Final observation: here in California, despite plentiful allocation of street and private options, valet parking dominates the commercial landscape. Hotels, stores, bars, restaurants - even cheap shoddy restaurants!
And all the attendants, regardless of heritage, look like Jason Bourne.
Why? Are they anticipating a sudden call for an undercover mission, are they hoping to be cast in a movie, are they so bored they have nothing better to do than lift weights, or do they just enjoy the aesthetic?
Impossible to tell. They no longer talk to me! Whereas in my youth they recognised me as a peer (or perhaps a tasty morsel) now they are all approximately the same age as my grown-up daughter. Golly, I love getting old. So many annoying distractions have vanished.
Anyway, some fun facts: in the UK and EU I have full health insurance cover based on residency and treaty agreements. Elsewhere I get by with "travel insurance" which means that if I break a leg, I can get emergency care. If I am incapacitated by an accident I am eligible for evacuation services.
Otherwise? The policy excludes pre-existing conditions. Everything wrong with me is related to the genetic disorder. So functionally: nothing is covered.
Before I hit the road I hassle my GP for sufficient medication to see me through, then cross my fingers it will last. If I develop minor complications I coerce friends (and strangers if necessary) for appointments and scrips, then pay out of pocket. The last time this happened Ayun hooked me up with a doctor pal, I found a dodgy pharmacy willing to fill a dubious prescription, and I wore sunglasses night and day until the problem cleared up. Allowing an assortment of NYC uberhipsters to form bizarre opinions about my eccentric sartorial choices. Fun!
But if the complication of the moment requires more than antibiotics there isn't a good solution. Right now I should see either an endocrinologist or rheumatologist (probably both) to run my bloodwork. Do you know how much it costs to check your anti-nuclear antibodies and sedimentation rate? Bushels and bunches. Between the clinic time and tests I can run up several thousand in charges, for a confirming diagnosis that consists of the following: you have systemic lupus, we prescribe complete rest.
They would also tell me to take prednisone, but I am philosophically opposed, so we will ignore than injunction.
In fact, because I know what the doctors will say and how much it will cost to hear the words, I just skip the appointments.
I have been living with auto-immune madness since 1986, so I feel comfortable pushing the boundaries. If I get 23% sicker I will take myself in for tinkering and tune-ups, but that won't happen, if I just avoid the sun for awhile.
I do not recommend this method to other people: it is dangerous to avoid treatment for potentially life-threatening disorders. If you are sick, go to the doctor!
However, if you are trying to eke out some kind of life in a disastrously bad system (like say the United States) here is a trick: I haven't been to any check-ups or taken any medication for this disease for more than five years. Yes, I get sick - but it isn't documented and therefore in a purely technical sense I do not have the disease.
Even the Germans couldn't catch me on this one. No records = no diagnosis.
This isn't remission, it is some kind of psychological disorder created and nurtured by idiotic health care policies.
You might ask why I continue this charade in the United Kingdom, where pre-existing conditions do not matter. The answer is simple: I didn't know for sure if I would stay, and didn't want to be refused cover (or charged extortionate rates) if I ended up back home again. Now I am worried that the Tories will dismantle the NHS. Either way: fake it 'til you make it.
By now my habits are so entrenched they transcend economics. It is likely I will one day push it too far, wait too long, skip a critical test. This is what your health care policy does, America: it kills people.
They are shocking and hilarious in equal measure, offering up plentiful reminders of both the past I have left behind, and the future I can have - but do not want. They are extreme depictions of the pinnacle and ruination of the American Dream.
I love them.