Sunday, April 29, 2007

getting goat

Harry's birthday was last night. Lana's the night before. Needless to say I've spent much of the weekend with a drink in my hand, dancing, eating, talking shit. Still, somehow I've managed to be productive during the day. I'm going to try to remember that and to not obsess about sleep [or lack thereof] as I embark on two months of hospital shiftwork. Days to nights, nights to days. And now that I have my black-out drapes up I am ready. While I was at it, I bought the appropriate equipment to hang the drapes, and so that pretty much wraps up the last of my student-like ways [I am of course referring to the safety pins I used—albeit discreetly behind a valance—to hang them until today]. I feel like a new woman.

I was a fan of being in demand last night; the only straight girl in a group of Harry's gay male friends, dancing to [what I believe to be] undanceable rave music. The bongo accompaniment [sorry, conga’s, Harry kept correcting me], was the dance floor’s only saving grace.

"Just focus on the drums", the good-looking Columbian told me, his hands on my hips.

Earlier, on the way to Chinatown, I told Harry maybe next year all of his friends could pool our resources and buy a family a goat in Africa in his honor, through one of those creative charity organizations. I guess I assumed veganism wouldn't factor into the equation for starving people.

"They don't need a goat."

"Yes they do, they're starving."

"How is eating one goat going to help?"

"It's for the milk, not the meat."

"Well, they should grow soy for milk."

"Yeah, I'm sure growing crops and producing soy milk isn't generally a problem in sub-saharan Africa."

"Well, they're going to need to grow something. How do you suggest they feed the goat?"

"I don't know...tin cans and shoes?"


"Old tires?" I asked feigning innocence. Always a smart ass.

He looked at me, mouth open.

"What? I remember watching a program when I was little that showed billy goats eating cans and shoes."

"Yeah, if they're hungry and that's all they can find. That doesn't mean they can survive on that."

"Fine", I cut him off. "No goat for you."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

the economist speaks out on gun control

This is a great article . People need to talk about it more.

And another article from the same issue, about the same issue.

Monday, April 23, 2007

great expectations

I’m being punished for all of the things I haven’t done
For all of the things I’ve done reluctantly
Things I'm ashamed to have wanted to do.
For the times I should've just done what I wanted
But haven't.
But will.
No, really.
I will.

But I can’t talk about it
And it's always the shame
I can’t get out from under.
Maybe that's the divide
Between living
Like they all do
And feeling like an observer.
Once you start paring off the unsavory bits
All you're left with
Is bone and sinew
And gristle.
No one wants the gristle.
And I’m tired.

Harry, the other night
When that man stood on the overpass
Hands gripping the cement rail
Looking down as the train approached
I stopped dead and
Grabbed you by the sleeve.
"What?", you asked.
We watched as the man waived a pendulous arm
Like a little boy
And the train called back, sounding its horn.
As the man turned south to watch it go
We started walking again.
"Shit", I said, more to myself than to you
Looking at my feet.
"I thought he was going to jump."
"I know you did", you said.
"You would think that.
You always expect the worst."
Like it’s my fault.
Like it doesn't happen.
Like we all choose to see things the way we do.
But, like valuables
This was sewn into my fabric a long time ago
For protection.
It’s a part of me.
It is me.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

it's too late if it already happened

I had to deliberately resist, as I waited for my little brother to answer the phone last Monday night.

What I wanted to say was, "Hey, pretty sad news today, huh?"

"Yeah, it's terrible", he might have answered.

"Well Bro, you know if something like that ever happens on your campus, you should have a plan of what you're going to do."

But I caught myself just as he answered.

No, he shouldn't have a plan. No one should have to have a plan. What there should be is better gun control, better mental health care, community outreach, social programs.

Is it your constitutional right to bear arms? How can it be your right when it is just so fucking wrong? Wake up!

And sometimes there's just nothing you can do. You have to go on living like there isn't a tragedy waiting around the corner. We all have at least one waiting for us eventually, so let's just do what we can to take care of each other properly and then just live. Enough with the after-the-fact measures. They just won't do. How do people not see that?

And so the conversation went, "Hey Bro, pretty sad news today, huh?"

"Yeah, it's terrible."

"So have you booked your flight to Toronto yet?"

"Just this morning."

"That's great! I can't wait to see you."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

so long

Since Lauren just left the big accounting firm to go out on her own, I insisted on paying the bill. I handed my credit card to the server.

Lauren told me how at the end of her first therapy appointment she'd tried to pay the fee with her credit card but the therapist only accepted cheques.

"Don't worry", the therapist had told her. "You can bring a cheque along next time."

But Lauren was mortified and dropped the cheque off later that day instead.

"And from that point on", Lauren told me, she "always brought two; one for that session and one for the next", so that she would never be late again.

"What did your therapist say about that?"

"I dunno. Nothing? Why?"

"It's just your reaction... it's interesting..."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, it's just that you were so upset about owing her the money. So much so that you pay for two sessions up front, even though the therapist seemed fine with it...I don't know, I just think that's interesting. Sometimes when our reactions are particularly strong, it tells us something about ourselves."

Partway through my point, I picked up a hint of irritation in her face. At first I ignored it. I guess I was tired of pandering to other people's shit. No one's jumping through hoops for me, but when her annoyance became too obvious to ignore, I paused, a little impatient.

"Hey, what's with the look? I'm just making conversation here", I said and then looked down at the bill, mentally calculating the tip.

"Yeah, your just being yourself; an idiot."

I stopped cold for a brief moment and then I looked up.

"You know what? You might want to work on THAT in therapy." I'd had enough.

"Oh my G-D", she said, "sweety, you know I was just joking, right?"

"No", I answered. "I don't think you were."

At first I resisted the temptation to make it easier for her. It was hard, but I was taking her out to dinner, listening to everything she had to say, like I always do, even when she's difficult and temperamental, which she almost always is. I wasn't doing it this time.

She apologized and I accepted, very simply, but I didn't sweep away the debris. It was the first tense interaction we'd had in our two decade friendship, thanks to me for always knowing who she needed me to be, but for that moment, I stood my ground. For that moment.

The atmosphere didn't bounce back easily. I guess that's what happens when I don't do my thing; the friction, the lack of coordination, the awkwardness. Unfortunately, in this way both parties paid, and so before too long I found myself filling her in on an idea I had; an 'invention' of sorts that I'd come up with that week in response to a bit of a 'situation'; a wardrobe malfunction, if you will. Somehow giving her material to laugh at, at my expense, made everything ok. And then I gave her my scarf because she was wearing a thin jacket and I could only leave her in the cold for so long. Part of me was disappointed I couldn't last a little longer, but at least I wasn't paying for two sessions up front.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

under the surface of a city

There's something about sitting here
Propped up in bed
After a night out
Of wine and ceviche
Catching up on my correspondance
By laptop
With my house guest sleeping in the next room
City Confidential in the background
"North Conway, New Hampshire
November, 2004..."
That makes me feel like sharing it with someone
And I thought of you.
Of course you'll be sleeping.

Monday, April 09, 2007

just workin' on my fitness

It can't not be good for you, taking dance classes. Any dance classes really. I just got home from a hip hop class, sweaty and tired. I knew it would be a lot of start and stop since it's beginner so I went for a run first and then did the class. I almost backed out at the last minute. So glad I didn't.

You wouldn't believe how stiff and self-conscious I felt in the beginning, but how quickly my body loosened up. It's like magic, and it's not only your body. It just feels good to push your limits a little. Move in ways you'd never move in public [without, at the very least, a bottle of wine].

By the end of it I felt like my ass was separate from my upper body. I'm not convinced I looked a whole lot like Shakira, but I sure felt like it, and if that doesn't put you in a good mood, I don't know what will.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

asado and writing for the sake of writing

I had a very relaxing long weekend. I had time to go to the gym every day. I did some strength training and I also ran on the treadmill because the weather was shit. I'd rather be outside, but you do what you can. Friday night I came home to find that my house guest's brother had run into some major legal troubles. Calling them 'major legal troubles' isn't quite strong enough, they're that big, but I can't and won't go into any details here because it's the kind of trouble that almost justifies my paranoid tendencies. Almost.

After the dust settled and she left for the weekend I went out for a late dinner with Harry. We usually go for a run and out for lunch on Saturdays but since he has another groupie visiting—a very young groupie—we did dinner instead. I spent Saturday with the babies and their mothers, and then went out for dinner with my Argentinian amigos. We were a large group, with babies and a 4 year old boy who's in love with me and speaks to me in a blend of English and Spanish. In his eyes I can do no wrong. He even brushed his teeth for me, according to his mother, which apparently is a daily battle. If only all the men felt this way about me.

We went to an Asian all-you-can-eat spot in northern Toronto that's owned by a Vietnemese man who lived in Argentina for 20 years. Normally this wouldn't be on our list, especially since it's all the way in Scarborough, but the draw to this place is that he offers, among a variety of Asian dishes, a traditional Argentinean barbecue (asado). It was quite good. I'm especially a big fan of the chimichurri sauce. I was even a little daring. I figure you might as well go with the experience, so I tried sweetbreads, which is the thymus gland of a cow. It tasted good but I had trouble getting past what it was. It was very rich and was mildly reminiscent of liver. It's a good thing Harry wasn't there. He would have been disgusted. By the way, it's officially over for Harry and the vegan. Unfortunately for me, she converted him to veganism, which makes our dinner choices that much more difficult.

Today I went to the gym again. Nothing else was open. I made a delicious chopped salad with green apples and blue cheese, feng shui-ed my bedroom, and read material for my upcoming clinical orientation. It was very productive and was enough to let out the air on this anticipatory anxiety that's been weighing me down. Making this move has been exciting and more than a little stressful with everything else going on in my life. Perhaps that's why I haven't felt very creative this week. Maybe now that I diffused it a little the creative urge will come rushing back.

I'm going to watch House and take something to sleep. I'm hoping to start this week off a little better than I did last.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

yellow line

A little too far over the yellow line
I watch the train pull in to the station.
The face of the driver
His grey hair
His lined eyes that say
He just wants to get home
And I wonder how I might change his life.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

the smell of victims

I finally had that glass of wine I've been craving since I got back from Napa. I could have had five, but it was already late. After watching a depressing movie about Ireland in the 1920s, we stopped in at Proof. It specializes in vodka by the bottle, but since I'm such a high-roller I had a South African cabernet sauvignon by-the-glass instead.

I road the subway home at midnight, discarded newspaper pages strewn at my feet. I smelled the stench of urine before I saw him. He was blind with black stringy hair. He had a deep chronic looking sore on the back of his head and he was hitting himself on the side of his face, moaning. I tried not to breath through my nose and to relax the back of my throat, the way I'd learned to in my GI oncology rotation so I wouldn't gag when I smelled feces. Sometimes though, even the experienced can't help it, so I got up at the next stop. Still reading about the threat of an insurgency in Mogadishu, I slipped out and into the next compartment just as the doors were closing. I never even lost my place in the article, it was that smooth. There was a flash of guilt for that; such an easy dismissal, but it was pacified by my unwavering focus on the article. Also important, as topics go. Somehow it seemed like a fair trade.

Speaking of smells, there was a voicemail waiting for me at home from the public health department about the investigation of the apartment upstairs; the one that smells like what I would imagine a dead body smells like after a couple of weeks. Before calling public health I called my uncle, a criminal lawyer in New York.

"Hi Uncle Saul, it's Rachel."

"Rachel! How's my little buttercup?"

"I'm good, how are things with you?"

"Busy as usual. Someone's gotta pay for all these trips your Aunt has me going on. Last month we spent in Palm Springs. Next year she says to me, Saulie, we're going on a safari in Africa. A safari, she tells me! Can you believe this? And so I said, 'oh we are are we?' And let me tell you something, safari's don't come cheap."

"Wow, that'll be amazing. Listen Uncle Saul, I have a strange question. What does a dead body that's been sitting around awhile smell like?'

"How the hell should I know?"

"You defend murderers, do you not?"

"ALLEGED murderers, yeah, but honey, I don't smell their victims."

So I guess I'll have to wait to find out what public health has to say. They're on the case.