The Patron Saint of Butthurt


A friend of mine stopped by the other day with a cigar and some 12 year aged bourbon. We lived together for five years and I’d forgotten how I missed our evening chats. It’s funny how, sometimes, you don’t miss someone until they suddenly stand before you.

It makes me wonder how much I would miss Male if he could suddenly show up at my door with a cigar and bourbon. Then, I think that every neuron, neutron and quark of the meatsack that is me already misses him as much as it possibly can.

Eventually, I won’t even remember what his face looked like without the aid of pictures. The entirety of Male is already fading. I can picture his lips, hands, chest and eyes with utter clarity as if he’s in front of me, but the whole of his meatsack is a little blurrier. I can’t remember his feet or ears.

My friend and I got to discussing another friend of ours whom we’ve both known since she was a teenager, or at the very least, since her early 20s. That is to say, he’s known her since she was a teenager, but I came later. I’ve only been in this group of friends, Male’s group of friends, for about fifteen years since I moved to Los Angeles.

The friend we were discussing used to be cool. She was fearless and fun and didn’t mind fun being poked in her direction. When I met her, she was a virgin. She lost her virginity in film school and she changed. I’m not sure if it was the loss of virginity, the film school or some combination thereof that did it, but she changed.

She became someone who harped on and on about whatever thing she was into without any regard for whether or not her audience cared. She became one of those film school types, a phrase that makes utter sense to anyone who has lived in Los Angeles for more than a minute, but doesn’t mean a lot to the rest of the world.

A film school type is not dissimilar to any other type of person who goes to school–this predominantly applies to post-graduate study, but not exclusively–for one obscure thing they’re really into that the rest of the world doesn’t much care about.

For example, I’ve run into quite a few philosophy major types. They talk a lot about philosophy. I like philosophy as much as the next guy and I’m rather well-steeped in it for an autodidact, but I prefer making my own, not picking a store-bought one from the shelf. I’d rather read an autobiography than a biography.

You’re probably thinking, well, I like films. I even like talking about films. Film talk doesn’t sound as boring as philosophy talk. And, while it’s true that most people prefer moving pictures to philosophy, film school types take it to the extreme. They don’t talk about films like the rest of us, e.g. I like David Fincher movies; they talk about films in technobabble that I can’t even replicate with any degree of accuracy, because it tends to go out the other ear. There is a vast difference between movies and films.

They will point out flaws in your favorite movies so that you also notice those flaws. They will ruin your favorite movie for you. They always have obscure, but awful choices of movies “you need to see.” The movies they like are technically correct, but terrible to watch for anyone who isn’t also a film student. Do not watch a film-student recommended movie unless you are also a film student, in which case, I won’t watch anything you recommend.

My friend with the bourbon and I were discussing our film school friend. He and another friend have given her a new title: The Patron Saint of Butthurt. I laughed, but then I thought about it, and it’s perfect. Film school friend is perpetually butthurt about something or other. A breakup, the destruction of some archival film print, the state of bicycling in LA, the fact that I never call her… there’s always something to be butthurt about in her world.

He said, “We decided that she just isn’t built for LA. She would do much better in some small town somewhere, preferably with lots of film festivals.”

I said, “I’m beginning to think that maybe I’m not built for LA either.” Unintentionally, all the hurt over Male’s death spilled out into my voice.

He ineffectually tried to collect it in his old fashioned glass, “Perhaps that’s true, but I can’t see you in a small town. You need a city.”

“Perhaps a small city. I should light a candle to The Patron Saint of Butthurt for guidance.”

What was unsaid spoke volumes. He and I both know that a change of venue won’t help anything. I’ve tried that twice before. That old adage, “wherever you go, there you are” is entirely too true. No matter where I go, the hurt will follow. The only difference is that there won’t be anyone to try to collect it for me.

Air Conditioner Blues


My air conditioner died. You say, oh, boo hoo, Ms. first world air conditioner. We don’t even have air conditioning! Back in my day, we conditioned air by hand with mules and pulleys!

Yes, but you didn’t foolishly decide to plant your delicate Nordic genes in Los Angeles during a heat wave where it was this hot:

Screen shot 2015-08-31 at 8.51.53 AM

And that was written before my air conditioning died. It has been in the low-900’s to mid-1000’s (mid-300s to 583° Celsius) for most of August during which my c. twenty year old AC unit was having difficulty doing its job, because it was too busy dying a slow death.

I called my handyman (the joy of renting, not owning) and demanded it be fixed tout de suite! Weeks later, he was crawling around on my roof. He only showed when he received a frantic call that it was entirely dead.

Friday night, at 106° Fahrenheit (41° C), I came home to find a sweltering abode. The result of frantic call: handyman wouldn’t even be able to look at it until tomorrow morning at the earliest.

My house was designed for central air conditioning, i.e., air circulation wasn’t a factor when they slapped the papier mâché walls together. My two-story apartment has only four windows on two sides. Two of them are exceptionally over-sized, but one of them doesn’t even open. The house was designed around air conditioning, which it no longer had.

I spent my Friday night driving to three different stores in search of a fan. I do not own a fan, because my house is designed for central air conditioning. The first store had none. Not one fan. Not even one of those almost pointless USB fans. Apparently, I’m not the only one who found themselves without means of cooling during this heat wave.

The second store only had one ridiculously fancy antique-brass oscillating floor fan priced at $119 (seriously, who needs that?). I like air circulation as much as the next guy, but not that much.

The third store only had box fans. Well, I do have two windows that open in which a box fan might be appropriate. Sold.

I didn’t relish the idea of returning to my house and I did consider running away from home, but then I thought of these guys who sucked all the fun out of such irresponsible notions:


By the time I got back from my fool’s fan errand, it was dark outside. Fortunately, I live in the desert. While this means 106 F is probable, it also means that, once the sun goes away, so does the heat. This is great when your central AC breaks down in a heat wave, but not so great if you’re stranded in the middle of the desert. Heat in LA is not like east coast heat that sticks around all night. With few exceptions, it tends to run away shortly after the sun. Still, it had been 106 degrees that day and my house was all of them.

I set up my box fans to first blow all the hot air out, then, to suck all the cooler night air in. By the time I foolishly tried to sleep, it was probably only around 95 degrees in my bed. I didn’t sleep.

I waited on handyman in my hothouse the next morning. At approximately no longer morning at all, he finally showed. I awaited the expected news that the unit was irreparable and it would take another month of 106 to get a new one. Surprisingly, for once, the news was better than expected.

The good news is, the unit isn’t entirely dead! The bad news is that the condenser is broken and I don’t have another one. Maybe I can fix it later today if I can find the part.

I had to stick around and wait for “maybe later today.” One hundred and six degrees. Someone please explain to me why I live in the valley.

I thought about running away to someplace cool. I even checked into hotel rooms in Santa Barbara. Did you know there’s not a single pet-friendly hotel room anywhere in Santa Barbara for less than $100 a night? Damn my brokeness. Sometimes, being poor really kills spontaneity, especially when I just blew my wad on box fans.

I checked into local hotel rooms, but I just couldn’t justify spending $50+ on a hotel room I can walk to, even if it did have sweet, sweet air conditioning. The innards of my house were somewhere around 30 Kelvins.

Then, right about when the sun went down, handyman proved himself worthy of the name. He rode up on a white horse (alright, it was a pickup truck, but it was, in fact, white) with a condenser! I slept the sleep of frigid northern angels and dreamed of glaciers that night.

Sunday, I sat inside my cold apartment most of the day with socks on my feet because they were cold (COLD!) and thumbed my nose at the sweltering heat on the outside where it belongs. Ah, the joys of air conditioning. Never again will we part ways.

In Praise Of Teeth


I walked into the familiar waiting room and my ears were immediately assaulted with the sound of a screaming child. Screaming children in of doors is never a sign of anything positive, with the exception of establishments that cater to them, e.g., Chuck E. Cheese. I’m blissfully unaware of the innards of Chuck E. Cheese. I only know there’s screaming in there, because I can hear it on the outside. I’d imagine that my dentist’s office is nothing like a Chuck E. Cheese inside.

The screaming is unsettling. I’m not overly fond of children when they’re not screaming. I hear the receptionist say to a dental hygienist standing out of view, “Why is she screaming? She’s never even cried before.”

Then she turns to me by way of apology and says, “Oh. She has a cavity.”

This doesn’t bode well for my nth visit to the dentist since I finally sucked it up and started seeing her in June.

It has been a month since I’ve been to the dentist’s office. I was the last patient they saw before summer vacation and I’m the last patient on their first day back.

I sit in my favorite seat in the waiting room. I usually sit in that chair or the one next to it. My PTSD subconsciously chooses optimal seating. It’s midway between the door into the hallway and the door into the rooms where all the screaming happens. Both of my preferred chairs have arms, which give me an added buffer from anyone else in the waiting room. There’s never anyone else in the waiting room, because I’m always the last patient of the day, but just in case someone else is in there someday, I’ll have arms.

Part of me doesn’t want to appear OCD, so I don’t sit in the same waiting room chair every time, but alternate between the two, but then I think that, by alternating so I don’t appear OCD, I’m actually being OCD.

Where do normal people sit in the dentist’s waiting room? Do they just sit in the first chair they see? Do regular folk even consider which chair to sit in? Does anyone ever sit in the chair right next to the door where a sneak attack is imminent? The concept makes me shudder. My PTSD always chooses defensible seating.

Over all the screaming, I try to have a conversation with the receptionist, whom I know rather well since I’ve hung out with her more than my best friend this summer. She tells me all the fun things she did in the month that she had off of work.

I try to imagine what it would be like to have an entire month off of work and fail. The only time I’ve ever had a month off of work was when I was unemployed and that was hardly fun. I’ve only taken two weeks off in a row on purpose once.

The dental hygienist ushers me into the exam room next to the screaming. As she’s readying all the instruments and whatnots, she tells me all the fun things she did during her month off. “Did you take any time off this summer?”

I ponder the question for a second. “Well, the last day I had off of work other than weekends was July 4th.”

She looks at me like I’m holding an adorable puppy with incurable cancer. In her best attempt at cheerful, she says, “Well, at least you had a month off from seeing us, right?!”

It’s true. After going every week, sometimes twice a week, for two months, I did enjoy my month off from the dentist.

Then the dentist makes an appearance. “Hello! How are your teeth?” I like my dentist, despite all the pain she’s caused. She’s a straight talker. She tells me exactly what she’s doing and why.

“OK, I think.”

“Let me see.”

I open my maw and she shoves ninety-seven pieces of metal in there, plus, a laser. Tick tick tick tick. That’s what lasers sound like. They smell like burning.

During the lasering, she talks about the screaming child and how she hates seeing cavities in children that are the result of the child, and by extension, the parents not following through on what they need to do, i.e., proper dental hygiene. “I can only tell you what to do. I can’t come to your house every night and make you floss.”

When the tick tick tick is done, her face beams. “I’m going to be honest with you. When you first came into my office, I thought we might have to pull at least half of your teeth, that it might have been too late to save them…”

I start pouting.

“…but you proved me wrong. You have done an excellent job! There is hope!”

I awkwardly say, “Yay,” because I’ve been hanging around the internet too much where saying “yay” isn’t an abnormal thing for a fully grown human to say. However, saying it out loud to your dentist is awkward as it turns out.

She isn’t perturbed by my juvenile expression of enthusiasm. I’m sure as a dentist of children, she hears that word sometimes when they practice proper dental hygiene. “When I was on vacation in Europe, I actually thought about you and how your teeth were doing. It was fifty-fifty whether you would follow through or not, so I’m happy to see that you did! Some people would have given up and just had me pull their teeth.”

“Really? People would rather have their teeth yanked? That’s crazy!” I feel like a marathon runner and she’s my coach. “Why would I want that? After all we’ve been through already, of course, I’m going to fight.”

“I’m so happy you did. We can probably save all your teeth now.” She hands me a mirror and tugs at my upper lip. “See? Healthy pink gums everywhere! Good job! I’m so proud of you for fighting!”

She’s right. I’m a fighter even if I don’t want to be. Even if I want to crawl into a darkness and disappear, some small part of me won’t allow it. I’ve fought through every awful thing that’s happened to me, and there are a lot of awful things. I just never thought I’d have to fight for my teeth.

Having just heard her scold a child and her mother, I’ll take my praise where it comes. Plus, I take comfort in knowing that I’m better than a six-year-old. Nya nya.

I also begin to ponder what field I could go into where I get to take a whole month off of work every year (that doesn’t involve children or teeth).

The Dentist


If you are scared of the dentist, you might not want to read this post. Or, alternatively, it might make you feel better about your own teeth.

I’m not afraid of the dentist; I am afraid of how much it costs. Dentists are like Pringles; once you pop you can’t stop. I’ve never made just one dentist appointment in my life. One appointment always turns into a dozen. Going to the dentist is like one of those time-share seminars. You think you’re getting a free vacation until you realize you have to spend days watching lectures on all the time-shares you could buy around the globe and writing a rather large check at the end of it. Dentists are the pyramid schemes of the health care industry.

Of course, this has been my experience, what with the absolutely crappy teeth my ancestors handed down to me. You’d think in all that time since Christopher Columbus’ day, we could have evolved better chompers. Nope. Like everyone else in my family, I’ve got shitty fucking teeth. I guess that comes with being partly British.

Anyway, last month, I told you about how one of my teeth fell out. We were going along fine together for decades, when all of a sudden, mid-bite, it took a runner. Fortunately, I didn’t chew on it or swallow it.

Once that tooth was gone, the one next to it decided that it might want to see what was outside the mouth, too, and started getting loose. This, of course, meant that I had to go see a dentist right quick. Seeing as I have new dental insurance, I figured I might as well take it for a spin. I spent a week with a missing incisor before my first appointment.

Appointment 1, Friday.

Full mouth X-rays. It took approximately ninety hours to take fourteen pictures of every angle of my mouth by shoving a giant black thing attached to a very not smooth plastic piece that essentially acted as a cheese grater on the roof of my mouth. I was bleeding before I even had any dental work done.

Then, we had a cleaning, which hurt more than it should have. The dentist told me to raise my hand if I felt any discomfort, which I did approximately every five seconds. I raised my hand more in that hour than I did in all of my years in school.

After that, she yanked out the loose tooth. All the anesthesia in the world isn’t enough to entirely kill the pain of a tooth being ripped the hell out of your mouth with a pair of pliers. OWWWW.

I left the dentist with fewer teeth than when I went in. I spent three days walking around with two missing incisors. I tried to talk as little as possible, because when I did, there was a distinct whistle every time I pronounced the letter S. I found myself using my brain thesaurus more than usual. My internal monologue before I spoke went a lot like this: OK, what’s another word for stop without an S…? Halt! You have no idea how many words have an S in them.

Appointment 2, Monday.

Monday, I went back with the hope that they might have fake teeth ready and I would stop whistling. Obviously, it had been far too long since I had been to the dentist. That coupled with my inexperience with having missing teeth led to my misunderstanding the process.

They had no teeth for me on Monday since they hadn’t done impressions yet. The reason for the weekend delay on the impressions was that the dentist wanted the gaping hole she had made with pliers to heal first. How silly of me!

Monday, they filled a plastic tray at least three times the size of my mouth with gooey pink gunk. This whole works was shoved into my mouth as if I have a jaw that can unhinge like a snake. I don’t.

Before they filled my mouth with pink goo though, they made sure to scare me about it. “How’s your gag reflex?” “About normal I suppose.” “Well, just so you know, this process makes some people want to throw up.” Great.

Shoving the giant trays of pink goo in my mouth and keeping it there for a full minute, while uncomfortable and certainly not pleasant, didn’t make me want to throw up. It wasn’t until they took it out and I discovered that the back of my tongue was coated with it that I felt a little nauseated. Something about having flecks of pink goo stuck to the back of my tongue that I couldn’t remove, did in fact, make me want to hurl. Still, I didn’t. Yay me.

I spent another week walking around with two missing incisors.

Appointment 3, Friday.

My third appointment in a week. Earlier in the week, they called and told me that my temporary fake teeth weren’t covered under my dental insurance and would cost over $600. Great. Do I really need temporary fake teeth? Can’t I just wait for the permanents? Do I care $600-worth about pronouncing the letter S? Screw the letter S. It’s not important.

However, the dentist said that it is important, since it will be at least a month of cleanings and other dental nightmares before I get permanent teeth. Without the fake teeth to act as placeholders, my teeth could shift and I’d have to do the pink goo trays all over again. If it was money that was holding me back, they’d only charge me $350. “It’s important,” the dentist reiterated. Fine.

On Friday, I went in and got my fake teeth. Yay! I can now say, “Stop sucking, sucker!”

But, we were not done yet. I left with an appointment card with four more appointments written on it. FOUR. Booo.

Appointment 4, Yesterday.

Appointment 4 was the first of four deep cleaning appointments. The dentist is going to do one quadrant at a time. I went on my lunch hour, because the receptionist told me that it shouldn’t take longer than an hour. Two hours later, I was on my way back to work.

First, she numbed me. Those shots directly into your gums hurt like a son of a bitch. Once I was properly not feeling anything, she measured my gums by sticking a metal measuring stick between my gums and teeth as far down as it would go like using a jimmy to break into a car.

“Yeah, we have some periodontitis going on down here…”

Then the actual cleaning started. She began with the robotic tool that swishes water around in your mouth and sounds like a drill even though it’s not drilling anything except the icky stuff on your teeth. She finished by going in by hand with a metal pick. A metal pick against your delicate teeth has to be one of the world’s worst sounds.

Then came the laser, which not surprisingly, smelled like burning. What was it burning? My flesh and the billions of evil bacteria in my mouth. That wasn’t all that scary except that I had to wear special eye goggles.

Finally, she injected antibiotics in between each of my teeth and the gums. Two hours later, with a completely numb face, including my nose, I was out the door and back to work.

At first, I felt nothing, because I was still numb, but as the anesthesia wore off, it began to hurt. By the time I left work a few hours later, it felt like I had been smacked in the face repeatedly with a shovel. And I was still bleeding. It still hurts today, but it’s more like getting hit with a pillow–a rather firm one with maybe some rocks hidden inside, but still just a pillow.

The really excellent part is that I get to do this three more times since she only finished one quarter of my mouth! Not only that, but once all of that is over, I have to go back to get my permanent teeth and fix whatever other horrible disasters lurk inside my mouth. So far, I’ve spent over $500 and we’re not even done yet.

So, the moral of this story is, no matter how broke you are, do not wait 10 years and/or until your teeth fall out to go see a dentist. It will be less painful in the long run. Trust me.