Paradise on the Five Year Plan

We slog on, blogging on.

I have written all the blogs I have to write about the 7 books in the Lucy Ripken series. There will possibly be more of these books, I’m not sure right now. I did start an eighth Lucy Ripken book a couple of years ago, but unfortunately the computer that it lived in was stolen, and that time being pre-cloud and me being a not entirely practical guy, there was no back up. At least not one that I could find. I haven’t done a deep search yet but with some luck I might find that half-book one of these days. It’s called “The Death of Calvin Sweet” and takes place in grungy Seattle. I think it would have been and may yet be another good Lucy Ripken tale.

Meanwhile, not long after finishing the seven Lucy Ripken books, Donna and Jade and I moved from Seattle to Sayulita, that small Mexican beach town that has already popped up as a primary location in one Lucy book, X Dames. We first went there on vacation around 2000, and went back a few times before buying a small, cheap house in 2005. Four years later, as the American economy fell on our heads, we moved down there.

A lot of crazy stuff took place while we lived in Sayulita, both good and bad. After we moved back to Seattle five years later, I started writing a book about our years there. I’m going to be drawing on that unfinished book for blog material for a while, so what you’ll be reading here for a while is a memoir style blog.



I woke up in a white room. I knew my name, my self,  little else. I was in a nowhere place, emptied of time, strapped to a moving bed, a wheeled cart. Somebody pushing me, leaving this room with a window where daylight flowed in. A box of light, a window on the world, or another world. Had I been looking out this window? I couldn’t remember. I was turned away from the light to face a door, then rolled towards the door and through. I tried to reach for the frame, to stop the pushers from pushing me through, to assess the situation, to do something, to act. Who were these people? I needed to gain control or at least a sense of it.

I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t move. Paralyzed. Then I realized, from the undercurrent hum and the green-tinted light and the aroma of illness, that I was in a hospital. I lay on my back on a gurney flanked by strangers wearing white, my arms and legs restrained by canvas straps.

The situation fell into focus as I rolled down a hallway, with the anonymous face of an anonymous medical person visible directly above me. I was sick, very, very sick, and everything going on around me was on my behalf. I was helpless, as I had been for the past few days, or was it weeks? I no longer knew. I had descended into the realm of the seriously ill, the land of sickness, where time takes on another, shiftier character.

The strangers faded away and my wife Donna walked next to me, our friend Joann next to her. There were doctors and nurses flanking them like guards. Everybody talked quietly, intent on taking me on my journey. My journey to where? “Where are we going?” I murmured at Donna weakly. “Where am I?”

She moved closer so I could see her face. She looked wasted, weary, cried out. I saw this in a glance. We have been together for over 30 years and I know her face better than my own. “Oh buster,” she said. My longtime nickname. Hers as well. Her tears started again.  She sobbed, “We’re going to Guadalajara.”  Spoken as if that not-so-distant Mexican city was an outpost of hell. She put a warm hand on my arm, and I realized that my body was weirdly, unnaturally cool.

I didn’t feel quite there. Though I could sense the warmth of her love washing over me, surrounding and protecting me, I was being transported away from everything and everywhere and everyone I know. I was moving towards the light, to throw in a hackneyed phrase from books and movies. Only in this case for me it was not light or darkness, it was just…another place, outside the time and space of the place I traveled through on that gurney.

I was in an eerie interval there in that Puerto Vallarta hospital, neither here nor there, not in past, present or future, not myself or anyone else, body sick, mind wavering, everything in flux. I was dying, moving through the anteroom between life and death.

Yes, that’s it! I realized this as we passed though a waiting room. I was moving towards the end. My body was so wrecked and ruined by something that had happened to me—I couldn’t even recall what it was!–that there was no way I could go anywhere but into the big hole waiting at the end of the living world. That hole is just over there. As I passed through the hospital waiting room, with signs on the walls written in Spanish, I sensed two presences. One I could see: my daughter, Jade, sitting in a chair, one of several grouped around a low table on the other side of the room. A waiting area for relatives. Near her, next to her, hovering in the air in her vicinity, or maybe on the other side of the room, there was a kind of  “presence” that seemed to be everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time. A light floating in the air. A man sitting in a chair, reading a magazine, looking up at me. He was wearing a hat and seemed completely and utterly calm as he waited for me to make my move.

I wanted him to take me. He is Mr. Death and I was ready to offer myself up, to get out of the infinite misery of what I had become in the course of one week in a hospital. A breathing dead man.

My daughter looked at me, and I spoke, my voice small, distant, empty. I said, “Goodbye, Jade. I’m leaving this world.” With death waiting, a warm, welcoming presence, ready to take me out of my broken body and on to another place, unknown but undeniably better than the one I lived in at that moment, how could I not want to get out? There was nothing to fear from that man waiting there. He was not grim. He was no horned devil. He was a man of peace, Mr. Death.

Jade looked at me, and shook her head. She didn’t believe me. I don’t remember what she said, only that it was not “Goodbye.” Nor do I know what she did or how it happened but she reeled me back. Back to the living world.


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