Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Eye surgery a success in Merida, Yucatan

Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico
Jane and Dr. Wilbert Chi after a successful but complicated surgery.
In 1990 Jane underwent a radical new laser eye surgery. It was like a miracle, with reshaped corneas she could do away with the glasses she had worn since childhood.
In 1994 she was diagnosed with glaucoma in her left eye.  All went well for a while but then glaucoma took most of the sight in her left eye.
This month cataract surgery was done on her good eye. The cornea reshaping surgery of twenty-five years ago complicated the cataract removal and a surgery other than what has now become routine had to be performed. Great care had to be taken.
The procedure was much more technical than what I can describe here.  Jane was fortunate to find Dr. Chi, an eye surgeon with the expertise to do this complicated surgery.
It was very gratifying to see the elation on Dr. Chi’s face after his successful operation.  He is a fine doctor and an exceptional person, truly concerned about the well-being of his patients.
Jane is smiling also.  She now has perfect vision is the right eye without correction.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Binion's Million Dollar Horseshoe

November 1970 Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada.  Jane and John (Bing) Grimsrud in front of a big plastic horseshoe displaying $1 million in $10,000 bills.[i] Tourists lined up to have their photos taken next to it, and night after night, Binion’s Horseshoe Casino bulged with gamblers.
Over the years we made numerous vacation getaway trips to this one-of-a-kind fantasyland in the desert. We stuffed ourselves with fabulous food, took in Broadway class floor shows, and comedy acts. The lights never went out in Vegas. We had to go home to rest up.
I recently read Blood Aces: Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker by Doug Swanson.  The book brought back memories of our fun-filled times in Las Vegas. 
The book is a biography of an implausible self-made renegade.  I loved this book that shifted my emotional allegiance from the side of law and order to underprivileged Benny Binion and his humble hard scrabble quest to make a living. Ruthless business competitors and governmental sting operations pushed by dispassionate power hungry technocratic zealots made this story stranger than fiction. An excellent true story well told.
Many tributes have been made to Benny Binion.  The following is excerpted from Blood Aces by Doug Swanson:
There were frequent tributes befitting a man of many years and much public generosity. He was named Man of the Year by the National Jewish Health hospital, as it showed institutional gratitude for big donations. A video produced for the ceremony featured testimonials from a number of Vegas luminaries, including another old racketeer in his dotage, Moe Dalitz. “He’s a very quiet man until he’s aroused,” Dalitz said of Binion. “But he’s never aroused unjustly.” Steve Wynn called Binion “the most unforgettable character I’ve ever met in my entire life,” and added, “He’s a perfectly honest man.” Others attested to the affection of Binion’s lifelong customers and compadres. “All the poker players love you,” said Bobby Baldwin, a former poker series champion. “You’re the greatest guy in the world.”
The old man in the cowboy hat smiled and waved. “Benny! Benny! Benny!” He had become the most beloved gangster of them all.
A quote from Benny Binion:
“The assumption was that if someone wanted to trade away a horse, that horse was defective. Everyone was out for the swindle, and he who swindled best, won.”

[i] The above photo is from the book Sailing Beyond Lake Superior: Travels of Dursmirg by John M. Grimsrud.  The book is available from Amazon. com and other vendors in paperback, Kindle, and e-book editions.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Quiet Yucatan

I have often been asked where to find quiet places in Yucatan.

I always find this question amusing: “You have got to be kidding. Have you ever been to Yucatan before?”

I love Yucatan, but after forty plus years here quiet is something that has nearly eluded us. The locals love their lifestyle, and if you have a good positive attitude you will too.

At times it seems to me that the Yucatecan mentality holds two things sacred above all else: smoke and noise. Their ultimate success in life is an ear-splitting motorcycle emitting a cloud of impenetrable smoke. Do they possess a genetic predisposition to racket and an aversion to silence?

Vehicles rattle, clatter, squeak, and incessantly honk their horns while mufflers seem to be a superfluous annoyance.

Petite vehicles marauding city streets sporting enormous megaphones powered by mammoth amplifiers relentlessly blast deafening clatter that will vibrate the fillings out of your teeth.

Ear-splitting fireworks are incessantly detonated for festivals or business promotions, day and night. Dogs desperately try to cover their ears and escape.

In most places in the world this sonic trash would be prohibited…not so here; the government happens to be the major delinquent.

If ultra high decibel racket drives you to distraction beware of the salon de fiestas, also known as party palaces. I swear these all night establishments are capable of shaking you out of bed even from several blocks away.  Many times they magically materialize in hotel lobbies around midnight.

You may locate an upscale restaurant to enjoy a special occasion in tranquility. The waiters are sure to turn on a giant screen TV even if you are the only clients. A Mariachi band is liable to trumpet their way through and an industrial strength blender will be revved up that cannot be screamed above. Coffee grinders are sure to pick up when noise generating is slack. 

One day I went to the neighborhood grocery “tienda” and had to scream in the owner’s ear. A large bank of mighty speakers left from a previous night’s fiesta was terrorizing the neighborhood. I asked if they had requested the volume to be turned down. The owner replied yes and was told he was too nervous and if he listened to the music he would like it. The next retort was “if you don’t like it, you don’t have to listen.”

Looking for tranquility we have stayed in a typical Mayan hut down a dirt road located far out in the jungle and with no electrical service. Before the first glimmer of dawn crowing rosters broke the relative silence. They were joined by squealing pigs, barking dogs, trucks honking and screaming with bullhorns selling bottled gas and coconuts. We didn’t know if we should laugh or scream.

If you can hear dogs barking it is considered quiet.

We travel with 33 db foam ear plugs. Dampen them, roll tightly, and press into your ears. Allow them to expand slowly and their effectiveness is increased.

We happen to live in a relatively quiet neighborhood with a canopy jungle ecologically friendly home where we can actually hear birds singing in our fruit filled trees and crickets chirping.

This is the real Yucatan. Arm yourself with a positive attitude, be happy and if you don’t like the noise, don’t listen!


Mayan temple ruins near Mérida - seldom visited - quiet Yucatan.