Letter From America

When you travel from Perth in Western Australia to San Francisco you are in for a long day…a forty hour day in fact, thanks to the arbitrary placement of the international dateline.

A naive hope that my permanently discombobulated circadian rhythm — one of the ever-present ‘perks’ of shift work — would effortlessly synch in with the California sun proved to be forlorn. Perhaps watching Inception on the plane didn’t help.

If I was any more dissociated from time and place I’d probably find myself in a Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. novel. Which, incidentally, reminds me of an ICU patient who unwisely chose to watch 12 Monkeys soon after extubation. Needless to say I now always check what videos the patient has been watching when I can’t find a cause of ICU psychosis…

Anyway, it’s 4 in the morning and as good a time as any to put the virtual pen to paper.

Marriott Marquis

Why am I in San Francisco? Well, to meet emergency medicine edumactor extraordinaire Mel Herbert at the USC Essentials of Emergency Medicine extravaganza no less. Incidentally, there is also the small matter of the first meeting of the inaugural Fellows of the Utopian College of Emergency Medicine which you may also hear about in due course…

Tomorrow — I mean today — the preconference courses are being held where I will be wading through multimedia, blood and gore in the trauma review session.

That meant today (or perhaps yesterday?) was a day (or was it night?) of rest and relaxation. I elected to explore the city on foot. Starting from the palatial monolith of the Marriott Marquis I headed north past the materialist’s mecca of union square to china town (not coincidentally reminiscent of the classic film ‘big trouble in little china’). A short walk to North Beach and I found myself in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and mingling with the ghosts of the beatniks.

A short detour east saw me reach the top of Telegraph Hill from where I caught first glimpses of Alcatraz and the imperial orange of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sadly though, none of the fabled parakeets of Telegraph Hill were to be seen.



telegraph hill

On top of Telegraph Hill

Fighting off the incessant nagging of my sleep hungry pineal gland I followed the coast from Fort Mason through El Presidio Real de San Francisco. Five kilometers west and I was rejuvenated, with blue sky above and golden steel below.

The bridge is a phenomenon.

Striking to behold, it groans with the passage of hurtling traffic and the pacific winds. Yet it’s golden glow casts a dark shadow. Every two weeks, like malevolent clockwork, a lost soul plummets from these golden heights and breaks the icy water below at a speed of 125 km/h. Over a thousand people have died this way, and survivors of the great leap are sadly few. Such are the dark thoughts that fill ones mind while jack knifing through the chequerboard streets of San Francisco to the solitary comfort of a hotel room.

I wonder what today, that’s right today, will bring.

golden gate

The Golden Gate Bridge

crisis call

Crisis Call on the Golden Gate Bridge

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  1. says

    That was brilliant reading. My melatonin levels sympathetically plummeted. Your travelogue of SF triggered memories of medical school and an ICU psychosis by proxy. Hopefully we can meet up this week, maybe tonight (although I speculate given your jet lag slipstream that our first meeting might be opened with an Osler handshake--the sternal rub).