Monday, August 7, 2017

Back to the dentist, day one

The dental technician was familiar to me from all the trips to the dentist I took in the fall of 2015 when I had over $6,000 worth of dental work done, and she got me seated in the chair and presently the new dentist came in to say hello and assess the situation.  He had read my health condition update and asked about my running, which I said was on hold for the foreseeable future while I healed from an achilles strain.

I noted from reading the plaques on his wall that he had graduated in 2011 from SUNY Buffalo dental school and I told him that I'd traveled to Buffalo several times during my last two years at work for cases and I thought it was a grand old city, although it tended to be a little cold (all my trips seemed to occur in the winter).  I also noted that he'd done his dental internship at a hospital in Syracuse and asked if he'd commuted to there from Buffalo or moved there, because it seemed to me that it was hours away.  He said he had moved there for his internship and it sounded like pretty interesting stuff--being on call at the emergency room and being brought in to treat smashed teeth from fights or teeth driven into the jaw or cheekbone from a car wreck.

That was an education, he told me, and he got a faraway, nostalgic look on his face as he thought about (not so) old times dealing with true emergencies.  I didn't know dentists did internships in hospitals because I never imagined hospitals dealt with acute dental problems but if you think about it, they must see terrible dental mishaps lots of times that they're not equipped to handle.  The ER doctors might save your life, but not your teeth.

And now the good doctor was ready to deal with reinserting an old but intact crown and that didn't seem like it was going to be interesting, challenging or hard for him, not like in the olden days when he saw teeth displaced by force and driven into strange places.  The good news was that we were already on a first name basis, Nick and Pete, but the bad news was that about four hours of being in the chair spread out over three days in the next fortnight was only getting started.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

In the dentist chair again

On July 4th, a hot, sultry day, I thought it'd be a grand idea to cool off by having a chilled Snicker's bar, purchased from the cooler at the drugstore across the street from where I had a holiday lunch.  By my second bite into the hard, cloying mass, I was thinking it might not be a good idea to keep eating it because lesser things have pulled crowns out of my mouth before.

One more bite, a totally ill-advised one obviously, a tentative bite spurred on mostly by the thought that I'd just spent $2 on this confection, and a crown that was installed over a root-canaled tooth in 1988 was now in my hand, metal post at its base and all.  But it was intact, and maybe it could simply be cemented back in.

I didn't know it, but I was destined to be in the dentist's chair three times over the next fortnight on this emergency dental condition.  But now I had dental insurance, so I'd get to discover how effective it would prove to be because having a crown come out, or having a new, necessary crown put in, was surely a procedure that dental insurance would cover.

Two days later, I was in the chair with a new dentist, because my former dentist retired after 20 years of inspired dentistry in service of me, and forty years of service to the underserved public.  The new dentist was recommended by her, about 8 years from dental school, very personable, apparently concerned about me and very knowledgeable about mouth matters, and I was going to get the opportunity in the coming two weeks to get to know him much better.

Saturday, August 5, 2017


I've had dental work done lately. Check out my 2015 posts, late in the year, for my recounting of having thousands of dollars of dental work done, based upon emergency conditions.

The fact that then I paid for it entirely out of my pocket (and didn't ever go to the dentist except when something bad happened) reflects upon the American health insurance for-profit industry, which is genuflecting at the altar of profiting obscenely from people's misfortune.  Dental insurance is known to be practically useless, which matters because the condition of your mouth can presage your body's general overall condition or imminent decline, as any dentist of reputable status knows.

This most recent time I had dental insurance, from GEHA, and it paid $77 in amelioration of over $2K worth of dental work.  Dental insurance did I say?  I pay about $39 per month for this, ahem, insurance.

My dentist retired in 2015, and then, before she left her practice, we took on the condition of my mouth and fixed all those cracked teeth which were apparently ready to shatter.  I had for years been going to her (on an emergency basis) because she was good and she was also was one of the few dentists in my life who had never hurt me.

That is, until my last last 2 visits, when she minimized my pain to, I suppose, an acceptable level as she fit the last last crown on an uncooperative tooth resisting the influence of novocain as it was being shaved to accommodate the fitting.  (Brzzz!)  I admired Dr. Rye because she was only thinking of my welfare and didn't run up the score and do unneccessary procedures or charge me excessively.  We also sometimes talked about our kids, who played soccer together way back when.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rough 'em Up

The Acting Administrator of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, released a memo earlier this week instructing his employees to disregard the president's recent admonition to police officers to not be "nice" to suspects any more and instead rough 'em up a bit.  Director Rosenberg directed DEA personnel to always adhere to the "Rule of Law, Respect and Compassion, Service, Devotion, Integrity, [and] Accountability" in their interactions with the public, whether they be an arrestee, suspect, witness or victim.

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Rosenberg.  I was a police officer for nine years before I went to law school, two years as a sheriff's deputy at a county jail as transportation officer and director of the medium security unit, and seven years as a State Trooper, working nights on solitary patrol in remote parts where back-up often was 20 or 30 minutes away.

Mr. Rosenberg's pithily-stated directive is a much more efficient, productive and humane model for police work than the crassly stated screed of our president at the Suffolk County Police Academy graduation ceremony last week, with its the throwback appeal to bygone times.  Its successful application, as a first and foremost approach, acts to calm situations rather than escalate them, and I ought to know, that's how I conducted myself, to the best of my ability, those several years when I was a peace officer on patrol, tamping down heightened situations during scores of DUI and warrant arrests and several high speed chases and one gun discharge situation, and I never had a fight nor fired my weapon, except once to dispatch a grievously injured deer when no animal control officer was on duty.

I know Mr. Rosenberg personally and he is is no partisan advocate on one side of the political spectrum or the other.  He was in my small section at law school and I had many long conversations with him there, and I ran into him earlier this year and spoke lengthily with him then, and he is a devoted, apolitical public servant imbued with principles, who swears fealty to no man, loyal only to institutions and the truth.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


The current issue of The Atlantic has an interesting article about nuclear brinkmanship by Mark Bowden, Can North Korea Be Stopped?  Bowden is the author of the best battle book I've ever read, Blackhawk Down about the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.

During the current president's term, the rogue nation North Korea is likely to obtain nuclear missiles it can deliver to the US mainland.  I live in Washington DC, so it's less of a concern for me as the residents of Los Angeles.  It's about 7800 miles from North Korea to DCA, and "only" about 5800 miles to LAX, probably a reachable distance for North Korean nuclear-tipped missile in a few years, or maybe months.  North Korean leader, the semi-god dictator for life Kim Jong-Un, has assured America that he will create a "sea of fire" here, or in Japan, South Korea or elsewhere for transgressions against the sovereignty of North Korea that his fevered mind perceives or conjures up. Apparently it's personal, because the Young One wants to stay in power for life and he intends to do this with a nuclear arsenal and a fevered populace whipped into a frenzy of rhapsodic xenophobia by fiery state-controlled rhetoric.

People of Los Angeles, do you want your personal safety to rest in the palm of President Trump's hand?  Unless you're related to him, do you think he has your best interests in mind?  But it is him who will act upon this threat, or not act. And the issue will be resolved by 2020, I am sure, one way or another.  The likely outcomes to me seem to line up along three main possibilities: a bombastic nuclear North Korea to be dealt with (acquiescence), a nuclear, chemical or biological desert somewhere (the light military option, turning the screws a little more tightly, with unpredictable results), or a vassal state in North Korea controlled by America, South Korea or China, with millions of Asians and thousands of Americans dead with possibly still an ongoing war or world war (the heavy military option).

Bowden lays out four options for the US, based upon the certainty that North Korea, in its current state, will never give up its nuclear program or ambitions because the Young One views this as essential to its, or his, survival.  None of the realistic options are good, as Bowden points out.

Prevention envisions a massive military strike suddenly launched by the US either with or without South Korea that a) would be a surprise to the Hermit Kingdom of the north; b) hopes China would idly stand by; c) involves Seoul, 40 miles south of the DMZ, being subjected to hours or days of massive artillery bombardment with horrendous casualties (not to mention Tokyo being subjected to a missile, or nuclear, attack by the north only about 800 miles away) and d) imagines everything going like clockwork (no fog of war) and that the North Korean army doesn't escape to Manchuria or the mountains of North Korea (or South Korea) to form a formidable guerrilla army.  It is unimaginable that this option would go well, even if the US could sneak a million soldiers into South Korea along with several air fleets and many naval units offshore and the South Koreans would cooperate, even if that meant merely standing by (their people would suffer the most).

Turning the Screws is the military option lite.  It imagines limited but aggressive military responses to provocations like bombing nuclear production sites whenever a test missile is fired or a nuclear device is detonated (tested).  An attempt at altering the north's state of mind and behavior with a firm cause/effect infliction of force.  It's hardly likely that this approach would work and either North Korean behavior probably wouldn't change one whit except to become even more determined or insidious, and it could easily and quickly slide into the scenario outlined above, only without the surprise start.

Decapitation is a third alternative being considered.  Take out the Young One with a pinpoint strike of some sort and hope that a more reasonable leader would assume power who could be pressured or bought off or reasoned with to abandon nukes.  This seems highly unlikely because it's not like we could send a drone over to drop a bomb on the North Korean leader (it would be shot down) and the US doesn't send suicide squads out (this would be more complicated than the ill-fated mission to rescue the Teheran hostages under President Carter, which doomed his presidency).  If such an attempt was made and it failed, the response from North Korea would probably be entirely unpredictable and disproportionate.  This is the stuff of a spy novel thriller, not the real world.  Bowden implies that a better option than trying to kill the Young One is to wait and hope he'll die in the meantime from being so obese so young and the fact that he comes from a family with a history of heart afflictions and strokes.

Acceptance is the last option, and the most likely to occur, if by nothing else, with the passage of time.  It's the inevitable or immutable occurrence, dealing with an armed and bristling North Korea like we deal with a hostile Russia and an inscrutable China, through the time-tested resort to MAD (mutually assured destruction) because we could annihilate North Korea with a nuclear strike and for the foreseeable future, even if the reclusive nation could hurt us, it can't destroy us.  North Korea is a real problem, and could conceivably be the source of ending life as we know it, but Bowden's choice, and I guess mine, seems to be to just deal with it.  Unless we are ready to have millions die due to an action we undertook.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Happy Birthday!

It was a Friday evening, and I was there on the sidewalk outside her (our) house, adhering to the sidewalk rule (if you go onto the porch and knock on the door, the police are likely to come sirening down the street 2 minutes later in response to a specious 9-11 call that you're enraged and breaking down the door), awaiting any action to my call to voicemail announcing that I was here to pick up my children for visitation pursuant to a longstanding court order.  Out of the gloam, their mother, Sharon, came down the cement stairs from the house to the sidewalk, with her date trailing behind, as is customary with her menfolk.

"What are you doing here?"  "I'm here to pick up my children for weekend visitation, because this is my time to be with them pursuant to the court order governing this, and I expect them to be here ready to go with me."

"Well, I made them ready to go with you but they refused to come out so you can leave."  In my opinion, she lied (again) because the house behind her was totally dark.

"Come on," she ordered to the man hanging back behind her, "let's go."  He came down the stairs upon her command and got into the driver's seat of the vehicle at the curb as she climbed into the passenger side while I retreated (in order to not present a "menacing" appearance; if you get divorced, this crap will become standard fare soon enough if the woman plays the female victim card as Sharon fallaciously did, and for long while she got the advance to go card) to the asphalt fifteen feet behind this vehicle.

I practically always carry a camera.  It was out, and charged, ready to snap a picture.

The vehicle came to life; it had twelve or more feet in front of it to put it out into the traffic lane going forward, unobstructed.  I was a State Trooper for seven years and I pay attention to these sort of details.

The back-up lights came on the vehicle and it roared backwards.  I was transfixed in place with fear as the 2-ton metal monster closed the distance to me rapidly.

 Well, the man killing machine didn't back over me, and the frightfully close steel behemoth was thrust back into drive at the last moment and driven away.  Hey birthday boy, what happened in the cab at that moment, if that was you dating this covert narcissist (in my opinion) that night, did you actually choose your own course finally at the last split-second, or did you just chicken out in your (perhaps commanded) aggression?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A boot and a crown

So the Dog Days of Summer arrived.  I'm in a boot now, because of an achilles strain I incurred while running (the doctor said, "If the boot doesn't work, I'll refer you to the surgeon.") so I'm just sitting around getting fat.

I went in to the District once to have lunch with my past and hopefully future running buddy, since I'm currently incapacitated and haven't run in months.  The Fourth of July arrived, and at noon I went to the Lost Dog Cafe for lunch.

Nobody I recognized came in.  But how would I know what my children would look like anyway, since I have never laid eyes on any of them even once when they were of majority age.

After lunch with the empty chair, I strolled around outside while I called a sibling, and a friend.  Then since I was hot, I purchased a refrigerated Snicker's Bar from the drugstore and while chewing on that semi-hard nougat mass, I pulled out a crown, one put in just two years ago.