double date at the dentist's
Saturday, June 17 2000
So now Kim is interested in being able to edit her own web pages, scan pictures, upload them and all of that. Actually, I get the sense more that she's interested in having all these things happen according to her wishes without her necessarily having to learn the languages and protocols necessary to tell a machine how to make these things happen. I explained to her "HTML and even simple photoshop is easy." So (almost grudgingly) she agreed to learn. While I was hooking up her scanner, I realized its heavy black power supply was no longer generating any of its specified 20 volts at 0.7 amps. This led me into a whole complex cascade of subroutines that devoured all of my processing time before a 1 PM dental appointment that Kim had scheduled. There was a procedure that required me to saw the power supply open (since it had no consumer serviceable parts and had been sealed shut by the manufacturer). Then there was a procedure to bypass a blown internal fuse, something all the live-safely people tell you that you're not suppose to do. At this point I needed a soldering iron, and all my hardcore electronic test and repair equipment was stored in an unmemorable arrangement at the bottom of a huge pile of boxes in the closet under the stairs. (These boxes are castaways from the ongoing shopping spree Kim has been undertaking for the past month and a half.) While I was in the middle of rooting through and thoroughly rearranging this closet, Kim told me it was time to go to the dentist.
It was actually a double date at the dentist's. Neither Kim nor I have been to the dentist in years, and only recently did we both receive coverage through my rather liberal workplace-subsidized dental plan (Kim qualifies as a "domestic partner" even though we're not married and we're not a gay couple). This trip to the dentist has been needing to happen for some time now. I know my teeth aren't in the best shape. Just in terms of the things I know about, my left top secondary incisor, the one which was severely chipped by an errant beer bottle at a Blacksburg punk rock show in the Fall of 1994, has been detectibly abscessed since early July, 1998. Since then it's been generating a small amount of pus on a regular basis from a "fistula" at its base. It sounds horrible I know, but it really hasn't been that bad. It's not like there's pain, gangrene or terrible odors associated with it. The tooth is a little miscolored and there's an unseen, painless pimple on my gum, that's it. It's usually not difficult for me to rationalize away medical problems that aren't distractingly painful or rapidly spreading by asking myself the question, "What would Cro Magnon Man have done?" That wouldn't be a bad tee shirt.
Our dental office was within walking distance, just three blocks east on Santa Monica Blvd in one of those little corner L-shaped mini-malls. The largest writing on the storefront was in Chinese characters, though the staff was largely Persian or Arab.
My dentist was an an anonymous Arab or Persian woman whose introduction to me consisted of her looking in my mouth briefly, grimacing, and ordering x-rays, lots of x-rays. Meanwhile, off in her examining chair, Kim didn't get any x-rays because she couldn't be certain she wasn't pregnant.
When my little x-rays came back they were, as usual, treated as mysteries best left to be interpreted by dental care professionals. But, somewhat unusually, they were placed on a lightboard where I could see them if I wanted to. I was intrigued and a little disturbed by how closely incisor teeth resemble toes. Surprisingly, my problematic tooth didn't look too bad, even in the x-ray. The only thing odd about it was that it didn't appear to have much of a root. Where my other teeth had strong white lines extending into the frame of the x-ray slide, my abscessed tooth ended abruptly a half inch into my skull. Beyond this there was only a dark trench showing the absence of tooth. Where had it gone?
The dentist examined my teeth some more, finding all sorts of traces of decay. This didn't bother her as much as the problematic incisor. She said at the very minimum I'd need a root canal to extract the infection beneath it. But if that didn't work, I'd need open-gum surgery (I just invented that term). As for the missing tooth root and other possible missing bone, she said the infection had actually attacked my skeleton in the immediate vicinity, leading to "bone reabsorption." That sort of creeped me out, but not as much as twin reabsorption and other weird fetal twin things.
Next came the process of having my teeth cleaned. I always forget the discomfort associated with this seeming innocuous procedure. Today it was particularly rough. I mean, the lady was using the weight of her body to crunch through the things she didn't want on my teeth. It was so painful at times that I found myself hoping she knew what she was doing. As it turned out, the experience was similar for Kim. It was a no pain no gain sort of thing. I wonder if there are any masochists with a fetish for having their teeth cleaned, particularly by swarthy middle eastern dental hygienists.
In the evening Kim and I went 20 blocks to the west into Santa Monica to attend the housewarming party of a certain Nina, someone I haven't seen since the summer of 1984. That was the last summer my father and I went up to Ottawa, Ontario, to visit one of my Dad's old college chums, a Geochemist named Ralf. In addition to having a daughter (Nina) about my age, Ralf had a farm and several hundred acres amid the rolling lake country of nearby Quebec, and for two weeks or so I'd be paddling around in a canoe fishing for lake sunfish when I wasn't hurrying through the woods swatting mosquitos, shitting in an outhouse, or reading past issues of Mad Magazine by candlelight. In retrospect I realize that during this period of prolonged and arduous puberty, Nina was the only girl with whom I ever had a meaningful conversation. During those two summer weeks, she and I talked long hours about all kinds of issues of interest to teenagers, yet there was never anything overtly sexual about it. If anything, it was the only proof I'd had since early childhood that girls could make for good company. I'm sure that in my head there are a lot of neural circuits that can trace their origin to this rather brief acquaintance.
Nina's new place is a one bedroom apartment on the top floor of one of those Melrose-place type compounds so common in Southern California. She has high ceilings and perhaps something of a view. Most of her friends these days are either research scientists, physical fitness buffs, or a combination of the two. For her part, Nina is the low-key unassuming type, rather similar to Deya. She went around the party making sure people had what they needed and preparing more sangria as necessary.
I guess we were kind of early, since there were only a few people there when we arrived. But eventually a substantial contingent of Italian research scientist types dropped in, soon followed by various assorted others. Up until the Italians arrived, Kim and I were the only serious drinkers in the house. And nobody ever lit up any marijuana or smoked a cigarette, not even out on the balcony.
Kim and I went directly from Nina's housewarming to the show tonight at the Dr. Susan Block studios (at an undisclosed location in downtown Los Angeles). The usual cast of characters were all there, including Norma, the big dominatrix girl with the thick black pump-up dildo (and its legendary "cruise control"). During a barside conversation about amrita (female ejaculation), she decided to give a demonstration right then and there. Within a few seconds, without even getting particularly excited, she squirted a fluid from somewhere within her tu-tu all over the floor. The guys standing around didn't really know what to say, and uncomfortably handed her some napkins to clean it up. "It's not urine!" she assured them, but they had their doubts.
Meanwhile Dr. Suzy was fielding a call from a woman who wondered what she should do now that her husband was cheating on her. "I don't usually recommend affairs," said the doctor, "but in your case it's what the doctor prescribes."
The show didn't go for very long and when it was over, Dr. Suzy's husband Max gave his closing in a deep radio-friendly voiceover, "Wherever you may be tonight, in a stolen police car, in a cardboard box, in a villa in Beverly Hills..."
My participation, spotty though it was, consisted of operating a couple of different cameras, including my own camcorder. When I could think of nothing else to do, I simply took a nap. It's a genuine libertarian speakeasy environment, a place where there's no one to tell you, "excuse me, but you can't do that here."
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