Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Like pulling teeth: Adventures in gardening and dentistry

    Two rather interesting things have happened to me lately.  First, I had one of my teeth pulled this week -- totally not a fun experience.  And, second, while still oozing pain and eating Hydrocodone and climbing the walls, I started reading a book about plants by Michael Pollan, entitled "The Botany of Desire".  So now I have suddenly become an expert on both pain-killers and gardens.

     Having one's tooth pulled is like, er, pulling teeth.  It really hurts.  So from now on I plan to brush and floss constantly and do whatever it takes to keep my remaining teeth healthy and clean.  Someone recommended gargling with Bombay Sapphire twice a day.  I'd try even that.

     Even though the student doctor who pulled my tooth at the UCSF School of Dentistry was an angel of mercy combined with Dr. McDreamy, having one's tooth extracted is never pretty.  I kept reciting that mantra "Challenges make me stronger" in the dental chair and silently doing jin shin jyutzu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4eRsF3PRQo -- but even that didn't work.  I'm a wimp.  And not only that but once the tooth was out, they wouldn't even give it back to me to give to the Tooth Fairy.  Rats.

     Then, once finally back home and safely collapsed into bed, I took some of those "opioid" pain-killers they gave me -- and dreamed that I was an escaped convict running a funeral parlor in my childhood hometown (Millbrae) and hiding under my daughter Ashley's bed (probably from NSA).  Forget that.  No more weird Kubla-Khan dreams for me.  I'm sticking with aspirin.

     Now I'm wishing there was something I could do to replace my poor sweet little lost tooth, but there doesn't seem to be anything.  Getting a dental implant is expensive -- $3,000 per tooth, even done by a dental student.  Who can afford that?  Not me.  So now I've got a big gap in my teeth.  How ugly is that!  However, I won't be alone for long.  Two-thirds of America will soon be joining me in being gap-toothed as well unless affordable dental insurance becomes available reasonably soon.  But if not, then we'll all be totally ugly together, not just me.  America goes third-world.  Who would have thought.

     I also have a postage-stamp sized garden attached to my apartment, which grows nothing.  According to Michael Pollan, this shouldn't be happening -- unless there has been some really heavy-duty weed killer sprayed there at one time.  Yes, there was.  But not by me.  So, apparently, what I need now is all new dirt.  And at the rate that American agribusiness keeps using millions of tons of herbicides and pesticides each year, all of America will soon be needing all new dirt too.

     "Actually, it's not the heavy use of herbicides and pesticides that is causing the most problems on huge agribusiness farms," to summarize one of Pollan's chapters on the potato, "but rather the monoculture nature of their crops.  Organic farmers can vary and rotate what they plant and thus stave off insect and fungal infestations -- but if your main customer for potatoes is McDonalds, then you have to plant Burbank russets and only Burbank russets all of the time.  So it is Americans themselves that are causing the major use of [stuff] like Roundup and Roundup-Ready GMOs." 

     So if I promise to plant a huge variety of everything in my garden, from fingerling potatoes to roses to dandelions, then will at least SOMETHING finally grow?

     And will I also be able to grow a new tooth?

PS:  Aside from Michael Pollan, why else have my thoughts been turning to gardening lately?  In the middle of freaking January?  Because this winter has been the sunniest one in Berkeley that I have ever seen.  It's like freaking summer here now, like July, every day -- even going beyond April or May.  www.weather.com even declared Berkeley a drought area the other day.  Time to bust out the seeds.

     Michael Pollan also wrote about cannabis in his book on plants.  "Marijuana doesn't make you forgetful of everything.  It just makes you forget [stuff] that's not important."  Interesting.  I always forget names.  So I guess names aren't all that important or necessary for me to remember.  Whew.  I'm off the hook then.  Am not getting senile dementia after all, just sorting out my priorities.

    And maybe that's why Alzheimer sufferers forget so much mental stuff too -- they might be shutting down everything that won't immediately help them to cope with this devastating disease (yes, I know that Alzheimers also rots its victims' brains -- but isn't that just one more good reason for them to shut said brains down?)

PPS:  With regard to raising the minimum wage here in soon-to-be-toothless America, wouldn't it make more sense to just cut the rate of inflation instead?  Starting by eliminating the Federal Reserve and its tendencies to print meaningless Monopoly money and to finance Endless War?  And, while we're at it, let's stop giving out billions in "food stamps" to corporate welfare queens like Bank of America, BP, WalMart, Halliburton and Monsanto.  Works for me.  And can we also please bring our millions of jobs back from overseas too?

     Back in 1963, I made $1.75 an hour while working in the post office on weekends and during summers.  With this money plus some help from my parents (yes, they could also afford to help me back then), I was able to graduate from San Jose State College without requiring any student loans.  And in 1966, when I got a big salary-bump to $3.50 an hour for working the stamp window instead of sorting mail, I was able put myself through graduate school at UC Berkeley, just by working during summer vacations.  Can you even imagine staying alive and not homeless in Berkeley today on that kind of salary -- let alone paying for your tuition at Cal as well.

     What has happened to all of America's jobs and wealth since the 1960s, back when we were the richest country in the world?  That's a no-brainer.  It's all flown away into the pockets of Wall Street mega-bankers, the numbered Cayman accounts of war profiteers and the fat wallets of all those corporate welfare queens who currently own and run our government.
     While it's always a good idea to raise America's minimum wage a few dollars, it's also important to stop runaway inflation -- and to also start lowering a certain type of maximum wage as well:  The maximum amount that rich guys can steal from us before they get sent to jail.
     And we need to put some teeth into these new regulations too.

PPPS:  New development.  Holy cow.  Now I'm all sitting here in abject pain being caused by my phantom tooth that has already been pulled.  Why can't I have the same dental plan that Congressional representatives have!  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304325004579296140856419808


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