Moving to Mexico: Chapter 13

The Broken Record

245 Pounds…10 pounds to my first goal of 235.

The weight loss goal I have is still attainable, but a lot harder than I had hoped.  It seems that my 53-year-old body is fighting against my “look good in a bathing suit in Mexico” dreams.  Our next visit is just over a month away and I have ten pounds to go. I believe I can do this but losing weight at this age is hard.  Maybe I need to rethink this!

The Broken RecordI know you probably did not begin reading this blog to hear of my personal stories.  You may have Googled “Moving to Mexico” hoping to read something a little more detailed or exotic.  Well, this is not that blog.  This is an honest accounting of our personal journey as we transition away from California and it will contain a lot of deviations.  I am a story-teller, a memoir-writer, not a novelist or documentarian. Sorry, that’s just not me. But what I lack in method or craft, I make up for in honesty.  

Let’s face it, when you give yourself a year to move, every day is not spent researching, planning and packing.  Some days are just spent reflecting. Today is one of those days. I truly want to be a different person in Mexico and my health is part of that plan.  It’s odd that I am leaving the land of the kale salad for the nation that gave us chicharron, but that’s how things ended up.

My struggle to remain thin has been a long one.  Like most office-working, white-collar professionals, the battle of the bulge is constant.  We are worn out mentally during the day, seek relief after work and on weekends and usually focus on food and alcohol socially.  

“Want to get together for some tofu and a five-mile hike after work?”  Said no one, ever.

I once heard a comedian listening to a friend who was miserable.  He said,

“Miserable, eh?  Welcome to the club.  It’s called everybody.  We hold meetings daily, six PM at the bar.”

My struggle reminds me of an old friend who was really heavy his whole life.  I know that many people claim that obesity is an illness, genetically programmed into some people.  I’m not sure about that. My friend never exercised and ate what he wanted, which was mostly fast food.  I’ve seen the same thing in my own power-eating/no-exercise family where fad diets and gastric bypasses have been installed as the solution to the all-you-can-eat “buffet belly” disorder.  I’m sure there are some people who are obese due to medical reasons. The rest of us are just lazy and eat too much.

The Broken RecordHave you ever repeated the same mistake over and over?  We all have. Is it technically a “mistake” if you keep doing it?  Or is it a lifestyle? A habit? A decision?

My oldest friend just could not break the cycle he was in.  Like a broken record, he kept skipping on his favorite part of a particular song that involved heavy indulgence.  He would do really well and then he would slip. I wondered where he would go, for days I worried. Then he would surface, all smiles and jokes and we would pick up where we left off.  But I knew something was wrong.

He had been very heavy for decades, but he seemed to gain more weight when his girlfriend broke up with him. She was kind enough to still share their home. She didn’t hate him. They just grew apart. He added more pounds when he lost his job and had difficulty finding another.  Then I lost touch with him for a while. I did not want to pry or push him. I had lost an old friend shortly before that, someone known for hitting the delete button on close friends and family.  I guessed it was my turn. I learned later that he apparently had left the area, moved across the country and married his high school sweetheart. It wasn’t a reinvention, more of a de-invention of himself, going back home, back in time.  In either case, I didn’t want this to happen again. I thought about my heavy buddy every day but was cautious not to push myself on him.

I invited him to parties and gatherings at our house.  He almost always turned me down; wasn’t feeling well or was just “busy.”  I saw him only one time at our house where he partied hard, crashed on the couch and disappeared early the next morning.  He was the heaviest I had ever seen him, wheezed when he spoke, and his eyes did not look the same.

“It’s been a long time.  We should talk.” I said to him.  “Do you want to talk tonight, or tomorrow?”  

“Tomorrow.”  He said. “Tonight, let’s just have some fun.  I haven’t seen you in a long time.” I nodded, and we put off the conversation.

Then he disappeared for a while again.  Weeks turned into months. I reached out again and while I waited to hear from my dear friend, constantly wondering how he was, he died.  

The Broken Record“He’s dead.”  His ex-girlfriend said to me on my cell phone.  I was walking with my wife in a shopping area near our home.

“Say that again.”  I said to her.

“He’s gone.  I found him dead in his bedroom.”  She sobbed. I fell to my knees and froze in place.  I had known him since we were kids. He was one of my closest friends.  I was truly shocked, and my heart squeezed water from my eyes.

I spoke at his “funeral” which was really just a gathering of friends in a hall with some food, photos and speeches.  It was more of a celebration of life than the ghoulish body viewing and lowering of the casket we see in movies, but it was just as saddening.  The tearful family and friends, the old photos of smiling people and the buffet food was all very normal. What was unusual was the fact that no one talked about how he died.  No one asked the obvious question. He was my best friend and to this day, I do not know how he died.

“Well, he had sleep apnea, chronic asthma and of course…he was very overweight.”  I was told. “He just died in his sleep.” I was told this story in varying ways, but the truth seemed to be hidden.  I had to accept my own interpretation of the facts I was given. In my opinion, he died from lifestyle, frustration and a broken heart.  He was just too let down to get back up.

I refused to accept that he had just stopped breathing one night…normally.  Not at forty-four years old.  He simply ate too much junk, drank too much liquor and probably felt very defeated.  He did this alone for a long time. And it killed him.

The Broken RecordI have a friend who is very anti-drug.

“I’ve never seen anything good come from drugs.”  I smirked as he downed another beer, one of twenty he would imbibe that night.  There are many “drugs” that disguise themselves. Alcohol is the first that comes to mind.  Most people drink too much and many lie about it. It’s a normal way to live in our society, dancing on the edge of alcoholism and true dependency while being described as “just had a few too many” a few too many times.  But I also see so many people overindulge on food, work, shopping and stress. Americans love stress.

“I’m so BUSY!”  People always say, and they get the approving nod.

“Yeah, I know man.  Me too!” And then they are kindred spirits in a society that thrives on having no time which means you must be popular and successful.

“I’m never busy.  I’m actually kind of bored sometimes.  But I’m relaxed.” Said no one ever in the Bay Area.  Such a person would be shunned.

The Broken RecordPersonally, I have never truly enjoyed alcohol.  That is not to say I have not consumed it. I have, and in huge quantities at times.  I am not a typical drinker and never have been. I hate the taste of alcohol and have always known that without the booze, Budweiser, Crown Royal and Chateau Montelena would be out of business.  

I’ve never been a “beer after work” guy.  I’ve eaten at Michelin Two-Star restaurants in France and I still hate the taste of wine with food.  Wine is a joke, anyway. It’s a racket, like art. One of my favorite articles about this came out years ago.  Read about Fred Franzia and the war he and Two Buck Chuck waged on Napa wine snobs here:

https://money.cnn.com/2007/09/05/news/companies/Two_Buck_Chuck.biz2/index.htm

So how come a guy like me, whose name is Tom Collins, even bothers with booze at all?  It was the entrance fee to the world of business and the social lubricant we all needed to make idle chatter or some lame sporting event that much more interesting.  I have had to “meet for cocktails” with people I despised to keep business relationships alive. I have thrown $25.00 shots of tequila over my shoulder, faked vodka and soda with Perrier and poured beer on the ground since I was fifteen years old at my first real high school party.  I faked it to make it for years. The problem is, most people have very little to talk about. They don’t do much, so they lube up with drinks and talk about…movies, sports or gossip.

It’s extremely tiring!

I had an acquaintance invite me to a cigar and Scotch dinner where a bunch of guys dress up and gather to smoke, drink and eat red meat.  I had to turn him down as that sounded like four levels of hell to me. I couldn’t imagine a more painful evening which would be followed by a day of ashtray-mouth, a stomach ache and a hangover.

“What did you guys do last night?”

“Who remembers?”

“You must have had a great time!”

The following are a few Scotch Whisky tasting terms:

  • Austere:   Seeming stern, severe and unadorned in character.
  • Cerebral: Complex and begging careful attention to analysis.
  • Dignified: Does not taste cloying or youthful; resonant flavors.

Mind you, there were dozens of terms in this list, some more annoyingly stupid and precocious than the next.  But this one was my favorite:

Warm:  Similar to “hot”, but to a lesser degree.

Are they kidding or what?  Scotch whisky tastes more like:

  • Gasoline: Flammable, toxic and deadly.
  • Unstable: The feeling you have after drinking three glasses.
  • Soiled: Pants of your average drunk passed out on the street.

For me, Scotch tops the list of nasty-tasting booze.  Tequila is the Mexican cousin of Scotch. Behind the world’s best-selling tequila, Jose Cuervo (pure paint thinner in a bottle) Patron is a tequila made in Mexico that is exported to the USA, but not sold locally; made by the same man who brought you: Paul Mitchell hair products, co-founder John Paul DeJoria.  Do I even need to say more about that product? It’s an appropriated product that tastes like swill with genius-level marketing.

The Broken RecordScotch is not the only guilty party here.  Vodka, rum and brandy are just as vile, but gin takes the blue ribbon for liquids you should never drink unless your only goal is to become intoxicated.  Gin is like tequila in that most people have a bad story that is the reason they quit drinking either or both. Gin is little more than flavored vodka. Why it has this reputation as the Big Bad Wolf of booze is a long story, but most people believe it to be more than just a fable when they themselves have suffered from a gin hangover.  Consumer Resource Guide

Tequila has been growing up over the last few decades.  The Jose Cuervo logo was permanently imprinted on the brains of anyone who grew up on the eighties, but these days most people will turn their noses up on that old sauce for something three times the price, similar in taste and just as nasty.  Marketing is designed to keep us fickle.

As goes the popular saying these days, “You do you, I’ll do me.”  I truly have nothing against people who drink. I just don’t want to join them anymore.  Most drink for the wrong reasons and almost all of them are marks for the marketing machine.

Perhaps it’s part of my “man-o-pause”.  Perhaps it’s because I’m out of corporate life and don’t have clients to please.  Or maybe it’s just getting older that makes me want to use the time I have left better.  I’m not sure. But I can feel myself changing.

If I counted up all the hours I have spent, the money I have burned and value I got in return, I would want my time and money back.  And if I got it back, I would wish I could give it to my departed friend and ask his forgiveness for my part in his early departure. I’ll never know if I could have helped him or not.

To read the previous installment, click here.

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