Catching Up

So, it’s been 3 weeks or so since last entry. All’s been quiet on the web front, but stormy and busy in the real life. So, in lieu of going into details and flooding you fine folks with the useless minutia of my daily ongoings, I’ll sprinkle you with a general survey of this time period.

Tooth thing, done:

Ok. On the, um, 15th of the month, I got my root canal finished. They filled the roots, mounted the new permanent ceramic cap, and made sure everything fit perfectly. After the swelling and tenderness died down two days later, I was revelling in the ability to eat with both sides of my mouth. Things were back to normal.

Now, a SXSW Diversion:

Some time ago, my friend Sean messaged me to advise me about a band who was coming to this year’s South By SouthWest music festival. The band is Pilotdrift. He said what’s unique about them is that they are from, of all places, Texarkana. Yeah, that’s correct. I checked out their sample song on the SXSW site and was thoroughly intrigued. So Thursday, the 17th, I made the drive downtown to see them play. I was impressed that 6 guys from T-town can create, and get exposure, with a sound that’s reminiscent of Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” So incredibly bizarre. They handed out free CDs after the show and I had a quick chat with some of the members, all from my home town. Kinda cool.

Before Pilotdrift’s set, I had the pleasure of listening to a band from Albuquerque, NM called The Oktober People. Wow, these guys are good. Melodic rock, like Godspeed You Black Emperor meets Catherine Wheel. Solid, dreamy landscape of well-effected guitars; lyrics that sway between dreams, dark interpersonal rifts, regrets for dead loved ones, and anger with current politics. They gave away a boxfull of CDs as well.

The next night I took the opportunity to go see local underground favorites Zykos play at the old Ritz theater on 6th Street. I got in after a song or two, but watched the rest of the set. Managed to end up standing right at the edge of the stage before show’s end. They put on powerful, energetic set. Their sound is pure indie rock; as emo as I’ll allow myself. It’s Emo for those who hate Emo. I just love their sound and their vibe.

I managed to take my camera in to all these shows. I have the pictures processed, I just have to post them some time. But, overall, I think my first foray into doing anything related to SXSW went rather well. And no wristband was needed. Heh.

Wait, more dental drama:

The next tuesday, a week later, I was due for a general dental checkup. Well, the dentist was sick, so it was postponed a week later, the 29th. That would soon change on Wednesday the 23rd during breakfast when the bottom right wisdom tooth, the one immediately underneath my new ceramic cap decided to fracture and split into little chunks. My appetite disappeared quickly.

I called the dentist to see if I could have the appointment moved up; they agreed and found a time for me on the following day, Thursday. Given that I was leaving town for Texarkana that night, I had no other choice; things had to get done. They took X-rays, probed around, stuck my gums and got a general plan of action regarding my teeth: a cleaning, 7 cavities filled, and removal of all four wisdom teeth. Yikes. And still no immediate help or advice on my broken and still fragmenting tooth.

The Easter diversion:

That night I drove to Texarkana to visit family and friends for the easter weekend. Now that I’m a (mostly) law-abiding citizen and I drive (just over) the speed limit, it takes me 6 1/2 hours to get home by the back highways. Sucks, but ah well. Didn’t make the drowsiness any easier. I swear, all day I was hyper, up, I had things clicking left and right, stuff got done, and I was totally with it. Yet, some time before I hit the road, the vigor just left. Just vanished. :sighs:

The weekend was pleasant for the most part. It was good to see everyone again. The allergy season is on in full effect there, and I tried my best to be prepared. But there’s little to prepare me for the fact that everyone has pets and almost everyone smokes. For the sake of breathing, I took every opportunity to step outside for some fresh air. I can take the pollen, but not the pet dander.

Friday, completely zonked from the energy expenditure and from the driving, I celebrated my 33rd29th birthday by sleeping-in on the mildly uncomfortable bed my neices let me use, then by treating myself to a solitary breakfast at IHOP and some journal time before I had to meet my family somewhere or something. It was the last mostly-sunny day all weekend. Meh.

Now that my brother-in-law is saved and is heavy into church, his and my sister’s family are also heavy into church. Even my mother is doing church things; she hasn’t done that, really, since a few years before I stopped going to Beech Street FBC. It’s just weird. The tables are completely reversed; now I am the atheist, now they are the christians. Most of the steps and behaviors and beliefs I see them doing I once did myself, and as a recovering christian I just want to wake them up to see things my way, do expose what it is I’m seeing in the mixture of politics, society, and behavior management that is Religion. But it’s wrong of me to do so; it’s wrong of me to break their worldview. Any attempt would destroy my relationship with them.

As it goes: “Whatever keeps them in the straight and narrow is good for the family.”

So most of the weekend I bit my tongue. Didn’t really communicate with the family as freely as I’d liked simply because they’re trying to raise a godly household. I love ’em a lot, but the whole thing’s just weird. They tried to get me to go to church on easter sunday morning. I mutedly refused and slept in. The idea was to get pictures of the whole family at the altar or something. I was hoping they’d take them after service, so that’s when I went; stood outside until service was over, then went to find them. I wasted a trip.

The big family get-together at my uncle Ronnie’s and aunt Francis’ house was really nice. 3/4″ T-bone steaks for all. Still the cold and windy weather, so it could’ve been better. I was already packed up and ready to hit the road, so I left from there after hugging everyone g’bye.

Tooth, always with the teeth:

Now back to the broken tooth. Luckily there was no pain, but during the easter weekend, I was still spitting out a piece of tooth at least once a day. The last piece to come out came out sunday, so it appears that’s all for now. Thankfully. And still no pain. So I’m just biding time until the extractions.

So, monday, I get the cleaning done. The hygenist offers no advice either, and recommends I set an appointment to see the oral surgeon when he comes in on Wednesday (today). So I do, and I did.

Went in, discussed with the surgeon. He looked at my x-rays and agreed that all four wisdoms should come out. He sent the chart to the front for the clerks to calculate the price. $1180-ish. Fucking christ. After my insurance’s paltry $116 contribution, my bill comes to $1075 or so, and even though I’m on an ongoing payment plan, they’ll expect half of that amount as a down payment on the day of the procedure. What…the…hell? It appears that my extractions will have to wait.

My decision, in the meanwhile, is to probe elsewhere for alternatives. Tomorrow morning, I’ll attempt to call the UT Dental School in San Antonio (remember them?) to see about the price, the terms, and to set an appointment. My friend Sarah had two of her wisdoms pulled there for cheap, and they were so gentle she didn’t need the pain meds they gave her. She offered to drive for me should I need it and should she have that day off. So I’ll check that route. If it pans out, I’ll cancel my extraction appointment for next Wednesday with Castle Dental with a “thank you” and go back to them on the 10th for 4 fillings, then some time later for the other 3 fillings.

If things fall into place, I’ll be a new man with good (or well-repaired) teeth.

With Teeth:

Y’know, it all seems incredibly appropriate. Next month, April, will mark the release of the brand new Nine Inch Nails album “With Teeth”. How so very weird. And, wait — what’s that? It appears I have tickets to see NIN on May the 25th right here in Austin. God, it feels so nice. (No, they’re not for sale.)

So, I lied:

Ok, so I lied. I said I’d give a brief sprinkling, drizzling overview of what all has been happening in my web silence. I lied. Hope I didn’t lose anyone. So what do you folks make of all this? Any advice on my teeth situation? It just sucks that it all waited until now *boom* to demand attention. I’m just kinda drained mentally, physically, and financially, trying to be well. And it all sucks. Let me know by saying something. I’d like your feedback. Thanks!

Oh, speaking of emails, who are you, BarbaraJoeThomas? Why would I know you? How would you know me? Are you confusing me for someone in your family who is having interpersonal problems with you? Please give me more info before I decide to write back to you. Thanks.


Bottom Out, Climb Up

I don’t like the direction I’m heading. At the present course, I’m due for a heart attack by 35. If even that late.

This month, I turn 33, and I am already feeling the touches of the “iron hand,” common among cardiovascular sufferers, on my heart. That’s the feeling of sections of my heart not getting enough oxygen due to constricted or clogged blood vessels. Sounds crazy, but it’s what I’m feeling. I remember when I had my radiological heart scan in October of 2003 that the cardiologists found absolutely nothing wrong and found only the normal flow in my heart’s blood supply. I got a clean bill of health. But things can change in a year and a half. Things can accumulate. Things can go south in a short amount of time.

I think it’s time I took care of what needs to be done: I need to have a complete physical. I’m at that age where it’s important to have one every year. There are way too many unknowns. What is my cholesterol level? What about my triglycerides? How can I lose this excess weight hanging on my abdomen, and how much should I lose? And what is with this heart murmur I have and the occasional arrhythmia? Maybe I’m being a tad bit too dramatic, but I live in fear of my heart. Every day. A physical can give me proper guidance.

Yesterday, I didn’t feel well at all. Woke up with my left arm tingling, and my right one was wanting to follow suit. It all started subsiding later in the day, but it was made apparent to me that I was treating my heart bad with all the caffeine I was drinking almost every night in the form of coffee. Recently, I have renewed an interest in, and a craving for, coffee and coffee drinks; love the stuff. But I have noticed the overstressed sensations, the iron hand, the aquatic breathing, the tingling — too much caffeine, too late in the day. Nighttime is the only time I drink coffee, and that’s not good for sleep; I don’t rest, my dreams are screwy, and I wake up with a hangover. That’s just not right.

Yesterday, I did something different. Instead of sitting around the house or driving to a coffeeshop, I decided to walk. Walked to Flightpath, which is in my neighborhood. Walking there isn’t foreign to me, have done it several times and found it enjoyable. But I got there and found there was almost no place to sit; it was way too crowded. So I concocted a plan: dig up the bus schedules, hop on the #7 and head down to near the college, get off, and walk up the hill to Spiderhouse, one of my other hangouts. I would then take the #1 home after spending time there with friends or laptop. And that’s what I did, and somewhat regretted.

Most of the walk from the bus to Spiderhouse was uphill, and I had my full backpack on. I’m not accustomed to that kind of exercise; my life is too sedentary to just “get up and walk” like that. It was a rough walk, but I handled it ok. My heart was beating hard, but I think it was thankful for the exercise. This morning I felt like hell, though. Shoulders were tense – not just shoulders, but shoulder sockets, from carrying the backpack across both shoulders. The hangover was pretty intense – I deprived myself of caffeine last night, and drank stuff with lots of water and sugar, but I was still depleted and spent. And then today I did a lot of work that involved picking up wide handfuls of paper to cut them down into smaller sizes. Shoulders still feel rough. And soon my legs, feet, and arms will, too.

In just the same way that I started realizing that smoking was slowly killing me and I made the commitment to quit smoking, I think it’s slowly dawning on me how badly I’m living with my bad diet, little exercise, and poor maintenance. There is a lot of stuff I need to relearn about feeding myself right, about paying attention to what I’m shoveling into my mouth. There’s a lot I need to make myself do to keep active. I grew up hating sports; I disdained all manner of competitive athletics, so for most of my life I’ve been relatively inert and sedentary (walking and bicycling were my only enjoyable activities). That sedentary bit won’t work anymore. I need to do something. It’s been said that doing only 30 minutes of an activity like walking daily can reduce serious health risks. Doesn’t take much. A friend of mine told me today that, according to his doctor, the baseline limit for what qualifies as an “active, non-sedentary lifestyle” requires no less than 10,000 footsteps a day. That’s a high number, if you ask me, but if it takes 100 steps to get from my car to my apartment door, I think it can be easily achieved by just DOING STUFF.

I think on the days where I don’t go to get my allergy shot before work or need to cash my paycheck during lunch I should walk to work. Hell, I live only 4 blocks from my job, and I’ve walked or ridden my bike there only 3 times. It needs to be a regular habit; I’d get my 30 minutes of walking taken care of at least 3 times a week, guaranteed. That requires discipline and drive, which I apparently lack. But it can be done. Please, wish me luck.

Neo Dentis Addendum

Alright. Update on the tooth situation. On Tuesday of last week I woke up early and managed to get through to an actual voice at the UT Dental School in San Antonio. I explained my situation, expressed my sensations of ongoing pain, and the operator offered to set an emergency appointment for me on the next day to get a temporary filling placed, after which I would then be called back some day or week later to get the root canal performed. Quickly deciding that getting a temporary filling, dealing with more pain after the fill, and then having to go through it all again to get finished was not worth the driving, gas, traffic, and headache of going to San Antonio on pain meds, I backed out and went with my Plan B.

I called my boss, explained what was going on, and took the day off. Got myself cleaned up and went to Castle Dental to see about getting this taken care of. Did the paperwork, insurance, blah blah, then the dentist saw me, the assistant took an X-ray, the dentist came back and the X-ray hadn’t changed a bit in the past week – I still had a major hole in my tooth. So he addressed the same two options the previous dentist presented: extraction or root canal. I opted to keep the tooth. So he had the receptionists schedule for me to return at 2pm that afternoon to undergo the procedure. Everything was go.

Waiting for 2 hours was the hardest, most painful part. Wracked with nervousness, I ate some lunch and tried to distract myself. I chatted with a friend of mine back home who manages a dentist office, got some needed consolement, and then I steadied my resolve to go have it all done and make the pain go away.

There is nothing that can compare to trying to keep biting down on a dental tray full of rubber epoxy for 7 minutes in order to get a mold of your original tooth while your jaw is loaded up on anesthetics, the slobber is building, the slurping is increasing, and the plate is cutting into your gums as it’s pressed hard into them. Quite a humbling time, to be sure. Well, actually, the high-frequency shocks that shoot through your skull as the dentist reams out the crown and then each root of the tooth with his high dollar dremel tool — yeah, that can compare. (Enjoy the mental images)

So. I am now sporting a mostly dead tooth capped off with a temporary acrylic crown cast from the mold of my old tooth. I go back on the 15th of this month to have the tooth’s roots permanenty filled and have the ceramic crown, currently being made at a dental lab, installed. Until then, I can only eat on my left side (because the acrylic will break under force), and that’s just too weird; my jaw hinge hurts sometimes because I can’t chew on the right side, and I’m only getting half of the flavor out of my meals. Bleh. But I’m (mostly) pain free, and this is a good thing.

And would you expect to get all this for $69.95? No? How about $49.95? Guess again. Wait, would you expect to pay $19.95 for all this, PLUS the antiobiotic pills, the codiene pills, and the highly fashionable ceramic crown? “Most certainly not!” you say? Well, how about we throw in two hours of your time for absolute free? $9.95? You can have this all for the low, low price of only $631.95! Astonishing! For this unbelievably low price, YOU TOO could experience the freedom to say, “I have had major dental work done!” Shipping and handling is free to the first 200 callers – operators are standing by, so CALL NOW!