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December 15, 2006

Visiting America

Julieorfirer272x722_1 Julie - I live on a hilly dirt road down a long gravel driveway in a little house heated by a wood stove.  At night I am surrounded by the endless stars and the sounds of the owls, the coyotes, the bears and the other inhabitants of the forest that surrounds us. Two miles away in town I go to the post office and the library. I get videos and sometimes bananas or gas at the convenience store.  I go there to buy the cheddar cheese off the big wheel that my husband has for lunch every day.  It's still referred to as "Elmer's Cheese" because 20 years ago it was only sold at Elmer's Store.  Elmer's just re-opened this year as a fairly up-scale breakfast, treats, buy a few food or craft items shop.  You can get an omelet with a piece of art from this month's show: "market price."  Occasionally I go to town to get a pizza or pick up an item at the hardware/general store when driving 30 minutes just won't do.

Right now I'm on one of my "visits to America" to see my family in the Bay Area of California. My husband does this when he visits family in Texas.

"Visiting America" has many aspects.  The dozens of interconnected freeways packed with cars is just one of them.  The other night we were driving into San Francisco and, stopped by traffic, looked down over a sea of red break-lights beside a sea of white headlamps.  It seemed to me that there were more cars idling at the ramp to this bridge than are registered in my town.

Then there are the things that we have, only more so.  There are the straight four lane roads lined with big box stores -- bigger and more of them than imaginable.  Who knew how many items "R-Us"?  There are the places I'm familiar with - the supermarkets and coffee shops - but this time with lines 12, 15 people deep.  I love those lines, filled with the variety of people of all ages, dress, sizes, hues of skin, and languages spoken.  On a walk around a lake the other day I passed women in scarves, both Muslim and Jew.  (I didn't recognize any of them as scarved due to chemotherapy.)  I passed lithe athletes on training runs (one man with two knee braces and an ankle brace; ah, the ravages of time!) and extremely obese men and women with the look of determination on their faces to do this because our lives depend on it.

Visiting America, at least here where I do it, means having way too many choices.  Within walking distance of my sister's house are three shopping districts, each a half mile or so of independently owned small businesses to buy clothes, shoes, bicycles, groceries, crafts, home furnishings, gifts (oh, gifts, lots of gifts! It's the holiday season after all).  For lunch today I could have sushi, Vietnamese, Caribbean, Ethiopian, Spanish tapas, burgers and sandwiches, pizza, Burmese, Mexican or Californian fusion cuisine -- and have my choice of two of each type of restaurant!  (There's one block around the corner from here that has no less than four coffee shops packed with people every time I walk by!)  I love that there are still so many options to support local businesses.

This trip also included visiting with two colleagues I've known for years via an Internet NP listserv that I got to meet in person yesterday.  It was treat to talk in real time about our lives and our work.  There were interesting comparisons of how emergency rooms work in a huge metropolitan region versus a smaller less populated region and how many doctors we knew in both areas who have lost their professions due to, well, unprofessional conduct. This is the second occasion I've had recently to meet my cyber-colleagues from this list and it's been such a treat.

Most of this visit means seeing family.  It's been a huge year for all of us with many changes, moves, losses, gains.  There's a lot to talk about.  Good for us that there are lots of restaurants to do it in!

December 15, 2006 in Julie | Permalink

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