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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Friday, July 22, 2011
    Dots on a Map

    Lately I seem to spend a lot of my online time on Mapquest. I look up the small towns where my parents grew up, revisit the parts of Philadelphia I remember from college and medical school. I spend a lot of time virtually wandering California's Central Valley, heading north on Route 99 and zooming in on the small farm towns that dot the valley floor. Some of these towns are only a few blocks long. I eyeball the bar scale at the bottom of the map, trying to estimate their dimensions: are they half a mile wide? Less?

    Then I wonder what it would be like to live there. Hellish, no doubt: if these towns were thriving they would be bigger, plus the farm economy isn't doing well these days. Not to mention that the Central Valley is hot as hell in the summer. Nevertheless I can't keep myself from daydreaming about retiring there. On the map every one of these tiny little towns is an idyll. Everyone knows one another, it's peaceful there, there's a little high school with a scrappy football team that the whole town supports. Folks sit on porches and drink iced tea.

    In real life, the denizens of these towns are probably either dead-eyed clerks at the local convenience store/gas station or toothless geezers who cook up meth in their spare time. I don't want to chance my fantasies being shattered, or ending up like Janet Leigh in the Bates Motel, so for the foreseeable future I'll confine my travels to Mapquest. And when I drive through California it will probably continue to be on boring Interstate 5.

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