Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ass Wednesday

I'm angry with myself.

I came down to Bonaire with a dual purpose: one was to dive, the other was to learn about the island and to experience what it would be like to live here.

See, I'm getting up there in years. Now, don't get me wrong, I love New York still. It will hurt to have to leave the city I've called home all my life.

But the cold and dark is taking its toll on me. Shoveling snow in my fifties hurts more than I thought it would. My skin is ravaged and painful when first the spring then the fall comes around. I spend half the year applying this lotion or that salve to my face for various incurable conditions, like rosacea and dermatitis.

Putting on an suit depresses me. Putting on an overcoat wraps that depression in a thick layer of gooey oppression.

And I work too hard and have worked too hard for too many years not to need to see an end strategy that makes it all worth it.

I figure the perfect plan is to retire to an island that's not too expensive, not too busy, and has a lot of diving. As with all life's decisions, one should take the time to learn as much about it as possible.

Some of our decisions are snap judgements because they have to be. Some of the most life-altering decisions will make will be in the blink of an eye, usually unintentionally. A wrong road taken, one drink too many, a chance encounter.

Some of those snap decisions become snap decisions simply out of laziness to prepare for them ahead of time. I don't want my retirement to become that. I figure I'll have twenty, maybe thirty years to regret my choice!

My daughter wants to move to Japan, for example. She spent a week there with friends, and soaked up some of the culture. She wants to spend a month there, too, as part of a student exchange.

I confess, I'm not crazy about the idea of her living so far away, but it's her life and, when I look back at my life and realize that I lived the life my parents wished for me, this is a choice she has to make for herself.

Me, I can't even unglue myself from the people around me long enough to do what I want.

This is the first two week vacation I've taken since Reagan was President. That says something about my intentions: I didn't want this to be a dive vacation, I wanted it to be a vacation with diving.

See, making a dive, even a simple one on the house reef, takes an enormous chunk of time out of your day: a half hour preparation, an hour dive, a half hour to break down and wash your gear...that's two hours right there. And if you want to dive off the reservation, so to speak, you can almost double that estimate. If you've got a group going, you can assure yourself at least three hours, and more likely four.

Plan to leave at eleven, in other words, and you're packing a dive bag at ten thirty and unpacking it around 2:00. And now you want lunch and to rest a bit. Did you really want to go into town to shop for food or to talk to realtors about the housing market?

When I planned this trip months ago, the idea was to take an enforced "no dive" day or two, and see the island. There's a donkey sanctuary, which sounds so ridiculous that I had to go see it (it has a webcam, if you don't believe me). There's a butterfly farm, and a flamingo sanctuary...I actually saw one flying in the wild. It's really weird, it looks like a pink pencil with wings...and ancient Arawak Indian cave drawings.

I missed all of that. Again.

I wanted to size up the housing situation. There's been plenty of development around the island and while it's slowed because of the global financial crisis, it hasn't stopped. I want to know where to buy when I do buy. I want to know what it takes to move here, what taxes I'll be asked to pay, what laws and customs I'll have to adapt to that differ from America's.

As a trivial example: you can't buy Benadryl over the counter here, but you don't need a doctor's prescription, the pharmacist can sell it to you.

I blew all that, and I don't understand why, and that's why I'm miffed at myself.

The dive report is minimal today. I dived this unmarked site, shot some photos of the wreck of a tugboat, and bored myself silly cruising back up the reef, possibly because this anger was starting to nag at me. We were all supposed to do a dive in the afternoon, but then one group split off and did another dive so we waited for them to come back (remember that three hours stuff?) and by the time we got in the water, the sun was going down, and so was my mood.

That dive was OK, but my heart's not in it anymore.

Two and a half more days. No way I'm going to be able to salvage much of the original plan at this point, and I took so much heat for taking two weeks off that I probably won't be able to do that again for a few years.

I hate myself for being such a fucking pussy about my life.