succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, February 17, 2007

(as dragged out by Semisonic's Dan Wilson)

So I've been trying to figure out how to structure this post, and I'm going with a combination of topical and chronological. So first,

This section actually begins before departing for the opposite coast - smooshed in with packing and prepping and stressing, and, oh yeah, the annual Superbowl(TM) party, I had the pleasure of Sid's company for a few hours during a long layover on his way back to the States from London. Sid is excellent for a multitude of reasons (not least of which is his tendency to play devil's advocate and drive me insane) but at this particular time, his foremost excellent feature is as the person who's best at staying in touch with practically everyone from undergrad. So over burgers and beer I got lovely updates on all the people I've been meaning to call and yet have managed not to for the better part of 4.5 years. And, of course, an update on Sid himself, though he and I both seem to agree that talking about ourselves seems boring as all I do is school and all he does is work. I guess this describes most folks, but I do feel like I'm running out of good anecdotes.

Fast forward to Tuesday, the better part of which I spent doing the planes, trains and automobiles thing and was treated to offers of drugs from a crackhead (in ATL) and very helpful directions and dining and shopping suggestions from a most attractive Iranian (in SF) and then best of all, PC, in the huggable flesh, moments after I checked in to my hotel. I actually squeeled quite audibly in the middle of a crowded lobby. A few minutes later we were also treated to mallipoo, my freshman roommate, who guided us through Chinatown to a little restuarant where you aren't allowed to order, but simply offer approximately how hungry you are and what sort of food you'd like (vegetarian, chicken, etc.) and then leave yourselves up to the whims of the kitchen staff. Thankfully, this turned out to be a wise decision (and reminded me of the restaurant featured in the first season of Bones. yes, I'm a dork).

PC and I were our usual dorky selves, and spent the next few days wandering around SF (bookstores, museum gift shops, Yerba Buena Gardens*, and the Cartoon Art Musem**) in between attending our respective conferences.

Thursday marked the arrival of AWB, and dinner with Jess and Amelia***. Amelia and I met one summer, years ago, while we were both DC interns. And it's funny, because she referred to our west coast meet up as "re-meeting," which is accurate, but since I've been reading her blog (and she mine) for ages, when we did actually see each other again, it didn't feel at all like five plus years had passed since last we occupied the same space. She's spending the semester working for HRDAG, where I'd like to work when I grow up. Amelia is earning her degree in poli sci, and jess hers in international relations (with a concentration in conflict management) so dinner conversation was lively and satisfying (ranging from the middle east to paul farmer to social and political protests). Jess and I have been friends since I was 11, and as she noted over drinks back at the hotel, it's both nice and a little weird to realize that I've known every boy she's dated and nearly every apartment she's lived in. She's the quintessential friend, who sometimes drives me nuts, but who knows my whole story, not from my telling of it, but from being present during it.

Friday was time to depart SF, but first lunch with Ben (yay meeting bloggers in 'real life') at an excellent but tiny restuarant in the mission district, where AWB and I were most successful at intimidating other diners to give up their chairs to make room for our foursome. We then took the scenic route across the Golden Gate Bridge and snaked along the coast in what was a fun and beautiful in retrospect but highly traumatizing at the time drive to Cowgirl Creamery. You see, CA is a somewhat unstable state to begin with, and it had been raining for days, so there were all sorts of signs about rock slides and closed roads and fog so thick you had no hope of seeing the next turn in the road, much less the oncoming traffic. And PC is sort of stressed out by driving to begin with. So it felt a little like we all survived this traumatic event. But the Creamery resulted in indulgent purchases of tasty cheeses, so it was well worth it.

Davis was all about us being us. I have always said that when I am lucky enough to see AWB and PC I don't need to do anything except sit in a room with them. And thankfully, there was much of that. Our first day back at PC's apartment was spent almost entirely in our pajamas in front of the tv, with a short break to head to the farmer's market to round out our fondue and cheese plate plans for the rest of the weekend.

We watched The Burg (entertaining, but probably moreso for actual Brooklyn residents) and The Lost Room (so addicting we were compelled to watch the entire miniseries in one night, despite our early departure for Berkeley the next morning).

Monday was wine country, because assured us a 0% chance of rain, so of course it began drizzling an hour into our trip. Undaunted, we hit six wineries - Cline Cellars, Porter Creek (featuring organic wine, no electricity, two dogs, and this excellent alcohol consumption warning: "When taken as directed, wine enhances food, reduces stress, enlivens conversation, encourages camraderie and kindles romance. Use in moderation, it can aid digestion, promote good health, and improve one's disposition. The recommended dosage is two glasses per meal. Excess usage is unwise, potentially unhealthy, and decidedly uncivilized."), Iron Horse (home of the Russian Cuvee, purported to have played a key role in ending the Cold War), De La Montanya, one other that was too terrible to name, and a sixth that I was clearly too drunk to recall. The day produced such excellent quotes as "It is so tasty, I would just put it down my throat immediately, like a male model," and "It's like fluffer nutter... all up in a woman's nethers."**** The day ended, unfortunately, with me navigating us to hell.

The conference!
Was actually more interesting than I was expecting (learned all about the link between migraines with aura and stroke and heard some excellent statistics discussion by George Howard, who rocks, and met some lovely boys from Glasgow with whom I discussed the total unreliability of a commonly used outcome measure and just how often patients lie about taking their medications, and finished off the conference with a deeply offensive presentation about six sigma - patients and their care should never be referred to as customers or processes in need of waste reduction.) My poster went fine and clearly was not worth the level of stress I was giving it. In fact, it was a little boring because we were far away from the wine and cheese so not many people wandered down our aisle. My boss's presentation the next morning also went tremendously well and even garnered some attention from the WSJ.

*features an excellent but not very easy to find restuarant called B.
**sadly lame and disappointing. PC thought the opening exhibit, rejected New Yorker cartoons, was a parody.
***you don't seem very anon online, but let me know if you'd prefer a moniker.
****I had forgotten how much fun it was to be around people who are so crass and inappropriate. Back here I am most often the one who says something shocking or shares too much information.

Whew. The End. Thanks for hanging in there.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Freedom To Marry

Yes, I know, I'm behind on summarizing my travels, but in honor of the week (or, as someone over at Bitch PhD suggested, Week to Legally Recognize Marriage) I thought I would tell a story. Some of you know it already. It is not my story, it is my aunt's. She's a lesbian. It took me longer than it should have to put two and two together and figure that out, but as early as I can remember she was in a committed relationship with a lovely woman. This lovely woman had somewhat tragic, soap operatic details to her pre-my-aunt life. She was married and had two children, as people did in those days, regardless of sexual preference. Her daughter died, but not before giving birth to a beautiful baby boy. The boy's father remained in the picture, but was an unreliable parent, so my aunt and her partner raised him. The dad would appear, randomly, from time to time, and essentially kidnap the boy for unknown periods of time. But the two women did the best they could, providing the boy with a loving home and high-quality yuppie existence. About four years ago my aunt's partner died. Leaving my aunt with no biological ties to the child she had been raising as her own for eleven years and a (unfit) biological parent waiting in the wings. I am happy to report that after several years she eventually won custody, one of only a handful of non-biological parents to do so when a biological parent is still living. But the point of the story is that a stable, loving family had to prove themselves in the eyes of a court, simply because their 'radical' lifestyle didn't fit the bland vanilla idea that some politician decided defined family. It would have been difficult, but if they weren't gay, my aunt's partner would have been able to gain custody of her grandson. If they weren't gay, their marriage would have been recognized, and when my aunt's partner died my aunt would have automatically had custody of their child. No multi-year court case. No additionally traumatizing threat for a child who already has abandonment issues of being sent to yet another home. The fact that we still have to have these arguments in 2007 would be mind boggling if it weren't just so damn sad and infuriating.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rainbows and mother-fucking unicorns.

Actual post about lovely week spent in CA with PC and AWB and nostalgic visits with Sid, Jess, Ahalya, and Amelia to come...someday.