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Entries in adjusting to reality (79)


Undignified Freedom

picture of truck mirror reflecting a homeless man walking away from trash cans where he got his mealsI think freedom is alive in America
It's just not where you would expect—
Entrepreneurs line the street corners
They keep their own hours
Taxation doesn't touch them
Then again, hardly anyone notices them
Except when a kind soul breaks free and gives a dollar
Stalling traffic in the process
I find more and more such entrepreneurs
In the rarified air of my ironic material ascension
My full time position of gainful employment
Sobering juxtaposition against daily news of upheaval and hard times

America's swelling economic class of poor can be found
Standing at the street corners or crouching in the doorways
They talk to people beyond our field of vision
(Possibly their only friend in Jesus, just out of sight for most of us)
The ever-present cardboard signs
"Homeless, disabled, anything helps"
Some are dejected while some retain humor
Their frankness a shock to most ears, it brings fear
A fear invoked by material loss and dissolution of dreams
We who drive by in our metal ivory towers
Air conditioning and music pumping behind tinted glass
The sequestering effect of the dream well dreamed
Worried sick with neuroses about
Petty shit only a bored materialistic people could think about
As if it mattered somehow
The tense glance and the undesire to meet eyes
The feeble reach for the coin tray as if out of guilt
Knowing Heaven's reality TV show has cameras trained on you
The giving out of fear to avoid fear
Sad flash knowing the party may soon end
Living paycheck to paycheck
The wobbly feeling mounts
The feeling mounts, fears of when we're all made equal
By the things we won't have anymore

And the next stoplight won't be any easier!

Who is our enemy and how can we love him?
Who is the dispossessed self-as-other whom we hate?
Our reflection in the empty gazes
The thinly veiled despair of cardboard signs
A world of possessions in a stolen? shopping cart
Why do we hate you, Failed America that just won't go away?
Does it hurt to know thyself this way?
If we throw off the slavery of debt and war
Would we recognize our freedom?
How many more street corners can we build
To give jobs to all the jobless?
How many more alcoves must be made
To give homes to the homeless?
How much more cardboard must be pressed
To help small businesses get off the ground
Off the ground of dirty streets and canyons?
Freedom to piss openly on the street
Conjures our righteous disgust and revulsion
While secretly our sad unspoken admission is that
They might be freer than we

The economic stimulus package entrenches many in voluntary slavery
Either by getting in or getting out
It is yours to choose just like paper or plastic
A false choice doomed to bind us to the sickening status quo
Yet freedom is just outside the door
On the corners and in the alleys
A little dingy, yes, but
There it is within reach if you had to take it
Or maybe captivity is more precious
The certainty of heat and light
The safety from the dark of night—
If not pulled, some are pushed

America, America, land of the free
I witness the slow shameful decline
Just as the torch is handed off to me
A new generation with the old hope dashed
By the freedom of some to take the freedom of others for the want of a buck
And the race to the top being run roughshod
Over true believers in the national mythology of upward mobility
An undignified freedom prevails in the land
Not like the days of ticker tape parades
When we beat back manifest evil
And sent the bad men running for cover
A slow shameful decline into poverty of the soul
A land that will sell its grandchildren
If a buck can be made this quarter

The condo-boom in the downtown
Is met in like fashion by the corner people
Whose numbers grow daily
Rooms, rooms everywhere and not a place to stay!
Conspicuous signs of wealth only mask the
Swelling poverty behind the glass and steel facades
It's the dilemma of our time
It's the shame of our age
Uniquely plagued with too much stuff
Too successful for our own good

The light can't turn green fast enough, can it?


The Veggiemonger Fitness Program

I think that the job I now hold has been the most physically demanding that I have ever had. That is, as a sustained, full time deal that is mostly comprised of actually, well, moving shit. My audio background had longer days and more fucked up demands in terms of odd scheduling. That work also saw me moving components twice my weight in and out of vehicles. But most of it was just part of any given shift, and shows varied enough that I'd not be doing the same thing all the time. It rarely if ever seemed to be full time work, but sometimes it was grueling.

garden hoe in the truck bed helps keep from contorting and banged kneesI have a hoe in my bed, paid for on the company dime!But I find that over three months of slinging watermelons and potatoes has done something to tone me up. There is a lot of lifting and loading. Lots and lots of hand truck activity, balancing stuff as I navigate corridors and narrow passages, coolers, stairs and slick floors. The day goes on for eight hours or more (I don't take a lunch break and often work straight through the day with a half hour of automatic overtime each day) and its mostly go, go, go. For work, I drive an F-150 most of the time, and up till a few weeks ago, it was an uncovered bed, which meant that I could move stuff around freely from side and back. But recently there was a shell put on and now it is harder to load and unload since everything has to be done out the back end. This means there is a lot of climbing in with very little headspace, and more twisting to reach around in the cramped space.

The company lets us take produce home and I've availed myself of some goodies. For a couple months now I've pretty much started the day off with a very berry smoothie with added protein. Usually it has blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, banana, cottage cheese, milk, and protein powder. Other fruits are added as I dare to experiment. At night, I've had the chance to eat a lot more veggies than I ever have, with far more balanced (usually home cooked) meals than ever.

I've biked to work a couple times a week since I wrote about that a few weeks ago. That has been good too, despite my hindquarter complaining that the saddle is crap. My knees so far are the only parts that take umbrage at this added task, but they have been bitching about any such activity since at least my early days working on stages in 1995-6 or so. But they pretty much forget about any added biking related soreness once work gets started off. The ride warms me up nicely for the day. There is the given matter of starting "cold" on any given day at any job, but at my job, it really is cold—about 37º in the cooler. Most days now though, I am in T shirt and shorts, given that most of my shift is still outside the actual cooler. I weened myself off the three layer program on the first week it got hot in February.

All in all, from eating better food and moving as much as I do, I've undone at least some of the damage done over the last several years of computer desk time. My arms and legs are a lot tighter in particular. The thing that drives me mad is all the finger and hand strength that is called upon, leaving me with sore hands in the morning after they have had a chance to rest without much movement overnight. I first got that sensation a couple years ago at AV Concepts when after one particularly hurried show strike, one finger felt this way. Then a few weeks later, another. Now its most of both hands that get that way. It is sort of what one gets for not using fingers for much more than typing on computer keyboards and only intermittent manual labor. It has sort of killed my interest in guitar playing since by late evening, the hands are tight again. Drumming with a little band I've been with these same few months has been bearable, but sitting at the drum chair has made my knee complain, particularly the right one which has forgotten what it was to use a bass drum pedal!

Far from a health food nut and fitness guru, I can at least say that I've done a lot less to poison myself as of late than any other time, and the physicality has been considerably more than since maybe 1993 when I last rode my bike for much. I do straight eight hour days (if not more) then sometimes come home to cook for the girls, and a couple nights race off to a bible study class or band practice. I keep pretty busy, and I aint doing it on the old diet of burgers and pizza and that shit. (I had an In-N-Out burger a few weeks back and it just looked gross to me, with its wilted lettuce and tomatoes. I retain the right to consume a tasty protein charged lunch burrito from one of my favorite taco vending establishments, and the recent $5 footlong special at Subway has reminded me of the good old days when I used to wreak havok at those shops.) But there is a lot more "real" food happening around here.

Oh, and I also managed to pay off my student loan from seven years ago. I'm glad to have that monkey off my back. Now I have no debt. Just bills. My wife though is accumulating debt like its going out of style, what with her schooling.


Stinkbug Surrealism

I could go months without seeing a stinkbug. So why was it that on this day I saw a stinkbug—nay—several stinkbugs, all in different parts of town? Yup, on at least four occasions all in different streets or alleys or service corridors outside the restaurants where I deliver produce, I saw a black stinkbug on my path. The places were scattered about; Coronado, Kearny Mesa, and other locales. I wonder if it was the searing heat we had today.


In Honor Of Super Tuesday

Republican bashing season again!

A guy came in for a drink and the robot asked him, "What's your IQ"? The man replied, "130". So the robot proceeded to make conversation about physics, astronomy, investments, insurance, and so on. The man listened intently and thought, "This is really cool."

Another guy came in for a drink and the robot asked him, "What's your IQ?" The man responded, "100." So the robot started talking about the football, baseball and so on. The man thought to himself, "Wow, this is really cool."

A third guy came in to the bar. As with the others, the robot asked him, "What's your IQ?" The man replied, "70". The robot then said—"So, what are the Republicans up to these days?"


The Exorcism: Epilogue

Some of my die hard fans have been on the edge of their seats in suspense, with fan mail pouring in to find out how things have been since my entire mouth was exorcised of dental demons in December. The saga continues.

Just under a month since it began and about two and a half weeks since it concluded, my gum surgery has been more or less moving into the rear view mirror. I don't expect I'll forget this one. Every drink or bite that is cooler than room temperature is pretty damned painful since more of each tooth is exposed now, and the gums sit closer to the root crowns where the sensitivity is greatest. Yeah, so far every drink or bite that is colder than I am has reminded me of this. Not that there is a problem with lukewarm water. But there is a problem with lukewarm beer or lukewarm cottage cheese, or lukewarm ice cream! The beer and cottage cheese have been sampled, but I have yet to venture near the ice cream!

The surgeries were finally performed over four sittings, spaced across eleven days. That was perhaps closer than I might ever want to do things if I had to do it again. The second half of December got to hurting a lot, though I had a pretty fine meal on Christmas night, though it was a matter of going real slow and starting off so that nothing really had to be bitten into and torn, like I would if I had to eat a sandwich. The gums themselves stopped hurting reasonably fast; the bones are what reminded me of the work. It took most of the time up till a few days ago to feel like I could bite into anything with any power. So, for much of the last few weeks, I've been holding my jaw in just such a way that it wouldn't clench nor would it stretch anything. I feel my speech has been real lazy for this time since I was really limiting the range of motion. There were a few remaining sore points that had cold sores. I asked about those and they are normal parts of the process. They would sting a bit when confronted with certain foods and toothpaste. That's over with now, and the motion is back so I can stretch out and whatnot, though I am almost convinced that my teeth are in different places in the back left bottom. After a few weeks of not closing completely, or being on a painkiller or having ice on things (only on the day of surgery), I maybe forgot how top and bottom fit together, and maybe I am just rediscovering it now. But there is a distinct feeling that things are in different places. Odd. So I still refrain from clenching, and certain chewing is also awkward.

The gums themselves are healed up and shiny and new, with no signs of incisions or repairs. They don't hurt anymore. They sit lower on the teeth, and it is interesting to behold some of the openings between teeth now. I have found a number of syllables (and combinations thereof) to be hard to voice properly and in normal speech. The spaces leak a lot of air. The tongue also touches different surfaces now—more hard, less soft. Or, where it used to block a space between teeth, it might not now. I guess I'll have to do what my grandmother always told me to do better: enunciate. (An interesting byproduct of this increased leaky space is that fluids can take advantage of the openings too. Sometimes swishing makes me sort of a slob. But less so now that I can more confidently close down all the way.) The good news is swishing does a lot more good now that there are bigger spaces that can't hold food bits as well, so a lot of the stuff departs after a few good swishes. Flossing is far easier now, as it was expected. The dentist gave me a spiffy little bit of pipecleaner called an interdental brush, which is meant to do what floss can't do.

Considering this has been one of the few experiences in my life where I genuinely knew dread, it hasn't been as bad as I anticipated. Each day's surgery was sufficiently clotted and trouble free by the next day. The stitches dissolved on the most recent side and left no hassle except for dangling bits that had to be pulled like loose threads sometimes. I don't particularly recommend that you wait as long as I did to get your teeth cleaned, and I don't recommend letting it get as bad as I did. But I do feel better now.


The Exorcism (4 of 3)

Yes folks, you read right! The Exorcism, part four of three! It was all so good, there would be an encore!

I've sort of gotten out of the habit of getting up with normal people at a reasonable time close to when the sun comes up. But today was no problem somehow and getting up at 7:00 was no problem, even considering the day I had ahead of myself. I was vaguely excited. I slept well and would finally get the last of this surgery business out of the way. I decided I'd drive myself and let Kelli get some rest. After all, she has been doing amazingly long days during her season of finals—all take home essays and research papers. So for the first time in weeks, maybe a bit of sleeping in would do her some good. Since I wasn't taking valium today I could drive fine. In lieu of the tasty king's breakfast of yesterday, my breakfast today consisted of three cans of Costco's version of Slim Fast shakes. Hey, that way it's about 750 calories and a bunch of other stuff that isn't too bad for me. I meant to make a smoothie but thought it would all be too cold for the newly discovered spot on my top right molar area. With all the work now accumulating in one mouth, it was also sort of hard to chew with conviction. The shakes did fine for the morning.

You can read the routines of the first three surgeries to get an idea of what was going on. Today was essentially the same, but somehow I was nervous like on the first day. I was shivering in the seat. It was a cold morning, but that wasn't all there was to it. I think what was at work was that I was now facing that all my mouth would be affected for a few days. Even yesterday's work made it hard to talk and I avoided eating for the remainder of the day. All I ate yesterday was that nice breakfast. On top of that, my front bottom teeth, always a very sensitive few for me, and the worst affected of the bunch before I got cleaned up in July, were giving me a feeling of strain or weakness. One is a bit mobile. It has been quite a psychological ball and chain for a long time, but certainly in this whole process, it has been brought to the fore.

I can't believe how much I was shivering, even with a long sleeve and collared shirt. The day I actually needed valium I didn't have it, and today, when you would think that I had the confidence of an old champ, I lost it. However, there was not one gag reflex today compared to about five yesterday when I actually did have valium. Today felt like there was a lot of tooling around with pick-axes and chisels. The grinder thing too seemed to pierce my bone matter and get right to the center of my head. I wasn't liking today. But I survived.

A small bit of the silly putty dressing was taken out on the lower right (last Wednesday's work) and it revealed the very low gumline between two front teeth, and it was a bit of a shock. Even though yesterday's work got included the removal of the top right's dressing and stitches, I was quite tentative about investigating the look and feel of my newly shaped mouthscape. But a glimpse of the lower front (offset a bit to the right) with the stitches still in was a bit of a startling thing. I didn't know it all could be taken so low. Yow.

I was on my own today, so I just drove back home. Kelli was up and about, and even though I left at 8 am or so and was back by 10, she was buzzing around cleaning house with the doors open and the TV on. I threw a stack of pillows together and listened to Keneally's Wooden Smoke CD for the thousandth time this fall season. Then I listened to some more of the Joseph Campbell/Bill Moyers Power of Myth audio, which gives me a far bigger thing to think about than my present situation. And between songs or disks, it's rinse, rinse, rinse with lukewarm water. Today the drugs were not hitting me in the way I needed, so I ended up getting out the big ice pack and while Kelli took a break we napped in the afternoon. The icepack did more good than the drugs but I can only really get what I want from it by laying down. For my lunch, I drank another couple shakes like in the morning. Five of those is a new record for me, but I haven't died yet, and the past few weeks seem to have lost me about 12 pounds from the average of recent years. I guess that is an interesting benefit from having my mouth increasingly incapacitated for almost two weeks now.

I finally got hungry enough to conjure up some tasty, somewhat real food by about 6 pm. I had some soup and a bunch of cheese & spinach raviolis. Mercifully it was nothing much to masticate. We went to Costco to get some more stuff that might give me reasonable nutrition without having to chew much. A giant pack of V8 helps counterbalance the shakes—now I can have chocolate flavor or tomato flavor shakes! In reality though, I think in a couple days I shall be eating real food again, at least some bread and stuff dipped in soup, some lunch meats, and the like. Friday I get all my dressings removed—three at once—and the remaining stitches will dissolve on their own. Days later, it's Christmas at the Calabrese compound, so I am looking forward to eating tasty food there, hopefully with no "event."

We went from Costco to the Calabrese compound for another Urantia book reading, and contrary to my better judgment I did some readings, but it was sore, sore, sore, and hearing certain syllables made me cringe. I don't know yet if it's all the soreness that makes me not enunciate, or the physical stuff like goops of silly putty dressing and newly shaped gumlines, but some syllables just don't get articulated right. I might need to practice speaking. Grrr.

I got home and finished watching Patton, and now this. I shall survive. The demons are gone. A few weeks from now we shall see what condition they left me in.


The Exorcism (3 of 3)

We now return to the gripping drama of dental exorcism, TAPKAE style...

Today was to be the last of my surgeries, and it was to be the most involved for one day, taking on the remaining half of my mouth (left). I woke up at about 10 am for my 1:30 appointment. I was a bit disappointed that I had gone to two pharmacies on Sunday only to find them closed. I had to get some more drugs to get past this third date with the periodontist, and then I supposed I would be on my way. Since my pharmacy attempts were foiled on Sunday, I had to again scramble around in order to get the meds. I wish that the doctor had just prescribed me enough to do the whole procedure, because I've now purchased the same order three times, and I am sure that at least part of that cost could have been avoided. This time I also was prescribed a valium to mellow me out before the surgery. My blood pressure has been too high to get the first half done in one shot, and later after today's session, even with valium, I was told I'd need to do only a quadrant, not the remaining half. So there goes about $11 for a single valium! Oh well, it's all been expense after expense. I bleed money on this the same as I bleed blood.

Anticipating a very arduous day of sore-mouth that might make me loath to eat for many hours, I fixed myself a king's breakfast of a few eggs, bacon, and hash browns, and Kelli ate likewise. Today was the last day she'd have to knock out the last of her papers to wrap up her fifth semester at school. Since I would be on valium for today, she had to drive me. Maybe the valium did some good, but I didn't notice it on the way to the appointment nor during it. If anything, it was able to put me to sleep for a few hours after I got home. But that is getting ahead of myself, isn't it?

By now, it was getting to be a routine. Sign the consent form, lay out the plastic and get reamed for another $650 for two quadrants' work, a few tense minutes in the waiting room, a trip to the pisser to calm a bit, and then to the electric chair for a few minutes of BP checks, chit chat, and prep. Cookie, the assistant of NuYorican descent, made a few jokes in her thick New York accent, and said the last time I was in she was quiet on account of a headache. Today she was a bit chatty but still not as chatty as the first time when she went on about mothers-in-law and their not-so-subtle requests for grandchildren. I wasn't shivering today as much as the first time, but I felt a bit antsy and wasn't as comfortable as the second date on Wednesday. I was beginning to think about what it would all mean once this was done, and what else the doc would have to say about the next plan to fix what still needs fixing, and I know that extractions are in the plan one way or another.

The doc came in and fairly promptly let me know I may have to do just one quadrant again. My heart sank. I just wanted to get this over with during December. Their timeline was either to do it this week or wait till January, and I have work plans for then, and I don't want to prolong this any more than I need to. So I asked if he might do the top left first. He said we'd go through that then see how I was doing, and maybe the bottom could be done too.

Numbing is great once you're numbed, but the needle plunging into not-yet-numb tissue just kills, and I think they worked a bit faster in getting me numb, moving toward the needle faster than it took the topical, Q-tip stuff to kick in. I seemed to feel more tooling this time than the first as they drew back the gums and did some scraping. I don't know if it was a bit less anesthesia or whether the gunk took more pulling at and chiseling, but I felt jerked around more. The first day's bone grinding was not pleasant in the sense of a nice summer breeze, but the subsequent ones seemed to make tones that rocked me deep in my head more than that first day. Still, it all goes pretty fast. It is probably about 10 minutes of that sort of thing. It seems that it's just a few minutes for each process, according to real time, but with four tools in there at once, tongue being held back, and unable to breathe, each bit is an eternity until I can relax. Even with the valium, I don't think I was relaxed one bit. With that realization, the doc said I'd need to come in later to do the last quadrant. I was able get the last one done but it was sooner than I planned—tomorrow at 8:30!

Before long it was over and time to have the dressing put in like a "worm" of silly putty packed in along the boundary between gums and teeth. Then it's pretty much up and out with my ice pack. Today Cookie took out the top right dressing and stitches from the first surgery. I called Kelli and she hurried up to meet me at the street, then it was back for a couple hour's reading (Henri Nouwen's In The Name of Jesus—a short little thing, nice reading about the role of ministers in the 21st century), rinsing, and for once, biting down on a wet tea bag in order to let some tannic acid hopefully stop any bleeding. Don't know if it did, but the peppermint flavor sure was a nicer thing to taste than the bloody gauze. I found that the top right has a real sensitive spot in the back now that it is officially cleared out. I had been rinsing with cold water, but this surely made me rinse with lukewarm water! I read my book all the way through in a couple hours then thought I'd try to watch a long-awaited movie, Patton, but found myself a half hour in with a very sleepy head. Maybe it was valium, but maybe it was just nap time and I was trying to forget. I slept about three hours or so till about 10 pm. Kelli was just getting done with her paper and emailed it to her professor. Instead of getting all happy that she is done, it was a quiet, fall into bed night with not much talk. She was excited but totally depleted of ability to think anymore, and I was sore, with three-quarters of my mouth in some sort of pain or ache—today's work, Wednesday's on the wane, and the first sensations of the first days' work being cleared out and on their own.

See you tomorrow morning. This time, there won't be that king's breakfast to start off with.


The Exorcism (1 of 3)

Finally, today was the date of the first surgery on my gums. Last night Kelli drove down from school a day early to hold my hand like a total sweetheart. We got to bed late. It must have been almost two in the morning before I was really out. I awoke to my phone alarm buzzing before the calm opening notes of the Brokeback Mountain theme music. I use that music because it doesn't come crashing in, and it actually sort of sounds like it is meant to sound, even on a speaker about the size of a thumbnail. And, if I don't actually get up, the tune is a beautiful way to start off the day. I usually awaken to the vibration that comes first though, and today it was at 7:55. I had about an hour and fifteen minutes to get ready. So I fixed myself up a nice eggs, bacon, and toast breakfast, knowing full well such a hearty meal would not be had for hours if not days. Outside it was raining; not ferociously, but delightfully so after a very dry year. It was one of those days that was made for staying indoors.

I had other business to tend to that would keep me indoors today. Kelli drove me down to the periodontist not far from our old house. This doctor's office is a place I love and hate now. I hate it because I had all the opportunities in the world to avoid the place. I love it because there is salvation with the doctor-priest who will wave his magic wand over me, and mutter a few words, among other things. I have had a cough for the last week and a half, and today it decided to make itself known in the hour or so before I went under the knife (or whatever the hell he used). I was tense and sort of shivering in nervous anticipation. (Buber the dog shivers that way before he goes for a walk, but I think he does it from delight.) The receptionist took my "money" before the procedure, good for half the total work to be done. Then a trip to the bathroom to collect myself, and into the chair I went.

They were trying to take my blood pressure reading with a digital device and it kept reading too high. Then they tried another device which had fresh batteries, and it too was not satisfactory. The doctor got wind of this and said that maybe I was not ready, or that today would be better off if we only did one quadrant instead of a whole side, top and bottom. I didn't really want to hear about that. This tension was enough and I already had at least one other appointment to look forward to, and dividing the job further was not happy news. There would be three of these mornings? He said since my situation was as bad as it was, this might be a big enough project to take on at this time. The assistant took a bit of time to calm me down with a bit of small talk about mothers in law who beg for grandchildren. I never thought that would calm me down, but it must have worked, though I think that establishes my fear of dental surgery is greater than that of a mother in law who might "get her way" (sorry, Kay).

Anyhow, the first half hour from 9:30 to 10 was pretty much that sort of thing—calming me down so they could work. They had to fumble with some software on a screen behind me, but it sounded like they had a map of what was to be done. Shortly before 10 am, the chair went back and the syringes fired off their magic elixir into my gums on the top right, and we were off and running. The coughing stopped too, for some reason. I think my brain was allocating resources to what had to be front-and-center for the next hour or so. I had nifty face-surrounding shades put on to keep the bright light from fatiguing me, and to keep any blood splashes away. But I was content to just shut my eyes, try to breathe, and fight the urge to climb up the walls.

Some of that was unfounded though. The anesthetic was pretty damned good. I don't know the real order of events, but I do know he first cleared my gums out of the way which on my end felt as if he was bumping them with a rubber spatula. Then there was some time with a motorized/electronic grinder thing which he used to grind down irregularities on the exposed bone, to smooth out the pocketing and rough edges from the random bacterially-induced loss that was the chain I forged link by link over the last years. This part of things actually didn't hurt at all. The tone was piercing but mostly consistent. The time I was there last, doing the general planing work in July, was much more insane in the way the tone resonated my teeth and bones, sometimes hitting a real hotspot of sympathetic vibration in my head. He did about 20 minutes of this bone carving work and then it was on to something else, which I think was the gum work itself, which involved cutting back the parts that had to go, and I guess some other work to give the gums a clean start, so they might have a chance to reattach to bone and teeth now shorn of their toxic and random surfaces.

The next thing I know was at work was that he was putting me back together again. I opened my eyes just a few times and before I knew it, it was time for needles and thread. He worked quite fast, and not much was said even to his assistants, so I didn't have the benefit of narration. As it was, I was more at ease in part because the white noise roar of the vacuum tube and water spritzer nozzle masked the more articulate sounds of speech. When the vacuum was taken out and shut off, it was like having a blanket taken of my ears. I sort of wanted it back in so the clang of tools on enamel and muttered phrases wouldn't register as real sounds. I had far fewer gag reflexes today for some reason. The general "blind" cleaning in July was full of such responses, which slowed the thing down some. My tongue is a staunch defender of its territory so being pried open and having three or four tools bumping around is just too much usually. But today it was manageable, more so considering the cough was lying in wait the whole time.

Then it was over. Considering how months of dread, a short night's sleep, a cough, and more than a $500 copay (for half the work—after a credit from an earlier visit—ultimately the total bill is $1300 not including prescription and other incidentals) all conspired to make it hell, upon leaving, it was actually okay. The dressing they gave me was like silly putty that was pressed all along the row of teeth. It is inside and out, sitting just astride the boundary between tooth and gum. The stitches will be in for a week. This means that my third appointment will be on the the 17th, with the stitches ostensibly due to be taken out on Christmas Eve. We'll see how that goes. In between the originally scheduled dates of today and the 17th, I will have another surgery date next week on the 12th to get the stuff that wasn't done today.

Kelli drove me home, and the rest of the day was just hanging around. For her, this is finals week with many papers to write. For me, bed with an ice pack and some reading or tunes. Today got more and more sore as anesthetic wore off (it's about 9 pm now). Minimal talking. I haven't eaten anything, but I did get some diet-friendly shakes down, which aren't anything to chew of course, and don't have to be flossed out afterwards. Maybe a few pounds might be shed in the process. That wouldn't be a bad thing; I need to keep the general practitioner doctor at bay too.

While chilling out, I got a call from Mitch who offered me a gig for tomorrow. Interesting timing, considering that I was just told not to do any lifting or straining. Man. Mitch's timing is impeccable that way! Even last week would have been good. Or maybe in three days. Or in January!

Time for ice again.


The Day Of The Dental-Lord Cometh

You can read a bit of the backstory in an earlier blog on my theology of dentistry. That post was written a day or two before I went in and got a second go-around of under-the-gum scaling treatment, three years after the first round in mid 2004.

Well, my heart is in my throat again, and my stomach is in knots, with the Day of Reckoning just a few days off. This Friday is the first of two hemispheres’ worth of gum surgery to be done this month. It will be my Christmas present to myself, and perhaps what I deserve for being naughty all these years. There will be, to quote the Gospel of Matthew, “much weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Mercifully, there will be drugs too.

Theological implications aside, I wonder about how it will change me. On the physical level, with receded gums already a reality, I have to wonder what I shall look like with even “longer” teeth as the gums will be trimmed of their bad tissue, the bone reshaped some, and the roots planed while the gums are laid out like flaps, and ultimately the idea is to have the gums be able to be freshened up and able to cling better to thoroughly cleaned teeth. But they will cling lower to the bone and roots of the teeth, so my teeth will look longer. Ah, I can say that the age of 34 is when I officially became “long in the tooth.”

The other concern of mine is how this might change my speech, if at all. I’ve noticed already that certain syllables are harder to voice from what already seems to be a changed mouthscape after a cleaning which, combined with receding gums, opened up spaces where I didn’t know they existed. Certain syllables whistle with a bit of sibilance. So I don’t know how much this surgery will change things. I learned a bit in my voice class at Mesa how sounds are formed against hard and soft surfaces in the mouth, and surgery will change that ratio for me.

On Thanksgiving night, I found myself talking to a fellow partygoer who had this surgery done and he tried to put some comforting words out that if I really “got religion” and followed orders about regular care at home, the surgery would be a major help. Then a week later, I went to another dentist who confirmed the need for surgery but also took a fantastic amount of time to give me a good pep talk/counseling session.

So wish me luck on the Day of the Dental Lord. May he have mercy on my soul.



Thanks for Caleb and John.

Thanks for family of choice.

Thanks for Buber the Dog.

Thanks for a full plate whether I need it or not.

Thanks for the plants that grow in the back yard.

Thanks for the Toyota that still runs.

Thanks for the metanoia.

Thanks for the return of the swine.

Thanks for the fire crews who saved a city.

Thanks for those who don't give up.

Thanks for the flying colors.

Thanks for holy moments in unholy places.

Thanks for gay marriage, abortion, the homeless, and athiests.

Thanks for the story.

Thanks for the glass whether it is half or half.

Thanks for the house of mirrors.

Thanks for the empty nest.

Thanks for the market crash.

Thanks for the end of the world as we know it.

Thanks for El Cotixan and Satan's.

Thanks for opportunities to get it right.

Thanks for forgiveness when we get it wrong.

Thanks for the Sabbath.

Thanks for peak oil and global warming.

Thanks for heartbreak.

Thanks for loss.

Thanks for a role in the play.

Thanks for midnight.

Thanks for love.

Thanks for compost.

Thanks for the magician.

Thanks for mystery.

Thanks for wonder.

Thanks for a loving wife.