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Next up: lathering myself up with chum and free diving off the coast of the Bahamas

So, let it be stated here and now that when one goes from working an obscene number of hours each week to NOT, there’s only so much one can do to fill one’s time before one gets batshit crazy with listlessness.  Sure, there were stacks of mail to go through and an expired driver’s license in need of renewal (lest I get pulled over for my erratic, drunk-and-mad-with-glee-over-being-done-with-residency woman-driving and get handed a ticket and a lovely little misdemeanor!1) but that would be SENSIBLE.  And this was no time for sensibleness!!  Sensibleness = Boring!  THIS…this time between residency and starting The Real Job required something more distinguished, more exciting.  Like impromptu dancing in the streets!  So I did that.  But no one followed my lead and it didn’t turn out to be the local, independent Xanadu-reprisal experience I’d hoped it would be.  (And I thought San Francisco would have my back on this one!) So, next best thing:  a vacation!

This brought me to my next dilemma:  where to go!?  I wanted to go on a dive trip, because summer = diving.  So, Australia?  Thailand?  Cozumel?  Maui?  A toughy, because they all offer great diving opportunities and because I regard kangaroos, vagina ping-pong, Mexican fine dining, and getting lei’d all of equal caliber on The Enjoyment Scale.

This, as one of my friends put it, was quite The White Collar Problem.  Kind of like:  Shall I have the Black Sea Caviar or the Maine Lobster Risotto?  Shall I purchase the offensively expensive Louis Vuitton bag or settle for the absurdly priced Versace one?  I’d never had a white collar problem before but it seemed like a pretty good problem to have!  At least the vacation problem, which was a real dilemma.  As for the fictional ones, I’d go with the lobster risotto every time and I’d use the money it would cost to buy a Louis Vuitton bag to erect a small orphanage in a third world country.  And then I’d feed all the orphans lobster risotto.  I’m a foodie AND a giver, what can I say.

Because I had a few weeks at my disposal, I could literally go ANYWHERE.  At this realization, I laughed maniacally, heady with the power of it all.  And then I remembered that The Brit didn’t have any vacation time.  So if I wanted to be nice, I would choose a place that was close enough for him to meet me for the weekend.  Be nice?  Be mean?  Nice?  Mean?  Nice.  Fine, we’ll go to Maui.  Sighhhh.  The burdens of marriage, am I right ladies??

So.  We went to Maui!  I went for five days, and The Brit joined me for three of them.  And it was lovely.  Palm trees always equal happiness to me and there were plenty of them.  Our hotel was small and quaint, setting it apart from the high rises of Kahana or Wailea…and it had a small, private beach on which The Brit and I, starting on opposite ends, could run towards each other with arms outstretched, hair aglow with the light of the setting sun, in slow motion…just like in the movies.  I mean, if we’d WANTED to.  We totally would have had we not been preoccupied with the important business of eating the local pineapple and drinking all the local beer (aloha, coconut porter!) and diving with all the local fishies and turtles.

Which brings me to a couple of points I’d like to make about SCUBA diving.  Firstly, for as long as it is a sport that requires a wetsuit, the act of donning and doffing it will always result in comedy for me and those within ass-reach.  My behind is a well-described phenomenon and, let’s be frank, it just doesn’t obey the conventional laws of size and proportion.  You know how Hallmark has a special Mahogany Line of cards specifically targeted to meet the needs of the African American community?  Well, I think ScubaPro should create a similarly inspired line of wetsuits…to meet the needs of African Americans AND chicas latinas like me who are built like a sista.  Until then, I’ll just have to grease myself up like a pig at a county fair to squeeze myself into wetsuits made for the mere butt-depraved mortal.  It’s a good time.  Bring the fam.  And some popcorn. It could take a while.

Secondly, I’ve discovered that I’m way less of a scaredy cat that I was when I first started diving.  Astute readers and real-life friends will recall a certain perforating of a certain tympanic membrane which resulted a certain degree of anxiety about ever getting back in the water again.  The Brit’s solution to helping me overcome my fear of ear explosions?  Taking me to French Polynesia and throwing me in with the sharks.  Like, I’m not even kidding.  Fucking sharks.  Check it:

The dive master in FP told me that if you want sharks to maintain a distance from you then there were two things you could do:  continue blowing lots of bubbles (because REAL fish don’t blow bubbles and sharks prefer real fish to human ones with self-contained underwater breathing apparatuses (apparati?) for dorsal fins) and refrain from wearing bright colors.  Like yellow fucking flippers.  Sweet.   As far as I was concerned, folding myself up into a C-shape to blow bubbles AT my yellow flippers only served to cancel the benefit of one out with the disadvantage of the other, leaving me vulnerable to a life-threatening shark attack.  I was most certainly going to die. Fuck my ear drums!

Now, admittedly, what we saw in FP were only reef sharks.  Compared to the Tiger or Bull shark, the Reef shark is practically a vegetarian.  He eats like grass and plankton and shit.  And by shit I mean fish that are much smaller than my ass.  (And he probably really doesn’t eat grass or plankton.)  But still.  Fucking shark, nonetheless.

We saw sharks on every single dive we did in French Polynesia.  Every. Single. Dive.  I survived the ordeal with but a few flesh wounds (mostly from being attacked by the inanimate coral which quite rudely, on occasion, got in my way), an intact pair of ear drums, and a sense of pride that only the battle weary possess.  I may have shit my wetsuit2 but I made it out of, like, The Vietnam of shark encounters and lived to tell the story.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t Vietnam, but it was at least The Gulf Conflict.

So, when we were in Maui and we came across this little 3 foot long fella:

Other divers were like:  OMG, it’s a fucking shark!  I knew this, even underwater, because they were putting their hand up to their forehead to simulate a shark fin while opening their eyeballs really wide in abject fear; universal underwater sign for “OMG, it’s a fucking shark!”   While they were all busy soiling themselves, I was like:  Pssh!  Pfft!  Whatevs.  You don’t even KNOW what I’ve lived through.

1.Did you know it’s a misdemeanor to drive with an expired license?  I was recently quite surprised to find that mine expired in 09.  OH NINE.  WTF?
2. Ok, so I didn’t shit in it.  But I did pee in it.


I won’t start getting panicky until I hit my early late 30’s

I distinctly recall being eight and thinking that people in their 20’s were old.1  People in their 30’s were washed up has-beens.  And actual old, wrinkled people?  They were already dead, just hanging out until there was an open slot in purgatory.  Or outer space. 

Then again, when I was eight, I also thought that I had my finger on the pulse of the 1980’s fashion movement.  There was this one outfit that I put together all by myself.  It combined an aqua tie-dyed Minnie mouse t-shirt that came to my belly button with a pink tank top underneath (I wasn’t allowed to show my belly button because only sluts showed their belly buttons.) with a white floral-print denim knee-length skirt (I wasn’t allowed to wear above-the-knee skirts because only sluts wore mini-skirts.  Only sluts watched Dirty Dancing too.  Pearls of wisdom from Mamacusa.) with three pairs of tube socks (pink, blue, yellow…to match the flowers on the denim skirt) scrunched down to look like tri-colored leg warmers and white reebok high-top Velcro sneakers.   Man, I rocked that shit.  I had to beat the boys away with my enormous, blue, plastic/metal combo framed grandma glasses. 

If I had a time machine, I’d travel back to my eight year old self, counsel her on the future photographic ramifications of that outfit, and then I’d sit down and watch Dirty Dancing with her.  (I was eight in 1985 and the movie wouldn’t even come out for another two years but, fuck it, nobody puts Baby in the corner!)  Then, I’d give her a post-movie talk about how 20 is not old…and, you know what?  Neither is 30.  In fact, in the future, this is how we will regard one’s 30’s:

The Thirties: 
30 –late, late, late 20’s
31 – early early 30’s
32 – mid early 30’s
33 – late early 30’s
34 – early mid 30’s
35 – mid 30’s
36 – late mid 30’s
37 – early late 30’s
38 – mid late 30’s
39 – late late 30’s
40 – late late late 30’s

So, see!  I’m only in my late early 30’s…I’ve still got AGES before I should start carelessly spending my retirement money and telling people what I REALLY think of them!

1.  This may have something to do with the fact that when I was 8, my Mamacusa was 27.  God, she was a loose woman!  one might think.  Perhaps, yes, but more importantly, she was a MARRIED loose woman.

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!

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.

She had me at “sashimi”

The above photo was taken by The Brit on our honeymoon in French Polynesia back in October.  Every time the San Francisco Cold sneaks under the tank top that’s under my OTHER tank top that’s under my scrub top that’s under my sweater and I need a dose of sunshine, I just browse through our honeymoon photos.  Instant fix of summer.  This is one of the motu’s around Maupiti…a cruel seductress with her crystal clear water and her heaping plates of fresh tuna sashimi.  To be able to afford to go back there, we’d have to either start up another honeymoon registry or I’d have to start hooking.  If it doesn’t start warming up around here soon, I just might consider it.

Also, there were no drive-by’s! Bonus!

It’s been a shit 2009 thus far, we’ve already established that. And on those days when I feel like the cosmos owes me a Moment of Happiness, I get it by sitting down at my computer and looking through a few dozen pictures from 5 months ago. Back then everyone was healthy and happy and the primary focus was consuming enough alcohol at our wedding reception to ensure that the bar lost money. With 40% of our guests coming from England, the land where pubs provide nipples for mothers to attach to pint glasses for their nursing infants, we figured our odds were decent.

Five months ago today, we were at the tail end of a long week spent readying for a 150 person wedding. Most sane people probably don’t decide to wait until the week before the event to have a bachelorette party, write personal thank you notes to each guest, assemble all the wedding programs, buy all the flowers to then MAKE all the bouquets and boutonnières, and rehearse the first dance. But that’s what we did. Because we are clinically insane. There are pills for that, I know.

While I might change a few of the timing issues (by maybe having the foresight to allow more TIME for things) I wouldn’t trade that week for anything. I went from playing Ring Around the Penis on the inflatable Peter Pecker to spending several 2 and 3 AM mornings at Kinko’s to get things printed and cut in a hurry, to then rushing home to sit at the dining room table with my Mamacusa and my very best girlfriends to hole punch, staple, tape, and ribbon everything together (THANK YOU LADIES!!). Then to the flower shop with my Mamacusa and Mum-in-law-to-be to pick out flowers…beautiful (and more importantly: CHEAP!!) flowers which we then rushed home and put together in bunches that were no less beautiful than what a florist could have arranged. Then, in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else was asleep, cramped up with carpal tunnel from working the whole punch and having sweet, sweet nightmares about another day in the wedding stationary sweat shop, The Brit and I would practice our first dance. It was a salsa dance that we’d learned in segments and had never really pieced all together. Let it be established here and now that we never did end up piecing it all together until the time came to perform it. And we totally nailed it. And by nailed it, I mean, sooo DID NOT nail it. But at least we ENTERTAINED! (And for the record, jazz hands have no place in Salsa…but that didn’t stop us.)

So anyway, on this night, five months ago, we had all of the hard work behind us. We were exhausted. But excited. And we were off to our rehearsal at the church. It was a proper rehearsal in a proper Episcopal cathedral in the proper Nob Hill neighborhood of SF. It was a good and proper event; everyone minded their manners and I believe that our wedding party was fairly good about limiting themselves to secular profanity while in the presence of God (by using words like “fuck” and “shit” rather than “Holy Shit” or “God Dammit”).  We then balanced out the holy rehearsal with a rehearsal dinner in the seedy warehouse district of SF. Nothing beats getting people all comfortably, safely swaddled in the Lord’s love at church and then plopping them amidst a bunch of abandoned buildings that are undoubtably hosting underground meth labs and the potential for a couple of drive-by’s before the night is through. (Try it!)  We had the rehearsal dinner at the salsa club where we’d spent the last couple years taking lessons. My Cuban peeps were right at home with, what I affectionately refer to as, the “Little Tijuana Charm” of the place…I just told the Brits to pay no mind to the fact that Jose working the grill probably just got out of the state penitentiary…his chicken was worth taking a bullet for. And then I gave them each some hand sanitizer. And a bullet proof vest.

We had a lovely private dinner, the club all to ourselves, and then the club opened up to the general public for an evening of salsa lessons and dancing. Since we’d put out the memo to all of our guests, the club quickly filled up with nearly all of the guests that would come the following night to our wedding. Everyone took the salsa lesson. Which means that a lot of people had their toes stepped on. But it was one of the funnest nights ever…only to be outdone, of course, by our wedding the following night. We’ll save that for tomorrow…

UPDATE: Ok, so I was going to attach photos to this post but flickr was not cooperating. Then flickr started behaving and now wordpress isn’t. Pfft. Will keep trying.

UPDATE #2: I found out the hard and unpleasant way that wordpress doesn’t allow flash. This blows. So we’ll make due with a link to the photos in flickr:



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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