I've been absent for a time. I mostly didn't have computer access. I did post a few tweets and comments, as well as answer a few emails, using my phone, and I very briefly had access to the computer of the kid who lives in this house, but this is the first time in almost two weeks that I've touched my own computer. I developed an illness My medical care has been excellent, and I am recovering rapidly. The condition has been painful, but my greatest source of discomfort once progressing past the acute phase of the illness has been the almost terminal case of boredom I have experienced.
I will very likely be allowed to return to work on an at least part-time basis next week. The medical school personnel are doing everything in their power to ensure that I will have the knowledge I need to pass the shelf exam in psychiatry even though the hours I will have spent in the department are laughable. To date, I have not yet been under the direction of anyone in any way connected to the psychiatry department for as much as an isolated nanosecond. I could not point even one of them out if I were required to do so in a police lineup. The medical school has some degree of obligation to work with me and to ensure that, at least on paper, my time here hasn't been entirely wasted, though, and they are doing so most honorably. Canadians, I have discovered, are mostly good people (I'll talk a bit more about some of the Canadians I have gotten to know in a later blog), though I had to all but make the no-return float down the Ganges River to discover this.
I was in the process of writing a response to a recent post of Knotty's concerning vegetarians. It became unwieldy and morphed into its own blog. It is somewhat presumptuous to post a response to a blog that is almost as long as the original blog. The blog (my blog, not Knotty's original blog) is pointless, but so are many of my blogs. I'm almost ready to give up on it because my finger strength is so nonexistent that I'm hitting the keys and no letters are appearing on my monitor. Nevertheless, I shall persist. If anything I type makes even less sense than what I normally type, I shall blame it on medical causes even though we all know I'm merely making excuses for my normally abysmal typing.
The university at which I did my undergraduate studies is considered the second-most liberal university in the liberal state of California. Predictably, the enrollment included a relatively large number of vegetarians. This was my introduction to the idea that a person could be simultaneously vegetarian and sane. In the small university town in which I spent the bulk of my childhood and youth, there must have lived vegetarians, but I didn't know any of them, or at least I didn't know they were vegetarians. The only vegetarian of of whom I had ever heard was a relative of a relative.
My uncle-by-marriage has a vegetarian sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not sister who occasionally appears at family functions at which members of my immediate family are also present. Actually, this should have been stated in the past tense. My family no longer attends because my aunt for some reason feels that everyone in attendance at the gatherings must maintain a vegetarian diet whenever her husband's sister is present. My aunt is a terrible vegetarian cook. She's not all that great at preparing non-vegetarian cuisine either, for that matter, but thus far she hasn't royally screwed up many take-out orders. I don't know if my aunt is trying to delude her sister-in-law into thinking that she, her husband, and their twin young adult children are also sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not vegetarians or if she simply feels that asking a vegetarian to witness carnivores doing what most of them do best is asking too much, but eating my aunt's failed attempts at vegetarian epicure is something my dad is no longer willing to tolerate. My mom isn't all that thrilled with it, either, but if she has the option of blaming my dad for anything, she does.
One year we had Christmas dinner there. My mom found out on our way that the Christmas dinner entree was to be eggplant lasagna, as in faux lasagna in which the noodles have been replaced by thin slices of eggplant. (Why the fuck did it need to be eggplant lasagna, for that matter? My aunt could have made perfectly acceptable meat-free traditional lasagna since it wasn't in the middle of one of her sister-in-law's vegan binges, but that might not have been more-vegetarian-than-thou or whatever it was my aunt was hoping to accomplish.) On our way to their home, which was at the time about three or four hours from our house depending upon who was driving, my mom had my dad stop at a grocery store (it was a three-hour trip that day) to pick up a Tombstone frozen pizza for the kids to eat since my mom knew that my aunt's two children weren't any more likely to eat the eggplant lasagna than Matthew and I were.
My mom should have gotten a whole lot more than one of the semi-edible frisbees, though. My parents tell me that frozen pizzas are much better now than they were back in the day. I wonder how such a thing could even be possible. My cousin once baked one without first removing the cardboard on which it was packaged. It didn't taste any different than frozen pizzas normally taste; if anything, it might have been better with the cardboard than without. If there is any truth to what my parents say about it, I would hate to taste whatever it was that passed itself off as frozen pizza in the dark ages. The debatability of the quality of frozen pizza nothwithstanding, the frozen pizza was the sought- after item on the menu that night. Even though the Tombstone pepperoni pizza was supposed to be for the four children present, I don't think any of us got even a sliver of it. I don't know who actually ate it, as no one brought it to the dinner table, but the adults, including the brother of the sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not vegetarian, had more than their share. I'm not sure about the other kids, but I just ate candy for dinner that night, and my mom didn't even try to stop me. I remember bringing my stocking to the table and devouring one chocolate marshmallow Santa after another, placing the foil wrapper of each on my dinner plate at the table. The vegetarian lady spent the majority of the meal just looking at me and shaking her head.
One time we were in the presence of the sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not vegetarian when I think the occasion was a celebration of the university graduation of one of my cousins, though that's neither here nor there. Someone asked another of my cousins where he planned to attend college. One of the possibilities he mentioned was California State University, Chico. The mere mention of the name "Chico" very nearly sent my uncle's sister to a full-blown grand mal seizure-like state. She immediately launched into a diatribe about the various iniquities associated with the city of Chico. I know almost nothing of the city of Chico now and knew even less then. I have no clue as to the validity of her claims, but if she is to be believed, a person would emerge both saner and safer after doing time either in Gary, Indiana, or Rexburg, Idaho, than after spending the same amount of time in Chico. The coup de grace to her remarks was , "And I've heard," her voice dropped to almost a whisper, "that they even have a butcher school in Chico."
By this time, as we had been at my aunt's and uncle's home for more than five minutes, any filter my dad possessed, which would have been a thin one under the best of circumstances, would have been effectively obliterated by his consumption of alcohol. "Do you think," my dad asked my uncle's sister, "that it would be somehow more humane if butchers learned their craft by trial and error?"
My uncle grabbed his throat as a piece of the beef jerky he and my dad had been passing back and forth in a Skoal Bandit container (it was less offensive to my uncle's sister that they were inexplicably chewing and swallowing tobacco right in front of her than it would have been to openly eat beef jerky) became wedged, as his sister ran from the house, howling for the benefit of the entire neighborhood. My aunt stood roughly equidistant between her choking husband and the open front door left that way by her sister-in-law, unsure of whom to aid. She solved the quandary by just standing with her mouth agape, assisting neither. My dad put his drink down and Heimliched my uncle a couple of times until the beef jerky shot out of his mouth about twelve feet and landed squarely in the center of the six-feet-by-six-feet living room window, then slowly slithered its way down. My aunt emerged from her stupor, grabbed a cloth and some Windex, and removed the unslightly blurb from the picture window. My uncle's sister returned to the house as though nothing had happened, bringing with her some pamphlets about seal-hunting off the coat of Labrador, which she handed out to everyone present, including a fourteen-month old baby who belonged to one of my cousins. My dad used his pamphlet as a coaster. The baby gnawed on his.
My cousin told me that once every three years his aunt gets arrested in a protest against fur and realistic-looking fake fur (Why would anyone waste time protesting against any fake fur no matter how realistic it might look?) that takes place annually on Black Friday in San Francisco's Union Square. She is arrested only once every three years because the members of the animal rights organization sposoring the protest take turns being arrested. It's all essentially choreographed, and the organization's members know years in advance of when it is their turn to be arrested. One of the years in which she was arrested her husband (who is not a member of any of her animal rights organizations and, in fact, consumes meat on par with the very best of carnivores) imbibed too freely on his way to bail his wife out. He hit a fire hydrant and was subsequently charged with, among other things, DUI. My uncle had to make the three-hour drive to bail both of them out. The sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not vegetarian was predictably livid. "I ask you to remain sober one day of every three years, and you can't even do that!" she practically spat at him.
The most memorable thing I ever heard the sometimes-vegan-sometimes-not lady say was at another family gathering. I don't even remember the occasion. I just remember what she said when the squeal of a car's brakes and the screeching of its tires were heard, followed immediately by a high-pitched wail. "I certainly hope that was just a child and not a dog!" the woman blurted.