Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fun At The Free Clinic

Damn...who knew?

Being that the awful cough and wheeze that I'd inherited from our housecleaning binge had largely passed just before Thanksgiving, I had been second-guessing my need to keep the appointment I'd made to the Lake County Free Medical Clinic all last weekend. I'd reasoned to myself that they weren't going to tell me anything I didn't already know, but Sarah's protestations (aided by a brief reappearance of The Wheeze during Sunday's temperature gymnastics) made me keep the appointment.

Needless to say, my day was off to a pretty iffy start when I pulled into 270 E. Main Street in Painesville (the stated location of this place) at 9 A.M. sharp and was greeted by a nearly-empty three-story office building with all of two cars in the parking lot and no listing of a Free Clinic anywhere in it. Marvy.

Irritated, I got back in my car and spent a few minutes driving a circle around downtown Painesville, scanning randomly about for any sign of the place and had no luck finding it. I eventually drove a further down E. Main Street in search of additional clues and came across some place called the Lake County Health District. It wasn't the right place, but one of the secretaries there was able to point me at the new location of the Free Clinic ... directly behind a Rite Aid in another faceless three-story office building about 1000 feet away from the one I had just visited. Dohh.

Located three floors up, my first impression of the Lake County Free Medical Clinic was the waiting room, which was populated almost exclusively by Hispanic folks judging by the unending flurry of murmured Spanish I heard all around me. As I briefly chatted with the receptionist while signing in, I quickly deduced why I was puzzlingly informed that she "will have no clinic until Monday" when I was called to set up the appointment last week: apparently English was her second language as well.

Thanks to the bungled address fiasco, I had arrived 15 minutes late for my appointment, but didn't wind up actually being seen by a doctor until almost exactly two hours later. The time between was spent being briefly screened by a nurse for about 10 minutes or so, and the other hour and fifty minutes skimming through a handful of thirty-year old National Geographic magazines in the waiting room. Ah well, I suppose it beats being stuck with Good Housekeeping ...

One thing about the clinic that struck me was how old everything looked in it. None of the fixtures or furnitures in the examination rooms were "chintzy" or "cheap," but rather very well aged, if you know what I mean.

On that note, I have to admit in retrospect that I had never given a lot of thought as to what kind of a doctor would work in a place like this. Thus, I really shouldn't have been as surprised as I was when the man of the hour finally toddled in the examination room I was in with the gait of an arthritic three-year old and greeted me in a voice so thin and low that it was borderline inaudible: Gregory House, he was not. When I told her about him hours later, Sarah had guessed that "he must have been retired and working for free." I'd replied "sure, but it appears he retired about three decades ago."

The doctor was a nice enough guy, despite the fact that he told me pretty much exactly what I was expecting to hear: I appear to have a tendency towards being asthmatic. *Shocking music.* This trip wasn't a complete waste of time, however: Herr Doktor did provide me with some Albuterol and a bottle of Robitussin DM which I'll be putting to good use the next time this condition recurs, which judging from our topsy-turvy weather could be as early as Thursday ...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Turkey Day '05 Wrap-Up

Being that Sarah and I didn't even get out of bed on Thanksgiving until about 2 or so in the afternoon, you could say that it was a pretty laid-back Thanksgiving, even by my lax standards.

After some puttering about for an hour or so, it was time to get seriously moving. In order to keep up our "Thanksgiving Breakfast On The Town" tradition, we decided to head over to the Denny's in Willoughby around 4. This was a bit late for a breakfast, granted, but we had no idea that my parents had actually started Turkey Day dinner at a reasonable hour this year. I'd never noticed this until sometime around high school, but it certainly seems like 99% of America eats Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner at about 3 in the freakin' afternoon, while the my family prefers to sit down at the table even later than our normal dinner hour of 7 o'clock.

While Denny's worked out just dandy as a breakfast locale for us last year, it turned out to be the worst-case scenario this time around, largely due to the unbelievably sucky waitress we were saddled with. Oh well, we only had to deal with her twice in the hour and change we were there ...

From there, it was straight over to Mentor in what felt and looked like the arctic gales of midwinter. Luckily, the weather people were largely wrong when it came to the local conditions as the Early Winter Apocalypse that was called for on Tuesday wound up amounting to 3" or so of snow and a whole lotta wind (though I'm sure it must have been a real party in the Snowbelt that day). Upon arriving at my parents, we saw that the table was already set and the smell of a finished turkey hung thick in the air. Oops.

While I didn't exactly stuff myself at the restaurant, I was only able to eat one plate's worth of Thanksgiving dinner that night. Pretty shameful. From there, it was a few hours of relaxing, doing some last minute buffing and polishing to my amazon.com wishlist (hint hint!) and watching DVDs of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog and (by request) Back To The Future with Sarah and my younger brother, Bryan.

A bit later on as we were approaching midnight, my brother Brett and I briefly (and jokingly, I swear) discussed the idea of heading over to Wal-Mart in full NHL gear and busting some heads when the doors opened at 5 AM. Sadly, however, I was secheduled to be at work at noon on Friday, so the plan was scuttled. As it turns out, a few dozen customers nationwide did a credible enough job of acting like crazed bulls in a china shop on their way to the electronics section to do us proud. Gawd bless Black Friday mornings.

While we're on the topic of Black Friday, it's been pretty hectic at the store the last couple of days, but not in the way we had planned it. Yes, the business has been pretty much on target for the weekend, but we've also been up to our ears in moving and re-arranging work since the guy we commissioned to create some new product bins finally delivered most of them about three months behind schedule. We desperately needed the expansion space and it's nice to have it at last, but doing all of this gruntwork at the onset of the Christmas shopping season is exactly what we were trying to avoid by asking for these bins back in fuckin' August. Grrr.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Holiday Forecast: Blah

This started off being a pretty pissed off entry, but I've mellowed quite a bit since I started writing, so now this is more of a even-keeled, yet resigned kind of post. That's good, because I was starting to even get pretty tired of my own bitching ... maybe even more than any of you must be by now, heh heh.

It becomes more and more clear to me as time moves on just how enormous of a financial mistake I made this past summer when I green-lighted the repair of my car's steering system. From that precise point onwards, I have basically been spinning wheels in order to keep up with my financial responsibilities, and feeling that control of my life has slipped out of my hands. Exacerbating this feeling is the remarkable runaway domino effect that seemingly went into motion within weeks of my going into debt: since the middle of August, life has been like an unending display of Murphy's Law in action as just about everything possible that could go wrong has gone wrong.

I think I reached a peak in my level of distress or depression last week with how the second half of this year has unfolded (and keeps unfolding), and since then I've adopted a more jaded, yet minutely positive attitude over the last few days regarding life as we know it on Thanksgiving eve, 2005.

Anyway, the situation here has once again become more complicated financially. Since the Cleveland Free Clinic wasn't taking any new patients until January (?!) and I could not reach the Painesville location after multiple attempts, I finally made an appointment with the dentist I last visited in mid-2000. I actually kinda like this guy and he usually does a fine job of putting me at ease, but this time was not one of those happier occasions as it seems he cannot take care of this particular problem.

Instead, I have been referred to an oral surgeon who will apparently have to remove my last remaining wisdom tooth from my mouth at a rather inflated cost as compared to what it would be if my dentist had just done it on the morning of my visit. Oddly, I can't see the problem as I have obviously had a lower wisdom tooth done before by a regular dentist with no ill effect. My dentist also mentioned a gum infection and an abcess, but the oral surgeon (who seems to be a pretty cool guy, very likable and also quick to ease any apprehensions I had) couldn't find any serious problem in those areas when I asked him about them during my examination.

So far, I'm at $230 spent without anything having actually been done yet. $160 on a set of x-rays to find this out at the dentist's office and then $70 for a five-minute consultation with the oral surgeon (!).

Jesus, I picked the wrong career ...

NP Roger Waters Ça Ira

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tooth Or Consequences

Me, sometime in the early 1980s in MichiganAt some point when I was about 11 years or so old (I'm not sure exactly when, but I know it was while I was still living in Michigan), I went in for a scheduled dental checkup and was told afterward that I had four cavities and I had to set up an appointment to get them all filled.

At that time, this news didn't fill me with any terror or dread at all: I had been going to this dentist for years and never had any problems with the experience (though I suppose having my teeth sandblasted every six months to a year with what tasted like very flat dried orange Sunkist wasn't exactly high on my list of Favorite Things in life). While I was a tad bit surprised that I had let myself get a cavity for the first time in my life (let alone four), I was also a bit curious as to how this procedure was going to go.

My follow-up visit was probably one of the formative events of my life, and not in a pleasant way. What happened, in short, was that I had my four cavities professionally drilled and filled without any painkillers. At all.

I don't remember how long it took to get all four teeth done. I suppose it couldn't have taken more than an hour, though it felt at the time like it was never going to end. I remember quite vividly hearing that high-pitched pneumatic whine for the first time, the fleeting, vaguely unsettling thought of "hey, uh, aren't I supposed to get some kind of anesthetic for this?" as my dentist leaned over me and shined that light directly into my face, and then the rapid downward shifting of the sound's pitch when the drill head contacted one of my breached molars. All I could was make odd "unnk" "nnnk "nnnng" noises at odd times while gripping the edges of the chair with white knuckles and feeling the occasional tear drip down the side of my face.

My obvious agony didn't earn me any sympathy points from my dentist. Instead, I was given stern admonitions to "sit still," "hang in there," "almost done" and a couple of other instructions to that effect. This dentist was never the friendliest codger in the world: if anything, he seemed a bit like a grouchier version of my grandfather in that they shared a no-nonsense kind of attitude. After that day, though ... let's just say that our relationship had changed drastically.

OW OW OWLife I said earlier, that day was a pretty life-changing event: from that point onwards, I have been scared out of my fucking mind of the dentist's office. Even almost entirely positive dental office experiences that followed (including one visit where I was blissfully stoned out of my entire being on nitrous and novocaine) failed to wipe out the psychic stain of that one visit. I've had three wisdom teeth out over the last 15 years, all of them with no complications or suffering whatsoever (save for the one time I waited a half hour too long to pop my first pain pill afterward -- hoo boy), yet during my most recent procedure about 5 years ago, I remember sitting alone in one of the exam rooms, reclined in the chair and visibly trembling in irrational fright during the few moments between my examination by the hygienist and the arrival of my current dentist.

With that in mind, you could probably imagine the feelings of "ohhh shit" that came to mind when I started feeling another tooth slipping into distress (as mentioned in this post). I'm not completely sure if this is the last of my wisdom teeth or a molar that's gone to Hell, and I've put this off for as long as I can, but it's becoming apparent that I am just about out of time: lack of funds and proximity to Turkey Day notwithstanding.

I do have a choice in the matter, which is at once reassuring and kinda scary. Sarah has informed me that the Free Clinic Of Greater Cleveland offers extraction services. The reassuring news in this is that said extraction would be absolutely free of charge. The bad news is that I'd have to drive into Cleveland proper to get this taken care of, and the "you get what you pay for" part of my brain is gibbering insanely at the idea that "free" must somehow mean "no painkillers" or worse (whatever "worse" might be). Yes, I realize this is likely foolishness brought on my fear, but that's my brain for ya.

That said, I think I will see if I can arrange a Monday appointment at this Free Clinic place and we'll see how this goes. If that won't fly, I will try to get an appointment from my "regular" (read: the last guy I saw 5 years ago) dentist instead. Time is of the essence, here: I want this taken care of immediately, since I am already sorely regretting waiting this long (no pun intended, honest), and I'd very much like to be able to eat myself into a turkey coma on Thursday.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Ultraman with Chest Bulb ThingAs you might have inferred from my current user photo, I have recently been on a bit of an Ultraman kick. I have no idea what drove me to start Googling around on Ultraman and seeing what was out there a couple of weeks ago, but I've been a total blast revisiting one of my favorite T.V. shows from my childhood.

Waaayy back when I was a kid, my family would spend most Thanksgiving holidays at my grandmother's house in the unfortunately-named burg of Beaver, Pennsylvania. Back in those unimaginably quaint pre-cable T.V. days, the Greater Pittsburgh area didn't offer an awful lot of choice in the UHF band, so WOR TV-9 out of New York City was beamed in to give residents a bit more of a viewing selection than just the three networks.

Normally, this quirk of programming wouldn't have meant anything to me at all, save that from 1976 to 1985, WOR had a tradition of showing nothing but Godzilla movies from morning to evening on the day after Thanksgiving (Turkey Day itself was filled out by sundry King Kong flicks). To a 7-9 year old kid, this was even better than saturday morning cartoons: watching 400 foot tall radioactive dinosaurs knocking each other around like professional wrestlers was more than enough to drive me to wild heights of glee.

God bless WOR TV-9
However, being that there was only one T.V. in the household, and that my monster movie marathon was always on at the same time as the day's lineup of college football, my relatives would always reach wild depths of exasperation with me and wage lengthy battles over who got to watch what.

Anyway, from these humble beginnings came my childhood love of nearly all movies in this ilk, no matter how stupid or hokey (not to mention the attendant hilariously wound-up Crazy Eddie commercials). Imagine my delight, therefore, when I discovered one day that a half-hour T.V. show featuring a whole new cast of monsters and badly-dubbed heroes was available for viewing on WXON (Channel 20) in Detroit. And this came my introduction to Ultraman.

The Science Patrol In Action!The story of the original Ultraman series (not to be confused with the seemingly several dozen other series that followed) goes like this: this guy Hyata (seen standing to the right) is a member of the Science Patrol, who function kind of like the X-Files unit of the Japanese CIA, if you will. Members of this team wore these really awful loud orange suits with red ties, button-down lapels, and modded white motorcycle helmets. They also used ray guns and flew around in a kinda hybrid airplane/rocketship that launched from the top of their headquarters building (which itself was the size of a city hospital).

I should also add, by the way, that this series also had one of the fuckin' grooviest theme songs ever.

Anyway, back to the story: while flying about in outer space looking for UFOs, Hyata's rocketship collided with that of Ultraman (an advanced superbeing from neubula M78). The collision between the ships kills poor Hyata and Ultraman, feeling really bad about this, decides to make amends by resurrecting the Science Patrol officer and lending him his life force (in effect, becoming a kind of symbiote with him). Ultraman technically ceases to exist as he inhabits Hyata's body, but he can re-emerge to save the day whenever Hyata whips out his Beta Capsule in times of dire need. I realize this sounds kinda wrong, but just bear with me, here.

Now, there was a catch to this deal: Ultraman, being an alien being, doesn't adapt too well to the Earth's atmosphere and as a result can only fight giant monsters for a few minutes before he starts to freak out. Well, O.K., he doesn't so much "flip out" as a little light indicator on his chest starts flashing insistently which means "uh oh, hurry it up, pal" and lends an element of danger into his fights with other guys in rubber suits.

Ultraman Getting Ready To Kick Some AssOf course, Hyata and Ultraman being one and the same has to remain a secret. Thus, Hyata becomes a kind of Clark Kent figure at times, having to slip away from the other members of the Science Patrol in order to turn into Ultraman and kick some monster ass before all of the balsa wood sets could be completely flattened by the "guest" monster.

It wasn't long before WXON added another monster-themed show directly after Ultraman, and that was Johnny Sokko And His Flying Robot, which may have shared a lot of very similar elements to its setup, but never was as outright cool as Ultraman (though it had its moments here and there).

As a final note: people currently living in Florida and complaining about the amount of hurricanes blowing through over the last two or three years are a bunch of pansy whiners. Going by the established histories set forth in Godzilla, Johnny Sokko, Ultraman and Gamera, it's glaringly obvious that during the 1960s, the major cities, industrial centers, and military forces of Japan were ravaged every week by enormous, ravenous monsters from the depths of the Pacific (or deep space in some cases). Despite these contant incursions, however, the citizens of Japan seemed to do pretty well for themselves, all things considered. As usual, we Americans have no idea just how good we have it here.