Published: March 27th 2008July 14th 2007
Healthcare (which interestingly enough is considered a spelling mistake in America - I kid you not - type it into your spell checker) plays a prominent role in my discussion of my final week in the great state of CA. This is partially regarding my recent, and certainly expensive, though yet-to-be-billed-for, experience on Tuesday, Michael Moore's new movie Sicko
But what I would really like to start this blog off with is a comment that was written in response to my first blog entry on California. I said something referring to California as being an excellent place, but no Canada in regard to its health system. The writer, known only as "Johno" wrote the following comment, which I am not sure whether it's serious, or ironic.
Your lame, half-witted and typically Canadian comments about the US are pathetically unoriginal. To say that California is "No Canada" is to pretend that the world at large actually has any interest in whats happening in Canada whatsoever. With an entire population equal or lesser than California, how can you even draw comparisons with the great Golden State. Not to mention that the entire eastern half of the frozen land of Canada is filled with pompous, arrogant, self-aborsorbed [sic] French-canadians [sic], so... arragont [sic] that even the real French won't even take them back. I understand that it's difficult to be hidden in the opulant [sic] shadow of such a great nation, but just look at the bright side of things. If it wasn't for the US, most of the people in the world probably wouldn't know that Canada even exists.
I laughed very hard at this. Belly laughter. If this was meant to be in jest, it's funny-funny. If it's serious, it's sad-funny. Either way -- Funny! Thanks Johno, whomever you may be.
Go Hard or Go Home
Okay, so I admit, this philosophy, though it be the one that drives me, does have some drawbacks. Tuesday is an example of that. I was out playing softball, the final
game of the season. It was the first inning and I ran for a fly ball, jumped and caught it. It was not impressive, a catch yes, but hardly worth mentioning except for the fact that as I was in the air, the Earth jumped up, viciously assaulting my ankle. Not one to be able to defeat the Earth, my ankle buckled like a beer can on a redneck's forehead, with a distinctive *CRACK* that made me shudder. It was angry that I was leaving California. I have to admit that the VERY first thing I thought was: "Ow! Fuck!" I said as much.
Then the thought occurred: "Oh shit my health insurance is not valid in the United States, and I've just broken my ankle." I was helped off the field and called my Aunt, who sent Erin, my cousin over to retrieve me. I was in a panic. "If it's bad, I'm just going to fly home tonight!"
American healthcare is wickedly expensive, what they can provide in any country for free or next to free (or for a small fee at private hospitals) is outrageously, and artificially expensive here. It is really at the crux
of what Michael Moore's movie is about; why can't the richest nation in the world provide its people with healthcare. The simple answer, which seems to typify most American problems is the undue influence of big business over government. The free market is not free if it's run by the rich and powerful (Adam Smith argued as much if any of you hard core capitalists ever bothered to read The Wealth of Nations. Read the unabridged version. I'll spare you the history lesson, but I will say that Smith recognized that large corporations were trouble, and that businesses must remain small and plentiful for the market to remain free. The system as we see it, is more consistent with what Marx said capitalism was doomed to become, than anything Smith had advocated.
Thus resulted in my worries that I would not be seen. But I forgot, Stanford (one of the premier medical institutions in the country) doesn't turn away the uninsured, they just bill you and take your social security details so they can collect later. So I was somewhat relieved...I can pay off a bill, but I can't heal a broken bone on my own. So I got
X-rays and was well looked after. The X-ray technician, Ray was a funny guy. He joked around and asked if I wanted to see his picture from when he was younger. I said sure, and he flipped his name tag over revealing a sticker of a cartoon drawing of a black dude. He said, yeah I used to be a black man when I was younger, but I'm inside all the time now, so now I look Mexican. I laughed. Erin also kept me entertained and laughing. We passed the time fairly easily and laughed about the posters in the lobby, with a picture of a brain and what appeared to be ninja stars all over it and the slogan: "A Stroke is a Brain Attack!" It's true, really. But their's something about saying Help, I'm having a brain attack.
The doctor who looked after me was very helpful, knowledgeable, answered my questions dutifully, and was a total hottie. So all around my experience was good, though I'm not looking forward to the surely enormous bill.
And my ankle: not broken. It turns out the cracking sound was my ligaments tearing themselves away from the bone in the
entire bruised section you see in the picture. It makes me a little queasy to think about actually. But, it is better than the broken bone. Sure the broken bone would heal MUCH faster than this, and it would hurt A LOT less, but it much less expensive. I was elated, and that my friends is the sad consideration Americans have to live with on a daily basis because their crackerjack representatives are too busy devouring the handouts of big business to really give a damn about what's best for the wonderful people that make up this great, but troubled and misguided nation.
This was the story of my ankle attack.
The Church of the Redwood Grove
Grant and I had planned to go for a hike in the redwoods and to head down to the beach. So I had to call him first thing in the morning and tell him that crutches and beaches are not, perhaps the best of friends, but that I was still up for the redwoods. So he came and picked me up as planned and we drove back up to his place where he had a few things to do, and
I had one very important thing to do: ice my ankle.
As the fog cleared we determined to set out, buy some sandwiches, which a surprising number of people here call samiches (I'm not sure why I've never noticed that before, but there you go), and head down to the redwood grove. We ate our lunch then sprawled out on the empty picnic tables and stared into the canopies of these giants. This is one of my favorite things in the world to do. I'm not sure what it is about looking up into a tree, but it gives me great, if simple, satisfaction. I fell asleep briefly and Grant less briefly, but it was a great day. On the way back we took a leisurely drive through the hills and went to check out this nursery (plants not babies) and tea shop down the hill from Grant's. There was no tea, but Grant had a great time wandering around. I sat - crutches are tiring.
We returned to Palo Alto fairly early, all things considered and had some great frozen yogurt before Grant dropped me off at Dan's and Zorina's where I was to play sentinel for
Zorina while Dan was out of town. I don't know who's going to be scared of me. Well, you all are...as you know I can be very frightening. But the general world is not afraid of the big bad Cory. But it made Zorina feel better, so I was only too happy to hang out there with her.
One Last Hurrah
I decided this time, instead of a huge shindig, I would just have a small get together with a few of my closest friends. It was very casual, I just asked people to bring something to feed themselves and to join me at a nearby park in Palo Alto where I would teach them how to play cricket, at least in its most basic incarnation.
It was a great night, I had so much fun. we ate and chatted for a long while and then got up to play. It only took a few minutes to explain - cricket really is simple. It's complications are on a nuanced level rather than a rules level, unlike baseball. But leave it to the U.S. to develop a game that is so rule heavy it makes the mind spin.
So we took turns batting and bowling. As usual, I sucked at batting; I really am terrible at it. But Geoff, Mike, and Bridget seemed to have it under control. Alan was kind enough to run for me when I actually did hit the ball, which wasn't often because Lexy seems to have a natural bowling talent which made her a formidable opponent.
I got her back, however, with a carefully laid dive (I didn't want to land on my bad ankle). I stopped the ball, and pushed myself up to my knees, took aim and knocked the bales clean off the wickets as she ran. It was a good play, but Grant was right, perhaps it's stupid to play hurt. He kept yelling: "you're going to wreck your other ankle!" and I kept replying "well at least there will be some symmetry in that." He was right, but it seemed wrong to sit on the sidelines when it was the last time for a while that I would be able to play with my friends.
Geoff and Colleen liked it so much (especially after a season of numerous injuries in their softball league) that they wanted to
go buy a set for themselves. Yes. Mel will be so disappointed, but I have achieved one of my goals, if only on a small scale. After the game petered out, we wandered down to have coffee at the Coupa Cafe, where my, and Lexy's spicy hot chocolate was not so spicy. We had to get them to fix it, but it was good practice in being assertive...a quality I'm steadily working on. We chatted for an hour or so, before it was time for people to head out. I hate good-byes so said them awkwardly, but sincerely. I will really miss them.
I had one more good-bye to say though. Zorina had forgot to return my computer, and she had (on purpose) left me with a pie plate full of this awesome chocolate pecan pie. So we had an exchange to make. I met her Saturday morning before I left and handed it over. Being the last good-bye before leaving what had become home for the last 7 years was more difficult than I had anticipated, and began to tear up. So it was then that she pointed out that at least Calgary is much closer to the
Bay Area than Australia or Europe. It's true...they're not that far away.
A couple of hours later, Derry and I packed up the car and took to the streets to the sound of AC/DC's Highway to Hell blaring from the speakers. The end of my time as a Californian had come, and we headed northward toward the land of my birth, my new old home in the "true north, strong and free."
There are more photos below