Saturday, May 24, 2014

Home is where the heart is....

This past week I returned to the U.S. for the first time since we moved to Malaysia. The American Thoracic Society (ATS) had their annual conference in San Diego and I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at a session and to present some of my basic science research. When I purchased my flights to California around Christmas time I realized that the conference was the same weekend as the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. Some of you may know that we live one block north of Pimlico racetrack where the Preakness is held every year. It is an incredibly fun time to live in Mt. Washington. All of our neighbors throw race-themed parties and barbeques and a number of our good friends come from across the country to spend the weekend in Baltimore. Ryan Tedford, one of our friends from residency, hosts an annual brunch and then takes a group of 30-40 people to the race. In short, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a detour from Los Angeles to Baltimore to go to the race! It’s only a 5 hr flight – that’s not even my personal record for going to a sporting event (i.e., opening day for Major League Baseball in Sydney, Australia!).

It was so great to see everyone in Baltimore. Bob picked me up at BWI on Friday (and took me straight to the beer store) and Matt hosted a poker night with the neighborhood gang. Mike Brown didn't have time to make his famous ‘Box ‘o Nachos’ but he brought some amazing home grown peppers and there were more IPAs than you could shake a stick at!
For all of our Malaysian friends, this is what a beer store looks like!
Saturday morning I went on a great run through Robert E. Lee Park and then headed to the Tedfords for their annual Preakness brunch. As always, the food was stellar and the company was even better. After gorging on quiche from Dangerously Delicious Pies and Roxanne’s famous crème-brulee French toast we hopped onto a hired school bus bound for the racetrack. To be honest, most of the day was a blur. I was pretty jetlagged and the Preakness is nothing else if not complete sensory overload. I did manage to place a few bets, and even won a few bucks (Thanks, California Chrome). I also managed to talk my way past security to visit Damian and Alycia (and Alice and Mark) at the Democratic Governor’s Tent in the VIP section of the infield. After the race, the Peltons had a bbq and I was able to catch up with everyone from the neighborhood that I hadn’t yet been able to see. It was so great to see everyone. It honestly felt as if I had never left Baltimore. Thank you all for making it a great trip back!

Brunch at the Tedford's.  I didn't have time to get a searsucker suit so I went Batik instead!

The Mt. Washington crew at the post-Preakness bbq
On Sunday morning I headed out to San Diego to catch up with the conference. Unfortunately, my usual roommate Billy Fischer is on a WHO assignment to investigate the Ebola outbreak in Guinea but Ben Singer was kind enough to let me crash with him at the Hard Rock Hotel. We had a blast. ATS is as much about seeing old friends as it is about the science. And there was some great science at the conference. Thanks to Ben and Leann for helping present some of my posters, and a special thank you to Sonye for inviting me to co-chair a session with her. I would also like to thank everyone for a wonderful birthday celebration. I almost escaped from the bar just before midnight but Ramana was happy enough to remind everyone that it was still my birthday! I suppose I should thank her for that.

Tuesday night the Padres were in town so a group of us went to check out the game. I could not name a single Padres player before the game and I'm not if I could name one now. The stadium was a great place to catch a game though.  

Wednesday was the last day of the conference. Most people cleared out of town by Wednesday morning but I had the privilege of presenting the last poster at the last session on Wednesday afternoon. Being surrounded by intelligent and strong-willed women at home and at work usually means I don't get to have the last word so it was kind of a unique experience!

After the conference I hopped on the surfcoaster train to Encinitas to see our dear friends Cory and Abby. It was awesome to meet their son River and their dog Bruce. Bruce reminded me so much of Penny. We had an excellent bbq steak dinner followed by my last craft ales and then I boarded the Amtrak to LA to catch my flight back to KL. I won't bore you with the details of the flight except to say that I watched two Keanu Reeves’ movies. It was surreal (or maybe sublime – I honestly am too jetlagged to figure that one out).

I'm now back in KL. I have to say that it felt as if I had never left Baltimore but being back with Mary and the kids reminds me that home is truly where the heart is!