Teeth, SSF, etc.

For whatever reason, I recently went back and read Air in the Paragraph #5. (I need a better place for these to live, especially since Scribd has turned into a paid-service scam. I’ve temporarily put it here.) A lot of my writing from 1996 is pretty cringe-inducing, but I always liked this particular issue of the zine, because it was a seamless narrative from start to finish, with a solid through line that pulled you through the trip report, book reviews, writing news, and day-to-day stuff of the last month or two. This was just before I started an online journal, which later took the place of this for the day-to-day stuff. Now, I don’t do that, either. I should, but not a lot is going on outside of work.

I’ve had a bunch of dental malady stuff as of late. First, I can’t find a good dentist that takes my insurance in Oakland. The dentist I’ve had for the last five or six years isn’t that great, and sort of pawned me off on his new partner, who rushes through procedures and completely triggers my dental trauma anxiety, and is completely drill-happy. Last time I saw her, she immediately priced out two dozen things I needed done, so I walked. I went back to my old dentist in South San Francisco, who is much more low-tech, but very relaxing and low key, does good work, and has Saturday hours. It’s a drive to get there, but whatever. He also takes my insurance.

After a routine cleaning, he told me he’d have to root canal and crown one of my front-ish teeth. If you think of what tooth would be a vampire fang in a Dracula get-up, it’s the tooth immediately behind that on the bottom. This was, unfortunately, a three-step process. One Saturday, he tore off the top of the old tooth and started the root canal, then sent me home with a temp crown. Next week, he did a post buildup after more root canal work, and once again, temp crown. Then two weeks later, I got the replacement crown.

This essentially meant I could not eat solids for three weeks. That’s not entirely true, but the bulk of my diet was meal replacement shakes. I later found I could eat macaroni and cheese if I let it cool a bit, and I could eat various puddings and cheeses and whatnot. Oatmeal was problematic, because it was too grainy and had bits of nuts in it. Soup is sort of bullshit. Boiled eggs worked. Those shelf-stable pad thai noodles worked if I left off the toppings. At some point about a week and a half in, I sort of snapped, went to Burger King, and smashed a thing of chicken fries to a paste-like consistency and ate it without chewing. It was horrible. The whole thing was horrible. All I could think of was the time in LA when I had the tooth next to it on a temp crown, and on the first day, it popped off, and I spent two weeks fucking around with drug store adhesives, which only half-worked and lasted a day max and made me realize why everyone with false teeth is a grumpy piece of shit.

Anyway, the crown is back as of yesterday. Still a little nervous eating on it, and the gumline around it will take a few days, but it’s pretty solid. The only hard part will be paying  the bill, which will probably be like a grand after insurance.

(There’s also an AITPL connection in there, sort of – after I wrapped up that zine and started blogging online, I had a ton of dental work done. I have horrible teeth, go ahead and be classist and make fun of me now, but I survived a childhood of well water, an addiction to soda, and a long run on lithium, and that was the magic trifecta to fuck me up dentally. So the first time I had real dental insurance, I found a (crappy) dentist, and we went from 1 to 32, drilling and filling and bonding. It’s probably the reason I have such a high tolerance to novocaine these days. I usually need five or six shots to get any work done. Anyway.)

Another bit of nostalgia overload is that this dentist is located at the Tanforan Mall, in my old neighborhood where I lived from 2008-2009. I haven’t gone back there in a while, and even though I only lived there less than a year, there’s a really strong set of memories there. It was my first place in the Bay Area, and it was also the same apartment company as my place in LA, same exact buildings, same blueprints, pretty much the same apartment, but flipped the opposite way. Being in the area reminds me a lot of that era of working for Samsung, driving back and forth from SSF to San Jose every day, spending the weekends running errands around Tanforan. I had an old Weight Watchers meeting there; I saw a lot of movies at the big 20-screen at the small mall; I went to the drug store and the Blockbuster (RIP) and the Safeway and the Target and all the other routine stuff I could see in any other city, but for whatever reason, that layout triggers memories and makes me think and feel and blah blah blah.

Yesterday, it was insanely sunny and warm — maybe like 72 degrees — so I took a long walk before my appointment. There’s a movie theater there that died right before I moved there in 2008, and has been sitting vacant since then. It’s called Century Plaza 10, and it’s a weird little abandoned vaporwave slice of time. (Go google street view it.) There are palm trees out front, a big red movie sign that’s faded to a magenta-pink, and these domes at each corner, like a miniature Taj Mahal, minus the main dome. The first film shown there was Back to the Future, and the theater totally captures that 1985 vibe. The outside is very well preserved, but the inside is toxic, infested with black mold so dangerous. you’d need a full moon suit and respirator to survive. The whole area is mostly low-rise, office parks and big-box stores, gentle hills in the background. A lot of it hasn’t changed since I left (except the Arby’s with the old-school hat sign is gone) and it not only reminds me of then, but of the first time I visited the bay in 1996. (Another callback to AITPL, although I think that was issue 4.)

Anyway, nothing else going on but work. I’m trying to take a week off next month, and haven’t booked anything yet because I was expecting the plans to collapse. Should get on that.


The Wisdom Tooth Story

My friend Marc Broude is in the middle of impacted wisdom tooth drama, sitting in bed on painkillers while everyone replies to his post on facebook with their own tales of dental horror. My story is too big for a little box, so I thought I’d type it out here.

When I got to Seattle in the summer of 1995, my teeth were decimated. It was the holy triumvirate of no fluoride in the water as a kid, drinking way too much Coca-Cola, and being on lithium for a half-dozen years. My teeth started to go in college, and I couldn’t do anything about it until I got a real job and insurance. It wasn’t something I was too enthusiastic about, given my shame-based depression, which was at an all-time worst level back then, but I couldn’t do much beyond brushing and flossing, until I got some insurance. (I think reading about the various dental trauma in Infinite Jest was also a tipping point.)

In 1996, I had a good job with good insurance, and that fall, I found a dentist from one of those ValuPak coupon books they stuff in your mailbox. He looked like Craig Kilbourn and was fresh out of dental school, working in a tiny office near Seattle University.  When I showed up and opened my mouth, I think he saw the first ten payments on a boat staring back at him, and he excitedly started planning a regimen to get everything fixed and max out my insurance, starting quadrant-by-quadrant, and waiting until the new year and new set of benefits to take a crack at the back four teeth.

Until then, I was in complete agony.  I think the work he did on restoring the other teeth shifted things around and pressed more into the back ones. The wisdom teeth were rotting, and food would stick in them constantly, causing sharp, intense bursts of pain every time I ate. But I’d also sit in bed at night with an unbearable dull ache in my entire jaw. I am allergic to aspirin, Advil, and other similar NSAIDs, and did not know at the time that I could take Tylenol. Sometimes I would rub anbesol into the back teeth, which would give me five or ten minutes of relief. I mostly counted down the days until January, and considered staging a car accident where I hit a dashboard mouth-first and got an insured motorist to fit the bill for a total dental remake.

One thing they did, which almost helped, was put me on a seven-day regimen of antibiotics. I try to avoid them, because I’m allergic to penicillin, and the last time I took it, I was in the hospital for a week. I’m also allergic to a few of its relatives, and I try not to take any of the others, so I have a working drug in reserve for a time when I really need it.  Taking that stuff made me puke daily, but took the edge off of the pain. I also got this syrup stuff that looked and tasted like RoboCop’s jizz. Cancer patients rinse their mouthes out with it so they don’t lose all of their teeth in chemo.  It would coat everything inside my mouth with a protective layer of scum, and turn my not-that-white teeth a horrible color of syrup brown. But it worked overnight, or at least long enough for me to sleep a couple of hours.

January rolled around, and I got an early morning appointment to extract all four teeth at once. My girlfriend K lived in Longview, about a hundred miles away, and would come up for the weekend to deal with me, but the morning of the procedure, my friend Bill drove me there, and brought his laptop so he could keep programming at work stuff while I got my teeth yanked.

Problem one: I was not knocked out. I did not get a general, did not get laughing gas or twilight drugs or any of that. He took out the horse-sized injector of novocain and jabbed away at the gum line, while the nurse set up the tray with these medieval torture devices.  Once I got numb, the fun started, and he pried and twisted at the teeth.  You DO NOT want to be awake for this, because all you hear is this horrible twisting and breaking and cracking sound. You don’t just hear it; you actually feel the vibrations of this through your whole jaw.  My neck muscles tensed and throbbed with fire as my whole body pushed against him.  He actually had to push down on my chest so much for leverage, I left the office with bruises all along my sternum. He eventually cracked out each tooth, showing me the total devastation of each molar, the black decay and rot all along what used to be enamel.

He did this for three of the teeth, and then struggled on one, unable to get a hold on it.  And then, the word you never want to hear a dentist say, “SHIT!”  He managed to yank loose the top of the tooth, but the roots remained.  The tooth broke in half.  He spent some time poking around the gum line, trying to find a way to pry out the impacted roots, but this was more painful than the worst Guantanamo torture tactic you could possibly imagine.  The pain shots numb the nerve on the surface, but prying away at an open wound in the socket with forceps and blacksmith’s tools is a pain you feel through your entire body.

The hour-long procedure ran into the third hour, and he gave up. He got his assistant to call a dental ER surgeon for an emergency appointment. They packed my mouth full of gauze after stitching the other three sockets, and told me this other guy could get me in at 4:00.  It was now about 11:00.  I was starving, seeping blood, and the drugs were wearing off. They gave me directions, and wished me luck.

I could not talk, so I took Bill’s laptop, opened an emacs buffer, and typed out what was happening. He was supposed to be back at work hours ago, but agreed to stay with me for the day. But, I had to get him fed.  And I had to figure out a temporary solution for the fact that I was drowning in blood.

We went to Madison Street in Pill Hill, to hit an ATM and the McDonald’s there, and to kill time before that appointment. While we were standing in the snow at the ATM, I was trying to talk to Bill with all of this blood and cotton in my mouth, sounding sort of like Bill Murray in Caddyshack.  I said something like “dude, it would be cool if I could spit blood like Gene Simmons from KISS.” Bill replied, “dude, you are.”  I looked down and had this long strand of blood and spit hanging from my half-numb mouth, dribbling onto the white snow.

At the McDonald’s, Bill ordered whatever, and I paid for a large drink, but asked for just an empty cup.  This resulted in the huge “I can’t give you a cup, the cups are inventory and you have to buy a drink” speech, at which point I said, bleeding all over the counter, to just sell me a goddamn drink and I’d pour it on the floor or something.  They eventually gave me a cup, and we sat in the dining room, Bill eating his Big Mac or whatever, and me spitting in a cup like a hillbilly with a wad of Skoal in his lip instead of bloody cotton.

The doctor’s office was the complete opposite of the dentist, a super-modern place that looked like a Beverly Hills plastic surgery clinic.  They changed out my bloody mouth-tampons and put me in one of those panoramic x-ray machines to render my entire jaw in a long landscape strip of black and white, which amazed me.  After a bit of waiting, a surgeon came in, looked at the x-rays, and within about four minutes, dug out the shattered pieces of tooth root and sewed me up.

I got home and had a couple of hours to kill, until K showed up. I forget what pain pills they gave me, but I loaded up my CD changer with the first six Black Sabbath albums and took half of the tablets at once.  Every time I hear “Planet Caravan” now, I think about how my girlfriend came in that night and found me laying on the floor, mumbling “WE TRAVEL THE UNIVERSE” with my mouth full of gauze.

Recovery was unremarkable.  I sat on my futon all weekend, drinking Ensure and eventually eating gouda cheese, which is now ruined for me, because it always reminds me of the procedure. Honestly, the worst parts of my recovery were all of the purple bruises on my chest, the strained neck muscles, and the fact that I watched some stupid Meg Ryan movie on painkillers.  Also, the little threads of stitching bothered the hell out of me, my tongue rubbed raw from trying to feel them.  I think I took Monday off, although I didn’t need it, to finish the painkillers and work on writing Rumored to Exist.

That’s my story. Hard to believe it was almost twenty years ago. I wonder if that fucking dentist is in prison by now.


Dental trauma #863

Happy New Year.  I have been home for a few days.  I’m still not 100% unpacked.  Maybe today.

I had to go to the dentist on Saturday morning for the next step in the latest dental trauma.  They are replacing the crown that came off while I was in Mexico.  The problem was getting the crown off again, since the Mexican dentist seems to have done a pretty good job gluing it on (probably with some adhesive that’s illegal to sell in the US because it’s also used to kill rats in science labs.)  To remove the crown, he first had to give me about ten injections of novocaine, because it’s on a live tooth.  Then he used a grinder to cut down a groove in the porcelain and metal of the crown and a sort of dentist’s prybar to then wedge apart the crown until the seal broke and he could pry it loose.

Two issues with this:  first, it’s a tooth at the very back of my mouth, which involves forcing open the jaw at an unnatural angle for a long period of time.  Second, the sounds and vibrations associated with the cutting and prying are far from ideal for a person with dental anxiety and unnatural fears of teeth being pulled or falling out.  Short of getting my wisdom teeth pulled while under a local (and then having the dimwit break a tooth off and send me across town to an emergency oral surgery to get the other half of the tooth removed), this is pretty far up the list of bad dental experiences.

They got a temp crown on there and sent me on my way, feeling like I’d just got out of a bad Guantanamo Bay talk session.  After a few hours, my jaw started chattering uncontrollably, as some weird side effect of the shots wearing off.  And then, my jaw started hurting horribly, mostly from trying to fight to keep it open.  It still hurts today, although it’s not as bad as yesterday.  The main problem is I have to now limit my diet a bit for the next week, avoiding anything that could pull loose the temp crown, or get stuck in between teeth back in that corner.  I didn’t eat all day yesterday, but eventually had a vegetarian pad thai that seemed to work okay.

Next up: a root canal in the tooth next to this one has to be redone; it has some kind of infection at the very tip of the root.  This was a root canal done back in Seattle, in 1997 or 1998.  There’s a bit of strange nostalgia about that.  The endodontist I went to back then had an office in Northgate, just a skip south of Silver Platters records, which was my second home when I lived there.  I have no idea how I afforded a root canal and a biweekly trip to buy new CDs at this place. A quick google shows me they are still open.  The bad news is it looks like they discontinued their certificate plan, where they gave you these fake money certificates when you bought stuff, and you could turn them in for free CDs.  There was a whole system to this madness, where you would get extra certificates on certain days, and for certain sale items, and so on, and I tried my best to exploit this system by only shopping on Tuesdays or whatever else was required.  Now, it’s all about iTunes.  End of an era, I guess.

It’s also the end of the 00s, although I have nothing interesting to say about it, other than wondering where the last ten years went.  Seems like yesterday we were all worrying about Y2K and I was trying to settle in my new and somewhat shitty apartment in Astoria.  That was ten years ago?


Hello from Mexico

IMG_1643I’m writing from a hotel room in Ixtapa, Mexico, where I’ve been hanging out for almost a week.  We flew down last Saturday, and fly back on Sunday.  This has been our first real vacation since our honeymoon in the Bahamas in 2007, except for long weekends, trips back to the Midwest for holidays, and the week I took off to move into our new place, and it’s been long overdue.

Mexico’s a strange place.  First, it’s strange that my didn’t-pay-attention-twenty-years-ago Spanish is somewhat functional here, and fragments of it have been coming back to me as we stumble through menus and tours.  Yes, most of the people here, especially those in the tourism-related industries (which is pretty much all of Ixtapa and Zihuantanejo) speak English.  But they also like it when you try to use Spanish, and they all seem to love trying to teach you a few words here and there en Espanol.

We’re in one of the poorest states in the country, and once you leave our hotel, you can see it.  Ixtapa’s not much more than a marina, a row of resorts, and a couple of golf courses, but Zihua is a pretty beat city.  Walking the rows of open markets and ramshackle properties, pretty much the only high tech things you will see are Coke or Corona signs.  Any feeling you may have about being the Ugly American here is quickly dissipated by the thought that at least the pesos you’re throwing out there are going to someone who needs them.

A dollar is worth 12 or almost 13 pesos.  Prices in pesos still use the dollar sign though, which first freaked me out when I picked up a room service menu and saw a can of Coke for $35.  I can’t really tell how much we’re spending or how good or bad of a deal it is, because we’re charging a lot of stuff back to the room, and there’s the whole ‘monopoly money’ factor.  Anything less than 20 pesos you get back in change will be in coins, and the paper money is very colorful with pictures of Indians and pyramids.  Also, the Banco De Mexico on the 100 peso bill is in a font that looks like the Iron Maiden logo, which is very metal.

Most days, we have been doing nothing but sitting on the beach, reading or writing.  I have crossed the 50,000 mark on this book, which means it is officially done as far as NaNoWriMo is concerned, but it’s really like 30% done, and that’s just a first draft, so don’t look for a pre-order any time soon.  We also took a long tour where we got to see a tilemaking operation in the countryside and wander through a town that had a big open market.  It was all centered around this one Catholic church that had a Jesus that looked tragic in a Faces of Death sort of way, bewildered and on his knees dragging a cross, bloodied and beaten.  Not exactly the airbrushed and toned Jesus I was used to seeing as a kid in Indiana.

We also went on a long tour yesterday on ATVs, which was a lot of fun.  It was mostly through woods and farmland, and most of the farms here grow coconuts, or raise cattle.  We also got to cruise at top speed across a wavy oceanfront.  ATVs are fun as hell, and it makes me want to buy a couple and tear up my land in Colorado to put in some kind of dirt obstacle course.

And the bad news.  First, there was an earthquake here last Sunday.  There were actually three, a 3.7, a 4.6, and a 4.2; I think we only felt the middle one.  It wasn’t much, a very quick shake that we thought was just someone next door or maybe below us, and we didn’t hear confirmation of it until the next day.

Second, we got sick.  We were both careful about what we ate and drank, and they purify everything here at the hotel, but something got us.  It was a horrible, flu-like thing where I was feverish and totally weak for about 24 hours, and then it went away.  So, Montezuma had his revenge, but a day later, I was for the most part better.

And also, on last Sunday, I was eating a piece of cake, and one of my crowns fell out.  It was my lower rear one, and it and the tooth appeared to have no damage, but there was some sensitivity, and immediately went ballistic.  “Mexican” and “Dentist” go together like “Turkish” and “Prison”.  I got an appointment the next morning with a dentist in Zihua who had an office about as clean and friendly as my last dentist in Astoria (which isn’t saying much, but it wasn’t like the dental scene in that Tom Hanks castaway movie.)  He shot me up with novacaine, cleaned everything, glued the crown back on, told me in broken English that I needed to get it redone as soon as possible (going back next week, in the US…) and then charged me roughly  $40.  No paperwork, no insurance hassles, no waivers to sign, nothing.  It was truly a “you are not in the US anymore” moment.

So here I am, the temperature outside double what it is back home, no rain or gloom.  No turkey yesterday, and the only football on the tube was the no-hands variety with the round ball.  Lots of pictures to upload when I get back on a real internet connection, so stay tuned.


Dental hell

I have a few seconds for a quick update. I wish I had time to write more in here, but my time seems to be vanishing lately.

I have been in dental hell since last week. They ground down two of my teeth in preparation for crowns, took impressions to send off to the lab, and then put on temporary crowns. The bottom temp is basically a metal cap that looks like something you’d put over a screw head on a piece of furniture, except coated with a thin coat of white paint. The top one is a chunk of nylon. I think I described this before as looking like North Korean dentistry. Anyway, the top one came loose when I bit into a wrap sandwich thing, and freaked me out. They re-cemented it for me, but the cement, which is basically that Mr. Gasket stuff you use to seal hoses in your car engine, has been disintegrating, leaving a lot of weird edges. Yesterday, the white part of that lower metal cap started flaking off, so I have a nice sharp edge in my mouth. Luckily, the lab is done, and in an hour, I go in and get the real article permanently cemented into my mouth. It’s been a week of Slim-Fast and applesauce, which really sucks.

It’s not a good time to be a Rockies fan, but it’s a true test of my fanhood that I’m still watching. After a long, long slide, they won their last two against the Dodgers. There was even a bench-clearing brawl the other night, although it wasn’t terribly exciting, just a bit of shoving. I probably should have went to the day game yesterday, but for whatever reason, flaked it. My next baseball will be a minor league game in Las Vegas next week. I also got us tickets to a Golden League game down in Long Beach on the 14th. Box seats were $10. I think they are box seats on a little league field, though.

I will be in Vegas next week. With any luck I will see Simms, and get to a baseball game, and not spend any money otherwise. It will be a tough trip, because of the heat, the fact that I don’t want to gamble, and also the fact that I don’t know how I will eat. I can’t just march into Fatburger and eat a months’ worth of calories anymore.

I think I am down 15 pounds now. I can eat well in perfect laboratory conditions, but going out to eat is still panicky for me. I also need to work more on the exercise component. Long walks in 140-degree Las Vegas sun, maybe.

Top-secret writing project I can’t talk about is underway. My not-top-secret project has been transferring CDs into binder sleeves. I know at one point I would have considered this a travesty. But now that everything is in iTunes, I never look at the CDs, they just take up space. So I bought the sleeves, and I have been putting stuff in, and also organizing things, and ripping CDs that aren’t in the system. All day yesterday and a bit this morning, and I am doing with G, H, and I. I have a garbage bag of jewel cases headed for the garbage, and have maybe a 100% gain in storage space. Now I need to order about ten times as many sleeves to do everything – this was a trial run of 100 sleeves to see how it would go.

Gotta shower, get to the DDS. Fingers crossed on the new teeth.


Dental torture #9343

The dental visit yesterday was pure medieval torture. To be fair, the new dentist was very careful, and did good work. But I got two teeth ground down for crowns, and temps slapped on there until next week. The grinding part is brutal, but the temp crowns are the bad part. They’re roughly like the dental work you’d get if you went to a dentist in Cuba or North Korea: very rough, not perfectly shaped, and not permanently glued in. They actually look like they’re tacked in with a giant clump of silicone gasket sealer from a car parts store, the stuff you use to tack on a valve cover gasket. And I now live in fear that anything I eat will snap loose one of these things. It’s going to be a long week, a long week filled with many slimfast lunches and dinners.

I think all of the initial fixits for the journal are done. If you ever flip through the old entries and find a busted one, let me know. Two features I’d like to add are some kind of paging links at the bottom, and the ability to add tags to articles. The first is easy, the second is hard. I probably won’t do either until some point in the distant future, because that’s the way things work around here.

I really wish I had my old VW back. Not the gas 2-door I had in Seattle, but the diesel 4-door I had back in Bloomington. This was a car that I could drive like I stole it, and still get 50 MPG city. Diesel is five bucks a gallon here, but even at $50 for a 10-gallon tank, that’s 500 miles CITY on a fill-up. I’m surprised every single VW diesel from the 80s hasn’t been resurrected and put back on the road. I’d expect to see more Rabbits than Hummers these days.

Speaking of stealing cars, I’m still picking away at GTA4. I think I have 13% done; you need about 20% done to get into Manhattan (aka Algonquin.) The missions are starting to get harder, so I might hit a wall soon. The biggest difficulty is actually finding time to play, since I’m too busy with other projects. And I think it’s Tuesday, but it’s actually Wednesday, which means I have a conference call in an hour, and I better get a move on.



I’ve had many horrible dental procedures over the years. I’ve had crowns, titanium posts screwed into my jaw, root canals, redone root canals, a lasered root canal with no anesthesia, impacted wisdom teeth extracted with only a local, a wisdom tooth that broke and the roots got stuck, necessitating the incompetent dentist (that looked exactly like Craig Kilbourn) to pack my mouth in cotton and send me across town to the hospital to wait for hours on a surgeon, a crown that came off during a cleaning, and some filling drilling with no anesthesia. (And yes, everyone that hears this says “WELL WHY DONT YOU BRUSH YOUR TEETH”, and it’s more complicated than that. A lifetime of Cokes is a problem, but so is 18 years of well water with no fluoride, and a medication that really puts the zap on your teeth.)

Last week, one of my fillings came out, while flossing. It was a slice on the back of one of my front teeth, which makes things complicated. The new dentist said I’d need that crowned, and that’s what I would have guessed, so there goes $1200. (Plus another for $1200, minus 50% insurance, so $1200.) But if he puts a shiny white new crown next to my other not-so-white teeth in the front, I would look stupid. (I could have opted for a gold crown and became a pimp, but it’s hard to be a pimp in a Toyota Yaris.) So the newest torture is that I have to bleach all of my teeth to a pearly white to match the new stuff. And I’m not against having movie star white teeth, but there’s more to the story.

The way this works is, he made imprints of my teeth with a weird rubber junk. Then they made ceramic positives from them. (I got to keep them, and they are weird. here are pictures.) Then they made little clear trays from those, and gave me a syringe of a high-powered bleaching gel. This differs from the stuff you find in the drug store in the toothpaste aisle because the tray is form-fitting, and the gel is ten times stronger. So I fill that up and put it in for a half-hour a shot, twice a day, and in a few days, my teeth will be bright white. And my existing dental work won’t be, which will require some resurfacing on a few teeth at a later date. And there’s one crown that is already white, and two more on the way.

This issue is this: the bleach opens up these “pores” in your teeth and infiltrates them, zapping out all of the dark stuff in the enamel. And if you eat any staining stuff during the regimen, or for the same length after the treatment (i.e. four days of bleaching + four days of recovery = eight days) the staining stuff will get in and make it worse. So, no soda, coffee, tea, tomato sauce, and anything else that would stain a white shirt. And as you know, I drink several servings of beverages in that category. Furthermore, any citrus food or drink will basically feel like you’ve put battery acid in your mouth. And I am trying not to drink any sugar because of my diet. So what does that leave? Water. And milk, but I hate drinking milk. I guess there are various soy milk things, but let’s get back out of the milk category here. I think there are a couple of clear energy drinks with no sugar and a million milligrams of caffeine. At any rate, yesterday was a pretty crashed-out day for me. But the teeth are getting whiter.

And yes I saw the Manny high-five catch. For those wondering, a player can get ejected for any interaction with a fan, which includes high-fiving them; it’s in the rules. It’s the same as if a fan hit a player from the stands – they would be in the parking lot in seconds. Anyway, if you’re at all interested in seeing Brewers announcer and sports legend Bob Uecker in a swimsuit (and I mean 2008 Uecker, not 1854 Uecker), check out page 51 of the latest Sports Illustrated, the one with Danica on the cover. Anyway, I always love those behind-the-scenes articles, and there’s a good one following the Brewers on a brutal 10-game trip. I don’t usually read SI because you can get the gist of the whole thing by reading their web page, but they gave me a free subscription when I got the MLB audio season pass. And that has been fairly worthless, other than the chance to hear the Rockies get beat for the tenth time in a row. Colorado is now last in the NL West, and I don’t think they will do much more than third or fourth this year. Arizona is definitely first, and I am sure they will go to the World Series. Oh well, at least they aren’t last in their division with the biggest payroll in baseball.

Two games next week – Cardinals at San Diego on Tuesday, driving down with my friend Julie to see Petco Field for the first time. (I don’t know if it’s where the pets go.) Then on Saturday, it’s Cardinals at Dodgers. Not really looking forward to Dodger Stadium after last time, but at least it’s not the Rockies, and the Cardinals are doing better this year. Still, I can’t wear a Rockies jersey there. I really want to get a vintage Astros jersey, maybe Nolan Ryan, when they were all psychadelic dayglo orange. But those jerseys were pullovers, not front button, and any jersey costs a hundred bucks, so I’ll stick with a t-shirt.

It’s beautiful outside. I should go out there.


The 89 Playlist

Last week, in a fit of nostalgia/stupidity, I decided to make a playlist in iTunes consisting solely of music I would have listened to in the summer of 1989. I use iTunes for music while I’m sitting here at my desk working, and also use it for my iPod for in the car or when I’m walking around or at the gym. This was harder than it seems, because I lost a lot of tapes back in the day (my car had a hole in the floor) and I can’t remember all of my music from back then. (My brain also has a hole in it.) There’s also the issue that everything I have in iTunes is ripped from CD, and although I spent a good deal of the late 90s trying to recreate my old music library by sending CDexchange my paycheck every week, there are many holes in my collection. Not every tape from the 80s made its way to CD, and not all of those ended up in the iTunes store.

The biggest factor in doing this is that certain songs greatly remind me of the feel of that area, which is what I wanted to capture. I wanted to be able to drive around with the playlist going and forget I was in a 2008 Yaris in Southern California and have that brief thought that it was 1989 and I was driving the back roads from Goshen to Elkhart in a 1976 Camaro (with holes in the floor). That meant two things: some of the music I’d have in the car back then wouldn’t make the cut. For example, even if I had any of Voivod’s first three albums, I don’t think I could stand listening to a single second of them, let alone put them on the list. I probably would not want to load up the list with vintage Metallica, although I put a couple of specific songs on there. Most of the rest of the stuff is either prog-rock (although no Rush, because for whatever reason, I’m really sick of them at the moment) or various pop-rock stuff I’m embarassed to own, but I listen to constantly.

I have not been horribly nostalgic lately, because it’s something I’ve been really unsure of. I never thought about it before, but I started seeing someone for DBT therapy, and there’s this concept that being heavily buried in either your past or your future can be unhealthy. For example, if you were the Al Bundy type who always gravitated toward living in the past thought of scoring three touchdowns for Polk High School, it could be indicative that you are avoiding or having problems with what’s happening in the present. And I find that when I’m most depressed, I’m usually looking back to some era and avoiding what’s happening at that moment. (Case in point: I wrote Summer Rain when I was heavily depressed.) I’m sure there’s some balance, in remembering the past but keeping this strong sense of mindfulness and moving forward with life, without being in a constant bubble of “I wish things were as great as 1992” or whatever.

And next year is twenty years from when I graduated high school. Aside from the great feeling of depressing in thinking that so much time has passed since then, there will probably be a barrage of various emails and reunions and whatnot, and I don’t have a great desire to deal with that. But nostalgia is such a huge pull on the internets. You have all of these classmates sites, and high schools have reunion pages, and half of the function of facebook is to find people you haven’t talked to in a decade and see how many kids they’ve popped out. At first, I thought facebook was interesting in that I did find a lot of old high school pals, until I realized I had pretty much nothing in common with them anymore, and couldn’t really talk to them about anything.

I had part of a white filling fall out while flossing on Saturday. I didn’t know what it was at first and was like “what the hell did I eat?” but then felt a huge gap in the back of a tooth. I found a dentist just up the street from us, and I will start that whole process at 8:00 AM tomorrow. I always hate going to a new dentist, because they always look in my mouth and see their next four boat payments. I really don’t care about the pain or drilling – they could drill all of my teeth for days straight like some kind of Daytona 500 marathon, as long as it was free. The most painful part of a root canal for me is getting the bill in the mail and seeing what my insurance didn’t cover.

Just finished reading that Halberstam book on the ’49 baseball season, and it was pretty decent. I’ve read an insane number of baseball books this year, and should probably get back to fiction soon. Suggestions always welcome.

Speaking of unnecessary medical appointments, gotta go drive up to Santa Monica to see a rheumatologist. But first, I need to tweak my playlist for the trip up there.


On the firing of a dentist

Tuesday night, right before I left work, I broke a filling in one of my molars. It’s the third tooth up from the back, on the bottom, and it has a silver (or silver-color) filling that’s sort of bowtie-shaped on the top of the circular tooth. It has always bugged me since I got it, because food gets caught between the teeth and I have to floss it out. Well, this time, when I went to floss it, it felt like a giant seed or pit or something was stuck in there and I couldn’t get it loose. I went to a mirror and saw that the entire back part of the filling was loose, and I was actually lifting that out with the floss. Cue panic.

I called my dentist, the guy who is right next to my house and who did the half-ass work, and he was just leaving and said he couldn’t do it unless I came in on Thursday and sat around all day. I had visions of swallowing the filling and having white-hot pain for days and the inability to eat solids, so I started googling “emergency dentist New York”, cost be damned. I eventually found a guy who would take me at 9:00 the next morning, for $300 plus the cost of any repair. I then went home and ate macaroni and cheese, which you can pretty much drink if you make it soft enough, and went to bed with great worry in my head.

The new dentist was good. Fast, courteous, he took an x-ray and explained the situation. The old dentist did a shit job of putting on the filling, and it didn’t fit flush to the tooth in the back. So all that food from the last few months got caught under there and eroded away the tooth underneath, making it come loose. Even I could see the problem on the x-ray. (Of course, I’ve had a little more practice looking at dental x-rays than the average person.) He drilled out the back part of the filling, put in this temporary cement filling stuff that looks like thick white-out, and we made an appointment to do a real repair this month. I thought of going back to the old dentist, bitching him out, and trying to get some work for free, but if he’s going to do a piss-poor job on the repair and make it all repeat itself in three months, forget it.

The new guy, oddly enough, is the team dentist for the Yankees. He doesn’t keep a regular practice, just this emergency service and other appointment-only work. He’s also a baseball photographer, and googling his name brought up a million SI and API photo credits, which is pretty weird. At least I’m not a fervent Red Sox fan or anything.

So between the stress of my back (which is almost better, but not quite), the stress of my tooth, the stress of my stupid job, and don’t forget tax season comes soon, I haven’t been getting much done. I’m still reading journal entries, making minor snips and edits, and pushing them into one of the howevermany categories. I think there will be a rather large “other” category, though. I’m also reading this biography of the Wright brothers, which is old but very good. Very weird to hear the stories of their ancestors; I can’t imagine moving to Richmond, Indiana and having your entire family killed by Indians.

I’m also working my way through the Beatles Anthology DVDs, an episode a night. (There are, I think 8 episodes plus extras, two per DVD, each one being about 80 minutes long.) I am three episodes in, and the beginning of Beatlemania has happened, along with their first movie. It’s all good, but it’s also somewhat annoying that at this point, they play pretty much the same eight songs over and over. I can’t wait for another album or two to come out to get some more stuff going. But the interviews are great, and they’ve spliced in a lot of home movies the band took on trips abroad, old TV footage, fan-shot movies, radio recordings, the whole nine yards. They must have some heavy-duty archivalists at Apple Corps.

Speaking of Apple, no, I’m not getting an iPhone. They look very nice, but at ~$700 plus maybe $100 a month on the calling plan, that’s a hefty chunk of change just to browse the web on a tiny screen. I think if I was so inclined, I would just get a Blackberry or a Sidekick. I think a Sidekick is like $200 + plan, which is $30 for data and then whatever for voice. I dunno, maybe.

Okay, time for work. A short day, and then a long weekend. We will be going out of town on Saturday/Sunday, so that’s good. That’s all.


Journey of major dental restoration

I had some dental work done yesterday. Nothing serious, just two fillings, one that was very minor, both were re-dos of older fillings. I started this journey of major dental restoration ten years ago, almost to the day, and I’m now finding that some of those fillings are at the end of their lifespan. I always thought of fillings and crowns as permanent, but now I’m seeing it’s more like working on your house, and having to repaint or reside or replumb every decade or two. At least my new dentist is okay, and cheap. He’s also about 100 yards from our apartment, which helps.

BUT… last night I had an extremely horrific dental trauma nightmare. I dreamed that some of my front teeth were fucked up, and I didn’t have the money/time/gumption to go to the dentist. So I took some of those gold-colored helical roofing nails, and nailed them into my mouth, so the rounded heads of the nails would look like a gold tooth, ala Flavor Flav or whatever. Then I got really nervous that I did permanent damage (no shit, I had nails going into the roof of my mouth) and was freaking out trying to find a dentist before some bacterial plague would set in. Then I woke up and ran to the bathroom faster than a Taco Bell-induced colon explosion, so I could look in the mirror and see if all of my fucking teeth were intact. I hate that feeling, but also love it – the feeling that you’ve dodged a major bullet, missed getting killed in a major accident. I’ve heard that it’s similar to doing cocaine, which is why I’m glad I don’t, or I would have cashed out my 401K long ago and bought stock in a Columbian processing plant so I could buy direct.

Speaking of unending nervousness, I am still working on the zine, trying to get the next issue squared away. I have some very good stories in the can, and I’m trying to finish my own story, which might be pretty good. (It might be horrible, nobody’s seen it yet, so who knows.) I am nervous about pagecount, though. It was about 57,000 words last time, which is about 170 pages. I wanted it closer to 200, maybe more. I have 10 stories, 35,000 words now, which is about 100 pages, plus another 7500 words in my story. I guess I want like 20 stories, and I need some killers as far as length, because I have some shorter pieces, and only a couple of longer ones. I realize all of this nervousness is completely masturbatory right now, but I’m always nervous about this shit right down to the point where I send in the PDFs.

I bought this pencam thing for like $30. It’s about as big as a snickers bar, maybe a little smaller, and takes 1.3MP pictures, albeit with a shitty plastic lens. I bought it thinking maybe I could hide it in my bag and easily get it places my current huge camera wouldn’t go, like in museums or something. Or just so I could walk around with the big tourist cam out. But I’ve found that the pictures are mostly awful, unless you’re outside in broad daylight. They do have a sort of artsy-fartsy lo-fi thing, though, like an old 110 camera. The other problem is that it beeps incessantly and loudly, when you turn it on, off, take a picture, low light, etc etc. I wish I could crack it open and cut the speaker out of it. Maybe I will.

Going to brunch in an hour. I should probably work on my story more and then find some shoes and socks.