I’d Rather Have A Root Canal Than… Oh, That WAS A Root Canal

I went to the dentist yesterday for my first ever root canal.  Actually, this was prep work for recapping a front tooth I broke when I was ten.  My team lead at BigHugeCo is younger than the current cap.  I seldom show my teeth when I smile because then I have to plead, “No, really!  I’m not English!  I have a dental plan!”

The current cap is a buildup of vinyl bonding material held in place by a small pin.  The reason the original dentist didn’t use a porcelain cap was because I was 10.  I’d have had to have a new one every year or so, and 1.) we was poor and 2.) I ain’t letting anyone stick a drill in my mouth every year on the same date.  I probably should have had it redone after high school, but, well…  There you go.

So before we can replace this long-neglected front tooth, I needed a root canal.  To do that, they had to drill from behind the tooth to get at all the dead gunk inside it.  Originally, this was proposed to me in 1993.  Why didn’t I do it then?

Well, my dentist back then was this guy in Fairfax.  He had a nice office, lots of expensive laser equipment, and a pretty receptionist whose chest still had that new breast smell.  I went to this guy to get a quick extraction.  After the extraction, he wanted a follow up.  I went.  He sat me down, looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m going to be frank with you.  There’s a lot of damage to your mouth.  It’s serious.  What I need for you to do is to forgo buying a home, drive a beater for a while, and take out a $7000 loan so we can get started immediately.”

I got up, walked out without a word.  Outside, I noticed not one, not two, but three Porsches parked in front of his building.  Now, I’m not saying anything happened, but one of those Porsches had a nasty scratch down the side when I left that day.

Appropo of nothing, I used to be rather clumsy with my car keys.

I’m just saying those two facts coincided.  Nothing to see here, folks.  Move along.  Move along.

My current dentist I’ve been seeing for about three years now.  Good guy, my dentist is.  How good?  I fell asleep during my root canal.

Yeah.  Bet that’s the last time you hear someone say that when gas isn’t used.

Here’s the strange thing.  That $7000 figure?  That’s in 1993 dollars.  My dentist’s estimate before insurance kicks in?

Less than $4000 for a partial, three extractions (one a bone fragment), a new cap, pulling my wisdom teeth, and redoing my fillings.

In 2008 dollars.

Oh, and Fairfax PD?  I was…  um…  with my wife, Morgan Fairchild, when that Porsche got keyed last night.  I was nowhere near that dentist in your fair town.

Maybe if your doc didn’t force patients to take out home equity loans to pay for his cars…   Mine doesn’t.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Well, There’s Always That Lip-Smacking Guy In Those Ads On Cheaters

This is Bob.  Why is Bob smiling?  Because, unlike his boss, Steven Warshak of Berkley Premium Nutriceuticals, makers of Enzyte (TM), Bob’s not going to jail.

Yes, that’s right.  Steven Warshak, his mom, many of his relatives and friends, and quite a few employees of the Cincinnati-based firm are going to spend some quality time in a federal pound-me-in-the-ass facility for credit card fraud and obstruction of justice.

Yes, Bob will continue to enjoy life without bars, prison riots, appeals courts, lights out at 10, or the love of Bubba, the lonely guy doing a stretch for armed robbery.  He will continue to bang his questionably attractive wife and pretty much any female who comes within 50 yards of him (assuming the commercials are to be believed.  Court documents suggest otherwise.)

However, he will no longer get that big honkin’ salary he used to get for promoting the makers of Enzyte (TM), the all-natural male enhancement pill!

August: The Non-Month In Politics. And Everything Else.

People are looking at the August polls and, depending on which side of the aisle you come down on, are either seeing the sky falling or it’s raining McCain (Hallelujah, they might add). My take on the August polls?


Let’s look at this realistically, shall we? What has John McCain done since Hillary conceded the nomination to Barack Obama? It looks suspiciously like he’s auditioning to be The Daily Show‘s conservative voice. His ads comparing Obama to Britney and Paris are laughable at best. He’s spent a lot of time talking about the man from Illinois, and most of it sounds like fodder for Letterman’s nightly monologue.

What did Barack Obama do?

He went to a foreign country for vacation. Oh, wait. Hawaii’s a state. Damn you, Cokie Roberts! Damn you!

In short, August has been a textbook example of why the French take the month off. Wouldn’t you?

In August, Congress is out. Publishing is dead to the world. My wife, who works in the already-dormant mortgage industry has spent the month on in-cube sabbatical because everyone who’s buying a house (All 3 of them nationwide during this economic downturn) have already moved this summer. The singles, DINKs, and empty nesters are all cramming in vacations before diving into the housing market after Labor Day. (Actually, in this housing market, it’s one single guy, one DINK couple, and a pair of empty nesters. That’s about it.) So it is at BigHugeCo, where everyone’s too busy with kids and vacations to either report they’ve broken stuff or even to actually break it. Looking back at my workload for the month, I should have finished my latest novel and come up with an hour of solid standup material by now.

So it is with politics. McCain’s campaign isn’t even trying. Obama soaked up some rays prior to heading for Denver. The most strenuous thing he’s done all month is meet Joe Biden in Springfield (where presumably they criticized Monty Burns for endorsing George Bush for a third term.)

It’s hard for me as an Obama supporter to get worked up over the current polls. The candidates haven’t done anything worth mentioning (unless you’re one of those wingnuts who thought Obama catching The Dark Knight at a Hilo cinaplex newsworthy. Then you’re a moron.) Were I a McCain backer, I’d pretty much yawn until the GOP big show next week.

Actually, I’ll probably skip that, much like I’m skipping the Dems’ big show in Denver this year. I have Family Guy and Ice Road Truckers eps I’ve TiVo’d, and really can’t be bothered with conventions. Spoiler alert: Obama and McCain are the nominees. The last bit of suspense until the first Tuesday in November will be resolved this weekend, by which time, McCain will have announced his VP pick.

After that, it’s really just a nail-biter for the undecideds.

Oh, and you people backing Nader this year?

Would you people please just move the hell to Canada already and quit pretending your guy is relavant? Even George Bush is scratching his head, and he owes his job to Nader.

Remembering Ross (Forgotten Book Friday)

A Biography Ross Macdonald : A Biography by Tom Nolan

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ross Macdonald is always mentioned in the same breath as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. And of the three, Macdonald was the most literate.

Here now is the full story of how Ken Millar of Ontario became Ross Macdonald of Santa Barbara, California. Biographer Tom Nolan traces Millars origins from an anonymous birth in the Bay Area to a bleak childhood spent mostly in Ontario.

If his creation, Lew Archer, seemed like an outsider, it might have been because Millar/Macdonald spent his life as a wanderer. From Ontario to Alberta to Vancouver and back, then across the border to Michigan to California, with a stint aboard a Navy ship at the end of World War II. He and wife Margaret Millar, a noted mystery writer in her own right, were the classic couple that couldn’t live with each other, but couldn’t live without each other either.

Nolan uses Millar’s recollections of his childhood in Kitchener and elsewhere in Canada to show how Millar the boy almost became Millar the criminal, acting out, even indulging in homosexual acts, to rebel against an overly religious mother and an absent father. Millar would make a conscious decision to become, instead, a scholar, eventually earning his Ph D with a dissertation on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whom he would spend a lifetime studying.

As Millar’s writing career begins, Nolan divides chapters almost along the writing of each Lew Archer novel. As Millar (as Macdonald) moved away from imitating Raymond Chandler (which Chandler resented) to becoming a more psychological writer, the books start to parallel their author’s life. In the wake of daughter Linda’s disappearance in 1958, Macdonald begins focusing on the missing child as a touchstone. After her death in 1970, his work turns more toward the tragic consequences of family secrets.

Perhaps most tragic is the deterioration of Macdonald’s mind at the peak of his creative prowess. Starting with THE GOODBYE LOOK, Macdonald had become one of America’s (and Canada’s) pre-eminent writers. And yet after the release of the final Archer novel, THE BLUE HAMMER, his mind clouded, his ability to concentrate draining away. By the time of his death in 1983, he had taken hisplace alongside contemporaries Norman Mailer and Joan Diodon as one of the premier writers of his day. Yet even to the end, when he could barely remember his own name, Macdonald/Millar would still swim in the ocean everyday, at least until he was able.

Millar wanted to round off his Archer series with one last novel – a tome delving into Archer’s Canadian past – but his illness prevented him. Experts agree, though, he left behind one of the most impressive bodies of work not only as a crime writer, but as a seriousness novelist.

View all my reviews.

And I’m Reading This Because… ?

Following up my last post (from last Thursday. Hey, I was busy, and writing was one of the things I was busy with), I’ve noticed a disturbing trend made all the more disturbing by social networking sites. Comedians aren’t so bad about it, since, like musicians, we’re obligated to point out our gigs to potential audience members. But writers?

There’s a kind of stench of desperation I’m seeing. Blogs that are solely and entirely about whatever the author has out. As I said, authors need to spend less time talking about writing and more time writing. Unless, of course, that’s what your blog is all about. Lynn Viehl blogs almost exclusively about writing. JA Konrath is more about the entire publishing process. There are very few writers like Joe who get off on the entire process from beginning to end, rough draft to book tour. The point is people go to those blogs because Lynn and Joe are dispensing information. You go there to learn something.

What people don’t go to blogs to do is hear some author pleading “Please read my book!” Unfortunately, there are too many there. That’s not to say an author shouldn’t point out when he has a book out or occasionally crow about a review. But stick between something other people want to read about. JD Rhoades, who seems to have as much fun as Joe Konrath hawking his books, sticks such notices between political rants. It’s the sauce, not the entree. Dusty knows he can sell books between the Republicans he skewers. John Scalzi? There’s always a hidden wink and a nod in his self-promotional posts. Besides, with 25,000 readers a day, he’d better let us know when Zoe’s Tale is out. (More importantly, he’d damn well better finish The High Castle.)

On the other hand, I see blogs and MySpace pages and Facebook profiles that are all about Read Me!!!!! And I have to ask…


OK, you have a novel out. If I read a decent review of it, I may order it. Now, why should I come to your blog?

Crowing about your latest work does not attract readers. (Hence, I no longer talk about WIPs, especially with a fickle publishing industry.) I tell people when I have something out, but basically, this blog is like a newspaper column. Really, would you read Dave Barry’s column if all Dave talked about was how he and Carl Hiassen got drunk at a bar while promoting their latest work at a Coral Gables Borders? (Well, okay, I’d probably read that.) Dave got famous writing about life. It’s Dave’s world, and he sticks it in a syndicated column several times a week. He didn’t get famous pleading Please read my book!!!! I require validation!!!Bottom line, even if all you’re doing is describing how either Obama or McCain will eat your baby if you vote for them, discussing adventures in using the high-tech pooper scooper because you want to be the one person in your condo complex who actually cleans up after their dog, or talk about origami, you need to give people a reason to read your blog, go to your MySpace page, or pay attention to your Facebook. If all you’re posting is My book is out, and I need to earn out my advance RIGHT NOW!!!!, who’s gonna bother reading it?

Rumors Of My Retirement Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

It has been brought to my attention that some people out there believe I have given up writing, that I will never produce another novel or short story because I’m off to become the next Dane Cook. Not possible. Even I don’t love myself that much. Or I’ve given up because of the fiasco surrounding Northcoast Shakedown. Or the swirl of life-changes chronicled here. One person pointed out to me that some of our mutual friends believed I’d quit from a blog post I’d written where I really did say I was about to quit.

I wrote it in 2004!

My friend explained to me that he himself thought I’d quit because I don’t talk about writing here much. There’s a reason for that.

I’ve been writing.  I don’t need to talk about writing because I’ve been busy writing.  See how that works?

Anyway, when I’ve finished something – like, yanno, those reviews I’ve been writing since people asked me when I stopped writing (Huh?  That started after I published a short story!) – I’ll talk to you about what I’ve written.


Writers talking about writing (with a few very good exceptions*) need to focus on writing and less on talking about it.

That is your Zen lesson for the day, Grasshopper.  Now I must go walk the Earth.

*There is a difference between imparting some hard-won knowledge, like Lynn does, and stalling for time by talking about being a writer because you’re intimidated by being a writer.  Like most of us writers tend to do.

In Rehab

I’m a lucky man. I kept my house after the divorce. Usually, the woman gets the house. I happened to marry just such a woman. End result?

We have two houses. We need to sell one.

Nita and AJ joined me at Rancho Winter. AJ is starting high school this year and felt now would be a good time to switch schools. Nita wanted more room. I wanted my back deck.

However, Nita’s old place is this cozy two-bedroom place in Deer Park five minutes from her work and centrally located. And she lived in it for fourteen years.

Which means all the stuff every homeowner says they’ll do later needs to be done. Because it’s later. Nita is painting. AJ is cleaning out the basement. And I?

I’m becoming an expert on spackling.

I thought I’d be better at this. Years ago, the previous Mrs. Winter and I ejected a roommate who admitted to “nesting” in her room. That room became our office, but not without a little elbow grease. Before all was said and done, I salvaged a carpet that had caked residue from potting soil, spilled Coke, and cigarette ash. (I know understand the dangers of second-hand smoke. Anyone who says there are none is either lying or stupid. No exceptions.) I managed to paint a wall stained by leaking potting soil. It took two coats of primer and three coats of regular paint, but the landlord either didn’t notice by the time I left or he thought the room looked better than the rest of the house.

Well, that was one room in an apartment occupied by a slovenly roommate. This is an entire house occupied by a very neat woman (in every sense of that phrase) and her rather tidy son. Am I getting schooled?


Is it overwhelming?


Nita, however, is used to overwhelming. She should be. She was a single mom for five years. So when we realize how much work we have to do to get her old place on the market, she says, “One thing at a time, or you’re going to go crazy.”

She’s painting her old bedroom. AJ tapes down the trim and works on the basement. Me, I spackle. I’ve gotten very good at spackling. And sanding. You can’t spackle without sanding.

I almost have the hallway done. I may actually paint a room by the end of this week.

It never seems overwhelming when you realize you’re making progress.