Archive for March, 2009

I get an E for Effort, though, right?

The Brit left this past weekend for a two week business trip to Asia, leaving me alone to contemplate the subtle layer of blubber that crept up behind me and latched onto my arse these last few months. Not that I was surprised to find it there…one should expect these things when one makes the administrative decision to respond to stress by wrapping every edible thing in sight in prosciutto and pan frying it in olive oil. It didn’t strike me as problematic until I considered wrapping prosciutto in prosciutto and pan frying it in olive oil. Delicious, yes…but only worth it if I commit to elastic banded pants for the rest of my life.

So I decided to suppress the prosciutto habit by replacing it with another one – Yoga. It’d been a few years since my days of Bikram Yoga, but how hard could it be, am I right? Surely it’s just like getting’ back in the ol’ saddle…or in this case, a long, narrow, poorly ventilated studio with a bunch of half naked, hairy hippies all striving to achieve inner peace by way of assuming the Downward Facing Dog position. Weeee!

There’s a yoga studio right in my barrio, around the corner, in fact, so I went. Anticipating that I’d embarrass myself by sweating and grunting like a greased-up pig penned in for the big pig-chase event at the county fair …I got there early enough to get a place at the back. And then proceeded to enter through the door at the front of the studio. This boded poorly. I ended up front and center, directly under the loving gaze of our radiant instructor whose slender, chiseled body seemed backlit in an ethereal glow that I imagine is bestowed only upon those who’ve achieved the yogic strength and flexibility to fellate themselves. I’d probably glow too.

She asked those of us who weren’t regulars to raise our hands and introduce ourselves.

“Hi,” I said, “I’m La Cubana Gringa.” And I have a Prosciutto Problem.

What transpired thereafter remains hazy. Suffice it to say that two Ommmm’s, five downward facing dogs, and one “here, let me help push you a little deeper into that stretch by placing my surprisingly strong hands on the small of your back and forcing together two surfaces of your body that Mother Nature never intended to come into contact with each other” later, I became acutely aware of the room closing in around me and the voice of God telling me to move toward the light. He didn’t outright say it but I got the distinct impression that if I followed the light, I’d be rewarded with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. I regained consciousness in the downward facing dog position. No chocolate chip cookies in sight. Clearly the hand of Satan was at work there.

I limped home in a post-ictal state and then came to the realization that all the light and the voice of God and the warm cookie business wasn’t so much a delusion as it was a prophecy. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that within my pantry cabinets were all the necessary ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. Which I then made.



Pass me the searing hot accupuncture needle

Checking voicemail rates highly up there on the list of things I’d gladly trade for the chance to have hot accupuncture needles jabbed into my eyeballs.  It’s right up there with euthanizing lab rats, running uphill, and listening to any song (rap, opera, yodeling or otherwise) that violates the rules of syntax and grammar for the sake of having the lyrics rhyme.   (I’m going to go ahead and call you out on this one, Juvenile, the words “ass” and “bad” cannot be made to rhyme by just adding “yeah” to the end of them.)  So, anyway, what I’m sayin’ is, I don’t enjoy checking voicemail messages.  Don’t ask me to rationalize it, there’s no explanation for it.  Just…no me gusta. 

The only reason I mention this is because the other day,  I unexpectedly got out of work early enough to go to the SF municipal transport office (to see about getting a residential street parking permit) before it closed.  I took a number and the only remaining empty seat in the room only to realize moments later that I’d wedged myself  between a guy who was checking his voice mail ON SPEAKER PHONE and another guy who was listening to his headphones loud enough for the entire waiting room to hear the atrocities being perpetrated against grammar in the particular song he was (we were)  listening to. 

I’m about to strip and I want it quick
Can you handle me the way I are?

You have SEVEN!! new messages!!  Message number…one from… four…one…five…three…three…nine…two…four…seven…seven on Monday…March twenty…third at…four…fifteen…pee…emmm:  Hi Doug!  DUDE!!!  Are you coming out tonight or WHAT???…[DELETE] Message number…two from…four…one…five…

Somewhere, out in space, the planets and the stars were aligning against me.  Surely a litter of innocent lab rats minding their own business was being brutally murdered somewhere while Celine Dion* was signing to the tune of something Kenny G* was playing on sax…ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

* Also on the list.

What communion might be like if Satan got a hold of it

I have this distinct memory of sitting in a GI lecture in medical school.  We were learning about different anastomoses (pleural for “anastomosis”, the medical term for the surgical joining of  two organs or spaces that are not normally connected).  As one who has performed countless numbers of these since med school, the term “anastomosis” is now part of the language that I speak routinely…but at the time, it was a shiny, brand new word.  My friend, E, was sitting next to me in lecture, scribbling furiously in his notebook.  He wasn’t predisposed to feverish note-taking so I leaned in to see what he was up to.   He’d drawn his loose interpretation of an anastomosis, an image that I will never likely forget.  Behold, my dear three readers…below is my recreation of E’s original drawing: 

That shit still makes me laugh.  (Thanks for that, E.)

I’m not sure how we arrived at the topic but I was telling my colleagues about E’s drawing today while we were scrubbed in on a case.  The attending surgeon I was working with chuckled and then mentioned this one time when he was proofreading a transcribed operative report that he’d dictated.   He’d made mention in his dictation of the incidental finding of “fibroids in the uterus” of the patient.  But that’s not what the transcriptionist heard.  Below, I give you my schematic recreation of the transcriptionist’s interpretation…

Fireballs in the Eucharist.  That was actually transcribed into a patient’s medical record.  And she thought her biggest problem was a few benign tumors in her uterus?  Little did she know that what actually sprung forth from her loins was ARMAGEDDON!

In the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Pita

In an effort to lead as healthy a life as possible, The Love Muscle is giving up glutens and sugar, leaving the dirty work of wheat & sweet-eating to the rest of us.  It’s a hard job.  But somebody’s going to have to eat The Carbs.  Fully embracing my role, I began by attacking the bag of Kettle Corn in Mamacusa & TLM’s pantry this past weekend.  Across the kitchen counter from me, The Brit snacked on a stash of their Pita Chips. 

“You know, kettle corn’s not exactly healthy for you,” The Brit judged.

“Oh?  And those Pita Chips?”

“Well, I figure if they’re good enough for Jesus, they’re good enough for me.”

“Jesus ate Pita Chips?”

“Ok.  Maybe not Pita chips, but definitely Pita.”

“Not loaves and fishes?”

“Nope.  Pita.”

Someone should let the Pita People know about the marketing opportunity they’ve been missing.

Home is where the Hope is

We flew up to Oregon this past weekend to see Mamacusa and The Love Muscle.  Now, I’ve flown enough times to know that, in the event of an aeronautical disaster, the best strategy is to chug your alcoholic beverage, dramatically clutch your carry-ons that have invariably shifted during turbulence,  and in the calmest way possible (so as not to upset your neighbors), scream bloody murder.   So, needless to say, I rarely pay much attention to the monotone drone of whichever flight attendant has drawn the short straw and has to read the emergency instructions…usually a fantastically boring piece of literature in and of itself. 

But on Friday afternoon, as I sat in between two strangers several rows behind The Brit (who sat between two other strangers) on a packed flight, our lead flight attendant commanded our attention with one simple thing:  his humor. 

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen…I have something personal to share with you today.  Today, I have the extreme pleasure of being able to fly with my beautiful and lovely wife, Julie.”  

Julie, slightly embarrassed, smiled sweetly at the passengers from her position in the aisle. 

“And now my beautiful wife Julie, together with my ex-wife Jennifer, will demonstrate the safety features of this Boeing 737 for you!” 

The entire plane laughed (some, I won’t say who, may have even snorted), and, as if we were a single head attached to one neck, turned simultaneously toward the back of the plane to get a good gander at Jennifer.  Well accustomed to the gag, she was smiling sweetly back at all of us.  (And if it wasn’t a gag, the guy had definitely made a lateral move.)

He kept going, “In the event of a loss in cabin pressure, four oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling.  First step?  Stop screaming.  Second is to put on your face mask.  Third is to resume screaming.”  See?  He’s in the know. 

“In the event that this flight becomes a cruise, simply reach under your seats for your life vests.  There should be enough for everyone.  Should we remain airborne for the anticipated duration of the flight, please do not smoke in any of the lavatories…and do not tamper with or dismantle any of the lavatory smoke detectors or webcams as this is a federal offense.”

Later, as we were landing, the wheels of the plane just touching down on the runway, “Whoa Nelly! WHOOOOOOOOAAAA Nelly!!!” he screamed into the intercom.  He followed this with his best imitation of the clip-clopping noises of horse hooves, getting slower and slower as the plane broke harder and harder. Then, as the plane docked at the gate,  “We’d like to be the first to welcome you to the beautiful, wonderful, world-famous entertainment capital of the United States:  Portland!”

And here I thought it was Boca Raton, Florida this whole time.

Our flight crew made the trip up a funny one, which is always a good thing…especially considering that it seems like planes have been crashing into things and/or landing in the Hudson River these days almost as often as they’ve been landing safely.  If I was going to die, I’d rather die laughing at the thought of my last ever piss going viral on youtube via aircraft webcam.  At least I wore cute panties.

The weekend visit was a good one, though brief.  TLM is thinner than when I last saw him but then again, so is Mamacusa.  TLM’s excuse:  no stomach.  Mamacusa’s:  the little-known Cardio-Rectal Nerve of Exasperrhia, an anatomic anomaly that shows a predominance amongst hispanic mothers and wives.  I’ve written about this before.  All it takes is the slightest bit of emotional upset and voila!  Throw a husband diagnosed with stomach cancer in there and she gets many, many voila’s.  The upside of all of this?  They’ll both look great in tomorrow’s professional photo shoot.

All humor aside, considering the circumstances, Mamacusa and TLM are holding up well.  TLM is recovering from his February gastrectomy and has been, just in the last couple weeks, working solid food back into his diet.  For those of you wondering how one without a stomach goes about eating, the anatomic connections have gone from this (pre-surgery):


To this (post-surgery):


So, simply put, his food just goes straight through to his small intestines now…something that takes a body a bit of time to adjust to.  Among the many small miracles that I witness daily in my work, though, is the ability of the human body to adapt to what we subject it to.  Even more miraculous than that is the strength of the human spirit.  And boy does TLM have spirit.  Cancer hasn’t robbed him of even an inch of it.  And while we all grasp at the few straws of control that any of us have in this…while I comb the traditional medical literature and call in favors to med school friends, TLM reads books & searches the internet for alternative medicine options, Mamacusa busies herself with her newfound religion of dutifully counting/calculating/cataloguing TLM’s caloric intake (for his nutritionist)…we all keep our spirits lifted and hopeful.  Hopeful that there’s a miracle out there with TLM’s name on it. 

So if you have a religion…next time you pray, or chant, or meditate, or yogatate, or levitate, (or even flatulate…beggers can’t be choosey)…send my peeps some positive energy.

No telling whether she’ll go through the Goth Phase

There’s a small cluster of about a dozen cherry blossom trees near work, nearly all of which are still bare.  Except for this one. 


The first one to bloom.  She’s quite beautiful but she’s probably all embarrassed to be the first one in her class to have her buds showing.  Probably a case of precocious puberty.  Before you know it, she’ll have pubes.  Then it’s only a matter of time til she starts caking on the mascara, teasing her hair, skipping class, and dating that tattooed guy with the Honda Prelude  just to spite her mother.

At least until we have kids of our own

I’ve never experienced The Rapture before but if I had to wager a guess, I’d bet the transcendence is similar to that which I underwent tonight when I came home from work to find this:


Behold.  Clean floors. 

Usually, all along the footboard, there are tumbleweeds made up primarily of my hair and a combination of dust, pubes and whatever MRSA, diptheria, hepatitis and/or syphillis has attached itself to the bottom of my work shoes (my hospital shoes not my brothel shoes).  The rest of the house is usually in a state of moderate to severe disarray…mostly as a result of neglect due to each of our 80 hour work weeks but also because of The Brit’s insistance on leaving beer bottle caps wherever he pleases and my God given right to leave tea mugs wherever I please. 

When The Brit first suggested we hire a housekeeper to help ward off the hallway tumbleweeds and whatever was growing out of our kitchen sink, nothing seemed more ridiculous.  I come from a long line of Cubans who wholeheartedly believe that no one is above cleaning their own toilet.  The Cuban solution to running out of hands to help with the housework?   It’s simply to have another kid.  My brother and I came out of the womb complete with utility belts stocked with Pine Sol, Ajax and a Brillo pad…we knew our place.

So anyway, it seemed like an insane idea…I’d never before hired anyone to help with housework.  But then, one day, something slimy and amorphous rose in a finger-like flagellum from the depths of our sink drain, tapped me on the shoulder, and pointed out to me that it was probably time.  So we got a housekeeper to come in once a month and do some general clean up.  I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that but the concept of coming home to lickable hardwood floors might just be worth it.


The madness featured here is mine and mine alone. It does not, in any way, reflect the madness of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family, or my colorful friends. The privacy of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family and colorful friends is sacred & deeply respected, so no names. All words Copyright © la cubana gringa, no method, just madness 2006-2010. All comments © their authors. Don't steal; it's not nice. (And my Grandfather knows people.)

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