I got a toothache, and I got some ‘splainin to do.
Remember on Tuesday on the show how Verlie got on me about wearing a headband?
“You’re on TV now. You can’t wear a headband. It looks unprofessional.”
I defended my headband. I get ear infections in the winter. I don’t know if it’s from the change in temperature or the increase in head sweat. Whatever it is, if I wear a headband, I don’t get ear infections.
Verlie berated me so much that halfway through the show on Tuesday, I removed my headband. I could feel the fake leather of the headphone grinding against my hair. I could feel the electronic components of the soundmaking apparatus butt up against my inner ear. I was certain that I would get an ear infection. And it would be all Verlie’s fault.
“I got an ear infection. Happy now?” I texted Verlie on Wednesday. And I really did think I had an ear infection. My ear hurt like hell, just as it had dozens of times before. There aren’t that many workplace hazards at a radio station. Ear infections is near the top of the list.
“Like I told you, you need to clean your headphones – EVERY DAY,” Verlie replied.
It wasn’t like the pain of past ear infections. Most hang around the edge of the canal. You could touch my lobe and I’d say “ouch.” This one was deeper inside my head. It made my jaw hurt. Still, I blamed Verlie. We texted back and forth a few times during the week. By Friday, she felt bad about it.
By Saturday, I went to the doctor.
“How is the level of pain on a scale of one to ten?” the doctor asked.
“Seven. Or maybe an eight.”
“That bad, huh,” the doctor said, and she stuck a cone in my good ear and then the bad.
“Your ears are fine. Whatever is causing your pain, it’s not an ear infection.”
She made me open my mouth wide. She stuck her pointer finger all around my teeth.
“Here it is. Your tooth, the one way back here. There’s redness. It looks infected. Does this hurt?”
She poked hard into my gum way back on the last tooth before my ear. It hurt so bad I almost bit her finger off.
“Go to a dentist on Monday. You may need a root canal.”
So that’s the ‘splainin I gotta do. I must apologize to Verlie - first for being such a whiner about ear infections and, secondly, for blaming her foran ear infection that wasn’t, or isn’t. Still, it’s Saturday night and I’m not gonna see Dr. Andy Koulterides until Monday. He’ll probably send me to get a root canal from Dr. Michael Mintz, who grew up down the street from me. Dr. Mintz’s secretary will try to tell me that there isn’t an opening until Thursday. I will play the childhood friend card and get one by Tuesday.
I’m not so sure that I can wait that long. It feels as if an elephant placed his paw on the edge of my jaw and is pressing just hard enough to make me want to recite all my sins out loud in the middle of a JC Penney’s. I will do anything right now to relieve the pain, including write a poem.
I refuse to choose
I refuse not to choose.
I am Play Doh in a
Make me into whatever
you want, but you can
never own me.
I am not yours because
I refuse to choose
I refuse not to choose.
I am your mouthpiece
your Pony Express.
I lay down in muck
so you can relay
your message. I am
your telephone line
podium. You can
stand on me
stomp on me
piss on me
But I cannot be yours
I refuse. I do not choose.
I do not not choose.
My way is forsaken.
I am from a time before
now. My ways are worn
You want to make me
yours. You want me
on your side. I
shall spit in your
face. Do not ask me
to choose. I will walk
away from you.
Do not ask me not to
choose. I will ignore
Just let me be. I
will do my job.
You will believe in
I am here to refuse to
choose, to refuse not to choose,
so help me God
If any of the three or four of you were a radio personality and owner, then you might have an idea of what I’m talking about. You’re either on this side or that. And if you’re neither, you’re nobody.
I’m nobody. It’s something I gotta live with, that and incredible tooth pain. By Monday evening, I’m guessing, one of my buddies, either the dentist or the root canal guy, will relieve the pain in my mouth. I will be able to think about something other than pain.
But I will not be absolved of the on-air apology that I wlll have to make to Verlie Suggs. That will be much harder to endure than four or five days of excruciating tooth pain.
… In other My Radio Life news, we had a big hullabaloo of a party for Dave Kusiak’s 50thbirthday. It was held at The Cavalier Inn, which is as Polish and as Region as you can get. Wally Kaspricki and his family served up the best fried chicken in the Region, mashed potatoes, sausage and green beans.
“I got these for you, JED,” Kusiak said when Alexis and I got there. He pointed at these huge tubs of green beans, cooked perfectly, without seasoning. I ate a whole plate, mainly because it was the only food I could chew. Every chomp down was a horror, every swallow a delight.
I am a physical wreck these days. As the three or four of you know, my wrist is hollowed out. It’s my right wrist. It’s got more bone spurs than Carter’s has little pills and enough arthritis to confound Sam Hill. Every time I shake a hand, which is about 50 times a day, I want to fall to my knees and ask forgiveness from God.
Please, God, help me through this handshake. I will be good from now on.
There is irony here, and maybe you know what it is. As a basketball player at various levels, I shot a lot. Okay, not just a lot. I shot just about every time I had the ball within 30 feet of the basket. I have always loved to shoot a basketball, both in and out of games.
Some of the most mystical moments of my youth were spent shooting baskets late at night on a driveway that I had shoveled myself. Cold, aloneness, steam with each breath.
“Jimmy, it’s time to come in. You have school in the morning.”
Most of the time I didn’t hear whichever parent it was that was issuing the admonition. I just loved to shoot a basketball. And I was pretty good at it. It was my outlet. It was my solace. It was my escape from having four little brothers and sisters and a dog and a cat and dozens of cousins. They all hung around the house at all hours of the day and night. I was never alone. Ever.
Except on the basketball court late at night in the middle of winter. Winter is long as hell around here, so the middle of it is pretty wide. There was an even more ethereal feel to the whole experience in that you could hear the comforting rush of the 80-94 expressway. It is poetry.
Anyways, Doc Brown sent me to a doctor in Chicago.
“What sports did you play?” the doc asked.
“Basketball, baseball, football, boxing, golf, a little tennis, biking. I wrestled for a few years. Swam. Why? What does this have to do with anything?”
“Which did you play the most?”
“That’s easy – basketball.”
“Did you shoot a lot?”
There’s the rub, and the irony. I may have a wicked case of arthritis and bone spurs in my wrist because I shot so much. End of story. At every level I played, I was criticized as a ballhog who shot too much. It has finally caught up with me, that and blaming Verlie for giving me an ear infection.
This all boils down to I’m losing faith in politicians as a class. I don’t see leaders. I see phonies. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish that I could look to those who govern all as respectable people, but I just don’t. There aren’t a lot of good examples of what you should be when you go into public office. Everyone chooses a side and stays there. That defines the problem.
This should be enough for a Sunday morning at 1:27am. I would go to bed, but every time my swollen cheek hits the pillow, I moan for my mom who’s been dead for 30 years. That’s right. We passed through Halloween, the three or four of you and me, without me doing a big soliloquy about my mom, how painful it was and all. Instead, I bitch about the pain in my wrist and tooth, and never the twain shall meet. Good night, sweet chariot. Until we meet again.