April 28 – Day 21 – Digital Valium

 

“I think I should call my next piece, ‘Digital Valium,’” I yell to my wife in the other room as I passionately bang away on the keys of my 13” Retina MacBook Pro.

“Sounds serious,” she says.

“Well, it is.  Video games are everywhere.  I’ve been Googling horror stories of addiction all day.  Screen time is invading our lives!  When we were kids we only had one TV and we used it for educational programming like ‘Gilligan’s Island’ and ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’  These days, everywhere you turn there’s a screen.  I can’t even answer the phone anymore without touching a screen!  It’s mesmerizing and hypnotizing our kids, our society, our pets!…” 

“Pets?” 

“Have you seen the way our dog stares at the iPad, growls when we try to take it away and doesn’t want to go outside and play anymore?” 

“Funny,” she says.

This is a phrase I’ve learned British people use to indicate when something is not funny.  If it was funny, they would actually laugh.  It’s very similar to when someone is wholly disinterested in what you’re saying and they wait for a slight pause in your narrative to say, “Interesting…”

“It’s not funny,” I insist.  “It’s serious.  I don’t want our 9-year old’s brain turning into soggy breakfast cereal because he’s completely zombified by his iPod touch.” 

“We could take it away,”  she suggests.

“And have him stealing my iPhone 4S, my iPad1 & 3 or my iPad mini, or our first gen iPhone that we use to stream Pandora?!  Not on your life!” 

“You’re a shining example of screen abstinence.” 

“Well I HAVE to have these things.  It’s my business.”   My 9-5 is in technology and I have every right to over-purchase the latest and greatest toys.

“Let’s see, you have 5 desktop computers for work, one MacBook Pro, 3 iPhones, 3 iPads, an iMac, an Apple TV and a giant flat screen Samsung TV for the family and you’re worried about your son’s iPod Touch?  You realize you’re a phone call away from an intervention here, right?” 

“Okay, okay.  I got it.  You’re right.  I realize I’m not the best example of limiting screen time, but certain addictions are better dealt with as adults, right?” 

I was losing yet another “conversation” with my wife and grasping for anything to keep myself afloat.  I’ve read a few books, enough to know there really shouldn’t be “winning” and “losing” in marital arguments, but I’m pretty certain those were written by the persistent losers.

“We don’t allow our children access to alcohol, tobacco or firearms until they’re officially adults,” I said perhaps too smugly.

“And you’d like to tell our son he can only have screen time when he’s 18?” 

“That would work?” 

“Right,” she said.

I’ve learned that ‘right’ is one of those words that British people use…

“It’s probably too late to convert to Amish-ism, or whatever they call it.  So what do we do to protect our little boy’s brain from all of this?” 

“Well, I have some ideas.  Would you like to share yours first?” 

I hate when she does that.  I was hoping to hear her ideas first so I could say, “Yes, I thought about that too, but…”  No luck here.  She’s called and now I have show my cards.

“Well… we could…um… [I’m stalling....Think man, think!]  We could… [and then it hits me]  HAVE A FAMILY MEETING!!!  Yes!  That’s exactly what we should do!,” I say while beaming a bit too brightly.

My wife loves family meetings and dialogue.  Yes, that’s the RIGHT answer!  I bet that’s exactly what she was going to say!  Woo-hooo!!!  Inwardly I do a little end zone, victory dance.

“That’s a wonderful idea, dear husband.  And I imagine you’d like to talk about finding agreements around these devices our son is unable to avoid because there are a least three in every room in our house.” 

“Yes… I… would?”  

Uh, oh.

My inner celebration begins to die…

“And you’ll probably talk about modeling better behavior for your son by reading Dickens and Tolstoy instead of spending time on FaceBook, YouTube, Netflix and watching Hawaii Five O, right?” 

This was going to be a rough family meeting…

I think my screen time is up.

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April 27 – Day 20 – $tarbucks (parte 2)

[part 2 of 2]

[When we last left our hapless, clueless hero, he was lost in a $tarbucks trying to order a cup of coffee and not feel like a total outsider.  And if that doesn’t make sense, please go back and read yesterday’s post.]

~~~~~~~~~~~

It has never helped me to study the $tarbucks menu beforehand either.

I’m sure, way back in the 1980‘s when the Go-Go’s had the beat and the B52‘s were eating Rock Lobster, there was a bilingual dictionary provided where you could look up what all of the words meant.  30 years later, they just expect you to know it like the metric system.  I drank coffee all throughout Europe so I know Espresso, Cappuccino and even a Latte.  But Macchiato?  Wasn’t he the guy who played the Karate Kid?  How could he be on the menu?  con Panno?  Doesn’t that mean “with bread?”  Flat White?  Skinny?  Dry?  Breve?  I got nothing.

When I’m not too tired from writing everyday for this Ultimate Blog Challenge, I’ve actually looked some of this up online.  There are pages and pages devoted to how to order, what everything means, diagrams, instructions, primers and the whole lot!  How, in the Lord of Coffee’s name, did this business flourish to the point where the common tongue is barely helpful?  If I want to feel foolish, I’ll go to France and try to order something, thank-you-very-much.

Here are the 6 orders that noisily preceded mine at a busy $tarbucks last week:

“Venti 7 Pump no Whip White Mocha.”

“Decaf Double Tall non-fat extra-dry cappuccino.”

“Quad grande no-whip 170 mocha macchiato.”

“Grande with Whip Mocha Frappuccino Light Blended Coffee”

“Quad Venti Skinny with Whip Iced Caramel Macchiato”

“Iced Half-Caf, Quad, Grande, Soy, Starbucks Doubleshot on Ice + Energy”

And then I walk up and say, “Medium Black Coffee?”  We all know how that turned out.  This is not your father’s coffee shop.

I never know where to stand in a $tarbucks.  There’s rarely a free table to sit down at, so I invariably stand lost at the counter where I ordered until someone behind it (usually the “bartender”) points me away to one end or the other.  Ah, the pickup station!  That’s where I’m supposed to stand!  No, that’s where you move to when they call the name they wrote on your cup.  If you’re standing there too soon, the regulars coming to grab their expensive coffees will let you know, in no uncertain non-verbal terms that you’re standing in the wrong place.  They will, with great drama, reach over and past you to get to their name embossed cups.  Somehow, you’re supposed to find a 3rd position to stand until that time.

I wait till they yell “Nick” (they never get my name right), move over, grab it and go.

Every $tarbucks I’ve ever been in, all 7 of them, look like dorm lounges.  There are people dressed in sweats and fuzzy booties with their laptops, cozied in for what must be hours of studying and caffeination.  I feel like I’m intruding, like I’ve awakened in someone else’s den.  Everyone looks somewhat similar too.  Like there’s a certain dress code and everybody knows to dress vaguely Canadian.  I’m dead certain that if aliens where to quietly invade the planet, they would dress like Starbuckians and hide out in these coffee shops until the call came.

Part of me really wants to belong.  I genuinely want to understand it and go chill at $tarbucks.  I don’t know how I’d still be able to do my job if I were successful at that, but I’m barely doing my job now during this blog contest anyway.  I only complain because I feel like the kid who wasn’t chosen for basketball because I suck.  I suck at feeling at home in a $tarbucks, so why should they welcome me?  I can’t wear ski hats in the summer, I don’t lug around a backpack and my laptop everywhere, and I don’t look vaguely Canadian.

I think I’ll stick to brewing mine at home.

[Note:  The author genuinely likes Canadians and no Canadians were harmed in the making of this blog.]

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April 26 – Day 19 – $tarbucks

Apparently it’s national coffee week?

I won’t even look that up.  I’m tired.  This writing every day thing has me fat and exhausted from sitting in my Lazy Boy all day long trying to compose something decent.   All I want to do is consume flour products to ease the exhaustion of doing nothing but sitting and typing constantly for nearly 3 weeks.  My hands are cramped and that case of Mac ‘n Cheese we bought from Costco last week?  Gone.  I think I showered on Tuesday, but I can’t be sure.  What day is it today, anyway?

I know there’s probably something on Snopes that says this National Coffee week thing is all a hoax, but I’m tired of having to go clicking around the internet.  It’s just too much work having to research my facts and my clicker finger is tired.  Besides, I’m writing Creative Non-Fiction after all.  Who needs facts?

On the one hand, I have to wonder what kind of lobbying fees are involved to get this lovely week in April named after a nutrition-less, caffeine loaded hot drink that supports the economies of Latin America.  I notice we don’t have national Coke week, or national hard liquor week.  For better or for worse, the lobbies representing those popular beverages decided it was not the way to go.  But National Coffee week persisted.

So, if it’s truly national coffee week (and hey, every week of the year in my life is National Coffee week anyway), I’m noticing it’s hard to say that without thinking of $tarbucks.  They should have just been honest and called the place CoffeeBucks, because you can’t go in there without slaying the better part of a Hamilton.

I like coffee.  Or at least I think I like it.  For me it’s like saying “I like air & water.”  I’m reasonably certain I don’t have a choice as my survival depends on it.  I like it black, no sugar, and a heavily French roasted oily bean.  I’ve tried a fair amount of brands for that, but I shop at Costco, so I end up with bags of $tarbucks.  I like it enough, but that’s pretty much where my understanding of $tarbucks ends.  I’ve been in their retail outlets maybe a dozen times in as many years, and each time I feel like a stranger in a strange land.  There are protocols you are expected to know and I simply don’t.

For starters, there’s a language barrier that my pocket Berlitz cannot bridge.  How did small, medium and large suddenly become Tall, Grande, Vente, Trente and so forth?  Was real Italian just too easy to decipher so now we have faux Italian to make things interesting?  I freeze up every time they ask me what size I’d like and then invariably get corrected like a child who uses incorrect grammar.

“So you’d like a Vente?”

“No, I’d like a medium,” I reply.

“So you’d like a Grande?”

“Hell, I don’t know, but Grande sounds awful large for just a medium.  Is that bucket sized?  Don’t you have anything resembling a little bit larger than a small?”

“That would be a Grande, sir.”

“How can a medium be a Grande?!  It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Would you prefer a Tall?”

“A tall what?”

“Tall is a size, sir.”

“Is it a medium?”

“No, it’s a small.”

“Okay, now you’re just playing with me.  Ha ha.”

“No sir, a Tall is a small.”

“Seriously?!  How can a tall be a small?  That’s impossible.  They have 3 letters in common, but other than that,…nothing.”

“Yes, I know it’s confusing, but a Tall is a small.”

“Oh wait!  I GET it!  It’s that thing kids these days are doing with language, right?  Yeah, even my 9 year old is saying things like, ‘that’s sick,’ meaning ‘that’s awesome.’  Okay, I got it.  Next time I’m here, I’ll just say something like, ‘Yeah dude, I’d like some of that sick tall you got there, just black with no sugar.’”

“Sir, there are people in line.  Shall we call it a Grande for you?”

And then the shame creeps in and I feel about 100 years old.  I’m just an old man, lost in the future, clueless in a place he mistook for a coffee shop.

[to be continued...]

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April 25 – Day 18 – Creative Non-Fiction

 

“Sweetie, we need to talk,” my wife said.

Four words that strike fear in the heart of a husband.

“Am I in trouble?”, I asked.

My technique for dealing with these terrifying statements is just to meet them head on.  I’m not saying I’m full of courage or anything either.  I used to run and hide under the bed in my son’s room, but she always found me.  Well, truth be told, I did it once, got stuck and had to call for help.  But she still found me.  And she still needed to talk.

“No, not in trouble, per se.”

“Per se?  What exactly does that mean anyway?  It’s probably some ancient Latin or Greek that we’re just toting around thinking it means one thing and it probably means something all together different, like an execution. Or maybe it doesn’t mean—”

“Sweetie, you’re not in trouble, okay?  You can look it up later.  I want to talk about your blog,” she said.

“My blog?”  

My mood totally lifted.  She’s been so supportive of all the time it takes and such a great sport about me writing about her.  I have a feeling there’s a big support package/compliment coming my way.  I’m pretty good at intuiting these things, so I just launch right in with the attitude of gratitude.

“Aw sweetie, you’ve been so supportive.  Thank you for helping me get my blog off the ground.  You really don’t need to keep complimenting me so much, but I do so enjoy the praise,” I replied.

“I’m concerned about how I’m being portrayed.”

“Portrayed?”,  I asked.   She took me to a communication workshop once where they taught us to keep asking questions, often just repeating the last few words we heard to make the other person feel heard.  For an oft clueless guy like moi, this has served me well.

“In the dialogues you write and publish.  Our friends and family think they’re real.”

“They do?”

“Stop making questions out of everything I say.  That workshop was ages ago.  I feel like I come off poorly in your blog.”

I resisted saying ‘poorly?’ and then replied, “Are you serious?  You mean they don’t know I just make all of this up to make people laugh?  Didn’t we tell the whole family that I’ve been writing Creative Non-fiction?”

“Yes, but that’s the point.  No one really knows what that means.”

“It means that I get to play fast and hard with the truth, whatever that is.  Doesn’t everybody know that ‘Based on a True Story’ is pretty meaningless.  You could make a movie where George Washington was a space alien, and as long as a few basic things are true, it’s still based on a true story.”

“People think it’s all real, verbatim.  That you’re just writing down the conversations we have and publishing them.”

“Really?  That’s so bizarre.  I mean, even right now I’m making this conversation up.  This isn’t happening.  We never had this conversation, right?”

“That’s right, but when you write it down, people think it really happened.  If that’s the case, I want to be more sympathetic.”

“That’s so sweet of you, Beloved! “ That’s so like her to be thinking of me at a time like this. “But honestly, I don’t mind looking like the clueless one in this relationship. I think it helps the flow.”

“No, not sympathetic to you.  I want my creatively non-fiction character to be more likable.  More sympathetic.  More like me in real life,” she said.

“You think you’re not likable?  That’s crazy!  Half of the comments I’ve gotten so far say things like, ‘Your wife’s so funny and adorable.  We want to see more of her!’”

“I sound a little curt and bossy sometimes.”

“Well, I could always tell the story of how you healed all of those sick children and brought that cute little kitty cat back from the dead.  Or the miners you rescued, the plane you helped land after the pilot had a heart attack, and the millions of dollars you raised for orphans around the world.  People would be trampling down your door to adore you.”

“But I never did any of that.”

“That’s why they call it CREATIVE Non-Fiction!”, I said triumphantly.  

“Hang onto your hat there cowboy, I just want to come off a bit warmer, like the real me.”

“Okay, I will take note of this creatively non-fiction conversation we’re not really having and relay it to my readers.”

“That would be lovely,” she said.  “Otherwise, the writing is great.  I’m your biggest fan and I love that you’re finally doing your blog!  Oh, look at the time!  I have to go, my love.  Pope Francis is Skyping me in a couple minutes to find a way to feed more of the poor and get women ordained as soon as possible.”

“Good luck with that, sweetie!  Put in a good word for birth control while you’re at it?”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my breathtaking, profoundly lovable, sympathetic, and creatively non-fiction wife.

~~~~~~~~~~

“So how’s that?”, I ask after she finishes reading the post in bed.

“You don’t think it’s a little creatively over the top?”

“No, I think it’s pretty close to the truth of who you are,” I reply.

She sighs, rolls her eyes and says, “And you’re sure it’s not too Saint-like?”

“Either way it’s based on a true story, right?”

She laughs, rolls over, turns out the light and says, “Come sinner.  Make yourself useful and keep your favorite Saint warm.”

Oh, and she’s got a great sense of humor too.

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April 24 – Day 17- Meat

 

Meat is disappearing from our home.

She doesn’t talk about it, but it’s getting progressively harder to find.  It’s 2010 and the freezer now bulges with “delicious” looking veggie burgers, green substance tacos, and tofu dogs, but no meat.  No real meat.  There’s fakin’ bacon, wheat sausage, phony baloney and ground seitan (which, appropriately enough, is pronounced “Satan”), but no real meat.

Waaay in the back of the freezer, frozen to the rear wall is a ziplock bag with a frostbitten chunk of real meat we were given in some bizarre Y2k Christmas gift exchange.  At least that’s what I think it is.  We may have to wait until the Spring thaw to know for sure.  It’s akin to finding a woolly mammoth in ice near the North Pole.  Nobody is really sure how old it is or whether they should even thaw it. I might have to eat that soon.

She’s only been a vegetarian a couple of months (Thank you, Yoga Retreat Center) and already she collects parables about the evils of meat wherever she goes.  We’ve been regaled by the tales of people dying with 30 pounds of undigested meat still in their colon.  I know, right?  These are not stories you really ever need to hear.  I’m sure that’s an urban legend, but I haven’t had time to look it up on Snopes.  And then we have to hear how humans are not really designed to eat meat because our colons are too long.

Vegetarians are really obsessed with colons.

Apparently they trot off to the loo about 6 times a day and this is a good thing.  It shows they’re healthy.  Sounds more like a handicap to me.  I don’t know how I’d find the time to go that often.  And if you’re out and about a lot, that would put you at the mercy of public toilets.  Eww.  Women don’t truly understand how disgusting mens public toilets are.  They can’t really grasp that most male public restrooms are not places where you want to expose your colon.  They’re disgustingly like colons.  See!?  I can’t help myself! Now I am starting to talk about colons and I hate talking about colons!  I don’t even like talking about semicolons!  Anyway, men’s toilets are places you want to pass in and out of without touching anything other than yourself.

Well, you know what I mean.

Our 6 year old boy has been my trusty first sergeant in this cold war.  At first, he was ready to become a vegetarian like his mother.  Then I told him that hot dogs and chicken fingers were meat.  Since then, he and I go on secret reconnaissance missions to Trader Joe’s.  Using Black Ops hand signals we move through the store to purchase all kinds of frozen, thawed, canned, organic, range fed, massaged, counseled and voluntarily slaughtered turkey, chicken, pig and cow.  As meat eaters go, we try to be politically correct around these things.   If fortune is with us, she’ll be napping or away when we return.  We’ll stealthily load them deep into the freezer and fridge.  When she eventually finds our stashes, and she will (hiding things from my wife only buys time, not the discovery of the crime), we put on our best innocent grins.

Smiling, she asks, “And what are these ribs doing buried at the bottom of the vegetable drawer?”

“Um, what ribs?” I’ll ask nonchalantly with a carefully sculpted innocent face.

The innocent face is a terribly important aspect of this moment.  The truly innocent face will never break into a smile.  It’s genuinely curious and slightly confused as to the question.  It requires a thespian at the top of their game and I train every day.

“The TJ’s baby back BBQ ribs I’m holding right now.”  Just hearing that phrase rings my Pavlovian instincts, so I shift gears.

In my best Barry White imitation I say, “Aw baby, baby you know I love it when you talk that way…”

“Don’t joke with me, Mr. Very White.  I thought we agreed we were giving up red meat as a family?”  She had me in her sights with that one.

“Isn’t pork the ‘other white meat?’”, I replied, trying to look innocent again.

“Cute.  Well you can take it back to TJ’s tomorrow.  And bring the boy with you so he can see you do it.  I want you to set a healthy example for him and this isn’t it.”

And with that, she tossed the ribs back in the fridge while I contemplated eating them cold in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s and pretending they’d been returned.

That’s not too crazy, right?  Right?…

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April 23 – Day 16 – The Lobster/Liebster Awards

[part 2 of 2]

As part of my unceremonious nomination for a Lobster Award [I’m on a different computer and haven’t fixed the Lobster/Liebster issue yet--Okay, got it. -{sigh}- Seriously!  This is embarrassing.], I’m required to answer questions posed by my nominatrix and then become the nominator to other bloggers with my own set of questions.

First the questions I’ve been asked:

Do you have a hobby?  What is it?

I’m pretty sure my hobby is napping.  I only get to devote my attention to it for a few hours each week, but I find it deeply engrossing and time really seems to fly when I’m doing it.  People say, “Follow your bliss and the money follow,” but so far the napping thing hasn’t worked out.  Doesn’t matter.  Some things we just do for the love of it.

What is your favorite food? 

Yes.

What are you currently reading?

About 100 words a minute if I don’t move my lips?

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Taller. 

Where do you live now?

Somewhere else. I try to live in the now, but I often slide off somewhere else.  Sometimes, just before falling asleep, I wonder if somewhere else isn’t now.  [I have no idea what I just said...]

What do you like about it?

I have a really comfortable chair and it’s easy to make a sandwich.

How has technology changed your life?

I used to be nicer, less grumpy, and care more about getting real time with real people in the real world.

If you could have three wishes, what would they be?

1.   More wishes

    2.   an instant fitness pill

    3.   to be right sometimes at home.

    4.   the ability to fly, super strength, a secret identity, the X-Factor, shallow pretty friends… (Hey, I already asked for more wishes, so…)

If your friends had to describe you in three words, what would they be?

Late to dinner…

If you could go on vacation anywhere, where would it be?  

The past.

What would you like to do there?

Enjoy my svelte, sexy body and definitely appreciate my hair more.  Oh, I’d also buy a LOT of shares of Apple Computer.

 Describe the view from your window.

There are these horizontal stripes that lever open and closed, and rise up and down.  I think they’re called blinds.  Behind them, is a beautiful view of the ocean and strong sunlight that glares on my computer screen.

Okay, as per the draconian rules of this contest, I have told you 11 desperately private things about myself, answered 11 revealing Questions and now I’d like to nominate some other bloggers who should also be considered for this award:

Jessica Winters-Mireles at:   http://www.AllegroNonTanto.wordpress.com

Minette Reorder at:  (again, I try to type her name “Riordan” and she becomes “Reorder”)   http://www.MinetteRiordan.com/blog/

Brad Dobson at:  http://www.BDobson.net

Charla Bregante at:  http://www.PostcardsFromTuesday.blogspot.com

Here are your 11 Questions:

  1.  Why do you have a blog?
  2.  What gets you up in the morning?
  3.  To date, what is one of the funniest moments in your life?
  4.   Your favorite movie of all time, the one you thought of first after reading this?
  5.   What is your favorite thing to read?
  6.   What is your favorite food from childhood?  And now?
  7.   What do others find funny that you don’t, at all?
  8.   What’s your biggest challenge in writing?
  9.   A big disappointment you had in the past and how it affected you in the long run.
  10.   One of the best days of your life (so far) and why?
  11.   How would you like to be remembered?

Light, easy, fun questions, right?  HA!  Have FUN!

Mg

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April 22- Day 15 – The Lobster Blog Award

 

I’m very new to blogging.  In fact, I’ve only been doing it for 2 weeks spurred on by the Ultimate Blog Contest where we’re supposed to publish 30 blogs in 30 days.  It’s been an inspiring process for me and it’s amazing how much energy and time goes into organizing around this.  I mean some of us have a day job, families, and stuff to do, right?  But it’s been fun to see what it’s like to write and publish every day.  I’m toning my writing muscles but I’m seriously out of shape.  I still groan getting up from the keyboard.

It was with great surprise that I found out I’d been nominated for a The Lobster Blog Award by a fellow blogger.  [Actually, it’s not a “Lobster” award, but autocorrect is fighting “Liebster” - Okay, fixed that.]  Of course immediately I was terribly flattered and assumed the very best and more.  [I have a problem with runaway vanity from time to time.  I’m seeing a doctor about it, but the problem is that I think I’m much smarter than her, so progress is hard fought.]  So when I first got the nomination I may have gone a bit over the top.

“Wow!  I’ve ARRIVED!  The world can see how GREAT I am and soon I’ll be on Oprah!  This is the first step towards fame and fortune and a Pulitzer!”

“You know Oprah’s off the air, right?”  my wife says.

“She is?”  

“Well, she’s got her own network and all, but the Oprah show as we knew it is pretty much history.”

“And her book club?”

“She might recommend a few now and then, but it’s not the gravy train it used to be.”

“Oh,” I replied, falling rapidly from my lofty perch.

“Hey love, don’t get down.  This is a nice peer supported award and it’s particularly well suited for blogs with 200 readers or less.  Now get to work!  You’re already a day behind!”

My wife’s good for me.  Keeps me humble.  So, without further ado, the rules to this Liebster blog contest are as follows:

  1.  Tell 11 things about yourself
  2.  Answer 11 questions about yourself
  3.  Nominate other bloggers

Okay, here goes.  11 things about myself:

1)  I like prime numbers and 11 is prime.
2)  I’m not really sure what a prime number is, but thought it would sound cool to say that.

3) I’m not really sure about a lot of things but am frighteningly comfortable pretending I am.

4)  I like to hide food.

5)  When I trim my nose hairs I can breathe markedly better

6)  I’m actually much better looking than I appear in daylight.

7) Writing is easy, it’s typing that kills me.

8)  All of my facial hair is actually drawn on with a Sharpie.

9)  I’m from the future.

10)  At night, when I’m sleeping, I do ancient spiritual chanting that many (including my wife) mistake for snoring.

11)  I’m incredibly fortunate to have a wife and son who put up with me.

 

[To be continued, tomorrow...]

 

 

April 21 – Day 14 – I Hate My Toothbrush

 

I hate my toothbrush.

I know that sounds strong, and it’s not entirely true, but I have to use the snarky thing every day.  I suppose the feelings have been building.

It’s one of those spinning electric jobbies (a technical term) that’s supposed to be so super wonderful that you never have to see a dentist’s chair more than once a Presidential election.  The problem is that it thinks I’m an idiot.  It thinks I don’t know how long to brush my teeth.  Every 30 seconds or so, it stops and makes 4 halting spins and then starts again marking the time.  I mean, how dumb have we gotten when our toothbrush needs to keep time for us?!

It also thinks I don’t know how hard to press against my teeth.  A bright red flashing light blares each time I push “too hard.”  Put it on the charger and a white light pulsates constantly until it’s fully charged again.  All I want to do is sleepily brush my teeth just before bed, and my bathroom sink and mirror are throbbing like a tacky Italian disco.

Worse still, I can never go back to a regular toothbrush.  Not now.

In much the same way as my 30” Sony Trinitron Tube TV was suddenly made horribly irrelevant by my Samsung 50” super high definition, internet connected, if-you-lose-the-remote-you’re-doomed, flat screen TV… my splendiferous electric toothbrush slew the tolerability of a manually driven unit.  The jaw-dropping cleaning power of electricity.

“Writer’s block?” my wife asks looking over my shoulder.

“Um, no.  Actually, kinda on fire here.  Did you see I just used the word, ‘splendiferous?’  Only an advanced pro writer would dare use word like that.  Why do you ask?” 

“You’re writing about your toothbrush.” 

“Yes?” 

“And I need say more?” 

“But I’m feeling the vibe here.  I’ve got passion with a capital ‘P!” I replied.

“About your toothbrush.” 

“Well, I have to use it every day.” 

“A heavy burden you must bear silently, noble one.” 

“You think it’s boring?” 

“Relevancy aside, the challenge herein seems to be you don’t,” she replied with a wink.

“My love, it’s all in the execution.  Just hang in there and watch me do my magic!” I said whilst metaphorically cracking my fingers.

She keeps me humble, that woman.  Without her I’d be some vainglorious raving lunatic. She kisses the top of my head and moves off to help my son with his homework, leaving me to my word wizardry.

I used to have a good, solid relationship with my old manual toothbrush.  It was the right size, the right color, the right strength, the right length and felt right in my hand.  So, of course, it was discontinued.  Now, every time I consider giving up the trophy brush, begging forgiveness and going back, I can’t even find one that will lie flat!  They all have verbs for names.  Reach, Stretch, Extend, Twist, Bend…  Aside from the fact that I’m not that flexible anymore, I don’t want to have to do any of those things while I brush my teeth!  There’s a reason I’ve been avoiding yoga.  These brushes fall over when you try to put toothpaste on them and…

“Pops?”   

I look up into my 9 year old’s concerned face.  “Yes, dear boy?” 

“It’s okay if you stay a Mac Tech-a-nician your whole life.” 

“What makes you say that?” 

“Well, you’re writing about your toothbrush, right?” 

“What does everybody have against me writing about my toothbrush?!?!”, I say loudly enough for my wife to hear in the other room.

“Nothing at all, Pops, really.  I’m sure your Apple clients will love hearing about it.” 

“Honey, did you teach the boy sarcasm already?  He’s 9 years old!  He doesn’t need sarcasm!” I yell again.

“Pops.  I’ve known about sarcasm for a long time.” 

“So you really think this won’t amuse my clients?” 

“Apple doesn’t make toothbrushes.” 

“Yes, and that’s EXACTLY where I was going with it!  I was going to write what IF they did, and Steve Jobs was there to design–” 

“Pops, please don’t quit your day job, okay?” he says while winking and walking away.

“Who taught you how to wink?  Sweeeeetie!  Did you teach the boy to wink?!” 

[sigh]

Everybody’s a critic.

April 20 – Day 13 – Little Happy Pill

part 2 of 2

[When we last left our dentally vain anti-hero, he had just arrived humble, shaky, and terrified at the Endodontist for his first root canal procedure.]

Once we arrived at the medical complex, my wife got out and went to Suite 302 while I sat catatonic in the car.  As if watching a movie, I saw her go in and then come back out with a perplexed look on her face.  She came back to the car and said,

“Are you coming?”

“Do I have to?”

“Eventually, yes.  Or would you prefer to be in pain until your courage returns?”

She had a way with words.  Of course she was right.  I had Marathon Man running through my mind and wondered, “was it safe?”

Okay, okay.  I’m getting out,” I said.  I wanted to crumble into a ball and hide, but a tiny shred of errant pride prevented that.

Once inside, the endo-assistant asked me how I was feeling and gave me a cute little anti-anxiety pill she said would take half an hour to kick in.  Would I like to relax in the waiting room?  I read boring People magazines and waited nervously, all the while contemplating how it might affect my marriage to quietly exit the office and never return.  Later, the endo-assistant reappeared and asked how I was feeling. I must have still looked stressed because she returned with a second dose.  An indeterminate amount of time later, I must have looked less anxious, because the next thing I knew I was getting strapped down into the chair.

If we just left this story entirely to my memory, that would be just about it.  However, my wife, who was kind enough to stay and read People magazines the entire time, was able to fill in a few missing hours from my tale.

The last thing I recall is that other than the initial needle, I never felt a thing!   Apparently, there have been some amazing advances in anti-anxiety drugs.  My little “happy pill,”  was called Xanax.  Apparently you can become so blissed out on it that just about anything is possible.  I’m still trying to find dentists who will give it to me during a standard teeth cleaning.

One person told me she practiced meditation whilst having her root canal done and it really helped.  In her visualization she went to a quiet, happy place by a river and read a book in her mind while all of the drilling and scraping took place.  I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought, “Happy Place?! I don’t have no stinkin’ happy place!  I can’t go off to some river in my head and pretend there’s no drilling going on my spectacular mouth.  I’m not spiritually evolved enough for that.”  

When I shared this with my wife, she calmly asked, “So what do you do to relax?”

“I’m a guy, sweetie.  I take a nap.”

And that, apparently, is just what I did.

With my mouth propped and wired wide open, I had a nice little nap in Dr. Endo’s chair while she drilled and scraped away merrily.   Way off in the distance, like someone working in their yard a few houses away, I heard this far off sawing sound and eventually identified it as snoring.   Mine, not hers.

After what seemed like 45 minutes, I was done.  She said I was in the chair for 2.5 hours and that everything had gone well.  Evidently, I had suggested she go ahead and remove my appendix and do some liposuction while she was there.  She had declined.

They unstrapped me from the chair and I wafted into the waiting room to see my wife.  She looked so magnificent and lovely and there was a ring of light around her face.  I told her she was an angel and knelt in front of her asking forgiveness.

I wasn’t simply in love with her, I was in love with everybody.

I wanted to buy shares of Lehman Bros. and invest the rest of our life savings with Bernie Madoff, but I was not allowed to do anything financial.  After hugging her many times, I asked Dr. Endo if she would give me some more of this happy drug in case I woke up stressed, but she said I would be happy for a while.

That was the only time I got sad.

Then I forgot that I was sad and my beautiful wife with the halo drove me home where yet another blissful nap awaited me.

When I awoke, I continued to feel a groggy kind of love for many things, but  was particularly enamored by the fact I could now drink cold and hot liquids without shooting pain.  Life had changed.  I wasn’t so grumpy and tense.  Even Sarah Palin didn’t bug me as much as she used to.  I became more humble and quit bragging about my perfect teeth. And even after the meds finally wore off, I still had a crush on Dr. Endo… and her little happy pill.

Root Canal X-ray Post Op

April 19 – Day 12 – The Roots of Vanity

 

It’s Saturday morning, April 20th, and I’m licking the wounds of my first missed day of posting, yesterday.

It was not for lack of trying.  I was up until 1:30am searching for something I’d written 4 years ago that I might be able to rewrite and post.  I couldn’t find it.  Eventually I gave up and went to sleep, feeling like I’d fallen off my horse, wagon, porch or whatever you fall off when you’re unable to do something for 30 days straight.

With bleary eyes this morning, I remembered another time disappointment came calling.  Showed up at my door without an invitation and didn’t even bring a bottle of wine.  So after dealing with the engrossing subject of toxic household cleaners yesterday, I figure today is a good time to go to THE DENTIST.

What follows is the short tale of my first (and so far “only”) root canal and why, in a very odd sort of way, I look forward to the next one.

It was the Fall of 2008.

The economy was in the toilet, Sarah Palin was running for Vice President, and I had just learned of a death in the family.

My dentist had just informed me my tooth had died.

That may seem like an overly dramatic statement, but quite frankly, I was in mourning.  Body parts were dying and I felt like I should have been able to prevent it somehow. There were plenty of things on my body that were not perfect, but I’d always had super great teeth.  Never had a “legitimate” cavity.  According to the official rules of my kingdom, a legitimate cavity was one you got from not brushing, flossing or because you ate a lot of candy.  I had a few crowns, but they were from improperly formed enamel and were not my fault.  Like a juvenile police record that gets expunged, those cavities didn’t count.

Whenever I went to a dentist, they invariably commented on what a great mouth I had.  Imagine that!  The very thing that got me spanked all through the Texas public school systems in the 60‘s and 70‘s, was being praised in the dentist’s office.  My whole life, dentists would say things like, “Wow, you’ve really done an awe inspiring job of taking care of your teeth,” or “It’s a pleasure working in your mouth on these immaculate teeth!  Mind if I take some pictures to show my kids?”, or my favorite, “Well, it’s obvious you floss” (because I never did).

All that praise might have gone to my head a bit.

I’m not proud of that, but I spent a few years feeling like I was better than other people because of my teeth.  I might have been a few pounds overweight, had a couple of unattractive toes, but I had dentists all over the world worshiping my teeth.  Vanity was the smile I’d wear while smugly humming a Carly Simon tune.  Over time, I became a little braggy.  Okay, very braggy.  Friends would moan about getting fillings, root canals and dental surgeries and I would say things like, “Well, they say you should floss every day.”  I know.  I was awful.  Not pretty.  The fame had gone to my head.  Anyone watching this movie would just know I was headed for a fall.  I was like a rock star gone bad who thought other people should deal with the trashed hotel rooms.

All of this came crashing down when I heard my tooth had died.  I phoned a couple of friends for support and they said, “Well, they say you should floss every day.”  And one even added, “Oh, and it’s a really long procedure that really, really hurts.”  I deserved that.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  I was like a pathetic super villain who had just been reduced to tears after tormenting friends and neighbors with my dental vanity.

The morning of the operation, my wife drove me to the Endodontic Specialist.  Apparently you’re not supposed to drive yourself home.  “Oh.  boy.  That’s not good,” I thought when I first made the appointment.  “Not only is this something a regular dentists can’t do, you’re so messed up when it’s done, they don’t want you to drive yourself home.”

So I was more than a little nervous when she drove me there.

[Part 2 of this missive should show up later today, so stay tuned!]