Thursday, April 30, 2009

And that was that

Dr. G,

Attached please find my final paper.

Thank you,


With that email, I just finished medical school.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Yesterday, I flew a kite. And, as you can see here, spent a good bit of time staring directly into the sun. (These retinas aren't just going to burn themselves.)

This was actually one of the better moments, preceded by 20 minutes of running around an open lawn yelling, "Fly, damn you!"

Friday, April 24, 2009

Filling out residency paperwork

Graci just turned to me and asked, "When did I get my polio vaccine? And what year did I have chickenpox? Was that 3rd grade?"

"I don't know," I said, "because I didn't meet you until 17th grade."

I'm switching from Verizon to AT&T next month. Graci won't give up her iPhone, and I refuse to pay overage charges to answer these questions after we move.

Update: Five minutes later, she asked, "Am I allergic to latex?"
"I'm not sure," I said. "Let's stick a condom on your head and see what happens."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The apartment

It's a little hard to write with this cat on my lap. But, you know, there is something about that little motor purring on my arm...

I've been to Baltimore, and then back, and then online for days. Just not here. If I had been here, it would have read as follows...

First... I found a studio. It's tiny, but it will work. Plus, it's cheap. (Of course, I too may look a little cheap as any invitation to my apartment, is, in essence, an invitation to hang out on my bed--the only furniture that fits in the room.)

Then... I didn't get the studio. Some other guy who saw it the week before I did actually got all of his paperwork together just after the landlord finished telling me, "I don't think this other guy is going to get his paperwork together." Damn you, some other guy. Damn you and your responsible behavior.

Finally... Across the street, with the same great landlord, a one bedroom. A beautiful apartment. Or so I've heard. I haven't actually seen it. It's more expensive. For the first year, it will be a little tight. But, it will be fine. (She says, looking over her budget. For the 746th time today. Because she's a freak.)

Through all of that, I've been looking for a way to furnish an apartment on the aforementioned budget. I'm moving away for the first time. I mean, really moving away. I won't be a two hour drive from that family that makes me so crazy, that I'm so crazy about. I won't be living with my best friend.

So, I'm putting a lot of thought into photos (I have no shortage of photos) and other things that might make this apartment seem like home. It helps that I've seen the place now. I finally know what I'm furnishing.

Cherry floors, French doors, original moldings. It is beautiful.
Now, I just have to make it feel that way.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My GPS thinks I'm an idiot

My mother and I drove to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon with my dad's GPS. He got it for Christmas. It was all he really wanted, as he is inexplicably drawn to electronic devices that talk.

My aunt and uncle bring small, cheap gifts for everyone at Easter. I got a plastic wind up chicken that walks and shits out gum balls. My dad got a key chain that records a short message and then plays it back louder and more obnoxious than it was originally spoken. He spent an hour recording ridiculous things like, "My key chain is cooler than that chicken," and then playing them into my mother's ear. She eventually wrestled it from him to record, "You're an idiot."

Somehow this ended with the two of them shamelessly canoodling on a corner of my grandmother's couch and me recording, "Remember back when mom was going through menopause and you two weren't really touching each other? Ahh, the good old days."

But I digress.

My mother and I drove to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon with my dad's GPS. Sitting in my parents' driveway, we plugged in our hotel's address. When we got to the stop sign at the end of the street, the GPS woman's voice yelled, TURN LEFT. We couldn't seem to figure out how to turn down the volume, so this was the start of six hours of an electronic woman screaming at us. There were several long stretches without turns when we would practically forget that we had the damn thing. Then she'd interrupt our otherwise pleasant conversation to yell, KEEP RIGHT, and we'd both jump and swear at her a little.

At one point, we stopped for gas. The GPS, noticing that we had veered from the prescribed route, screamed RECALCULATING... meaning it was going to come up with a way to get us to our destination even though we had gone off course. My mom said, "Oh, that reminds me. Did I ever tell you what happened when Grandma and Aunt Shirley used one of these?"

Grandma is my mom's mom, and she is crazy. Aunt Shirley is my grandma's sister, and she is bat shit crazy.

"First of all," I said, "who in their right mind would give Grandma one of these? The last thing that woman needs is a distraction while she's driving or an excuse to go anywhere she doesn't already know how to get to."

I say this because my grandma is an awful driver. Awful. The woman rolls down her window and hangs her head outside the car to look behind her as she backs out of her driveway. She whips back into the vehicle as she approaches the lamp post at the end, so as not to give herself a concussion. If you back out of her driveway, she'll warn you about it... "Be careful at the end there, honey. That lamp will take your head right off." If we could get the GPS to say, GET BACK IN THE CAR, that may be helpful. But, I think a device that simply yells KEEP RIGHT is only likely to distract her into driving RIGHT into a pedestrian or a pole.

My mom continued, "The GPS belongs to your Aunt Shirley, who, I imagine, drives about as well as your grandmother. Anyway, you know how neither of them listens to a word anyone says? Yes, well, this was no exception. They plugged in their destination, the GPS showed them the route, and they both immediately decided that just couldn't be right. It didn't look right. The woman in the little gray box must be mistaken. So, they went their own way, and the GPS said recalculating. Except, they never liked the looks of the route it recalculated, so they never followed it. The woman's voice kept saying recalculating. At one point, your Aunt Shirley leaned over and whispered to Grandma, 'You know, this happens to me all the time with this thing. I never follow the route, and then I worry a little that the GPS woman thinks I'm stupid.'"

Aunt Shirley is a therapist. People come to her for help.

I said, "Can't you just see it... A patient says to her, 'Sometimes I worry that people don't like me' and Shirley says, 'Oh, I know just how you feel. I'm afraid my GPS thinks I'm an idiot.'"

My mom and I laughed about this for several miles. The woman eventually interrupted us to suggest we EXIT LEFT. We wet ourselves a little and yelled STOP YOUR FUCKING SCREAMING. And then, we exited left. So as not to appear idiotic.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The stonecutters who adopted him

Do you remember Saturday Night Live's Sally and Dan Harrison, the couple that should be divorced? Had dinner with them. Except, this couple just got engaged.

Sally ordered herself a margarita and then started telling incredibly boring family stories. Dan rolled his eyes and occasionally interrupted her to ask, "Have you ever thought about shutting up? Because no one gives a fuck about this shit."

To which she would say something equally charming like, "You're such an asshole. And seriously, Dan, I can't believe I'm marrying someone so boring. You're just jealous because you have no family stories."

At this point, I tried flagging down our waiter to order myself another six or seven drinks. He gave me a sympathetic look from across the room and then pointed to the kitchen as if to say, "I'd love to help you with that, but I'm actually needed in here. Far, far away from your table."

Dan continued with, "Yeah well, all your stories are complete bullshit. Why don't you tell them the one about how you're related to Michaelangelo."

"We're not related to Michaelangelo, you dumb ass. We're related to the stonecutters who adopted him."

I began picking the wedge of lime from my empty Corona bottle so that I might suck the alcohol from it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Flame of the uninspired

As usual, this can be blamed on Maria who says she found it in Vanity Fair. The same magazine that publishes Annie Liebovitz's work has published a meme.

God help us all in these trying times.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

This week, it would be finding a charming little one bedroom apartment with hardwood floors, a working fireplace, a couple bay windows, and a washer and dryer in a charming little urban neighborhood peppered with bookstores, cafes, and an art gallery...all utilities included for $800 a month.

Thankfully, I think I can be perfectly happy with less than charming little perfect happiness. (Because, you know, I'm not finding that apartment.)

2. What is your greatest fear?

Sucking at my job. It's also my greatest motivator. I think it keeps me from sucking at my job.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Lately, I have really crappy time management skills. (I know that time management skills are not really a trait. If it bothers you so much, bogart the damn meme and take it back to your blog where you can write whole essays on your own deplorableness.) I think it's because I have too much time on my hands right now. It's easier for me to manage when there's less of it.

4. What is the trait that you most deplore in others?

I can't stand people who don't tip well. In fact, when a few of the third year medical students asked me for residency interviewing advice, that was the sum total of it.

"When you're traveling, tip well. No matter what you believe in--Jesus, karma, or Oprah--tipping is essential. When you're making your match list later, you will pray for a job. Don't roll your eyes at me. You'll pray. There are no atheists $150,000 in debt with no other marketable skills in this shit economy. Rest assured (and I believe this with all my heart), your pleas will fall on Oprah's deaf ears if you've just spent the last three months hopping around the country, ripping off every waiter, doorman, and cab driver you meet. So tip like the classy, well paid doctor you hope to become."

5. What living person do you most admire?

You. (Maybe. Depending on who's reading this, of course.)

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

I asked Graci, "What's my greatest extravagance?"
She said, "Earrings."
I said, "It's been almost a year since I bought a pair of earrings."
She said, "Yeah well, it's a crappy extravagance...but it's all you've got."

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


8. On what occasion do you lie?

When it might spare someone unnecessary pain. Listen, if you're asking, "Does this make me look fat?" the answer is probably, "Yes." But I'm likely to tell you that you look just fine. Horizontal stripes never really killed anyone.

9. What do you dislike most about your appearance?

Right hair. I need a trim. Earlier this week, the weather broke, the birds returned from Florida, and a few of them showed up on the back of my head, looking for a place to raise their young this spring. One of them may still be back there.

10. What living person do you most despise?

These "medical professionals." The doctors that the Red Cross talks about in its report on US torture in secret CIA prisons should be prosecuted, tried, and sent to jail. What the fuck were they thinking?

11. What words or phrases do you most overuse?

I probably say fuck too much.

12. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I love my nieces more than I ever thought I could love someone else's children. I was never one of those people who loved babies. Back in my labor and delivery nurse's aide days, I dreaded getting floated to the nursery. Twelve hours of rocking and feeding and changing baby after baby after baby drug on. I worked with a couple women who couldn't get enough of it. One of them fell in love with every infant she touched. She used to say all the time, "Can you believe we get paid to snuggle them all day?" I would smile and nod as I checked the clock and counted down the minutes until I could get out of there and talk to an adult who wasn't cooing her verbs.

But these nieces of mine...

13. When and where were you happiest?

Just after I found out where I matched for residency, I went home for a night and all my siblings got together at my brother and sister-in-law's house to celebrate. My sister made stuffed shells and brownies. She wrote Congratulations T! on the brownies in squiggly letters (letters that were, perhaps, a bit more squiggly than she'd originally intended). We drank a couple bottles of red wine and had a great time hanging out.

This was also the first time I'd seen my brother's house. He and his wife moved in over a year ago. I just hadn't been there. (There's probably a little more to it than that... After losing my own little house two years ago, I wasn't real eager to go visit happy, young couples and their cute little houses while my mom walked me from room to room, talking all about how happy and young and cute it all was.) But, I loved being there that night and I wished I had seen it sooner. Honestly, I was very pleasantly surprised...not at how happy they were for me that night, but at how happy I was for them.

14. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I'm going to be superficial and name something physical here: I'd warm up my frigid hands. I have Raynaud's, and my hands are so cold that people jump when I touch them. I run them under warm water for a few minutes just before every physical exam, and still, patients complain. I tried a medication for this, but the side effects were unbearable. I'm now looking into a natural remedy that doctors in Europe have been giving their patients with Raynaud's. That's right, I'm going to be one of those people who buys natural shit from overseas. My hands are that fucking frozen.

15. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I just got a really great job.

16. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

I'd probably be one of those zoo animals with warning signs wired to her cage. Things like, Small unattended children who climb the fence to pet the animal are more likely to be eaten than they are to be nuzzled as her own.

17. Where would you like to live?

We talked about this in question one.

18. What is your most treasured possession?

Photos. Dozens of family photos. Everything else could be replaced.

19. What is your favorite occupation?

I'll let you know as soon as I start getting paid to do something.

20. What is your most marked characteristic?

I'm devastatingly good looking. And completely full of shit.

21. What do you most value in your friends?


22. Who are your favorite writers?

Lately... Anne Lamott, David Sedaris.
And I just read a good book called Churched by Matthew Paul Turner. If you grew up with evangelical fundys, it's like a humorous, sometimes touching walk through your fucked up childhood.

23. Who is your favorite hero or heroine of fiction?

Atticus Finch. I may someday name a dog or a child after Atticus. (If it's a child, it will have to be a middle name, of course. One doesn't want to be unnecessarily cruel to children.)

24. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Dorothy Parker.

25. What is it that you most dislike?

Lima beans.
Foot fungus.
Parents who show up in the ER in the middle of the night with a wheezing child and haven't 1) refilled the prescription for asthma medication and given it to the child as directed over and over and over again or 2) quit smoking in the house.

25. What is your greatest regret?

I'm not going to go there. What's the point?

26. How would you like to die?

Old and intact.

27. What is your motto?

When it comes to accessories, if you can take off more than three things, you're wearing too much.

Monday, April 6, 2009

April showers

It's snowing in April.
This has made me question my (apparently somewhat tenuous) belief in a merciful God.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Something livable. For living in.

I was starting wonder what might happen if I can't find THE ONE PERFECT APARTMENT. I had to remind myself last night that I'm just looking for somewhere to live for a year. I don't have to marry the damn place.

Poking around on internet message boards for advice about which neighborhoods are or are not safe has gotten to be downright comical. It's a lot of, That block is horrid. I was shot twice. In the head. On my way to church. Followed immediately by, That last guy is full of crap. I let my toddlers troll the streets alone here. At night. With pockets full of cash. It's perfectly safe.

The Baltimore police department's website maps crime in a two week period for each neighborhood. This seems a somewhat more objective way of assessing safety. In the places where I'm looking for housing, crime seems to be primarily "larceny from a vehicle." When I explained this to Graci, she said, "But what if you get larcened from your vehicle?"

I had to admit that I hadn't considered that possibility. And that it would, in fact, suck to be larcened from my vehicle.

But, I think all I can do here is use a little common sense. I'm just not going to leave any of my bitchin' mixed CDs lying around in plain sight on the passenger seat. (You know how criminals are drawn to Patty Griffin like moths to the flame.)

Once I realized I'm not searching for the fucking Holy Grail of rental properties, I actually started enjoying this online apartment hunt. It's easy to be flexible when you don't have kids, or pets, or much in the way of furniture.

I did have to pass on that $500/month basement beauty, though. I suppose it would be convenient to have your washer and dryer right there, next to your stove. But that "laundry room" was shared by all the tenants in the building, and something about the neighbors sorting their dirty whites on my kitchen counter killed it for me.