Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The vow

The process has begun. I'm having the braces on my top teeth installed next week. But before I can do that, four of my teeth needed to go.

So to the dentist I went yesterday. These men and women are hard to please.

"So I guess you don't floss much," he said while sticking various Hostel: Part V: The Cranston Vacation objects at my poor teeth. Actually, I floss every day, sometimes twice a day. "You need to do a better job."

"Do you smoke? I see some stains." They're coffee stains, I couldn't say. It's not like my teeth are black and rotting, for crying out loud.

"I see you've become addicted to crystal meth."

"Do you eat hamburgers, where instead of the burger, you're eating a patty of chewing tobacco?"

"Have you set your teeth on fire recently?"

I believe I take decent care of the chompers. I only need these braces due to issues dating back to childhood. Since high school, I've been a fairly conscientious brusher and flosser. I won't be in any Colgate ads, but I don't look like a toothless thug in a 1930's gangster movie.

Except for now.

If I smile widely, you will see four hideous gaps where my first molars should be. It hasn't been painful, but I don't care how much Novocaine they stick in your gums, seeing a scary metal clamp approaching your mouth and sensing and hearing the tooth pried out is not a pleasant experience.

They showed me my four detached teeth and I felt sorry for them. It's true. They didn't deserve this fate. They were a part of me and are now gone for future dentists to study and mock.

"Was this guy a meth-addicted arsenic swallower or what?"

I'm OK if I don't smile like a buffoon and if I only laugh modestly. No one seemed to notice at work today. But in the mirror I can cackle like a superhero villain and give myself nightmare. It's pretty bad. I look like Joe Pesci from Home Alone, except for the gold teeth imagine nothing but blackened gums.

And if you want to know what it's like in my mouth right now (and why wouldn't you?), gargle your own blood every few hours.

So why the hell am I doing this? I've asked myself this question often. I hope an angel can someday take me on a tour in 20 years of what would have happened if I did not fix my orthodontic issues. I'd have dentures at 40. I wouldn't be a world-famous Crest commercial actor. That way, all this annoyance, inconvenience and money (lots and lots of money) will be proven worthwhile.

That's all I have for now.

And I am making a vow. After this whole process is complete, I am done with dental procedures. I've spent an obscene amount of money fixing things the past three years and that will only increase over the next two.

Barring anything but intense pain, I am putting my foot down. I promised myself when I was a little boy I would never touch a cigarette, joint, cigar or any other smoking instrument. I never did. I made that vow for my health.

So I make this vow today for my social well-being (whatever is left of it) and for my wallet (whatever is left of it). The vast dental conspiracy that has convinced me I've needed tissue grafts, bone grafts, extractions and braces will go unheeded from here on out.

The foot is down ... starting in 2013.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Basketball Guy

After every school day in high school, I would rush home to listen to the Jim Rome show. Did this lead to a lucrative radio career berating callers or playing fart noises on WEEI? Sadly, it did not.

Nonetheless, Jim Rome cracked me up. One particular bit he did that I will always remember is “Softball Guy.” He would rip on the stereotypical middle-aged man who takes softball way too seriously. You know the type: guy who wears batting gloves, cleats, the stirrup socks, eye black, the whole works. He acts like he’s playing DH for the Yankees, instead of third base at the Irish O’Malley field in Dorchester for Jacko and Sons Plumbing, LLC.

Yesterday, I participated in two full-court basketball games where I witnessed many incarnations of certain Basketball Guys. After years of playing with Bob Knight Hosseini and Nenad Schaible and Kyle Korver Grimala, then playing with the serious types down in South Florida, I believe I’ve accumulated ample expertise to delineate the certain types you’ll find playing any basketball game.

Has this been done before? Sure, but not with my wit and keen insight.

And-One Bloopers Guy

This guy loves to dribble between his legs, juke no one out of his shoes, run the fast break like Marcus Banks and, my favorite, loves to try fancy passes during games. Too bad for him every pass behind the back hits someone in the knee or rolls helplessly out of bounds. This guy popped up numerous times yesterday. One time, I’m Not Steve Nash, who was on my team, had a 3-on-1 fast break, dribbled up the middle and tried a behind-the-back, no-look pass that clanked off someone’s shin and right to the waiting arms of the defender. If you can pull off the Harlem Globetrotters’ moves, then play for the Harlem Globetrotters. If not, then a simple pass will do.

Doesn’t Shut Up Guy

This guy likes to showcase his knowledge of primary colors on defense. “Get White!” “Watch out for Red!” “Watch out for Black!” He calls for the ball on every possession. He complains loudly when he doesn’t get the ball. He yells at people when they miss shots. He’s the guy who makes a loud, random noise in your face when you’re shooting, just to gain that little competitive advantage while also coming across like a giant douche.

Follow the Rules Guy

This guy thinks he’s Dick Bavetta. He never misses a shot on his own, calling for a foul instead. He calls traveling and double-dribbling with such insane bias you’d think he was reffing a Lakers game. He will yell at you for ignoring the Treaty of Versailles. But if you dare call him out for any infractions, prepare for ….

Bitch-and-Moan Guy

He comes in many sizes, but he is impossible to miss because he complains about everything. His testosterone levels are enormous and he’s not on the court to play basketball; he’s on the court to impose his male dominance. I’ve played in pick-up games that were brought to screeching halts for 10 or 15 minutes just by guys arguing at each other. And it’s always the same culprits week after week. Is there anything more pointless than filibustering during a pickup game? Can’t we all just play mediocre, post-Kendrick Perkins Celtic basketball that would make James Naismith wish he’d invented the XFL?

The Chucker

George Costanza is the most famous of this popular species. The chucker believes he or she is Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, firing fade-away threes whenever the balls touches the hand. And yes, I’ve played with a guy who hoists at least four or five fade-away THREES a game.

Yesterday, the chucker was a girl. She had some game, but she took at least 10 threes over two games and each one was a more horrible disaster than the next. Like M. Night Shyamalan movies!! (And the foul!) I cleaned up after her, scoring off these terrible misses several times, enough to really frustrate the other team. “Who’s watching RED!!??!?!” Still, all chuckers, there are four other players on the court. And there’s no shot clock. No need to play like all the idiots in the NCAA tournament who dribble around for thirty seconds and then heave a 30-foot prayer. We’re better than that.

The Midget

One of these yesterday, too. He’s usually a little over 5-feet tall. And he knows he needs to make up for it by being a 7-foot asshole. He will elbow you in the nuts. He will slap you silly. He will do everything he can to annoy the living hell out of you. While one must appreciate the effort, the groin area is important and does not want to be disturbed by sweaty, small male hands. Unless it belongs to a Republican. (And the foul!)

We get it, Danny Woodhead wannabe. You’re a ‘gamer.’ Yesterday, you tried to post me up. Yes, I had at least a foot on you and you were posting me up. Now, my defense in the paint is Situation-trying-to-be-funny abysmal, but still. And you elbowed and scratched and clawed … and you never got the ball because no one wants to throw an entry pass to Tom Cruise.

On the next possession, you tried to sprint for an offense rebound and Steve “The Thin Fundamental” Sears eased right in your path and gave a solid box-out. You audibly groaned when you made contact with my muscular frame. You never did post me up again.

The Old Guy

My college buddies will never forget Bert. Or was it Bird? Anyway, he was an older, rotund gentleman who wore a Larry Bird jersey and, even worse, Larry Bird short shorts. Covering him was like swimming in a pool of his sweat. He donned the goggles and the headbands. Straight outta 1983. He also cherry picked like a mofo, but that’s another story.

Yes, you know you’re in a pickup game when there’s at least one dude in his fifties laboring up and down the court. No, not me. He might not have hair or a working back, but he does have guile. I can’t help but love these guys. They have their set-shots, their muscle-shirts showcasing healthy amounts of chest and/or back hair. They are not afraid to take off said shirts at any time. And if you ever find yourself in a locker room with one, the penis will make a guest appearance.

The Pretty Boy

Oh, he’ll play alright, but not before he applies the hair gel, the very tight black shirt and his new kickin’ sneaks. He thinks he’s way better at basketball than he is. He will be picked before more capable players because he looks like he can play, but then you find out he can barely dribble. He just wants to run around and show off his biceps to the ladies. But unless the Food Network or Bravo starts televising pickup games, ladies won’t be watching.

The Kobe

Our final type. He is the best player on the court. He assumes the leadership position and everything just runs through him. Pickup warriors can usually pick this guy out during warm-ups. He has a steely confidence and focused glare. It’s Game 7 of the Finals and he’s ready to win it all. He is also extremely demanding, unafraid to cuss you out for missing a layup or failing to grab a rebound. He’s like Kobe Bryant, except you don’t necessarily hate this guy. But like Kobe, you need him to win. You just hope he doesn’t try to backstab you to the Colorado police.

I will stop here. There are other types, but I don’t want this to turn in to a Bill Simmons column. There’s the Fundamental Guy Who Does the Little Things (ME!), the Foreigner, the Girl, the Trash Talker and the Ringer. If I missed any big ones, feel free to let me know how stupid I am in the lonely hellscape of my comments section.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Old dirty bastards

I'm just a helpless damsel being mercilessly attacked by roving gangs of ruthless elderly hoodlums.

Which is why I plan on becoming a superhero who battles the senior menace, stalking the grocery stores, bingo parlors and slot machines of South Florida to catch these dangerous clap-on rapscallions.

Sigh. Who am I kidding? In all likelihood, this will not happen. First, the seniors have the politicians in their pockets. Instead of taking the blue-haired bandits off the streets, corrupt officials would target me. Second, streaming episodes of the Larry Sanders Show aren't going to watch themselves.

Steve, why the frustration with our more wiser, graying friends? Seniors are nice people who spoil their grand kids, not career criminals.

Obviously, straw man questioner, you haven't been down here in a while.

I was in line at the BankAtlantic Center to purchase overpriced concessions when a senior citizen cut me in line. Blatantly. He didn't give me the finger, but he should have. I was in Starbucks to buy overpriced coffee when a senior citizen cut me in line. He didn't take out his penis and waved it around in masculine triumph, but he should have.

Think I'm done ? I was waiting patiently while grandma shuffled coupons at Walgreen's. Fine, I might be like that someday. No worries. I waited and waited. While I perused the lovely Olivia Wilde on some magazine ... an old man cut me in line.

I stared a laserbeam at him. The full Schaible Face came over me. Thing is, this guy just did not give a damn. "I'm old. I can do what the fuck I want. You gonna stop me?"

Well, no. Can't yell at him. Can't push him out of the way. All I can do is wait even more, furrow my brow, pay his Social Security while he votes to destroy mine, and buy my items in 2014.

Not a day later, I was driving around 45 mph side-by-side with a blue car that suddenly swerved in my lane to pass a slow-moving vehicle (driven by a 90-year-old). It was like I wasn't there. And I never beep at people, but I blared the horn at this driver and made sure to get a good look. Wouldn't you know? An old lady.

Almost drove me off the road. Could have killed me!

Is it not enough to slap me in the face during Panthers games or at Walgreen's? It it not enough to make grocery shopping an Olympic sport of stamina and focus? Is it not enough to vote for Rick Scott?

Now you want to kill me?

If Bruce Wayne can fight crime in his spare time, I can do the same. You're on notice, old people. Some day I will snap, and it will be ugly.

(P.S. This clip from my cartoon twin is a likely indicator how my pursuits would go.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The cure

I actually did stuff this past weekend, hosting MMA impresario Dave Doyel on a trek to Fort Myers for Red Sox spring training.

Here are the bullet points.

• I did not get lost from the airport.
• I did miss the exit to 75 North, which crosses Florida east to west. Just a small diversion.
• I still did not get lost from the airport.
• I had my first memorable Jacuzzi experience. Where I hung out in Rhode Island and Boston, Jacuzzis were rather rare. Those things are relaxing! Either that, or it sapped all my youthful vigor and turned me into a static prune.
• We sat in the Jacuzzi with a farming couple form Minnesota. The salt of the earth cavorting with evil librul commu-fascists. They were none the wiser.
• I challenged Mr. Doyal to a swim race, assuming a victory. Instead, I was routed. I'm used to some jabroni challenging me on the basketball court, his head filled with hubris, and then quickly and coldly dispatching that hubris. To be on the opposite end is not as enjoyable. I am not a creature of the water.
• We drove around our first night in sprawling, octogenarian Fort Myers looking for a cool place to eat. We ended up at P.K. Sam's aka P.F. Chang's. After more than four years down here, I should know that you don't find cultured eating in this state.
• Game 1 on Friday afternoon. Great seats several rows up near home plate at the spring home of the Minnesota Twins, Hammond Stadium. Carl Crawford didn't make solid contact once and Jonathan Papelbon could not find the strike zone. Recipe for a Red Sox defeat.
• I did get revenge for my loss in the swimming pool with a thrilling win at Smuggler's Cove mini-golf course. I started out hot, went into a slump, but then turned on my Ironwill O'Houlihan motor to pull out a one-shot victory.
• We met up with some of Dave Doyil's Harvard buddies, one who used to work as a hawk back in the pre-Sears days. Dark, dark times. I heard of a scoring scandal and a hilarious story involving Sport Joe. For more details, you'll have to ask nicely.
• One of the guys thought about being a journalist but instead went into consulting. He asked if he made the right choice. After laughing uproariously, I asked him, "Do you like money?" He nodded. I asked, "Do you like living like a normal human being?" He said yes. So I told him he made the right decision.
• This group of Boston-educated Red Sox fans ended up at the Fire Pit, one of those cookie cutter restaurants that tried its hardest to appear trendy and appealing. Mediocre food. While we left, they were setting up the place into a nightclub. During the day, I hear it's a library and a BINGO hall. (I've been watching too much Larry Sanders.)
• The next day was a trip to City of Palms Park, the site of the Boston Red Sox. We packed into the right field bleachers and baked in the sun while we (mostly me) tried to find as many non-Caucasians attending a Red Sox game as possible. And I found a few.
• I was there for Adrian Gonzalez's first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform, a solid single. The game went very well, even John Lackey pitched like a professional.
• The one player who stood out in both games was by far Jacoby Ellsbury. He smashed the ball all over the field in the two games we saw, including a home run against the Marlins.
• After the game, NESN reporter Heidi Watney walked right by us. Just thought I'd mention that.

In summation, you can't beat a few days of spring training baseball in wonderful Florida weather with likable people. And while Fort Myers has its faults, Dave said, "I could see myself loving to live here when I'm 70."


After last week's unfortunate events, this little excursion was the perfect elixir. Now it's time to enter the chaos that is mid-March at my job. It begins Thursday.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I'll keep the dime

This week can go screw itself.

I broke my favorite sunglasses on my birthday. I stopped at a court to shoot hoops randomly and forgot I had my sunglasses. So I placed them behind the basket. Twenty minutes later, a shot of mine bounces over the backboard, against an adjacent fence -- as I watch it unfold in slow-motion -- and directly hits my shades.

The Horatio Cane eyewear isn't the only thing in disrepair. My body is breaking down. I have to stretch for 15 minutes before I plan on breaking a sweat or I will pay the price dearly. My legs have been bothering me and the doctor tells me its because I sit down too much at work. It feels like restless leg syndrome, though I have no idea what that is. It feels better to give this malady a name.

The doctor told me I should exercise more. (I haven't really stopped, actually. A $25 co-pay for that advice.)

I can't edit any NFL lockout stories or conjure brilliant puns from the treadmill.

Ahh, work. I can't get into it too much in this space, but this is "Filene's Basement during the Running of the Brides" time for all sports media entities. If that's not enough, I had problems keeping a vacation that I had planned for months in advance.

Hell, it's not a vacation. Just a weekend. Even that resulted in a mini-crisis this week.

Also, I have tickets to see the Capitals play the Panthers, yet no one to take as of yet. Great seats, too. This is Panthers hockey! C'mon, who wants to go?
Think we've hit the bottom here? Like Charlie Sheen (I had to mention him), there's no such thing as a bottom. Or a denied interview request.

Way back during the first dentist visit I can remember, the word "orthodontist" come up. I never went to the dentist after that during my Rhode Island years, but I started under my nice insurance plan I have at work here in Florida.

First dentist said the dreaded "o" word. Warned of dentures at 40. (Not really, but he was an alarmist.) This dentite sent me to another, who passed on the same warning.

"You will lose your teeth if you don't get this checked out."

I finally broke down and went this week. Maybe the news wouldn't be that bad. I keep decent care of my chompers.

But by The Law of Sears, such cautious optimism suffered a violent death.

The orthodontist laid out the evidence better than anyone I have seen, complete with x-rays and computer imaging. Some people have worse teeth than I, which makes me feel a tad better. Just a smidgen.

But I have an "open" bite where my top front teeth don't correlate with the bottom. They flare out. And there's my bottom two front teeth, which nearly face each other.

The prognosis begins: tooth extraction. Four. I asked her in disbelief, "You mean you're going to pull four teeth??"

Yes, she answered matter-of-factly.

Then the hammer. "What you'll need are full metal braces along the bottom and front teeth."

"How long?" I ask, about to cry.

"A year and a half." I literally winced and muttered, "Jesus Christ." She sympathized.

Following braces would be months with a retainer, 24/7, and when that ends, only at night. For pretty much the rest of my life.

In summation, a giant hassle that will cost me thousands. There are social considerations of course, being an "adult" with so-called "metal mouth." For someone as self-conscious as I, this might be the biggest hurdle.

"Hi, I'm Steve. I'm a lanky, socially awkward copy editor who enjoys the comedy of Carrot Top, despises dancing, drink like Miley Cyrus and frankly doesn't do well with people. And I have braces. Wanna grab some coffee? I hope you don't mind me bringing my dental fanny pack with 14 kinds of floss, specialty brushes and a cup for my excess saliva."

On the other hand, what would braces really mean to my social existence? Not much. I can still stream Larry Sanders episodes on Netflix or regurgitate haphazard blogs on an irregular basis. It's like tossing a twinkie wrapper in a landfill. You're not ruining the Mona Lisa. It's already a dump.

With all the crap that's been dumped on my plate this week, you'll never guess what almost sent me over the edge. Remember that Family Guy episode where Lois goes nuts trying to plan the perfect Christmas for the Griffins? Peter accidentally gives away all their gifts. Brian sets the house on fire. The kids are ungrateful. None of this sets her off; it's when she asks for more paper towels and find there's none left.

It's the straw that breaks the camel's back, as the cliche goes. The "that's it" moment.
Mine came at Dunkin' Donuts. I had a gift card and I wanted a small iced coffee. Came to $1.90. I gave the cashier the card. He swiped it only to elicit a loud beep. Second try, no luck. Third, nothing.

I had just used it on Monday. It was Thursday. There was still 20 bucks on it. I informed the man the card definitely possessed sufficient funds. He didn't care. So I swiped the card from his hands and gave him two dollars, visibly upset. Seething, really.

Normally, I will throw the spare change in the tip mug. Not this time, sir. I took the dime and stormed out of the store.

A man can only take so much.