The Eastern Front

by Jinryu

2:57 AM:

It’s finally a quiet.  I started my shift at 12:30AM and it’s been nonstop since then, but we’ve finally cleared the boards and there are no more patients left to see.  For the past few days I’ve been working as the N1.  Today, I’m the N2, which is similar to the coordinator, cept with a few special game rules for night.

This morning, I got in a bit of trouble with my boss.  Thing is, about three days ago, I mixed up my schedule and thought I was working N2 when in fact I was scheduled as N1.  What’s the difference?  Well, the N1 starts at 11:15PM, and the N2 starts at 12:30AM.  That means that I was about 45 minutes late, and that was kinda bad, but thankfully someone was able to cover for me.  It didn’t go unnoticed and my boss made a joke about it that day.  Yesterday though, the subway stalled a bit and I was late by 5 minutes. FIVE minutes.  I was N1 again and another clerk reported me to my boss and so in the morning when she came in, she pulled me aside.

“You must show up on time,” she said. “Otherwise, you’re going to get a letter.”

I didn’t make any excuses, and just told her I understood.  I didn’t tell her it’d never happen again, I didn’t say I was sorry, I just said I understood, and put on my sorry face. I’m really really bad at saying sorry because whenever I do, it sounds fake and condescending, so I really try to avoid it because even when I mean it it just makes people upset.

I guess it didn’t help that a week ago, I called in sick on a saturday and left two hours early on a thursday (also because I was sick).

I’m slightly annoyed because the whole N1/N2 thing was an honest mistake and the 5 minutes late, well, that was FIVE MINUTES, but I guess, sure, if I’d been on the ball it wouldn’t have happened.  I suppose I could just leave my house AN HOUR EARLY.


As if I don’t spend enough time in hospitals already, I was at the Montreal General this evening. I had just gotten home at about 8:30 in the morning, started falling asleep, and then the mailman came ringing at about 9:45am.  That was bad, because I was totally disoriented, and I was really in a condition where I was telling myself “Fuck it, who rings a doorbell at 9:45AM?” but then I remembered: it must be the mailman, and I was, after all, expecting a package from Calgary from Chuck.  I only realized this a little bit after ignoring the doorbell for a few rings.

“Faaaaaaawk,” I grumbled, and got out of bed.  I was sleeping in just my boxer shorts though so I just brought my whole blanket with me.  It’s a pretty thick blanket because I’ve still got a bit of a cold.  So I run down the stairs, fling open the door, and meet the mailman, and apologized for being less than half awake and more than half naked.

It wasn’t even my package.

Well, I had a bit of trouble getting back to sleep.  When I woke up, it was almost dinnertime.  I cooked up some spaghetti for my folks and I, we chatted civily abou their days’ (and my night’s) events, and I decided that I’d go visit my grandfather in the hospital, who I hadn’t had the chance to see yet since he was admitted late last night.


He’s doing fine.

But what a difference between a hospital where you work and a hospital where you’re a visitor.

Don’t get me wrong– the MGH is an excellent hospital.  For all it’s shortcomings, it’s still the best at what it does as far as I’m concerned.

But it’s a creepy, creepy feeling to be in there.  And it’s not because the place is opressive– at least, not at all like the MCI where I used to work.

I went up to the 11th floor where my grandfather was and I couldn’t help but notice how pleasant the place was.  And that’s just it– it was too pleasant.

The feeling I got was that the place made me so comfortable that I I just wanted to fall asleep and never wake up.  I mean, as I sat there with my grandad, making small talk with my limited vocabulary about the weather, why I didn’t yet have a drivers’ license, how my younger sister and my cousin had theirs’, and how those people in the next bed wouldn’t shut up (it’s okay, they understand even less Chinese than me), the feeling I got was that if I was lying in the bed, I’d probably be contemplating my death.  It was that relaxing.  The way that the walls were painted.  The way that the lighting was set.

And I suppose some people appreciate that kind of setting because it’s not stressful, but I can’t help but feel as if it’s something sinister. Like the lull of a Siren or something.  If I was hanging on the 50 50 in that bed, and I had the choice between fighting whatever was killing me and just giving into eternal slumber, man, in that place, would I ever choose eternal slumber.  It was as if the tao of that place was decidedly umbilical or something.  It was a very unnerving feeling.

Thankfully, my grandad’s doing better.  They haven’t quite figured out what’s wrong with him yet, but thankfully, it’s not his heart.  He looks a lot better because the oxygen makes it easier for him to breathe and he’s been eating more.  Sleep is an issue because there’s always so much going on in the next bed, but anyhow.


Of all things, when I walked into the hospital my mission was to take some pictures.  I had completely forgotten my other primary objective, which was to bring my grandfather a new toothbrush.

But while I was there, I kept thinking to myself– when could I take this picture?

In a strange way I just felt too opressed to actually do it.  I had my camera in my bag, and I also had my cellphone, which would have been a lot more discreet, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Just… the place… it didn’t feel right.

It felt like whatever was in this place should stay in this place.  I’m not particularly superstitious, but for some reason the sense I got was that if I didn’t have to, I shouldn’t risk stepping on any toes, proverbial or otherwise.

So I didn’t take any pictures.

I was telling myself though that I really wanted to, because who ever takes pictures of their grandfather in a hospital?


I’m not like some wartime photojournalist, but when I take pictures, I’ve always of the opinion that we should keep it real.

We’ve got albums upon albums at home with pictures from Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, what have you, where the whole family is lined up and smiling or faking a smile for the camera.  You can compare them from set to set to see whose haircuts have changed and, in the earlier years, how tall who’s son or daughter has grown.

But that’s all boring.  I think the thing about a picture is that it captures a moment, it freezes time.  Not that everyting taken in a picture has to be moving, but if you make everyone stand still and pose then it’s not really capturing anything, at least, not in the sense that anything is running away.

You can take pictures but the ones that I appreciate aren’t the ones that demonstrate technique so much as a feeling, whatever that is.  It has to have a memory.

But how do you take pictures of bad memories?

Some of my favorite pictures were taken during times of dissapointment.  There’s, for example,  a bunch of pictures from training during the Metropolitain Challenge of such mishaps.  My bike, covered in dirt and my legs torn up after a crash off a hillside during training.  Henry, lying in a ditch clutching his cramped leg with his teeth grinding in a scream.

These pictures remind me of some things that, at the time of their taking, were very upsetting and difficult times, physically and mentally.  At the time, anyone who would be taking my picture would be likely to get a black eye for snapping pictures away isntead of helping out.  But, I ask that people take pictures of me at my lowest.

Why?  Because it helps me remember.

Like writing a diary, I think that taking pictures needs to reflect a wide spectrum of experiences.  Truth isn’t enough– the whole truth is what’s necessary to paint a portrait of someone.

Someday, when I’m infamous/famous, someone will care to read about who I am and when they go through this ledger as well as my other journals, maybe they can figure out who I am.

I am not invincible, but I think that especially where the pen is in my hand, it’s easy to make it seem that way by only telling the ‘best of.’


I went to see Star Trek today, finally.  I won’t spoil anything, but I must say that I really, really loved this movie.  It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time I think, and as a fan of campiness of the original series I really appreciated the modernisation of an old idea.  Characterizations were excellent, the technobabble was logical and complete, the plot wasn’t half bad and the action was surprisingly good and they even managed to throw in a lot of the original orchestal/big band sounds into the background whenever Kirk is asskicking/getting asswhuped.  I think it was really a character driven story, because the nemesis in this movie wasn’t all that great, but I won’t spoil it.  I have nothing more to say about it except that really, you should check it out, whether or not you’re enough of a trekkie to catch all the subtle inserts from the original series.


3:20AM: On the lighter side of hospitals, because it’s quiet, the nurses were just now trying on some sorta hair extensions/wig thing.  They were just cracking up.  The thing is actually really convincing, and can either add volume to your hair if you mount it higher up on the back of your head, or it can give anyone that classy mullet look if you attach it lower.


A couple of days ago, I threw my gi into the wash.  While boxing with Terminator at Numac, I’d taken a few too many jabs in the face and though they didn’t hurt, they still hit me on the nose often enough that I got a nosebleed and bled all over myself.  I’m really not good at boxing.

I’m used to getting nosebleeds– it happens a lot when I overtrain, and it happens by accident every now and then while sparring.  I’m comfortable with just sucking the blood back in and continuing; usually my opponent tells me when it’s getting really messy.  I was wearing a helmet though, so he didn’t notice until I had a fair amount of blood over me.

On a white gi, blood looks pretty impressive in contrast.

It’s not that I take bleeding lightly, but at least when it comes to nosebleeds, it really does look a lot worse than it really is.  I’m mostly annoyed with nosebleeds because, lets face it– that’s an essential fluid, and you train to generate that stuff and pack it with goodies for your muscles.  Everything in that blood is labor and sweat– every ounce of it that you waste on the floor is wasted effort as far as training goes.  

And of course, it’s double work, because then I’d have to clean the floors.

So you know, you do like any civilized guest in a dojo that doesn’t belong to you– you wipe it on your sleeve.  And then everyone looks at you and your bloody face, standing there, otherwise normal, looking as if you’ve just killed someone.  It’s good for attention if that’s what you want but sometimes people just fuss too much.


4:30 AM

There seems to be an epidemic of runaways tonight.  I’ve gotten three phone calls from the police so far since my shift started, for three different kids.

I wonder what it’d be like if I was working in clerical in a police station, and not a hospital?  I wonder what kinds of crazy shit they put into their files.