Sunday, April 29, 2007

Idaho, the Gem state

Greetings from Cascade, Idaho, a small lake town of 1000 residents nestled along the scenic mountains of the Payette River valley, which is located just 30 miles east of the Oregon border. While still relatively undiscovered by human settlers, (and partially for that exact reason) there is an abundance of life here; a forested waterfront habitat enjoyed by bears, elk, predatory birds, and rustic/adventure-seeking men alike, not only for the abundance of fishing and wildlife watching opportunities, but for the plentitude of moutain biking, hiking, skiing, and river rafting recreations. The Tamarack pine trees grow tall here, providing just enough sun cover and shade for the wild Morel mushrooms to thrive in the damp, recently snow-thawed soil. Since arriving here, I have quickly learned from the locals that Morels are a tasty delicacy coveted by central Idahoans, who take advantage of the mid- spring season to harvest them from the wild. I have yet to discover these tasty delights, but when our paths finally cross on the trail, I will be sure to try one out. Apparently they look like little christmas trees but with a soft and wavy mushroom cap, not to be confused with its poisonous lookalike, the False Morel. Huckleberries, a tart version of the blueberry, are also known to thrive only in these environs. These apparently, are also a must-try, if you are from the East. I have added it to my list of things to-do, while here. So the locals must have thought I was silly for thinking that the rich Idaho soil was good only for cultivating those extra large Russet potatoes.

Life is quaint out here with lots of pretty country to see. I have found the local folk here to be surprisingly warm and welcoming, always friendly enough to wave as they pass by with a smile. It is a town shared by the blue collar working class loggers and construction crew, as well as the upper middle class elite, who enjoy their nice lakefront summer mountain homes. It is a town enjoyed equally by the elderly and the adventurously young, for no one can deny the beauty and serenity of this place. I recently met this old lady, who says that she has spent some signifiant amount of time in every contiguous United state, but had chosen to take up permanent residence here.

You can find almost one of everything in town, but rarely will you find more. There is one movie theatre at the center of town which plays a different movie each week. There is one coffee shop in town which serves up one cup of Daily Special each morning. There is one grocery/general store in town, which shares the same parking lot with the town hall and clerical buildings. There is a Main Street downtown strip, which spans the lengh of one town block. There is a Cascade public school, which has a shared attendence by students of K thru 12. There is one local gas station, utilized by country folk who drive trucks or tractors, as well as those who prefer to ride four-wheelers, fishing boats, or camping RVs. There is one main paved concrete road, which connects to all the others dirt and gravel paths. There are no stop lights, for there are no rush hours and traffic jams, only stop signs. And for better or worse, there is no McDonalds here. No Wal-mart, and no BurgerKing. There is a medical clinic at the edge of town, which offers both outpatient and emergency care services under one roof. There is one medical doctor on daytime duty, and two doctors who take turns receiving overnight calls. And there is one third year medical student there who finds himself far away from home, displaced from his usual routine, new to his surroundings, unfamiliar to his patients, but enjoying the change of pace, the change of scenery, and the change of lifestyle.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Some people get stressed out with the idea of traveling. After all, there are the bags to pack, the flights to catch, and if you are someone like me, there is the money to spend on food along the way, inevitably. For others, it may be the endless moments spent in waiting that draws out the day, the ennui becoming progressively too much to bear. There is of course the terminal side waiting prior to boarding, where it always strikes me as odd that special privileges still exist for different boarding classes in this day in age. I can only justifiably understand the reasoning for mothers traveling with the little ones. But eventually we all board, even those in boarding class C. But there is more waiting. First, an anxious anticipation of take-off drawn out impossibly long by the slow runway taxi-ing. Not to mention the eternal thumb-twiddling sitting and waiting on the actual plane flight, which of course includes wondering when the flight attendant is going to come around with the cart to offer you honey-roasted peanuts and a drink of choice. Furthermore, there is also the eager anticipation of touchdown landing prolonged by the half-hour long final approach. And then the painstaking wait to deplane tag-teamed by more waiting at the mercy of the slowly snaking baggage carousel, both brutal reminders of the constant, unrelenting tick of time. Unchanging irregardless of your status of arrival.

But amidst all the time I've had to spend waiting, presently slouched in one of those sleek looking, but deceivingly uncomfortable, interconnected airport chairs, I have found an activity out of observing human behavior and interaction, or more simply called, people watching. The sixty something year old woman sitting across from me is reading the latest popular fiction bestseller, apparently too enthralled by the plot to notice the fledgling mother disciplining her son in the adjacent seat to her right, or to care to eavesdrop in the conversation of the man in the black suit who is broadcasting details of business carelessly to the crowd because of Bluetooth, or to notice that I have made myself privy to it all. In these moments, it always humbles me to think that there are so many people in this world, each going about his or her own separate way, each living one unique, unwritten life, just coming and going, to and fro, doing their own thing by living a life thats never been lived before. And how I have gotten so caught up in my own life to care or notice that all of these people I'm currently staring at now all are important players in their own play of life. Each one a lead actor, a protagonist with a different plot to play, different conflicts to face, and different places to go, be it happy or not. And I am lucky to be watching just one scene play out before my eyes. Alright, thats enough sitting. Enough waiting. Enough thinking for now. I think its time to knock back a couple brews at the nearest airport lounge.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

River restoration

The Hillsborough River, Temple Terrace, FL 4/13/07

For the first of my two weeks of respite following inpatient pediatrics, I have been letting the lazy days drift by in Tampa FL. I have trusted in the power vested in warmth, water, and an abundance of sunlight to rejuvenate my youthful vigor and restore my outlook on medicine and life. Sometimes its tough to see life in the big picture when you're trapped within the artificially lit corridors of the sick and infirm. Its nice to be back at home, with family, outside, alongside the river, under the bright Florida sun. Even if that means having to swat at the mosquitos.