Sunday, September 28, 2008

tell me, what's my lesson

I know that being in school isolates me a bit from the outside world. For example, while I am well aware of the economic meltdown currently happening, I am not experiencing it with the kind of intensity that I would have while I was working for the Man. Some of my classmates are even more oblivious. If you never had any money and were living off of mummy and daddy, these things really do not cause you to bat an eyelash, I suppose.

All the same, I don't think I'm that isolated, so maybe someone can explain if I missed something. Why is there a movie called Beverly Hills Chihuahua being released? Who thought this would be a good idea? What is the demographic? Maybe I have been living under a rock, so if someone could explain it to me, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Anyway, due to my ridiculous euphoria over making spaghetti sauce on Friday night, I was easily distracted this weekend by the call of the kitchen- problematic when an exam is breathing down my neck, but there you have it. I decided to give focaccia another shot. In addition to the multitude of tomatoes, my classmate also gave me bunches of basil. I ought to have made pesto, but did not have the necessary ingredients for that at home. So instead, another adventure with yeast and focaccia. I tell myself it's not really wasting time, since I have enough focaccia now to take care of lunch for my entire week. I threw some cheese, sauteed green peppers and tomatoes onto the dough before baking, and I am pleased enough with the end result that I will not be sad to eat it every day for lunch.

The pictures are, as always, horrible. If I had half the patience I have with baking applied to photography, I might stop making people's eyes bleed. But until that miracle occurs, here are pics (click below if you want to check out a picture of a slice of it):

up above it

Oh, since I'm not following any logic here, I'm not sure what was funnier this past week:

  • James Cafferty's reaction to the Couric-Palin interview, mostly because stodgy old men crack me the hell up.
  • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler mocking the interview by lifting direct quotes straight from the real deal. (On the other hand, the debate sketch on SNL was not even vaguely funny. There weren't good jabs at either candidate, which was rather lame).
  • Craig Ferguson making comments about how things are done in America.
  • Chris Rock's various appearances discussing the election and Bill Clinton. It's one of those rare moments that I miss HBO.

On that note, I have to figure out some way to start concentrating on, you know, the pesky matter of a certain upcoming exam.

Friday, September 26, 2008

waiting til the shine wears off

If you're sick of me talking about food, move right along, because this is all about food, or to be absolutely specific, chemistry.

I suppose it's a mixture of chemistry and history really. HIstory because the kitchen was someplace I loved and hated growing up. There was an undeniable attraction to it- it was the center of all activity in my house growing up. Sure, I was normally limited to washing dishes, but still, I somehow absorbed an appreciation for the complexity of what all went on in there.

Partly, it's because Indian food, the way my mother cooked it in my childhood, won the prize for culinary cuisine complexity. She would wake up at unreasonable hours to soak this, or blend that. A batter needed to rise. Dried beans needed to be revived. Somewhere in the house would be a cheesecloth hanging to drain the water out of ricotta for some dessert. In the oven, she was making yogurt. She was always planning out a meal.

Frankly, I found it tiring. When I looked at what made up my mother's day, I really did not relish the notion of that fate falling to me. Whenever there was a party at the house, my father was allotted the simple task of vacuuming, while my mother would be frantically multi-tasking for the entire weekend. It hardly seemed fair.

But on the other hand, there were things about the kitchen I loved. I loved that each auntie had her own way of doing things, loved how they would each fuss over each other about how something ought to be done. I loved that they would sit together in the kitchen, and when they did, it didn't seem like they had been passively relegated there. Rather, it seemed like that was where they were most comfortable. It tickled me that they would all find it horrifying to run out of food. I loved how, at the end of the night, disposable containers would be produced and leftovers would be packaged out to everyone.

Mainly though, I just loved the transformation. It seemed like magic to me then, because I didn't understand it. I loved the idea of from-scratch cooking. Initially, this was a problem though. I had never been properly taught to cook. And I had been surrounded by women who made it look like the easiest, most obvious thing in the world.

I'll be the first to admit that, even still, I'm not much of a cook. I much prefer baking, because it's weirdly more intuitive to me. I suspect it's because there were no preconceived notions about baking. My mother baked cakes from box mixes, if she baked them at all. Learning to bake was a lot less intimidating, because I had more tolerance for failure, I guess. And then it slowly just started to become second nature.

When I was really keen on cooking, I would choose things that were long projects, dishes like stews in which you had a lot of different opportunities to adjust this, change that, taste, and modify as needed. But there were simple things that eluded me. When I was growing up, T, about four years older than me and generally thought to be the most beloved of all daughters of my parents' friends, would make spaghetti sauce. Granted, she would grab a store-bought bottle of sauce, dump it into a pot, and throw in a bunch of well chopped vegetables and a few spices here and there. But somehow she could transform it into something that tasted so good, I would eagerly watch her preparing it in the hopes that I could crack her secret code.

But I didn't. And then later, when I lived on the east coast, a friend of mine, D, used to make spaghetti sauce. It was renowned amongst my friends. It was fantastic. I think he made it from canned tomatoes, but I cannot be sure because he never allowed me to watch his process. This is most likely because he was quite proud of his famous sauce and knew that, chemist that I was at the time, I would have grabbed the recipe from him and hyperactively set to work trying to make changes to it.

Every time I tried to make spaghetti sauce, it was disappointing. Once, W was staying with me and I made spaghetti sauce from canned, diced tomatoes. He politely declined it when I invited him to eat with me. I don't blame him. It looked mostly like salsa- a watery, tomato-y mess. After that, at a family reunion, my cousins and I all set to work on making penne with vodka sauce. I made the vodka sauce and it was consumed by all without complaint, even requested to be made again. But I wasn't satisfied with it. Again, it was from canned tomatoes, and I had to sit over a simmering pot for hours, and still felt the end result was a bit watery and dissatisfying.

Trying to make spaghetti sauce from fresh tomatoes seemed even more ambitious and therefore completely misguided. I never really thought about trying it. But then today I was walking home with a classmate who keeps a garden. She was leaving for the weekend, and handed over to me a handful of tomatoes that were about ready to burst. They were beautiful, so beautiful that I could not bear to tell her that I cannot bring myself to eat raw tomatoes.

But it's funny. I figured- what is there to lose? She sent me off with containers filled with vegetables, and the tomatoes were the most ripe of the lot. I went home and held my breath for a moment, weighing whether I could handle a major fiasco tonight (because isn't the debate enough of a fiasco for one night?), then just went for it. I've never blanched vegetables before, but I blanched those tomatoes. I haven't reduced a liquid in years, but I reduced away tonight. And with some assistance from the interwebz and a healthy spoonful of roasted garlic I had stockpiled for just such an occasion, what do you know, I had spaghetti sauce. Not very much- just enough for one meal. But it was so vibrantly red, its consistency so thick and hearty (but not lumpy and chunky, because I do not care for that!), and it tasted of spaghetti sauce.

I don't know why I had been scared to try this previously. The whole experiment took me a total of 30 minutes, and that included the rather painstaking process of peeling each tomato, and squeezing out of it any excess water. And I don't know why I find this all so oddly satisfying, more satisfying than any Grey Goose & Tonic would have been tonight. I don't know why exactly. Maybe it's because I'm learning that there are very few things in life that are this finite, this simple to pin down with certainty. Do this and this is the outcome. It's so the opposite of life when you think about it, because life is a little more like- do this and the outcome triggers 10 new things to do, 10 new questions unanswered, 10 new ways you never understood it in the first place. And while that is all well and good, and is life after all, it's nice, once in a while, to be able to make spaghetti sauce.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I hope I won't be that wrong anymore

The subject of home has come up quite a bit lately.

"You find your home, and it may not be what you thought- you know: color's off, style's wrong... but there it is anyway and to hell with you if you can't take a joke."

That's from the film Moonlight Mile, and I think this one line by itself has made me unreasonably fond of an otherwise just okay movie. But I really adore the quote, because there are so many concepts of home.

But the concept of home I'm most taken with at the moment has more to do with work than anything else. Not everyone needs this, and I suppose that just has to do with what home is for various people. Some people find their homes in others, and what they do for a living pales in comparison, as well it should. Others find their homes in their art, and would sacrifice all to that end. I'm neither-nor, I suppose, but I'm always looking for a place.

I'm not looking for a mansion, not looking for a mountain's precipice. Those would not feel like home, I'm quite certain. I don't have any illusions that the home that I am seeking will be paradise. But that's exactly the point. Sometimes, there isn't an explanation for these things. Perhaps there are explanations, but they are like resonance structures in chemistry- no one explanation encompasses the truth, and it would take infinite attempts to form some semblance of it.

That, of course, makes the truth and home sound like some ridiculously important concepts. Which they are not. In fact, I have no doubt they matter to absolutely no one, but me. And even to me, I can't say they are that important.

Except. Except for someone who doesn't like to be too sentimental, even writing about home is something. Except that, like a scared little schoolgirl, even admitting that I might have found home is a bit exciting. Except that, like a woman, discovering what I want is hopelessly intertwined with wondering if I really have a chance of getting it and do I really dare to dream of that which may well be out of my grasp? "One never knew, after all, now did one now did one now did one." Indeed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

your reflection approaches and then recedes again

What I had stated was that I was forever hurtling myself blindly into brick walls. It’s the convenient advantage of hyperanalysis. When called upon, almost anything sounds sincere and meaningful.

I had, after all. I did, and my father likes to tell the story of when I first learned to walk. So excited at my sudden ability, I would speed off without looking, slam right into walls, which, in retrospect, really should have been caught on film, as it must have been an endless source of comedy.

He doesn’t tell it so much anymore, but I do. It makes for a cleaner narrative- absolves me of all responsibility. It’s so much easier to state that I’m making a mistake, than to prove that I am not. So much easier to say I’m tripping and stumbling over one obstacle after another, than to say I encountered and cleared obstacles but that they changed me, changed where I was heading, changed what I wanted, each time.

See. It’s easier to write that I am once again just barreling towards the latest beat of my heart. It’s easy because some part of it is true. A full-on lie is much harder to pull off than just choosing to show a facet instead of the entire stone. I am going towards what moves me. It could very well be a brick wall.

But it’s probably not. My father doesn’t tell the story much anymore, because he was proved wrong one too many times. Once I told my father I wanted to go to Mexico for a class vacation “just because.” He went super-Huxtable on me and told me that was the stupidest reason he had ever been given in his life. I had countered that he didn’t know how to have a good time, didn’t know how to follow a whim. My father hates the word whim.

I’ve come to dislike it, too, I guess, because of its dishonesty. I didn’t want to go to Mexico “just because.” I wanted to go because I was 16, it was a week away from my parents, and some doofus I had a big crush on was planning to go. Stupid reasons, and probably, on some level, I knew how stupid they were, even at 16.

So then ‘whim’ became a substitute for ‘flimsy logic’ or, on the other extreme, ‘too complicated to explain.’ When I told my parents I was leaving the east coast, my father also assumed it was on a ‘whim.’ I didn’t have the energy to empty the contents of my brain onto their laps, to explain all the reasons I had to get away, why I needed to move to California.

But he’s quieted down because most of my ‘whims,’ later on, ended without any major catastrophes. Some of them have even gone better than could have been expected. And also, they were maybe not at all whims. I think my father might have caught on: once, when I told him about a decision I had very nearly reached, he muttered, "why bother asking our opinion? You’ve already worked it all out in your head."

Which is true. I say I don’t like plans, and that I don’t know what the future holds, but yet, I orchestrate. I put down foundations. I think about chess moves. They’re not fully thought through, not precisely mapped out, because that is what I find worthless. Life is too unpredictable, too dynamic to be too careful. It’s better to be smudgy and hazy- to have a shadow of an idea, a foggy vision. Then let it come into focus as you get closer to it, as it becomes more real, and the unending variables have played out, so that you might be in range of the concrete.

I’d stated that I am forever hurtling myself blindly into brick walls. And to him, my oldest friend, it was a sort of air-tight statement. And from whom else had I learned so well how to pick my words? That’s a story for another day. But I realize now that it must have driven him mad. In the past, for one thing, I had at least thought I was heading in the right direction. And for another, I had been eager, overly eager to explain it the way I saw it in my head, to try to pull him into the fog and the blur. He probably knew I was lying. He probably knew what I know- that I know exactly where I’m headed and why, but I'd wimped out by dismissing it all as a flight of whimsy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

goes to show you never can tell

Sooo, a weird thing happened today. Previously, I was on this kick to concoct reasons to bake every week, and it was usually for this or that meeting that I was supposed to be running. Well. Last week, a friend nudged me about a fundraiser she was going to hold, and wondered if I would be willing to contribute a thing or two.

Yeah, so I finished whining earlier about how busy and intense things are at the moment, but can I turn down an invitation to bake? Of course not. Still, I was a bit ambivalent. I don't like the idea of people paying for this stuff. Tinkering around with recipes in the kitchen is just something I enjoy doing, and I don't particularly benefit from the pressure of monetary association.

But it was for charity, and I was asked nicely. Must be a sucker for it. Sure enough, I went on a little bender and made cupcakes and cookies. I forgot to take pictures of the cupcakes, but here are the cookies:

take a chance on me

In my typical folly, I decided to try a new recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Otherwise, making chocolate chip cookies has become so mundane a task. Also, there has been a lot of ranting and raving (in equal portions) about this new cookie recipe published recently in the NYT (if you click the photograph, there's a link to the recipe there). My curiosity won out, and I made the cookies. I have to say, they were not the miracle chocolate chip cookies that the NYT might lead you to believe they could be. But they were okay. Still, I was feeling a little remorseful that I had, typically, taken a risk when I should have gone with something trustworthy. Especially when I had already made a fiasco-level disaster out of an attempt to make strawberry frosting- but let's not even get into that right now.

Thing is, the cookies all sold out, and pretty quickly, from what I hear. So much so that I was asked to make more for tomorrow. And like an idiot, I agreed. Idiotic really, because I should be studying or sleeping. But instead, I spent the evening making two more batches of different types of cookies, this time old standards for time-saving purposes. I'm hoping there aren't any sales of this sort in the future any time soon. Otherwise, I'm going to flunk out of school.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

now that we've grown up together

My parents can be a little overly dramatic at times, and it's often easy to tease them for it. They live in a safe, quiet area in suburban prepster land, but they watch a lot of those paranoia-inducing news programs, so you can guess what happens. I never much liked the idea of being afraid of nothing.

It's been so long since I lived in EBF that I can easily slip into thinking of it nostalgically. Looking at it now, it is just one more bland-looking suburb. But when I was a kid, it seemed more in the middle of nowhere, more beautiful. I remember that sometimes, for no reason at all, after school, I would just drive around. It would cheer me up. No matter how bad a day I might have had, or how boring life seemed to be, there was always something beautiful to see on those drives. My memories are tied up in that, in a long walk to school through the woods, in summers spent running around with neighborhood children, in holding hot chocolate at the top of ski slopes.

I conveniently forget everything else. Forget, because what's the point of remembering? But I was teasing my mother the last time I was visiting about something to do with the extra locks she had put on the doorway. And then she got fed up, and explained. My father had been away for business. She had opened the door and noticed something strange. There was blood all over the pane of the door. There were slabs of meat strewn at the door and around the walkway to the door. No one was there, and it was morning, but my mother was, understandably, freaked out.

When the police showed up, they took the information down but said this happened from time to time, neighborhood kids, just being kids. My mom wasn't even upset about this response, just kind of shrugged and had told me only so that I would stop arguing with her.

Now, nobody did this to my house while I was in high school. There were a few prank calls, but there was never so much as a TP of the house. But I don't know. I guess I'm kind of guilty of something. I can't really pick it apart, EBF and its people. I suppose that's why, after all these years, I get so neurotic about Facebook friend requests. I left EBF behind me, and I just somewhere along the way decided that I didn't really matter there, that I was a sort of ghost growing up, just a shadow really. I never really felt so much in place there, and so, when I disappeared, I just assumed no one would ever know existed.

I'm not totally wrong about that, either. I wrote about an anecdote from my adolescence here once and stupidly used real names (now removed to prevent future occurrences such as this), and a comment got dropped by someone who had been present for the whole thing. She remembered the entire story I was telling, except for me. She didn't know who I was. And that's sort of how I think of EBF, that I was just some alien observing a different species.

The latest person who Facebook friended me was someone who, in high school, would likely have never admitted that he was actually my friend. I don't hold that against him because 1) as teenagers, boys pretty much don't like to admit to that sort of thing, and 2) this was EBF and I always got the feeling you lost a little street cred by associating with me. But still. I took off for parts unknown, and we never kept in touch, never even made empty promises to keep in touch. So, why, now, try to friend me by Facebook?

It's so much safer, so much easier, the dilution of it all that things like Facebook and this online age provide. I am definitely a fossil, because when I was in high school, there was no email, no IM, not even cell phones. You wanted to talk to a girl? You had to man up, get on the phone, and even talk to her disapproving mom before you could get to the fumbling, stammering conversation with her. Want to keep in touch after high school? You had to make some serious effort, or it wasn't going to happen. I'm not blaming anyone, because I certainly made no effort.

And I like Facebook, you know. It's a good time-suck, and it's fun to sort of surf through and see what is going on with people without having to have long, drawn-out conversations. But, at the same time, for someone like me, it's confusing. I feel like, when you're younger, you don't do any accounting- you don't divide up people between real friends, good friends, nice enough acquaintances, Facebook friends. At most, you have some designated BFF-of-the-week, and everything else is just gravy. The rest are all just friends, and in some ways, it's a better way to live.

So, there you have it. Facebook neurosis. Blame it on EBF- it's so much easier that way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

time to make one last appeal for the life I lead

Promise, I really will complain about Facebook and the neuroses I have to do with Facebook friending and all that soon.

It occurs to me that it might be pure folly to try blogging right now. I just finished the second day of classes, and a part of me really wants to write that this is going to be the hardest, most intense stretch of courses I've taken in school yet. But the other part of me doesn't want to write that, because something about the tone sounds stressed and put-upon.

And I don't feel stressed or put-upon. I feel immersed and intense. Is it possible to feel that way, in a good way? I hope so. All it took, weirdly enough, was an attitude adjustment. Last semester/block/whatever was probably just as interesting subject-wise, but something had soured me about it for some reason (hmm, maybe it was the daily 110 degree thermometer readings, come to think of it). In some ways, that made studying so much harder. And then I got more petty about stupid sh*t that you can easily get pulled into in med school if you allow yourself to be.

All it took was just this inexplicable decision that I was going to find these classes more interesting, more engaging. They are probably 5 times harder than the last ones I took, no joke. But I kind of like that about it. And I like that I'm choosing to isolate myself a bit more at the moment. I'm in a little study cocoon. Today, I spent 20 minutes looking at ECGs, just musing at the way you start to process information that is thrown at you. There's all the science of it, of course, the physics, the anatomy, the physiology, sure. But ultimately, you sit there and stare until the patterns speak to you, until you develop your own, twisted, possibly illogical intuition about it.

The instructors show us these graphs that initially just look like a mess of nothingness, and then point at this and that and say, See? Do you see it? In some ways, it's so conformist, it's gross- you stare and stare until you see things in exactly the way they want you to. You hold your breath and listen and listen until you hear the sounds precisely the way they explain them. It's repetitive training. Dance, monkey, dance! But you sit and you stare, and who the hell am I kidding? When I see it, when I hear it, I feel an unexpected sense of satisfaction. For just that second, it feels like I'm getting somewhere.

Monday, September 15, 2008

many lives have come between

Even though a new semester/segment/whatever-my-wacky-school-wants-to-call-it started today, I'm determined to keep up with blog posting frequency now. I don't know why, because I think I have much less to say these days, but I suppose I need the outlet more than before, or something.

I'm trying yet another format for music, since muxtape may never return. So, for now, I will try to post songs here- not downloadable, but you should be able to listen. This week, I posted one of the new Cold War Kids songs that best describes my current state of health.

Do you ever get the sense that you're trying to throw people off the truth? I've noticed I do this. I am at two weird extremes. With certain people, I will describe what I am thinking to such excruciating, tedious detail that I think they'd like to gag me. For some reason, I am absolutely crazy to explain myself to these people. And then with others, I am indifferent, and as a result, say completely outrageous things. I make statements that, as soon as they've left my mouth, I know they're not really representative of who I am or even what I believe. It's some weird, reflexive blurting, and somehow, I'm so indifferent to their opinions that I do not even bother to correct myself. So I get to wondering if, on some level, I did it on purpose, made the ridiculous remark to purposefully obscure my true feelings.

Perhaps it doesn't matter.

Tomorrow, I think I'm going to rant at length about Facebook- not the new format, because I don't even know or understand what the big deal is about that. No, my complaint about Facebook is the out-of-the-woodworks weirdo friend requests I get from old classmates who I haven't spoken to for, oh, 15 or more years. Normal human beings take such things in stride, but me, I'm not one of those normal types. So, instead, I get all discombobulated wondering what brings all of this on.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

deep inside I'm blue

Since I'm still viral, and all I have been able to do is sit around, stuffed up, watching television, I planned to remark on the season premiere of SNL. Only problem is that I was feeling so miserable by the evening that I passed out before it started. Lucky for me, they are playing some of the clips on-line, so I can make foolish remarks anyway:

  • I know Obama declined appearing because of Hurricane Ike, but a part of me wonders if he didn't get an advanced look at the script for the evening. Obviously, I didn't see the whole thing, but given that most of the clips out there are supposed to represent the funniest parts of the show, um, not so much.

  • The digital short was a big letdown.

  • If they had put the real Charles Barkley on their Charles Barkley skit, he would have been 10 times funnier than the skit managed to be. That's no joke- one should never try to spoof Barkley really, because you can't out-comedy someone who is an endless source of inappropriate, hilarious quotations. The spoofed version of Barkley made one slightly humorous remark about the 92 Olympics, and I have a feeling they probably stole it from the real Barkley anyway.

  • Michael Phelps, and really all sports folks, should not host SNL. There are trained actors who do a crappy job on the show, but the sports people are always a disaster (except for Peyton Manning's United Way commercial, I must sadly admit). They should have sports people make cameos rather than host an entire show.

  • They should have just had an entire episode of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler trading barbs as Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. Spot-on perfection. It almost made me wish the real Hillary would come out and give the media a piece of her mind in much the same way. Or lend them a pair.

Anyway. Today, I've decided I can't indulge myself in being completely sick all day. Last night, I made the grave mistake of trying to fool around with baking while being fogged up by a virus- the results were less than spectacular, to say the least. So I'm going to dose up on some DayQuil and try to get cracking.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I'm not sick but I'm not well

Well, here's something that is going to sound a little crazy, but given that probably 2 people are reading this, I figure I can proceed safely. I have to admit that I strangely like pushing myself to do things I don't think I'm capable of and getting sick. It's a weird combination, but then sometimes I operate in the extremes.

I like the pushing myself part, because it really puts you in awe. There are always all of these feelings of I can't running through my head about a variety of things. And don't get me wrong- I don't spend medical school pulling all-nighters or anything-- in fact, I still have a lifetime record of only one all-nighter, and that was, typically enough for me, not a school related all-nighter, go figure. But I like the pushing. I like thinking I can't and then finding that, oops, I can after all. There are plenty of times at my age that I think I'll never get the hang of something. But keep at it, and the brain and the body adapt. They absorb, they assimilate, and suddenly, si se puede, what do you know.

At the other extreme, of course, is getting sick. I'm, of course, not talking about serious illness, because there's nothing particularly enjoyable about that. But if pushing myself gives me confidence, getting sick knocks me off my block a bit and humbles me. The body just trumps all and says, sorry, closed for business, and all you can do is succumb. I suppose it's one of the few perks of being sick- it's a forced rest.

It sucks that the forced rest occurred while I am on a very brief vacation, and was planning to bake the entire day. But it's neat, because there's a war going on in there, I imagine. My immune system is fighting the good fight, clearing out the virus or the bacteria that thought it could colonize me. Me, I'm just an innocent bystander. This sore throat and enlarged lymph nodes, and stuffy sinuses, they're all a result of the battle inside. And for once, that internal conflict has nothing to do with feelings or thoughts, difficult decisions or melancholy ponderings. No, this war is a simple one, and all I have to do is rest and wait for my immune system to triumph.

Or maybe this is a sign that I have encephalitis, because I'm talking a little loco.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

this is where I belong

Today's that day, though seven years later, a part of me feels even less inclined to write about it than ever before.

But I guess it applies, in a weird way, on this very microscopic level. It's been a rough couple of months- tides have shifted with some friends, and all of a sudden, those who used to be my support are AWOL or are leaning on me. Which is fine, at times, while tiring at others. I've been finding that I've grown more and more quiet, burying things deeper and deeper.

That includes things that make me happy though. I don't know. It's weird- the ground crumbles beneath your feet, and initially, you really think you'll never find your way again. It feels impossible. When it happens, there is this sudden, instant realization that nothing will ever be the same.

It's not overly dramatized sometimes. Sometimes, things do change in that sudden, solitary instant, irreversibly, and there is an immediate, palpable shift in your equilibrium.

But that's not the end. Sometimes I think people are not comfortable talking about it, the oddly beautiful things that come out of things that are undeniably tragic. Those things that are legitimately horrible, that shake you to your very core. But I don't know. I don't think it detracts from the gravity and sadness of a tragedy to recognize that it changed you in ways that were good.

In the moment, it's hard to see. When it first happens, there's nothing but the hollow feeling in your gut, and the unsteadiness that just persists. But later on, when you've had some time, you can look back and be grateful for what you learned, how you changed, what became of you. The only problem is that you have to experience it yourself to believe it. And you can only believe it after a sufficient amount of time has passed.


Yesterday, I made focaccia for the first time. I haven't tried making bread of any kind for several years. My mom bought me a breadmaker about a decade ago, for no good reason, but I was never very pleased with the results of that machine. After yesterday's adventure, I can see why. The fun of bread is the entire process from start to finish- fiddling with water to get it to the right temperature such that you will activate the yeast without killing it completely, kneading it so that all the ingredients are properly incorporated but without overworking it, letting the dough rise and rise again, and then the finish product. In this case, there were about 4 times during the process that I felt certain the whole thing was going to waste. The first time you make anything, it's always hard to get a feel of whether it's going well or not, after all. But in the end, I had rosemary focaccia, and I mean to tell you that it was edible, and it looked like bread! I know, high praise indeed, but I suppose I am with the Dodgeballers in keeping a strict motto of Aim Low! about such things.

don't do too much gambling these days

Thing is, it made me happy. Maybe happier than it made me to get away from California oh-so-briefly. I keep a little list in my head, of small and quiet things like this. Some of them are recipes, some of them are songs, some of them are long walks in the fog. I keep a short but precious tally, save them up for when I need them. And when I need them, I don't view them as indulgences. And I don't know that I was like that eight years ago. Actually, I take that back. I know I wasn't like that back then.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

so you might as well have a good time

I've recently realized that some of what is problematic over here lately is that I feel this pressure to write something meaningful about medical school or life, and I feel a pressure to police myself from whining like a little b, because that's just annoying. Or when I finally do get around to posting, I'm all fired up by some stupid political business, and I really suck at talking about politics in any kind of meaningful manner.

Maybe I ought to just be silly for a while, it occurs to me. Honestly, I'm more excited that the new television season is starting than I am about keeping track of political spinning and spitting. I'd rather talk about a song than about a day in medical school. And a pleasant movie is enough to make a horribly tedious flight pass on by.

I can't comment on Gossip Girl or 90210- despite some of my classmates' best efforts, I can't bring myself to watch anything like that regularly. But on the other hand, I gleefully watched Fringe when I returned to the West Coast, and I have absolutely no excuse for why I did that. It could win an award for most derivative show ever- it moshes together the basic plotlines of Season 1 of Alias, throws in the music and eccentric, cuckoo dudes from Lost, and throws in a helping of the X-files just in case that will help. The lead actress looks like she might be an elder sibling of a Gossip Girl, the lead actor was last seen smarming it up on Dawson's Creek. And yet, you know, I will probably continue to watch. Damn you, JJ Abrams.

On the flight to EBF, surprisingly, the film The Visitor was being shown. It is the definition of a small film, but my, is it lovely. It's made more lovely, of course, by the fact that Richard Jenkins was one of the best aspects of Six Feet Under, and he is given this whole film to just kind of inhabit and be, and change without seeming like one of those cheesy movies about change. I was surprised at how well it worked, especially considering I was watching it while babies were screaming and flight attendants were trying to shill out $3 packets of shortbread cookies.

Here's a guilty pleasure type of secret secret. Generally, I don't like watching anything on CBS. I really don't think that channel generally has anything I find vaguely compelling. Except when you throw the NPH into the mix, in which case all bets are off. So, it's sort of a guilty pleasure that I have been watching How I Met Your Mother for the past year, and am looking forward to the new season starting. The premise of the show is meh and it's not particularly earth-shatteringly innovative. But it is usually quite funny.

There's something about the show that resonates with the way that I communicate with a lot of friends. I suppose it's annoying, throwing in a billion pop culture references in conversation, but a lot of times it's completely unintentional. It's just become part of normal conversation. It's become commonplace to object to an argument by yelling "Erroneous! Erroneous on both counts!" There is nothing out of the ordinary about muttering "Blerg" defeatedly. Oh, and then there are the countless Princess Bride references.

I really wasn't much of a How I Met Your Mother fan, but then I saw an episode in which Jason Segel references Bad Idea Jeans. What can I say? I'm a sucker for these kinds of shout-outs.

Okay, I'm trying to make foccacia. I think it is going to turn out disastrous, but if I don't tend to it now, it may pass disastrous and turn into a fiasco of massive proportions.

Monday, September 08, 2008

when I woke up from that sleep, I was happier than I've ever been

So I suppose I ought to update, since cobwebs are starting to develop 'round here. Clearly, I was not in a good place. I say clearly, because only in dire circumstances would I view going home to EBF as a form of relaxation.

Actually, it's not EBF that's relaxing. It's that as soon as I stepped off the plane, as I stood by a conveyor belt waiting for my suitcase to appear, I turned to look out the window and the panes were being pelted by rain. The storm was a bad one by EBF standards, but I stood there feeling so comforted at that moment.

I was, it turns out, so entirely tired of the sunshine. I was tired of the unrelenting heat, and the forced cheeriness that endless sunshine engenders. I was tired of preparing a face to meet the faces that you meet. It really didn't matter where I went, I just needed to get out of the entire state of California, it turns out.

Running to San Francisco, my usual salve in such situations, is fraught with difficulty. Running there winds up making me wistful. It's not a relief these days, because I know I have to go back, back to the heat and the smoke and the wasteland. Weirdly, I have to get as far from San Francisco as possible to truly appreciate all that it did for me and meant for me. When I am there of late, the same, distracting thought keeps pummeling me: you don't live here anymore.

I did get a break from both the rain and EBF today by going to Boston for the day. The weather was unusually perfect, and it was sort of a stunning experience. Things I once held dear had lost meaning, weird nowhere-seeming places smacked me squarely with bittersweet memories, and I was mostly entertained by all of it. It used to be jarring, seeing my memory's snapshots transformed and obliterated over time. But I guess that's the good thing about time- you get used to it. In some ways, you even take comfort of it, of the dynamic nature of cities, of how you can very nearly be sure that a city will never, ever be the same.

But in Boston, I can breathe a quiet sigh and think to myself: you don't live here anymore. And while I did not hate living in the city (quite the opposite in many ways), I can see how, just like the city itself, I'm not the girl I was when I lived here. It's neither sad nor inspiring. It's just sort of wondrous, the constant impermanence of it all.

I'm thinking of all of this more than usual because a friend of mine had his sense of reality shattered. And while I have been feeling horribly sad for him, I also realize that he had the luxury of having a very static notion of reality. He sort of created a reality for himself, checked it with those around him, got buy-in, and then just decided that was the deal for the rest of his life. In a particularly low mood the other day, he remarked, "Honestly I just want to take the blue pill and go back to what I used to believe." At first, I thought I was in no position to remark on that statement, as I'd never lived in The Matrix, didn't live with the belief that I was set or settled, didn't think I was on a constant trajectory or path. But then I realized all of this has happened and will happen again. I had done all of those things, had felt all of those things, but I had chosen to wake up and open my eyes, and be aware of the dreary, yet sometimes miraculously beautiful world of reality.

It's the only way, after all, to appreciate the rain.