Friday, September 12, 2014

The best summer ever

You know when you're lost without a compass (allegorical or not) and you keep saying "i've come too far to turn around now" until you're suddenly in an oh shit moment with beads of sweat dripping into and burning your eyeballs, irritability that has persisted to the point of indifference, and a culminating fear has risen to the now nihilistic prospect of your imminent death?

Ok, well for me there was NONE OF THAT this summer. This has been without question the most decadent, relaxing, and surreal holiday of my life. In my previous travels I have always sought some trace of adventure that although not always comfortable, has afforded me a repertoire of share-worthy anecdotes. I have barfed (at least thrice) in every third world country I have ever visited, slept with a knife in my hand in the fresh-out-of-war militarized zone of Trincomalee, been insisted upon the company of two armed body guards moving through the streets of San Salvador, and paid $2.50 for a room in Livingston Izabal that had been decorated by a person whose intention was to make you feel as though you were to be slaughtered there before dawn. 

While this year I admittedly vomited again, I must clarify that it was not because the chef had sprinkled fecal matter onto my samosa, but because I had been coaxed to drink sangria (by my doctor/lawyer/scientist/writer/mathematician friends) while sailing the Mediterranean. Like, ON A BOAT. Like, on a boat on the water with a sail thingy. While wearing a gold watch and a sarong and a designer bikini. There was no damp duvet smelling of human bodies, no shigellosis, no firearms, and no fear. My pedicure was intact. This vacation was different. 

August 1st began with the honeymoon suite overlooking Santorini's caldera. It was by far the fanciest hotel I've ever stayed, so when I walked out of the room the first day in my decade-old powder pink gym shorts and the housekeeper stopped me to whisper "Miss, you cannot go upstairs like that", I thought I had made a mistake by booking a place reserved for pretentious snobs. But during the five seconds of mental exhaustion in which I began to formulate my righteous rebuttal, I realized that she was actually an angel sent from the heavens of the Tholos Resort itself, saving me from impending social suicide in a moment where I had unknowingly been gifted an early arrival of my biological alarm clock saying: "you're fertile, but not pregnant". 

We spent three blissful days going on long explorative strolls, shoving souvlaki into every orifice, and drinking adult beverages in our private jacuzzi. And you know what? I don't even feel a little bit bad about it. 

There's something magical that happens when people who are used to traveling decide instead to take a vacation. There is a difference people. We unwound and we relaxed. In the absence of vigilance we had the chance to talk to each other about current events, music, literature. To ask questions other than: "honey, where are the quinolones?" or "are you still pooping blood?" or "do you think those guys are going to rob us?". We had our guards down, and in the process were reminded of our mutual peculiarities. Had Giulio not acquired a farmer tan on day 1 and I not perpetually eaten ungodly amounts of raw onions, I'd say we might have fallen in love all over again. 

On day four we packed up for Milos. We had five days there zooming around on ATVs, wandering through every deserted beach we could find, wrangling vipers in the desert (lies), and covering our bodies in baklava. 

Then we met up with our friends Bruno and Valentina, Bruno's uncle Guglielmo, and Guglielmo's longtime friend "Bob" for a week of sailing. We started in Athens and made our way down to Cape Sounion, Kythnos, Serifos, Sifnos, and eventually back to Milos. Over the course of the week I barfed once, Giulio almost barfed twice, and one person not to be named took multiple craps in the ocean (it wasn't me, Valentina, Guglielmo, or Bob). I was assured that this was in line with standard sailing etiquette, but have some doubts about the veracity of such an assertion.

And with that, late night talks of constellations under an ouzo illuminated sky came to a halt.

The day after we returned from Greece, my best friend Marah came galloping in from Montana to grace me with her presence for two weeks. If I could chain her to me without being socially chided, I would make us each other's permanent accessory.  

We started our Eurocation in Budapest under the semblance of my 30th birthday. Yarden flew in from Milan and my cousin Hannah from England. My cousin Dávid, his girlfriend Zsu, and our mutual friend Eszter came down from Pécs, and Milla sent champagne over from across the atlantic. For three days we relaxed in the bathouses, danced on many a floor, watched fireworks, took a cruise down the Danube,  braided each other's hair, and ate cream puffs in the plush beds of our presidential suite.

After the third night we flew back to Milan and immediately hopped in a car headed for the Italian Riviera. Over the weekend we hiked and ate a varied diet of prosecco, gelato, seafood, and pesto smothered on anything nontoxic or toxic.  

When we came back to Milan on Sunday night, it was mine and Marah's intention to spend the next three days hiking in the Italian Alps. But the weather was crap and we were less than enthusiastic about trudging through mud in the cold. So we started throwing around alternative ideas as a matter of playfulness, and before we knew it were paying homage to Signor C. Diem with flights booked to Ibiza for the following morning. 

I could have never imagined what we'd be in for. To summarize, we stayed in our bikinis for three days dancing to electronic dance music and nourishing ourselves on bananas, calippos, and bloody mary's (for vitamins). The good vibes were being handed out faster than condoms in Planned Parenthood. The place was magic.

And then there was Amsterdam. A decision fueled less by the inviting prospect of legalized prostitution and more by the opportunity to watch our dear friend Megan Kalmoe compete in the World Rowing Championships. We made it in time to see her take home silver in the women's pair, second to the reigning olympic gold medalists from London. Everyone was very happy.

(She's a mega babe too.)

In between rowing events, we squeezed in a little more electronic dance music at the Voltt Loves Summer Festival. Just below you can see me posing with some Dutch Hollandaise paying tribute to my country while I paid tribute to Spain. There was a lot of love in the air. And then there was Mr. G. You just need to youtube that.

And yes of course we also had some time to reap the benefits of Amsterdam's progressive attitude, a decision which we evidently found imprudently amusing. If this photo doesn't make you laugh then you must be glaringly stone cold. 

To close, I got to pass some time with my favorite Dutch man ex-colleague friend who I met four and half years prior while working in an immunology lab in Southern California. It's a beautiful thing to slam a beer with someone outside the context in which you typically know them.  

Now I'm back in Milan and the endless summer has ended. Marah and Giulio have both buggered off to faraway lands and I have found myself starving for serotonin and eating plain pasta straight from the pot in effort to convince my body to release some more.  I'm studying brain circuits which is not nearly as interesting as it sounds. I've got three computer tabs open to the effect of Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Immanuel Kant which serves to cyclically distract and depress me. I smell of mosquito repellant. My face might as well be one giant pimple. But I smile thinking back to what was really the best summer ever.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The download

I just recently completed a three-week stint in general and gastrointestinal surgery, during which two notable things occurred:

1. While performing my first mini surgery, I got squirted in the face with a creamy immunologic substance that had been previously surrounding the sebaceous cyst underlying my patient's scalp.

2. I made a new Italian language connection on the verb "scaricare". 

Let me just rewind for a second to preface this anecdote by saying that my classmates and I use the online storage network Dropbox to share notes and other school documents. It was here that I first became acquainted with the word "scarica", which through trial-and-error taught me its significance as the present tense, third-person conjugation of the verb "scaricare" which means "to download". (stay with me)

Back to the surgical ward, while doing the rounds one morning, I noticed a surfacing trend in the physician-patient dialogue, hinging on the question "Si é scaricato?"- which effectively begs the question: "Have you had a bowel movement?" In a moment when everything became illuminated, I realized "scaricato" was derived from the same great grandfather "scaricare" I had previously encountered on Dropbox, only this time it was being used to communicate an entirely different message. I have read before that the english language has something like 250,000 words (even if Southern Californians use but five: "awesome", "rad" "like" (as a filler), "burrito", and "totally") whereas the romance languages have something closer to 100,000. I don't know how accurate these kinds of estimations are, but I do know what a relief I experience every time I get lexical permission to recycle a word, particularly in the face of the daily funerals I attend for my rapidly expiring neurons. Now my favorite phrase of the month is to replace "have you pooped/defecated/crapped/taken a dump today?" with: "Have you downloaded today?" 

Which reminds me of another new word I learned and love: "GUARDONE." It's the equivalent of "lurker", "voyeur", "creeper" "skulker", and I love it for all its literality. "Guardare" in Italian means to look or watch, and when you add "one" (pronounced O-NAY) to the end of something it implies the bigger version of it. For instance. "bacio" means "kiss", "bacione" means "big kiss". GUARDONE --> big watcher. 

Speaking of creepers/guardones, I received this scandal-precipitating text from a certain curly-haired nose-pierced, shark-loving girlfriend of mine who shall remain nameless:

Today (while seated intentionally far away from the front row of our lecture hall), our opthalmology professor captured my attention by staring me down as a prelude to the life bomb I could tell he was about to drop on me (he hasn't the foggiest what my name could be and has even addressed me as "Ciao California" in passing). This morning he seemed to take a sinister pleasure in publicly inquiring whether or not I knew "I had an exotropia of my left eye."

First of all, I had drifted off into thoughts of something else and had no idea what exo-whatever was. Thankfully my computer was already open so I did a quick google image search for "exotropia". Basically what he was saying to me was:

"YO, CALIFORNIA. Your left eye is so damn googly, it makes Paris Hilton's look legit."

My friends immediately came to the rescue by generously petting my hair and lavishing me with any kind of desperation-fueled compliment. It was like they knew I was premenstrual and I could spontaneously burst into tears at any moment. But I held it together until I came home that afternoon, at which point I started my frantic iPhoto search for evidence of my rogue left eye. I'm sorry to say, that he was right:

So it seems as if I share more in common than just a locust-like avidity for cookies with this other freak of an apparently shared gene pool: 

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got an eyepatch to buy and something important to download. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Last night was agony. 

Last night I fell asleep at 10:30pm while watching Tiny Furniture, only to wake an hour later and be faced with the task of trying to mitigate my hot flashes, nightmares, and maldigestion. I'm sure the culprit was the particle of garlic that landed on my dinner plate hours before, which always manages to poison me in spite of my (clearly unrequited) fondness for it. I suppose this mirrors the paradox of most things in life.  

I go off and on with insomnia. Thankfully, my friends on the other side of the world do too and so there's relative comfort found in the fact that there's always someone in another time zone willing to talk during those otherwise lonely hours of the night. 

Last night as I lay awake, I thought about how I'm going to be thirty this summer and how I have less self-earned money in my bank account than when I was 15, answering phones in a pizza shop:

"Thanks for calling, will this be pick up or delivery?" 
"oh you want double sausage on that?" 
"Right now we have a special on a one-topping large for $14.99 plus tax." 

Fifteen years have passed and while my current days may be somewhat more intellectually seasoned than the marinara sauce at Pazzo's Pizza, I'm not convinced this to be sufficient compensation for the fact that I now reckon myself a bottom-feeding insomniac with generalized anxiety, more wrinkles, and NO MONEY. When a friend (on the other side of the world) posted on facebook this morning that he was hiring hostesses for his new restaurant, I actually considered. When I lamented my frustration to my fiancé, he recommended I consider selling my engagement ring. I'm not sure what to do.

Which at 3am brought me to the thought of all the stuff I have to do, from minor things like shopping lists, to more onerous ones like getting an Italian driver's license. Some things have been stagnating on my to-do list for years because they somehow provoke the feeling of insurmountability within me. At least once a week I walk into my kitchen with socks and step into a puddle of water. Do you know how horrible a feeling this is? My fridge has a leak and has had a leak for over three years, but the task of calling a plumber feels so Sisyphean that I'm willing to endure the suffering met with having wet socks.

Thankfully at 4am my mind switched to some of the more enjoyable events that have occurred of late. My friend Milla came to visit. Milla is hands-down the most energetic person I have ever come across who doesn't abuse illegal stimulants. She has a predilection for wine and quality people, so we did our best to provide her with the wine.

she is also the best selfie-taker I have ever seen. 

Here is her "Serious" selfie:

... And her "Look how much fun I'm having" selfie:

Anyway, she left us and made her way back to 'merica just in time to squeeze in her medical school graduation, and I immediately went back to studying for my own exams. In spite of this, we managed a hike up to the hills overlooking Lake Como, reaping the reward of not only a brilliant view shared with friends, but a bottle of Prosecco for mimosas and two big bags of fresh brioche. The bubbly made the trip down exponentially more fun, and made peeing in the woods that much less an obstacle, not that we did that. 

Naturally, my alarm clock sounded about fifteen minutes after I'd finally fallen back asleep, the only consolation for which came from the fact that it signaled it was CEREAL AND MILK TIME!! A bowl of cereal and milk coupled with a literary piece of questionable caliber has stood the test of time as being one of the most decadent of life's pleasures. So in spite of the insomnia, the financial disillusionment, and the fact that I was gifted a herpes outbreak in my right nostril this week, I still woke up happy.