Acquaintances

When I walked out of the Lister Hill library at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, the sky was filled with dark clouds and it was going to rain at any moment. The wind was howling and I was hurrying to get to my car which was parked at least 3 blocks away. As I hurried down the large steps, a lady shouted, “Where’s your umbrella?”.

I looked back to see who it was and mumbled something about not being from around there and not expecting it to rain. She followed up with a bunch of questions- where are you from, what are you doing here, where’s your umbrella…and I patiently answered all her questions. By this time, she knew the basics about me. The sky was getting darker and louder and this lady was trying to have a decent conversation with me. Oh boy! When she realized that I was in Birmingham for just a day, she recommended that I go to Vulcan park and also talked about some pizzeria near the park. She also talked about how she loved nursing and thought I was in for a lifetime of joy of serving the sick. She talked about her sister who was going to pick her up anytime now and wished she’d hurry before it started raining. Her sister arrived and the lady left with her. I ran back to my car and took out my Brimingham, Alabama map to find Vulcan park. It started raining just as I got in my car and headed off to Vulcan park.

I met Bruce at Alabama-Tennessee state line. We were both browsing around the visitor info center when I picked up a brochure for Grand Ole Opry and Jack Daniels Distillery. The plan was to stop in Nashville and be in Louisville at night. Bruce came closer and picked up a brochure for JD Distillery. I asked the employee there about how to get there and Bruce listened carefully, occasionally asking questions of his own. He came to me and said, “So, are we both going to the distillery?”. Realizing that Nashville had a lot to offer for country music lovers and almost nothing for me, I agreed to make a detour to Lynchburg and visit the distillery.

Bruce walked me to my car and then I raced with his white Camaro all the way to Lynchburg. The freeway became smaller and smaller and finally turned into a small country road. Few miles down, there it was on the right side- the place where a well-loved whiskey is born. My brave little Camry was leading the race thus I had time to quickly change my coffee-stained shirt when I got there. I walked into the visitor center and soon Bruce got there too. He turned out to be some kind of salesman out of Seattle, I think… but was working in Tennessee. Bruce and I spent the day together in the distillery and honestly, I had fun. We talked about each other, JD, whiskey and how we ended up in Tennessee. I took a lot of pictures but Bruce refused to be in any of them. He took some for me. At the end of the trip, we parted…never to meet again.

I hadn’t planned to meet the lady in Birmingham. I wouldn’t have talked to her if she hadn’t. I wouldn’t have gone to Vulcan park if she hadn’t told me to. I hadn’t planned to be in Lynchburg that day. I didn’t even know there was a world famous distillery in Tennessee. I hadn’t expected to meet a 50-something dude and spend the day with him. My “creep alert” had gone up as soon as he had talked to me. I had much less expected to enjoy the day. But even today, when I think of them, I get happy and smile. The Alabama lady’s love of nursing inspires me to be a better nurse. Both Bruce  and the lady cross my mind every now and then and I can’t help but wonder if I ever cross their mind. Some acquaintances leave lasting memories.

Run for your lives!

Run for you lives! It is a 5k zombie run which is held in different states throughout the year. My friend Nat is a zombie lover. Mmmm…brains. So, to celebrate the break from nursing school and to run this zombie-filled obstacle race, we made a trip to Austin, TX.

The race was in Cedar Creek, TX and Cedar Creek being literally in the middle of nowhere, we stayed in Bastrop and went out to the famous 6th street, Austin. “Keep Austin weird” slogan is perfect for 6th street. Men in red dresses, a woman who rubbed her ‘girls’ on Nat’s face, a guy at a bar who gave me a drawing of two naked girls with a life-size bong…it’s all a little blurry. Nat swears that I insisted on getting a tattoo.

The next morning, we arrived tired and achy at the ranch where RFYL 5k was being held. This was the day when my long-time wish of running in a Texas field was coming true. We ran, dodged zombies, climbed cliffs, crawled through mud, landed head first in muddy water, got some scratches, bruised knees…it was a very fun! I had never gotten muddy or ran a 5K before. The point of the race was to save your “lives” (which were long red flags) from zombies. Nat “died” before me and acted as a human shield to protect my “life” for a while. Eventually I “died” too, and we just walked the rest of the course holding hands and watching other runners run for their “lives”. I enjoyed the last part when we both “died” and didn’t have to be scared of zombies and could just overcome the obstacles.

While we were having an exciting weekend, we also heard about the elementary school shooting in Connecticut. When we were running for our “lives”, those children were running for their lives. I ended up with small scratches, sore legs and muddy ears, but those children’s destiny was far worse. There will be candles, stuffed animals, talks about gun-control, grieving families but those 20 children and their 6 teachers are gone. I keep having this mental image of them walking in heaven, holding hands, jumping and skipping. Running for your “lives” is fun, but nobody should have to run for their lives.

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With our medals after the race.

Waiting and/or forgetting.

When I first read Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”, I was touched. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which one to do is the worst kind of suffering.” Today, I was just sitting here and thinking (just sitting and thinking has to be a long time hobby of mine) and it suddenly occurred to me how much time we spend waiting or forgetting. Waiting for that text after a date, waiting to graduate, waiting for the right one, waiting for lunch, waiting to get off from work…that’s a lot of waiting. What about forgetting? More precisely, trying to forget. Trying to forget the lost love, a scary movie, sharp words, pile of dirty dishes, bills…lot of forgetting right there.

It is established that there is a lot of waiting and forgetting involved in this little gig we call life. So, what comes after all this waiting and forgetting? Coelho emphasizes the painful parts of both waiting and forgetting and more painful aspect of indecisiveness. Coelho has been one of my favorite authors (AEB me reading almost all of his books), and the mentioned quote has always touched me, specially in times when it has been painful to wait or to forget or not knowing which one to do, but today, it seems to me that there is another aspect of that quote. An aspect which took some “just sitting here and thinking”. Sure, waiting is painful- I can’t wait to travel the world, to run for an office, to graduate from nursing school, to go to places I’ve never heard of, to live a joyous and happy life. Forgetting is painful too- forgetting warm summer as winter approaches, forgetting long conversations with now estranged friends, forgetting home as you go out in the world to succeed. But the other aspect I have been talking about is a positive aspect associated with waiting and forgetting. All this painful waiting and forgetting is a pathway to getting to the destinations you can’t wait to get to. “Oh the places you’ll go.” Waiting and forgetting also imply patience, change and forgiveness. It takes a lot of patience to wait, and lot of forgiveness to forget, all while accepting a change.

I saw a statue called “Mental blocks” in Birmingham, Alabama. It was a big head made from blocks. It said, “Build the blocks to block your emotions and emotional trauma. Don’t build the blocks to block out growth and development”. I think the implied meaning of Coelho’s  quote is exactly the same thing: forget the emotional trauma no matter how painful it is and work towards growth and development no matter how difficult it is. I am awed by how a Portuguese author and Sue Ellen Brown, an artist from Alabama helped me understand the mechanism of waiting and forgetting. Here’s to painful waiting, forgetting or not knowing which one to do…all for the better.

“Mental Blocks” by Sue Ellen Brown at Health Sciences Museum, Birmingham, Alabama.

Funny things my friends say.

I have some very awesome and funny friends, and they sometimes say the weirdest and funniest things. Here are some recent ones.

1. Me: My ear itches.

D: I think you got pancreatitis in your ear.

2.  Let’s go out smelling like baby prostitutes.

3.  Don’t think about him, he is sh*t. Sh*t even by third world standards.

4.  Herbert the pervert.

5.  I love you, my hormonal woman.

6.  If I buy a Foley catheter, would you put it in for me?

7. J: He has diabetes and tingling in his feet. What helps?

    Me: Scare the crap out of him by talking about amputation. That helps.

8. Email the instructor and tell her “No cookie for you”.

9. I don’t like other people either. That’s what makes us friends.

10. Did you do good in the exam? (This is my favorite one.)

 

 

Thief! Thief!

Nursing school is an important time for every nurse. It is also the time when you lose your sense of appropriate topics at dinner table, and the time when you think of few nursing diagnoses for every person you meet. Yesterday, a friend was venting about grad school and all I could think about the situation was “ineffective coping” and “social isolation” which are both nursing diagnoses. Nursing school is known to make people socially awkward and critical thinkers. Nursing diagnosis aside, nursing school is also the time for a student to know the instruments and procedures. I have weekly labs, and all the lab supplies are usually in my car trunk. If you open my trunk, you will find medical supplies like gauge, scissors, IV kit, trach care kit, syringes, needles, gloves, etc.

So, the other day, one of my non-nursing friends was around when I opened my trunk to get a bottle of water. He looked into the trunk, and his expression was priceless! It was a mixture of confusion, disbelief and horror. All he could say in middle of that expression was, “Whaa…umm…are you stealing kidneys these days?” Nursing school has made me a lot of things including an alleged kidney thief.

My kind of pet.

When I was little, my parents were busy with their jobs and we kept moving frequently so I never had a pet. Some of my friends had dogs, some had cats, some had birds…the list goes on. The closest thing I had to a pet was an occasional dragonfly that flew into my room or a fish that someone gave me. I always wanted a pet.

When I grew up and moved away from my parents. I was very excited that I could finally get a pet and didn’t need anyone’s permission to have it. I went to PETSMART (I’m not sure if it is Pet Smart or Pets Mart so I say it quickly to make it sound like one word) and bought a bunch of gold fishes and a small tank. Accommodation: check. Now I had to buy some decorations and food and water conditioner and other fish accessories. Right there, I got my first lesson of owning a pet: they cost a fortune!

I became a proud owner of few gold fishes. This was also the first time that some living being depended on me for all its needs. Whew…big responsibility. I was really enjoying my fishes and feeding them well and making sure they were fine when one of my fishes started floating. My fish died [Insert dramatic and depressing music here]. Someone said that I might have been feeding them too much. The death toll increased as days passed. I thought, “Maybe they gave me sick fishes. I’ll go buy some more and see what happens”. More fishes kept floating. Once, I was trying to change the water in my two gallon tank and one of them escaped into the sink. My fishes died and ran away. I was stuck with an empty tank and decorations. I gave up on having a pet. For a while.

When I got over the death and escape of my fishes, I analyzed the event and came to a conclusion that maybe they wouldn’t have died if they could express their needs and concerns. I figured out that it was lack of communication between me and the fishes that didn’t allow me to take proper care of them. So, what can communicate better than fishes? A dog? A dog. I wanted a dog. It can bark, it can communicate its needs. When I was thinking about getting a dog, I happened to watch “Legally Blond”. A chihuahua! That’s what I wanted! A cute, little chihuahua who can communicate with me.

I went to a breeder and brought a little chihuahua home. Back to PETSMART for fooding, accommodation, travel and sports needs of the dog. Now another big question: what to name the dog? I mean its supposed to be “man’s best friend” and it is gonna live with me so it’d need a name, right? Pink. My favorite color and a perfect name for a little female chihuahua. Pink and I became buddies. We walked together, went places together, made trips together, played together and I was having the time of my life. That is until Pink revealed that she wasn’t potty trained. Oh boy…what am I gonna do? Second lesson of pet owning: you need to clean up after your pet. Back to PETSMART for training pads, diapers and treats for training. A little chihuahua with a tiny bladder and my long hours at school did not mix well. Soon, Pink was relocated to the patio from the indoors. Pink went mad; overturning her food bowl, biting anything within reach and scratching the patio door kind of mad. I still loved her and despite the busy schedule, I tried to train her. I remember putting dog treats on the steps to teach her how to climb up and down the stairs. She finally started beating me in running up and down the stairs. When I took Pink to Utah once, she stepped on snow for the first time and her reaction was precious. Soon she was leaving paw prints everywhere on the snow.

Life happened and my schedule got busier and Pink’s lack of pet-like qualities and hyper-energy increased as my patience decreased. In the mean time, my dining chairs were scratched, vacuum cleaner cords chewed, carpets ruined and mental wellness hampered. I had to take the hard decision of letting her go. It had been almost two years that I had Pink and she was pretty much my child. I thought about what an old guy at the vet’s office had said: “Having a dog is very much like having a child”. I decided that my life wasn’t ready and appropriate for a dog and I took Pink to a dog adoption place. I think she knew that she was never going to see me again; she didn’t want to leave my side. She looked at me with tearful eyes and wouldn’t move when the lady there called her. I had to carry her in my arms and give her away. I’m not sure who was more heart-broken; me or her but I’ll always wonder what happened to her after that. I guess one has to take difficult decisions in life for a greater good even though it breaks one’s heart to let go of someone whom they love so much. Will I ever get over Pink? Will Pink ever forget me? Probably not, but will we be in each other’s life again? Definitely not.

Not being the kind that gets dragged down by life and its endless emotions, after a year or so I switched back to gold fishes. This time, it was more of a forced thing. A friend was trying to get rid of a 50 gallon fish tank and I had the space to keep it. I had a fish tank and, you know the drill, back to PETSMART. So with some help from my friends and a lot of reading on how to keep fishes alive, I became a proud owner of a big fish tank. This time, my fishes survived better and lived longer. That is until I decided that I liked a turtle. While shopping for fishes, I saw turtles and asked the person in the aquatic department if one turtle would be okay in a 50 gallon fish tank with fishes. He approved and I got a turtle. Mr. Stoner. So I brought Mr. Stoner home with a floating rock for him to lie on when he’s outside of water. I supplied a friend with turtle food enough for a week and left on a vacation. Three days later, I got a text from my friend saying that Mr. Stoner had eaten all the fishes and had managed to acquire the monopoly over the tank. Oh well…what can I say? My pets had moved on from dieing on me to killing fellow pets. After some research on turtles, I found out that the kind of turtle I have can live for 20 years and eat anything. Since my turtle already told me that it preferred regular food (fishes) over turtle food, I decided to feed it a taco. Gone. Chinese food next day: gone. Banana bread: gone. I’m raising a well rounded and multicultural turtle. I also felt that this might not be the best way to raise a turtle so I switched back to turtle food but I have a good feeling that Mr. Stoner will last in my supervision. After all, he managed to kill all other living beings in the tank and survive on a taco. Mr. Stoner may be my kind of pet. There is no doubt that I loved Pink with all my heart, but Mr. Stoner makes me wonder if a dog was really the right pet for me. Let time be the judge.

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Miss Pink T.

I know what happened to the chicken.

I was in Kentucky last week. Kentucky; the state of the great Kentucky Derby, Corvettes, Jim Beam and the famous chicken. In a three day period, I got to drive from Franklin, KY (on Tennessee and Kentucky border) to Louisville, KY and from Louisville to Cincinnati, OH. That’s about 235 miles in Kentucky. Add the trips within Louisville and few trips to and from Indiana and that makes it around 300 miles in Kentucky in three days.

In those 300 miles, I can honestly say that I found the worst drivers I’ve seen so far. Now keep in mind that I live in Houston which is known for its traffic and bad drivers. I recently found a page on Facebook named “I hate Houston drivers”. I am pretty comfortable driving in Houston but Kentucky scared me! I’ve driven in 20 states but no other state scared me as much as Kentucky. It all started as soon as I entered Kentucky from Tennessee. It was raining heavily and driving was scary already. I had to be in Louisville and it was a long way. Within 3 miles of the border, I knew it was gonna be a difficult drive. The drivers would drive 10mph below the speed limit on the fast lane and wouldn’t let me pass. Flash your lights, flash them again, and again…No, they wouldn’t move. It was only the beginning of many such incidents. I had to pass from the right all through Kentucky. Maybe it is a Kentucky thing that nobody warned me about. It is weird that this stopped as soon as I entered Indiana the next day, started again in Kentucky and stopped as soon as I entered Ohio. Definitely a Kentucky thing.

Anyway, I got mad, honked few times, passed from the right a few times and finally got to Louisville where I met my good old friend, Maya. The next day, Maya was too scared to let me drive around Louisville and offered to drive. Fine by me. I admit that I have a mild case of back seat driving. I get scared when other people are driving. This fear kicked in big time with Maya driving and the way people drive in Louisville. A car passed us from the right as we were about to take an exit to the right, another car was headed right at us when we were driving on a straight road, people ran over stop signs countless times…the horror stories don’t end. We went to Deam Lake in Indiana in the afternoon and the traffic was fine, people drove friendly and nothing scary happened. We had fun at the beach, took a lot of pictures and I decided to take a nap on the way home. The seat was reclined and my feet were on the dashboard and I was slowly drifting away when I suddenly found my feet on the windshield and my head almost on the floor. That’s how I knew we had left Indiana and entered Kentucky! Now I know why the Colonel started selling fried chicken; the chicken should never have tried to cross the road in Kentucky.

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Ohio river separates Kentucky from Indiana.

That’s the capital of Mississippi.

Jackson, Mississippi. The capital of Mississippi felt like a small town to me. Before I left home, Jonathan, my friend and landlord asked me where I was going. Me:” Louisiana, Mississippi, and where ever I decide to.” That has been my attitude for quite a while now; I can go where ever I decide to. Anyway, he asked where in Mississippi. Me:” Some place called Jackson, I hear its a small town”. Jonathan:”Umm..that happens to be the capital of Mississippi”.

I tried to sleep on the way but we ended up taking pictures of me pretending to sleep and a “making of the sleeping picture video”. Every time I pose for a sleeping picture, they’d go “okay ready?” and I’d burst out laughing. Shashi was driving and Paras was soon snoring in the back seat. We talked about personal lives, gun control and recent shootings. We were very tired by the time we got to Jackson. Oh and we went to a lake on the way.

There wasn’t much to do in Jackson at night. We ate at a Mexican restaurant called El Charro, climbed on my trunk, Paras kicked away my sandals, I punched him and called him “shortie”, he called me fat, I hurt my toe jumping from the trunk…just the usual things we do when we are together. I didn’t really like El Charro’s food. We were invited to party by people my friends work with but all the walking in New Orleans started working its magic on my legs so we decided not to go. BUZZ KILLER!

Next morning, I woke up early and finally finished my paper on marriage equality. Who knew I’d start the paper at home and finish it at Sleep Inn in Jackson, MS? I checked the assignments for my online class, nothing due till Wednesday. The course syllabus says “Vacation in the middle of summer is not an excuse for not finishing your assignments” and as soon as I read that at the beginning of the summer class, I knew it was probably written for people like me. I dropped my friends at their apartment and we parted ways. I see Paras frequently but Idaho (you da ho!) where Shashi lives is a little far from Texas.

I saw signs for a reservoir as I got into the highway. Well, its just water but I’ll check it out anyway. What good was the trip to Jackson if all I saw was local Starbucks and Mexican restaurant? The reservoir was about 5 miles out of the way and I got to see Mississippi houses. As I left the reservoir and got into I-20, Jack FM started playing “Sweet Home Alabama”. That’s where D1 is for today: Alabama. I shoot a text to a friend in Cleveland, Ohio and think that it’s gonna be great as long as I keep moving and its forward. Both in this trip and life. What use is moving backward?

The reservoir.Image

ImageThe lake on the way to Jackson, MS.

The “sleeping picture” which we finally managed to take without me laughing or smiling.

That Hank Snow dude really did some traveling.

First day of road trip is always the best. There is that break from the usual and the anticipation of new experiences. Before getting to New Orleans, I imagined New Orleans in all sort of ways. The Big Easy however surprised me. It was nothing like I imagined; it was better in a different way.

As soon as I entered the city and took an exit off of I-10, I got lost. Hugh, the owner of the Banana Courtyard  (hotel where I made my reservation) kept calling me to provide me directions and we collectively managed to get me more lost. One ways and no U-turns and no this and no that and my bad lane changing skills combined, I got terribly lost. It wouldn’t be too wrong to call N.O. “The city of one ways”. I finally reached the hotel, which had no signs due to city’s laws. Mary (Hugh’s wife) was standing outside to receive me and let me in. Mary and Hugh have been running this hotel for a long time with some help from an intern. I was surprised as soon as I entered the place. It was like a museum. A two storied house was converted into a 8 bedroom hotel and each room had its own specialty. The entire place was very antique and had a pleasant antique store smell. Mary provided me with keys to the gate, to the main door and to my room. They have a big map of the U.S. and of the world and they put pins on states and countries when guests from that place comes to stay with them. They were very excited to put their first pin on Nepal.

The intern (Oops, I forgot her name) gave me a map of the French Quarter and recommended various places to eat. She walked me half way to French Market and let me explore on my own after that. I walked into Satchmo Music Festival. It was an open music performance plus food and drink stalls. I walked into French market later, and bought a dress, a T-shirt and a Tropical margarita. It was hot and humid, I was tired and sweaty but New Orleans was too exciting to be tired. Most of the “ONE WAY” signs in French Quarter said “ONE DAY” instead and it was hilarious! Four hours later, I had walked through French market and Decatur St, and walked back to the Banana Courtyard after eating nice New Orleans style blacked red-fish and rice pilaf.

The next day, I had two of my friends with me. We walked down Esplanade and took a street car (it actually is a train) to the Riverwalk. There was a big aquarium and a mall on the bank of Mississippi river. We checked out the famous Cafe de Monde on the Riverwalk and walked few blocks to St. Charles. We were meeting Rabin bro; a friend+bro from high school for lunch. After walking about nine blocks, one bus ride and one Street car ride, we finally got to the restaurant. It rained heavily for an hour and stopped as suddenly as it started. I could look up and see Mardi Gras beads on tree branches.

At the end of the day, all three of us drove to Jackson, Mississippi. A 25 mile long bridge was the major attraction of the trip. And of course, one more U.S. state that I added to my “Been there” list. We heard about the Wyoming shooting from a lady at a gas station as soon as we entered Mississippi. I kept thinking of Hank Snow’s “I’ve been everywhere, man, I’ve everywhere” and Rabin bro’s recent travel and accident.

 

Enjoy some of the pictures of the Banana Courtyard, New Orleans and the 25 mile long bridge.

As Mary would say, red beans and ricely yours, pinkbird711.ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Anything to avoid writing a paper.

I have to write a paper. I have to write a research paper before Monday. Today is Friday and it is 8 P.M. I’m thinking. I’m thinking of the trip that starts tomorrow. I’m thinking of the hotel reservation lady who was extremely nice. I’m thinking of some music festival in New Orleans that she suggested about. New Orleans, that’s my first destination. D1. An old acquaintance used to call the first destination D1. Jump into a car and excitedly, “So, where’s our D1?”. D1 isn’t Gallup, NM this time. It is New Orleans. I’m thinking of cop cars which say NOPD. I read that as NO PD. No PD.

I had an entire day in hand today. I have already taken a nap, cleaned my kitchen and million other things that don’t need to be done. Someone posted a picture of Chick-fil-a sandwich on Facebook and I craved one. My paper is on marriage equality. I have been writing on the favor of the topic. I decided to drive to Chipotle instead. Yummy customizable Mexican food. Okay, that’s what’s for dinner. I was also thinking of going to Starbucks and getting some Chai Latte. But again, I need to sleep well tonight to be relaxed enough for the 6 hour drive tomorrow. On the drive home, some romantic Hindi song about lost love plays on my iPhone. My old phone. The sun sets as I drive home and I get a brilliant idea. I’m gonna start a blog!

I have always wanted to write. All I have managed to write till now is a book call “Adventures 1″ when I was in 6th grade and few thousand texts. “Adventures 1″ was highly inspired by Famous Five and Hardy Boys. I had spent hours at The British Council Library writing “Adventures 1″. I eventually lost it. When the Harry Potter series hit the market, I used to dream of being J.K. Rowling. Oh well…even Harry Potter got rejected 12 times before being published.

So, I sit here today, writing my very first blog post with my half eaten plate of Chipotle and my paper on marriage equality still incomplete. Tomorrow is a new day; a better day and a traveling day.