Prodigal Scum

Week before last, I accomplished something of sorts. I had a bartender cut me off for being too drunk.

I can’t remember this ever occurring before. It could have happened plenty of times post-blackout, except that I seldom experience those. Memories of the night before may be a little hazy when I wake up, but as the day wears on, they coalesce into embarrassing crystal clarity.

The night in question was no exception. After a stressful but productive day at work, I needed a drink. In fact, I needed several. I wanted to drink myself into that elusive alcoholic paradise where my banter is witty while at the same time, hot babes lust after my tortured poet’s soul.

Nice work if you can get it.

As you can imagine, the evening did not quite turn out that way. It started out swimmingly. Good friends, good conversation, all was right in the world. The problem was that I’m a whiskey drinker, which means there is an extra level of intoxication waiting in the wings. I’m a seasoned veteran and should have been mindful of this, but that night I was in no mood to be mindful of anything.

By 11 pm, I was a stumbling, leering wreck. Taking a seat and holding onto the bar to maintain balance, I attempted to order another drink. The bartender, quite rightly, said I had enough. No matter, thought I, and cajoled a friend into buying me a another whiskey. After that, I had a few glorious moments of pirouetting about and bumping into people until the bartender came up to me, snatched the drink from my hand, and told me I had to go home.

I had fucked up. Not only that, I fucked up at the Argus, my local and home away from home. I needed time away to atone. Fortunately for me, I have plenty of liquor at home so atonement meant getting ripped to the tits on scotch and treating a BDSM chatroom to the kind of obscenities that even makes those perverts’ skin crawl.

Ten days later, my friend Alex reported back to me that all was forgiven, this time. I have since been back to the Argus and have more or less behaved myself.

Redemption is a wonderful thing. You should try it sometime.

The $650 Chipmunk Makeover

A large part of my daily grind involves my teeth. Actually, most of the grinding goes on at night when the horrors locked up in my subconscious get loose and force the choppers of my upper and lower jaw into a war of mutually assured annihilation.

Years ago, my dentist fitted me with mouth guard to protect my teeth from being ground away. It was a large, cumbersome plastic thing that resembled what a boxer wear when he steps into the ring. The difference was that boxers, even punch-drunk ones, knew better than to wear theirs while they slept.

The guard covered all of my upper teeth, sealing them off from the natural process by which the mouth cleanses itself. The result was that by morning, the inside of the thing would be a reservoir of plaque and drool. In order to keep stalagmites of tartar forming, the guard needed to vigorously cleaned with a toothbrush after each use.

Ultimately, I learned that my devotion to the upkeep of high-maintenance dental gear was on a par with my devotion to the upkeep of high-maintenance women.

“The hell with it,” I concluded. “Let ’em grind.”

And grind they did. Five long years of nocturnal gnashing exacted a horrible toll on my teeth. Fortunately, mouth-guard technology has progressed quite a bit since then.

When I was at the dentist yesterday, I tried on one of these newfangled devices. It is much smaller, attaching to the two upper front teeth only, keeping the others apart without marinating in their own slime. He handed me a mirror and let me admire my rodent-like countenance.

I can have one molded to fit me, all for the low price of 130 shots of Jameson’s down at the local bar.

I am quickly making my dentist a very rich man.

That Tetracycline Smile

I came out of the Powell Street BART station a little after nine and started walking toward Union Square. Department stores and tourist boutiques shared the street with older businesses that evoked the San Francisco of Herb Caen, if not Dashiell Hammett. The night’s fog still hung overhead and thanks to the mayor’s recent crackdown on the homeless, the urine stench was at a minimum.

I arrived at an office building on the 400 block of Sutter Street and took the elevator to the 19th floor. Around the corner and down the hall was the dental lab. I was sent there to determine the matching color for a crown on my upper canine. The darkest my dentist had to choose from was “coprophagous chain smoker,” which simply wouldn’t do. I was instructed to go down to the lab so they could pick something suitable from their “Shane MacGowan” collection.

The lab had no real front office to speak of, just a secretary at a desk with paperwork piled high in several places. I had a clear view of of the back where little white plumes of dust rose from the workbenches of technicians shaped fake teeth with miniature belt sanders.

I was quickly introduced to the lead tech, an older Filpina whom I’ll call Imelda. She led me back to her work area where, on command, I bared my teeth like an animal.

“Tectracycline,” she said, and waved over an assistant for a second opinion.

“Oh wow,” said the assistant.

I told Imelda how I was given tetracycline when I had my tonsils removed in 1965 and it had discolored my teeth.

“This is going to be difficult,” said Imelda. “The discoloration is not not uniform. Have a look.”

She then handed me a mirror. I hadn’t really noticed it before (or maybe I just didn’t want to), but my teeth contained a blended strata of hues. It was like a Rothko painting.

“To match all these colors, I’m going to need you to come back after the crown is molded. I think I can do it but it won’t be easy.”

Naturally, I consented. Far be for me to keep Imelda from what will no doubt prove to be her masterwork. Also, I could treat the whole experience like a modeling gig. I liked that. It made me feel glamorous.