Written Words – Ghost-writing Part 4

April 28, 2010

Sure, it was full of a million holes. Would my platform even fit into the DNC? And running someone else’s campaign didn’t really improve the lifestyle of being a politician. But it proved he’d been listening all these years, even if it was just to convince me to run his campaign. I’d given up on his listening years ago.

“So what’d’ya think?” He asked with that same gape tooth smile.

“I’d want to know the parameters,” I responded.

“What do you mean?” That wasn’t the answer he was expecting.

“Look, if this was my campaign, I doubt the DNC would be knocking down my door to ask me to run. So what are the constraints I’m working in? Before it becomes a problem.”

“It’s already a problem. I went in day one and told them I’m a Blue Dog.”

“You’re not,” I quipped.

“I told them I was. And I told them I was running Pro-life.”

“I didn’t even know you were…”

“Listen,” he answered back with a seriousness that caught me off guard, “you’ve always been better at this stuff.”

I know he was saying that because he wanted me to do something, but what made it dangerous was that it was true. Read the rest of this entry »


Written Words – Ghost-writing Part 3

April 27, 2010

I had fond memories of the faculty club from my undergraduate days at Penn. In those days the Faculty Club represented free lunches and networking opportunities. Professors always seemed to have some idea about what I could be doing.

Of course, sometimes the Faculty Club was still like that, except with me in the role of professor and some fresh-eyed undergraduate looking for an opportunity.

But more often it was meetings like this. Where one person owed the other a favor or one person had something to request of the other.

“Can I ask you something?”


“Why are you running?”

There was no pause, just a toothy grin that took me back fifteen years.

“This is what we always dreamed about. You know, the speeches, the campaigning.”

The word he left out was celebrity. Read the rest of this entry »

Found Words – The West Wing

April 27, 2010

“You know what the difference is between you and me?  I want to be the guy, you want to be the guy the guy counts on” – President Bartlett

Written Words – Ghost-writing Part 2

April 26, 2010

He inhaled deeply, like someone might before diving into a pool or singing a long note. The breath, and the voice, were familiar. But over the years an edge had crept into the voice. I’d tried to laugh it off, saying it was just the military training, but that didn’t seem quite right. When he was younger the voice had been pure — often pure excitement. Now, there was a tension, a trace of… anger.

Of course, I knew what he was asking before he had the time to say anything. Unfair, but a remnant from a time back in high school when we did everything together.

He was going to run for office. And he was going to ask me to run his campaign.

“Did I ever tell you exactly why I left the military?”

“No.” I responded, “You told me it was about your family.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” something was hanging in the air even though he had two kids, six and four, and the oldest was in kindergarden, “but it wasn’t just that. It started when I moved to Philly.”

Saying he moved to Philly always made me laugh — he lived in the ‘burbs,’ but it had meant we were closer and I got to see him and his family now and again.

“Part of my duties here was to go to all those fundraisers and everything and talk to people on behalf of the military. They loved me — always surprised that I was such a political junkie. I told them it was from growing up reading the post. I got really close to a couple of real good guys and they promised a shot at the House seat if Murphy decided to hang’em up. Word came down early last year, and I decided to get out.”

His breathing was faster now, as if he was anticipating my response.

“That’s…uh…that’s great.”

I hoped I sounded convincing. Truth of the matter was, our interest in politics, and indeed our political ideologies, had disconnected years ago. He’d done the army years ago. He’d done the army thing while I’d been at Penn and later, Oxford studying social policy. See policy was my word, politics his. I was a wonk. He’d always wanted to be a celebrity.

“What do you think?” That same rushed breathing.

“A campaign. That’s exciting, it’s what you want, right?” I dodged.

“No. What do you think about…”

I knew exactly what he meant, but wanted him to say it.

“…running my campaign?”

There it was. I let it hang in the air for a second, unsure how to respond. Read the rest of this entry »

Written Words – Ghost-Writing Part 1

April 25, 2010

“I’m calling it in.”

I held the phone in my hands, dully, as if this was some sort of dream that I’d wake up from if I just became self-aware.

I didn’t.

It wasn’t that it was a dream come true or anything like that. Or a nightmare either. It was just one of those lines that you’d expect your subconscious to unearth in a dream — something that had a lot of meaning a long time ago.

“You still there?”

“Oh. Yeah. Sorry.”

“Well, what do you think?”

His voice was exceptionally familiar, like you’d expect family to be, which made sense given that we’d been virtually family as children. Having spent our childhood in the same neighborhood, knocking on doors had been courtesy, not a formality. If no one answered we’d walk in and pour a glass of ice tea, and see if someone was in the backyard.

Read the rest of this entry »

Found Words – Lily Walker

April 24, 2010

If you come here to help me, then you are wasting your time.

But if you come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us begin.

-Lily Walker, an Australian Aboriginal leader

Written Words – Neuro block

April 22, 2010

They say it’s our chance to learn how the brain works, and they figure it’s complex and important enough to give it its own block. Two solid months of nothing but neuroscience (with a few smatterings of clinical or ethical classes to remind us that we want to be doctors). Two months of neural pathways, slices of brains, lesions, tracts, nuclei. We’re two and a half weeks in and my brain definitely hurts. There’s just so much to learn, and all of the names are interrelated, but in the way that smooshes the ideas together, not the way that makes it easy to trace out a path.

Seriously, how do I remember that fine touch neurons from the upper body have cell bodies in the DRG, run into the spinal cord, ascend in the cuneate fasciculus, and synapse in the cuneate nucleus, but the ones from the lower body ascend in the gracile fasciculus and synapse in the gracile nucleus? And don’t even get me started on paths of the secondary and tertiary neurons that have to travel before we finally reach the cortex. I can follow the diagram they drew in class, so long as it stays schematic and I get to keep the labels. But the rest of it is a foreign language.

Sometimes, though, I get the feeling that they’re just messing with my mind. That maybe Neuro block is really just one big experiment on med students. How much brain info can they feed us before out heads explode? And will we ever notice that they’re making it all up? I wonder, because sometimes I’m in the midst of reading about enzymes and neurons and processing streams and I hit a line like this in my course notes: “This reveals a set of ‘blobs’ and ‘interblobs’ in the superficial layers of V1 (Figure 2).”

If I go mental in neuro block, you know who to blame.