Health, Life

Face Your Fears: The Third Chapter


In this seemingly endless series of entries that detail my fear of all things dentistry, I think I finally make peace with it all.

Today was the day of perhaps the biggest procedure of all the ones I’ve got waiting for me: the dreaded root canal. Just the mere mention of it to some will make them cringe; for dental chickens like me, it’s more like someone setting my hair on fire (and as of now, there’s lots to burn since I’m letting it grow).

To be perfectly honest, the procedure itself wasn’t all that bad but what happened during the whole thing was definitely a bit discouraging. Let’s just say I got there at 7 am and didn’t leave until 11:30 am. I’ll get to that later.

At 7 am sharp, I was taken to the chair and prepped for the procedure. That, of course, meant having my cheek injected with Novocain. While I discovered that many things in the industry have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the size of the syringe and the pressure of the needle as its inserted into your cheek. Still slightly painful, still freaky and nightmarish to witness.

Thankfully, that would be about the only discomfort I would feel.

The doctor told me to rub my cheek in order to get the Novocain working and boy, it did. As he saw other patients, I slowly felt the right side of my face going numb. It’s always a weird sensation, especially when you have an itch in the region that is numb. How is that even possible? And how do you satisfy that? I tried to no avail.

Then the fun began. Once he gave me the sign that he was going to begin, I donned my Bluetooth headphones — better sound and no wires to complicate matters — and picked some music to listen to.

First he had to remove some decay from the tooth which was already chipped. Scrape, scrape, scrape and a little drilling. Afterward, he started to dig into the tooth in order to reach the nerve which, if it were still healthy and alive, would have bled when he finally reached it.

That’s when I realized I hated the smell of my teeth being obliterated by water-jet drilling instruments but also remembered how it used to be with actual drills. The sound is now much less frightening and the music drowned it out so it was a wash.

His assistant kept adding dilator to the area in order to open things up but it yielded no results with all the excavating. That’s where we hit a snag. The nerve was dead and there was no clear indication of when they would reach it. As a result, he had to keep taking x-rays in order to determine how much closer he was.

In between delays, he took time to juggle his other patients while I sat and waited for him to return: checking social media, texting Ann, taking pictures killed time.

Photo Jul 10, 10 35 33 AM

Yes, even in the dentist’s chair, I’m being all artsy-fartsy.

There would several of these delays until the x-rays showed that the nerve was finally reached. By now, the pressure or potential pain of the procedure wasn’t on my mind. What was driving me crazy was having my mouth open for so long while he worked on the tooth. Granted I shut it as he worked on other patients but my jaw was becoming incredibly sore after a few hours, and I would be in the chair until about 11:30 am or about 4.5 hours total.

Now if you’ve never had a root canal done I won’t bore you (see what I did there?) with the details. I’ll just let this picture sum it up.

Photo Jul 10, 11 00 49 AM

See all those miniature drills and pointy things? Once the hole was made in my tooth, every single one of them found its way down said hole and I swear it seemed like he used a thousand of them.

Photo Jul 10, 9 47 57 AM

Success! And digital x-rays freaking rock. If you’re old enough to remember when x-rays had to be developed in a darkroom, you know what I mean.

Once this goal was achieved, more scraping and drilling followed and after that, filling the hole with silicone and other thin, long, red needle-like things. And again, it seemed like there were thousands of them being dropped in there.

Finally, the home stretch. Bonding was added to make the tooth feel like a normal tooth again and after all of that, we were done. I was beginning to wonder if just pulling the tooth would have been easier but that’s why he’s a dentist and I’m not.

When I got home, the family expected me to be a drooling, disheveled mess but much to their dismay, I wasn’t and immediately made lunch because I was so freaking hungry after all that. It was hard to enjoy a hot dog with a sore jaw and the Novocain still not entirely worn off but I needed something in my stomach.

And while I didn’t do much but sit there and listen to music, I was exhausted when it was all over and thankful I took one of my paid Summer Days to stay home and take a nap afterward. Sure I could have gone to work but a nap felt so much better.

This is not the end of things by far, but I don’t think any of them will compare to this. My dentist was incredibly patient with me and explained everything in detail. An excellent job and I couldn’t be happier with him. And my wallet is a little shorter now but insurance paid a whopping 80% of the procedure so there’s that, too.

I’ll definitely be ready for the next thing, and it’s safe to say that my fear has finally gone away – even if my jaw is still sore as I write this.

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Health, Life, Money

Face Your Fears, Part Deux


About two months ago, I had mentioned in a post that it was time to get over my somewhat rational fear of dentists – or at least they work they do – and get the ball rolling with an exam and whatever else the dentist may recommend.

Today was that day. And the results of my visit were anything but favorable.

I went to a local office that has a sparkling reputation on Yelp! and is also where Anthony and my mother-in-law go for cleanings (she usually takes him so they get it done at the same time).

After filling out what seemed like an endless questionnaire regarding my personal health and dental visits, I was called into the back where I took a seat and had a series of 18 x-rays taken.

Things are definitely different now – they are digital. The last time I had them done, you still had to bite down on a small piece of plastic or cardboard whose corners felt pointy when the nurse stuck them in under your tongue. Then they had to develop them. Now you bite down on a device that transmits the image to a computer. So far, so good.

Then the dentist sat down next to me, introduced himself, went over the x-rays and pointed out everything that was wrong in my mouth (aside from the occasional profane language that slips out of it). Next, he let me know what he thought should be done first based on the severity of each condition.

Yeah. There’s that much. Fuuuuu…

It was during this consultation when I explained my fear and he told me that, of course, it wasn’t uncommon. He also told me how some of his patients were actually worse than me. (For privacy, I won’t go into details.) But the fact that I was sitting there speaking to him and preparing myself for whatever treatment he thought necessary put me way ahead of those he mentioned. I was already on the field ready to play; they hadn’t even shown up to the clubhouse.

His first recommendation was simple: bonding my two front teeth, both of which were a bit jagged at the bottom and could possibly chip at any moment. He also explained that this would be a great way to ease myself back into the patient’s chair and dental care as a whole.

And that’s where we started. I asked if I could listen to music during the procedure and he had no objections. In fact they supply their own if you need them but I’m not sure what kind of music I’d be listening to and I’m pretty picky with my headphones, so I used my own earbuds and thank goodness for Spotify Premium and my iPhone.

He told me to raise my left hand if I felt any discomfort during the procedure and amazingly, I didn’t. As he and his assistant blazed through the process of bonding my teeth, Avenged Sevenfold’s City of Evil kept my mind off of what was doing on inside my mouth. About the only thing that got to me, despite the volume level being somewhat high, was the scraping of the bonding material from the teeth. I feel myself cringing just typing about it.

(Listen to the album here)

And that was it. I had gotten this far and with only a few beads of sweat on my forehead and maybe a slightly left watery eye. And naturally, a sore jaw that is still sore. He told me that if I can survive this procedure with no anesthetic then the next one – a pretty big one – shouldn’t be an issue. He also referred me to an oral surgeon who will be handling the extraction. I’ve seen him before and he’s good, at least from what I can remember with the twilight sedation I was under.

Even so, I’m still worried about the next thing since I’ve never had it done. And after that I’ve got a laundry list of other things that needs to be checked off. Strangely, the tooth with missing parts wasn’t the worst one. Sure, it will still have to get extracted but the x-rays showed that another one that I knew was slightly chipped had worse damage to it, and that’s the next thing to be taken care of in a few weeks.

We had planned on taking a road trip to San Francisco this year but unfortunately, it looks like the summer will be have to be scheduled around all of my procedures. Additionally, the job gives us three paid Summer Days that we can take for three-day weekends if we wish. Those plus my remaining sick hours and possibly some vacation days will most likely used for days I need to have work done.

Then there’s paying for all of this. Even with insurance, it’s goodbye, Vacation Fund!

But at least I’ve taken the first step toward having better dental hygiene. It will take some time and money to get it all right but I know it will definitely be for the best.

Business, Life, Money, Movies, Television

Baby, You’re A Star


Sunday was a nice, blustery day so we decided to get out of the house and do a little bit of shopping – mostly window-wishing – at the local outlet.

As is the case with most outlets these days, the walkways are riddled with independent vendors trying to push their wares to anybody that passes. I had heard it said that these guys are the modern-day equivalent of pop-up ads and it’s true: they just keep pestering you.

But one booth wasn’t selling tennis shoe polish, laser-etched iPhone cases or fidget spinners (and I swear if I hear my kid say that one more time, I’ll scream). And unlike most of the booths, it was unmanned when we passed it.

What they were selling was a Hollywood dream to make it big in television and movies. It was a casting agency that specialized in recruiting children and teens for studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, etc. or so they say.

And it wasn’t until we were ready to leave when we were approached by the person who was running the booth. Apparently she thought we looked like a bunch of pigeons as she walked up to us, taking particular interest in Anthony.

She first asked if we were local. I confirmed her suspicion. Then the spiel began about how she was looking for teens age whatever-to-whatever to cast for shows on the aforementioned networks. That’s when I started to grin and then dropped the mic on her.

“Nah, that’s okay. I used to do background acting and…”

At the mention of “background acting” I swear that woman left a puff of smoke behind her and disappeared faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m dash.

Why is that?

There are a few reasons for her to not take interest in me or Anthony.

First, casting agencies in general. When you’re selling Hollywood to some slack-jawed yokel that doesn’t know any better, they will of course shovel out whatever it takes to make their kid a star. And that’s the problem: legit agencies will NEVER ask for money up front, and you can bet that this one was going to ask me for my wallet in order to get Anthony a few headshots that would be stuffed into an album of hundreds of others that already got bilked and still haven’t been cast for anything. For my casting file, my headshot was taken with a digital camera at the agency. That’s all they need especially if it’s only non-union background work. Speaking parts require SAG-AFTRA union membership and that costs money, something that you pay directly to the union and not the agency. Only then will you make decent money. Until then it’s minimum wage, baby. Except may for the monetary bumps for exposure to smoke, water, or the studio using your car in the background as well. Living the Hollywood dream? Hardly.

Second, I’ve seen what kids have to go through in this industry. For adults, it’s no big deal other than hustling for more jobs during your downtime between shots and there is a lot of downtime. For kids, however, it means having their parents on location with them, going to the on-set “school” between shots, and just long days that nobody that young should be put through. There’s never guarantee of when the production will wrap and if they have another shoot the next morning or get a callback for the current one, it’s a lot of stress for parents and kids. Kids also get hungry and antsy. This is why they are so hard to work with. It’s a miserable existence and a life I would never wish on any child. Believe me, it’s nothing like what you see on the screen or social media.

I can say quite confidently that those last two paragraphs are exactly what went through the mind of this woman as she ran away from me. She knew I had an inside track about the industry and didn’t even want to mess with me.

So sorry, kid. You’re not going to be the next big thing.

But you’ll always be our star.

Photo May 07, 5 28 41 PM

Blog Update, Blogstuffs

Trollin’


I’ve been at this blogging thing since 2004. After 1,274 posts I think I kind of know what I’m doing.

Actually, the fact that I can string words together and form a cohesive thought makes me a pretty smart cookie when compared to the average person posting umpteen selfies on social media from everywhere they go — even church. Yes, I’ve seen it. Never mind why you’re there; just do it for the “likes.”

But I digress. I’m no genius but at least my comprehension of the English language is on-par or better. I mean, come on. I’ve worked as a writer or proofreader since 2003 (excluding that awful 1.5 years in the grocery store). It’s not complete mastery but you get the idea.

That said, I’ll be the first to admit that not every post here is perfect or gold — comedy or otherwise. You haven’t even seen the ones that are still in my Drafts folder that I keep for fun or the ones that I threw out because they were so awful.

And each of my posts has a star rating system at the top so readers can give me some feedback about what they just read. Apparently, I did something to piss off a few trolls on April 14, 2017 since on that day, several of my posts were given a salvo of one-star ratings or, as it reads on the mouseover, “This sucks!”

The WordPress report is a little fuzzy but you get the idea.

Look. I don’t care about your one-star ratings because they were all on the same day and the same quantity. They mean nothing. But if you really want to voice your opinion on any given post, if it pissed you off that much, don’t be a little shit and hide behind a gold star and your keyboard in Mom’s basement. Use the Comments section and speak up.

Blogging costs me money and time but even after all these years, I still get a great deal of enjoyment from it.

The rating system will remain open. A few trolls ain’t gonna stop me.

Economy, Money

The Penny Pincher


mr-krabs-tips-9First, I’m pleased to say that I’m once again taking a break from that time pit called Facebook. I do that occasionally in order to clear my head from everything that Facebook has crammed into it.

And honestly, with the way things are going right now, I sort of want to escape from the bad news which seems to be unfolding at an exponential rate. I keep away in order to plant some peace deep in my soul – what little soul there is in me.

At any rate, here’s an interesting little story. Or strange or ridiculously stupid depending on how you see it.

Anthony and I headed out to the Grocery Outlet with a very short list of things to buy. I had a $3 off coupon and wanted to buy myself another Bubba tumbler, quite possible the best freaking thing I’ve bought since I started drinking more water. Seriously, ice does not melt in this thing. It’s pretty incredible.

But because of their low, low prices, Grocery Outlet is one of those places where it’s impossible to stick to a short list.

Four bags of marshmallows for 50 cents? I’M STOCKING UP RIGHT NOW. That’s until you realize that you’ve never eaten close to four bags of marshmallows in your entire life and chances are they’ll get stale before you open the second bag. It’s like that.

Thankfully, I didn’t see the need to do that but along with my tumbler I did end up with some other bargain I couldn’t pass up and we made our way to checkout.

The total for my transaction with the coupon was $9.22 and since this was one of those rare occasions when I had cash on me (read: my leftover Las Vegas winnings), I happily handed over $10. The cashier then asked if I had the 22 cents. It’s usually what they do when they are low on coin so they can give back dollars for change. I’ve been there, trust me.

I checked my pockets and came up empty. I then asked Anthony if he had any change – yes, I felt bad about it – so that we could help the cashier with her predicament. He dug deep in his wallet and came up a penny short at 21 cents.

No biggie. Pennies are a dime a dozen (if that makes sense) and no doubt the cashier would end up finding one somewhere in the store, on the parking lot, in the breakroom, etc. And if she was a penny short at the end of the day, seriously, nobody would freaking care.

It was just a penny. A single, solitary penny.

So I handed our $10.21 over to her and she placed it on the register. This is where it gets weird.

Now remember, we gave her the 21 cents to not only get a dollar back but help her out a bit if she was short on change. But it was obvious she wasn’t.

She then put the paper and coin in the register, sorting it all out by denomination. Thinking she was going to give me a $1 bill and my receipt, she then starts to crack open the roll of quarters and nickels.

I gave Anthony a strange look. He returned it.

She then began scooping change out of the drawer, counted out 99 cents and along with the receipt, handed it all over to me. Essentially, she gave back the 21 cents we had given her plus more.

As I grabbed my bag and walked away, I was trying to figure out exactly what just happened by mumbling to myself, throwing up hand gestures and drawing air numbers ala Vera from Alice complete with the confused look.

I just couldn’t figure out why she didn’t give me that $1 in change. It would have been that much easier for everybody. As a way of  thanking Anthony for helping me out (or at least trying to), I handed over the 99 cents to him. He was happy with that.

So if you ever go to Grocery Outlet, don’t be swayed by their great sales on marshmallows. And for God’s sake, have the correct change.

Health, Life, Vacation

Face Your Fears


6425b286c9f1ca14ba538f0e8d20ff45Next week is the start of our vacation in fabulous Las Vegas. It’s something that we had planned for months and saved up for, and we have a list of things to accomplish while we are there, some free and some not.

Either way it’s happening and nothing is going to stop us from enjoying some time away from home and office, and just be a family. Our list is long. It will be [mostly] conquered. You will see pictures on Instagram.

But the one thing I’m not looking forward to when we return is something that I really should have done sooner: visit the dentist. You see, I’ve got a few teeth – well, one is a partial tooth – that need some TLC or perhaps even an extraction. The last time I put off a dentist visit was years ago when I had a tooth literally rotting away and at one point, cold air entering my mouth (when I would inhale while speaking) would produce excruciating pain. I can’t even describe it but I know I couldn’t speak much. My coworkers secretly loved it I’m sure.

While one of the teeth in question has yet to reach that point, I don’t want it to. The other tooth is chipped and will need some care as well but nothing like the other.

Now you’re probably wondering why I just don’t go right-effing-now to get it done. There really isn’t a reason why I shouldn’t – I have dental insurance and plenty of sick days at work. But the answer is simple: I am afraid.

I fear dentist offices. Everything about them. The sound, the smell, the feeling. I will go to the doctor and have every exam possible done to me without hesitation. I will give blood without a second thought. But the dentist? I have to be forced.

In fact when I had to get that rotting tooth extracted, I paid the extra $300 to be put to sleep during the procedure. It was money well spent considering I didn’t have to expose myself to all that freaks me out. I remember counting to three and then waking up, asking the dentist if they had done anything at all. It was nice.

But the fear is still there, and with good reason.

Today, there are several kinds of people who work strictly on teeth. The dentist is for check-ups and cleanings. Your oral surgeon specializes in pulling teeth. Orthodontists straighten them out.

And when I was growing up, orthodontia was starting to take off. I mean, every freaking kid had braces and yours truly was no exception, in addition to wearing neck gear and a permanent retainer on my bottom teeth (later removed by Ann’s boss, an orthodontist).

Before I could have my braces put into place, I had to go to the dentist to get four teeth extracted. Yes, four. Two top, two bottom. And they were not in any condition to be extracted, meaning they had pretty much taken up residence and had no fear of ever being removed.

That all changed.

Remember, this was the time before oral surgeons and other kinds of specialists so my dentist was the one who had to do it. And when I think of that day, it’s pretty traumatic. There was blood all over gloved hands. Grinding and crunching sounds. Tools banded around the teeth to be extracted. Feeling the pressure of the teeth being pulled from my jaw (and I don’t handle physical pressure well). The dentist sitting what seemed to be literally on top of my while be tried with all his might to remove these four teeth. And of course, seeing the tooth in all its glory being held by a pair of pliers and seemingly six inches long. It all seemed cartoonish, but gone horribly awry.

I’ll be honest about this. That experience traumatized me for life. If not for this, I would have no problems happily skipping myself to a dentist for any kind of routine work. But as it stands now, that experience really messed me up and I won’t go until I’m at a point where things can’t wait any longer.

It’s stupid. It’s most likely not good for me. But then again, neither is drinking soda but I’ve already stopped doing that. (Seriously, stop drinking that garbage. It’s got no nutritional value and is a shit-storm of chemicals in a can. STOP. IT. NOW.)

So I’ve decided that upon our return from vacation, I need to face my fears and get this shit taken care of before it gets to the point my last extraction reached. I’m not sure how many people I will have to see or what, but I know that sucking it up and being a man about it is the only thing I can do.

Here’s hoping that nothing happens while on vacation or at the very least, I win $300 on the slots to pay for the twilight anesthesia.

Because I’m gonna need it.

Family, Fatherhood, Life

Dem Bones, or Das Boot


Ann and I decided early on in our parenthood journey that we would be supportive of Anthony with everything he did. Whatever he wanted to try, we would let him have at least one stab at it and be behind him all the way.

And so we did: tae kwon do, t-ball, violin, trumpet, and even the drums which I use more than him even though I suck. He gave all of these a chance but never really went anywhere with any of them but does indeed spent a lot of time at my drawing table producing abstracts that I can’t even being to comprehend. He’s got an artist’s mind for sure. I have no idea where he got it.

We’ve even so gone far as to not brand him with any one religion and only act as a moral compass along the way. If he decides later in his life that one has the answers for him then that’s great. Adults can’t make sense of that stuff most of the time so why confuse a child?

There was, however, one exception to all of this: playing football, and this goes back to long before we were parents. The sport seems to lend itself to inflicting serious injury onto the other players and for kids, I think it’s over the top and way too much for them. They have enough trouble trying to understand and execute plays and I couldn’t stand to see him or any other kid get flat-blasted on the field and not get up.

Then there’s the whole sports parents thing. I guarantee I would have been in my fair share arguments. Football was definitely out.

We never played it as kids but did toss the old pigskin around during those long, warm summer evenings while listening to the AM transistor radio. None of us would he harmed by that. But as for some of the other things we did as kids, well, that’s up for debate.

I’m not willing to divulge any of the stupid, stupid things we did as kids but let me tell you that it was by some miracle that none of us ever got seriously hurt or maimed. The most painful injury I had as a kid was a sprained pinky finger that I got while catching a kickball at school during a play at home plate. I never hurt myself playing any sports with the guys on the block.

And despite all of that, I’ve made it to the ripe ol’ age of 48 without breaking a single bone, even after my scooter accident. I’m a tough old bird.

So what does my childhood devil-may-care attitude and Knievel-esque propensity for adventure have to do with my son?

First, I haven’t told him half of the things I did when I was his age or younger. He doesn’t need any inspiration for stupid things to do and post on YouTube. In fact, it’s safe to say that me and my friends were the original version of Jackass but without cameras rolling. We were that bad.

Second, he recently started expressing an interest in football. We watched the Super Bowl and for not being a football fan, Ann was amazed at just how much I knew about the game. (The rules are pretty basic; I just get bored sitting for hours on end seeing guys yelling into headsets and watching six-second plays unfold.)

He told me that they were playing flag football at school recently and that he really enjoyed playing. That’s fine because hey, rip the flag off the dude and the play stops. No contact, no injuries.

Then one day after playing at school, he came limping up to me and told me he hurt himself playing football – tackle football, something they weren’t supposed to be doing. So we RICEd it – rest, ice, compression and elevation – for a few days in the hopes it would get better.

A week later and it was still the same so we had to take him to the doctor. The diagnosis was a sprained ankle but they took x-rays anyhow to be sure. They gave us the same RICE recommendation, scheduled a follow-up visit and prescribed some crutches.

Later that day, Ann gets a call: they found something on the x-ray.

Yep. His ankle was fractured. And $300 later, the kid is now sporting a huge boot that he has to wear all the time except to bed for the next 4-6 weeks, a time that includes our vacation in Las Vegas.

The good thing is that he doesn’t have a cast and he can move along pretty well, even better than I expected.

Hopefully this experience was a wake-up call for him.

Then again, if he’s anything like I was as a kid, it probably wasn’t.