowd onto the buses, striving to get from here to there, to be part of the fun. Streets fill with a melee of cars, transport vehicles and eager people afoot, hustling in every direction to participate in as many activities as possible.  

            Me? I’m still housebound in recovery from surgery. But I see a lot from my doorway, from my window to the world. And I rely upon those who venture out. Friends and neighbors drop in daily to regale me tales of their own activities and mishaps.

            This year is rare and unique in that Carnival embraces Valentine’s Day. 

            Saturday night, Valentine’s Day, every table and barstool in the restaurants along Sabalo Cameron and adjacent streets, were reserved and filled. I got this straight from the horse’s mouth. My neighbor Ted, who waited until the last minute, had to trudge both sides of the street to find a place to take his girlfriend, Theresa, to celebrate with dinner and dancing.

            Across the street from my casita, a wedding party, one couple of hundreds eager to tie the knot of matrimony on the Day of Love in Mazatlan, had booked the Spectaculare. All day I watched trucks unload food, drinks, ice, pastries, flowers, decorations and band equipment. While beautifully dressed men and women entered through the front door, young band members gathered around the back steps warming up, tuning instruments, practicing bits and pieces of numbers for the night.

            Promptly at nine o’clock, stragglers streamed into the building and wedding festivities began. I went to sleep. At two-thirty I jerked awake to shouts, laughter, music of the party after the party, as young people continued to celebrate in the extra-wide street. Loudly. With great vim and vigor, for two hours, they celebrated. Nobody came and stopped them. No neighbors protested. No police slowed to check them out. Such street parties are a normal part of Mazatlan life. As suddenly as it began, promptly at four-thirty, seemingly for no reason, somebody turned off the noise faucet, the young men and women scooted into cars, and drove away. Instant quiet. I fell asleep.

            Next year, ah, next year, I have a plan. I vow to join the festivities of Carnival. I cannot think of one more body part that needs to be replaced, with the possible exception of my brain. After years of acquaintance, I’m quite comfortable with my quirky brain. I think I’ll keep it!

My plan: I shall rent a hotel room across the street from the Malecon, preferably in front of one of the three-story high statues depicting a figure based on the Carnival theme.  From my balcony perch above the action, without being jostled by the crowds, I shall watch the parades. At street level, bands will continuously play on one of the numerous stages.  

In the rare moments when not so much is happening, I’ll enjoy the sweep of the bay, watch the ferry sail into harbor from La Paz. Perhaps I’ll see a floating city, one of the cruise ships, alight like a Christmas tree in the distance. I shall enjoy every moment of the raucous crowds with noise the entire night. I’ll brew another pot of coffee. Who needs sleep! I’ll dress in finery, flounces of feathers, ribbons and bows. When the Malecon is crowded I shall wave and bow, as if I am somebody.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

February 19, 2015

All Dreams Fall From the Same Sky

                                    All Dreams Fall From the Same Sky
            Upbeat. Uplifting. Positive. I like to fill my weekly articles with humor and hope. Re-read the title, an ancient Hopi expression. That’s all the hope I have to give you.  

            This is my second week under house arrest, chained to my walker. I know I am healing. I know it is a slow process. My mind knows. My heart is unrealistic. I want surgery last week followed by entering the 10 K this week and perhaps a full-on tri-athalon next week. I feel like Snow White with the six dwarfs: restless, irritable, discontent, itchy, ache-y and twitchy. I could identify a seventh dwarf, something like “frothing at the mouth” but that seems excessive. And the six are more alliterative.

            Truthfully, I was never that athletic with my old hip and I’ve no intention of running with Rosie, my new hip. I’m merely describing my frustrations.

            To add insult to injury, this is the week of Carnival in Mazatlan, a week chock full and overflowing with fun festivities, parades, floats, dancers, “bandas”, mimes, jugglers, acrobats, the crowning of royalty and generally whooping it up.

            Not only that, Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Don’t get me wrong; I treasure aspects of my solitude. But I have to admit that coming home to rattle around in an empty house following hip-replacement surgery, adds mud to my wallow. As long as I insist on immersing in self-pity, I might as well dig deep and get down and dirty.

            But if I were going to send out lacy, frilly, old fashioned valentines to everyone I love and whom I know love me, the cards would stack to make a tower. First on my list would be all of you who have surrounded me with love and prayer and good wishes.

            Next I would have to hand giant valentine cards to a few people around me who have demonstrated love with skin on it.

            Almost daily emails or phone calls from my daughters, Dee Dee and Shea, friends Dick and Jane, Shirley, Kathy, Richard and others, mean more than the sun and moon to me.

            My immediate neighbors, Ted and Frank, check several times daily to make sure I am okay and to get me anything I might need. Ted’s girlfriend, Theresa, cleaned my house and refused to take payment beyond a heart-felt hug. Frank brought me a chunk of chocolate cake.

            Carlos refilled my prescriptions and took money to pay my electric bill, a whopping seventy-six pesos. He and Selena are on call for me any time I need them.

            Sylvia and Reuben from the Luncheria at the corner, deliver meals to my own table on week days. Reuben goes to the market every morning at 5:30 to shop for the day’s supplies. All my food is fresh and delicious. Sylvia comes to wash my feet, possibly the nicest gift of all, and help me on with a clean pair of Hot Sox, my equivalent of support stockings.

            A special card goes to Dr. Valle, my surgeon, who comes to my house to check progress, removed stitches, and bring me some of my medicine. I know this is hard to believe, but it is part of the full-meal deal that I paid for with hospitalization and surgery. I have only good things to say about my medical treatment.

            Well, mostly good things. Now I have excessive exercises to do and orders to get out in the sunshine and walk, walk, walk.

            Wish I could say the same good words for Mexican postal service. I would gladly send you each a real, homemade valentine. Fifty or sixty percent of you might actually receive them.   Probably in May.

            With love, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

February 12, 2015