Thursday, March 31, 2005

Cheat the nursing home

Terri Schiavo died today.

I feel sad for all her family and friends. And sad for her too. I'm sure none of us would wish that kind of end for our own lives. To suffer a health problem that puts us in a vegetative state for 15 years dependent on others for the most basic of functions and unable to enjoy most or all of the things that make life living. Deep down I think we all hope to "cheat the nursing home".

Of course the Schiavo case is even more painful with the family feuding over what to do, and endless lawsuits, and politicians exploiting the case, and intense media coverage. What a nightmare. Thankfully Terri wasn't aware of any of this. But how painful for all members of her family to have all that on top of the personal tragedy of Terri's condition.

I think we all hope for a "good death" whatever that means. After a long and fulfilling life a painless end with minimal suffering for our family and friends. My father came close to this ideal although at much too young an age - still in his early 70s. He was still physically active and mentally alert although suffering from a progressive lung disease. He died peacefully at home next to his wife of 50 years. He was one of the generation that fought and won the second world war. He lived to see some of his grandchildren married. He was able to enjoy the simple pleasures of a game of snooker and a pint of beer with his friends right until the end.

Speaking for myself I want to go out enjoying one of the great pleasure of my life. Sailing my Laser in 30 knots surfing down a wave. A quick heart attack and it's all over with a big smile on my face. Oh, before that let me enjoy seeing my great-grandchildren growing up. (As I don't yet even have one grandchild we are talking a few decades in the future). Let me grow old with my bride and life-long love. Let me retain my physical and mental abilities right up to the end. Surfing in my Laser at age 90+ sounds OK as a way to spend my last few minutes alive.

I have a bumper sticker on my car that sums it all up. "Cheat the nursing home - Die on your Laser".

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Pizza and sailing just go together. There's something about a day on the water that creates an appetite that can only be satisfied by a big juicy wedge of pizza washed down by a draft of cold beer.

After our frostbite races we all gather in the clubhouse to relax, recover and re-hash the racing. Everyone is exhausted. Some have showered and some have not. Some are still in their sailing gear. The crowd is predominately male and there is some good natured ribbing about incidents during the day. People drift in one by one. We open cans of Bud Light and sip the metallic tasting dishwater that the folks at Anheuser-Busch market as beer. And then the pizza delivery guy arrives with six greasy cardboard boxes that he slams down on the table. Hands rummage through the boxes and tear off huge slabs of steaming, dripping pie. Conversation lapses as calories are consumed.

Wednesday night races in the summer are slightly more civilized. We race until sunset and then head off to the local inn. A mixed crowd, all ages, couples, singles. The order is always the same. A few assorted pizzas and pitchers of Yngling Lager. The pizza always seems to take too long to come. But that leaves time for a good gossip and a laugh - mainly at the expense of fellow club members not present this evening. Eventually the pizza arrives and is served on real plates. And the delicious taste of the dough, cheese and tomatoes still hits the mark and helps to ease those aching muscles.

We spent the last day of February on the hook in Admiralty Bay, Bequia - probably the most yacht friendly island in the Grenadines. And for lunch we drifted along the waterfront until we arrived at the famous Mac's Pizzeria. We sat in the semi-open bar with some friends and enjoyed the view of the bay and the warm tropical breezes. The pace was relaxed. Just chillin'. Lunch was lobster pizza with the local Hairoun beer. Followed by Bequia Lime Pie and rum punch.

Beats a cheeseburger in paradise any day.


Dennis is The Man. At least on Mayreau, Dennis is The Man.

Mayreau, one of my favorite islands is in the world, is in the Grenadines. There is one village with a couple of hundred inhabitants, one street, one school and one tiny church perched on top of the hill. A few cars, several beaches, half a dozen bars and views to die for.

Dennis is the local entrepreneur, thought leader and trendsetter. Dennis has to be first. First on the island to own a car. First guesthouse. First Internet cafe. We heard Dennis is currently planning to the first islander with his own swimming pool.

We sailed into Mayreau a couple of weeks ago. And after a day of beach stuff we set off for the evening cultural tour of the village. OK it was really a pub crawl. We started at the first bar on the street and worked our way up the hill. We drifted from bar to bar. Nobody minded if you carried drinks from one establishment to the next. Eventually we arrived at Dennis's place.

Of course, Dennis's place was grander than all the others. Hammock on the verandah. Loud West Indian music. Pictures on the wall in the bar of George, Prince of Denmark and Princess Diana. Definitely a classy nightspot by Mayreau standards.

Dennis had a presence about him. You could see he was a natural leader. We had heard that in his rush to embrace modern technology he was the first to get his house wired up to the recently installed central electrical power station. And that, as a result of an electrical fault, his house burned down. We commiserated with him about his loss.

"Oh yeah, man. It was a bad year, last year. My house burned down, my wife left me and my yacht sank".

It sounded more like a setup line than a personal tale of woe. So I asked him which was the worst of these losses to bear.

His eyes twinkled. He paused for effect. "Oh man, the yacht, of course. I'm sure going to miss her".