Thursday, September 27, 2012


I do not own a cell phone.

Yes, I know. I'm a troglodyte. I'm similar to the final caveman who said, "Fire? Why in hell would I want to use that? I've been happy eating raw bloody mastodon meat for years now. Why would I want to... What is it you call it? Cooking? Why would I want to "cook" my mastodon meat and then have to wait for it to cool off before I could actually eat it? You people are NUTS!"

(I could have riffed on the wheel, or even moved things into the semi-modern age by pretending to be a person who preferred horses to automobiles. Both of those probably would have been better choices, since they have to do with inventiveness and technological advancement, but I decided to go with fire because when else will I ever get a chance to write 'raw bloody mastodon meat' in a sentence?)

Be that as it may - and it no doubt was - I do not own a cell phone. Hell, I don't even know how to use one. I've borrowed cell phones from people - perhaps 3 or 4 times over the past twenty years, which shows you how often I've ever had reason to believe I might want to own one - and I've always had to ask the owner how it works. They try to show me.I then fumble around for a couple of minutes, probably dialing a few numbers that cost a gazillion minutes and also give away banking info to some guy in Albania, then they notice I'm not accomplishing anything useful so they end up dialing the number for me and handing back the phone, which I then shift from my ear, when listening, to in front of my mouth, when talking, because I still don't understand how a phone can work unless you talk directly into it, so I miss half the conversation.

Why do I not want a cell phone? Easy. I don't like being on the phone, period. I much prefer face-to-face interaction or the more relaxed conversation one can have via the written word. Being face-to-face offers intimacy. The written word allows one to compose thoughts succinctly. Phone calls combine the worst of both worlds, with inarticulate immediacy and no compensating facial expressions that might ingratiate yourself to the person who thinks you're an idiot.

Telephones tend to make me angry even without the bad conversations. It's like having a brainless barking dog in the house. Telephones make demands ("Answer me! Now! Answer me! Now! Answer me! Now! I'm not going to stop ringing, Jim! Put down your bass guitar and answer me! I don't care if you've just come up with the best riff ever that will be the basis for a million-selling song and now you'll never remember it - ANSWER ME!") and I do not respond well to demands. I am contrarian by nature. If I'm asked nicely to do something, I'll usually try to accommodate the request. If I am ordered to do something, though, I will make every effort to do the exact opposite, every time. That's why I keep our telephone in a room where I can safely ignore it and let the answering machine deal with whoever is interrupting me. Even if someone I love is on the other end, I never enter the conversation with a happy thought. And if it's someone trying to sell me something, having interrupted my evening meal of raw bloody mastodon meat, I become livid. So why in hell would I want a friggin' portable device to carry around with me so that it could annoy me 24 - 7?

And another thing, he said, knowing full well he was coming off more and more as an embittered old toad with every sentence he uttered. I find that most people who use cell phones in public are assholes. They have idiotically boring and mundane conversations at volume levels usually associated with campaign speeches. These self-absorbed dickweeds want the world to know that the trip they just made to the dogwashateria was some sort of life-changing experience. Or they're telling blatant lies. I actually heard a guy telling someone he was on AMTRAK from New York, and would be getting into town in two hours, while he was actually on a subway train in downtown Boston. Then he said, "I love you, too", while ogling a blonde across the aisle. I wanted to grab his phone and shove it up his ass on general principles alone, but then the thought occurred to me that perhaps the person on the other end was just as much of an asshole and they might deserve each other.

Yeah, phones make my sweet and charitable side blossom.

Why am I all of a sudden telling you this stuff? What brings this to mind now? I'm glad you asked.

MY WIFE purchased a cell phone. Not content to inhabit the mid part of the twentieth century with me and watch endless Life Of Riley reruns, she instead has decided to make an attempt at including herself in modern society. I am, of course, appalled. Why in the name of Satan's left tit does she need to speak to other people when she has me around? I do have to admit to a certain level of amusement, though, because she doesn't quite know how to make the thing do what she wants it to do.

First, I should tell you it arrived at our house almost three weeks ago. It sat in its box for two weeks, unopened. I considered it a hopeful sign that MY WIFE might be having second thoughts about being up-to-date. However, three days ago (or maybe four; tough to tell with my sundial) she opened the box, took the phone out, and then tried reading the instruction manual. This did not lead to joy.

I was in the living room watching a Life Of Riley rerun. She came into the room with a bitter look on her face, saying, "I can't get this thing to work. I've tried calling myself three times, but nothing happens."

I said, "You've dialed your new phone on our old phone?"

"Yes, but it doesn't ring."

"Did you try doing the opposite? Did you dial our old phone from the new phone?"

"Yes. Still nothing."

I then gave her the benefit of my entire storehouse of knowledge concerning telephones. I said, "Huh."

Usually, once an impasse of this sort has been reached, I offer my manly services. I tell her that I'll give whatever it is she's frustrated by a look-see and try to get it to work. That's what we men do. We dope things out for damsels in distress. It's what we live for, really. We love to do stuff like that. In this case, though, I held my tongue. I knew damn well that her cursory glance at the instruction booklet gave her more knowledge concerning cellphones than I'd ever have. I would not allow my manhood to be so easily deflated.

"Well, best of luck!"

She went back into the bedroom, leaving behind her a small trail of steam.

Since then, she's been more successful with the thing. Or at least that's what she tells me. I haven't actually seen her in action with it (nor would it make any difference if I did since I wouldn't know if she was faking it.) She says she sent three text messages yesterday. Apparently, at least one of them was actually received by the recipient because she got a reply. She has checked her e-mail on it, I think. I don't believe she's actually made a call yet, which is the main purpose of a telephone as near as I can remember, but I suppose that will come with time.

MY WIFE has probably started something that will end with me being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the current century. When I arrive, I'll give you a call (if I can figure out how.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Suldog Primer

[You may have given this a read at some point in the past. I've had a link to it, on my sidebar, for some time now. I felt it needed freshening up, though, so I've subtracted some stuff and added a tidbit here and there. If you think it needs anything else, feel free to tell me. Since I'm the type of guy I am, I probably won't do anything that you suggest.]

A couple of years ago, a visitor left a comment that my posts were like reading a pinball machine. That’s pretty funny. Much as the silver ball caroms from flippers to bumpers to posts, I flit from thought to thought like a drunken fly in a pasture full of cow patties. I think it also means that most people under the age of 25 (as well as a fair amount over) find me to be a boring waste of time. Fair enough. I find most people under the age of 25 (as well as a fair amount over) not just boring, but supercilious.

(I tend to use too many parentheses.)

And sentences beginning and ending conjunctions and prepositions with.

I like to think I’m an interesting writer, but I'm sometimes not an easy read.

I tend to lead with my heart, and I’ll go from a week or two of posts that are all goodness and light, to following up with two or three posts in a row that appear to have been soaked overnight in particularly odiferous bile. I can understand why some people come here, read a few posts, think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread, and then send their friends here only to find that the bread has turned moldy. In order to head off further defections from the ranks, I’ll point out that without moldy bread, we wouldn’t have penicillin. Also, I’m going to give you a primer concerning me and what you’re likely to find in my writings. That way, the next time somebody says they had no idea what they were getting into when they gave me an award, I can just refer them to this post. It likely won’t make that person feel any better about having been reamed, but it will make ME feel better accusing THEM of laziness in their reading habits rather than having to acknowledge the fact that I’m a jerk.

Let’s start with what you’re likely to find here.

I write essays. I tell stories. I string together bunches of corny jokes. I sometimes give my opinion concerning some part of the world or its people. I start lots of sentences with I.

Most of my essays and stories concern my family. Since I’m part of my family, I tend to speak about myself a lot. This upsets the odd reader or two. Personally, I find it strange when someone accuses me of being too self-involved. It’s nearly impossible to not be self-involved and remain interesting as a writer. Anyone who isn’t the star of his or her own life – or, at least, the co-star – isn’t likely to be a very compelling read.

(I think the problem isn’t that I pay so much attention to myself, as it is that I’m unwilling to acknowledge the moral superiority of the person complaining. I’ve found it usually the case that when someone says, “Get over yourself”, the person saying it needs to take that advice to heart more than the person toward which it’s directed.)

Most of what I write is true. That is, I draw upon my life experiences, and it will involve real people and places (although I sometimes change names to protect my nose when I visit the old neighborhood.) I hope that I make it clear enough when something is supposed to be taken as humor, either by explicitly admitting that I’m full of shit or through the use of wildly ridiculous jokes. If you find neither, either your sense of humor is deficient or I’m telling a lie. Or something like that.

When it’s brought to my attention that I might actually have offended someone, I’ll usually apologize. I rarely set sail with the specific purpose of making someone feel bad.

(If I do have that goal in mind, I think I’ll generally make it quite obvious by the overwhelming amount of vitriol used. I see no reason to engage in hand-to-hand combat if I have enough bombs to do the job.)

I have some pet peeves, and I’ll likely write something concerning them in any calendar year. The main one is Christmas advertising and music before Thanksgiving. Others include, but are not limited to, television shows that exploit discord in personal relationships; ads that pop up on-screen during television shows; people who lie for personal gain; political commentators and writers who faun over Democrats and/or Republicans while utterly ignoring anyone outside of the mainstream; and those who want to take away my freedom, no matter how noble they feel their cause.

My loves include MY WIFE, The Boston Celtics, fast-pitch softball, playing the bass guitar, The Three Stooges, peanut butter, and Mister Rogers. I’ll mention some of them too often for your comfort.

I tend to post re-runs once every couple of months. If you’re new here, you won’t notice it for a while. When I post them, I usually try to give some added value by writing fresh introductory material. I’ll be doing it this Friday, actually. Hope you enjoy it!

[The following used to be true, but I very rarely accept awards now. It still applies to a thing or two you may find if you cruise the archives.]

When someone gives me an award, I generally insult the hell out of that person (as well as his or her ethnic origins, personal habits, photographs on their website, and anything else I can latch onto for a cheap laugh.) I actually appreciate getting awards, and almost all of them I’ve received are listed on my sidebar. The attacks are meant in fun. In most instances, even though I’ve denigrated others, I’ve aimed the bulk of the disparaging material at myself.

I guess that’s enough about what you can expect to read if you keep coming here. Now I’ll give you information concerning my background and what may be informing the words I choose to publish.

I was raised as a Catholic. I flirted with agnosticism for a while, but then came back to the church. I left it again, a few years back, when I found that I could no longer stand to contribute time or money to an institution with so many hypocrites holding high-ranking positions. Your mileage may vary, and, if so, there’s something to be said for you being a better Christian than I am since you suffer fools more gladly. As could be inferred from the previous sentence, I still consider myself a Christian. I believe in God, and Jesus Christ as my savior. I’m unaffiliated, a free agent. That’s because I find something objectionable in every sect I’ve thus far explored. Of course, they’d probably find something objectionable in me, too, so we’re even.

I was raised a Democrat. I discovered Libertarianism in my teens and have been a Libertarian ever since. I once held the office of State Chair for the Libertarian Party in Massachusetts. I’ve run for office as a Libertarian, as well as been campaign manager for a few other folks. While I still firmly believe that a system of government that allows the most individual freedom is best, I’ve also come to the realization that the Libertarian Party, as a political entity, will ultimately, and without fail, shoot itself in the foot. The folks within that organization who truly understand politics are few and far between, and the ideologues that insist on purity at the expense of success will always sabotage the gains made by those who were willing to compromise. I no longer officially belong to the party. I am listed as ‘unenrolled’ on the Massachusetts voter registration lists (that would be ‘independent’, in most other states), and I mostly tend to ignore politics as much as possible because it is better for my mental health.

I am a great believer in sex, both as a fun activity and as a therapeutic aid. How you get your rocks off is your business, so long as you cause no harm to another. I am a firm proponent of onanism, and whatever tools you bring to the table to accomplish the task at hand is OK by me.

(One would hope you’re not actually doing it on the table to which you bring the tools, but if you’re the only one eating dinner there, more power to you.)

As regards the above, I think pornography is a swell thing. It provides incentive for the mentally healthy to take matters into their own hands rather than foist their desires upon unwilling others. It is akin to methadone for a heroin addict.

Speaking of drugs, I’ve done them. Lots of them. And I enjoyed most of them; otherwise, I wouldn’t have done more. So far as I can tell, I’ve suffered few lasting ill effects from my drug usage. That’s the case for most who do drugs. We come out the other end of the experience mostly whole and appreciably wiser.

(I’m not belittling the unfortunate folks who have done harm to themselves, but I think that education and legality would do a whole lot more to prevent such instances than ignorance and prohibition. Many folks who die from drug usage do so because of either impurity in unregulated junk or because they don’t know enough about what they’re ingesting and so take too much. And those who go on to crime often do so because they can’t afford their fixes, which they could if their drugs were legal. I believe it should completely be up to each individual to decide what he or she puts into his or her body.)

I suppose it goes without saying that I’m opinionated. Having admitted that, I’ll let you know that I consider myself one of the easiest people in the world with whom to get along. You can be six different kinds of asshole and I can probably find some sort of common ground where we won’t argue and can coexist in peace. I’ll diligently search for that ground, if you give me a chance.

Despite the many ways I’ve already glorified myself here, I’m basically modest and shy. I know – just saying that seems to make it false, but I still feel it’s true. I’m the king of blushing. The slightest praise or the smallest gaffe will turn my face crimson. Perhaps I’m not so much humble as I have sucky blood pressure, but humble serves my purposes here, so I’m going with that.

I could go on, and recapitulate the entirety of every personal fact I've already put out here over the course of 7 years, but even I get tired of me after a while. I’ll give you just one more useful piece of information. I end almost every piece with the following illiterate sign-off:

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Worldview Is Shot To Hell. Tomorrow, I'll Probably Discover That I Actually Like Creamed Spinach.

I'll give you fair warning and tell you that this may be as boring as watching paint dry. Some of you may find it amusing and/or useful, but others of you would be just as well-served by sitting down, taking off your shoes, and smashing your toes repeatedly with a hammer.

I am going to write about The Three Stooges. To be more specific, I'm going to write mostly about the 2012 movie The Three Stooges.

(I assume you now have a better idea of whether to continue reading or start hammering your toes. Do whichever seems best.)

The original Moe-Curly-Larry

 The faux 2012 Moe-Curly-Larry

I am quite possibly THE most fanatical of Three Stooges fans. I love them, and that would be ALL of them, not just Moe, Larry, and Curly. I sometimes enjoy Shemp more than I do Curly, even though some fans would find that blasphemous. I enjoy both Joes, which is even more of a reason for some to see me excommunicated from The Church Of The Stooge. I've seen every one of the 190 theatrical-release two-reelers a minimum of twenty times. I've viewed a select few in triple digits. I've seen all of the full-length movies. I've searched out and viewed all of their guest appearances in the movies others made. The bulk of their guest appearances on TV shows have also been seen. I've enjoyed them in their prehistory, as foils for Ted Healy, and in their dotage, as animated characters in cheaply produced cartoons to which they added their voices. I have devoured, to the best of my knowledge, every book ever written about them. I've seen the parodies, the late-night TV sketches, wherein stooge-like characters are put into utterly un-stoogelike scenes (taking/dealing drugs, for instance, as Fridays had them doing), and I've witnessed the occasional commercials in which they (or their likenesses) appeared. I even watched, in its original run, God help me, a Saturday morning cartoon from the 70's entitled The Robonic Stooges that had about as much in common with the original trio as I do with Haile Selassie. In short, there is precious little I don't know about The Three Stooges, their history, their offshoots, their personal lives, and, most especially, their films.

Beyond the above, I defend them like a momma lion defends her cubs. The Stooges are my friends from childhood, and I am, if nothing else, a loyal guy. I may myself criticize some of their stuff (for example, there is one short subject of the 190, Horsing Around, that I will not watch when it makes an appearance on TV. It contains some of the worst gags ever written and I consider it the very weakest of their output.) BUT, if YOU deign to criticize them in any way, you had better bring solid ammunition to the battle. I'm willing to listen to well-thought criticism, but knee-jerk reactions to slapstick will not be suffered gladly.

Likewise, if you decide to make a movie about them, I expect not only the easy stuff to be correct, but also the minor details. There was a 2000 TV biopic that failed miserably in that regard. Not only were the facts played with loose and fast, but easily-researched items central to extended recreations within the film (dialogue used in scenes from their movies, sound effects integral to the comedy, names of secondary characters) were botched. That's just plain sloppy and unforgivable. The actors who had the thankless task of trying to impersonate the boys weren't bad, but the overall production was highly disappointing. I looked forward to a pleasurable lionization of my long-time buddies, but the finished product was utterly inept.

Thus, when news came that a new Three Stooges movie would be made, I cringed.

I cringed even more when I found that it wasn't slated to be a biography, but rather a NEW Three Stooges scripted comedy. Since all of the members of the team were undeniably dead, this seemed highly unlikely (unless it was to be some sort of Zombie Stooge epic.)

In any case, even if it wasn't literal grave robbing, it sure seemed like the figurative sort. I mean, understand what was being discussed: Three present-day actors would be asked to take over the roles created by now-dead actors whose entire lives had been wrapped up in being those characters. Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Jerome "Curly" Howard, had originated their characters, honed them during long years on stage, and pretty much lived them thereafter for forty years (in Moe and Larry's case, at least.) I bristled at the very thought of three other people more-or-less stealing their schtick while the originals could do nothing more than spin like tops in their graves. At the least, it sure seemed tacky to have three living guys pretending to be three dead guys.

I awaited what I assumed would be a desecration. News concerning casting problems, rights acquisition foibles, and other delays, was received with glee. When the film finally did reach the public, I predicted failure (and hoped for it longingly, too.) I did not go to see it. I secretly wished hideous disease and misfortune on The Farrelly Brothers for having besmirched my heroes in such a brazen fashion. I had little doubt that the finished product would be one of the most hare-brained, money-grubbing, disastrous, unsympathetic and audaciously putrid products to ever grace the silver screen.

And I was wrong. Dead wrong.

I saw the movie available on Netflix and I ordered it. As pigheaded as I sometimes am, I still felt I should at least see and prove to myself I was correct in declaring it a ham-handed disaster. It arrived and I put it in the DVD player. I was all set to watch about fifteen minutes of it and then curse everybody associated with it to eternal damnation. If ever there was an audience that fully expected a movie to bomb, it was me. But, you know what? It made me laugh. It made me marvel at the work put into it. And it made me ashamed to have doubted the sincerity of the affection publicly touted, by the Farrelly Brothers, for The Stooges. The love is obvious and sincere.

The execution of the sight gags is superb. The sound effects are spot on. The choreography of the violent slapstick is amazingly good. Lines are quoted from the original films flawlessly. And the actors portraying the characters of Moe, Larry, and Curly did an astounding job. They pulled off a feat I didn't believe possible. They were so good that I found myself forgetting that they were imitating the performances of three other guys I love. I was accepting them, as the characters, on their own terms.

(Specifics: Sean Hayes had the hardest job. Larry Fine is the toughest to nail down vocally. The only other person I've heard do a good Larry Fine impersonation is Billy West, and West is probably the premier voice-actor of our generation. For the most part, Hayes succeeds admirably. Chris Diamantopoulos, as Moe, was a revelation. He absolutely nailed everything about Mr. Howard's gruff leader of the trio. In all honesty, I think his work is Oscar worthy (but, of course, comedic performances win Oscars about as often as Massachusetts voters choose a Republican for President, so no need to worry about that eventuality.)  And, as always, the most open to criticism will be the guy who tries to do Curly Howard. Curly is the easiest to imitate badly - you've no doubt been audience to some untalented schlub giving you a "N'Yuk-N'Yuk-N'Yuk" or a "Woob-Woob-Woob" vocal impersonation at some crappy party or another - but to pull off a credible personalization of the character, with all of the well-known physical mannerisms and vocal deliveries absolutely on-key, is walking a mighty thin high wire. Will Sasso did it. The three of them deserve huge props for their performances. Just freakin' HUGE.)

Now, with all of the verbal fellating I've just given out, I'll tell you that the film isn't 100% without flaw. There is one scene in a hospital maternity ward I would gladly have seen cut (or at least rewritten.) It is the only humor in the film that I believe the original Stooges might have found offensive to have associated with their names. That's just supposition on my part, of course, but I think the film would have been better received critically had it been left out, too, so there's that. The sentimental subplot concerning a couple of orphan children, one of them ill, is somewhat iffy, although I can live with it as a means of humanizing the Stooge characters a bit. And the name given Larry David's nun character is funny, but gratuitous (especially when one considers that all of the original Stooges were Jewish, but so is Larry David and he didn't flinch, so why should I care?)

So, what I'm saying here - and I feel honor bound to do so, since I was all set to croak the movie without having actually seen it - is that you should see it if you haven't already. Even those folks who don't consider themselves Stooge fans may enjoy it. MY WIFE, for whom my stooge addiction is a never-ending trial, actually laughed in spots and seemed to find it generally a benign piece of somewhat violent fluff.

I never expected to like it, but the more I think of it, I think I love it. Wonders, apparently, will never cease.

Soon, with moe better stuff.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Night The Chief Got Bitten

[Inspiration for this story - or, actually, for jogging my memory concerning it - goes to Cleary Squared. In his comment on my previous piece concerning found money, he mentioned an unfortunate loss at a dog track. And it brought to mind the following story from my own life.]

Once upon a time, in The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, there was greyhound racing. Wonderful specimens of canine aerodynamic evolution sped around a 5/16 mile track in pursuit of a mechanical rabbit. Meanwhile, many humans cheered them on in this endeavor. Most of the humans had wagered in some way or another on the outcome of the races.

The dogs enjoyed running. The humans enjoyed watching them. The owners of the dogs made a living. The owners of the racetracks enjoyed the profits gained from sponsoring this spectacle. The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts also enjoyed the profits, having made itself a partner with the racetrack owners (the way extortionists often do). Everybody was happy.

No, scratch that. Some humans, who had no stake in the enterprise, were not happy. They felt that the greyhounds were being exploited. They strove to ban greyhound racing in The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts. And, lo and behold, they were successful (because if you were a voter otherwise uninterested in greyhound racing, probably never having even touched a greyhound in real life, and you saw ads with a sad greyhound face asking you to vote "Yes" on Question 3, human nature being what it is...)

Well, I only wanted to let you know, as prelude to a tale, that greyhound racing once existed in my state. It wasn't my intention to sermonize. But, as long as I've started, I may as well let 'er rip.

The intent of the folks who wanted to ban racing was sincere. They wished to save greyhounds from destruction and mistreatment. Hey, it would be a hardhearted bastard who wouldn't want that. Greyhounds are lovely dogs, in general. Those I encountered at the track - that is, those I had a chance to pet and say "Hello, big fella! You gonna make me some money tonight? Yes, you are! Yes, you are!", while I scritched him behind the ear - were beautiful animals.

I never saw a dog being mistreated in any way, shape, or form. Now, that isn't to say that the greyhounds were always unfailingly well-cared-for and lived a life of ease, nibbling ribeyes between races while watching Rin Tin Tin reruns from the comfort of a king-size bed. I'm a realist. I guarantee that somewhere in the bowels of every dog track there were some miserable pricks who beat the animals, didn't feed them enough, or otherwise maltreated them. And I would gladly see anyone of that ilk skewered and barbecued, perhaps even fed to the same dogs they hadn't treated well. These were working animals, though, and sometimes, in order to get animals to work the way you desire, a little force has to be applied. Hell, I know I wouldn't go to work each day if I didn't have threats of some sort hanging over my head.

Be that as it may - or, as it was - greyhound racing is no longer legal in Massachusetts. Some of what this accomplished:

* Thousands of people lost their jobs

* Those greyhounds who weren't valuable enough to ship out-of-state to other tracks were put up for adoption. Many were not adopted. Many were euthanized (which is a genteel way of saying they were KILLED.)

* Last, and least, folks like me, who enjoyed going to the track and betting on the pooches, were left with lots of free time. We took up blogging. And we've been a nuisance ever since.

I could go on - and so could the folks on the other side, with cogent arguments for why they feel it was a net gain - but we'd probably all be better served if I just got on with the story, so I will.

The two main characters in this vignette, dressed far more nattily than they were on the night in question.

It was a summer evening in 1979. My Dad and I decided that spending it in the company of dogs would be enjoyable. So we drove to the second-largest greyhound track in Massachusetts. We drove to Raynham.

(The largest track was a joint called Wonderland, located in Revere. We had nothing in particular against Wonderland, but we preferred Raynham. As tracks go, Raynham was a bit more relaxed. At Raynham it was easier to convince yourself that you were a country squire enjoying a bit of frivolous sport. Wonderland had far too many wiseguys hanging around to ever let yourself be deluded in that way. You had to drive to Raynham, and along the way you passed open spaces that might be farms. You took the subway to Wonderland, and along the way you passed the time with winos. And since the winos were also going to the track, it didn't leave you much room to convince yourself that you were any less of a degenerate than they were. All in all, a trip to Raynham was better for the ego.)

After arriving at the track, we paid our admission and bought a program. Then we found ourselves a spot to sit down and get on with the business of handicapping the night's races. Our favorite place to go was a row of cafe tables just a few feet from the hamburger stand. That way, we could load our arteries with meat and cheese and salt when we weren't loading our lungs with smoke. We made room for that additional ballast by tossing money overboard.

(Nah, not really. Well, OK, yeah, really. But not as bad as I made it sound. Our expenditures for gambling were within reason. If you averaged out the money we lost over the course of a year, it wouldn't have compared unfavorably with what other people might spend on more mundane entertainments such as movies and concerts. That we still went to the movies and concerts tells you we could afford the gambling. And we didn't cultivate other vices, such as drinking, so we were ahead of the game there.)

(I should add, for those who have followed me for a while and who are now wondering about my copious drug usage, I smoked pot in those days and that was about it. Maybe an occasional tab of acid, but the point is my bill for such stuff ran to about 40 bucks a month for a decent lid of dope, and then only if I wasn't dealing a bit on the side and getting it for free. Enough talk about finances, though.)

So, to set the scene for what transpired next, we were sitting comfortably at a small table amid 125 or 150 other folks doing the same in that area of the track. We had consumed a couple of hamburgers each, had lost maybe ten bucks apiece on the evening thus far - nothing too bad - and had our tickets in hand for the sixth race of the evening. We had both bet on the number 7 dog to win. He was going off at 12 - 1, so we were looking to get into the black if we won this race. The dogs were loaded into the starting gate. The track announcer exclaimed...

"Here comes The Chief!"

(It should be noted, for those who have never had the pleasure of an evening at the dog track, that a mechanical rabbit is used to entice the dogs to run. The "rabbit" is a piece of machinery that moves along the inner rail of the track, kept a few feet ahead of the lead dog at all times.

Most mechanical rabbits - racing lures, that is - are nicknamed in some way. Each track has it's own. At Wonderland, the rabbit's name was Swifty. At Seabrook Greyhound Park, the mechanical lure was Yankee. At Raynham, it was The Chief. And that's how the track announcer began every call of a race, by saying, with bated breath, that the lure was underway. As soon as it passed the starting gate, the dogs would be released to chase after it.

For a wonderful history of the lures used at various tracks, and the names given them, go to All About Greyhounds.)

[This is not what The Chief looked like, but the orange thing is the lure. Greyhounds will pretty much chase anything, whether or not it looks like a rabbit. The Chief was white and could be mistaken for a rabbit if you were very drunk and somewhat nearsighted.]

The Chief whizzed by the starting gate and the doors sprung open. The dogs came flying out. And our dog, number 7, went to an early lead, cutting in along the rail. It looked good for us. He wasn't particularly a speed dog, one that went out to an early lead and then fell back to the pack near the end while other dogs went galloping by his used up form, so, with an early lead, he might win by six or seven lengths, easy. Visions of a profitable night danced in our heads.

And then the damnedest thing happened. On the first turn, our dog lurched forward at an angle toward the rail, then he BOUNCED sideways, rolled a couple of times, and came to a rest on the backstretch just past the first turn. Every other dog in the race passed him by.

"What the hell was that?", My Dad asked.

"Damned if I know", I said.

Our dog got to his feet, shook his head once as if to clear it, then took off in pursuit again. It was over, though. There's no recovering from a fall in a greyhound race that takes only 30 seconds or so to complete.

Well, that was that. Time to start handicapping the next race. We crumpled up our tickets and threw them to the floor.

Meanwhile, there was an unusual buzz in the air. People were talking excitedly. I found what they were saying hard to believe, so I turned my attention to the replay monitor on the wall, which was showing the race just run. And there I saw something I had never before seen, have never seen since, and likely (since there's no more greyhound racing in Massachusetts) will never see again.

Number 7, our dog, had CAUGHT the lure.

I never did learn if it was a temporary mechanical failure, or if the lure operator had just been napping a bit and let the thing slow down too much, but our dog had actually gotten close enough to the lure to try to take a chomp from The Chief's little bunny butt. Then, physics being what they are, his little leap, combined with contacting the lure at approximately 40 mph, sent him bouncing sideways.

I told My Dad to look at the replay. He did. And, before the track announcer got on the horn to state it, My Dad realized what would happen. He said, "It's going to be declared 'no race'. Grab every ticket you can find, quick!"

We first retrieved our own two from under the table. Then, as we were beginning to rummage around in the filth and dirt on the floor for more live tickets, the announcement was made over the loudspeaker and the scramble was on all over the facility. Everybody was looking for free money. Many were on their hands and knees scooping up old tickets (along with hot dog wrappers, used cigarette butts, and God only knows what else.) We were among them. Those who had ripped up their tickets instead of crumpling them let loose wails of pain.

We collected $78 in tickets. It made our night. We went home ahead. We felt that, since it was our dog that had caught the lure, we probably deserved at least that much.

I like to think that number 7 was given an extra-special doggy treat when he got back to the kennel; perhaps a carton of deluxe Milk Bones and the uncut version of "Lassie Does Wonderland". After all, he had accomplished a singular feat. In reality, though, he was probably ruined as a racer. He now knew that there was no profit in catching The Chief. He likely hung at the back of the pack from then on, wearing a bemused smile and waiting to see if anyone else fell for the scam. And his grandpups probably didn't believe him when he told them the story.

Soon, with more bettor stuff.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Manna From Heaven

Over at Jimmy's Opinion, Jimmy (that probably went without saying) told a story about some bank robbers. You could go there and read the entire piece (I suggest it) but the synopsis is as follows: In an effort to make their getaway more successful (that is, to actually get away) the robbers began throwing money out the window of their vehicle.

In the comments section over there, I pretty much said what I'm going to say here, with one exception. I gave my age at the time of this tale as 14. Upon further reflection, I believe I was older; perhaps 17. Otherwise, if you did as I suggested and went over to Jimmy's place to read his piece, and then you decided to read the comments and you saw mine, you can cut to the chase and scroll to the bottom of this piece. Leave a nice generic comment along the lines of, "Wow! Swell tale! You sure have a way with words!", and we'll both be happy campers.

Anyway, here goes...

Circa 1974, when I was 17 or so, My Dad and I were driving on I-93.

(To be more precise, he was driving and I wasn't.)

[Not the clearest photo, but it's the best I could find approximating our appearance at the time.]

We were headed to Rockingham Park, a place in New Hampshire where horses ate money.

(A racetrack, in other words.)

The conversation was as it usually would be between a father and his teenage son. We were discussing Lasix.

(In case you've never been that sort of father, or my sort of teenage boy, I'll tell you that Lasix is a drug given to racehorses in order to make them piss like... well, like racehorses. It also prevents nosebleeds in horses, which is a more common problem than you might have imagined. Anyway, I find it ironic that My Dad spent the last six or seven years of his life taking the stuff himself. I think it was the only thing about his heart condition he found amusing.)

While he was driving along and explaining to me how Lasix was not allowed in all states, and how it might affect a horse's performance for better or worse, we saw green stuff flying through the air.

My Dad wondered aloud, "What the hell is that?"

"Looks like money", I replied.

A twenty dollar bill landed smack on our windshield, prompting My Dad to say, "It IS money!"

He immediately veered toward the breakdown lane and slammed on the brakes.

After the car had come to a halt - barely - he hopped out and grabbed the twenty off of the windshield before it flew off of its own accord. I got out of the car, too, and looked around for more of the green stuff. To make a long story short, neither one of us ran into highway traffic after other bills, although they were there for the taking if you were idiot enough to want to risk your life for twenty bucks, but we did grab two more twenties, and a ten, that were within reasonable reach on the shoulder.

To this day, I have no idea where that money came from. We scoured the newspapers the next day for news of a bank robbery or something else that might be considered a likely source. We found nothing that could explain it.

Since we were headed for the track, it was akin to manna from Heaven. I know we didn't win big at the track that day. I would clearly remember that. We may have lost a few bucks. That part of the day is fuzzy, at best, so we probably "broke even" (as the congenial lie goes when discussing such things with your fellow degenerates.) However, the day as a whole was profitable, I know that much.

(Some of you may be wondering about a couple of things...

1 - The propriety of taking a teenage boy to the track.

2 - The implication that both of us were gambling even though one of us was underage.


1 - Mind your own business. I did not grow up to be anything other than perfect.

2 - See above, and double it.)

I've got to admit the incident has clouded my better judgment on occasion. I'll find myself driving with one eye on the road and another scanning the horizon for randomly occurring freak moneystorms. Thus far, precipitation has been lighter than I would have preferred.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More Outdated Items & Useless Ephemera

Kerry, bless her soul, opined (in the comments to this other post) that she misses candy cigarettes.

(Before we go on, I suppose I should tell you why it is that when you click onto the "Kerry" link up above you come to a blog written by two dogs named Ed & Reub. The short answer is I have no frickin' clue. It's entertaining, though, so why complain?)

Anyway, number me among those who also miss candy cigarettes, Kerry. And a whole bunch of other stuff, too (because there's only so much you can say about candy cigarettes, after all, and I need to get this up to 1,200 words before my bloviating license expires.)

I think easing children into future vices by plying them with candy was a swell idea. There also used to be bubble gum cigars, but those were for the rich kids (and, if the Freudian supposition concerning cigar usage is valid, for the kids who had issues with the size of their wienies.) I haven't been in a candy store lately, but I assume kids these days can buy sets of works made from spun sugar (maybe including a licorice whip to tie off a vein.) Oh, OK, I suppose that's farfetched. Spun sugar would break too easily in shipment. It's probably Gummi hypos.

(By the way, you can still buy candy cigarettes. You could get them from the same place I stole the photo of them. They apparently don't come with a red-painted tip now, and they're called "candy sticks". They also don't have packaging that features an actual brand-name cigarette logo. Still, as that website suggests, they could make a dandy gift for someone trying to quit the real things.)

(But not me, if that's what you're thinking. If you give me candy cigarettes, all you'll do is put me on the road to Type II Diabetes in addition to my incipient emphysema.)

(Let's move on to another topic before I start thinking too clearly about what I just said.)

Does anybody patch kid's clothes these days? Sooner or later, every boy in our neighborhood wore something patched. My Mom used to patch my pants when I got a hole in them. I remember having one pair of jeans that had both knees, both ass cheeks, AND a spot on the crotch patched. The only other person I ever saw with pants like that was Emmett Kelly.

(I miss Emmett Kelly. However, if we start talking about people I miss, we'll be here all week.)

Aside (yeah, like I have to label these things by this point. My entire blog is an aside.): Am I wrong in assuming that this was a boy thing? Patching, I mean; not Emmett Kelly. What I mean is, were girls clothes ever patched? I don't recall seeing any girls with patches on their asses, and I was looking, too.

The particular patches My Mom used were a type that could be ironed on. They had some sort of adhesive backing that was dry before being applied to the clothing with an iron. They were worth whatever they cost. I clearly recall outgrowing pants before the patches ever wore out or fell off.

Moving right along on this haphazard train of thought, what about paperweights? They used to be fairly ubiquitous, but I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts you can't put your hands on one right now.

(By the way, I think donuts cost about a dollar now, so that phrase has pretty much become meaningless.)

I've heard of folks who collect paperweights, but does anybody still use them for their intended purpose of holding down a stack of paper from being blown away by a sudden gust of wind? Heck, never mind paperweights. The stacks of paper themselves are becoming redundant.

Hey, let's think of something else we can bitch about and make young people laugh at us! How about toys? Do kids still get toy guns as presents? I don't mean water pistols and such; those will always be around. Who doesn't like giving someone a face full of water now and again? But what about cap guns, miniature Thompson sub-machine guns, realistic wooden rifles... Is it just here in the oh-so-liberal Northeast that folks would try to have your parenting permit revoked if you gave a kid a toy gun, or is it everywhere? I suppose BB guns still exist. I sure hope so, anyway. That was the coolest toy ever, even before A Christmas Story became so popular. What kid in his right mind wouldn't want a toy that could shoot your eye out? Not me, that's for sure! The only thing more entertaining were those chemistry sets you could blow up your entire family with.

What else can I go on about like a boring old geezer with no life aside from his blog? Hey, I've got it! Do you any of you still hang out clothes to dry? Maybe there are one or two holdouts among you, but I'm willing to bet treasury bonds to donuts that most of you don't do it. Hell, clotheslines are actually banned in some places. This is because the hideous yuppie bastards elected to the city councils in those locales decided they were an eyesore. It's a shame, really. Anyone who has ever gone to sleep in a bed made up with freshly-laundered outside-air-dried linens knows for a fact that nothing you can pull from a dryer will ever compare, no matter how much artificially scented crap you throw in with the load.

And another thing! Where do butterflies sleep?

(Wow! That may be the single best non-sequiter I've ever typed! But, seriously, does anybody know the answer? Worms sleep underground, ants have hills, moths seem to enjoy spending the night wherever MY WIFE has decided is a good place to keep her clothes, and cockroaches live under the sink. Butterflies? I have no idea. Maybe they used to sleep on clotheslines, but now they're homeless, you yuppie bastards!)

[Found the chart HERE. I have no idea what Sommerfugle means, but maybe you do. If so, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Suldog's Stupid Contest, 93 Winsor Avenue, Watertown, MA, 02472. Enclose $5 processing fee. You might be a winner!]

[Although, if you fall for it and send me the five bucks, I doubt it.]

Let's see. I've yearned nostalgic for crap most people don't miss, made a fistful of obvious jokes, gone entirely off-topic once or twice, and thrown in a shot in the dark at suckering some of you to send me money. I guess that about wraps it up. Merry Christmas!

Soon, with more (what would almost have to be, by default) better stuff.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Did You Split Your Head Open?

My Mother warned, "Jimmy, don’t jump on the bed! If you fall, you’ll split your head open!"

Turned out she was right. I went off-balance, fell forward, and split my head open when it slammed into the edge of the headboard. I cried, there was blood, and My Dad drove me to the nearby Carney Hospital in Dorchester, where I received four or five stitches in my forehead. Later, after the stitches were removed, I found that I had gained a scar that would remain visible until much later in life when it blended into all of the other wrinkles on my forehead.

The thing is I hadn’t literally split my head open. My skull did not crack. My brains did not spill onto the floor. What had happened was that the skin on my forehead was cut; that’s all. Still, that was what folks called it then – splitting your head open.

It was the era of weird terminology concerning medical issues. Heads were split open with such frequency one would have thought our neighborhood was populated entirely with overripe melon-headed children. On the other end of the age spectrum, I had an elderly aunt who "took a shock". You might imagine she had inadvertently stuck her finger in a light bulb socket, but you would be wrong. She had suffered a stroke. And, of course, unwed teenage girls were never pregnant. They were said to have "gotten in trouble."

(Now they star in reality shows on MTV. The same can’t be said for the current crop of shock-takers and head-splitters, but there’s always an open spot on somebody’s network schedule, so all hope may not be lost for them.)

Those were the days, my friend; we thought they’d never end, for we were young and sure to catch something. And when we did, and were laid up in bed with it, most of the other mothers in the neighborhood sent their children to visit, maybe even to crawl into bed with you, in hopes that they might catch it, too. That way, they could get it over with and not have to worry about it anymore. Measles (Is there a more cruddily descriptive name for an illness?), chicken pox, the mumps, you name it; if one kid got it, everybody else tried to get it, too, never mind the discomfort, possible disfigurement, and, oh what the hell, death. It was like some sort of insane contest to see whether or not your child had what it took to survive. Also, in the words of many a chain-smoking father sitting by the bed in a sickroom and filling the air with clouds of cancer, it built character.

(Speaking of smoking, it stunted your growth. That was the dire warning we received if we were caught puffing a cigarette. Never mind that it rotted your lungs, blew up your heart, could lead to amputations due to poor circulation, and otherwise KILLED you. No, we were told to worry that we might be 6' 1" instead of 6' 3". They could have at least told us we might take a shock if we kept smoking.)

The cures for many of the ills we suffered were no better than the ridiculous names we gave them. If you split your head open, but not so much so that your parents felt the need to have it stitched back together, they were likely to apply Mercurochrome to the wound. Some of you may never have heard of Mercurochrome. That’s because the stuff has been outlawed for decades now. It was a bright red liquid containing mercury. Parents would swab this poison on their kids just as readily as they’d baste a turkey with butter. And the kids were damn glad, too, because the only other options were rubbing alcohol or iodine, both of which made it feel as though your mom had set fire to you. At least Mercurochrome didn’t sting much. It did tend to tattoo you, though. A wound painted with that stuff would invariably leave your skin red for weeks after the treatment, at least if you had bright white skin like I did.

And if you had bright white skin, you tended to sunburn, which was OK because some parents thought you’d get used to second-degree burns and be better off for it. A face full of big freckles was considered cute rather than an indication of the likelihood of skin cancer later in life. And if the sunburn hurt, your parents rubbed Noxzema on it. Noxzema, which I believe is still extant, was a MENTHOL-based cream. Yes, I’ve got to say that there was nothing quite so wonderful for the pain of burnt skin as rubbing menthol into it. Even better was when the coolness wore off, at which point you were left with a face and chest full of warm, drippy, greasy, white goop.

(And after a few days, your skin would peel off as though you were a rattlesnake during moulting season. There were those kids who tanned, and more power to their now-wrinkled and leathery faces. I may have had a scar on my forehead, freckles, permanently red-stained knees, and a stink of Noxzema, but at least my face doesn’t now resemble an old catcher's mitt.)

I shouldn’t be so vindictive. I had it better than a lot of kids. For instance, I know for a fact that every child in Korea was starving. My Mom told me. She said that they’d be happy to have my creamed corn. I told her that if they wanted it, why didn’t she pack it up in a box and send it to them? That very logical reply wasn’t what she expected. She laughed, bless her. Had she had less of a sense of humor, I might have been spanked (which is a subject for debate, these days, but was so accepted a practice during MY childhood that ANY parent in the neighborhood could tan a kid’s behind and not only would he or she not be arrested for it or sued, but your parents would usually thank the other grown up while apologizing for your less-than-sterling behavior. And, as a kid, you could expect another beating if you complained about it in any way.)

I may be giving you the impression that my parents were some sort of troglodytes. That wasn’t the case. My Mom and Dad were, for the times, unbelievably loving and enlightened. They never inflicted real pain on me (at least on purpose, as the Noxzema and rubbing alcohol and other things, despite the hurt, were meant to PREVENT pain in some way or another.) I knew some folks who really wailed on their kids. They took a belt in hand and left welts on them. It wasn’t questioned unless serious permanent dismemberment of some sort took place; for instance, if they split the kid’s head open.

Nowadays, kids wear helmets and pads and gloves and look like they’re ready to take the ice in the NHL as they ride down the street on their tricycles. And any parent who took a belt to a kid would be up on charges. We slather our kids with sunblock and cigarettes are unavailable to anyone without an I.D. proving that you’re old enough to be an idiot. Are we better off as a society? Probably. But those kids aren’t building any character, I can tell you that. How do you think they’re going to handle it someday when they take a shock? You can’t rub Noxzema on your brain, you know.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Buck's Teeth

[My good buddy, Buck, is having dental surgery. He's having six teeth removed, then having some implants done. I know from experience that it will not be great fun.

I suggested to him (in the comments THERE) that he should consider writing a post while under the influence of pain medications. I told him I did once, and the following re-run is the proof. In solidarity with Buck's pain, I present, once again...]


THURSDAY, September 23, 2010 – 11:44am

With luck, the Percocets will kick in any moment and my writing skills will deteriorate rapidly. Therefore, I’ll write about my dental work while I still can.

(That’s a joke, of course. My writing isn’t affected in the least by the ingestion of mind-altering drugs. Whether that says more about my writing or my past, I’m not sure.)

My mouth is finally complete. I have a full set of implants on the top. I have a full removable denture, anchored by two implants, on the bottom. Here’s a photo!

Not bad, eh? If I hadn’t incessantly gone on about my dental procedures – HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE – no one would be any the wiser. Heck, I’m not any the wiser, so why should anyone else be?

This morning, I had the final three remaining real teeth removed from my bottom jaw. That took about twenty minutes and was a relatively pain-free procedure. I was novocained to the gills, and the teeth weren’t exactly immovable objects to begin with, so all I felt was a sensation of heavy pressure as they were yanked. Oddly enough, the real pain began AFTER the extractions.

(Before I tell you about the pain, I want to make sure that you know how magnificent my dentist is. He’s Dr. Domenic D’Amico, of Watertown, and he’s done all of my dental work over the past eight years - excluding the two sessions of implant surgery, which were done by a specialist - and I wholeheartedly recommend him should you find yourself in need of anything similar to what I’ve had done. He’s a caring and skilled practitioner, and I consider myself blessed to have him as my dentist. Whatever descriptions of pain follow, I don’t want my florid prose to give you the mistaken impression that any of it was due to less-than-wonderful service by Dr. D’Amico or any of his friendly staff.)

(No, I was not paid for that endorsement. I really like the guy, and I don’t think anyone could have done a better job than he has. Of course, if he reads this and wants to give me a kickback, I won’t complain, but he’s so damned good at what he does, I… well, hell, it almost makes me sad to have no more teeth to pull.)

As I said, the real pain began following the extractions. And there were a fair number of interesting procedures involved. Let me tell you about them.

SUTURING – Why is it I could have three teeth yanked with a minimum of ouch, but it felt like there was a needle being pulled through my gums afterward? Oh, wait. It’s because there was a needle being pulled through my gums afterward. For some unknown reason, this hurt like hell. I guess I’m just the sensitive type.

COLLAGEN – The good doctor decided that I had lost a bit too much bone, on either side of the implants, since the time of my most previous extractions. As a precautionary measure, he inserted some collagen into the gums prior to suturing. As it was explained to me – or, at least, as I absorbed it, which may be another thing altogether – the collagen, once blood flows into it, begins forming bone tissue. If I have that wrong, then I have no idea why he did it. In any case, he didn’t charge me for it, so combine that with my ignorance and I have no reasonable grounds for complaining.

LASER – On the other hand, there was a bit too much gum tissue surrounding one of the implants, so in order to be able to get at it more easily, a laser was used to burn off a small portion of my gums. During this part of the procedure, I was given huge green goggles to wear. I suppose that was in case, say, he sneezed and inadvertently jerked the laser into my eyes, then it would make it less likely that I’d be permanently blinded. Either that or it made me look really goofy and broke up the morning for he and his assistant. Or both.

FITTING OF THE PROSTHESIS – I have to explain something about the various bridges, temporary dentures, implants, and whatever other oral junk I’ve been wearing during the previous eight years. None of them hurt in the least. This new denture, however, when placed into my mouth for the first time, was very painful. That surprised hell out of me, and while having hell out of you might sound like a pleasant thing, this wasn’t. It was excruciating, actually, and I began wondering if I had made a terrible irrevocable decision to allow those final teeth to be pulled.

I winced and the doctor noticed. Actually, his first clue to my discomfort probably came when I said, "Holy Fuck! It Feels As Though You Dumped Fire Ants Into My Mouth!" Actually, with the missing teeth and whatnot, it came out as, "Hoy Fug! Id Feezadooya Dund Fianz Ihmehmou!" In any case, he got the message, even though I didn’t actually say that, so he set about correcting the fit of the denture. This took about an hour. I know because I watched two episodes of The Office while it was happening.

(One of the marvels of this modern age of dentistry is that you don’t have to just sit there being… well, I wouldn’t normally choose the word ‘bored’ to describe the experience, but I can’t think of a better word at the moment, so it will have to do. Instead, if your doctor has a notebook computer, you can watch a movie, or some cartoons, while parts of your body are being removed. Or, if your first choices of entertainment are unavailable – in my case, The Three Stooges and Phineas & Ferb – you watch a few episodes of a sitcom. Here is as ringing an endorsement as could possibly be given to a comedy series: At the exact moment when one of my teeth was yanked, a scene involving the characters of Jim, Michael, and Dwight literally made me laugh out loud. I kid you not. My bloody incisor was in front of the screen, but I was laughing. Amazing.)

Anyway, Dr. D’Amico filed down a bit of the prosthesis and then placed it back into my mouth. It still hurt. He continued to place it in, ask me exactly where the pain was, remove it, do an adjustment of one sort or another, and then rinse and repeat. After perhaps twenty-five repetitions, it fit without any major discomfort. And, since the Percocets have now taken over my brain, it still doesn’t hurt too much. I hope this remains the case as the weekend wears on.

PHOTOGRAPHY – Throughout my various procedures, Dr. D’Amico has, at intervals, taken photos of the work done. I assume he may have written an article for a dental journal, or perhaps he just keeps a scrapbook of particularly grody mouths. Whatever the case, it doesn’t bother me to have him take the photos. I know for a fact that he’s not charged me for a few things over the years, and I consider that good payment for being a dental model.

Below are the shots he took of this latest procedure. They are VERY graphic, and may be unsettling to some of you. Therefore, I’ve left a safe white space between here and the carnage. If you have a weak stomach concerning dentistry, you probably shouldn’t look. Scroll down with eyes closed and hope you stop where I begin writing again. Those of you not bothered by oral gore, enjoy!

Lovely stuff, eh? Actually, the dentist didn't upload the photos to me yet. I'll have to show you the grody stuff in my next post.

[2012 note: I did. If you really want to see the gore, you can go search for it. I'm not going to gross out everyone here today. OK, back to 2010...]

I’m going to kick back and enjoy the buzz now. See you later.

FRIDAY, September 24, 2010 - 11:12am

Here’s a valuable thing to remember: The physical act of smiling will make you happy.

Now, that probably sounds dumb, but it’s the truth. If you feel down, depressed, dour, or a whole bunch of other things beginning with "D", just smile. After a short time, you’ll find that your forced smile has become a real one.

I don’t recall where I first heard that advice, but I do recall that it had scientific testing to back it up. When you use the muscles that make a smile, your brain starts producing dolphins. Or maybe it’s endorphins. Anyway, then you feel happier, which results in more of whatever they are being produced, which leads to a real smile, and so on.

If you don’t believe me, try it.

Oh, come on! Don’t do it for just a couple of seconds and then tell me I’m full of shit, unless telling me that will make you happy, in which case I’ll have accomplished the same thing for you. No, you have to keep on smiling for a minute or two. It helps if you look in a mirror while you’re doing it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See? It really does make you feel better, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.

This bit of trickery is, unfortunately, something I tend to forget. Maybe now that I’ve written it down, I’ll remember it more easily. Anyway, I had reason to use it this morning, it made me feel good, and I decided to pass the magic on to you.

You’re welcome.

The reason I needed it was because I didn’t sleep well last night, and I was also in pain.

The problem with having had dental surgery, and then having a wonderful drug such as Percocet given to you to alleviate the pain, is that Percocet screws up your sleep patterns. Well, I suppose I should amend that. It screws up my sleep patterns. Your mileage may vary. In any case, while I found myself to be very tired, and hardly able to keep my eyes open by 1 am last night, I found that when I lay down to sleep, I couldn’t. Here are the reasons…

1 – Percocet tends to give me a dry mouth. Therefore, I drank a few gallons of water throughout the day and had to pee every hour or so. This continued during the night, so a full bladder awakened me whenever I drifted off to sleep, which wasn’t often because…

2 – Percocet, while making me pleasantly yawn-filled and hazy, also adds an element of jumpiness into the mix. The mind tends to jump from one thought to another, all of them extremely interesting. It’s this combination of being an upper and a downer that delights me so, much as I once adored the combination of cocaine and alcohol. It does, however, make real honest-to-God sleep almost entirely unattainable. So, in order to get the sleep I desperately needed, I stopped taking the drug, which led to…

3 – Pain.

So, I had a choice. I could stay off of the pills and have pain, but pain doesn’t help one to sleep. Or I could take more pills, which would alleviate the pain but, again, make sleep impossible. Meanwhile, I had to take a pee again. All of it was working against me getting any significant sleep, so I decided to take more pills. If I was going to be awake anyway, why be in pain?

If you’re a regular reader of mine – and why wouldn’t you be, aside from having to wend your way through crap like this? – you may be experiencing a touch of déjà vu. That’s because this convoluted mess about sleep and drugs probably reminds you of THIS OTHER CONVOLUTED MESS ABOUT SLEEP AND DRUGS.

(If you go to that link, you’ll find a story about me being aided in my attempts to sleep by a bug crashing into my Venetian blinds. It’s actually a good story, in my very humble opinion, and features God as my co-star. I’d usually end a parenthetical such as this with some sort of snappy joke, but if blasphemy and a complete lack of humility didn’t already make you laugh, there’s not much else I can do to help.)

Having no friendly insects to aid me last night, I slept for perhaps an hour, and that was accomplished in five and ten minute segments at intervals between the pain, peeing, pill-popping, and other things beginning with "P". So, this morning, I was not in a good mood. I was tired, grouchy, uncomfortable, and other things beginning with letters from the alphabet. I decided that perhaps a cigarette would help me to feel more like I wanted to feel.

(OK, so most of you know I’ve been quitting smoking for the past two weeks. I have been a pack-a-day, or more, smoker for forty years. For the past 14 days, I’ve been proud to have never smoked more than 9 cigarettes during any one 24-hour period. The average day has been around 7 smokes. While the lessened intake of smoke has resulted in me feeling generally healthier, it hasn’t contributed to any good vibes.)

[2012 note: I'm smoking my usual amount these days, about a pack. Lectures will not be tolerated, and I'll hunt down and kill anyone who tries.]

I had a cigarette. And while I was having it, the latest round of percs kicked in more than previously. And I remembered that thing about how forcing yourself to smile will help you to really actually feel better. So, I smiled during the whole time I was having the cigarette (which, excuse yet another parenthetical, isn’t easy to do while inhaling smoke through a mouth full of new dentures and stitches, but I accomplished it.)

And I felt immeasurably happier, overall, so I decided I would share the secret of my happiness with you, which I have now done, so my work here is through. Never fear, though, as I’m sure I’ll be back later on with more hare-brained nonsense!

(And, of course, it could be the drugs making me happy, and maybe the smile thing is totally full of shit. I’ve taken that into account, but since I’m the only one with the drugs, you’ll have to settle for trying that smile crap.)

SUNDAY, September 26, 2010 - 6:23pm

Panic time. I tried to get the denture to come out. It wouldn’t.

In case I didn’t make it clear earlier, the thing is supposed to be removable. The two implants I have in my bottom gums are meant as anchors to hold the prosthesis steadily in place. The denture more-or-less snaps onto them. Then, when I want to take it out – for cleaning or whatever – equal upward pressure applied on both ends should lift it off of the anchors. Except, when I tried to get it out of my mouth, it wouldn’t budge.

The dentist had asked me to keep it in for as long as possible over the weekend. The reasoning was that the tissues underneath it would heal more quickly if protected. And the fit is snug, right up against everything, so nothing would get at the gums. Also, I think the idea was for me to get used to it more quickly.

Overall, it felt good, but not great. It certainly functioned well. No problems eating, other than a soreness in the gums, which I assume was to be expected following three extractions, suturing of the wounds, lasering of the gums in some areas, and all the other necessarily sadistic procedures I had performed on my mouth. I could feel pressure in certain areas, but nothing me and my buddy Percocet couldn’t handle. And I’m sure those small pains will be addressed on Monday during the follow-up appointment. However, I had taken a short nap, following the Patriots victory over Buffalo, and when I awoke, I was in fairly serious pain. My face felt a bit swollen, the pressure in the gums seemed to be increased, I could taste what might have been pus…

Sorry. That last is gross, but it was a really foul taste. I know that all of it – the pain, the swelling, the taste – might be natural occurrences following oral surgery and having the gums covered, and unable to be refreshed via brushing or mouthwash, for more than three days. The medications might have contributed to it, too. However, I felt that removing the denture, cleaning it, and rinsing my mouth, would probably alleviate all of the problems.

So, I placed my thumbs in my mouth and tried to take the prosthesis out. It barely budged. And the effort to move it caused some serious pain.

Bad thoughts flitted through my mind. Maybe my mouth was infected and stuff had oozed under the plate adhering it to my gums. What if I applied too much pressure and broke it, or destroyed one of the implants? I increased the pressure slowly, and felt a slight rise from the gums, but it hurt like hell. I was becoming a bit scared, along with frustrated, and I hoped I wasn’t doing irreparable damage to either my mouth or to my lovely new choppers.

(And they ARE lovely. The doctor did a fantastic job. Nobody could possibly tell they weren’t real teeth. MY WIFE has been particularly complimentary concerning them, and she just wouldn’t bullshit about it. If they looked gruesome or phony, she’d let me know.)

After a good ten minutes of trying different pressures and angles, I felt it move enough to know I could now get it out. I increased my efforts and pushed hard, and it finally popped off of the implants. The relief was immediate and immensely pleasurable.

There was a small bit of mouth gunk in the part that had been contacting the gums, but nothing overwhelmingly alarming. I gave the surface a good brushing to clean them up. I looked at my gums. Not a pretty sight with the stitches still there, metal sticking up from the two implant sites, and the general sickly look of moist body tissue that hadn’t had air touch it for a good 72 hours, but nothing that made me feel I should place an emergency call to the good doctor. I swished a bit of mouthwash over the area, and immediately felt less anxious about things.

I’ve now had the teeth out of my mouth for about twenty minutes. All soreness and all feelings of being swollen have vanished. I haven’t felt this good all weekend. I hope the dentist can make the fit better on Monday. I’d much rather keep it in – barring pain – than have it out. Aside from cosmetic concerns, without the teeth in, my jaw can close far more than it ever has before in my life. There are, of course, no lower teeth for my uppers to contact to stop progress, and it’s a very weird and sick feeling. I don’t like it, at all.

I now have my teeth in a little plastic box they gave me for storage. I’m going to keep them out until I need them to eat. Just dress me in a bear costume and call me gummy.

(OK, I guess folks think it would have been a good idea to remove my sense of humor while they were removing the teeth, but those folks are just stoopid.)

This wraps up whatever this was. I’ll talk to you later in the week to varying degrees depending upon how well my teeth fit by then.

MONDAY, September 27, 2010 - 8:50am

I'm in work, and just out of the dentist's office. He made a few adjustments - shaved down the denture here and there - and it feels better. He wants me back on Wednesday to adjust it more. I guess it's going to be an ongoing process, at least for the next week or so.

I think it's sort of like when you wear a pair of shoes that are tight and uncomfortable. When you take them off, you feel better. When you try to put them back on, your feet have swollen and they feel worse than they previously did. So my gums are feet and my teeth are shoes.

It's probably a good thing I'm out of drugs (but I'm going to ask for more, anyway.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

[Final 2012 note: The denture is second nature now, for the most part. Discomfort is still available on the odd occasion when I get a seed or something under it. All in all, as I advised Buck, if there is a choice between full implants and dentures, and the money is available, get the implants. Should I somehow become fabulously wealthy in the near future, I'll do that and have my entire lower jaw redone.]

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Reelin' In The Years

[Credit Where Credit Is Due Department: This was inspired by Buck. He wrote a similar post back on August 29th. You should visit there and read it, either before or after reading this one. You could try reading both his and mine simultaneously, but I wouldn't recommend it. You'd probably blow off the top of your head and then your brains could get all wet when it rains.]

UPDATE (9/6/12) - Uncle Skip and Michelle and Craig have joined in the fun. Why not follow their lead and do one of these yourself? I'd love to see it!

Buck started off with a song. So have I. His held special meaning for him. Mine is just one of my favorites, featuring one of the best guitar solos of all eternity, by the incomparable Skunk Baxter. What follows is a very quick snapshot of life; the highlights that come immediately to mind. Actually, it will be six snapshots, one for each decade I've been alive. Let's start with the 1950's.

I was born in 1957. I can't say that I remember much about my arrival, which is probably a good thing. I've heard that the decade was pleasant enough, outside of a few trivial inconveniences like The Korean War and Joe McCarthy, but my contribution to America was mostly done via eating and pooping. From all reports, I did my job well.

As we moved into the Sixties, I gained consciousness. This was a good thing, overall, even though it made the pooping more embarrassing. I went to school, where I learned a smattering of useful things and a whole boatload of utterly ridiculous foolishness such as New Math. I watched a lot of TV.

I also became aware of sports. And the Red Sox were instrumental in shaping my outlook on life. They stunk, but I adored them. I was the only person in my neighborhood who cheered them on without a hint of sarcasm. Everybody else jumped on the bandwagon in 1967 when they suddenly started winning, but I had been there before they arrived. I look at every other thing I've championed in my life, from the Libertarian Party to The Ramones, and I see that I've tried to do the same thing that I did with the Red Sox, which was to find something I thought was really cool and shout about it before every dope in town decided it was the best thing going. That so few of the things I've 'discovered' haven't panned out as well as the Sox did is no fault of mine. I've been right, every time.

(Well, OK, maybe I went overboard with the XFL, but I've been right on everything else, dammit.)

Next come the 70's. I gained consciousness in the 60's, then expanded it in the 70's.

For me, it was basically the decade of drugs. Sure, lots of important things happened - my parents were divorced, I got laid for the first time, I found out I was lucky enough to have been born a year or so too late to have had to go to Vietnam - but mostly I turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. Drugs led to my liking music one heck of a lot more than I did before drugs, so I decided to join a band. The fact that I had never taken a music lesson in my life (aside from a failed attempt to learn the trumpet during sixth grade) did not deter me. I told some guys I was a singer, so they let me 'sing' in a conglomeration named World's End. I also bought a keyboard, taught myself a few chords, and filled out the sound a bit with it. By the end of the decade, I was playing the bass - and playing it rather well, I might add.

Let's see; what else happened in the 70's? I figured out I wasn't going to make the major leagues in baseball, so I began playing in organized fast-pitch softball leagues. I'm still doing that, so I suppose that counts for something.

Now we come to the 80's. This is where fun drug usage devolved into serious addiction. I spent every cent I earned on cocaine. I was in a dead-end relationship, no direction whatsoever, working jobs that meant nothing to me, and coming to the realization (after a couple of wonderful years in a band named Live Wire, which I truly thought might have a shot) that I probably wasn't going to become a rock 'n roll star. In addition, I was rapidly going bald. My Dad had open heart surgery, and I was his only child and he was divorced, so I was the one who took care of him, period. It was a stressful and wasted last half of the decade, following a wasted and enjoyable first half of it.

[1981 or so. Drugs were fun! I'm extremely happy to report that I have no snapshots of what I looked like by the end of the decade.]

Then, in the last weeks of the 80's, I was the recipient of a "Dear John" letter from a woman I had been with for a few years. She went on vacation and never came back. She sent me a letter, a couple of days before Christmas, telling me she had met someone and we were through. I was, to put it mildly, knocked off-balance. Some others might say that I was insane for the next several weeks. I didn't eat at all. I dropped about thirty pounds (a good thing, actually, as it cleared my head and made me more attractive for my re-entry into the dating pool.) Oddly, I had stopped doing drugs about six months before she wrote the letter. Maybe that's why she wrote the letter. She liked to get all lit up as much as I once did.

Nah. We were never right for each other. I was as much to blame as her; maybe even more so. I've come to realize that slowly since the actual time.

So, I entered the 90's at possibly the lowest point of my life. Then, in February, I met MY WIFE. And we lived happily ever after.

Well... more or less, anyway. The past twenty-some years have been personally and professionally rewarding. There have been bummers - My Dad died, both of MY WIFE's parents died, My Grandma died, My Auntie Ba died, lots of folks died - but overall, on balance, a decent enough couple of decades, even if I still have never won a championship of any sort in 35 years of playing softball and I don't have any teeth left.

[They're my teeth because I paid for 'em, but they're not those originally issued to me.]

And here we are, in 2012, which means, now that I do the math again, I am in my seventh decade (although I'm 55, this is the seventh decade in which I've been alive. Somehow that doesn't seem right, especially considering the drugs I've done, but it's the truth.)

I will not make any predictions concerning how much longer I expect to be around. I mean, really, I expect to be around forever, because I'm a Christian, but not necessarily in this rapidly-decaying body. I survived to the end of this piece, at least, which may be more than some of you have been able to do and I can't say I blame you.

Soon, with more better stuff.