Now That There Was A Hike!

2500 glorious miles across this loose confederation of dysfunctional communties we call a nation. My oh my.

Somewhere in Nebraska, I glanced up at my rear view mirror to see an enormous wooden cross attached to a grill attached to a semi bearing down on me at high speed. I thought the Holy Inquisition had finally caught up with me. I’m not proud to say that I was willing in that frightening moment to recant–to anul my bar mitzvah–to never again tickle my palate with the dull-savory singularity of gefilte fish. In the end I just changed lanes.

I dodged tumble weed in Wyoming. The salt flats through Northern Utah stretched for 100 desolate, heat stroking miles. There are slot machines in the grocery stores in Nevada. Super 8 is really Mediocre 8. These are the things I learned.

The East Bay is cool and sunny. Mediterranean plants are in bloom, and Tibet is apparently not yet free. I have learned that, contrary to common belief, there is no time for hate.

So the journey continues. A new set of challenges and really good food. I walked into a grocery store in Berkeley and almost cried, after my months of trying to find edible comestibles among the Velveeta and Lunchables of suburban Ohio. So on we go. Could this become a sedentary medicine show? Time will tell.

Published in: on June 23, 2007 at 7:25 pm  Comments (3)  

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.

What The Hell Is A Brazing Machine?

So I think I want to write. But that’s a bit vague, so there is still work to do. I took an online career fit test today. 500 questions. I laid my soul bare with every click. Poking and prodding into my every tendancy and inclination, my every emotion and mood. Good, right? Maybe they’re really getting at something.

So in general the results are that I need work that is creative. Good enough. Then you click to find your top 3 appropriate jobs: 1. Medical Laboratory Technician. 2. Welding, Soldering or Brazing Machine Operator. 3. Conservation or environmental scientist.

What the hell? An admixture of absurdity and specificity. Another useless exercise. Yes, as a child while my friends dreamt of fighting fires and flying to the moon, I could only sit back on my elbows, chew a piece of grass and yearn for my place before a humming brazing machine. Even then I knew it may never come to pass. For when we shoot for the stars, do not we mortals often fall just short? Would the heat of the noble brazing machine melt my waxen wings?


Well, that’s why one’s got to figure things out on one’s own. The Bay Area is beginning to seem too…I don’t know. It’s so expensive. All that yearning for personal perfection, political correctness and rich people with ‘Free Tibet’ bumper stickers. It’s not that I disagree intellectually. I mean I don’t want to have to pay for Tibet either. Northern California is just so precious and too expensive to be truly bohemian. It’s nice though.

Hatbox Louie has thrown Chicago into the mix. I was living in Chicago when we met, and it was one of the happiest times of my life. Despite the fact that I was an intern who hated medicine. I just love Chicago. So much stuff going on. Vibrant. Sophisticated, talented, yet down-to-earth people. It, and Toronto, are the best places I’ve lived. It’s not cheap, but compared to The Bay Area, it seems a more reasonable place to build a new career.

I need to do a bit of research to determine if brazing machine operators are in demand there. It’s a great city, but to sacrifice a dream?

Published in: on June 5, 2007 at 10:38 am  Comments (10)  

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)  

Ohioan Separatist Extremists Hijack Suburban Fixer-Upper! Please Help!

We received an email with this grainy image, and thought it was a joke.


Time revealed that we had indeed been the target of an extremist cell, and our fixer-upper had been hijacked. These Buckeye freaks want to secede from The Union and set up a new nation state right here between Indiana and Pennsylvania. They want to call it Ohighough. They are angry and dangerous, and they hold the misperception that we hold some sway with the federal government. We received a second email shortly after the first, with this disturbing image and a list of demands.


Do-it-yourself fools! You will use your considerable influence with the Ohio legislature, Condawhatever Rice, Stone Phillips, and Jared the Subway-used-to-be-fat-and-is-now-just-slack-skinned-and-un-charismatic dude to enact this list of demands. You have 2 days or we will sand this money sink into powder!

1. We can’t take the green! We need to pave over the last 20% of Ohio with strip after strip of glorious parking and shopping. We are tired of these Mom-and-Pop stores hanging on in the downtowns amid the closed up shops. Wal-Mart. More Wal-mart. Kills the annoying family businesses, 40 acres of parking helping to eradicate the blinding Devil’s green of unpaved earth, and just for good measure, you stand a good chance of being sexually assaulted in the parking lot. We are unsympathetic–you dressed provacatively.

2. Enough with the family farms. Call ConAgra and run the remaining few out. We hate that folksy, get-up-at-5, hayseed crap.

3. Our recon team has reported a disturbing increase in hybrid cars here. I believe 6 was the number. We demand a Hummer in every garage. We will succeed.

4. Unacceptable! Only 142 Ohioans have become casualties in Iraq. Unacceptable. We will not rest until every young person in this state has been fed into that meatgrinder of cleansing violence.

And so you see, we need your help. Anyone who can help meet these demands in any way should act. If only to hold together our Nation Under God. We need you. For the love of money, help us!

When In Doubt, Grow A Beard

I hate shaving. I don’t know why. Fixing up a house involves so much tedium that I had to take one onerous task out of the lineup. Actually, it was Hatbox Louie’s idea. She calls it a construction beard. I really could hardly look less like a doctor which I guess is appropriate, since I could not feel any less like one.

The problem is, I don’t really feel like anything else either. I figure something will come to me, but that doesn’t sound like much of a plan. I guess I’m on pause.

As I peer into the future, all I see is…I guess that’s the problem: I don’t peer. I just wait. And paint, and scrape.

Thank God for the beard. There is a future. Predictable. Every day, it will be a little longer. Guaranteed. Even if I’m dead. Now if that ain’t puppy dog doily Hallmark hopeful, I guess I just don’t know what.

Published in: on March 16, 2007 at 6:10 am  Comments (1)  

How 10 Years Of Medical Training Has Finally Become Useful

1. The art of diagnosis.


Diagnosis: Terminal datedness with chronic shodiness.

2. A rational treatment plan.


Treatment Plan: Gutting with extreme prejudice. AKA Complete crap resection.

3. Prognosis: Modest profit with or without retained sanity.

4. Management of psychosocial issues: e.g. Though I at times want to hunt down the previous owners and beat them to death with the gouged baseboard molding which they chose to fill with staples. Yes staples. Or at least peer deeply into their eyes in order to fathom what kind of human spirit could make the design choices they made. In the end I am forced to acknowledge that they are children of God, beautiful and flawed as we all must be. And there is no accounting for taste.

5. Follow-up: Stay tuned.

Published in: on March 9, 2007 at 6:56 pm  Comments (4)  

Oh The Dirty Secrets Carpet Pad Has To Tell

We are finally into Collingwolde, and ripping it to shreds. Carpet and very nasty carpet pad adhered to the subfloor by some evil spills and pet indiscretions. The heat is not on yet so it is freezing. The water is not on yet, so the bathroom is a former carton of Trader Joe’s French roast.

Does it really take 80,000 staples to hold down a piece of carpet? I mean my god, it’s not like the carpet is trying to escape. Very tedious. Is it clever to nail in the kitchen cabinets? What were they thinking? Didn’t they know we were going to come in and rip that crap out?

Overall it is going well, and it is nice to have something to do. So on we march.

Published in: on March 4, 2007 at 7:02 pm  Comments (3)