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Bicycle Buddha

Swimming with crocodiles

December 15th, 2016

img_20161212_105438Machito, a local fisherman, met me at the little thatch-roofed visitors hut in San Crisanto – a ramshackle itty bitty village on the long sandspit between the lagoon and the wide Gulf of Mexico. He rolled up on his bike, with a second bike in tow for me. I droppedmy beach bag and water bottle into his basket and we bounced down the sandy path to the boat launch, followed by two mexican women in a car who were also along for the 50-peso tour of los manglares.

Machito ferried us through the mangrove forest’s clear streams, pointing out trees and termite nests and giant ferns and fishes. After a dreamy half hour we docked at the cenote and I climbed down into the cool clear water, to swim with the giant tarpon fish that washed into the cenote during the hurricane of 2004, and got trapped there and bred. I asked Machito if it was OK to swim into the mangrove stream and he said sure, just try not to touch bottom and stir up the silt. I drifted through the clear shallow stream through schools of pretty little fish. No hay cocodrillos? I called. He laughed. Read the rest of this entry »

In the chair with Dr. Jesus

December 10th, 2016

img_20161206_161728I am a dental tourist. This is the main reason for my 3-week residency in Mérida, in the Mexican Yucatan. I am here, like lots of gringos, to get my teeth fixed for a smidgen of what i’d pay at home as an outside-the-box Canadian. I have standard MSP of course, but dental’s not included – I guess because, as my friend Chris says, a holdover from the day when teeth were a luxury.

But i got a wee windfall lately in some long-overdue cash from my dad’s bequest, earmarked toward my genetically crappy and long-neglected chomps. So I flew to Merida, where Dr. J will do the whole shebang – 6 ceramic plus 2 metal crowns, a bridge, and several fillings, veneers, and accessories – for less than $4,000 cdn, vs. my dentist’s quote of $18-$20K. Add in a cheap flight (under $500) and three weeks at Casa ChiChi ($18/night) and it’s still a great deal, with a bonus tropical adventure.

I did two hours in the chair today w Dr Jesus and his dental tag team: wife Claudia, Gina, and the lovely Mar, whose Mayan eyes I have fallen in love with over her green paper mask. That was session number 4, with two or three more still to come. I recline in the chair to a wash of Mozart, Phil Collins videos, and easy Spanish banter. No pain, no heavy drugs.  Team Jesus are total pros.

So yeah, it’s hot here; sticky muggy hot, broken by delicious torrential rains (as I sit typing under the umbrella in the courtyard, rain slucing the cobbles through the seville orange and papaya and hibiscus trees). I am bitten all over by bastardly invisible mosquitoes, and at night, between the heat and the itching and the barking dogs, sleep comes and goes. But I’m happily ensconced at Casa Chi Chi Still, my funky little air bnb cum hostel with a it’s cool shady courtyard, tiny swimming pool and barky dog. It’s clean and cheap and relatively quiet by mex standards, ie, how many mariachi bands is too many? Between visits to Dr J I cruise Merida on my purple bici, with now and then a bus excursion to a beach or a ruins.

It is all so very far from perfect. It is absolutely perfect.

Bici en Merida

December 5th, 2016

img_20161204_112908I am trudging down a back street in Merida, Yucatan, sucking a lime popsicle and dribbling sweat. I spot a handmade sign out front of a mom’pop storefront: Rentas Bicicletas. In the cool shade of the shop a family is stringing Christmas lights. I spy a sweet little wine-purple step-thru cruiser.  Papa Alejandro cranks the seat up a bit higher for me and I am sold. I rumble off down the cobblestones, cool breeze lifting the sweat from my skin. As if it could be any other way.

But in fact, I had actually almost resigned myself to navigating Merida on foot. Cycling in Merida looked terrifying. Buses and mini-buses, diesel-spewing trucks, cars, motorcycles, horsecarts, all crammed into the teeming downtown streets. Hibbledy-jibbledy pavement, potholes, cobblestones, random piles of trash. High curbs with no curb-cuts to the sidewalk, and treacherous foot-wide gutters alongside. Careening in and out between the buses and horse carts: bicycle cowboys on bmx’s and clunky mountainbikes, plus cargo-trike vendors loaded down with water jugs, baskets of fresh bread, loads of tomatoes and pineapples. Basically, chaos – in an unknown city, in a language i barely understand. Read the rest of this entry »

Dreaming of a small world

November 7th, 2016

I dream of a world where people live small. It’s happening. It’s a meme.ben-chuns-friends-tiny-house

Small houses, small gardens, small vehicles, small pleasures. Small incomes. Small needs.

My path is to live and to model that life. Enrich my networks. Take care of what I have and get rid of what I don’t need. Place myself in situations of humility and of trust: monasteries, communities, neighbourhoods, islands. You can’t be small in isolation. Living small means asking for help, accepting it, giving it back.

My caution is to resist letting my needs mushroom mindlessly. The goal is to simply stay small.

 

My dental vacation

October 11th, 2016

angrymolarThe angry molar is gone. In its place is a stitched excavation bleeding into a wad of gauze. Before Dr. Loo yanked it out I ran my tongue over its pitted surface one last time and thanked it kindly for almost five decades of loyal service, but when he asked me if i wanted to keep it for a souvenir, i declined. It was a good long run but it’s over.

I could rant on about the scam that is the dental industry but I won’t. Well actually i will. It pisses me off that the only people who get all their dental bills paid for them are the ones who can easily afford to have their own teeth fixed. If you work for a corporation or institution you make a fat wage, plus get your teeth fixed and your glasses bought and a year off to tend to your babies. Self-employed people, or part-timers or wage slaves, have to foot their own bills and those bills are high. I’m not talking about cosmetic dentistry, I’m talking about the care we need to maintain our health and our livelihoods. It’s not easy getting a job, let alone a date, with no front teeth. But Canadian medicare covers none of it. Why? Who knows? Read the rest of this entry »

The monkish (married?) life

September 4th, 2016

buslife2I’m living the monk’s life in my green turtle bus, up on the bluff over the lagoon.

Wake up, chop wood and carry water, wash my panties in a pail and hang them to dry in the sun. Sit a bit, stretch a bit, watch the tides roll out and in. Out, and in. Soak some beans, then boil them slowly on the two-burner hotplate, seasoned with garden tomatoes, zucchini and herbs. Eat. Wash. Empty toilet bucket into pit. Sleep. Start again.

I wonder how my monk life will mesh with my married life … I wonder, but can’t know. The beauty is, we are grownups. We make up the rules.  It is my life, it is our life, it is art: all one grand experiment.

Mountains and molars sesshin

July 23rd, 2016

View-from-the-Lookout-at-SSRC-AfternoonI sat this sesshin with my best buddy, the angry Molar.

The Zen retreat was at a small Tibetan Buddhist center at the foot of Black Tusk, in the forest near Squamish. I got a ride up to the retreat with Kaye, an RN specializing in mental health care. She counselled me to take Ibuprofen at regular intervals, and if my face puffed up,  to get myself to the hospital pronto. She also divulged my job assignment for the sesshin: I was to be Ino. The Ino’s job is practice coordinator, aka, mother hen. My job was to care for everyone else’s pain. Read the rest of this entry »

Angels on every corner

July 2nd, 2016

brianMy bike got nicked while I was running the door for PattiPow’s choir concert, at the Korean Hall at Hastings & Clark. The ol’ slippery pole trick got me. I locked my bike to a sign post with not-one-but-two heavy-duty U-locks, and even gave the pole a firm tug to ensure that it was solid before I walked away. The thief simply pulled out the bolt at the bottom of the post and slid it out. Bike vanished, U-locks and all.

PattiPow hugged me and said don’t worry chum, I’ll help you. Tomorrow we will go out and look for your bike. We’ve done this before and we’ll do it again. Conrad Schmidt was loading a/v gear into his van behind the Hall when I came trudging down the alley in the rain, feeling pathetic in my yellow bike jacket with my helmet on my arm like an empty shell. Quick, jump in the van, Conrad said. We’ll drive around and look for your bike. Read the rest of this entry »


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