Wednesday, August 31, 2005


The summer fades. The days grow shorter, the nights grow longer, the blistering heat of July is giving way slowly to the crisp coolness of September. For some, the loss of summer is a true sadness, as it is also the call of school, of an oncoming winter, and of a return to weather dreary.

Yet, for now, no such thought crosses my mind. Why?

The crunch of pad on pad at a football game. The smell of freshly grilled cheap hot dogs, the ear-splitting crackle of fireworks, the bright lights of the stadium, these are what call to me. The coolness and calm of wandering through the forest as the leaves change, the soft chatter of squirrels hunting for the last acorns of the year, the gentle crunch of leaves underfoot, these call to me.

It's the leaves that change color in waves as I head South, the lengthening of the shadows that fall on my patio, the sudden need to build a fire, sit around it, and relax with someone I love. These are what call to me.

Summer? I care not. Fall? Bring it on.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Faded photos and letters.

Over the last few months, we've been slowly emptying my grandparent's house, readying it for sale. Grandma still lives, but the house has to go. Her apartment costs too much.

Last time my father visited, what did we see coming back? Pictures. Boxes and boxes of pictures. People and places lost to time. That's the fun part, though, seeing what is there.

A plastic baggie reveals my great-uncle Delmar's medals from WWII, topped by a Silver Star and four parachute jumps in Europe- first on D-Day. Another one? My great-grandfather's 10th Degree medal for York Rite Masons, something rare and precious. A photo of Dad sitting on the hood of his '51 Chevy in HS, one of my grandfather in his fishing gear, one of the old house on 10th Street, buried in five feet of snow back in 1960.

There's a shot of Delmar's grave in Arlington, Grandpa's friend Ed's Apron from when he was International Grandmaster of Scottish Rite Masons, and a newspaper clipping showing Grandma overwhelmed by boxes when she bought for a department store.

Photos are our history, folks. Look, and see what is there.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Today is the first day of Fall Semester. It'll be an easy one, three courses, tutoring, and an EKG Technician course on weekends. The tutoring pays nicely, and the EKG Tech course will look great for med school.

But, I was cleaning out my workspace, putting the binders and books in their places, when I started looking through them. My old notebooks and legal pads, with legion pages of lines about the Krebs cycle and C. elegans, thousands of lines on point masses and Western Blots, but what caught my eye are the drafts.

Half-finished philosophical debate, letters written to friends and enemies, but never sent. I know what I thought at 21 about gun control, how I told off Schwert my Sophomore year for being a crappy prof, and my flow of thought when faced with challenge.

Therein lies the rub. Look through old notebooks and files, and see what people will find out about you. You might be surprised. :-)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Beauty in the sound of silence...

Not long ago, a friend of mine and I did a little traveling. I've mentioned some of it here- my little issues with the hill and the Falls were on that trip- but there is another facet that was not mentioned.

You see, I am not comfortable in cities. Why? I'm trapped in the worst parts of them, 30 or 40 hours a week, every summer. I drive through them every day, see the decay and the hopelessness, and after a while, I learned to loathe it. The ugliness is not something I want to surround myself with any longer.

Well, on this little trip, we stopped at a state park just inside the WV line. I've been there many times, but this day was special. Hot, clear, but comfortable enough with a light breeze.

While meandering, we chose to hit one of the trails. Due to the park's inability to mark trails, we actually likely walked three or four of them, but we wandered until we found our way. Then, on the way out, we saw the kind of thing that really brightens my day.

A deer. A single, young, whitetail doe, as a matter of fact. About thirty feet away in the brush, as peaceful as can be, tail whisking away flies smoothly and easily. She looked right at us as we stood and watched, but was unafraid. You see, this park is huge. It is also a nature preserve, so this deer, along with her ancestors, had never known hunting. They never knew fear. So, she was unafraid. :-)

After watching us for a while, the little deer wandered back into the brush, and we moved on, basking in the beauty and the glow of joy that brought.

Another half-mile, and I wordlessly motioned for my friend to stop. There, about 50 feet away, was a big mama doe and two little fawns. I dropped down, and crawled a little closer, my friend in tow, as mama watched. She was unafraid, though her younguns were fascinated by this white-coated stranger on two legs! ;-) Who knows how long we sat there and watched? Ten minutes? An hour? I don't know. I know my water was warm when I got up, though it was cold when I dropped.

All too soon, one of the fawns meandered into the woods, and mama silently followed. The other little one followed after, keeping mama in sight. As they crept into the woods, I stood, grinning from ear to ear. My friend? Well, folks, if I had a camera, you'd see the most beautiful smile I've ever been a party to. :-D

What once were tired legs and aching ankles from miles of walking were renewed. We'd faced some of the most skittish creatures on Earth, and they saw us as friends. That's something to be proud of, in my book. :-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Of rocks, 70-degree grades, and the noonday sun...

Over this last weekend, a good friend and I went on a bit of a roadtrip. Down into SE Ohio, over into West Virginia, and back again.

Not long ago, in my list of the top 100 things nobody knows, I mentioned a paralyzing fear of heights. That's something that will definitely be worth remembering...

You see, we went to Valley Falls in WV. It's a beauty of a park, though tough to get to and technically a demanding walk. After some time wandering on the established paths, the most irritating thing possible came to pass; there was no more path. The path ended, and gave no way back. It was either turn around and walk the path in reverse, or find something better.

Every cloud bears a silver lining. Wandering around, trying to find better ways, my friend stumbled upon a small pool fed by one of the rivers. As she encouraged me to start climbing the rocks over to see it, I noticed something special- a beautiful little waterfall, just carving its way through the rocks. That settled it. I was going over, as far as I could make it safely. After a few minutes of paralyzing fear, I found a clear way. I was rewarded with an excellent view.

Yet, there was a single problem. No way back, except how I got there. Rocks that were gently sloped on the side I initially trod were nearly sheer and vertical on the side I would now need to tread. After some pondering, a wink, and a "Follow me", I started up the safest path I saw. Technically, it would class a 2.

In mountaineering parlance, a Class I is simple: Walking up a gentle grade. Class II is a bit different, using one hand as an aid to climbing. Class III requires four points of contact- feet and hands, feet and knees, some combination. Class IV requires the use of other objects- saplings for support, or something stronger. Class V requires rope and specialized gear, with Class V.13a as the hardest climb ever completed.

After working up that, there appeared to be a path at the top of a seemingly moderate hill. Whoops. Thanks to tricks of distance and scale, the hill looked about 30 degrees elevated. It was about 70, once we started. Class IV. Remember that fear I mentioned? It was challenged by the rocks, but this set it reeling.

What did I do?

Well, what could I do?

It was a challenge, a direct gantlet thrown in front of my inborn stubbornness and fears. That could not be allowed to stand. Though a quiet voice in my head told me I was insane, I had to try.

Half hour, about a hundred and fifty feet and four slips later, I stood at top. Hot, dirty, but happy to be there. I faced down a challenge, and I faced one of my strongest fears, and on that day, I won.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The next 50...

As promised...

51. I love dissections in lab.
52. I probably should have minored in Philosophy in college.
53. My college pick was kind of a mistake- started well, hated it at the end.
54. I keep strange hours. I can work until 2 or 3 on something I like, then be back at 8.
55. I first read Lord of the Rings at 12.
56. When I was taking Spanish in HS, I translated twelve chapters of Don Quixote as my final project.
57. I read my entire British Literature and World Literature books in HS.
58. It was worth it.
59. At the LOTR video games, I am unbeatable.
60. My favorite course in college was Medical Ethics.
61. My least favorite? Calculus.
62. I would love to take the SAT again.
63. One day, driving aimlessly, I ended up in Indiana. Still no clue how.
64. I can legpress triple my body weight.
65. I can read the language of the woods, and know what they say to me.
66. Given a pocketknife and rope, I can survive very nicely, thank you.
67. I was the only one to finish First Aid merit badge the summer of 1993.
68. Despite my loathing of public speaking, I am very good at it.
69. I have never gotten a speeding ticket. Or any other kind.
70. Given a choice as to when to live, I would take the present, or the near future.
71. Nothing else gives people the equality I want to see.
72. I have cable, but don't know why. All I need are six channels.
73. God has spoken to me, in a night of extreme stress and desperation.
74. I listened.
75. Very closely.
76. Given a choice, I would live anywhere but a city. Woods appeal to me.
77. My car has vanity plates, but they're not vain.
78. I have infinite patience if someone needs my help.
79. My eyes change color easily, depending on mood.
80. Serving as Grillmaster, my record was 90 hot dogs, 36 burgers and 24 brats on grill at once.
81. Nothing burned.
82. I have no uncomfortable temperature range. Heat and cold do not bother me.
83. For one day, I think invisibility would be cool.
84. I had several professors I hated, but they think I like them.
85. I can keep secrets well, especially dark ones.
86. I don't care where I go to medical school, so long as I am on my own.
87. I graduated with Honors in Biology, one of only 4 to do it.
88. You couldn't pay me enough to go through my life from 13 to 16 again.
89. 18 to 20, though, I would love to just tell myself a few things.
90. I have been known to hate things because they were popular (baseball, for one).
91. Don't care what anyone else thinks, the author of Why Bad Things Happen to Good People is a no-talent hack.
92. My second-favorite class in college? Propaganda and Social Controls.
93. Third? Theodicies, Ancient and Modern, but I loathe the professor.
94. I have won awards for my writing and photography skills.
95. Tutoring is supposed to make people feel good about making a difference, but tutoring some people I work with just depresses me.
96. I am a Spyware Hunter. Any comp I use will be scanned.
97. I never knew how much I needed a hug until I finally got one that was given with love.
98. My first kiss was at 23. It was worth the wait.
99. I have nearly been hit by falling goalposts.
100. People both fascinate and scare me.

There's the list. ;-)

The top 50 things nobody else knows about me...

A few folks I know have composed lists such as this, and I figure it's an interesting excercise. :-)

So... here we go...

1. I am deathly afraid of heights. It takes a lot to get over it.
2. I am pretty scared of needles, too, but that's lessened over time.
3. I never dated in high school.
4. I didn't have a driver's license until 20, or a car of my own until 22.
5. I can sit down and devour a thousand pages of a book in a day.
6. Writing is one of my passions. If I were not going after medicine, it would be writing.
7. I have two half-brothers, one of which I have not seen in nearly 20 years.
8. I am more comfortable walking through woods than streets, even though I live in the city.
9. I got a 1340 on my SAT.
10. I can program calculators to do about anything besides wash my socks.
11. I have a mild palsy on my left side, and nobody can tell.
12. In HS, I cheered with extreme glee when my nemesis got expelled for drug possession.
13. I have an extremely high tolerance for pain.
14. My Sophomore year of college, my then-girlfriend got pregnant by another man.
15. I would have married her.
16. That would have been the biggest mistake of my life.
17. I got a D+ in Physics in HS, then got a B the next quarter. Don't know how.
18. After Sophomore year, I didn't date again until I was a graduate.
19. I am an excellent listener, and remember everything said.
20. Thanks to a grill incident, I had no hair on my arms for a year in college.
21. I was baptized and confirmed Catholic.
22. I no longer believe that Catholicism's tenets fit me.
23. I once lost a hundred bucks in grade school.
24. When I shop, it is as a commando raid. Quick and done, smoke grenades a plus.
25. I do my own automotive repairs.
26. I am self-taught on highway driving.
27. I swore many years ago that I would give my virginity to someone who truly appreciated it.
28. I kept, and will keep this promise, until I find the right one.
29. I was a photographer in high school.
30. Nothing makes me grin more than a well-executed tackle to win the game.
31. One of my legs is slightly shorter than the other.
32. In HS, I was so unable to offend that I carried on a conversation with a Marine recruiter.
33. I finally had to ask my dad if he would talk for me when the recruiter called.
34. I still get calls.
35. Despite their number, I am proud of my scars. Work, play, they speak to me.
36. Some time ago, I was probably clinically depressed.
37. A friend or two pulled me out of it. Now, I am fine.
38. I know where all my great-grandparents are buried.
39. I hate public speaking with a passion.
40. When I presented my work in lab at a conference, I secretly hoped I woudn't win.
41. Given a choice, I would pay a great deal of money to run the world for one day.
42. I was the Grillmaster in college, and some still call me that.
43. I can still rattle off the complete OA Rituals for all Degrees, even though I haven't performed them in years.
44. The smell of bleach makes me wince.
45. I will put up with a great deal of pain in my life, if there is no way around.
46. I will NOT put up with that for my friends and those I love, though.
47. I am technically lying on my driver's license. I weigh less than it says.
48. In grade school, I was picked on constantly.
49. I would give my right arm to tell me back then to stand and fight.
50. I don't drink alcohol, ever. Last alcohol I consumed was communion wine.

Monday, August 08, 2005


"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!"

"If", Rudyard Kipling, 1909

So run the words of Kipling, defining what is a man. It's a definition I quite like, as it is universal, but...

What is a man? What makes a male a man, what makes a female a woman? It is not age, for I have known 14-year-olds who were twice the man some 30-year-olds will ever be. It is not rank and status in the world, for I know those of high rank and stature that perform shameful acts any true person of honor would feel shamed of.

It is honor. That is the key. It is not providing for those you love, for we all have times when we cannot. I know in some years hence, I will be essentially broke. If I am living with someone, I will be a drain on their finances, and I won't like it. That makes me no less a man.

I can sum it up simply, I think. Two Oaths I took many years ago, that ring more truly today than ever.

"On my Honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my Country, to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent."

So run the Oaths I took when I was 11, and so I live. That is my standard, and male or female, that is the standard I hope everyone tries to live to. That is what makes you a person of honor.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Take me home, country roads...

About a month ago, I went on a little trip. Just a run down through the hills where my roots lay, a stroll through the greenery that my heart smiles to think of.

Though, the longer I stay down there, the more times I go without a clear goal in mind, the clearer something gets. I cannot be truly happy unless I am in the green. Be it the green woods of Miakonda or the rolling hills of Appalachia, I need that as I need the air that I breathe.

So many little things set it apart, really. Here, I know none of my neighbors. Everyone keeps to themselves, and it is as if they aren't even there. The ones next door moved in five years ago, and we still have no clue who they might be. After being yelled at for accidentally cutting a foot of their grass (our property lines aren't fenced in that area), I have no reason to.

Contrast that with home. I know everyone that lives up and down that block, from Dana next door to old Bill across the street. When my grandfather died, dozens turned out for the wake, even though he hadn't been active in anything for some years. What impressed me most, though, was this.

Grandpa was a Mason for 60 years, Lodge Master, High Priest, the whole bit. Hence, it was a no-brainer that he would have the Masonic Ritualistic service at the funeral home. Yet, before the service, when his Lodge Brethren were standing around waiting, some took the chance to talk to me. I said I wasn't a Mason, which is true, but that I intended to petition, which is also true. What response did I get? Universal support. One even said that the Lodge down there would be open to me for the Third Degree, whenever I chose to do so. That's pretty special. It wasn't just talk, it was knowledge that the family name means something, and I carry it with honor.

Maybe the cities of this nation were like that once. Maybe at some point in the future, they will be again, where deals are closed on a handshake, and your name is your entry. Maybe the power of the green hills will rule again someday.

Tell us about yourself, in 5300 characters or less.

Not long ago, I sat down to write my medical school application. Most of it is simple stuff- what courses and grades, what schools, what test scores- but then there is the challenge of the essay.

It's freeform, just 5300 characters to explain why you want to do this. Why do you want to rack up the massive debt (Around a quarter-mill for 4 years), the stress, the long hours. Why in God's Name would anyone do this to themselves?

Most essays require thought. Deep contemplation and pondering are normal, followed by a great deal of wrangling with words and phrases, trying to distill a normal person down into a perfect fifth of Med Student 2006.

This one didn't.

Why do I want to do this? I am a healer by nature. I help heal hearts and spirits every day, and help heal bodies as best I can. Whether it's listening to a friend that's hurting, or delivering the deep-tissue massage of a lifetime to relieve stress, that is my destiny.

Quarter-million in debt? Bring it. I don't mind. If that is the price to pay for me to be able to heal bodies as I can already heal wounded hearts, hit me.

Four years of study equal or greater in intensity to any I have ever known? Let's dance. Every second of it will be worth it, since at the end, I will be doing what I am meant to do.

I may not be perfect. I may not have the perfect GPA, or the stellar extra-curricular record, but you know what I do have? Unshakable will. I will do this, and well. Just give me a chance.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Poetry in steel, a convex-edged musing.

Some time ago, a friend of mine was trying to come to grips with a failing marriage. I'm a single guy, so I can't speak from experience there, but I came up with something that seemed to explain. The more I think of it, though, the more it works.

I'm a knife collector, so it makes sense to me to put things in those terms. Perhaps it will make sense to the rest of the world. ;-)

You see, there are three grinds one can put on a knife's edge- hollow, flat, and convex. How in the heck do these relate to a friendship or a marriage? I will tell.

Hollow is just as it sounds. Formed by two circular wheels coming together, it starts out very thin, and has little substance. Basically, it's a friendship based on looks- it has some connections, but minor ones only. Yet, once this edge hits anything tough, say the knots that run in the tree of life, it breaks.

Flat is, again, just as it sounds. \/. Two planes, meeting at a central point. It's better, as there is more meat to the relationship between them, but it still has its weaknesses. Still, it is better than hollow. It can survive the small knots and burrs of life easily enough.

Last is convex. Formed by two equal arcs coming together, creating a softened V. Lots of substance. In a relationship, this is where you start by seeing a person's heart, and then the rest falls into place. It runs deep, and very strong. Burrs? Knots? This powers through them like an axe. Strong and beautiful, it is one that can conquer all.

Though, there is one important thread amongst the three- the two sides must be equal. If one barely works, and the other works perfectly, the edge will never reach potential. Yet, when they do, when the two sides of a convex edge work together, it is beauty itself. Clean, sharp, and flawless.

There's my answer. I am but one edge, seeking the other edge to form the blade of a relationship. :-) Will work for sharpness! ;-)