Friday, May 30, 2008

loose ends tying a noose

So. Well, this, I suppose, is what happens when you are wholly dependent on other people's schedules and plans, your own being rather pliant. In short, I crammed almost a week's worth of activity into one day yesterday. It was, needless to say, overkill. It didn't help that the night before, I had not slept well at all. I should have slept really well, because I had this completely bizarre dream about being married to an impossibly handsome man, who kept following me around even though an impossibly beautiful woman kept popping up and inviting herself along, at one point even while I was examining a dissected cadaver (hey, don't ask me, it's not meant to be logical). But instead of feeling all dreamy (much as I did when Sawyer walked out of the ocean all shirtless last night on Lost), I felt downright exhausted.

The end result being that I was so knackered that I fell asleep while watching the season finale of Lost. The season mothereffing finale of Lost! I now feel downright sheepish about how much I teased a good friend of mine who nodded off in the movie theater when Speed came out. Luckily, unlike her Speed-somnia, I could easily watch the season finale online today. Thank you, internets, you did it again, feeding my ability to waste time, time and again.

At this point, it is fair to say that I have no idea what in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is going on in Lost. Over the holidays last year, I finally fell victim to the BSG craze, and started to watch that, but I'm finding myself underwhelmed with the new episodes- everything is so cryptic and nonsensical that I find myself shrugging and just watching to see if the pieces ever fall into place. That is what had happened to me with Lost, and to some extent not much has changed with the finale. I can only recall:
  • Does Walt have some kind of accelerated aging disorder? I fear the next time we see him, he will be walking with a cane.
  • Sawyer's nicknames for everyone sort of became a tiresome schtick the last few seasons. However, nicknaming Frank Lapidus as Kenny Rogers was sort of brilliant.
  • Speaking of Sawyer, I do not understand how Juliet could look so morose at the sight of him emerging from the water. She should have looked at her bottle of Dharma initiative rum and said, "This stuff is amazing! I'm becoming an alcoholic!"
  • Naveen Andrews should play conflicted bad guys for a living.
  • I don't like it when Lost clutters the already confusing plots and storylines with new characters, but I liked Miles telling Daniel he was sufficiently dire.
  • Even though there is little to no chance that he is alive, I just cannot bring myself to believe that Jin is dead. Poor Daniel Dae Kim finally gets to speak his native tongue, and they go and kill his character off?!?

Anyway. I made the second batch of caramel ice cream today. It tastes okay, but not enough like caramel to suit me. I'll take pictures side by side tomorrow so you can compare. The other batch is definitely too burnt, but there must be some middle ground that I shall have to seek out.

It's funny- to me there is very little difference between what I have done in the kitchen and what I have done in the lab this past week. What is required is not very different- good calculations, a steady hand, a sense of when things are going right or wrong, and managing time effectively. You babysit a reaction, you babysit a pot of melting sugar- makes no real difference, except you can only do one in the comfort of your own kitchen, I guess.

But I am a bit tired today. So tired, in fact, that I just sat down to type this and had to think about when I last ate. I know this would seem normal to anyone else, but I eat so frequently, and eating is such a joy to me that I am a little shocked that I am uncertain as to whether or not I have had a meal since returning home, and if not, when the last time was I ate. Maybe I should keep busy more often. Then again, I probably ate a meal, forgot, and will now eat another one just to be safe.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance

People, it was time. I've been avoiding this for years. Ever since A Auntie's superior South Indian son once scoffed at me about it, I have longed to make a pie crust from scratch. "It's easy," he sniffed, in response to a remark I had made about how tricky it seemed, when I was 23 and visiting the family during Thanksgiving. "All you really need is a good pastry cutter."

Well, all these years later, I still do not own a pastry cutter, but I think I have finally decided to man up and figure out this whole pie crust business, what with the amount of time I have on my hands at the moment. What with the prior failures and prior declarations that wound up amounting to wimp-outs, pies & I do have a kind of troubled history. Still, I was thinking today that I had recently figured out how to use a rolling pin passably, so I might as well put it to the test.

Everything went a lot more smoothly than it did the last times. For all the knowledge you can amass in the world, it seems like nothing replaces a good instinct. It is as true in the kitchen as it is anywhere else- you can often just feel whether something is going well or not. The same thing happened this morning with Attempt #2 in the Caramel Chronicles, except against my favor- I knew something was not quite right, and this time instead of burning it, the caramel didn't quite go all the way caramel enough. I know that makes no sense, but let's just say at this point, the Caramel Chronicles are starting to resemble Goldilocks and the Three Bears- maybe on Attempt #3, things will fall into place.

The pie, on the other hand, appears to be okay:

It came out looking a bit sunken, but that is just because I had to be stingy with the filling, as I was only given a small amount of fresh cherries from my dealer my friend. But of course, as everyone knows, looks do not count for everything, especially when it comes to baked goods. I happen to have a real problem with cherries, so I am going to have to force someone else to taste test this for me.

I'll leave you with the most emotional conversation the broseph and I may have ever had with each other:

    me: (answering phone call) Hey, man, I was just thinking of you.
    broseph: Really (weirded out), why?
    me: I was just giving some friends these brownies I made with a peanut butter frosting on them, and I always think of you when I'm using peanut butter.
    broseph: Oh! I just came from a coffee shop where I had the most unsatisfying peanut butter cookie of my whole life. I was just thinking, sh*t, my sister would not have stood for these.

In other news, I see my godson tomorrow! I predict he will not recognize me and cry with absolute commitment.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

still coming up with lint

My mania reached a peak:

try a little tenderness

But as is often the case when you reach a peak, you find that it's actually just a rest before a bigger peak. So, then I got to making caramel and caramel ice cream. Caramel is a finicky sticky little critter. It does not want to be touched, no stirring involved. Yet it does not abide to abandonment- you have to babysit it vigilantly, and even then, hesitate for a moment, and you will wind up with a burnt mess. This was probably not the right way to experiment. Cream is expensive these days, and besides which, adding cream to caramelized sugar causes something suspiciously reminiscent of Hiroshima. So I probably should have just fooled around with caramelizing sugar instead of diving blindly into making ice cream. Truth be told, I am pretty sure this first batch of ice cream is going to be a stinker- the caramel did smoke a bit, and because of that, I think this batch will have a bit of a burnt, bitter flavor to it.

However, what I do have, refreshingly, is a lot of time. So tomorrow morning, I shall see if I can get the hang of it. Of course, in the meanwhile, an enabler a friend gave me a bag of cherries. I do not eat cherries, never much liked the taste of them. So of course, now I am trying to figure out what I can bake with cherries (that is, if I can first figure out how to remove the pits without losing my mind). Also, the heat may return by the end of the week, so suddenly, I'm even more frantic about baking as much as I can.

Luckily, I did spend quite a bit of time outside yesterday. AG and I did some exploring and found ourselves a trail. It wasn't much of a hike, because I live sort of in a valley, but we walked along the river for miles. I forgot how nice it was to just be outdoors and close to something not resembling buildings, pavement and concrete. After the 'hike', we met up with some other people and watched the new Indiana Jones movie. The less I write about that, the better- my review of the movie is: go watch Iron Man instead.

Being rather disconnected from everything was nice, especially since I was subjected to more Gunner-ific characters in the morning. I have decided that the only way to tolerate it all is to acknowledge it, to myself. I really think that half the trouble I have stems from falling victim to the hype every so often and actually believing that med school is populated with calm, non-competitive people. Those people do exist, in fact, but they keep so to themselves that one will never encounter them. Which got me to thinking that perhaps that is the answer- keeping to myself whenever possible.

And successfully making caramel.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I was running blind

Today, I was reminded that I had a little sour cream left in the refrigerator. I had made a chocolate chip pound cake for a friend’s birthday, and had not used all the sour cream in the small container I bought. I decided to make cookies, lemon ones, with icing. Sour cream keeps a cookie moist, and gives it an almost cake-like consistency. Which was pleasant, if you like something like a lemon drop.

But this had started an itch. So then I made a batch of brownies. They are supposed to be topped with a peanut butter mixture that has to set in the refrigerator. But that is when I noticed that my refrigerator had a garlic odor pervading through it. At the farmer’s market last weekend, a stand was selling a massive amount of peeled cloves of garlic for $1.99, and the Guju in me could not resist.

RR gave me an excellent suggestion for what to do with this massive quantity of garlic. To get such a deal on that much garlic and then have it go to waste would have been unforgivable. Instead, I threw all of it in a pan, added some olive oil and sea salt, and then put in some broth (I used chicken broth because I didn’t have any vegetable broth on me, but I bet either works just as well). Baking that for an hour temporarily turned my apartment into an Italian bistro. Roasting garlic wafting through the air made me heady, though I had to hide the brownies in another corner of the apartment, wrapped in foil to make sure they did not get contaminated with garlic. When the baking part was over, I mashed it all up with a fork, and dipped a cracker in it to taste- it made me happy, though it should be noted that I find it’s hard for garlic to do wrong by me. I’m hoping it will keep well too, since even I cannot consume that much garlic in one sitting.

I’ve been soaking black-eyed peas since then. And I chopped up a pile of baby spinach, threw it on some naan, added some tomato sauce and cheese, threw that in the oven, and called it dinner.

Now, in addition to the black-eyed peas that will serve as part of my meals for the week, I’m contemplating foccacia. And making caramel ice cream. I think this might be a sign of madness or a sign of trying to work out my demons by way of a completely unrelated activity.

This might also mean I ought to go for a hike tomorrow or my refrigerator might end up exploding.

Friday, May 23, 2008

too many stars and not enough sky

Fridays are good days these days even though I do not have the kind of schedule that means Friday is the end of the week. If anything, Friday is kind of the beginning of the week for me these days. But on Fridays, I get a little reassurance that this road I am on is not completely, insanely misguided.

Still. There were things today that pulled me down from the high. I hesitate to mention this, because I do not think it's a legitimate thing to be too concerned about. The broseph once told me that he wanted to get out of IT because 'there are no cool people in tech'. Now, while he's entitled to his opinion on the quality of IT folks, I think that is a flimsy reason to get out of a profession.

Sure, it is important that you can establish a work environment that is tolerable enough that you can do your job without going into therapy. But do you really need to be BFF with your coworkers? I think not.

Or I hope not. At first, I said it was because I was older that I could not say I would have lasting friendships from school. Now, upon further reflection, I do not think my age has anything to do with it. There is a lot about medical students that I simply do. not. like. at. all.

Mostly, this past year has been a lesson in making lemon juice from lemons. Most of the time, I am thinking of ways to see classmates in a light that allows them more slack. It's slack they do not really deserve and have not earned. But it's slack that's necessary to give to make another three years with them tolerable. That is how I know I won't keep in touch with most once I am out of here- when you're basically tolerating people for convenience sake, there's a low likelihood you will continue to tolerate them when you are no longer thrust together at all times.

The worst part, I'm finding, is that whenever someone emits those crazy medical school competitive gunner-manic behavior, my instinct is to just get as far away as possible. And while it's been a successful method of avoiding getting sucked into that kind of neurotic sparring, it's robbed me of a lot of opportunities. I realized it today because, on Fridays, I get to do something I really enjoy and it is 100% to do with medicine. But then, one of the crazy I will shank you if you show any interest in my specialty people showed up and invaded the sanctuary. Later, another classmate-purported-friend emailed me and wanted to come along with me next week, simply because I had told her that I had enjoyed it.

And that's the whole problem. When you tell a friend in school that you enjoyed something, they do not process that as ah, she found something she enjoyed. Instead, their crazy Babelfish speak translates it to OMG, she is doing something that I could be doing and enjoying instead. The thing is, in the past year, I think every time anyone has come at me with that sort of craziness, I've backed off and basically waved them through, with an it's all yours, crazy, all yours.

But if I continue to do that, I will miss out on the things that might actually make me feel I am in the right place. I used to be better at this, but I feel past it now. My instinct now is to just avoid it. But that is strange, because I don't think that anyone who knows me would describe me as someone prone to getting trampled. Trying to reconcile these two aspects of my personality is something I am finding difficult.

Anyhow, sorry. That's a lot of complaining for a Friday evening. But now that I have got some of this out of my system, perhaps I will have something of substance to say.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

anyone else but you

This is the post that gave me a dose of writer's block. I wrote the flimsy paragraphs down on a piece of paper the other day, realized it was honest, and then all of a sudden felt conflicted about whether to post it or not. And then after that, I couldn't write anything, paralyzed by this indecision as to whether I should get quite this down to it here. So, I'm putting it up not so much because I want it to be read (a part of me still doesn't want it to be), but rather so that I can move past it:

I was childish back then really, but not much has changed. When E had first, unexpectedly, blurted out his interest in me and kissed me, I had come home that night with mainly one thought: yes. The yes had nothing to do with E. It had to do with a wave of relief, a silent pumping of the fist. Yes, I thought, he (the one who came before) wasn't the last one. The last one wasn't the last one.

Everything else I can bear these days. I can bear the bad he did me, can bear my own foolishness, can even bear that he will, in my life, always be the one person with whom amends will never be made. But what is still a hard thing to stomach, to consider, is that Q was the last or, worse yet, is the last.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

heavy boots of lead

If you abhor action movies or Robert Downey Jr, you need read no further.

But really? You do not like action movies? Not ever? Is there never an occasion when you need some mindless dishoom fun? Or you dislike Robert Downey Jr? Really? Still begrudging him for Ally McBeal, perhaps? Convinced that success will just drive him back into the arms of cocaine? You can really resist his inherent zing and charisma? You're a better person than I.

I am biased because I have a soft spot for Jon Favreau, and for Robert Downey Jr, and about 30 to 45 minutes into the movie, I noticed the voice of Paul Bettany, and I was like, you had me at hello already. So, clearly, mine is not a fair, objective take on the movie.

Yet I'd be surprised to find someone who didn't at least enjoy the movie. If you did not enjoy the movie, I would have to conclude it is because you do not like action/superhero genre. Because Iron Man is definitely of that ilk. You're not going to see huge character development, you're not going to see an epic love for all ages, and you will probably see some far-fetched plotlines here and there. But it's Iron Man- I should hope you walked in with proper expectations.

As clever as Johnny Depp was as Captain Jack Sparrow, I didn't need to see him reprise the role twice more. I'll even admit that Keanu Reeves was well cast in The Matrix, but we could have all lived very happy existences had the next two movies never been made. And of course, there was the often-cited-by-me debacle of the second Indiana Jones movie. Most of the time, a hero just loses their mystique the more you see of them.

Either the marketing folks have done a fantastic job or it's the real thing, but I actually walked out of the theater hoping they make a second Iron Man movie and that they make it soon. I could watch Robert Downey Jr. deliver one-liners for several more hours. He even managed to make me believe that Gwyneth Paltrow is pleasant- that's very nearly Oscar-worthy.


This makes it seem like this movie was my entire day, when actually there was much more going on. First thing in the morning, I rushed to the local farmer's market and bought a flat of strawberries, and 5 pounds of tangelos. It may not quite yet be strawberry season though because the berries were still a bit tangy, not the small ripe wonders they become when they are truly in their prime. No worries. I hulled them and threw them in the food processor, and they are soon to become strawberry sorbet. And yes, in case you are wondering, due to the heat, basically every idea of mine ends with "and then I threw it in the ice cream maker." Let's just hope this doesn't go too far and that I'm not throwing carrots and green peppers in there next.

I am still on this odd kick so I also made makeshift theplas, which would not be anything special to anyone but me. In our family, when someone didn't know how to properly roll out a roti or chapati or puri, they would joke that it was shaped like India. I never learned how to roll things out properly. My mother just had me prepare the dough intead, and would have me cook the rotis, while she would roll them out. I think this is because she got no enjoyment out of the daily preparation, and thus did not want to prolong it with having me make misshapen rotis that she would then have to reform from scratch. I concluded that it was just one of those things I'd never quite get the hang of doing.

It's so easy to convince children of this notion, with very little intention to do so. But it's not a particularly good idea to instill. Especially when it is a really silly thing like this. Today when I was rolling out the theplas, I thought to myself that it hardly mattered what they were shaped like- only I would be eating them and what did I care if they were shaped like the moon or like India? But something weird happened while I was going about the business. It just kind of came to me, this technique of two quick strokes and then a light, nimble turn of the dough just maybe 15 degrees, and repeat and repeat and what do you know? A circle, a moon.

At first I felt a wave of annoyance about it. Really? It had been that easy all along and no one had bothered to show me? Not my mother nor my aunts? I relented though. The truth is, once I was a teenager, I avoided my mother's realm- I only did what she told me and tried not to take on any additional responsibility. I even forgot how to do some of the things I knew when I was younger, willfully flushing my mind of things that could be useful in the kitchen. And learning it this way, it's in my bones, it's in the memory of my muscles, and it's in my mind- I figured it out myself, so I know I could figure it out again.

If only the same could be said about IKEA furniture, which never fails to flummox me when I am assembling it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

makes me feel fine

karrvakarela was prompted to write a memory of a summer afternoon. Given that it's morning and it already feels like it's close to 100 here, this is a meme I can get behind:

It is only hot like this two weeks out of the year, maybe less. So there is no air-conditioning in the house, but for the wall unit in my parents' room, which is only turned on at night. My brother and I sleep in the basement on nights when it gets too hot.

My grandmother, the nice one, is kneading flour and water and oil together at the table while I fill a bucket with cold water. She is not one for silence. We are in the kitchen together, she wearing the lightest sari she can find, I wearing shorts and a t-shirt. She is telling me about the summers in India. How they closed all the windows and the shutters tight, how they turned off all the lights too, just tiny slivers of sunlight creeping through. And then, she says, she would wet the floor with cold water, and it would cool the house down just enough that it was bearable.

As she says this, I have started to clean the floor. We do not own a mop. I am crouched down, washing the floor with a rag, and trying to convince myself it is working. That the house is getting cooler because I am scrubbing. This is linoleum, of course, and we don't have the wooden shutters that can be closed from the inside to shield us from the light. We don't believe in that here.

But it doesn't matter. Her words are like the washcloth she used to lay over my head when I had a fever. They soothe me. I let my hands and the rag linger in the cold water each time before wringing it out again. I let her get me to pretend.

Friday, May 16, 2008

who knew of the secret sun

8:25 in the morning and two empty cans of Diet Pepsi in front of him. There were a bowl-full, placed there especially for him. Two cans of Diet Pepsi pulsing through his veins and still he sounded to be speaking at half the speed as everyone else. We had found that tiresome when he lectured, the slow-paced speech, the defeated tone, a voice filled with weariness. Not exactly inspiring. Yet here, on this early morning, it was so welcome. Same person, new setting, suddenly a dazzling gem- how could you have not seen it before?

He was so welcome, in fact, also a surprise. In class, afterwards, he was always surrounded by students, the same ones that gathered around every professor after class, equipped with concocted questions and canned flattery. He had seemed to respond to that sort of adulation, was patient with them- I held that against him. My favorite instructors saw through the sycophants, made their responses curt, brushing them off with annoyed efficiency. Not him.

But now I understood why. We weren't used to seeing someone so in love. If your motives were noble or nefarious, it mattered not to him. If you showed any interest, he saw an ember, and set about trying to fan it to a flame. When I had talked to other physicians on staff, they had that skeptical tone laced through "hmmm, so you think you are interested in X?" As if they could not wait to prove me wrong. Not him.

The words were fairly much the same- "So you think you might be interested in" but the tone was altogether new, completely the opposite of all the others. Devoid of cynicism, he sounded hopeful. He hoped you were interested. He wanted to show you how interested you could be.

And there there were the 2 cans of Diet Pepsi, the playful jeering of diagnoses so obscure and unhelpful that they sounded made up, the forgetting of anatomy terms and the description of a patient with mental status changes as sort of far out. It was, in fact, a very good day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

fevered feeling hot hot hot

Thank goodness my hair is cut short right now, because it is all I can do to keep from melting at the moment. We are beset with an unusual heat wave. Since Nutella ice cream is dangerous to keep in the house (translation: it may spontaneously disappear and I may find myself feeling strangely 5 lbs heavier), I had packed it off and given it to various friends in the area. It's almost gone at this point, so I would say that the first run on the ice cream maker was acceptable.

But now I'm thinking more selfishly, and I am not a big ice cream fan, as I have already stated. Some time back, when it was stiflingly hot in Brooklyn, I was taken to a frozen yogurt shop that won me over. Don't even bother telling me how far superior Pinkberry is, folks. While it may be true, Pinkberry is not in Brooklyn (as far as I know, at least), therefore it loses. Anyway, the thing about Oka in Brooklyn is that it is so spare. And I went as spare as you could get, which is rare for me. I have a sweet tooth, and am not crazy about frozen things, so usually, I order all kinds of stupid toppings on ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Somehow at Oka, that just did not seem right. Something about the simplicity of the place, and the fact that I lose my appetite when it is too hot outside, just compelled me to order a plain frozen yogurt, no frills. And oh, it did not disappoint.

Now this is not for everyone, as I have discovered. There are two frozen yogurt shops in my current city, and they could not be more different. One prides itself in having 7,000 (ok, perhaps an exaggeration) toppings, and the frozen yogurt tastes more like soft serve, synthetic ice cream. The other prides itself in fresh ingredients, and the frozen yogurt tastes like frozen yogurt, complete with that tangy bite, that little sour zing that gets you on the inside of your cheeks. And it's interesting how much people diverge regarding these two yogurt shops.

As usual, I oscillate between extremes. There are times when I am in the mood for comfort, and then I want some fake frozen yogurt with crushed candybars and whatnot on it. But other times, times like now, I'm just interested in cooling down. Or, in my case, currently obsessed with my ice cream maker and with things that are somewhat, at least arguably, good for me.

So today, I treated myself to a bunch of Fage, which has since been sweetened with some honey and molasses, flavored with just a bit of vanilla, and will soon be taking a trip in the ICE-20. Is it cheaper than store bought ice cream? Absolutely not. Will it be tastier? Perhaps only to me. But at the moment, I am the only person I am interested in pleasing, so it works out quite well. Pictures when I put the stuff through its paces.

In other news, I think I have given my mother the best Mother's Day present ever, though she doesn't actually know it. Out of nowhere this week, I've become fixated with cooking Gujarati food. This is truly bizarre, and may be a sign that the heat is actually causing me to lose my senses. Stranger still, I can't bring myself to call my mom and just get some pointers on how to make all of this stuff. Instead, I keep relying entirely on random memories and tasting as I go, and who knows what else. I made this dish with black-eyed peas, garlic, and ginger yesterday that my mom used to make in a pressure-cooker. I do not own one of those, so I basically just tinkered around with the mixture until it tasted edible. Furthermore, I may have made something resembling chapatis. I may also be making another batch tomorrow with spinach. Wow. The more I type this out, the crazier it sounds to me. I know it may not sound crazy to those of you reading- after all, I am Guju, and I am writing of making Guju food. Except- I don't really like this food at all. In fact, until now, if it did not involve meat or creating some kind of sauce to be added to pasta, you could pretty much count me out of it. For the record, though, if I buy a pressure-cooker this summer, it will be a sign that someone needs to stage an intervention.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

when all the answers, they don't amount to much

Not the best picture in the world, but if you'd like to see what Nutella ice cream looks like on a maiden voyage, check it here. Though there are a number of things I'm supposed to be doing right now, instead I keep thinking about Greek yogurt and honey and vanilla, and wouldn't it be nice all frozen and creamy?

Anyway. I have incorporated a healthy dose of vodka in my daily regimen, which probably has not helped my productivity any. But I just went for a very long stroll around the neighborhood, the temperature finally dipping down to a tolerable level. I never noticed, prior to this, how beautiful some of my neighborhood is. Granted, it is quite suburban. I'm not going to wax romantic about it like I could about San Francisco. But there are still things to admire, things to make you feel at home, things that make you want to go for a walk around the block.

I can't think of those things, specifically, at the moment, but I blame the Grey Goose on that. Oh yes. I may not be gainfully employed, I may be dwindling all savings away, but that is no reason to drink bad vodka.

It turns out I do not have a whole lot to write about today, because I am feeling ambivalent about a lot of things. I feel ambivalent that I have really seen no one today: while I like it now, I wonder if this is setting precedent for the next month. I feel ambivalent about politics, which people seem to have taken up talking about again, but I can't manage to feel idealistic enough about. I feel ambivalent about my family- on the one hand, I got a lovely phone call yesterday that was filled with effusions with I miss you and we need you, but on the other hand, I felt that tension of feeling needed and feeling like I just can't do what is required of me. I feel ambivalent about my future- I am happy in what I am doing, but every time I take any initiative, I am immediately disgusted by the competitive spirit that any small move seems to elicit in my classmates. I feel ambivalent about myself. I do not know what I have to offer anyone, and yet I feel like I deserve something such that I should not settle for anything less.

When I feel this ambivalent, it is best. Best to drink a vodka tonic. Best to contemplate sorbets and frozen yogurts and ice creams. Best to toy around with cooking vegetarian for a week rather than fixating on these matters that with myself I too much discuss. Otherwise, I'll convince myself the answer lies in words and poetry, when in fact, that path is rife with danger, danger, danger, Will Robinson.

At times like this, it is clear that some people embody peace and other people... well, other people are like me. Never quite at rest, never quite able to figure it all out, never quite quite, if you will. And I don't know why, suddenly, perhaps with too much time at my disposal, I am somehow conflicted about that. I wonder if people that are settled, entrenched in a nice steady pace of life, have similar moments of this is not my beautiful home at times. I hope so, honestly, or I shall never aspire to become one of them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

when I try, I only get it wrong

You cannot really ask for much when you are not in touch with what you want. Of course, the advantage is that, since you weren't even sure what it was you wanted, you're bound to be content with what you get. I had walked into the salon armed with this attitude. All I adequately expressed was that my hair was too long, too thick for the heat that is soon to besiege the land. The next thing I knew, the stylist had let a six inch chunk of my hair fall to the ground. It's going to be that kind of a time, I concluded.

Sometimes I think I have it together, sometimes I think I am in complete shambles. At times, it is clear what I want, and that I have it, and that all is right. At other times, I feel the need to chop off all of my hair and laugh, nervously, at how little has changed since the last time the shears had their way with me. The reasons are different, but the instability is just about the same.

The constant was W in this particular bit of my history. Last time, when I told him on the phone, his voice had taken a tone of dread, of oh you are so going to regret this by tomorrow. But when I saw him, he was nothing but complimentary. This time, I did not even bother telling him. Out of the car I emerged without explanation. Once again, he said it framed my face properly, was all smiles. There was a difference but it wasn't him. The last time, I had watched his face carefully. I wanted him to tell me it was okay, that it was not a mistake, that it was all going to be okay. This time, truly, I did not care.

It was not that his opinion did not matter to me anymore, because it still does. It's just that I either do not believe in mistakes anymore or I believe in them too much. I'm either convinced there are no mistakes in life or that pretty much everything I do is another form of a mistake. So I can't get too worked up about it. Perhaps that's why I cheerfully announced to W that I am a mess. Because what else is new? Because, if this is all a mistake, how would I tell it apart from anything else I have done with my life?

Really the only things I can be certain were not mistakes are what I've let go. Contrary to popular belief, contrary to how it may sometime seem, I do not let go of things so easily. If I do, it's because I never held it very dear in the first place. There are things I've let go of that nearly had to be pried from my grasp. And the urge still strikes me sometimes to grab hold of them, but if I take a breath and think, I can see it was no mistake, letting such things go.

Maybe I am okay with letting go of six-plus inches of hair. Maybe I am okay with making blunder after blunder. Maybe I do not know what I am talking about. Maybe I'm a lost cause.

Monday, May 12, 2008

like to get to know you well

Today was supposed to be a productive day but it did not turn out to be.  Don't worry.  This isn't another one of those bummerific posts though.  Though I have been thinking about a lot of things, though I have cheerfully declared to my closest, oldest friend that I am a complete mess, I cannot say I have been particularly sad of late.

So, my plans for today were canceled, and the impatience in me welled up and got frustrated for a moment.  And then in the next moment, I got a bit of a twinkle in my eye, and got quite excited about freedom, sweet freedom.  Perhaps too sweet.  See, a few weeks ago, when the first hints of heat were starting to make themselves known, it dawned on me that my days of therapeutic baking were numbered.  Prior to that, about once a week, I baked something.  Once the heat started, I tried to stay upbeat- I made fudge, and marshmallow treats, things that required some heat, but not a full blazing oven.  But, as it turns out, fudge and rice krispies are not really therapeutic enough.  A process is important in these kinds of things.  Actually, who knows what is important in such matters- it's all arbitrary and illogical, this impulse to make/bake things when stressed.  But at any rate, the stovetop business was unsatisfactory.

Enter my new purchase, one Cuisinart ICE-20, bought thanks to some well-meaning coworkers who gave me a gift certificate last year that I never found use for until now.  I got the ice cream maker before finals, and it required so much restraint not to give it a go immediately that it was a true testament to my dedication to medical school.  Okay, not a great testament, as I did eagerly unpack the machine from the box and inspect it, contemplating what to make for a first run.

When trying something new, you don't want to go in with expectations that are too inflated.  And you don't want any pressure.  You want things to be relaxed, and you want to make things as easy for yourself as possible.  Make your goal too lofty and you could turn yourself off from something that really deserves a second chance.  It's like a first date, but with a positive attitude.

So, for my first date with my ice cream maker, I made Nutella ice cream.  Very simple really, and very low expectations- I have such a thing for Nutella that if it had just turned out Nutella-flavored milk, I would not have complained one bit.  But in fact, like fairy magic, a 30 minute run in the ice cream maker, and I have something that most people could be convinced was ice cream.  I was most worried it would turn out tasting like ice milk, which my mother used to buy on sale at the supermarket.  If you've ever had ice milk, you know what a disappointment it can be when you are expecting ice cream.  Because Nutella is probably 110% fat, there was no ice milk flavor whatsoever.  If I get my camera charged, I'll try to post a picture tomorrow, so you can inspect for yourself.

The funny thing is that I don't really eat ice cream.  Never really have enjoyed it.  I used to work at an ice cream shop as a teenager, and something about coming home with the smell of stale ice cream on my clothes cured me of any interest in the stuff.  Also, I'm pretty lactose intolerant, which means that eating more than a spoonful or two of ice cream comes with a rather unwelcome stomach ache.  But then there's always the matter of sorbets.  And it's summer, and hot, and more about the process anyway.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about my new fixation with cooking, how I cut my hair ultra-short this past weekend (!), and hopefully post a song for the week too.  Time to get all the habits back.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

the way is clear if you're ready now

But isn't that a completely false lyric? If the way is truly clear, who would really hesitate? Maybe some people do, but it is hard for me to fathom. If anything, I am so impatient for clarity that I will sometimes hurtle myself headlong in the direction of the closest sign towards the right way.

And then I get on that road, and maybe you have had that feeling. You drive for some time and things start to seem unfamiliar. You have your doubts. But it's too early yet. You quell them, reasoning that it was night the last time you were driving this way, or maybe someone was in the car with you before, distracting you. You weren't paying attention to the signs then, is all, and that is why they provide no comfort to you now. So you keep driving, but as you continue, you get to wondering if it should really take so long. Did you miss some critical turn, are you now way off course?

What to do. You could stop to ask directions, if you knew exactly where you were headed. But maybe where you are headed is a place that no one else knows. You could turn around, go back to the safety of the retraced footsteps to the comfort home. But that seems an awful waste. Or you can keep driving, anxiously reading each sign, looking for the one that will allow you that breath of relief, that assurance that you are on your way.

I still do not know. I look for signs every day. I keep a keen eye for arrows telling me to move forward or go back. A sign that says 'Yes' or 'No' is not enough, will not do. I need arrows, I need movement. It is not enough to say, 'you're lost.' And then, of course, the problem with all of this is that I am waiting for Godot, waiting for something that will never come, that I don't even want to come. I would not listen anyway, I would not heed signs made by someone else. The only person who can steer me right is me, which is most unfortunate news. Certainly, I can consult a map, I can plot a path, I have a good sense of direction. But until I know where I am going, I will continue to drive along with a growing feeling of dread. So maybe the right lyrics should have been: "but I still haven't found what I'm looking for."

Thursday, May 08, 2008

it's just a bunch of feelings that we've had

So here we are again.

As soon as I said I was in want of a break from writing, I wanted to write again. Funny how that happens.

Another thing that is funny in much the same way occurred to me last night, as I was drifting off to sleep reasoning out the difference between sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value. When I find myself really fond of a friend, when I really feel comfortable with them, I will babble on and on. It's all very self-absorbed, and worse yet, circular and undoubtedly excessively annoying. I turn a problem over in my head, but I do it verbally, examining it from a million angles, thinking I have figured it out, only to come back to it 15 minutes later in a conversation with a "but you know what it really is?" followed by another round of picking myself apart.

Sometimes I think this blog serves the same purpose. And I think sometimes, over the past year, I got this sense that I had already put a The End on my story. Often, I felt that there was no point. For so long, I had pursued one thing, and then I got it, so what was there left to say really? Sequels never really do much for anyone, especially when there was already a happy ending. Do you want to see what happens after Empire Strikes Back? Sure thing. Do you want to see what happens after When Harry Met Sally? Not so much.

But here's the thing. There wasn't a The End. I thought there was, but I was mistaken. There's this zen-master instructor who I laugh at a lot at school, as he's the complete antithesis of everything else that is drilled into your head in medical school. On his door, he has a quote that says live until you die. The mischief in me cannot help but mock that sign, because it is certainly a statement of the obvious, and kind of doesn't mean a lot if you take it at face value. Live until you die? I didn't know there were any other options on the table.

Except that, actually, I did. A happy ending doesn't exist outside of a narrative. Because there is no end, until the very end of it. I have felt a bit conflicted about complaining about anything to do with medical school for the past year because:
  • it was, after all, The Goal
  • no one forced me into it
  • it often invites the range of "yeah, medical school is stupid and I hate doctors" to "don't worry, you'll be different!" variety of remarks that, while helpful in some ways, tend to oversimplify the facts in my particular case.

And yet, the story continues on, as life tends to do. The only way to find out if you want something is to go after it, get it, and determine if you want to hold onto it. And even then, what you hold in your hand today slowly takes shape into something else entirely over time. So, strangely enough, I got what I wanted, still want it, but I remain uncertain as to where it will lead. Yet, for now, that is okay.

There's a huge party tonight, celebrating the imminent completion of a year in medical school. But I'm unapologetically sitting in my living room, mixing myself a vodka tonic, getting ready to watch an episode of 30Rock, and pondering baking a batch of cookies and packing a bag. Tomorrow I'm making a brief pilgrimage to San Francisco, followed by visiting one of my oldest friends. We will undoubtedly spend the wee hours of the night coming up with answers to my chorus of "but you know what it really is?" But when there is enough alcohol involved, it's not quite as annoying.