December 27, 2010

The Flowers, the Bacon and the Tooth

This story is completely true and yes, I'm alright. I wrote this just before Christmas. 

The man I'd just started dating went home to Cleveland for Christmas, and the morning after I was preparing breakfast for myself at my apartment. We'd been spending a lot of time together, and a marathon 48 hours straight before he brought himself to the bus station. You're probably not surprised that I'm seeing someone new... but it seems to be going reasonably well, although we're both slightly terrified that we're going to do something to screw things up. This could be a good sign? Anyway, eggs in the skillet and a mix he made for me blasting, when there was a frantic banging on the door. I tried to ignore it; it might've been my landlord hammering upstairs. It continued. My upstairs neighbors are from Australia, and in the midst of their shotgun Portland wedding two months ago, they were getting a lot of packages and flowers. Everyone else in the building has normal jobs, and I'm usually the only person around to sign. I was really irritated to have my tomato, spinach, feta scramble with a side of bacon interrupted. The man banging on the door was holding a gigantic bouquet of flowers. I rolled my eyes.

"Hi! Guess that knocking really paid off! Amanda?" I almost fainted and vomited, simultaneously. I'm not even sure if I thanked the delivery man. The card read something sort of romantic about him being gone and me being here blah blah blah. I sat in front of my breakfast, basking in the glow of how thoughtful Cleveland was and how lucky I am to have him in my life (not just saying that because I know he's reading; also, HI!) I was already thinking about how I could turn this into a story about romance not being dead and how men seriously underestimate the effectiveness of sending flowers to a women. There wasn't much time before I had to leave for work, and so after texting Mandy and talking to Rebecca briefly, I started hoovering my breakfast. A huge bite including a well-done, thick cut slice of bacon...  and I felt a molar crack in half.  It started bleeding, and I couldn't close my mouth because the loose piece was jabbing into my gum... and I started flipping out. I called Janna in a panic and she found someone to cover for me. I felt my gum bleeding. My old Portland dentist was going to charge $70 to just look at it, and the sliding-scale place wasn't returning my call. I don't have health insurance, let alone dental. This being the holiday season, despite my best efforts to abstain... there isn't a lot of extra money in my checking right now... what if it was going to be expensive, what if I couldn't pay for it? I remembered a friend just got an awesome new job and said domestic partners were covered in her new benefits package. How much time would it take for that to go into effect and would she be into the idea of switching teams for the cause of my tooth? Completely overwhelmed, I started crying. Once I became hysterical, I called Angela. She's one of the many people in my life who won't freak out if I called them crying so hard I can't breathe. I explained that it was like a (bacon) earthquake hit my mouth. Part of my tooth was like California, sinking into the ocean, only my gums wouldn't let it. She talked me off the edge and I decided to walk to the store for a bottle of wine, a pint of  ice cream, and some cotton balls. Eventually, the clinic returned my call and said they saw emergency patients at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

It was awful. I couldn't eat. What about Christmas dinner, and why is it that terrible things always happen to me around the holidays? This year I was hoping to go to Mexico and skip Christmas, but then I lost my job. Was this the Ghost of Christmas Past, besmirching me? Has my negative attitude about the holiday season created a self-fulfilling prophecy? What about the fact that this happened less than ten minutes into sharing this really romantic moment with Cleveland? It's hard not to ignore the fact that I was eating a piece of bacon and he's a vegetarian, my least favorite of all his amazing qualities. He made pizza the other day and I said, "It'd be better if it had bacon." Seriously. Maybe it's not just karma from me focusing on his vegetarianism, maybe it's karma from all the slaughtered pigs in all the world?! The timing was so incredibly unfortunate. Quick, who has a copy of Omnivore's Dilema to loan me?

I called Cleveland from Rite Aid, and broke the bad news. After explaining that I wasn't in any serious pain and the panic attack was over, he joked that he was upset with me for managing to overshadow the flowers. I agreed, and he asked me to please cross out everything he'd written on the card and rewrite, "Get Well."

This isn't the first dental issue I've had. My dentist growing up was an awesome guy. Dr. James Davis, not to be confused with Jim Davis, the guy who writes Garfield. I know they're not the same guy because I asked him when I was 7. I had a lot of cavities over the years, so I was in there every few months, between six-month cleanings and subsequent fillings. Between the deep grooves in my teeth and my infatuation with Bubblicious gum, we joked that we were funding the new renovations at his practice. It also meant that he made exceptions for me, like taking out my wisdom teeth instead of referring me to an oral surgeon. He did my first root canal, and let me tell you- there was an abscess in my tooth once, and since I don't plan on bearing children, I know that this is the worst pain I've ever felt/will ever feel in my life. Even so, the dentist office was never a scary place for me. It was always just the place I went to get my teeth taken care of. But teeth are little bitches and after yesterday, I'm never going to trust another dentist ever again.
The night of the break, I had preemptively taken some pain killers before I gave my mouth the chance to experience pain, not realizing the tooth was already dead from a root canal a year before. I'd had insurance back then, and the cause of the root canal a chipped tooth, neglected for too long. (The tooth Dr. Davis did the root canal on is still fine, despite it being ten years and me still not getting a crown. He's that good.) Then I made some sangria out of a whole bottle of wine and drank it. For dinner, I had more painkillers, all of the sangria, and a pint of Haagen Daas ice cream. Ben and Jerry's was my first choice, but they all had too many things I'd have to chew. (Disclaimer: this was a special circumstance. I was alone, broken tooth, days before Christmas, unsure if I would be able to fix it or sleep, about to fall into a bottomless pit of despair. My drinking has been very responsible these days... apparently the holidays and broken teeth bring out my Catholic guilt, as well.) I rolled out of bed the next morning in low spirits, put on my boots, coat, and left for the clinic.

The woman who took my x-ray asked me twenty times if there was any chance I could be pregnant. Apparently x-rays are really dangerous to your unborn child. I wouldn't know this, because I do the mental version of plugging my ears and humming when someone said unborn child. I assure here that there is NO WAY. She made a joke about the Wise Men, commenting on the unlikelyhood of there being another immaculate conception, seemingly because she was relating her sexless life with my own. But I'm really just on the pill! Not pregnant! But if someone asks you twenty times in one day if you're positive of something, it's normal to question yourself. So I had a brief panic attack, lasting only until the dentist walked over...

I'm still wearing my coat and scarf. The dentist does not introduce herself, but she's a petite Indian woman in her mid-thirties, about three months pregnant. Hopefully she wasn't around when the x-rays happened. She asks me how long ago I had the root canal, I said either one year or ten, because I don't know which tooth is which. She looks at me like I'm insane. She does not sit, she does not ask me how I'm feeling, if I'm in any pain or discomfort. The broken tooth needed to be extracted, but they couldn't do it. But she didn't explain why, until I asked. I needed to see an oral surgeon, and then starts telling me about the other cavities that I had which needed to be filled. It's not specified where the oral surgeon is, if the sliding scale is going to apply, or even who the oral surgeon is. She calls to see how soon then can take me, but they're closed until Monday. I start sobbing uncontrollably in the chair. There is a loose, broken tooth in my mouth. It's loose like your baby teeth got loose. This was also not going to help my recurring nightmare, the one where all of my teeth fall out. I can't close my mouth and I can't chew, and she's telling me it was going to stay like that until at least Monday? I flipped out and started crying hysterically, wearing my coat, reclined in the exam chair.

The nurse/hygienist comes over. I don't know who she is, because she doesn't tell me. She's about 50, Asian, with some sort pouffy 80's hairdo. Apparently this place is big on Affirmative Action. She asks me if I have insurance. No. Not even Maine Care? No. One would think these people would understand that not everyone qualifies for Maine Care, not everyone is approved, and homeless people and teen moms would take priority over me. She makes me feel guilty for my broken tooth and for not getting a crown and not taking better care of my teeth. She makes me feel guilty for making the dentist feel bad when I started crying.  This makes me cry even more because none of these things were my fault or within my control. In the next room over, I could hear a man talking to a young girl and her parents about her teeth. The man, presumably another dentist, was cordial and friendly and very helpful in explaining thouroughly everything he noticed about little girl's teeth. This assured me that it was possible to get quality care at Community Dental, and that it wasn't a company-wide policy to treat their patients with disregard.

The dentist comes back and tells me she can remove the broken piece and give me a filling- a temporary fix. This is the best news I've heard all day, but she doesn't tell me how much it'll cost. At that moment there was $140 dollars in my checking account, and if it was more than that, I'd probably just have to run away.

Usually, when a patient needs to be injected with Novocaine, they put an orajel-like substance on the gums, leave it for a moment to numb the area, and put the needle in. She puts the orajel on, but immediately goes in with the needle. Luckily, I'm not freaked out by needles. She takes the broken piece out and removes the old filling. There was a sharp edge to be filed. They rinsed and suctioned, but did not put in a new filling and didn't explain why, not that I was even sure why it was necessary in the first place. Some of the water sprayed onto my hand, jacket and the floor... this has never happened to me before (sounds like my first time!) When she was done, she put some paper towels on the water and told me to be careful. She handed me the paperwork to give the oral surgeon and walked away. She did not tell me when the novacane would wear off. She didn't tell me if I should expect bleeding or swelling. She did not tell me if I couldn't eat for a certain amount of time, or if I should avoid hot or cold beverages. She also didn't tell me a time frame to be sure to see the oral surgeon. She just walked away.

I get in line to check out, and the nurse walked by me three times, ignoring me all three times. The line took forever, which gave me a lot of time to think about how completely awful my experience was. The receptionist tells me it's going to be $75, but doesn't explain the sliding scale or ask for proof of income, which I had. I hand her my debit card and start crying, again. All I wanted to do was get out of there.

My friend Brandon said he saw me walking down Brighton Avenue, which is a weird place for me to be walking, especially so early in the morning. The bus came right away, but I decided to not get on. I was hysterical and everyone on the bus would've thought I was insane. Brandon pointed out that most of the other people on the bus were also insane, and they would've just assumed that I was learning to speak Homeless. I told him it was too bad he didn't beep and wave, because I could've thrown myself in front of his car.

If this was an episode of Seinfeld, I would chalk it up to the fact that dentists aren't real doctors so they were never taught bedside manner. It's not their fault, they just don't know. But I do think dentists are real doctors! Okay, so these people work in at a non-profit practice that sees a lot of low-income people. They probably don't make a lot of money in comparison to other people in their field, overworked and underpaid... but that does not give them the right to treat me with disregard, disrespect and all kinds of other words that start with un and dis. Not that it should make a difference, but I've asked other dentists to tell me about the worst mouths they've seen. There are meth addicts who's teeth were crumbling out of their mouths and people who'd never brushed their teeth in their entire lives. My cavities and one stupid broken tooth are far from the worst they've ever seen, but all of their patients should be treated with care. 

December 13, 2010

Love Sex Magic: A Dance Mix

I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but I'm back at my old coffeeshop job. I'm lucky because I didn't have to learn a whole new job, and Janna has been really accomodating with the schedule/carpool. Customers have been, on the whole, pretty happy to see me. The bottomless cup of coffee is great, too.

The other day, I was on the register. A young woman came in and gave me an inexplicable sort of look (just hang on- I'm going somewhere with this.) I'm a pretty good barista. I'm friendly. I pause after I ask someone how they are so they can actually give me an answer, if they so choose. I smile. I go along with jokes. This young woman was a normal, chatty customer. She got two coffees, one with room, one black, and two scones. She tells me that it was her turn to get the coffee. I look at her like, "Yeah, the give and take nature of a relationship can be SO TOUGH!" She understands my look and responds with, "I actually work at a coffeeshop in Portland, just trying to spread the love!" Then she makes a motion over the counter, as if she was a magician about to make the register vanish. The inexplicable look that she gave me when she walked in was a knowing look- a look that said, "I know customers can be dumb and sometimes you have to fake being nice, but isn't coffee just amazing??"

My response to all of this was, "Oh, that's great," and not, "Oh, that's great, where do you work?" I didn't care. Wherever it is she works, if it's on the peninsula, I've either applied for a job there, spent hours upon hours there or had close friends work there. When you've lived in Portland for five years (five??), in just about every neighborhood East to West, and don't drive, you get to know your coffeeshops. Maybe I'm taking this a little far. Although she was trying to be friendly, it was almost condescending, like Portland is where you go to really make it in the world of coffee and I hadn't. What I wanted to say was (and is also the premise for this post), "Don't you know who I am??" Here's the reason:

Looking for something to do immediately after the State Theatre and Greendrinks winter bash of 2010? Join us for for an after-party featuring dance beats by way of Jamie O'Sullivan and a handful of guest DJ's and local celebrity playlists. Your tiny cover charge gives you a warm feeling in your tummy knowing all proceeds go to Prepare Maine (, an education initiative designed to make sure that education remains a top priority on the state level.

This is this Facebook event description for this thing Slush my friend Alex Steed is putting on Tuesday. I'm one of the local celebrities making a playlist, and it was tongue-in-cheek and mostly for my own enjoyment that I thought to myself, "Don't you know who I am??" I'm flattered by the invite, and it's you, my readers, who have made this possible. You are all awesome, unique little snowflakes. Thank you for being reading this silly thing. (Note: I'm not really a celebrity; hopefully you all get that I'm joking here. Seriously, though, thanks for reading.)

When Alex asked me, I was riding the wave of positive feedback from the Breakup Mix post and really excited to help. A lot of thought went into the mix. I wanted to find the perfect balance of dance hits, my favorite songs, my favorite dance hits, and songs that you like. I spent hours and hours on my MGMT and Lady Gaga  Pandora stations, as well as purchasing new songs on iTunes. Highlights include iTunes Essentials "Indie Electronic" collection, half of which is already on my computer, with the description, "Believe it or not, cool kids everywhere have finally uncrossed their arms and started dancing." I also previewed a lot of songs from a Best of Gossip Girl list on Ping. Ping is something I still don't completely understand and it always sounds like Jerry Seinfeld is saying it in my head.

I made a rough draft and listened to it over and over. There were some songs that I really loved, but couldn't quite fit in. George Harrison "Awaiting on You All," White Town "Your Woman," and Michael Jackson, "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," did not make the cut. Harrison was not dancy enough, White Town was too slow, and this is the text message conversation I had with a friend, re: the mix, re: MJ.

Me: I think MJ's gotta go.
Friend: I think the world is still recovering from the postdeath overkill.
Me: I just said the same thing to my roommate and poured one out.
Friend: Poured one out?
Me: To pour an alcoholic drink on the ground in tribute, typically to pay respect to a dead or incarcerated friend. The drink symbolizes one which should have been enjoyed by the absent person.
Friend: Did you just urban dictionary me?

Yes. The track list:

"Walking on Sunshine" You all know that High Fidelity is still the most influential movie of my life. I love the scene where Barry (Jack Black) does this ridiculous dance. This song always perks me up and makes me want to do my own leg kicking, finger snapping, crazy dance.

"A Sweet Summernight on Hammer Hill" Jens Lekman is sort of new in my life, and this song also makes me incredibly happy. The claps and brass section make it a nice transition piece from "Walking on Sunshine" to "American Girl."

"American Girl" I used to despise Tom Petty as part of my all time top five most despised musicians. But then a friend performed this song at karaoke at Flask, and I realized that not only is this a great song, but that I might not hate Tom Petty afterall. I chose this song not just for it's dancability, but also for the idea that Miley Cyrus is like, THE American Girl. 

"Party in the USA" Initially, I was going to put this on repeat for 45 minutes, and have that be the mix. When my roommates aren't home, I do that sort of thing all the time. But then it was decided that it would make my playlist more of a performance piece and less of a dance party. I love this song and I still can't get over this video:

"Nothing to Worry About" I heard this song for the first time back in the days when I was hanging out at the Downtown Lounge four times a week. If you haven't already heard this, it's by Peter, Bjorn and John, the band that did that song "Young Folks," you know, the one with the whistling. I recognized it's booty-shaking potential almost immediately. 

"Say it Right" What kind of a dance mix would be complete without a little Timberland? Nelly Furtado's "I'm Like a Bird," was always mildly irritating, but I was pleasantly surprised when she threw that out and turned up the beats. I was having a difficult time with some of the transitions here, and scoured iTunes for the right song for this spot on the mix, and this is where I ended up. Sure, this song is kind of a sleeper from 2006, but I challenge you to stay seated when this song comes on.

"Cameras" At some point while compliling this mix, I wanted to try and cater to my audience as nuch as possible, which means people who generally hang out at Space. Matt & Kim definitely fit the bill, but I'll admit  the only Matt & Kim song I knew was "Daylight." I was psyched to find this super catchy track from the same album.

"Time to Pretend" It was hard to decide which MGMT song to use, which was also the case with Phoenix. Sometimes at Retro Night at the Asylum on Thursdays, they hit us with MIA, MGMT and The Knife in a row, and it always gets us going, but they always play "Kids," and I thought "Time to Pretned" fit better than "Electric Feel." We'll see...

"Lasso" Today, I was studying for an exam at the Hilltop Coffeeshop. I went next door to Rosemont Market for a sandwich, and both Hilltop and Rosemont were playing Phoenix. This means one, possibly two things. We all really like Phoenix, and it might be a little overplayed. Consider this track a breather before you throw your back out dancing to the next song...

"Hypnotize" There is a scene from 10 Things I Hate About You which adequitely sums up my love for this song:

At a time in my life when I'd never been to a raging house party or had one taste of alcohol, I was convinced that it was Biggie himself inspiring Kat to jump up on the table and let lose. 

"Love Sex Magic" Much like Timberland, I think no dance mix is complete without a little Justin Timberlake. Mandy and I used to listen to Justified in Bull Moose all the time, clapping in unison, in time with the song, from across the store. Dick in a Box wasn't quite dancy enough. I'm not sure about everyone who frequents this 51 Wharf and Oasis circles, but this song is seriously underplayed as far as I'm concerned. Yes, I believe in love and sex and magic.

"Heartbeats" New dancefloor staple. Hands down. Enough said.

"My Head" Arguably the least dancable song on the mix, but it had to be included for all of my friends who have been going into Cult Maze withdrawal since they broke up.

December 5, 2010

Virginia Woolf: Apparently not a fan

I think I have permission to write about this because Dan, my editor, forwarded it to me and told me I should blog about it. 
This is an anonymous letter Dan received at the Free Press, with the subject line "A complaint from beyond the grave."
Dear Mr. MacLeod, 

A writer of yours has so grotesquely abused the english language that I was roused from my grave to take a stand against this most contemptible offense. On the whole, Ms. Pleau's writing severely lacks in content, purpose and technical coherence. Without proper identification of place and time her articles are unbearable to read, and utterly insulting to anybody that struggles with making meaning out of the everyday. I understand the difficulty, as I took on the daunting task of writing a book entirely composed of a single day in a woman's life. 

Let us take a look at her article dated September 13, titled "My New Intended Major: Not Sucking at Life". This reads as a diary entry more than it does a column affiliated with a university and meant to be read by others.  How the writing of last week's column makes a worthy subject for this week's column baffles my victorian mind. The point of having a column shouldn't be to smugly remind others of said column.  

Grammatically the article is a nightmare. The first sentence alone is redundant and poorly constructed. Her misuse of commas is not only enraging but obstructive to the reader. She writes vague and nondescript lists of seemingly arbitrary daily tasks, with no singular cohesive thought to tie them together. And to top it all off, the banality of the lists even lacks a hipster slash of irony. 

Even more infuriating, Ms. Pleau appears to have forgotten that the ability to pursue higher education was not always granted to women.  Her comment about "hoping for a sugar daddy" to fund her leisurely lifestyle, so she may continue "having a really good time" is degrading.  

I refuse to believe that in this university of nearly 10,000 students you can not find someone capable of writing with competence, imagination and integrity. 

By continuing to publish her dribble you are doing a disservice to both the university, and her by perpetuating the delusion that she has even the remotest ability to write. 

Virgina Woolf
Alright. First I should aknowledge that Virginia Woolf isn't completely wrong, and I'm deeply regretful for offending a literary icon. I don't know what I'm doing, really, and I write like I talk. Really. I'm not an English major, I'm not a writing major, or a literature or classics major. I've never read a Shakespeare play, but I once heard an episode of RadioLab that talked about him a lot. I'm a student and I'm learning (that's the whole point, right?) Writing a column on deadline every week is a lot different than writing this blog; it's so much more difficult. The Free Press does a great job, but they don't micro-manage, so don't blame them, if, my, commas, are, out of place,,. 
But wait! USM offers a class called Writing Opinion: Editorials and Columns. So far, I've received As or Bs on all of the papers I've submitted for grades in the classes I've taken at USM. Virginia, don't give up on me just yet!
"She writes vague and nondescript lists of seemingly arbitrary daily tasks, with no singular cohesive thought to tie them together. And to top it all off, the banality of the lists even lacks a hipster slash of irony. "

This might need to be the new Misadventures in Portland tagline...  but I can't help but wonder: Virginia Woolf has been dead since 1941, so how would she know what a hipster is?

"How the writing of last week's column makes a worthy subject for this week's column baffles my victorian mind. The point of having a column shouldn't be to smugly remind others of said column."

Why not? I have a column and you don't. I have almost 2,000 view a month on my blog and regularly receive compliments from complete strangers on how awesome it is (I am.) I'm contributing a celebrity guest playlist at an event at Space and I'm the celebrity! It's all self-motivated. There's no money, no reward, no grade for this, I get to do it because I love it and you guys seem to dig it, too.

How about this? "Even more infuriating, Ms. Pleau appears to have forgotten that the ability to pursue higher education was not always granted to women.  Her comment about "hoping for a sugar daddy" to fund her leisurely lifestyle, so she may continue "having a really good time" is degrading." 

Every time I make a comment about something like this, it seems to get a lot of heat. So this is what I really mean: There are really women who are like this. There are actual women who marry rich old guys for financial security. I don't want to judge them, because they were probably more popular in high school than I was and probably have more expensive clothing. It's said with the sarcastic roll of an eye, and it's not meant to be degrading to the integrity of women. It's this thing that's been around since the 1500s called sarcasm. The quote from the column was actually this: "Maybe I’ll get lucky and find a sugar daddy and endure terrible wrinkly old guy bunny rabbit sex so I can see the world at my leisure," and I was touching on the hopelessness of the job market in the paragraph before that. It seems odd that my intentions were misconceived by such a forward-thinking, influential, lyrical writer as Virgina. But, then again, she was actually married, so who is she to judge.  

My lifestyle seems leisurely, because that's how I choose to portray it. There are plenty of deep seeded issues dating all the way back to my childhood, as well as current problems that range from finances, drinking-related decision making issues, roommates, and my right eyeball not working properly, that I could also write about that would make my life sound anything but leisurely. I've always worked at least 30 hours a week while taking classes full time.

I don't want to disrespect the legacy of Virginia Woolf. But if she was going to rise from the grave to say anything, it would probably be about how much she regrets taking her own life, burning in hell (just kidding, I hear there's beer there), and missing out on innovative depression treatments and subsequently being able to experience all of the beauty in the world. Her husband remarried a woman name Trekkie. Maybe she'd have something to say about the choice of Nicole Kidman's portrayal of Virginia in the Hours. If Virginia was still alive, she would also be able to comment on all of this stuff: "Recently, studies of Virginia Woolf have focused on feminist and lesbian themes in her work, such as in the 1997 collection of critical essays, Virginia Woolf: Lesbian Readings, edited by Eileen Barrett and Patricia Cramer. Controversially, Louise A. DeSalvo reads most of Woolf's life and career through the lens of the incestuous sexual abuse Woolf suffered as a young woman in her 1989 book Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work." Which isn't to say that those theories are incorrect or do not have merit, but over time, Virginia herself might've further explored these aspects of her life in her own writing.
Next time someone writes a letter to the editor about how much my column sucks, I hope it's Tucker Max. His tagline is, "My name is Tucker Max, and I'm an asshole." 

Also, Virginia Woolf, maybe kind of hot?
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