Nostalgia for the East Coast Bonded Us in a West Coast ER

Hometown memories become a source of cheer during medical emergencies

Aimee Liu
4 min readOct 6, 2021

Emergency Room. Photo by author.

What makes for a delightful conversation when you’re waiting to find out whether a loved one is closer to life, or to death? Well, if the emergency room is in Los Angeles, chats about the good old days on the East Coast seem to be just the ticket.

I’ve spent more time in ERs over the past couple of years than I want to admit to myself, let alone to you. Aged mother and older husband. Comes with the territory. I’m not writing this to let you in on our medical tsuris, though. I’m writing to tell you about an easy trick that helps lift the spirits in times like these.

And so here we are, back in the ER again tonight, waiting endlessly for a room upstairs to open so my husband can be admitted. Going on six hours of tests, drips, charts, blips, anxiety, boredom, occasional Code Blue announcements in the hallway outside. And talk about the East Coast, where it seems like half the staff here comes from.

One nurse moved from Boston last year, and the only thing she likes about LA is the weather. Another nurse joked about the emergency cubicle that we’re all crammed into being bigger than his NYC apartment. He grew up in Queens and commuted to Fordham. The pharmacist, too, came from New York — “That’s why I’m OCD” — but wears his Trojan lanyard proudly, since he graduated from USC Pharm School.

The first question asked, almost every time: “Where’re you from?”

“New York.”


“Bronx, next to Yankee Stadium,” my husband replies, and we’re off to memory lane.

The real pros are the two senior doctors at this hospital. One’s also from the Bronx, the other from the Upper Westside. Both in their 70s, they race each other down the halls, one in an electric scooter for his arthritis, the other in a wheelchair for his bum leg. [The wheelchair always wins, we’re told.] Both are Jewish, but they might as well be brothers of my mother’s doctor, an equally gregarious Irish Catholic in his 70s. All of them have a seasoned gift of gab that works better than chocolate-chip cookies to lift troubled spirits.

Aimee Liu

Author, Asian-American novels (Glorious Boy), nonfiction on eating disorders (Gaining), writing, wellness. Published @Hachette. MFA & more@