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May 12, 2006
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i feel pretty, so so pretty...
Me at the dentist. Fun! In addition to big chunks
of tartar between my teeth, I have several cavities,
two wisdom teeth to be extracted, and am microns
away from needing a root canal. Thanks to nitrous,
I take all this news with a sincere laugh. I also grind
my teeth (which might explain all those dreams of
edentation), so here I am with a mouthful of goo
being fitted for a nightguard. Cool.... The visit was
all in all almost pleasant, with a vibrating chair,
sunglasses to shield me from the harsh lights, and
KEXP instead of muzak on the sound system.

I like to go to the dentist once every seven and half years whether I need to or not. Actually, any time I am about to leave a job with health benefits I make sure to get in at least a last-minute checkup, and the last time I left a job with benefits was October 1998. What I hoped would be a routine checkup turned into a 4-hour deep cleaning, with much whirring and scraping under my gums. It's usually done in two two-hour installments with a local anaesthetic, but with time running out for me it was done all in one shot under nitrous oxide. Ah, sweet sweet nitrous. Unlike 100% pure nitrous whippits which peel away your brain layer by layer, nitrous in a dental setting is mixed 70/30 with oxygen so you can ride out the feeling indefinitely. My dentist told me how when she was in school they brought in some recovered substance abusers to warn them away from the temptation of recreational use. One doctor used to put himself in the chair on Friday afternoon hooked to a jumbo-sized tank and ride it out till it was time to get back to work on Monday morning. It got to the point where he would catheterize himself to drain waste from his system so he wouldn't soil himself or have to interrupt his trip. I can believe it--nitrous is that good! I remember it well from when I was a child with cavity-ridden teeth. I actually enjoyed going to the dentist because Dr. Mitzner (who was also our landlord) used nitrous and I loved that feeling of saying goodbye to my legs as the gas kicked in. Today was good, too. In addition to the pleasant physical sensation, there's a feeling of omniscience and expansive good humor that comes with it. Was it illusory? It's hard to tell, because the profound thoughts fade like a dream once the valve is turned off (or, as in my case, when the tank runs out and Dr. V. notices something is wrong because I start to wince). I do remember thinking: "I have thoughts that would astound even God if only He would listen." Did I think that up or was it remembered from somewhere else? Under nitrous, the high-pressure cleaner sounds like music and when it's time to take a break I say, "I wish I had a microphone in my mouth." "That's a new one," the dentist says. She's indulgent and says it's OK for me to take pictures so I shoot movies of what's happening in my mouth, apologizing when the camera gets in her way. I think of my friend Tim Gerken--poet, teacher, and onetime personal trainer to the photographer Nan Goldin. During a workout, she slipped and gashed her leg. Tim accompanied her to the ER where she lamented not having her camera saying, "It's not every day you get to photograph the insides of your body."