Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"'No Sale', Yet I Feel Obligated To Try"

There is an English actor named Michael Gambon (“Professor Albus Dumbledore” in the Harry Potter movies) who in a play I once saw him in was miraculously able to instill a congenitally boring character with a death grip on the audience’s attention.  Although, as written, the character was screamingly uninteresting, when he appeared on stage, it was impossible to take your eyes off him.

I am nowhere near that talented.  At my best, I am, as a writer, generally able to make interesting stories interesting.  If they are not, however, like fish falling below the “keeper” category, I am proclaimed (new word)  to throw the substandard specimen back.

This situation is particularly vexing when I think I have reeled in a particularly “good one” and it turns out…

It isn’t.

End of pescatorial analogies.

The foregoing was included to explain why I have been holding back committing the following incident to blogatorial scrutiny. 

“Did you have to write it at all?”

A reasonable question, Blue Italics Person, but for some inexplicable reason, although a borderline example, the answer is yes.  If you are a professional, sometimes, like a pitcher taking the mound without his best stuff, you have to suck it up and pound that strike zone as best as you can.

End of baseball analogies.


It was determined that two of my wisdom teeth had to come out.  I was dreading that inevitability like Doomsday.  More than heart surgery.  I know that’s bizarro, but I had never had heart surgery and I had had teeth pulled.  And – “Massive Understatement Alert!” – I did not care for the experience. 

Adding to that nightmarish recollection was a family rumor that my paternal grandfather had died having a tooth removed.  It may not have been a wisdom tooth, but what difference did that make? 

Evidentiary Factoid:  A tooth extraction could kill you.  Okay, it was 1945, and that might make a difference.  On the other hand it might not.  What if I have a genetic predisposition for dying in the chair?

That would scare anyone, wouldn’t it?  Supplementing the memory of my own “Rendezvous with Dentistry” where they put me “put under” with ether?  (It smells like burning rubber.)  I am aware they don’t use that anymore.  But when you’re frightened – and borderline crazy – and you’ve been accessorizing that encounter for north of half a century…

All things considered:  It was not going to be good.

I did everything I could think of to get ready.  The week before my appointment, I doubled up on my meditation, hoping to float into Perdition on the blissful accompaniment of Om.  (My haircutter, who caps all of my haircuts with a blessing, gave me a meditation CD, which I immediately appended to my routine.  Before you knew it, I was meditating up a storm.

Also, invoking the assistance of “Guided Imagery”, I conjured the vision of “Iron Earl”, the protective adult portion of my personality – yes, I have one – who vowed to be with me every step of the way, so I would never, as Oscar Hammerstein poetically put it, walk alone.

On the appointed “Day of Reckoning”, I wore a t-shirt – on view in my official “Birthday Picture” – featuring the “The Great Ones” – a Mount Rushmore replication with the faces of four renowned Indian chiefs chiseled onto it instead of the presidents. 

On top of that I wore a sweatshirt adorned with the fully head-dressed profile of another (unidentified) Indian chief. 

I wanted to “face the music” with an indomitable posse. 

And now I was ready.

My apprehension nominally relieved by the “Consolation Prize” known to all writers facing difficult times:

“At least I’ll get story out of it.”

I show up or my appointment.  They put me to sleep and they do what has to be done.

What can I tell you?

I will not say, “It was nothing.”

But it wasn’t that much.

Not that I would enjoy having my teeth extracted on a regular basis,

But it was not at all terrible.  (Expensive, maybe, but not terrible.) 

I went home in a fog of nitrous oxide and general anesthetic.  When it wore off, I took painkillers, although my condition rarely rose to the level of actual “pain.”  (And by the way, I could do without the word “painkiller.”)

I spend my “Recovery Day” watching Pee Wee’s Great Adventure with my daughter. 

There was some bleeding, rounds of gauze applications. Later, when there were questions or concerns, we called the kind and patient Dental Assistant Veronica who would set us straight on how to deal with them. 

Also included were servings of soft food.  Cream of rice, mashed potatoes and baby food. 

A dress rehearsal for ninety.

A few days later, save for the two brand new excavational areas in my mouth…

I was back to normal.

What did I tell you?

It is not much of a story.

Would I have traded a rockier experience for a superior anecdote?


But, like all writers I imagine…

I am a little disappointed.

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