Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Thanksgiving Non-Existent Plan

Let me preface this post with a very generic, but very true, declaration of love for Thanksgiving. I know it's steeped in some kind of tradition that I learned about twenty years ago in the first grade, but I've forgotten the history. I just like the tradition of seeing family, of cooking a ridiculous dinner, of looking forward to the holidays. For twenty-five years, I spent every single Thanksgiving with the same group of fifteen people.

Then I moved to California.

It isn't easy living 3,000 miles away from your family, especially during the holidays. And I know 3,000 miles isn't even that much; I have several friends in school whose families live on other continents. But I don't even have so much as a distant cousin who lives out here. My entire family - mom, dad, sister, cousins, aunts, uncles - lives on the East Coast, mostly in Philadelphia. And at times like these, I realize just how far home really is.

I don't like traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays. I don't like it because I hate lines. I'm the type of person who avoids the zoo on the first day of spring, steers clear of ski slopes on Martin Luther King weekend, and prefers red-eyes over convenient morning flights. I don't mind crowds all that much. I just despise waiting in line. And airports at Thanksgiving are overflowing with disgruntled, impatient people who just want to get home and see their families. I really can't blame them.

So this Thanksgiving, I'm staying in San Francisco. I've had a few friends offer to take me back to their families for Thanksgiving, and for that I'm very grateful. Last year, I even attempted to cook something (note to self: bring wine this year). It's Tuesday, 48 hours until the big day, and I still don't have any concrete plans. Then again, that isn't unusual for me. I hate lines and therefore, I do everything at the very last minute.

But I will say, regardless of my plans for this week, one of my favorite Thanksgivings took place on an airplane. When I was seventeen, my mom and I traveled to San Diego for a high school soccer tournament, and we flew on Thanksgiving afternoon. We had airplane food on the flight, and spaghetti in the room.

The food, while incredible, is always second. Family is first. I'll miss them this year.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Screening

Let me start with a disclaimer: last year, I went to the Twilight midnight screening alone. As in, just me. And screaming teenagers. And a guy with his girlfriend who assumed the seat next to me was occupied, then muttered something incomprehensible when I told him it was free. I have friends, don't worry. I just didn't think a single person in my med school class of 150 people (okay, 75, since we can eliminate the guys), would want to go. So I went alone, sat between two fourteen-year-olds, and had a lovely time.

This year, at the urging of my roommate, I decided to send an email out. Nothing too fancy (okay, actually it was a great email). See below:

Hi vampire-lovers! Sorry, you knew it was coming.

Anyway, for those of you living under a rock, the next installment in the Twilight franchise, officially titled THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON, is coming out on Friday, November 20th. This means a midnight screening on Thursday, November 19th.

I are going to buy advance tickets to the 12:10 screening at Daly City, and we want to get a group together to go. You may say this is premature, but MILLIONS OF THEATERS across the US have already sold out!!!!!11!!

In all seriousness, please let me know if you're interested in going. We are also thinking of having something beforehand (maybe a potluck, blood, fangs...too much?), so this will be a worthwhile endeavor. Plus you can witness the somewhat inappropriate Twilight-themed shirt I won for something...never mind.

So, the bottom-line: e-mail me if you want to get in on this. Here are the details:

What: New Moon, the 2nd movie in the Twilight series. Starring RPattz. If you don't know who he is, enlighten yourself here: Hotness
When: Thursday, November 19th. Screening at midnight (there is class the next day at 10 am, last year it was at 8 am. Don't complain). Twilight screening/party/potluck at my house beforehand.
Where: My house, then Daly City, Century 21 theater (if you can drive, let me know. If not, I will use my connections.)
Who: You. This may seem like a girly movie, but it's not. ACTION, TONS OF ACTION.
Why: I know I forced at least eight people to watch Twilight. If you want to watch the sequel under the influence again (you know who you are), that's fine. No one will judge you here.

Please email me by Sunday at 5 pm if you want to go. I'll send out multiple reminders. Tickets are probably like $10.50. Thanks!!

I didn't expect 20 people to go, not to mention the many compliments I received about the email ("I love your fangurrl personality, Kathleen!! ahhh!!"). I had quite a few of those. Then there was the roommate and friend who, last year, were smoking something when I came home with my brand new Twilight DVD. They thought the movie was hilarious. It kind of was, high or sober or drunk or whatever.

In any case, I had fun this year, even though I ended sitting up alone because there were hardly any seats free by the time we got there. Well, not alone. I talked to another teenage couple, who made me wonder where I can find a guy willing to go to a midnight screening of a vampire love story. I want that guy.

And as for my assessment of the movie, well, yeah. I only go for RPattz. Is that such a bad thing?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gossip Girls...and Guys...and the Fallout

There's a group on Facebook called, "Hey Med School, High School Wants Its Drama Back!" I ended up not joining this group because that sentiment is frighteningly true. Med school is exactly like high school, except everyone's over 21 (hello, booze!), people have all forgotten what second base is (if you don't score, then it doesn't count), and everyone knows way too much about everyone else. In some ways, that camaraderie is a very special thing. In other ways, your privacy just committed suicide. Forget about it. It vanished the second you put that stethoscope around your neck for the very first time.

I can feel a rant coming on, so I'll restrain myself. I should tell you that I try to avoid gossip; I really, truly do. Rumors are dangerous, shallow, and usually false. But people flock to those juicy tidbits about other people's lives. There is an obsession with covert knowledge, with being privy to something that really doesn't concern you at all. I know this because it's happened to me, and I'm sure I'm not alone. But sooner or later, you hear a rumor about yourself, and the fun is gone.

I usually don't mind rumors/gossip/talk about my life, maybe because I don't care, or maybe because I tend to shake things off within a day or two. But I'm human, too. I get hurt. Doesn't everyone, at some time or another?

I didn't want to come on here and preach about gossip, as I'm certainly not one to talk. I'm surrounded by the same 150 people every single day, and some things reach my ears and leave my mouth. I'll admit that. But the next time you feel tempted to spread some juicy info about someone else, ask yourself this:

Who cares?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

City Jumping

This morning I talked to my cousin, a very recent college grad, about the joys of relocating to a new city. I remember the day I decided to move 1,000 miles out of my comfort zone to the heart of the Midwest. I didn't know a soul in Chicago when I moved there. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I've known people who started life in a certain place, spent the next eighty years there, and died never knowing anything else. My grandmother was like this. She flew out to Chicago for a wedding (her brother's), and flew back to Philly the same day. That day-trip satisfied her for life. She had no regrets. Philadelphia, for 92 years, was her home. How could anyone argue with that?

Most of my family, in fact, followed a similar trajectory of real-life experience. Born and bred in one place, lived there forever, never had a desire to move. I always thought I'd do the same thing. When I went away to college (a traumatic 45 minutes from home!), I came home every weekend for months. Missed my parents, my childhood, my privacy. For two years, I despised living "so far away" from home.

And yet somehow, in the span of two years, I decided to make a move. I took a job in Chicago after graduation, lived there for a year, and came to love a place as foreign to me as the moon. I still love Chicago. I think I'll end up there, if I have my way.

The next city on my list was Boston, another city I'd never really seen, visited, or experienced beyond a few books and movies. I hated Boston at first (lousy first impression, we'll leave it at that), but it grew on me. I became a die-hard Sox fan, explored a healthy chunk of New England, and learned to savor my long underwear. I made wonderful friends, worked a 9 to 5 job, and grew up.

And now, four years after college, I've ended up in San Francisco. My family thinks I'm nuts, by the way. Never in a million years did they think I'd move across the country for med school. But here I am, doing my stint in San Francisco, a city that has somehow become my home in spite of the bizarre California culture. I will never be a Californian, and I'm anxious to return to my roots. California is a weird place. San Francisco is even weirder. But living here is an experience worth having, even if SF and I don't quite click.

Next on the list (and believe me, I've thought about this), is probably New York. Or London. Or maybe somewhere truly off the radar. I haven't decided. I'm just grateful for the opportunity.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Favorite Book Convo

Last night at approximately 4:30 am (hey, it's a Saturday, that's allowed), I was having a deep discussion with two lawyers about books. The subject wandered from Michigan football (which is not my forte), to fine wines (also not my forte), to favorite novels. Lawyer Number One informed me that every work of fiction should include four ingredients:

1. Who Are We?
2. Who Are They?
3. What are we trying to do?
4. What are they trying to do to us?

Can you tell this person works in litigation? He talked quite a bit about this literary theory of his, which he developed while studying literature at Oxford. I still haven't figured out the relevance of that little tidbit, but he made sure I knew it. And that's fine. I'm okay with hearing people's resumes as long as I don't have to share mine.

His favorite book was Don Quixote. I am embarrassed to say I've never read that book. The other lawyer said Hermes, the comic. I've never read that either. He almost said Hemingway, which I found amusing because just the other night, a different friend told me that "anyone who likes Hemingway has a stick up his ass, and is therefore a moron." That person's favorite writer, by the way, is JayZ. To each his own.

I never revealed my favorite book to my lawyer friends, maybe because I didn't feel like arguing with an Oxford-educated litigator. I understand the merits of not caring what people think, but at 4:30 in the morning, I don't feel like defending myself. I feel like sleeping.

I did, however, mention my favorite contemporary author. For the record, they both liked Cormac McCarthy. Is there anyone who doesn't like Cormac McCarthy? I have no problem admitting I tried to read The Road, and I put that thing down. I can't handle the man's writing style. There, I said it.

Which brings me to the point of this post. My favorite books are all great stories. I love story. I crave story. If the story sucks, I stop turning the pages. I appreciate beautiful writing and masterful characters and deep themes and all that, but if the story isn't there, why bother? I have a notoriously short attention span. Entertain me. At the very least, I'll park my butt in a chair and finish the book.

I'm not saying a great story implies great writing, or even a great book. But when that connection is there, I'm sold. My favorite contemporary writer, for example, is Dennis Lehane, who keeps me turning the pages like a woman possessed. But even more than that (and this is where Lehane rises above the Grishams and the Browns), he writes beautifully. Here's a guy who specializes in commercial fiction, but he can write a paragraph about love or heartbreak or loss that sticks with me for weeks. Read Shutter Island. There's a passage in there about the tragedy of first love that just about killed me.

Of course this is my opinion, but I'm okay with the fact that I'm kind of low-brow when it comes to favorite books. I've read the classics, don't get me wrong. And I've loved many of them. But I'm a sucker for story, and if the book doesn't have that, you've lost me as a reader.

Friday, November 6, 2009

So Many Words

Today was a weird day...I took my roommate to the oral surgeon's office for some wisdom teeth fun, drove her home, went to class for an hour, then came home and edited. I've been doing a lot of editing lately. This is due to the fact that I've done a lot of writing lately. And here's where my love of numbers comes in...

In 2009, I've written an official manuscript count of [...calculating...] whoa. A lot. I don't know if I should be embarrassed or proud that I've used so much of my time in med school to write fiction. Let's see:

Novels: 463,590 words
Short Stories: 95,364 words

And who knows what else...

I haven't queried all of the novels, and the ones I did query, I did so half-heartedly. I gave up easily, I guess. I've developed a thicker skin over time, but I also think my writing has improved. And by improved, I mean scarily, tremendously, mind-numbingly improved. My first draft had so many adverbs it doesn't even sound like English to me anymore (can you excuse me those three?). But that said, my first novel remains my favorite. I think it has the best story of anything I've ever written, and I hope at some point it sees the light of day. I'll hold out hope until it rots in that trunk.

As for genre, the sad fact is that writing whatever the hell you feel like writing is nice if you're writing for yourself. But I got to a point where writing for myself felt like a wasted effort. While I don't despise reading my own writing, I'd like someone else to pick up a book with my name on it, escape in it for a few hours, and consider the whole experience time well-spent. That's all I want. I'm not going for a Pulitzer here. I just want to write a good story, maybe even a popular story, which more than one person (ie. myself) can enjoy.

Anyway, I got off track. My initial genre (the self-indulgent one) was something along the lines of women's fiction with a philosophical/medical theme. The closest comparison I can make in terms of genre is something like The Time Traveler's Wife. And then I read about the market, realized I have no publishing credentials, got more than a few rejections, and decided to switch gears.

Now I'm writing YA, and whoa, the rumors are true. This is the genre to be in right now. I don't have a problem writing to the market - in fact, I think I'm probably better suited for the YA crowd. But to get so many requests for partials/fulls in one week was eye-opening for me. There is definitely a lot of truth to the publishing trends.

I'm technically between projects at the moment, but if I find an agent for my YA novel, I'll work on the next book in the series. Until then, I'll continue to edit the first book. One agent gave me tremendous advice about the manuscript, and I'm trying to work in her comments. I'm always grateful for an agent's advice, however brief. If only I had more betas...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Shot

Disclaimer: I love med school, and I take it very seriously. I've also got a sense of humor (or so I'd like to think). Just wanted to make sure no one misreads the tone of these posts or anything...

Anyway, today I glimpsed the most coveted commodity in America. A drug in short supply, high demand, limited quantity. Two cc's of a clear liquid that looks more like water than a lifesaver (well, a week saver). I mean, really. A week is valuable. Who wants to be sick and miserable for seven days?

I was shadowing a pediatrician in Oakland who "has connections," and somehow ended up with 500 doses of the H1N1 vaccine. I'm the meek, powerless med student who follows him all over the place, making conversation with kids and parents and people who think I'm an actual doctor because I have a stethoscope around my neck. I like talking to patients, though. When a little girl told me she wanted to be a doctor when she grows up, I don't think I stopped smiling for the rest of the day.

But back to the shots. It seemed like every single resident of North Oakland got that shot today - the kids, the parents, the administrative staff, the pharmacists down the street, even some guy who looked like he'd walked off the neighborhood basketball court. But not me. No, according to the California Health Department (ie. God), med students are disposable. No shots for us. We aren't "high risk" enough.

The pediatrician, bless his heart, probably would have given me one if I had asked. But then I started babbling about my last shot, during which I passed out and woke up crying. This was a year ago (yes, I'm 26. I know what you're thinking. I get it). And yes, I'm aware of my career choice. I understand the problem here.

But today I would have slipped that doctor some serious cash (ten bucks, at least) for that H1N1 shot. I've never wanted anything so badly in my life. I don't want the Swine Flu. I don't want chills, fever, nausea, a week from hell. And don't listen to the hype about "negative side effects." The only negative side effect is the 1.3 second pinch you feel in your arm.

So that was my day. I never got the shot, and I'll probably get the flu, and I'll be thinking about this day when I'm sprawled out on my couch with ginger ale and a pissed-off roommate.

If I haven't convinced you to get the vaccine, then that's fine. I'll get your dose one of these days. And when I do, I'll come back here and talk about the day I passed out, cried, and lost my dignity. I'm probably worse than your four-year-old, and I'm okay with that. We all have our weaknesses.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sample Day

So...what to write for my first post?

After 4 seconds of deliberation, I'm thinking a snapshot of a typical day in med school would be appropriate. For the record, I go to UCSF, a pretty fantastic institution in San Francisco. I love it here. The Pass/Fail system helps.

Today I woke up around 10:30 (oh God, first secret out of the bag), and staggered out of bed to check some e-mails and read some Rob Pattinson news. My online schedule mentioned something about lecture from 8 to noon, but I don't go to those. After attending lectures the first month of school, I came to appreciate the value of sleep. Since then, sleep has always trumped the opportunity to sit in a lecture hall and zone out for a few hours.

After the e-mails and Twitter updates, I took the Muni (SF's transit system) to Posh Bagel, my favorite food establishment in SF. Yes, you read that right. In a city known for its culinary delights (and a restaurant called French Laundry I just heard about today), I've given my heart to a bagel place. Can you understand now why I will never fit into California culture? I can't wait to go back to the East Coast. There, I said it. California, you suck. Sometimes. I like your weather, though.

I camped out at Posh Bagel for about 30 minutes, my maximum study time for the day. It's true, my attention span for studying things like cells and cancer and diseases is about 30 minutes. Under pressure, that number can change. But we don't have a test for another 10 days, so I'm coasting right now.

Feeling satisfied, I attended my sole mandatory class for the day, something called GAP lab. GAP = Gross and Pathology. Gross as in gross anatomy. As in gross. I abhor anatomy. I have the utmost respect for those people who donated their bodies for the benefit of future doctors, but whoa, I hate dead bodies. I could dedicate an entire post to this subject, but I'll save that for another day.

After the misery known as GAP lab, I went for a run with my running (ie. gossip) partner. We dished. I said too much. We agreed, for the thousandth time, that information shared on a run stays on a run. Have I mentioned that med school is just like high school, except worse?

After a 5-mile run through Golden Gate Park, I had to film something for our Class Play. The Class Play is 2 hours of random skits, performances, and drunken monologues about the funnier moments of med school. I'm the star of a skit called "The Med School Approach to Dating." If this hits youTube, my career is over.

I did that for a while, then had eggs for dinner, then came back here and watched the World Series with my roommate. She doesn't understand sports. In fact, she hates them and wants to write a book called "Sports and Why They Suck." She has it all planned out. But at least she's a Phillies fan. These are the kinds of things that matter, right?

And now I'm exhausted. Darts at the local bar later? Well sure, there's always time for darts.