Scorpion Matters...
4/22/2008 (updated 4/22/2008)

Answers for Flip, RT Discussion List

How are you right now?

Feeling better. The finger is nearly healed, just the end is numb now. I can just about put it on a guitar string.

How did it happen, what type of scorpion, was it hiding, where?

I was staying with family and friends in Yelapa, near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a lovely little cove with about two hotels and three restaurants, and access only by boat. I was getting dressed in the morning, in the hotel room, and I didnt notice it sitting on top of my clothes. The room was pretty open to the elements, with a big space for ventilation between the walls and the roof. There were surprisingly few bugs around no mosquitoes, spiders, ants. The scorpion was genus centruroides one of the most venomous in Central America. The sting was like an intense burning sensation, that travelled up my arm, and stopped before it reached my shoulder. The full symptomology:

Throbbing pain in the bones of the right arm. Numbness and prickling in the right arm. Small spots of intense pain on the wrist and arm. Numbness in all fingers and toes. Numbness in the lips and scalp. Feeling of gravel in the throat. Everything tasted intensely salty mineral water from a bottle was almost undrinkable. All these symptoms receding after a couple of days, just leaving complete numbness in the envenomed finger. Strange hallucinations (!)

I went to the reception of the hotel, and asked the clerk what to do for a scorpion sting. He looked incredibly uninterested, and shrugged, and said that I could put ice on it. (I later found out hed been stung 33 times!) I went to the restaurant, asked the waiter for ice for a sting, and he thought it prudent to walk me over to the clinic just at the end of the beach. The absurdly young and pretty doctor, about fourteen I think, took my blood pressure for an hour, and then discharged me. I did not require the antivenom. I later met a couple of people who had needed the antivenom, and their recovery time was one or two months. About 1,000 people, mostly the young and old, die every year in Mexico from scorpion stings, often in outlying rural areas.

Would it have been a different accident if it had been the same animal, but a different part of your body?

David Beckham would for sure have been stung on the foot; musician? Its going to be the finger. Those are the usual places to be stung unless you get one in your underwear or something wish I hadnt called forth that mental image

Are you looking at vulnerability for guitarists in a different way now?

Its all good. Ive had to stop and consider how fragile we are, and how easily put out of commission, and Im ever more grateful to have the strength to perform as a musician. You can chop yourself with the breadknife, have a gardening accident, get bitten by spiders, snakes, a whole ark of beasties, but I dont think you can go through life worrying about that stuff. In fact, if you are that self-conscious about your body, you are more likely to hurt it.

Have you picked up a warning about coping with scorpions from which we, the fans, could learn?

I wasnt intending to be, but somehow I was very calm about the whole thing. That is a great help with any type of venom in the body you dont want the heart racing the stuff around your system. I told myself Id had a good innings, the life insurance was paid up, and Id never have to play Cromer Winter Gardens again!

I forgot my own rules on this trip. Normally, travelling in Central America, or camping in the desert in California, I always check my shoes, and shake out my clothes. My new rule is every night, zip all clothes back inside my suitcase. This also reduces chances of taking a passenger home. There are scorpions and scorpions, and most are not that harmful; Ive been stung putting my hand into a woodpile, and it was no worse than a bee sting. And Ive handled the big Emperor Scorpions, that are just about harmless big claws, less venom.

Of course, the whole thing really started a week before. We were dining at the Typhoon Restaurant at Santa Monica Airport, with our friend, Biologist and foodie Ed Grumbine. This fine eatery serves pan-Asian cuisine and also serves the weird stuff. One of the things on the menu was scorpion on toast, which Ed and my son Jack eagerly devoured (said it tasted fishy). Could the whole thing have been revenge? 430 million years of collective consciousness is not to be underrated.

Is your recovery developing as expected, so back on stage from May 2 and onwards?

I expect to be on schedule, back for the New Orleans JazzFest. Acupuncture is speeding up the process.

Thanks to everyone for their kind messages. RT