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Paradise Not
Posted by Grady Miller on Jan 22, 2006 - 2:48:00 PM

After going through the yearly ritual of being straight-jacketed and taken to my favorite tropical paradise, a semi-virgin beach on the Mexican Riviera, it struck me that learning to rough it without the cares and paraphernalia of civilization, bears a striking similarity to the stages of death outlined in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ landmark book, On Death and Dying.

                                                                             Photo By Wendi Kaminski

Photo By Wendi Kaminski

My intuition was soon confirmed when a corked bottle, containing the following notes, washed onto the shore.  Handwriting analysis reveals that the notes were made by Kubler-Ross’ devoted disciple, Stanley R. Angst, and that he was of moody temperament.


Denial and Isolation – This is not happening to me!  I really wanted to go to Chicago, to shovel snow, and the drive is so much shorter.  On this isolated crescent of sand there’s no 7-Eleven around the corner, in fact there’s no corner.  So where do they sell the crack around this dump?  If I walk far enough down the beach, no one can hear me scream… 

Interesting statistic: the majority of suicides occur at 4:48 a.m. 

But with no clocks or watches on this isolated beach, the only discernible measurement of time is the rising and setting of the sun.  People cannot know when it’s that time, and this may account for the low rate of suicide among the tourist population.



Anger – (This stage manifests itself in anger directed at God, envy of others, and anger projected onto the environment).  It is hard to get angry at God.  He doesn’t even have an e-mail address.  After two days, our neighbors in the palm-thatched palapa have gotten wonderful dark even tans, I look like a boiled fish.  This impression was further confirmed when fishermen captured me in a net and a wizened Mexican woman tried to fillet me. 


Bargaining – (This means that a person may strike a deal, such as, “Please let me live if I stop smoking Marlboro Red and take up Lights.”)  In the context of the tropical beach, bargaining reverts to its most primitive form.  An incessant stream of hawkers and vendors roam the beach, selling jewelry, carved turtles, hammocks, banana chips, and “pre-owned” nuclear warheads… “Will you take this 15 megaton beauty from Uzbekistan home with you, amigo.  It’ll fit nicely in your suitcase.  After owning this baby you’ll be protected from robbers.  Why you’ll have the safest house on the block!  Fifteen pesos.  I give you a good deal, my friend.”


Depression (arising from contemplation of past losses and losses to come) – This trip is taking a terrible toll, especially the toll roads.   Then there are the astute locals who have installed outhouses beside their huts and exact their pesos every time nature calls…Civilization is encroaching little by little.   Today there appeared an ice-cream truck, with a speaker on top that plays a tape loop of “Kitten on the Keys” and murmurs. “M’m m’m, yummy ice cream” in Spanish.  The fishermen’s children tug on my arm and ask me to buy ice-cream with soulful eyes. 


Acceptance (Hope): Oh, this isn’t really so bad.   You could do a lot worse than an undeveloped stretch of beach along the coast of Michoacan—try an undeveloped stretch of coast along the Jersey shore.  Enjoy yourself, everybody should put on tanning lotion and live a little.  To tell you the truth, I’m going to miss those little kids asking for ice-cream.  (This is the stage where the beachgoer has a revelation on the eve of departure, “This has been so much fun.  I can’t wait to go again next year!”)





Cliffside Malibu




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