Sunday, September 18, 2011

I've got friends in crawl spaces, with their heads in jars and their arms in vases. And the thunder rolls, and lightning strikes.

I think the main reason that so many people, especially interacting strangers, end up conversing about the weather is that it is one of the few things that everyone has in common. I don't think that it is a stretch to say that at Kaladi Bros Coffee, every day that I worked had to involved at least a passing comment about the weather -- granted, Denver has some incredible weather and it is one of the things I will miss about the Front Range. The house that my wife and I have in Denver and in which we spent nearly the last four years sat on a hill overlooking Central Denver (we could see the Auroria Campus and the Pepsi Center from the front of the house) and massive storm heads building to the East of town were a sight to behold, for sure. The thing is, the way the house was situated inside, there was really no vantage point for sitting and staring out the window. The room in which the office was set up had a nice view across the Platte River Valley (officially, it is called a river, but I think of it as a creek -- at best a stream) into the Downtown area and I spent way too much time staring out the window -- but then again, would I be studying medicine at Harvard had I kept the blinds closed more? Whatever. 

The summer view, from the computer chair in the office of the Denver House.

Today, as I spend a couple of hours relaxing, as there is no material from school that I am immediately responsible for, I stare out the front window from our living room at a view that quite honestly, is amazing. The window in the office at the new house is twice as big, but stares across a walkway directly at a blue wall, which is the other, smaller house that sits on the same property as our home. This home was actually just rented a few days ago, and the new tenants will not take residence for another month. It has been nice to have the property all to ourselves since July, but I recognize the need to rent it out -- especially since we are landlords ourselves. Sometimes I have to escape the office, which is necessary no matter where one studies.

View from our living room couch, looking out over the C&H Sugar Factory (which never returned my skeleton that was erroneously dropped off there) towards the Glen Cover area outside of Vallejo. 

Before I moved to Tampa, Florida a little over ten years ago I really had very little exposure to powerful thunderstorms. In Portland, Oregon, electrical storms, or even powerful storms are relatively rare. This may sound counter-intuitive but it just calmly sprinkles for the majority of periods of precipitation. Days like these in Denver are nearly unheard of, and those that we received were holiday-like for me. Perhaps the first time I really was struck by the intensity of a thunderstorm was in Edmonton, Alberta. I spent a summer there as a young teenager, and among many memorable nights I remember one where it was dark outside, meaning that it was quite a-ways into the night since the sun sets so late in the summertime due to their extreme latitude. I remember it being 15 or so of us, a sitution where everyone except me took it for granted that when the downpour began, we were to head out to the large trampoline in the back yard and get crazy on it -- while pouring liquid laundry detergent all over the nylon surface of the trampoline. In the pouring rain, watching the frequent flashes in the wall of clouds engulfing us, they then turned to identifiable lightning bolts which seemed to feed the fervor of the crazed kids on the trampoline. Someone got drop-kicked right off the trampoline into the fir trees. People landing on other people, others unable to get up from the trampling of the trampoline jumpers. It was awesome.

The next electrical storm that really got my attention occurred in a subdivision in New Tampa (which is a horribly named subdivision north of Temple Terrace, or something like that) on duty for one of the worse jobs that I've ever had -- granted, it didn't have to be as bad as I made it, but let's just say I learned a-lot from my time at the Store of Floors which sits not far from Raymond James stadium, where the Buccaneers play. Not only did I learn the craft of high-end floor installation, but I learned how much of a role I play in my very own well-being - truly a concept for the ages. The couple that owned the business only employed one other person, a long time, disgruntled man who was a Vietnam Veteran from Buffalo, New York. For the most part he treated me well, interspersed with some scathing episodes of verbal abuse.

One afternoon, in a section of subdivision new construction where the section of houses that we were installing floors in did not have power to the individual homes, but instead there was one pole every 2 or 3 lots, and the contractors would have to run heavy-gauge extension cords to run any necessary equipment. I'm sure it had been storming for days, a monsoon end to the summer in the other "Bay Area" I've lived in. It had rained enough to form a solid lake, with the pole that had the electrical drop smack in the middle of. I was told to take the extension cords and get us power -- great. I slodged through 20 meters or so to get to the middle of the small lake, which had me in mid-calf deep muddy water with rain pouring down all around me. I remember thinking that this was not how I wanted to die. I slammed the extension cord into the bank of outlets anyway and ran for it. Obviously, I was not electrocuted, that I remember -- granted I was probably faster ten years ago, but I probably would have a hard time outrunning the electricity even then.

Colorado, no doubt holds many memorable storms for me. One in particular for not the sheer size of it alone, but because I remember it happening on a afternoon spent playing in the creek in the foothills town of Lyons with some friends where I think I may have, for the first time felt at home in Colorado. I think prior to that afternoon, which occurred at least a year in to my 8 years Colorado stint, I imagined myself moving on, and sooner than later. I'll always look back with great fondness for those days.

A lake outside of Leadville, CO in the shadow of Mt. Elbert (14,433').

Even though many, "how's the weather" conversations may seem superfluous and at times, downright unnecessary, I think we as (especially here in America, where stark, unwavering media-driven opinions are the norm from so many people no matter the ideology) need to at least communicate with those around us, even if it seems insincere. I would argue, just reaching out and addressing a stranger, even if it is just to comment on the weather, is definitely is a positive thing.

Tomorrow, when I spend another 8 hours in a darkened lecture hall, I'll be sure to appreciate the requisite sunshine of the late afternoon here in Northern California as I drive home to implement my new and improved study strategies. I've been mulling over the idea that perhaps I would feel like this after every block exam for the next two years, but then again, the first time must provide the overwhelming number of lessons, which makes sense. We don't have our grades for most of the exams from last week, but I do know that in the 2 or so weeks between the first mid-block exam and the full block exam I implemented a few changes that were beneficial, which I am thinking translated to better scores. The last we took last week was an anatomy practical. I think there were 124 items we needed to identify and I was dreading this immensely. Now, remember that we don't have our scores back yet, but I actually feel as if I performed better than I feared I would. Things like that are immensely encouraging. It definitely helps me remember that I can do this, and that now that I feel like I have a sense of the work load and what exactly it'll take to perform well in medical school, I will. It makes pouring over the residency programs enjoyable versus terrifying. So, with blatant disregard for horrible cliche-like engagements, here is my admonition to everyone so that they would stop and reflect and if possible, enjoy the small, little moments in life.

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