Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Time Is Relative

I once cracked a molar, the first incident in what would turn into a “problem tooth”.  It was the first major dental incident I had ever suffered.  I had been playing a show in Pittsburgh when it happened.  I remember being really sweaty holding the mic, leaning into a drunk rambunctious crowd and yelling something at them.  Bobby ripped into a solo and I jumped back while I clenched my jaw hearing a very distinctive “crunch” sound that was entirely new to me.  I wondered what the hell it was and took a second to wash back some cold beer.  When that cold liquid hit that tooth, I knew exactly what was going on.  It was like plugging my lower jaw into a socket.  I did the rest of the set on muscle memory while thinking “I wonder how bad that tooth is…  I wonder how bad it will hurt when this adrenalin and beer wear off…”

This is, of course, a minor injury in the history of rock.  On certain nights, when the moon is just right, Michael from the Cynics will tell the horrifying tale of when he slipped on a Madrid stage and had his legs effectively do a split on the stage edge.  While this alone would have been attention getting, he got up to keep the song going.  The show must go on after all.  He felt a warn wetness growing around his crotch and thought “Holy shit…  I pissed myself!”.  That’s a tall order to be a front man in a packed club singing in the spotlight after you’ve wet yourself.  As I heard tell, he stepped to the side for a second and looked down to discover he was actually bleeding.  It turned out he had ripped his penis hole apart and was bleeding like a geyser.  This proved to be a bit much for him to absorb and the show was over.  I think I would have reacted “poorly” to discover my penis hole ripped apart.  Being Spain, they called an ambulance that didn’t show up.  They then corralled a car to spirit him to a hospital where some surprised Spanish surgeon stitched his penis back together.  Michael spent quite some time in a Madrid hospital room until he was shakily rolled out in a wheelchair weeks later like an elderly Greta Garbo.  This would be a much more major injury than my tooth issue in my opinion.

I wound up going to a dentist that wasn’t my normal guy.  Let me pass along some life lessons that are very valuable.  Things you don’t ever skimp on: wine, cheese, shoes, dental work.  Yet here I was with a new dentist.  I was breaking my normal rule on this, but it was an emergency.  When choosing between a painful fucked up tooth and potential relief OR guaranteed relief 48 hours later, I’m rolling the dice on immediate relief. The dentist was a younger guy, relatively inexperienced.  His assistant was out for the day.  It was just the two of us in a grim little strip plaza.

I sat in the chair and explained the situation as “I cracked that back molar in two and it hurts like hell”.  I opened wide.  He fiddled around in my mouth with a pick directly in the area.  Does this hurt?  HOLY FUCK WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  It hurt.  He decided we should get some Novocaine in there to settle things down.  That seemed reasonable to me.  He shot me up.  We waited and made small talk.  The dentist looked at me oddly after I told him I did it on stage at a punk rock club in Pittsburgh.  I think the dentist was very confused by this.  After 75 years of playing rock music I can tell you that the majority of people think that live music is performed in one of two situations.  These are sports arenas to 20,000 people or at wedding receptions.  The general public has no idea that there is a circuit for almost any small sub-genre of music.  You like Death Metal?  There’s a club that does that.  Funk?  Yes.  Country punk?  Once again, yes.

After waiting for a prescribed amount of time, he began to work on me.  As he started, I could feel it.  Hey, hey, hey…  I can feel that!  Are you sure?  I’ve never been more sure of anything.  The dentist stopped for a second and decided to give me more Novocaine.  We repeated the small talk and waited, this time the talk more strained as if he was blaming me for ineffectively numbing the area.  He resumed working on the tooth.  Hey man!  I can still feel that.  He pulled the drill out and looked at me with slight disdain.  I don’t think so.  I have A LOT of Novocaine in you.  He sort of guilt tripped me into thinking I was being a sissy about it.  OK.  Let’s try it again.  HOLY SHIT!  OH MY GOD!  I definitely wasn’t numb.  He pulled the drill out.

I sat in the chair in the reclined position with the suction tube hissing in my mouth.  He hovered over me in his stool.  He pulled down his surgical mask.  “Let me ask you something… And be honest with me…  How much cocaine are you doing?”  What?  What the fuck are you talking about?  I had never done coke after a friend I trusted on these subjects pulled me aside at a party once and said, “Greg… Let me tell you something…  You are someone that should never even consider cocaine.”.  As this friend of mine knew a few things in this area as well as my personality, I trusted that advice and never even considered it.  Looking back, I think that advice was solid as I would have ended up quickly as a dude with a speedboat, stripper girlfriend and a gold coke spoon necklace.  This would not have lasted long as I would have ended up in a discount motel by the airport smoking crack and planning gas station robberies for more crack.

The dentist did not believe me.  He said, “Look I can’t give you any more Novocaine.  We will either have to wait until whatever in your system is out or we just do it without the painkiller working.”  How long will that drilling take?  “Probably about 20 seconds of me drilling right in the middle of it.”  Gulp.  It was decision time.  Fuck it.  I’m here.  Let’s do it. 

Time is relative.  For example, twenty seconds of making love to a woman you adore in her bedroom with soft classical music, the slight scent of perfume, and the curtain lightly blowing in the summer breeze is much shorter than twenty seconds of a rookie dentist drilling directly into an exposed nerve in a strip plaza on a Sunday afternoon.  That lasted about a year and a half.  It was like a grenade was detonated in my mouth, electric blue pain shooting across every cell in my body in cascading waves.  My hands clenched in the fake leather arm rests making a crunching sound as I gripped harder and harder.  Almost done…  almost done…  OK… There we go…  I walked out of that dentist office like you see people in shock walking out of terrorist bombings.

That same tooth was barking at me a bit today, many years later.  I don't know what I did to anger the Dental Gods, but I will tell you this.  I am going to hope this all settles down without further incident.  I am going to plan some type of getaway as if I can outrun the problem.  Though people say you can't run away from your problems, that's probably not true.  You can for awhile at least.  Maybe not your dental problems though.  I was just thinking of really tempting fate and getting away to Spain.  If so, I'm going to try not to rip my penis open there.  More importantly, no matter what, I am not going to a discount Spanish dentist.   


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