Forgetfulness comes with age…or so I think someone said. This month I turned 40 years old and while other birthdays come and go, this milestone just forced itself to be saturated and simmered in appreciation.
It started in late February, weeks before my actual birthday, with a gift from the good folks at Squaw Valley USA/Alpine Meadows Resort in Lake Tahoe, California. They treated me to a world class weekend complete with a ski-in/ski-out chateau to their Olympic hosting resort. The mansion was luxurious and if it weren’t for the El-Nino laden feet of powder at my doorstep, I might have been content to sit by the in-room fireplace and watch my gigantic plasma flat screen.
But as you can see from this highlight video, the mountain demanded shredding.
But all things amazing do not reside solely in California, so with my loved one by my side, we boarded a plane to Thailand.
The first two weeks of idyllic islands slathered on romantic rhythms and it is safe to say, on a complacent day in March, I lost my head. Just a few days before my actual day of birth, the Thai island of Koh Tao gave me the Piscean water day I always asked for. A sunset hour long snorkel with deep free dives rewarded with brain coral and barracuda, followed by a full day of scuba diving with two hour-long 35 meter dives in crystal clear Big Blue.
My third dive of the day was the sweetest. It was my girlfriend’s first dive ever and she was rewarded with a very patient instructor and infinite visibility at Koh Tao’s legendary Japanese Garden dive site. The dive started with a bang as we spotted a medium to large sting ray in the first 2 minutes. Pretty special. With almost 300 scuba dives, I, myself, have only seen a dozen or so rays and this little guy was happy to see us and swam along for a spell.
In short, I became giddy. The sting ray, coupled with the excellent Viz, made my first ever Scuba dive with an underwater GoPro (ish) camera and out of body experience. And that is where the problems begin. I forgot to use my head.
The filmmaker in me took over and I started chasing new angles, overhead and below my two diving subjects. I slapped my fins way to hard in ascent and descents trying to be a Scuba Dolly and make great footage. It felt great at the time. We came out of the water, after 56 minutes of other worldly beauty, and exuberantly congratulated ourselves on no problems, no worries, and most of all no head trauma.
That night at dinner on the island at a fair priced and super tasty Italian dinner, my head felt a little swishy. I have been sea-sick, land-sick and all the other sicks, but this felt a little like someone left a jar of ocean inside my head. That night, I woke up in the middle of the night with a squelching sound in my ear and vice grips on my temples. Thinking it was a one night thing, I ignored it.
But after three nights of bad sleep and liquid draining from my left ear, my better half insisted on me seeing a doctor. Best we could do on an island in the middle of nowhere was a Scuba Nurse who said she sees it all the time, gave me a bunch of steroids and antibiotics, and told me to come back in a week.
Three days later it was worse. More pain and more ear fluid that was now yellow. The Scuba nurse still said it was normal and to wait. Next day, I got a second opinion from another Scuba nurse (who also owns our favorite Koh Tao eatery “I Love Salad”) and she upped my pills and started a series of in-the-butt injections of steroids. Oh boy! She was out of long needles, so had to use short ones which are left in the flesh longer for more pain – more Joy!
A week later, with the pain not subsiding, we headed to mainland Thailand for some real medical advice. The sleepy town of Khanom’s 21 year old doctor spoke three words of English (hello, your welcome, and OK) – the man literally googled the words I was saying and read the answers of his laptop in Thai and said uh-huh uh huh but quickly wrote a note for a specialist in the big town of Surat Thani.
At this point, the vacation was put on hold and Ear Vacay began!