Tooth Or Dare

Let me make one thing clear. I would rather do almost anything than go to the dentist. Not necessarily because I’m phobic to the pain they give or the instruments of torture they use, but because since the repairs I had to endure after my motorcycle accident coming up on 12 years ago my chompers have been one accident waiting to happen after another. With my teeth’s bonds and veneers and crowns and bridges and other hardware, it’s always just a matter of time until something fails, architecturally, structurally, philosophically, whatever. And that means mo’ money to the tooth doc. Lots mo’ money.

The last failure was November 2004. As a guest of the Nature Conservancy, I was on the Channel Island of Santa Cruz for a couple days volunteering to help build breeding pens for the critically endangered island fox population there. We hadn’t arrived at the beautiful historic off-limits-to-the-public ranch in the magnificent and pristine interior of the island more than an hour earlier when I opted to snack on some pretty tough jerky and off came a crown. To make matters worse I didn’t know it had disengaged and I went and swallowed the thing. Now I’m not some weeny tot. There are people I know who would’ve demanded passage back to civilization right there and then, but I’m not one of them Instead, I just played it cool and did my job and my best to chew on and talk out of the side of my mouth opposite to the now gaping chasm that existed on the other. That, and I took a lot of ibuprofen because it hurt. But it’s more than the physical pain. Each incident is just another reminder that I’m a cut-rate humpty dumpty, put back together not with all the king’s resources, but with the wheatpaste and chicken wire the insurance companies would cover. Hey, I’m not knocking the end result — it could be a loooooot worse. But the when-not-if guaranteed obsolescence factor is a tad frustrating.

Anyway, when I got back from the island I made an appointment with my dentist who I’ve been going to since 2000 and a few hundred dollars later I was all patched up and wondering how long it would be until the next visit. Well that was today, to replace a fallen bonding.

This bond was special. We go waaaaay back, it and me. There’s older infrastructure in my mouth, but no one gave this a chance to live so long. I was at work when the previous one came off in 2003. April. I had tickets to the Dodgers that evening and I had a date with an ebullient and adorable and righteously religious young lady who had no romantic interest in me whatsoever. I knew this, I just liked hanging out with her and she me. But I certainly didn’t want to hang out with her wearing a real-life version of Billy-Bob teeth so I called my regular dentist who was out of town. I begged for a referral, which I called and that dentist couldn’t fit me in either. I begged another referral from that dentist’s receptionist and the third time was the charm; I was able to get some chair time. Once there after having to wait and wait and wait I told him the situation and asked if he could just slap something — anything! — on the broken tooth to make it look a bit less hideous in time for the game. He did as I asked but after he finished he said I’d be lucky if that quicky job would stay on a week.

It lasted more than three years until it finally gave up last Thursday night while I was using the waterpik. Fortunately I didn’t swallow this one, and even more fortunately it was pretty much intact and I had a package of over-the-counter dental adhesive just for such a situation. Too bad the stuff works better in theory than in practice. The bonding came off again Friday night during the Ride-Arc bike ride when we stopped for grub at a taco truck. I pocketed it, finished my tacos and finished the ride well after midnight. On the way home I visited the Sav-On on Beaudy and Sunset (closed) the Walgreens in Echo Park (closed) and even the Vons south of Los Feliz Village (open!) in search of another package of dental glue. Vons didn’t have it. Saturday afternoon Susan and I stopped at Walgreen’s again and they had one remaining package (at least I’m not alone!) of a different version of the stuff. That crap worked even worse than the first. It would hold the tooth on for varying amounts of time, from a few minutes to a few hours, but ultimately I’d feel that telltale slip.

The earliest the dentist could see me was Wednesday, meaning I had five days of glue-and-slip, glue-and-slip. But I was cool. I wasn’t slated to give any speeches or make any new acquaintances or see any old ones… at least not until Tuesday night with my friend Cybele at the Golden Gopher Bar downtown for a blogger ge-together. So I bided my time until Tuesday and right before Cybele picked me up last night I dutifully glued the bond back on, said a little prayer that it would hold and off we went.

It slipped loose not even a mile away from the house. Dammit! But again, instead of being some wuss and asking Cybele to turn around and drop me back at the ranch, I just apologized to her for all the fingers I was sticking in my mouth, told her why and on we went. Midway through the evening I was having a chat with Jay from when the little bond finally had enough. This time in mid-sentence it didn’t just slip, instead it timed its exit perfectly and shot out of my mouth into the dark void of the Gopher’s floor. Jay was either very polite or perhaps didn’t see the tiny white projectile fly from my face and you know what? I barely broke stride in what I was telling him. And when I was finished I didn’t even bother looking for it. Fuck it. Instead I just talked to the other bloggers the rest of the time we were there, Billy-Bob tooth and all.

Besides my dentist appointment to have the damage repaired was only a few hours away the next day.

When I arrived to his Encino office this morning I was met by a new and overly-friendly office manager. Make no mistake, office managers for dental firms are hardcore, by-or-die salespeople. If this office was Glengarry Glen Ross then this office manager would be the friggin’ Alec Baldwin “second prize is a set of steak knives” character. She starts off all gushy and sympatico and then hits me with how I haven’t been in for a cleaning in two years and why don’t we go ahead and set up an appointment with the hygienest before you see the doctor.

I pass on that offer.

After I’m strapped into the chair the dentist comes in and of course orders an X-ray. Low and behold he shows me a dark gray area at the base of a tooth a couple away from the broken one. “Looks like an abcess,” he says. I remind him it’s the same abcess he points out to me every single time I come in and that I’m not here to deal with the abcess I’m here to deal with getting a new bond which an X-ray wasn’t needed for.

So he “tssks” and he “hmmms” and he sighs and says “oh boy” as in “oh boy does your mouth ever suck” and I just want to scream and tell him to fixie my owwie as cheaply as possible. But instead I keep a lid on it, and he says…

“We should talk about implants.”

“I like my breasts the way they are, doc. So does my wife.”

He laughs at this. But he’s serious referring to the canyon where the two lower molars I’ve been missing for eight and three years respectively used to be. Both were damaged by the crash and never repaired after the insurance ran out. Eventually they became too far gone and the first one I had yanked in 1998. The second one in 2003. Good times.

In the years since I’ve left the void a void because implants run a serious eight grand. I have neither the motivation or that amount of money to change that course, but I figure what the hell and ask if there’s any option that could fill it that would be cheaper and allow me to laugh out loud without throwing a covering hand up over my piehole for the first time since last century. The fact is, I’m not sure how good I’ve been at hiding my shortage of teeth to the world. I’d like to think either I have been successful or I’m just around people who are awesome polite or don’t give a shit if I’m a couple tusks short of a full load. Either way it’s a win-win, but still I wouldn’t mind shoring things up, even if it’s only a band-aid solution.

The dentist pooh-poohs it for being just that: a temporary fix , but I remind him that where my pearly off-whites are concerned temporary fixes are a semi-permanent course of action and I press him. He gives in and reluctantly lays out the details. I say I might be interested if it doesn’t cost too much. Then he calls the office manager in and asks her to work up an estimate for the work to my front tooth and the denture. A few minutes later she comes in and tells me $1,500. $850 for the bonding and $650 for the partial.

The latter doesn’t surprise me, but the bonding seems way high. The crown I had replaced back in 2004 barely cost half that!

She adjourns for a confab with the boss and a few minutes later comes in and says if I agree to both procedures he’ll knock off two-hundies as a courtesy. But if I just do the bond, that stays at $850.


Second prize is a set of steak knives.

Still I had to admire what a closer this gal is! So I “tsk” and I “hmmm” and I say “oh boy” as in “oh boy, you’re running some kinda racquet here ain’tcha?” and she just sits there holding out a pen and the estimate for me to sign probably wondering if she remembered to reschedule her manicure appointment until I finally and defeatedly say “fine” and sign.

An hour later my front tooth is all rebonded and the impressions have been made for my falsies, which I’ll come back a week from now to have installled and the office manager will hit me hard again with how important it is for me to schedule a cleaning with the hygienist and the denist will have yet another look at my X-rays on the computer and “tssk” and “hmm” and “oh boy.”

And then we’ll do it all again when the next time comes. And there will be a next time.

The Gall Of Ted Rall


To The Editors of L.A. Citybeat,

You either can feel sorry for me for not getting the joke or pity me for being a humorless shmuck who is compelled to waste everyone’s time writing with the facts when I find an animal being misrepresented — even facetiously. But after reading your most recent “Left Coast” cartoon I am helpless to stop myself from letting you and Ted Rall know that the California condors he mentions in the third panel of the strip are scavengers, not predators. They don’t swoop down on anything living, thus there is nothing to fear from them — never mind that are only a couple hundred left in the world and most of them are in captivity.

Will Campbell
Los Angeles

Veni Vedi Vented

OK, so I’d be lying if I said there was a finite list of things that piss me off. I can get riled up by a seemingly endless array of situations, responses, behaviors, plot points, reactions, et cetera. But in this day and age of the internuts, the one thing that really chaps my e-hide is a failure to communicate — or more to the point: reciprocate.

Without going into detail, a group e-shout was grapevined to a bunch of writers late yesterday afternoon, with me being one of them. It seems a webzine editor up north was desperate for a writer to attend a screening down here in LA of a soon-to-be-released major/minor motion picture and then quickly turn around a review of the flick over the weekend. The amount of money offered for the gig wasn’t stated, but instead hinted at being an embarrassingly low figure.

So with my ready availability and capability I shot a response back directly to said webzine editor yesterday afternoon saying roughly “Hi, I was notified by Person B who heard it from your friend Person A that you need a reviewer in the house — and fast. I used to do this shit with theater all the time so I’m here if you need me. Love, Will.”

Some time passed and I checked in to see if there was a response. Nothing.

Since there was about an hour between when the open call was sent and when I next checked my inbox, chances are good that another writer beat me to the pitch and the editor got the assignment filled and, if so, good for them. But assuming the whole freakin’ world didn’t hit this guy wit a collective “Pick Me! Pick Me!” is it tooo much gaddam shitsucking trouble to click that email button labeled REFUCKINGPLY and say “Thanks but no thanks,” or “Gee, you’re slow,” or “Sod off,” or “Who the hell are you and how did you get this email address” or “Maybe next time?”

Obviously not. And since this guy considers two-way communication to be sooooo 1990s I’m left checking my inbox almost incessantly from the time up until I went to bed to every few minutes throughout this morning.

Now before anyone goes telling me to temper my temper and adopt less of a WTF stance because people are busy and I’m not the center of the universe and all that crap, please don’t. Because this isn’t the first time. In fact this marks the third pitch and the third time the people I communicated with have vanished like integrity at the White House.

Poof! As if they exist only in my mind. So seeing as I’m working a 3-for-3 perfect record of failure here I’ve already come up with a form pitch letter I’m going to send out for the next freelance gig that might tease its way into my mailbox:


It’s my understanding you’re in need of services that are my specialty. Allow me to cut to the chase: I am The Shit. You’d be lucky to exploit my boundless creativity and commitment at the pitiful wage and level of inconvenience you’re offering. If you think there’s even the remotest chance you can convince me to waste my time and energy for you then there’d better be an ass-kissing reply in my inbox within 15 minutes of this email’s timestamp. Clock’s ticking.


Third Time’s The Harm

Dear Vons:

Two weeks ago while checking out, I was given what amounts to an IOU from the cashier for two admissions to the new Ice Age movie. I was given the IOU instead of the actual tickets because the store had not yet received its allotment at that time. I was told to bring the IOU with me on my next visit to the store and I would be given the tickets then.

Last Friday I did this and the cashier told me the tickets still had not arrived and asked the manager when they were expected. He shrugged and suggested I try again next visit, which was today. Again I presented the IOU and again I was told the tickets were not available and to try again another time.

I told the cashier that I have a better idea… that Vons could go ahead and keep their phantom tickets, and that whatever the foul-up was I hated the feeling of having to repeatedly beg for something I didn’t want in the first place. Then I kindly demanded she dispose of the IOU and I left. I am a longtime Vons customer and as such you might want to pass this along to whoever’s in charge of promotions because trust me, the next time I encounter any sort of give-away at Vons where the only thing I’m given is the run-around, that will be the last time I shop at your stores.

Hate The Player And The Game

On the heels of my serenity-now post I can’t help but vent at the news that’s out about Gov. Schwarzenegger. Seems that after taking 15 stitches to the lip following an accident in which the motorcycle he was driving collided with a car backing out of a driveway, it’s been revealed that Ahnold doesn’t hold a Class M licenserequired — by the state he purports to lead — of anyone who owns and operates a motorcycle.

The only thing Arnie leads is by lousy example.

And further it was reported that upon discovery by CHP officers at the scene of the accident that he was in violation, did they cite him as they undoubtedly would any other improperly licensed citizen? Hell no! Their reasoning? Well, they arrived after the accident and didn’t witness it.

Riiiiight. Look, I’m glad he wasn’t seriously injured and that his son riding in the bike’s sidecar avoided getting hurt. This isn’t about questioning Arn’s ability on a Harley, it’s about obeying the fucking law — whether you’re the leader of a motorcycle club or the leader of Kalifornia.

So the next story I want to read is about Schwarzenegger getting the ticket he’s due with a follow-up on him doing what all legally minded motorcycle drivers past and present have been obligated to do: take and pass the proper written and driving tests.

I know: Dream on. The bullshit privilege afforded him by his office and his celebrity will make the ticket never happen and an “M” on his license magically appear.


From the L.A. Times piece in today’s paper, which quotes an Arnold staffer as saying she doesn’t think he’ll be riding anymore until he’s properly licensed, there’s also this:

But officials at the state Department of Motor Vehicles and other experts said a citation was unlikely because of a loophole in the law. The motor vehicle code states that an M1 license is required for drivers of all “two wheel” vehicles. Because Schwarzenegger was driving Sunday with a sidecar, his bike had three wheels.

Good grief. Gotta love those loopholes. If I were an unlicensed motorcyclist I’d be out bolting on a trailing third wheel (maybe from a skateboard or a grocery cart) to the rear axle of my ride right now. After all the law doesn’t say where the third wheel has to be, just that it not be a two-wheeler.