Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Masterful Accessorizing Disallowed Here

Just when I think I’ve lost steam completely blogwise, something amazing happens that absolutely must be reported, such as the fantastic lucid dream I had last night! Yeah, me and Jared Loughner, alas. He’s into lucid dreaming.

Toward morning, I had a lovely, vivid dream where I was with Tom’s family, reading the newspaper with Chris. I left the room for some reason, and when I was returning, I realized I was all by myself in a large house. I said to myself, “I’m all alone, all alone,” and that small bit of conscious recognition of my circumstances was enough to make me realize I was dreaming. This has worked in other lucid dreams, too. Just the merest moment of naming what is happening can do the trick.

Then, I’m very pleased to say, I clearly remembered three intentions I’d intended, and they worked! I said, “I was going to remember to remain calm,” and then I made an effort to be calm, which actually was an effort, as I was already losing touch. Then I felt my feet on the ground, another specific intention, and then, as things were a bit nebulous, I tried spinning, a well-documented potential stabilizer of lucidity, and it completely solidified the lucid state. It ended up being my second-longest lucid dream to date; i.e., five minutes of lucidity, I estimate.

I went exploring, and when I heard a worrying noise, I remembered it’s also my goal to confront fears directly, so I walked toward the noise, which turned out to be a very poorly behaved black cat. (I complimented Hammett on his comparatively good conduct once I woke up.)

Then lucidity started to fade again, so I tried spinning a second time, and noticed on this go that the spinning itself was extremely pleasurable. During it, I thought, “Maybe when I’m done spinning, I’ll land in a nicer dream, like something with sun and blue water,” but where I actually landed was my very own bed, awake.

I’m having my dental stitches out tomorrow and cannot wait. The stitches have unraveled a bit more each day so that now it’s like walking around with a mouthful of loose flapping strings—actually, it is walking around with a mouthful of loose flapping strings—so I’ll be happy to see Dr. E. coming at me with the little scissors tomorrow.

I hope he’ll think it’s healing nicely. I can’t tell, but I can say that the dead person’s bone chips haven’t come exploding out of my mouth, so that seems good.

Last Saturday I walked over to the Zen Center and heard Michael Wenger speak. There was no public lunch or after-talk Q&A because they were having a one-day sit. I had a nice walk home and then did a long list of very small chores while listening to This American Life, at least until they played a snippet of “Freedom of Choice,” and then I stopped the streaming KQED and played some of my Devo “records”—you know, flat vinyl discs that go around and around on a “record player.” They still sound “awesome.”

I’m sorry to report that my parents’ sweet and much-loved cat Nigel had to be euthanized last week, after having been in declining health for a time. She was originally my grandmother’s cat, and she was terrified of strangers. My grandmother frequently had ladies over for bridge, none of whom ever laid eyes on Nigel. They would tease my grandmother, asking, “Are you sure you have a cat?”

My grandmother had to visit the emergency room one day in the winter of 2003 and when I spoke to her, she asked who was going to take care of Nigel. I asked, “Isn’t your neighbor feeding her today?” “No, I mean when I die,” Grandma Lee said. Naturally I stepped up right away and volunteered my parents, though this seemed quite premature. However, my grandmother did die just several weeks later, in her own bed, thanks to my parents, who moved in with her and took care of her and everything else, and then we had the extremely difficult task of getting Nigel into a carrier (for the last time in her life, probably). We cornered her in the guest bedroom and somehow my father succeeded in boxing her up for transport to Ann Arbor.

I think she enjoyed life with my parents. They love animals, and my father in particular is probably the world’s best cat parent. For instance, if a cat has to take medication, my father tastes it himself first to make sure it won’t be disagreeable for the cat. He went to incredible effort to care for Nigel in every way, though maybe what she liked most was the complete absence of bridge-playing ladies.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Edentulous (Well, Not Completely)

Number 19 was extracted yesterday toward the late afternoon. I brushed my teeth at work before going to see Dr. E. and realized with a pang that that was the last time I’d be attending to that particular tooth.

You can have general anesthesia for this procedure, and, for all my joking about wanting it, if anyone is going to administer this kind of thing, I will preferably be in a hospital at the time, not in a downtown office building, so I went with local anesthetic only; you can also have nitrous oxide if you want.

Dr. E. claimed that I’d feel just like myself on the latter, that it works on the brain to blunt the perception of pain. Having used enough of it recreationally to get fired from an ice cream parlor job in my youth, I know for a fact that’s not true. It distorts reality in a very pronounced manner; at least, the amount found in nine cans of whipped cream does. Point of trivia: Another veteran of this particular ice cream parlor was supposedly Madonna, probably not long before me. She went to dance school at the University of Michigan, I believe.

Anyway, I decided on just local anesthesia, as nitrous oxide in this context is for sissies, or so I thought right up until the preparations for the procedure began, at which point I realized that was more of an opinion than a fact, but pride kept me from screaming, “I’ve changed my mind!”

I went through my standard inner pre-airplane-flight procedures, which help a lot there, but proved not quite equal to an impending dental extraction. I was really frightened, possibly in the vicinity of an actual panic attack.

They put the numbing stuff on my gum, and then gave me three shots, and then Dr. E. and his assistant sprang into action. Dr. E. started by poking around the tooth, maybe kind of loosening it up or seeing how loose it was. I felt a minor pain and didn’t raise my left hand in the agreed-upon signal, but then realized that a minor pain in that phase might translate to a rather significant pain later on, so then I raised my hand and received another shot; in the end, even my ear was somewhat numb.

They warned me there would be some terrible crunching and cracking noises, which weren’t too bad. Besides the aforementioned twinge and a couple of the shots themselves, there was no physical pain whatsoever, and Dr. E. and his assistant worked together very smoothly and calmly; I just heard little murmurs like, “Number nine." One of my co-workers has had a tooth or two extracted and said she was disappointed to realize how easily they actually come out.

After not long at all, Dr. E. said the tooth had broken into three parts and two were already removed! He said the tooth was indeed fractured, with a vertical crack going all the way down. (Which it better have been. As my mother said later, you wouldn’t want to hear an oral surgeon marvel, “A perfect tooth!” after taking it out.)

For the remaining segment, he had to drill into the tooth and sort of hook it out or something. Then he drilled some more to clean out the cavity, then rinsed it out with saline solution, then stuffed in some dead person’s bone flakes, then stretched a piece of membrane over it, and stitched that in place with non-dissolvable stitches.

Now I have to take antibiotics for a week and make sure nothing touches the surgery area and use a prescription rinse a couple of times a day. I also was given a prescription for Vicodin but didn’t bother to fill it because I had an entire prescription’s worth left over from when my head pounded the surface of Market St. a year or so ago.

I never took one then, but did actually take one last night. I’ve also taken it after surgeries in the past and found it really unpleasant, like being pulled under the surface of the ocean, but it was kind of nice last night, which suggests I might still be able to become a Vicodin addict, if I put my mind to it. Maybe I’d better fill that other prescription.

Today my face still feels very faintly numb, but there hasn’t been any real swelling. I took six Advil right after the extraction, the Vicodin later in the evening, and another six Advil so far today. I don’t think I’ll have to take any more Vicodin. The area is slightly achy.

Now it will heal up (I hope), and in three months, give or take, Dr. E. will drill a hole in my jaw and screw in a titanium post, and three months after that, my own dentist will slap on a tooth.

Oh, I ended up getting very good news on the cost. Insurance will pay for 90 percent of the bone graft and 60 percent of the implant, while my own dentist said he would charge me just the lab fees for the crown, which is very, very nice of him, so it will be much less than the worst case. The crown that disappeared with the rest of the tooth had been installed just last year.

You know what an unexpected downside of this whole thing has been? All the utterly revolting photos I've had to look at in the course of my online research. Go Google "bony lumps on gums" and look at the image results, for instance. Or try "tooth roots." They mostly use drawings for that, you'll notice, because the actual things are so dreadful looking, but here and there you can see photos.


Hammett seeing if a box spring that has been taken out of commission and leaned against the wall is a good spot to rest.

San Francisco downtown as seen from my oral surgeon's office. At first I couldn't figure out what the shiny building at Post and Kearny was doing to the right of 44 Montgomery. And why could I see 525 Market? This even includes a bit of my very favorite building, the Millennium Tower.

Ants swimming (or maybe just kind of floating) in Ham's water bowl. Ants are good swimmers/floaters. (Of course I rescued them right after capturing this action shot.)

Hammett and his new house.

The cheerful view just before the even more cheerful view of Mehfil Indian restaurant at 2nd and Folsom.

Rainbow and B. of A. building. Actually, double rainbow if examined closely enough.

Chinatown lamp post.

This looked to me at first like some actual substance on the ground, but it's pure light.


I think it's always nice to finish with a cat picture, don't you?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Holy Molar!

New Year’s Eve was pleasant and quiet: I read a book and, just after midnight, inserted earplugs and went to sleep while the merriment continued outside. I didn’t particularly intend to be up until midnight, but was enjoying the novel The Help, which I had received for Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, it was tremendous, as always. On Christmas Eve, I went with Tom to Paul and Eva’s in Sacramento, and we (Paul, Eva, Steve, Julie, Chris, Bino, Dan, Mac, Ann, Tom and I; Sarah and Josh were in Seattle) had a lovely evening of just being together, eating Eva’s marvelous dinner, opening gifts and admiring the tree. Chris wore the Santa hat and handed out the presents. I believe most of the tree’s decorations are traditional family items, some from generations past, but I also spotted what must have been a contribution from Paul: a cutout of guitar player Steve Morse.

Gifts included a couple of books, my favorite olive oil (Bariani, from right near Sacramento), a Foo Fighters CD, and Steve’s annual family calendar, a highlight every year. (Last year I was surprised and pleased to see that two photos I’d taken were included.)

Tom and I spent the night at Steve and Julie’s, and in the morning went back to Paul and Eva’s for stockings and brunch, then to Ann and Mac’s for further refreshments. By the end of that day, I was very highly refreshed.

On New Year’s Day, Sarah and Josh had Tom and me and Chris and Kristen over for a delicious brunch, and then Tom and I BARTed to Berkeley for the Berkeley Rep’s production of Lemony Snicket’s The Composer Is Dead, which was very entertaining and imaginative. Ann and Mac had tickets they couldn't use and generously passed them on.

As we waited in the BART station afterward, a drunk fellow with a punishing personal essence happened along, reminding me of the Will Ferrell movie where someone is showing off a new aftershave, “Sex Panther by Odeon,” and Will gasps, “[That’s] a formidable scent.”

We have lately gotten some new bus lines in San Francisco, joining the 22 Fillmore and the 30 Stockton and so on: the Genentech Noe Valley, for instance! Tom has observed that our neighborhood is increasingly full of these giant buses, whose windows you can’t see into, that take tech workers to their jobs and back. I wouldn’t have guessed there were enough Genentech workers living in Noe Valley to fill an entire bus, but evidently there are.

I have received a quote for the out-of-pocket portion of my dental work, somewhat indefinite, as what insurance will end up covering isn’t fully known. At the worst, it will be $3773! That money would, over time, have gone into retirement savings, but I suppose a full set of choppers is also something I’ll enjoy in my golden years.