Chill Time

I took a few days off from work. There was Rebecca’s birthday on Thursday, the following Friday and Monday, and of course the Fourth of July was Tuesday. All this added up to a six-day weekend and I’m happy to report that I didn’t accomplish shit except play this game on my Android called “Adventure League” where you lead a band of medieval mercenaries and cruise around a hexagonal map where you fight a quickly repetitive assortment of foes. My crew was called the “Diarrhea Desperados” and we kicked ass until we all got killed.

Maybe my claim of total sloth is not entirely true. I did write a blog post on Saturday where I at least splashed around in the shallow end of the suicide-ideation pool. I did an OK job with it, good enough to get me some of that social-media validation I crave far more than is healthy. One thing I would have changed if blogging were more conducive to rewrites would be to ease up on the “I won’t go through with it” disclaimers. Some of those are necessary lest some well-meaning but uninformed friend decide to 5150 my weepy ass for my own good. The number of times I did this was, if you can excuse the expression, overkill.

I’ve also walked around the city more. I needed that. My usual workaday existence consists of an alarm clock going off at 5:45 am, a full day down in San Jose, and a long bus ride going to and fro. When I get home, I’m flopped out on the couch with a glass of wine instead of hitting the town.

It’s a comfortable existence albeit an insular one. I enjoy time I get to spend inside my head, but sometimes I feel like I get lost in there. This is partly true even at work. Sure I’m required a lot of focus and some amount of interaction, but the detachment is still there. There is nothing wrong with my coworkers. I’m just too weird to share my thoughts in a job environment and too enamored by my weirdness to shelve it so I can listen to someone else’s mundane crap.

With much of my life differing little from day to day, it’s not all that surprising that my urban strolls quickly fell into a routine of their own. I would head down to Muddy Waters (aka Trash Muddy’s) for my first cup of coffee, which I would drink in the back room. From there, I would head off to Wicked Grounds, a mile and change further along in SoMa.

On the way, I would pass a number of homeless encampments along the sidewalk near Folsom and 16th Street. I didn’t see too many people. They were either in their tents or elsewhere. Of the few who were around, none panhandled me. That was nice. I like a world where people leave each other alone.

Between the upwardly mobile douchebags on Valencia Street and these unfortunate bastards, I started to feel like I was middle class, an average Joe, a water treader. Then I corrected myself. There is no such thing as middle class in San Francisco, not anymore. You’re either privileged or you’re fucked and as much as I’d like to believe otherwise, I’m privileged as hell. I’m just old and less flashy about it.

When I finally get to Wicked Grounds, I would order an Americano because if you just want a cup of coffee, it’s either that or French press and an Americano sounds like it’s less trouble. It probably isn’t though. I’m sure both are a pain in the ass.

Wicked Grounds, as far as I know, is the only kink-friendly coffee place in the city. You have to be at least 18 to go there, there are floggers and other toys available for purchase, and munches are sometimes held in the back room. There is gender fluidity among both the staff and patrons, and the vibe is relaxed overall.

I like it there. Even though my appearance is conspicuously conventional, nobody gives me any attitude. This is probably because I always tip and neither gawk nor talk shit. I don’t know if they assume I’m vanilla. Is there some BDSM version of gaydar and if so, would I set it off? I definitely have my thing, but it’s a little different from most kinksters are into. (Relax, concerned citizens. It’s all consenting adults.)

It hardly matters. I feel somehow validated knowing I’m different, but in a different way from other different folks. Not a bad trick for such a stodgy-looking doofus. I try my best to conceal my smugness as I drink my coffee before the long walk home.

Hazy Landscapes

The sky is the color of drywall. Or perhaps horchata. The sun is up there somewhere doing its thing so I don’t die. Wait. That would imply the sun operates purposefully on my behalf, which is nonsense. There will come a day when the sun doing its thing will be to supernova. That will likely be long after I have died from an unrelated cause, but you never know.

I have been told by people who know about such things that we are all made up of stardust. As such, we are part of this mind-bogglingly vast and wondrous universe we live in. If that gives you a sense of belonging, good for you. You are still going to die.

If it makes you feel any better, I’m going to die too. It is unlikely to be today or tomorrow, but it’s probable I have fewer days ahead than behind me. Death may come suddenly in the form of a road accident or a stray bullet, or I maybe told I have a terminal illness by some doctor who punctuates the bad news with a shrug.

To be honest, I would prefer a shrug over some perfunctory display of commiseration. Finding out I’m going to die soon would be hard enough. Do I also have to feel bad for ruining the day of the bringer of bad news? There has to be a clip on YouTube of Charles Bronson smiling and saying “tough shit.” I just need to find it and send the link to my doctor with the note “If I’m stricken with pancreatic cancer, do that.”

For the foreseeable future, I’m better off assuming that The Life of Dave is not yet in its final act. I have decades of at least intermittent happiness to look forward to, even though suicide ideation is my go-to when I’m feeling pissy.

SI has been longtime companion of mine, but not always the best of friends. Whenever it feels even the slightest bit real, it hurts like a bitch. Even writing about it right now makes me feel a little uneasy, but that could just be the coffee jitters. I’m not terribly in tune with my body. I know I should treat it like a temple, and I do, but like a temple of someone else’s religion where I’m itching for some hate-crime desecration.

At least that was the old me. I’m better behaved now, but the temple walls still carry the stains of bygone stupidity.

Enough with the belabored temple imagery. Now where was I? Ah yes, offing myself. More to the point, thinking about offing myself even though I’m never going to do it.

The thing I’ve learned about my SI is that it is a total drama queen. It needs no serious commitment on my part, but it does like to be romanced. Fortunately for all concerned, its tastes have become subdued with age. I no longer feel the urge to go at my wrist with a razor blade, coyly dancing around major arteries so I could achieve some excellent Ordinary People scars with no real risk of doing myself in.

Now I just have my dying places, secluded spots I have walked by and committed to memory. I never need to go visit them. It is enough to know they’re there. I like to think of them as my Winterwood after the Patrick McCabe novel, but with two major differences. One is that I never even think about killing anyone else. The other is that I never will actually kill myself either.

None of this is healthy, but it is familiar. Over the years, I’ve learned to romanticize the hell out of the darker recesses of my noggin. Now I’m not sure how much I’m coping with extant darkness or how much I’m just going through the motions because I’m a creature of habit. Internally, there’s a certain twisted beauty to it all. But if I dared to step outside myself and watched with an objective eye, I’d see a creature akin to Milton from Office Space mumble-plotting revenge for the loss of his stapler.

It’s a good thing I can tart up my embracing of life as well. I am still putting on a show for myself, but it’s a far happier one than my occasional strolls through Grimville. It’s also a lot more fun for others to be around, provided they’re OK with puns and toilet humor masquerading as genuine wit.

Mrs. Spastic

I can’t remember what her real name was. Spacek? Spassky? I’m sure she had a first name too, but if she ever said it I wasn’t paying attention. What I do know was that in some small way, I was instrumental in her personal growth.

She lived in Oxnard Shores. I no longer did, but I spent some weekends there visiting my father who had moved back after some time away. I still had friends who lived there. I was  about 14 at least a year or two older than any of them as I was both immature and small for my age, stunted in mind and body.

One of these friends was a boy I’ll call Jake. He was about 12 or 13 at the time. He came up with Mrs. Spastic’s nickname and was the one who introduced me to her as well.

“She’s a crazy lady. This’ll be fun,” he said.

Mrs. Spastic lived in a typical house in Oxnard Shores, a single-story tract home with a cinder-block wall to shield a concrete yard from the ocean wind. Shag carpet was commonplace (it was the 1970s), screen doors ubiquitous.

We walked up to her front door and rang the bell. Jake told me we could just walk right in if we wanted. She never locked the door. She never locked anything.

The door opened and there stood a woman in her 40s as best I could tell. She was about five-two, no matter which way you held the tape measure. I was no taller than her then, but I was considerably narrower. Her hair had a bowl cut that I would one day associate with child molesters. Her most prominent feature though was her smile. It was too wide for a normal set of human teeth so hers spread out leaving gaps you could floss with a shoelace.

Upon greeting me, she grasped my hand in both of hers and held it against her belly, which had surprisingly little give for a woman of her corpulence. When I tried to pull my hand away, she tightened her grip.

“Jake tells me you’re an actor,” she said. Surprisingly enough, this was a little bit true at the time. I had started auditioning for school plays in the eighth grade, something that would continue all the way through high school. I wasn’t that good so I mostly got cast in small to medium parts in dramas and bit parts and extras in musicals. In the musicals, I was told not to sing because they said I couldn’t carry a tune. I sometimes sang anyway just to prove them wrong. I never did.

“Theater’s pretty cool,” I said.

“Do you like Oscar Wilde? Because I think you would be perfect in The Importance of Being Earnest playing …” she said, citing some character in the play whose name I didn’t recognize. I was trying to figure out if the Ernest in the title referred to Hemingway or Borgnine, but I wasn’t about to tell her that. Like most 14 year olds, I was loathe to admit I didn’t know everything.

“You think so?” I said.

All the while, Jake is standing behind Mrs. Spastic making faces and clicking his retainer every time she said something. I found I could keep myself from busting out laughing if I let myself smile. I ended up smiling a lot. She probably thought I was the most charming boy ever.

“Hold on. I’m going to get my copy of the play. I think it’s in the bedroom,” and off she went to go find it.

As soon as she was out of sight, Jake went into the kitchen, picked up a plastic bottle of dish soap, and squirted its contents all over the curtains covering the window above the sink. Not to be outdone, I opened the refrigerator and fired a snot rocket into a carton of milk.

Mrs. Spastic emerged from the bedroom empty-handed, blathering on about how she couldn’t find the play anywhere. That suited us fine. We already had our fun for the day.

Jake and I visited Mrs. Spastic a number of times after that. On each occasion, we committed some mischief. A salt shaker had its top loosened so it would spill all over her dinner. A toothbrush was peed on. Her garbage disposal was stuffed with Brillo Pads so it would grind to a halt the next time she used it. We never stole anything though. Both of us considered thievery to be low-life behavior and we knew we were better than that.

For a while, we got away with everything. She was nothing if not trusting, so trusting in fact that she used to leave her keys ignition if her car. This proved to cause my fall from grace in her eyes. One day, I thought it would be funny to start the car and rev the engine as high as it would go.

This caused Mrs. Spastic to storm out the front door all apoplectic and screaming at me to stop that this incident while I ran away laughing. She also threatened to tell my parents, or maybe the cops. In either case, I wasn’t too worried. The reason crazy people make the best victims is that nobody believes them.

After that, she had little interest in my acting career, which was fine. I was spending less time in Oxnard Shores anyway and Jake had moved away. Before Jake left, he must’ve introduced her to some other kids in the neighborhood because word had gotten around that she and her home were fair game for anything you wanted to do.

One weekend I was visiting, a bunch of us were sitting around feeling bored so we decided to all go see Mrs. Spastic together. We marched up to her front door and rang the bell.

“Hold on boys. I got something for you,” she said and shut the door. All of us liked gifts so we waited patiently for her return.

When the door opened again, her smiling gap teeth were now gnashing in fury. Not only that, she had a weapon. I didn’t get too good a look at it, but it appeared to be something akin to a high-powered slingshot with a pistol grip and she was shooting what I think we’re ball bearings at us. We scattered and fled. She could have easily put one of our eyes out, but I doubt she cared. She was clearly sick of our shit.

I never saw Mrs. Spastic after that. I doubt any of the others did either. I like to think she went on to spend her days enjoying her well-earned peace and quiet, free from unexplained mishaps around the house, and relaxed enough to read her beloved Oscar Wilde.

Heat

There’s a reason I don’t live in the Southwest, or the South for that matter. It’s their summers. One’s a dry heat and therefore less oppressive, though I’m not a fan of either of them. One kind of sweltering heat makes you fuck a cactus, the other your cousin. Both could be fun to watch, but I wouldn’t want to live that way.

I live in San Francisco where summer days usually aren’t bad. There are exceptions though. This past Saturday was one of them. It was not as hot as either the South or Southwest and did not drive me to sexually assault a cousin-cactus hybrid, which I figure is at highest risk for rape in extreme heat and moderate humidity.

Instead, I lay on the couch and wheezed F bombs at no one in particular as the afternoon wore on. Rebecca eventually got motivated and dragged her ass to the gym, but I did not budge. When she came back after an hour or two, I was feeling the effects of caffeine withdrawal. It was then I  decided to finally get out of the house.

“Going to Trash Muddy’s!” I said to her as I headed out the door. I was referring to Muddy Waters, a cafe owned by the same people as Muddy’s and located eight blocks away on 16th Street. It’s a little crustier down that way, hence the nickname I gave it.

I stuck to the west side of Valencia Street, shaded from the late afternoon sun, as I walked toward the cafe. I was unfortunately not shielded from the late afternoon crowd. The douchebags in v-neck t-shirts and Shia LaBeouf hair were the most aesthetically offensive, but to be honest I wasn’t thrilled about any of them. They walked slower than I did and impeded my progress. Never mind that I was in no hurry to get where I was going. If I was going to dawdle, I wanted it to be on my terms.

I got to Trash Muddy’s, ordered a large coffee, and sat in the back room. I was at the same table as last week, the one with “DIE TECHIE SCUM” etched into the wood. Did the person who wrote that mean me? Maybe a little. I do write code for a living, but I’m not some 24 year old who’s lived a life of privilege. I’m a 54 year old who’s lived a life of privilege. There’s a world of difference.

It was hot in there and the air was heavy and still. Ordinarily, I would hate that. I kind of liked it though, either despite or because of my drinking hot coffee.  I was able to relax enough to enjoy being the only back there. I also liked that other than my phone, I couldn’t see any technology more recent than 1990. It almost made me put my phone away and enjoy the old-timey goodness.

Almost.

Pausing Briefly To Look Around

I’m in a different building this week. From the window where the training course is being held, I can see a couple of other buildings of the company campus. The one where I usually work is on the other side of things. I figure it’s probably a few blocks away.

I’m a city boy so I think of distances in blocks, where getting from points A to B can be plotted on a concrete-and-asphalt grid that reeks of piss and vomit. Where I work is not like that. There, getting around involves a straight shot across expansive parking lots between uniform beige buildings placed at odd angles to one another.

The building I’m in for training is just far enough away for me to choose a different route for my lunchtime stroll. So, instead of walking by the water tower and the abandoned special-needs gulag surrounding it, I wandered along the base of an embankment with a creek on the other side to the corner of the company campus. There I sit in a shady spot behind a bunch of dumpsters and shipping containers, which I imagine will be some kind of makeshift post-apocalyptic village after society takes a one-way trip down the crapper in the near future.

My routine and surroundings are quite similar to any other week, but just different enough to make me feel like I’m wandering around a place that isn’t quite my world. Fortunately, I feel like that most of the time already so the experience is not all that disconcerting.

I’ve felt similar about this blog lately. Believe it or not, I had a mission of sorts when I started blogging more back in late January. Trump had just been inaugurated and I predicted that politics, particularly that of the “Trump sucks” variety, was going to dominate verbal outpouring on the interwebs. I wanted no part of that.

It’s not that I’m an apolitical or that my political leanings have been kept entirely out of my blog posts. It just wanted what I wrote to be my voice and my perspective instead of echoing what everyone else was saying.

I’ve spent enough time on social media (primarily Facebook) to be sick to my guts of the neverending onslaught of groupthink. One could blame millennials and their affinity for the hive mind, but my memory is too good for that. People have never needed much prompting to jump on the bandwagon. Modern technology just gives them the opportunity to be more vocal about it.

Fuck that, thought I, I’m going to say what I want. I’m not going to worry if anyone sees things my way. And to show real bravery, I’m not going to back down even if no one cares one way or another what I say.

So month after month, that’s what I did. I indulged in high-minded experiments that yielded mixed results at best. I was open-ish about my mental-health issues and past substance abuse. And of course, I fell back on vulgar humor when I didn’t have anything else to say.

I was all me, all the time and while my efforts didn’t get me much in the way of accolades or increased readership, the volume of work has been high and the quality at least adequate. Where I think I’ve failed so far is that I haven’t produced that breakout piece of writing that raises my work to a new level.

Still, I keep at it simply because writing is preferable to not writing. It’s all a little strange, a little absurd, and what was once purpose has turned into force of habit. Maybe I’ll achieve brilliance someday, but it’s nice to know I don’t have to.

A Flickering Bulb

Starting Monday, I’m going to sit in a five-day training class at work. The class will be held onsite, but in a different building than where I usually work. While there, I’ll learn how to administer a large, complicated software package. More to the point, I’ll learn how the administration works so I can do productive, nerdy things with the API.

Fortunately, I’ve been playing around with it so I won’t be walking in completely cold. I’m just a simple boy so I need context for concepts to sink in. The goal is to have a bunch of stuff I’m either confused about or oblivious of to make perfect sense by the end of the week.

That’s certainly doable, but it will be exhausting. You see, I have this problem paying attention for an extended period. In a training class, that is exactly what I need to do. I cannot always be asking the instructor or the person next to repeat what said while I was off in Daveland.

On normal workdays, this isn’t a problem. Within reason, I get to fade in and out all I want. Writing code for a living affords me this luxury. This doesn’t mean I can space out and daydream all day, far from it. I always something on my plate and there is an expectation for me to get it done in a timely manner. This requires focus. It just doesn’t require it 100 percent of the time.

The mental wanderings don’t usually last long. I often listen to music at work when I’m doing something I know how to do. When I’m trying to figure out how to do something, I have to turn the music off so I can concentrate. When the music is playing, it actually helps my overall focus because it helps to drown out the attention whores that live inside my head. When my mind wanders from the code on the screen to the song pumping through my ear buds, it stays just long enough to appreciate D Boon’s guitar, Dennis Thompson’s drums, or Patti Smith’s voice.

Alas, I know of no instances of all three in the same song.

Other than music, my brain’s diversion destination is often a memory that has crawled out of hibernation for reasons that are not always apparent. Other times, the brain veers off toward a story idea or joke I just thought up. In these instances, I will often jot them down so I can give them a full vetting later on.

All in all, these flights of fancy are good for my mental health and that holds true in both directions. I know what it’s like to do nothing but let my brain run wild and the experience can be very unpleasant. The memories that appear can be of things I deeply regret. The stories I think up are sometimes worst-case scenarios just plausible enough to keep me from rejecting them out of hand.

Even music can my get emotional panties in a bunch on occasion. I listen to a lot of punk rock and other dysfunctional stuff, but I usually find it soothing. It’s crazy and enraged so I don’t have to be. The problem creeps in when my own crazy is too intense to delegate. Some years ago, I was at work dealing with a pretty bad case of depression when I listened to the Germs’ “We Must Bleed.” That sent my brain down an ideation rabbit hole that made me hurt pretty bad (“I want out now” repeated over and over was a particular motherfucker). Having work to do actually helped a lot. It gave me something to think about other than my own bullshit.

Fortunately, things have been comparatively calm. Listening to the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” makes me think how lovely it would be to have it playing as my casket enters the furnace during my cremation ceremony. To be honest, any song off that album would work. The thought of it is undeniably morbid, but it is also distant. Dead Dave is a mere abstraction. Living Dave is a busy little bee, living in a here and now that’s really not so bad.

It’s a good argument for keeping an adequate level of focus. Besides, that is what they pay me to do.

The Plug

My first experience with pay cable TV came when I moved to Santa Barbara with my mom and my brother in 1975. I think the name of the company was Channel 100, but I’m not certain about that. The name changed a few times between then and when I left for college in 1980. I don’t know how many times it was different companies or the same one trying new names on for size. I didn’t much care about that. The important thing was that it was commercial free and I got to hear all the dirty words.

At first, it seemed like the company would pick one movie and play it over and over for days on end. I don’t know how many times I saw American Graffiti that first summer in Santa Barbara before the school year began and I started making friends.

Thanks to pay cable, my exposure to R-rated movies first happened in my early teens. As far as I was concerned, an R-rated film was just a PG one with tits. I knew there was more to it than that. Profanity or violence above a certain level could affect the rating as well. However, those factors were matters of degree and difficult for my brain to parse. I sort of knew why Blazing Saddles garnered an R rating while Young Frankenstein did not, but could not explain it convincingly using data points. To be honest, I probably still can’t because the MPAA is so arbitrary. Nudity, on the other hand, was pretty much guaranteed to flip that switch.

I have no idea how any of that works now.

My parents, though not very permissive, did not have a problem with my watching R-rated movies at home. For one thing, I was a teenager already, albeit an immature one. Dad was no longer living with us so there was not a whole lot he could do even if he did object. My mother echoed the “it’s the violence, not the sex, that’s the problem” refrain of the 1970s progressive censor and knew that limiting me to PG films was not going to shield me from onscreen bloodshed.

There was such a thing as parental controls back then, but it was pretty low-tech compared to what we have today. It came in the form of a plug in the back of the cable box. It was a round piece of plastic with a number of metal prongs. If you pull the plug out, cable programming would not work. It didn’t matter what channel you were tuned to or if you were watching I Spit on Your Grave or Bambi. No plug meant you got a screen full of static.

Mom never exercised the plug-pulling option, but she joked about it quite often. “Pull the plug!” she would shout whenever there was something the slightest bit risque on television. The joke never got old for her.

Joke or not, my brother set about robbing the plug of its power to censor. It was probably more a love of tinkering than a need to rebel that inspired him. What he did was to stick the two ends of a section of wire in different holes of the plug’s socket until he found a combination that restored the picture. It was a simple yet clever workaround and he bragged about it immediately upon achieving success.

Mom didn’t appreciate his ingenuity. Instead, she got very upset and said he could have destroyed the cable box, electrocuted himself, burned the house down, and other worst-case scenarios popular among those who don’t know what they’re talking about. I think what really pissed her off was that my brother eliminated a part of her authority, even if she never intended to use it. Mom was pretty crazy back then (says the pot of the kettle).

I’m not as clever as my brother so the wire trick never occurred to me. I was just glad to be able to watch whatever I wanted.

You may be wondering if this unsupervised television viewing is responsible for the dysfunctional mess who stands before you today. The answer is not really, no. I was already pretty bent at that point so a lot of the sex and violence I watched was pretty underwhelming, enough so that sometimes I just wanted the people onscreen to die.

That’s where the plug came in.

I had once pulled the plug just to make sure it did what it was supposed to. It did, but it was the way it worked that got my attention. For the first several seconds, nothing happened. Then the picture switched from color to black and white. After that, static would creep into the audio and video. Finally, there would be nothing but snow.

Sometimes I would watch the whole process play out. Other times, I would wait until the very last minute then put the plug back in and save the TV people and their world from annihilation. I even enjoyed it more than my other hobby of reading the obituaries and crossing the people’s names out in the phone book. There I was just Death’s file clerk. Here I was Death himself.

I eventually grew bored with both the cable-box plug and the obituary game. In the long run, it was for the best.

“But when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Ricardo Montalban said that while praising Corinthian leather.

Toothy Grim Revisited

I had a brief flirtation with proper dental care about 10 years ago. I blogged about the experience a few times from June to October, 2007 if you care to go have a look. It’s understandable if you don’t. Blogs are usually regarded as things of the moment. Archives are just there for completists and stalkers.

So to recap, a piece of a molar broke off when I bit into a burrito, exposing nerve endings poking out of a Vegemite-hued crust of tooth decay. I hadn’t been to a dentist since 2000, but this broken tooth forced me to go back.

He was the same dentist I had gone to in 2000. He reminded me somewhat of Whit Bissell, albeit less likely to want to turn Michael Landon into a teenage werewolf. He did quality work and was not stingy with nitrous. With the help of this dentist, I was going to experience a toothy renaissance. Root canals were performed. Crowns were molded and set in place. Tartar was blasted away using a state-of-the-art torture device. A $650 mouth guard was made to protect my teeth from nocturnal grinding. A home whitening kit was purchased. Thousands of dollars were spent.

After a while, I decided the hell with it. I disliked wearing the mouth guard and got sick of the dentist pressuring me into buying more and more shit. I should have just switched dentists. Instead, I swore them off completely. No point in putting much effort into taking care of my teeth, I thought. Even If I did nothing other than brush, they would probably outlast my liver.

Armed with an immense capacity for denial, I set about neglecting my teeth. Years went by and other than receding gums and a couple of cavities big enough for me to feel them with my tongue, everything was going swimmingly. Then in January of 2016, I lost a filling while eating a sandwich in the cafeteria at work. It was about the size of a pea, which is pretty big for a filling. Fuck it, I reasoned. I’ll just chew with the other side of my mouth.

Overall, this worked out well with some downside. Food would get stuck in the hole in my tooth on a regular basis and I’d have to dig it out with a coffee stirrer, much to the chagrin of anyone having to witness the spectacle. I was also getting a cavity under a crown at the gum line in a molar on the other side of my mouth. The presence of these nooks for food to biodegrade in gave me what Rebecca charitably referred to as “fun breath.” No big deal, I figured. I’m old. My breath is supposed to smell like a baboon fart and if I brushed my teeth before kissing Rebecca, it showed her how considerate I am. Months passed and the cavities continued to grow.

This past Sunday, I bit into a pot sticker and there was not enough tooth left to keep the crown in place. I heard a disconcerting crunching sound and I knew that molar was fucked. I reached into my mouth and wiggled the crown. It was barely attached. I wiggled it again. It broke off entirely.

Rebecca remarked on how bad the thing smelled when I waved it in front of me. I took her word for it. Due to a combination of genetics and poor life choices, what I can smell is pretty much limited to whiskey and homeless-people shit. Rebecca poured rubbing alcohol in an empty plastic medicinal-weed container and I dropped the crown into it. The liquid turned cloudy with the remnants of tooth and meals from long ago.

Tuesday was my first day back at work after the holiday and also the first day when I could make a dental appointment. The broken tooth didn’t hurt at all and I probably would have done nothing about it if I hadn’t already promised to have it looked at. Looking through my insurance company’s website, I came across a dentist I went to in the early 90s. I remembered him doing a good job and he never tried to sell me a bunch of extra crap.

I ended up choosing him and I’m glad I did. The two teeth in question need to get pulled, but that was to be expected. I have no desire for a perfect smile, just a functional mouth to chew my food and better breath when I kiss Rebecca.

I may even start  flossing regularly, but I doubt it.

Dead Cop Highway

There is a stretch of the 101 not far from SFO called the “Officer Dave Chetcuti Memorial Highway.” You have probably already guessed that Chetcuti was killed in the line of duty. Patrol cops, even very good ones (and I have no reason to believe he wasn’t), don’t get sections of public road named after them unless they die on the job.

So it was the case for Officer Chetcuti, who had been a veteran of the Millbrae PD for over a decade. On April 25, 1998, a San Bruno police officer pulled over a motorist on southbound 101 near Millbrae. When the driver produced a high-powered rifle in lieu of license, registration, and proof of insurance, the cop called for assistance. Chetcuti answered the call and raced to the scene on his motorcycle. He was killed in the ensuing gun battle.

I heard all about it on KTVU’s award-winning 10 O’clock News. My friend, whom I’ll call Chappy, was over for dinner that evening. Or maybe I was over at his house. I don’t recall. What I do remember was the somber tone of the reporter and the image of a candlelit shrine on a street corner to honor the fallen officer.

I suggested to Chappy that we go buy one of those pig heads they have for sale at the Lucky Pork store and pay a little visit to that shrine around three in the morning. Chappy would be driving as he was the one with the car. I would be the one hanging out the passenger-side window holding the pig head, ready to hurl it sidearm at the shrine as we drove by. I kept laughing as I described the squeal of tires and how we disappeared into the night, leaving a bunch of pissed-off cops who would gladly kill us given the chance.

The plan was never carried out. It was never my intention for it to be. Just thinking it aloud was enough to satisfy my ugly, mean-spirited side. I wasn’t a complete bastard and while Chappy appreciated my irreverent take on the tragedy, it was pretty obvious the grieving widow would not.

She is dead now too. Cancer got her. You can think of the two of them united in heaven if that’s what floats your boat.

I think Dave Chetcuti is worth mentioning on Memorial Day. Though he did not get killed in a war, his life was sacrificed while protecting civilian  folks like you and me. I am not always a fan of how cops do their job, but the job itself is a necessary one.

That’s the problem I have with Memorial Day. We are supposed to honor those killed in war and that’s fine. The sticking point is that we are also supposed to owe our freedom and survival as Americans to what they died for.

I’m not a pacifist. I dislike war, but I also believe that it is sometimes unavoidable. However, there is a big difference between recognizing a necessary evil and thinking all wars are equally necessary. I’m grateful Hitler’s brand of bullshit never made it to American soil. At the same time, I don’t think I would be any less free if we had never invaded Grenada.

And yet, those who died in either of these conflicts are equally dead. The sacrifice is the same. It’s important, but it does not and should not serve to legitimize whatever ear the person happened to die in. By the same token, fallen soldiers don’t deserve any less honor because the war was not a just one. They are not the ones who decide which wars to fight in. Those decisions are made by people who run little risk of ending up among the war dead.

But why listen to me? I’m just some asshole who thought the idea of hurling a pig’s head at dead cop’s shrine was hilarious.

 

Cokenail and I

I’m letting the nail on my left pinky grow out. Other people have their pet projects and I have mine. My goal is to have the nail long enough to render the pinky useless for every purpose except for one.

Imagine me still a smoker with a cigarette dangling from my lip. Three days of whiskers sprout from my gaunt face and sunglasses with purple lenses worn indoors at night hide eyes that show I have not slept since the last time I shaved. My pinky, bent and ready for action, digs its nail into an absurdly large pile of cocaine on the glass coffee table. The others in the room are on full alert as I bring the sample of white powder up to my eager nostril and sniff. Satisfied with the quality, my smile widens to expose a row of gold teeth and I say “Cool beans, brother” or whatever it is people say during drug deals where things are copasetic but could turn violent at any moment.

Truth to tell, I have never been in the presence of coke in that quantity. It’s been about 10 years since I’ve seen it in small amounts either. I’ve probably been in the vicinity of the stuff because I’ve since gone to the bar where I used to score the shit. Dealers back then came and went, but the location remained the same. If you wanted to know who was selling, all you had to do was keep your eyes open for people lining up at the ATM when someone walked through the door. Maybe it’s the same thing today or maybe it’s changed and it’s all dark web and bitcoin now.

I don’t intend to find out. I’ve been down that road already and don’t wish to return, but don’t expect any cautionary tales from me on the subject. When you’ve been as lucky as I have, they just come out sounding like bragging anyway. If you’re going to attend that party, you’ll  have your reasons just as I had mine. Enjoy responsibly. Have fun.

So why even grow a cokenail if I’m never going to use it? To answer that question, I’d like to bring up a friend of mine who is now deceased so I can make fun of him as much as I want. Each of us used to own a  Ford Escort. However, his was an Escort GT so it had a little spoiler on the back. This accessory was far too small to serve any practical function, but my friend liked both it and the vehicle it was attached to. The car eventually proved to be an inadequate cock extender and he traded it in for a Mustang, but for a while it did serve its purpose in an understated way.

My cokenail is a lot like that Escort’s spoiler, both in its understated jaunty appeal and that it’s undersized. I’ve been growing the thing for a couple of weeks and it is not terribly impressive. To be honest, I wouldn’t expect it to impress anyone even if it were as long as an eagle’s talon. Cokenails are usually attached to fingers belonging to monumental douchebags and that’s where much of the appeal lies for me. You can’t get this level of douchiness from driving an Escort GT. You have to drive something like a Hummer and maybe only then if you bought it with cocaine money.

Alas, I don’t think the nail will grow much longer. Rebecca hates the thing and wants it clipped immediately, but she’s not the biggest threat to its continued existence. I am.

I tried the cokenail thing before about five years ago and I catch myself doing now what I did then. There is some flexibility to the nail and I’m frequently, and often unconsciously, bending it with my thumb. It’s only a matter of time before it splits. I suppose I could strengthen it with nail polish, but that seems like cheating somehow.

Nothing lasts forever and when this cokenail has been tossed into the landfill of human endeavor, I’ll find some other quirky pursuit to distract me. Maybe I’ll collect “Night Ranger” t-shirts or eat nothing but canned fish. Life is full of options and sometimes you have to carpe that diem and show it you have nothing better to do.