Thursday, March 17, 2011

We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert ...

I just finished the documentary Gonzo, a sometimes too-polished (but still enjoyable) account of Hunter S. Thompson's life and writing. I learned about George McGovern, saw Rolling Stone editor Jann Weber cry, and got inspired to resuscitate my blog, which is limping along at an average of one entry per year. I may not have a salt-shaker of cocaine at my disposal, but I'm still obligated to commit some words to a page once in a while to continue to call myself a writer. One of the most moving parts of the documentary was at the end, when his ex-wife refused to glamorize his decline and 2005 suicide. She pointed out that another generation, post-September 11th and in the grip of Bush II, could have benefited from his writing.

Concurrently, I just started reading Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, in which HST follows the 1972 presidenital campaign. I was delighted to discover that the introduction to the book was written at the Seal Rock Inn, close to my original San Francisco home in the Outer Sunset. Rolling Stone put him up there for a 50+ hour drug-fueled attempt to wrench some publishable material out of him. (It's still available, low-season, for $114 a night if anyone has writer's block and an impending deadline.)

I recently returned from a trip out to the Salton Sea. I wish I could write a truly gonzo account of the experience, but my anger and shame have solidified around the event like that jar of bacon grease John keeps in the kitchen.

For the past few years, this trip has been an annual mini-Burning Man for some segments of the Los Angeles cycling community, but this year we collectively managed to botch the event, piss off the locals, and get ourselves permanently banned from the off-the-grid colony of Slab City and nearby Niland, CA. We paid a fitting pyrotechnic tribute to our too-soon departed friend Tomatoes, but did it too close to many homes and a local landmark, Salvation Mountain. We made too much noise, and left too much trash. HST would have disapproved, not of the copious consumption of mind-altering substances (my vice: Stone Smoked Porter), but of our aimlessness. There is so much Fear and Loathing still out there today, far too much to squander our gonzo energy in a lost weekend in someone else's desert backyard.

I apologize -- that's as much lecture as I hope to ever produce in one sitting. Contact me for the complete PowerPoint presentation "Salton Sea IV: Why Everyone Thinks I'm a Narc."

Bottom line: my project to revive some personal gonzo has begun. Read more, write more, ride more. Live more.

PS: I'm so angry that the NYT is putting me on a diet of 20 free articles a month, but hopefully it will force me to embrace a wider range of media sources. I've gotten a little too comfy with the cadences of the Times and The New Yorker.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nobody mixes oranges with chicken.

Today was my third day back as a medical student, and it was also a Wednesday. This means that exactly halfway through my inaugural week, I got to partake of a UCLA hospital cafeteria tradition: the Wednesday Orange Chicken. WOC is a deep-fried chicken breast smothered in a vaguely Asian, vaguely citrus orange-colored sauce. Eating WOC is inevitably followed by gastric distress and a vow to never eat it again (routinely broken the following Wednesday.)

After tweeting about my meal (very @jhvu), I was reminded that Orange Chicken now holds new significance for me, as it plays a major role in "The Food," a drama I just discovered about the seedy underbelly of the restaurant business. It's an homage to the some of the finest television ever created -- "The Wire" -- and (just to warn you) I felt a similar existential emptiness when "The Food" ended its run after four episodes. 

While recovering from my WOC encounter with a bottle of mineral water and a large, comfortable chair, I started thinking about the new importance that food has in my life. For a long time, I took a medication that changed my sense of taste. Some tastes were blunted, others disappeared completely. Eating became a chore of caloric intake, while for others around me, the activity was a passion. I knew intellectually that I was eating amazing, Jonathan Gold-reviewed food, but I just wasn't getting the accompanying religious experience.

A few months ago, I got to stop taking the medication. I can't remember the first meal that I realized I was actually tasting, but I do remember a gorgeous Saturday afternoon savoring Hainan chicken at Savoy Kitchen. I wanted to try the snails, but we already had ordered too much food. (By the way, I'm not normally so chicken-centric.) Since then it's been a crash course in Los Angeles eating: pho bac at Pho Minh; "just a few" oysters at The Hungry Cat; Sichuan at Chung King; the lasagna from Bay Cities Deli. I also made Cà Ri Gà at home and could actually taste it while I fine tuned the seasoning.

One last thing before I go find something to eat: I am so excited to have met a fellow Drew student who read my (my!) blog while deciding where to go to medical school. I am so flattered, and I am looking forward to finding him and his wife some decent (although maybe not up to Seattle standards) seafood.

PS - "deep-fried" is not in the AP Stylebook. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

One Year Later

I took that test, and I passed it, sucka.

I stitched up a little girl's eyebrow after she ran through a glass sliding door.

I did CPR, and he died anyway.

I held a heart. For real.

I was a patient, and hospital pillows suck.

(five months pass)

I danced at Hungry Beat!

I'm starting school again on Monday. "Pocket Medicine," how I've missed you.

And thank you, John. So much more than "thank you."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Things That Make Me Sad

Thunder and rain this afternoon, some study-break venting.

Turmoil at End of Path From Bed-Stuy to Harvard
Chanequa Campbell is an honor student at Harvard, and unapologetically Bed-Stuy. Some black men are suspected in a fatal shooting in a Harvard dorm. Chanequa is black. Now Harvard won't grant her her degree. SWB? Studying While Black?

Abortion Doctor Shot to Death in Kansas Church

Everyone knows about this one, but I am so sad I had to make sure it got an historical tic mark in my blog. George Tiller had already been shot in 1993, yet he kept practicing. So brave. Our mandate to provide women with their basic human right to health care should not endanger our own lives.

Sitting at my desk, antsy and distractable, these two can remind me to keep working. There are others out there tackling much harder work. And there is much work to be done.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Three Reasons Why It's Awesome to Be Me Right Now and One Little One Why It's Not

1) I'm typing this while sitting in the sun in my family's backyard.

2) I stole, er, borrowed John's iPod while he's out of town. At first I was deleriously happy to dig into his collection, but I soon realized that with that much music, I had to have a strategy, the way a world championship hot dog eater approaches a stack of hot dogs. I've set a goal: I'm making my way through the S's.

3) I've asked the school for extra time to study for Step 1. This means that I will start rotations a month or two later, but it also means that I will preserve my mental health. And I will learn the information instead of just cramming into my short-term memory. And I can spend some time with the friends and family who have supported me for these crazy three years.

Just one little downer: I'm missing John, who's in New York with our friends for NYC Popfest. I'm sending energy his way to buy some irresistable DIY indie pop merchandise. Girls love that stuff, I'm no exception.

All of this daydreaming about a silkscreened owl tote bag made me miss an obvious developing sunburn.

Time for a siesta!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Day Nine

Experimenting with circadian rhythms. Got up at 6 am, having my most productive day so far. Forgave myself for not studying in the afternoon, which is a deep energy trough. Think, siesta. It exists for a reason. Still made it to Trader Joe's to stock up on brain food. (I'm eating my way through their granola selection, so I hope my brain likes granola and greek yogurt.) Daydreaming about dinner while I wait for my 6 pm second wind. Followed by my 8 pm reading in bed and my 9 pm bedtime. Yum.

I've just canceled my trip to New York, leaving John to travel by himself. I wanted the vacation and I wanted to support my friends, but studying just isn't going as smoothly as anticipated. Much bumpier, actually. I'm trying to help John rearrange his plans, and it's depressing. I'll miss him, and there's something sad about traveling while missing someone else.

(Photos: reading material and a new owl in the family.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ride safe, everyone

John and our friend Brian got doored on Wednesday morning.

For you non-cyclists, "dooring" is the act of opening your car door into the path of an oncoming bicycle, moped, pedestrian, emu. Getting "doored" is running into said door.

John escaped with some scrapes and bruises; Brian went to the UCLA emergency room with a broken thumb and a broken collarbone. After Brian got discharged, we all went to eat at Santa Monica Seafood and sat there, slurping on our clam chowder, feeling lucky.

I'll probably be complaining less about studying for a while. I hope.

This hour is colored pink on my daily schedule ... for relaxing. So I'm cooking some rice and waiting for John to come home for some late-night at-home sashimi.