Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Extra:
Man Victim of Pet Dog Turned Canine-Vampire

OMAHA - Barry Murphy returned home after a routine dental tooth extraction to become the latest victim of a canine-vampire feeding. Neighbors reported seeing the owner greet his friendly pooch with his usual, 'Hello Jolly-Bumpkins!' before proceeding to get down on his hands and knees to be at the dog’s level. Apparently that's when Jolly took a greater than normal interest in the Barry’s face. What happened next shocked neighbor Jim Palmer.

"Jolly was sniffing Barry's face intensely for a minute or so. Her tail was wagging and everything, but she wouldn't leave his face alone. When Barry turned to tell me about blood pooling in his mouth from a tooth extraction, it was too late. That’s when I saw the extended vampire-canine fangs come out and dig right into Barry’s jugular,” said Palmer.

“It was awful. Just awful. Barry was yelling, ‘Whoa girl, easy there Jolly Bumpkins!’ and ‘How about a tasty rawhide treat?’ -- but Jolly wanted nothing of it. With a snap, a rip, and a slurp-slurp-slurp, all that that remained was a bloody mess and one fat, but happy dog,” Palmer reported.

Experts confirm that cases of Canine Vampires (canis lamia) are on the rise.

If you suspect your pet dog is a canine-vampire:
Replace Alpo with raw stew meat
Organic pig blood.Whole Foods ($38/gallon)
Breed goats
Consider Doggy Day Care when having your dental work done

Snap Crackle Pop

Note: before you begin reading this, promise yourself that you'll finish what you started. Did you really promise? Good. Let's begin.

The fluorescent light glinted off the surgical steel hypodermic hovering above my mouth.

"You may feel a slight pinch here," Dr Benning says while working his way to the gums surrounding a distressed upper molar in the back of the mouth.

I felt the pinch. It wasn't bad. Slight pressure and a warm, gushing sensation followed. He quickly adjusted his position.

"Here again," he says while applying another shot from the needle.

"Ok, you can rest now. I’ll be back in a few minutes. Then I’ll talk you through it."

The 'it' he was going to talk me through was a tooth extraction. What started 20 years ago as a deep cavity has since been filled (twice) and a root-canal some ten years ago. The tooth remained quiet for the next five years. But since then, it has swollen up  at least once a year, requiring a round of antibiotics to get in under control.

I am jealous about my teeth. I like my choppers. Katherine says I have a nice smile. I'd like to keep it that way. Needless to say, I didn't like the idea of getting a tooth pulled. The only other tooth extraction I was familiar with involved Castaway Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) and a figure skate.


But the tooth was not worth saving. It was time to bite the bullet, or the figure skate or the pliers, or whatever. It was time. Goodbye tooth.

A few moments later, Dr Benning and his assistant Brittany were hovering over my mouth. Dr Benning said that the first step was to remove the root canal’s crown with a set of surgical pliers.He told me to expect pressure, but no pain.

I felt the pressure, alright. For the next minute, Dr Benning worked the tooth over. Gradually at first, but steadily applying pressure as he went. The crown wasn't budging. Dr Benning checked on me, then went after it for another 30 seconds. Still nothing. He stopped to catch a breather.

He was soon at it again. The pressure was strong. I felt it arc across the maxilla bone to the other side of my face. Meanwhile, an image formed in my mind of bending and shaping a baseball cap's bill. A few more rocking efforts and then finally it gave --


The suddenness of the crown snapping off was nearly equaled by the funky smell of decay permeating the air. (Oh dear, so sorry. I should have forewarned you above to also finish your breakfast before continuing)

"That was an impressive crown, but we got it," Dr Benning reassured me. "Next, I'm going to drill the tooth's three fingers extending upwards to break them up for removal.

Moments later, the high-frequency drill whirred to life, mixing in new smells of vaporized tooth enamel with fresh rounds of smelly bacteria as it pulverized the fingers. After completing the drilling, he explained how he was going to remove each 'finger' of the tooth by applying pressure with a lever. He paused and said that I may hear some 'noises.'

Those noises were the "crackle" and "pop" of this procedure. Each time he got leverage over the tooth fragment, the periodontal ligament would crackle and pop until the tooth fragment came out.

The entire procedure took about an hour. They packed the gaping cavity with gauze and sent me home with a script of Ibuprofen 800mg.

That was Monday. Since then, the recovery hasn't been too bad. I only took a single dose of ibuprofen and have had no other pain. During the initial six hours, or until the clot was pretty good, my mouth would slowly pool with blood. Because you're not allowed to spit until the gums have had a chance to heal, I'd simply open my mouth and let the rich hemoglobin and immature dark magenta clots drop to the toilet bowl. After that and for the next 12 hours, the blood flow was minimal. I returned to work the next day.


Epilogue: An Observation
Because the tooth is near the back of the mouth, you wouldn't know it was missing unless:

1) I told you

2) I opened my mouth wide enough to show you the hole

3) You were a dog (or a vampire (or a canine-vampire for that matter)) and could smell the blood in my mouth. For example, my dog Emmy took a great curiosity to my mouth when I returned, sniffing it with a keen interest. She knew right away that something wasn't right and wouldn't leave my side for the first 24 hours afterward. Amazing instincts.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Wide World of Fail

With the Olympics going on I've been asking people what would be the sport they'd participate in if they could be a gold medalist in the winter games. Most of my friends don't care for the subjective, scoring-based events like figure skating. But performance based sports like the luge/skeleton, alpine skiing events and snowboard-cross were the favorites.

I'm not so sure about snowboard-cross. Events like luge/skeleton or alpine skiing are time-trial based sports that pit the racers against the clock. Snowboard cross is too chaotic. Every race I saw had a least one crash. And that crash had devastating effects on the field, often taking out one or two more competitors with them.

Who thought up this event?

I can only think it was a sadist. Prolly somebody who grew up watching the ABC Wide World of Sports to watch the "agony-of-defeat" guy, Vinko Bogataj famously decide to lay it down about 20 meters before launching off the ski jump. Seriously, what was Vinko thinking? Eh, I've had two good jumps already today, so I'll pass? (lays it down, tumbles uncontrollably -- oh snap!-- yard-sale)

Anyway, snowboard cross is like watching old Vinko participating in every single race. The crashes are just as spectacular, if not more so, because it usually involves taking out one or two others with him.

It's preposterous. Could you imagine training for this type of race? How do even qualify without snapping a collarbone every few weeks?

I dunno. I like the performance sports, but snowboard cross seems to be too much of a crap shoot to take it seriously. Exciting? You betcha. Probably even more so for the competitors than it is for the fans. And it's very fan-friendly to watch.

So maybe I should have asked next: if you could only watch one winter games event in person, which would it be?

If you can parrot Jim McKay's ABC Wide World of Sports monologue, then perhaps snowboard cross is for you.

That's all I've got today.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 14, 2014

I ♥ Heart ♥ the Ruskies

♫ ding-a-ling-a-ling 

There it was again -- that bell. Or was it? In my dreary state, I can't tell if I'm dreaming that I'm hearing a bell ringing or if it's real. I pause to listen. Nothing. I turn to my other side, fluff the pillow, and drift off to fitful sleep.

♫ ding-a-ling-a-ling 

Startled, I sit up and quickly look behind me to confirm that I wasn't dreaming. A solitary reading lamp was pushing back the cabin's inky darkness, illuminating a small brass bell above the row of economy seats. The bell was connected to the hand of a fellow passenger, a Russian, sharing the same Singapore-Moscow flight with me and hundreds of others. 

He lowered the bell, raised his glass and called out, "Budem Zdorovy!"

In the dim light, three other Russians raised their glasses ceremoniously towards him.

"Budem!" they replied, tossed down their duty-free Vodka and clinked their glasses together in unison.

It was 3 AM somewhere and the Russians were getting drunk at 39,000 feet above Eurasia.

I recognized the ring leader. Several hours earlier, he was the same passenger arguing with the the gate attendant over a six pack of beer he was attempting to carry-on. 

When the gate attendant refused to let him board with the six-pack, the Russian shrugged his shoulders, popped a beer from the yoke, cracked it open and began to chug the first of six right then and there.

I collected my boarding pass and preceded to board, smugly thinking that the TSA would be tackling him shortly thereafter and transporting him to a small airport jail. I was fairly certain that was the last I would see of him.

But there he was, sitting a dozen rows behind me, ringing that damn little bell again for another round of shots for his comrades.

♫ ding-a-ling-a-ling 

I heart the Ruskies.


Things have changed a lot since the end of the Cold War.

When I was a kid, they were not simply Russians; they were Soviet-Russians, the CCCP, our evil arch enemy. 

We hated them.

They hated us.

Oh the Cold War. I remember Afghanistan 1.0, or when the Soviets nearly went broke trying to take it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go watch Rambo III.

President Carter's solution to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan: boycott the Moscow Summer Games (1980). 

Not to be outdone, Leonid Brezhnev's Soviets followed suit four years later and boycotted the Summer Games of Los Angeles (1984). 

My friends and I picked up on this rivalry in our street hockey games. That, and the improbable Miracle on Ice and the on-going USA-USSR feud had us creating the "Manly Cup". The Manly was an annual street hockey tournament played on a pitch of asphalt between a concession stand/maintenance shed and St. Gerard Majella's school building. One year, I made up a Soviet jersey for the Manly Cup, complete with a hammer and sickle beneath my translated name "МЕРФИ" in big block letters. My Mom was aghast at the sight of that jersey. It was as if I was declaring myself the son of Satan or something.


Things are a lot better now. Despite the controversies: corruption, homophobia, and a half-pipe that was reportedly "garbage", the games are on and we're there. And who knows, if we're lucky, we'll get to see a rematch of the Miracle on Ice. To this I heartily say Budem, which roughly translated means, "yeah pretty good"

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Brad Wears a Scarf

Hi, you may know me. In case you don't, we'll just say my name is "Brad". I act in the movies. When I'm not acting, I build homes for low income people. When I'm not acting or building low income homes, I ride bicycles. A lot. In all weather conditions.

I'm a tough guy.

I have all sorts of winter riding gear: the thermal jackets and bibs, lobster claws for the hands and warm cycling boots for the feet. But my favorite accessory is a scarf.

I think scarves are cool. I mean warm. I mean cool. Dammit, you know what I mean. Don't make me sick Tyler Durden on you, so back off.

A scarf:
... keeps my face warm and toasty.
... keeps the grit kicked up off the streets out of my mouth
... makes it easier to maintain a comfortable head temperature
... is way more comfortable than those dorky neoprene face masks
... is better insulated more adjustable than a nylon balaclava.
... manages eye wear fogging better than any of the above

On top of that, it's easily adjustable. You can simply move it over your face as often as you please: slide it on during head winds; loosen it up during tail winds. That's it. There's no need to be messin' with pulling or stretching anything that's beneath your helmet straps.

But people say to me Brad, what about your beard? Doesn't that do the same thing as a scarf?

Yes. Beards are basically human hair scarves. They do help keep your face warm. But the problem is that beards in the winter also get caked with frozen snot. That's just gross. After a long ride, I like to sit down and have a post-ride espresso with Angie. Now if I'm still snotted-up and stuff, well, Angie will throw a fit. I mean, yeah pretty good, you've seen her. She's all crazy and everything, but she'll have none of that dingle-booger business hanging off my face.

A scarf, however, provides an elegant solution: you just toss that icy snot-rag into the dirty clothes hamster and it's like, wallah, you're instantly Joe Black once more.

As an aside, Angie hated Joe Black. I know. It's complicated. Sigh.

Anyway, when I ride with a scarf, I feel like a bad ass. I feel like this:

And bless her dear heart, Angie thinks I look like this:

And my children think I look like this:

But what I really look like is this:

Hey Jordan: if Brad can't pull this off, what makes you think you can?


Seriously. I like to wear a scarf in the winter. They are the rare combination of form and function. I highly recommend them.

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.