It's time to get my stitches out. The doctor putting them in last Thursday evening instructed me to get them out after 5 days, so their removal is 36 hours overdue. During yesterday's walks I discovered an animal hospital, which after hearing so much about horrendous US medical costs, I was and still am considering ;-) But Google Maps indicates that Dr. Paul's immediate care is located only 1.6 km from my hotel, so that is where I start walking at 8:40.
My first question after entering Dr. Paul's is "How much?". Every Canadian has been indoctrinated about the astronomically high medical costs in the US, so I feel it's safe to ask first. A first receptionist quotes me US$159 for an 'initial consultation', and then indicates that there is a chance that the cost might be only $129, "but definitely less than $200". That is less than I was afraid it would cost, and after filling in a medical history survey I pay $159 in cash to a second receptionist. They finally managed to enter the Canadian Postal Code of my home address into their computer, but now the computer refuses to accept a credit card with that home address. Strange Country!
The first receptionist leads me into a room, where she asks me more questions "Do you consume alcohol or drugs?"(Hey, I'm here for stitch removal only!) and then proceeds to measure my blood pressure and temperature. She mentions that my blood pressure is HIGH (WTF?).
Then enters lovely Julie, not quite doctor , but something close to it. She agrees that anxiety about high medical costs probably raised my blood pressure and proceeds to lovingly change the colour of my eyebrow hair with hydrogen peroxide (softening crusts) and then pull out all six sutures. Chatting with her while she pokes around in my eyebrow is a pleasure, and I finally loose all fear about the US medical system. When I'm about to walk out the door with my receipt in my hand, the second receptionist comes after me with $30 in her hand; Julie had convinced her to apply the lower rate and give me a rebate! Lovely ladies and if I lived here, I could almost see myself feign illness to visit them again !
They even call me the next morning, to see how well I survived the procedure !!!
|sans stitches and a little sans eyebrow|
When I return to my hotel, my room has already been cleaned (Not sure about the time required for the doctor's visit, I had deposited my luggage at the front desk but had NOT checked out).
I use the room for another 45 minutes being careful not to mess it up again (would have been unfair to the formidable short-statue housekeeping lady with the Spanish accent.
|Bird of paradise growing wild|
Lunch at Thai Top restaurant is disappointing; Re-heated chicken always tastes like rubber ;-( I already miss Thai East Wind close to Venice Beach !
I will continue traveling on the bus that brought me here yesterday, for more than one hour. LA is BIG!
For more than one hour I observe the people in the at times packed bus. Every type is present: African Americans in sharp fedoras and leather jackets, elderly bums with baseball caps, aged Gold-jewelry-encrusted Mexican duchesses (that's what they think) being pushed in wheelchairs by their sons, Sugar-Water-consumption-bloated teenagers of any colour, etc, etc. And they mostly all smile and talk to people they have never met before. What is missing are the tight-lipped skinny Lulu-Lemon-wearing bitchy Vancouverites that don't talk to anyone. And I REALLY don't miss them!
One of my first impressions of Long Beach is this deserted book store. First impressions are often correct and this one confirms my instant dislike of Long Beach that will continue to grow during my stay.
|banks, convention centres and entertainment megaplexes|
The Long Beach Grand Prix took place on April 19th and they haven't removed the barriers yet.
I'm certainly not here to ride a water taxi; They are closed until the beginning of the season.
No. I'm here for a much bigger catch. A cruise ship that hasn't gone anywhere since before I was 2 years old.
Meet The Queen Mary
But first I have to walk there (I only find out about the shuttle buses later). The half hour walk goes over a bridge that lets me inspect Long Beach water quality.
|OH YUK !|
|Even the birds swim AROUND the densest areas of the slime|
|DT Long Beach: Fire and Brimstone on the way?|
|One leg is enough|
|It looks bloody BIG from close-up|
|And what's that? Red October?|
|One of my two windows|
|Old Man reflected in old mirror|
|stairwell (note the brass)|
|view from just below the bridge|
I almost jump back when I enter the bridge. Where are all the computers and green-glowing navigational instrument panels present everywhere today. Are you saying these people still had to be able to read maps ???? So that what the chart room is for ;-)
|Having a smoke below a lifeboat|
|Downtown Long Beach (Yuk!)|
I'm hungry, so I head to one of the on-board restaurants.
|Wining under an art-deco ceiling|
|The fish & chips is expensive but surprisingly good.|
A few hours later. I feel peckish again but neither want to ship prices for food nor pay $3.5 for the small water bottle in my room, so I leave the ship to head downtown to eat out or shop.
I don't quite know where to get off the bus (a multi-stop shuttle bus), so I get off after seeing a skinny person with a backpack and a HUNGRY sign squatting by the side of the road, because I still have to pay forward some of that dentist's karma of this morning. By the time I get to him he just accepted a bill from a car driver and he thanks us both and says he's off to eat.
Walking through the downtown streets, the dividing lines between the ill-behaved fat-gutted HOOTERS-bound RICH convention goers, the scraping-by average population on buses and sidewalks, and those with cardboard signs or just sitting next to their suitcase in a park, staring into the distance, is more striking than in any other city I have been to. I'm sure there is another population class in this city but they seem to be hiding behind the tinted windows of their oversized SUVs.
Not finding anything else, I go shopping at Walmart, am appalled at their product selection, am appalled at the lineups at the cashiers (poor people are gullible to a point), manage my way through the self-check-out (broken, but faster), and then almost puke when a security guard at the exit wants to initial my receipt before letting me leave.
|NO comment ;-(|
Last downer of the night is having food at Rock Bottom Street food (It's really called that). It's full of drunk convention goers paying the outrageous prices and giggling about the 'funny' name while there are people outside the sidewalk fences that are really hungry and homeless.
Discouraged, I decide to take the 1/2 hour walk to the Queen Mary on foot.
|Signs of things to come? Watch out for four guys on horses!|