A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Money's Worth

About seven or eight years ago, I sat on my eyeglasses. I was visiting my sister in Arizona at the time, and she wouldn't hear of me taping my already beat-up frames. "We'll go to Los Algodones," she announced.

For those who don't know, Los Algodones is a Mexican town just over the border from Yuma, Arizona. Just over the border, as in: you park your car on the U.S. side and walk through Customs and Immigration. The name means "the cotton plants" in Spanish, but cotton is not what you'll find there.

A while back, Los Algodones was a cheap tourist destination, with restaurants and gift shops, but with the costs of medicine and medical care skyrocketing in the U.S., it's become a maze of pharmacies, dental offices, opticians, and other medical services. Prices are a third to a half of what they are north of the border, most everything's open seven days a week, and walk-ins are welcome.

Leslie made a couple of calls, and the next morning, we had a carful of church ladies eager for a drug run. Everyone had a list: allergy medicine, pain relievers, hormones, diet pills, vitamins, and so on. We gossiped and giggled all the way to Yuma, parked, and walked through to the Mexican side. First stop: optician.

Every place looked alike, so we picked a shop at random and walked in. The frames were really nice, actually. A curvaceous babe in disco get-up (shiny purple minidress, shiny heels, and Cleopatra makeup) helped me. She wanted me to pay up front and come back in two hours. I was dubious. What if there was a problem? I couldn't hang around Los Algodones very long, and I was going back to Massachusetts in a day or two. If I paid in full, I wouldn't have much bargaining power.

There will be no problem, Curvaceous Babe assured me. What choice did I have? I handed her the money--about sixty dollars, I think. (That included an exam, frames, and graduated bifocal lenses.) We left to hit the pharmacies.

Two hours and several bagfuls of pills later, I returned. Sitting in CB's office for my fitting, I looked around at her walls and realized that she was a doctor, with a medical degree from a respected American medical school. The glasses were perfect. And the whole experience had been quick, cheap, and more than painless; it had actually been fun. Hooray for Los Algodones!

I was wiping those glasses the other day as I exited the library with Amir, and one of the lenses fell out. It bounced on the step, slipped underneath the rail, and plummeted about 25 feet into a moat-like no-man's-land beneath the stairway. Fortunately Amir is an agile daredevil always looking for a stunt to perform. He vaulted over the rail and onto some sort of HVAC unit, got to the bottom, found the lens, and hoisted himself back up the way he came.

The lens was unharmed. I popped it back into the frame and we went home. No need to make another trip to Mexico for eyeglasses yet. And I don't take any kind of pills. But maybe a quick facelift, or a set of Hollywood-style crowns or veneers?

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