Why Is This Country So Big?

Well, it is a traveling medicine show. I am hitting the road tomorrow. Ohio to Berkeley. 36 hours. Oh mercy. Books on tape. A little NPR. No sweat. Oh mercy.

If anyone checked out this personal essay, you couldn’t help but notice that I’ve tried this before. Without success. But the allure of the Bay Area is apparently irresistible, and I’m headed west again.

So I’ll probably be out of touch for a while, but I will post as soon as possible. It’s the classic Edinburgh-Europe-Ohio-San Francisco circuit. Well worn. Up and away.

Experiments in Writing (#1)

I am reading a book about writing, and the author wants me to sit in front of my computer for hours even if I have no ideas. I get the gist, but it is so not me. But she’s very cool so I want to give it a try. I figure I’ll try half an hour and see what happens. I thought I might document the experience.

10:41 PM– Here we go. I am resisting turning on music. I am thinking about writing. And documenting that thought. Hatbox Louie successfully queried a magazine for a freelance piece. It’s really good. She is a great writer. Hmm. Writing. I’d love a grapefruit.

10:45 PM– So far so good. No panic. Precious little existential angst. I live in a mostly refinished 80’s era house in an Ohio suburb with a For Sale sign on the lawn. Surprising. I think I am better at being given a topic and writing about it. How do you decide what to write about from the infinite possibilities. I guess you give yourself a topic.

10:50 PM– Let’s see. The world is in a shambles. In my darkest moments, I am flooded with very apocalyptic visions. It is as if the producers of made-for-TV movies are writing the world’s script: Islamic hordes running rampant, floods and tsunamis, near-fascists eroding our already shaky democracy, catastrophic climate change. I’m not saying the end is near, but one must admit it’s feeling a bit apocalyptish.

10:56 PM– Has anyone noticed that mostly when people mention Him, they talk about Jesus Christ, but then when people want to get real hardcore the say Christ Jesus? Like how can we put a bit more intensity into it? Switch it around. It works though. It does seem more fiery. Christ Jesus.

11:01 PM– The internet is full of litter. Whenever you search something in Google, there are all these crappy pages with sparse info all filled with ads. It’s garbage. It’s interesting how even in a virtual world, humans tend to create litter and garbage.

11:06 PM– Why is it that no one I know my age can afford his or her childhood home? Isn’t that contrary to the American dream? I guess it’s that I’m from Washington, DC, and most of the people I know are from similarly overpriced cities, but really. It’s a bit strange. Something is awry. I know not what.

11:11 PM– Whew. That wasn’t too bad. But I haven’t exactly set the literary world aflame. I took the Andy Rooney approach. Is that guy an ass? He’s got the country’s ear on a serious news show and he’s rooting around in his desk drawer: “I’ve been going through my desk drawer here and it’s really quite remarkable. I’ve counted nearly seven hundred paper clips. And look here. This pencil has been sharpened so many times it’s unusable.” Dude, it’s time to pack it in. He’s like the original boring teenage blogger—what I had for lunch, who’s like sooo weird. I don’t know.

Experimental results. Actually I think it was quite helpful. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try an hour. Don’t worry, this was a once off experiment. I’m not Andy Rooney. Christ Jesus!

9 Years, A Full Circle, And A Pinch Of Goo Gone

Can this formula get you unstuck?

My blog has lo these many weeks occupied a space in my head formerly reserved for such things as the pile of mail I wasn’t dealing with. Late bills? Notification of being named in a malpractice suit? Or the 11th grade research paper I wasn’t doing–on which passing to senior year was contingent. Or not figuring out what to do with my life.

Which is to say a dark nook to keep things that upon being reminded of their existence (in the case of my blog, the link on my toolbar that leers menacingly every time I look at my browser) causes a lusty feeling of neglectfulness, of being remiss, of leaving one’s post, of falling down on he job.

Yet, my response to any slip of light which might illuminate this dark nook has been to run, to avoid, to numb my senses, leaving me in a state of paralysis, of being stuck.

Nine years ago, I left my neurology residency and headed, with Hatbox Louie, to the San Francisco Bay. My idea was to work for a non-profit, world-changing, peace and social justice organization. The trevails of this sorry misadventure are chronicled here.

The anxiety of being adrift, the compulsion to immediately find something lofty and great to do in order to mitigate the abomination of having left medicine, and a healthy dose of naivete, led to the failure of the escapade and ultimately to my return to medicine. I couldn’t take the heat.

Since then, I have completed a residency, worked as a clinician, volunteered my medical skills in Ecuador and Bolivia, traveled, fixed up two old houses, and tried to find a place for myself in academics. Some small successes, mild satisfactions, a few bucks. But ultimately wrong for me. All of these endeavors have amounted to stop-gap, temporizing measures. I have avoided facing that dark nook in my brain that held the truth of what I wanted to do as if the door were guarded by demons.

Well, at some point there is nowhere to run, there are no more quick little fixes; the demons must be excorcised. And so by sheer force of will, I have done so (and oddly, temporally coincident with the death of Jerry Falwell). What I really want to do, what I’ve always wanted to do, is write. At this point I don’t even care what I write. Science and medicine seem like logical starting points, but anything.

So I’ve come full circle. I’m going to relocate to the Bay area, where Hatbox Louie and I have great, interesting friends who know lots of people and are excited about new ideas and projects, and where there is an almost palpable feeling of possibility.

Nine years later, I have seen alot, thickened my skin, and no longer feel like I have to apologize for not pursuing a career that every day deadened another little piece of my soul. This time I’m going to make it work.

And I can’t very well decide to get unstuck and be a writer and at the same time let my blog fizz out like the idea of citizenship or the cassette tape. I believe it was Benjamin Disraeli who said, “Oy! Get up off your arse you bollocky tosser!” Well, ok Ben. Ok.

Life Tumbles Like River Stones

I’m afraid to look at the date of my last post. The house project has had me and Hatbox Louie working all day for five weeks without a break. We were wrecked. Upswings? The house is coming together, and now we are in Austin Tx!

We have been researching possible places to live, and the list was shrinking and well, here we are. I think we might just do it. It seems absolutely bizarre to move to Texas, but Austin is very progressive and vibrant without the precious imperiousness of say the Bay area.

Anyway, we’ll have to go back to finish the house and grab our car, and I’ll post some after pictures of Collingwolde. Oh, what will a lapsed doctor do the Lonestar captital? No clue. Well, one thing at a time. Y’all come back now, heah?

Published in: on April 11, 2007 at 10:02 am  Comments (2)  

Canadian and Computer Free

Hatbox Louie and I are in Montreal. We had been sharing one power cord for our two laptops since one of them disintegrated in Edinburgh. We left it in Toronto. Crap! So we have been rationing power to plan our trip etc. Oh well. Not great for blogging.

This city is huge and French and sophisticated. It is hard to fathom that we are just a few miles north of say, Plattsburgh New York. It is a whole different world up here. Very European. French cafes and very international cuisine. Very artsy and bohemian in some areas, architecturally diverse and rather majestic in others. Definitely a world class city. Very cold.

It would be hard to adjust to living here. One would really need to speak French to become integrated into the community, but the rewards would be significant. Well, I’m about to cut into Hatbox Louie’s time. Can’t type worth a damn. Tomorrow we head down into Vermont, which is great, but entails some stressful familial interactions for the old Hatbox. More soon. Adieu.

Don’t Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good

I really would love to post every day. The problem is that I always want to have something funny or clever or astute to say. So I delay until the pressure is so great that I’m forced to come up with something.

It’s sort of a microcosm of my life. I seem to be waiting around until something comes to me to do. Something meaningful, satisfying, creative. I have launched in so many directions and then had to dig out, that I refuse to budge unless it seems to be the right and perfect thing. So I’m left in limbo. Not good. Perhaps this act of sitting down to write without really having anything to say will spark a new direction.

Maybe I need an extreme makeunder. Lower the bar. Cultivate the unexceptional. Champion the OK. Air Supply not Aerosmith. Cheap Trick not Chick Corea. Gerald Ford not Jimmy Carter. PB&J. Applebee’s. Jug wine. Keanu Reeves…Whoa Nelly! That’s too far. How about Leo DiCaprio? That’s more like it.

Well, I’ll give it a shot. It’s only life after all.

Published in: on February 13, 2007 at 2:49 pm  Comments (5)