Saturday, June 26, 2010

Musical heartbeat

It's powerful. Surging. Pulsing. You can feeling it coursing through your veins. The beat of the drums echo your hearbeat. The deep chorus vibrates within you. You close your eyes. Submit.

Dance, honey. Just dance.

It takes a special song, a special kind of beat, a special kind of language, but I believe everyone has a musical heartbeat. You hear that song and you can't help but lift your hands and dance. Your hips sway. Your feet start to move. It's something natural, beautiful, innate. Unexplainable.

Last night my brother and I found that special song. He had been listening to it all day and when I came in to hug him goodnight, he just reached over and turned the speakers up. You don't need words to recognize your musical hearbeat. The song began, the beat intensified and he lifted his muscular arms and began to sway. I closed my eyes and we just swayed and danced together. How cool is that?! My brother is self-defined as "cool" and restricts himself to only very "cool" activites....but last night, nearing 1am, we both just danced.

Have you found your musical heartbeat? Have you found that song?

Have you just let go?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Let me hold your crown, babe

Every woman should have a pick-me-up song. A song to lift her head, brighten her disposition, instill confidence and a sense of "just try to stop me".

Every once in a while, when life is tough or bumpy, this is the kind of song to pull out of your pocket. Close your eyes, rock to the beat and just enjoy it.

Today, right now, this is my pick-me-up song.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I've watched him trudge slowly down Fulton Ave many times. His back is bowed and his frail shoulders give sharp corners to a dirty blue and white wool sweater. Cigarette in hand, he takes small steps in those tattered leather loafers that, I'm sure, he was once proud of. His hair is neatly combed, except for the few strands on the left that refuse to stay down. I think he's grown to accept the rebellious wisps of greyness.

His name is Jim, and he likes his coffee black...but sweet. On days too hot for coffee, he preferes orange juice, but only when it's freshly squeezed. He likes the pulp.

Jim and I have become friends since January, when he first arrived on Fulton Ave. I don't know where he's from or what his story is, but he is a sweet old man with seemingly nowhere to go. Whenever he comes into my store, people silently shy away from him; unsure what to say or where to look. He's small and bent. His sweater is dirty and his hair shiny with oil. He smells.

He walks in and orders his coffee, and I wait patiently as he counts his change in nickles. It takes a lot of nickles to buy a cup of coffee. I'm the only one at Jamba who makes his coffee just the way he likes it, and his eyes light up whenever I'm there to brew it for him. We talk as I pour it steaming into his cup, and as he tells me about his day I hand him his four packets of raw brown sugar. He loves his coffee sweet. My coworkers don't know why I indulge him, but I often give him extra sugar. That way, when I'm not there, he won't be too embarassed to ask for more.

I love to watch Jim as he sits in his lonely corner, hidden beneath that dirty old sweater, sipping his coffee. What is his story? Why did he suddenly appear in Sacramento? Why Fulton Ave? Why my Jamba? Where are his children and why is he all alone? Where does he sleep at night? I don't want to ask him any of these questions - the man has a quiet sense of dignity about him that commands a level of silent respect. He hasn't had a shower in days, of that I'm sure, and you can always smell Jim long after he's gone. I can sense the story within him, whatever it is, is powerful. I wish I knew it.

My last day at Jamba is next Tuesday and I'm going to miss Jim. I'm going to miss watching him trudge through our door. I'm going to miss making him his coffee while he smiles and his eyes sparkle; it's not often he gets served. His pocket is begining to bulge with my extra rations of raw brown sugar, and he pats it quietly so I know he's prepared. I'm worried about Jim. I'm worried no-one will care about him, that my coworkers won't respect him the same when I'm not there. I wonder where he goes when he shuffles out our door, the smell of dirt and sweat and cigarette and skin trailing behind him.

He has the dirtiest hands, but when I shake them and look into his soft, old eyes, I catch a glimpse of the young man he once was. The story within him wants to reveal itself, struggles to find the right words...but then a young woman in heels, rushing to work, bumps him as she snatches her smoothie and turns to go. His eyes fall silent once again, and I hold his hand, telling him "sorry" with my eyes. Not today, maybe next time.

My last day at Jamba is next Tuesday. I'm going to miss Jim.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"I write to understand what I'm thinking." -Dr. Verghese

I know I haven't written much lately. At least, not here; on this blog. I finished the second week of chemistry yesterday and am starting to feel incredibly overwhelmed. No-one said it would be easy, but oh dear...this is like trying to scoop up water as it disappears into the sand. There's just so much to learn. And, I put in my two-weeks notice at work. I've been back at Jamba for a little over a year and a half and though it's a huge leap of faith, I'm quitting. I'm going to miss my customers the most, but that's a different post. And, this was the first week having my dad moved out. A college friend took my hand and asked me, "are you okay?" I looked her in the eye and said, "would you think I'm crazy if I said it's a relief?" Though the word coming to mind is "finally", it doesn't make the transition easier, especially when he's bent on making it as complicated and hurtful as he can.

All that to say, I know I haven't written much lately. At least, not here; on this blog. Instead, I've been scribbling out the novel of my life internally. It's one cerebral chapter after another. While observing gaseous chemical reactions in the lab, I mentally jot sentences down. While pouring smoothies and listening to accounts of my customers' days, I silently describe them to myself and store their faces in an archive for me to write about someday. As I sit, and think, and doubt, and plan...I write to myself. To no-one. It feels as though I never stop writing...yet, I realize, in reality, I haven't actually written a single word.

I have a good many things my head. I hope to stop more often the next few days to actually write them down.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Perpetuum Mobile - Penguin Cafe Orchestra

For the contemplation of chemistry and all things beautiful.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Room with a view


Yes!! That's the view!

This is the view looking down over San Francisco from UCSF's anatomy lab 13 stories high. But see, this is only a glimpse of one have to imagine an entire window-WALL.

I'm still reveling in the amazingness.

Which is why I have a self-proclaimed love of chemistry. Doctors must take gobs of chemistry classes. I want to be a doctor. I must take gobs of chemistry classes. Therefore I might as well like it.

Today's chemistry class...rocked.

And someday, after gobs of classes have been taken, I'll be able to stand at that window and call it my own... very own room with a view (plus cadavers).

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Slime or smoke?

Our TV left today. The old armoir from France stands TV-less and silent. Empty.

Furniture has been rearranged. Chairs and tables re-situated and placed in creative and inventive new spots. One of my particular new favorites is our frontroom; a small table and two chairs from odd corners of the house managed to form a cozy little sitting place perfect for a "spot o' tea" or a musical splurge. Tonight I brought out the guitar and plucked happily away. Sara joined me and we harmonized for a while. Hillsong, Billy Joel, Train, Michael W. Smith. Mark snuggled up next to me with a deck of "would you rather...." cards, Ryan plopped down as well, and the four of us kids laughed together as we imagined the ridiculous scenarios.

Would you rather run a marathon in wooden shoes or swim across a lake of maple syrup?
Would you rather leave a trail of slime like a snail or a trail of smoke like an un-smogged car?
Would you rather have super-eyes or super-ears?
Would you rather eat a worm at every meal or have to lie perfectly still in a box of worms for an hour?

We sat around the little wooden table, sprawled over chairs and each other, imagining...weighing pros and cons...and laughing. It was beautiful.

So yes, our TV is permanently gone. But what better reason to break out the board games, pass the guitar around, tell stories, and laugh together?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Med school is like trying to drink water out of a fire hydrant"

"I'm a bit overwhelmed in a wonderfully exciting way. I'm sitting in a classroom at UCSF, surrounded by dozens of medical students sipping starbucks and munching on granola bars. White coats and glasses. Laptops and stethoscopes. The speaker just began. His topic: brain tumors and pathobiology. Notebooks open, laptop keys clack and a studious silence settles over the audience. I think I'm in heaven."
- Morning journal entry from UCSF classroom

I want to be in medical school so badly. I want to be a doctor so, so very much.
I sat in class today; observing, wishing, watching, craving, listening, hungering. Though it won't benefit me for years to come, I furiously took notes as the speaker dove into subcategories of glial neoplasms and the differences between pilocytic and diffusive astrocytomas. And yes, after sitting through the lecture, I actually know what those gloriously long words mean. Neurofibroma. Schwannoma. Beauty in words. Anatomical mysteries and wonder embodied in letters. I thought I was in heaven.

After three hours of lecturing, the professors broke the medical students into small groups in order to solve hypothetical cases. I joined one of the groups and listened as they prognosed and diagnosed an invented woman with a severe anxiety disorder. Were her symptoms those of a panic attack or heart attack? What tests would they order? What medicines would they prescribe? Their heads bowed over the imaginary woman's medical file; the four med students whispered and planned their course of action. Flipping through highlighted notes and pages of brain diagrams they debated which medicine would be most effective, whether the woman's genetics were to blame, and if they should order an EKG.
I listened, fascinated. My eyes rose from their huddle and towards the walls, where blackboards hung laced with chemical formulas, six-syllable words, and anatomical sketches. An explosion of chalk. I thought I was in heaven.

A few of the students took us to the top floor of the building to see the anatomy lab. A large, long room containing dozens of tilted, steel tables and bright halogen lamps greeted us. Two students barely glanced at us as we entered; engrossed in their work, scalple in hand, they were discovering the internal mysteries of the body. Stretching the entire length of the room (which is remarkably long, mind you) was a massive glass window, through which we were privy to a sweeping view of San Francisco. Rolling hills dotted with trees and colorful victorians, the Golden Gate shrouded in fog, the sharp points of church steeples piercing the sky...all was laid out before us in a grand display of archetectural and natural grandeur. I am sorely pressed to find a more perfect situation: science galore, litterally laying right before you, waiting to be discovered - and a breathtaking view of the city for you to enjoy while you're at it. I thought I was in heaven.

Oh my. It's so painful to be a little undergraduate at a junior college instead of a medical student at UCSF.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010