Saturday, August 13, 2011

Show Me Ya Teeth. Or Don't... Seriously, Don't.

Every now and then, I go through a chrysalis stage in attempt to bring my world back to equilibrium. Be it my career, the house, finances, the aging Civic Hybrid, et al; I usually discover some component that is in an unacceptable state of disrepair, and I devote my obsessive attention to restoring it to a quality in which I can ignore it again for 6-18 months. Granted, all of these problems generally surface due to said neglect, and I'm self-aware enough to know this isn't the best life management style by any stretch. But continual discipline toward the maintenance of things is a quality that has always been elusive to me. I think it's because I hate the concept of "baby steps." The mere suggestion that anything can be tackled with slow, deliberate efforts over time annoys the fuck out of me. I am an impatient bastard who generally wants immediate gratification. And let's be honest, babies don't take good steps. They're wobbly, misdirected, require constant oversight, and can't be left alone or expected to do anything by themselves. So the dependency subtext of the baby steps analogy crawls all over me. (I'm not above baby puns, however.) Also, if we are to consider clichés for retirement, I nominate, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." WHO EATS ELEPHANT?? Hyenas. Not people. Move on, unhelpful adage.

2011 has been the year of the dentist. If you were to pinpoint one area of my life that I could never get ahead in, it would be the chompers. 20+ years of fighting with adult teeth has turned me into an embittered, bratty child with serious health issues that were seemingly impossible to redress. My teen years were fraught with dental injury after dental injury, and there began a seething, slow-burning envy for the tooth-regenerating faculties of sharks. FUN FACT: Some sharks can shed up to 35,000 teeth in their lifetime. Humans get 48-52. Thank you evolution, God, or Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Most of us have some level of vanity lurking beneath the surface. If you don't live in Hollywood, then you most likely suppress or conceal it, especially if you live in the bible belt. More and more, I am realizing just how dark and twisted this can make a person psychologically. Taken to extremes, a person can actually pat themselves on the back for denying themselves the most basic of human needs, because they believe the physical body has little intrinsic value, whose glory vastly fades, the material world pales in comparison to the spiritual, blah blah blah. These people are just modern-day Gnostics, and I find them to be the most insufferable motherfuckers of all. What eludes them is the irony that their own divinely laudable self-neglect leads to further problems for their god to clean up. But these are the extreme, false ideals around which I grew up, so in a lot of ways, I'm not surprised by the level of artificial guilt I carried around for wanting to fix something about myself. If everyone realized that feeling good about your self-image actually makes you a more likable person, then this would be a non-issue. I'm not campaigning for a spot on the cover of US Weekly, people, I just want to be able to eat a steak without having to throw it in a blender. Not too much to ask.

When the emergencies could no longer be ignored, the latest pet project became fixing it. All of it. No stone unturned, even though I had no idea what I had signed up for. It was time to blow up the insurance with claims for major, restorative care and a litany of procedure codes to make their unsympathetic heads spin. After charting the course with an excellent DDS, the conversations with those in the know were remarkably supportive and encouraging. It's funny; it didn't matter who I talked to, there seems to be an oft-repeated consoling remark for someone trying to fix their grill: "It's genetics." As in, "Don't beat yourself up, your Mendelian inheritance is just fucked." Which is no sleight to mom and dad; it's just a regressive scapegoat that people tend to wield, generally with disregard for their own volition and little to no specific, scientific support. But gesture noted, it was still little comfort when weathering the cascading waves of pain and the shame spiral. It took 5 months and 6-8 half-day appointments, but I believe I'm finally in the clear. Instead of a boring play-by-play, I thought I'd share the high and low points in a sort of highlight/blooper reel format. No video though. I absolutely banned all recording devices, though I'm not entirely confident that someone didn't nanny-cam me.

Halcion/Triazolam - Given my apprehensions with the work to be done, the dentist's office wrote me this script for happiness in a bottle. (Yes, even better than FFC Claret, *gasp*) It's pretty much a date-rape drug, given my consequent amnesia. Combined with the nitrous, I went on several fantastic voyages in that dentistry chair. It has time-travelling properties, and my love for each of those 14 pills brings me dangerously close to questioning my opinions on recreational drug use. (Sidebar... Potential Vocational Plan B as a conservative radio blowhard! Your hypocrisy never stops being funny, Rush.) Seriously, if it hadn't received FDA approval back in '82, Pfizer could make a killing off this other, equally magical, little blue pill.

"As the world turds..." - It's conventional wisdom now to not drunkenly text, right? The same could be said of Gchat. Feast your eyes on this epic malapropism:

[Fortunator was asking me how I was doing following my first appointment.]

MB: I took these oral sedatives before the appt, so I was drunk" before mom picked me up.

F: yesssssss

MB: Fell asleep several times while in the chair

F: isn't that the point of a sedative?

MB: I mean, I guess. Except that out makes it more difficult when the dentist is asking you questions.

F: he should know better

MB: Ahh well, it worked out. As it turds out I was feeling asleep at key moments. Like when there's a device in my mouth that I need to clamp down on. The release. All very important.

F: are you still sedated? I'm dying laughing over here

MB: turds, really?

F: "as it turds out" I'm guffawing over here

MB: Yes. Very. FML

The moral of the story, kids... when you get gassed, you never know when a conversation will take a turd for the worse.

Ow Ow Wow Ow Oh Stop Ugh Ugh Oh Stop Ow Ugh Ugh I Can't Breathe Stop Ugh - Unknown fact before now: temporary teeth hurt like a bitch. Without getting too specific, if you have to have your teeth "shaped" in any way for a permanent fixture, the interim device/materials will make your life a living hell. In my case, the DDS used a hardened, resin-like, plastic substance which had zero heat or cold inhibiting properties. Be it cereal milk, tap water, or hot pocket, anything I ate or drank was always either too hot or too cold. I didn't know it at the time, but I also had an infection building around a nerve. And the murderous pain built to levels higher than what I experienced before all the work began. For someone who has a pretty high tolerance, I was a weepy, miserable mess for weeks, despite the regular rotation of Lortab 7.5's, liquid gel Aleve and Advil, fast-dissolving Excedrin, and Tylenol PM's. Nothing took the edge off, and I was beginning to welcome the sweet oblivion of a bullet to the head and bid this cruel world adieu. Not even the observation that my state was eerily akin to The Grape Lady was enough to inject humor into this sitch.

This ultimately led to the lowest point in the journey: a root canal orchestrated by Satan himself.

The Moment I Almost Killed Somebody - [This last section a little too detailed for my taste and definitely not for the faint of heart. You've been warned.]

If your dentist's office wants to refer you to a "local endodontist," tell them to go to hell. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 (as if anything I went through would be this cheap), go straight to hell you heartless motherfucker. If you live in a metro, then you generally have sufficient options when shopping for a good endodontist. You have the convenience of perusing for patient reviews. But when you're in emergency like I was with no time to take off for a Dallas or OKC visit, you'll be stuck with Dr. Mengele. My two tortuous sessions with the Angel of Death were a reminder that some professions just do not suit certain people. In dentistry, you either have the touch or you do not. In sharp contrast to my DDS, who demonstrated competency and compassion with a needle stick (I never even felt it once.), Orin Scrivello attacked my gums like he was marinating a rump roast with a flavor injector. And without a topical anesthetic or nitrous, strike one. He then could not remove the crown on his own to begin the root canal. So I had to "help" him. His instructions to me:

"Ok, I need you to clamp down on this sticky, gummy bear thing. I'll then cool it down so that it will bind that top crown to your bottom wisdom tooth. Then when I count to three, I want you to yank your mouth open as hard as you can, and hopefully it will rip that crown right off."

SERIOUSLY?!? Umm, first of all, why am I paying you when I'll be doing all the work? Sure enough, he counted (rather quickly) to three, and when I hesitated, he actually tried to force my mouth open. With a sickening squelch, the crown popped off and the torture continued. Strike two. Sadistic dentist proceeded to try and isolate the affected tooth by placing a clamp on it. Although I'm sure it's considered an advancement in endodontic practice, the large sheet of mouth-raping dental dam was apparently the only means to accomplish this. And in the process of transforming me into a de-masked Predator, the tension sent the tooth clamp flying across the room. Cling, ping, clang. Strike three, and we're still just getting started. When he couldn't clamp the tooth, he fired up another, unknown device, and there soon followed the distinctive, olfactory recognition of a very specific smell. Burning flesh.

MB: Umm, you planning on throwing some steaks on the grill?

Scrivello: I'm cauterizing your gums. I've not been able to reach the crown line because of the gum tissue in the way.

Greaaaaaaat. Forget ribs, Billy Sims. BBQ gums are on the menu. I would have vomited right then and there if I thought he was capable of clearing my airway. It's disgusting to admit it, but I smelled delicious. For coercing me into considering hypothetical cannibalism, that's strike four. And the last, ignominious turn in this trip through Tartarus came when Jigsaw had to seat the crown. With a few dabs of cement, Endo bore down on the roof of my mouth with his full body weight. Pressure like I have never felt before in my life. Further distressing, he stepped up and onto the chair to leverage more weight, and his hand in my mouth shook violently, as if he were gathering the strength to do an iron cross or a handstand on my molar. Whatever his intention, the dismount was long overdue. And I had the sinking suspicion that I'd be charged for more services than I rendered. Or appeared to render anyway. I left that office in haste, like a dishonored geisha.

Despite the initial rant, my resolution at the close of this entire ordeal is that worthwhile goals can rarely be decoupled from the processes it takes to get there, whether it be weight loss, credit repair, or any other arena of personal betterment. The most successful people that I know haven't taken shortcuts, and everyone has seasons when they're in the proverbial shit. If you don't have a sufficient level of self-love, you will have an abysmal disposition and you can (intentionally or not) unfairly expect those around you to bear the weight of your own validation. You can take care of yourself without becoming a self-adulating, Jersey Shore asshat or betrothing yourselves to the bankruptcy of opulent, social elitists who bleach their asses. We all must endure the vicissitudes of aging. And the course we chart will always be richer and more worthwhile if it weathers hardship and avoids easy street.

Dear reader, if you'll forgive that rather pedantic excursus in what I typically try to keep light-hearted, I assure you the tomfoolery will return. Speaking of which, can we all agree that bleaching your balloon knot is a personal marquee to the world that you are slightly more vacuous than a RealDoll? (Google it. I don't dare hyperlink.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Yes, I Kiss My Mother With This Mouth

***Insert obligatory apology for fair-weather, semi-annual blogging*** Enough housekeeping, let's get to it kids... So many things going through my brain these days. It seems unfair to just let it all out there, but I've been accused of bloggerrhea before. Why buck the trend?

I am surrounded by people who have or who are aging gracefully. With each passing year, they grow measurably in compassion, charity, and boilerplate likability. Fuck, they're usually gorgeous as well. In my 31st year on this rock (always count the zero year, people), I am quickly realizing that this will not be my fate. Each waking moment appears to chip away at the collected, upstanding visage of my youth. And while I still don't consider myself "bitter" or full of Twilight-rivaling angst, 10 years ago I never would have thought that my go-to phrase would be the ever-descriptive "Fuck this fucking shit." It's Exhibit A in a series that proves I'm becoming a horrible person. What follows are a few stand-out examples that ipso facto confirm my likely retirement as a bridge troll.

1. Swear words are my friend. I seriously love to let fly a flurry of stank-mouthed, rude, crude, ribaldry. There is a level of camaraderie in social settings one can find with the well-worded, perfectly timed obscenity. Then there's the purely animalistic, knee-jerk furor that can procure words you didn't know existed. I'd like to think that I enjoy a balanced mix of the two, if one can justify such things. But the hell-baiting realization came while texting my recently pregnant sister that her little girl needed to hurry up and get here because her uncle was going to teach her cussin' lessons. Of course... I was kidding. But the fact that I thought that was funny slightly disturbed even me. Similarly, because I find the faux children's book, Go the F**k to Sleep so indisputably funny is proof that I could never be a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

2. I frequently have dreams where I verbally eviscerate a person from my past for some nebulous, un-redressed wrong. Just last night I had the most vivid depiction of a 30-minute call out session over events that transpired in the college years. I believe the phrase "bitch ass" was swung with virulent force (see point no. 1 above). Physical force may have also transpired in said slumber slayfest, as evidenced by my morning swampass and the lining of my cheeks that gnawing rendered into a loose meat sandwich. Maybe it's time for a night guard. It's funny because I don't see myself carrying these grudges in my day to day. These are people I haven't thought of in years. What alarms me is that such well-formed emotions can erupt while unconscious; I'm almost afraid to see these people again for fear of this hostile monster I'm keeping in the dungeon. Heaven help the psych who finally gets me on the couch.

3. I'm starting to consider punching people in the face as a viable problem solver. This coming from someone who has never been in a physical altercation But consider the strength of this argument. Tired of the passive-aggressive acquaintance? Punch in the face. Unenthusiastic waiter making you suffer through dinner because he clearly hates his job? Punch in the face. Obnoxious instructor trying to soften the blow of unmerciful student reviews with humor clichés ("Remember, God-like is hyphenated...")? Punch in the face. Mumbling WalMart first-jobber scanning each item from your cart with the alacrity of a whale beaching himself on the shores of disappointment? Punch in the face. Stuck at an impasse with a racist, homophobic Tea Bagging nutjob who thinks people want to marry goats? Definite punch in the face. Maybe even a punch in the b-hole for good measure. Coming from a true pacifist and diplomat, even I acknowledge the definitive nature of a good ole' bitch slap, a move which clearly and decisively states, "STFU. I have no vested interest in anything else you have to say."

4. I downloaded Miley Cyrus' "Party In The USA." There's not much I can say to bounce back from that.

5. I'm not agoraphobic, but there are certain public places that I'm starting to avoid because of the mob dynamic. Nothing makes me want to punch babies more than a large, loud, and obnoxious crowd. This is generally why I have to wait 2-3 weeks after a release drops to go to a movie I really want to see in theaters. When your herd of screaming pachyderms, horrendous ringtone, philistine plot commentary, and grazing from a popcorn trough are drowning out the THX 10.2 Channel Surround, I want to go on a murderous rampage. $10-15/ticket doesn't entitle me to the god treatment, but I shouldn't have to state the obvious like, "Who brings a fucking baby to Scream 4?" I feel the exact same way about Black Friday, which should be renamed Homicide Amnesty Friday. Does your MIL's "helpful" hints about which dishes should only be hand-washed lead you to believe she's not long for this world? Invite her to the 4 AM rat race for Jack-Me-Off Elmo's. Statistically, she's more likely to be trampled by the mindless wildebeest hoard than you are to win the MegaMillions. And we can all dream, can't we?

6. If you happen to drive past me on the road while my windows are down, no, that is not Lewis Black or Three 6 Mafia that you heard on blast. More than anyone I've riden with, I am the angriest, most vocal driver that I know. This is admittedly an imprecise superlative, since most people find the strength to dial it back when transporting others. So I don't know that I'm the loudest or most volatile; I just know that if dash-cam'd, I'd be more than moderately embarrassed by my Jekyll/Hyde outbursts. And this is where my iPod is a savior in such humanity-challenging moments. Certain songs have the transforming capacity to ground me and bring me back to sane commuter mode. It's auditory Paxil. For your consideration...

GREEN MEANS GO, MOTHERFUCKER!!!!! GO, GO, MOVE, YOU OBLIVIOUS PIECE OF SHI... "She drives me crazy... WOO, OOOoooo... Like no one else... WOO, OOOoooo... She drives me crazy, and I can't he-elp myse-eh-elf..." [blood pressure lowers, birds chirping, driver whistling, casualties averted]

I hope the irony of that example isn't lost on you, dear reader. It certainly wasn't lost on me, as I maniacally laughed it off, planting yet another flag on the emotional spectrum of my driving psychosis. In that moment of clarity, I decided to give my Sybil Dorsett moment the paparazzi treatment. Here's the mobile photo booth exposé and proof positive of my break with reality.

I think we all have moments that draw us to the edge and make us peer perilously into a future likely comprised of Nancy Grace interviews. So what keeps the crazy at bay? What keeps us from twisting off each workday and pulling a "Take-this-job-and-shove-it" like Steven Slater? More and more, I realize that stress and high blood pressure ain't nothin' to mock or ignore. We joke about taking mental health days, which is a PC way of saying, "If I have to watchdog my inbox for another 8 hours and immediately answer all of his impulsive requests, I'm going to rob a pet store and punt all the puppies through the uprights at Cowboys Stadium so these sadistic, soul-sucking bastards can watch it in high-def on the Jerry-tron."

That last sentence made me cringe a bit, since I am such a fan of the canines. So there actually may be hope for this aging sack of shit after all. Until I fully search out this softer side, steer clear of me on the road, *motherfuckers.

*A term of endearment in some cultures.