My favorite things

In no par­tic­u­lar order:

col­or: green, almost any shade, but espe­cial­ly deep dark hunter green.
food: lefse — a Nor­we­gian del­i­ca­cy, a sort of pota­to-based tor­tilla, served with but­ter and (brown) sug­ar
sound: pump-action shot­gun: a col­or-cod­ed plas­tic cylin­der full of close-packed lead slam­ming into the cham­ber, ready for almost any­thing. Who wants to hit the streets?
book: The Lord of the Rings (like you real­ly had to ask). Fif­teen reads and count­ing.
song: “Glo­ry Box” by Por­tishead
word: mel­liflu­ous
movie: Sev­en
tech­ni­cal term: palimpsest
posi­tion: First base in slow-pitch soft­ball; by the end of high school I was near­ly dom­i­nant there (in my own mind, at least). Oh wait, you did­n’t mean…? You did? Now, that’s just dirty.
book not writ­ten by, or hav­ing any­thing to do with, J.R.R. Tolkien: The Spar­row by Mary Doria Rus­sell.
ses­sion beer: right now, Cale­don­ian Brew­ing’s 80/- (that’s pro­nounced “eighty-shilling” in case you were curi­ous).
“seri­ous” beer: Trois Pis­toles from Que­bec’s Uni­broue.
mixed drink: Man­hat­tan, made with Mak­er’s Mark, served up.
beer-dessert com­bi­na­tion: a pint of Bod­ding­ton’s and an all-but­ter choco­late chip cook­ie from Lund’s.
band/musical act: Nine Inch Nails.
scar: on the out­side of my right calf, where I caught myself on a jagged rusty pipe while doing chores wear­ing shorts, back in my teens. I have bare­ly worn shorts since, not because I want to hide the scar — it’s a pret­ty good one! — but as an exces­sive pre­cau­tion against sim­i­lar inci­dents.
hair­style: none at all. I feel like like a balls-out hard-as-nails bad-ass with my head shaved, which is a very unfa­mil­iar and exhil­a­rat­ing feel­ing for me, I assure you.
sea­son: Fall, or pos­si­bly autumn.


Well, how about that. Anoth­er six months, gone by with­out a peep. This is bad blog­ging.

But what would good blog­ging look like here? The fact that I am seri­ous­ly ask­ing this ques­tion, if only to myself (who else, after all, can I expect will read this?), makes me won­der if the answer is that this is not the place that good blog­ging is going to hap­pen.

This is not to say that I am a bad per­son (although I nev­er like to com­plete­ly rule that out, either). I just have fick­le ambi­tions when it comes to blog­ging, and I con­tin­u­al­ly stretch myself too thin. Rather than have one blog site, where I focus on mak­ing things with words that will delight me and (hope­ful­ly) some small coterie of read­ers, I attempt­ed to jug­gle as many as five sep­a­rate blogs (that’s right, five) as inde­pen­dent niche venues for half-imag­ined areas of my inter­ests. Not effec­tive, by any mea­sure.

So what do I do? This is going to take some pon­der­ing.

Hitting bottom, ready to soar

I am going to look very dif­fer­ent soon. Those of you who knew me in col­lege, or any­one very knowl­edge­able regard­ing my per­son­al his­to­ry, will remem­ber that a week before my twen­ty-first birth­day I had my right-front tooth extract­ed. No dra­mat­ic fight, no col­or­ful acci­dent, just an abscess — a rag­ing infec­tion at the root of the tooth that could not be cured, only removed. That entire sum­mer and the Fall semes­ter of my senior year I wore a flip­per, a sin­gle-tooth den­ture mount­ed on a piece very like a retain­er which I affixed to the roof of my mouth with straw­ber­ry-fla­vored Fixo­dent®. Ini­tial­ly it was a demor­al­iz­ing dis­as­ter to my self-image, but I got used to it in time; even­tu­al­ly I was com­fort­able enough to make light of it, to pop out my flip­per in the cam­pus cafe­te­ria in order to eat more com­fort­ably, to make jokes about my gap at sem­i­nary func­tions. (And I will say this for Fixo­dent®: it can stand up to some very intense make-out ses­sions…)

And then the ordeal was over. Thanks to the benef­i­cence of two priest friends, I went to a new den­tist over Christ­mas break and was fit­ted with a beau­ti­ful all-porce­lain bridge, a piece of pros­thet­ic den­tistry that would win admir­ing com­ments from every sub­se­quent den­tist I went to over the next nine years. I could return to nor­mal func­tion­ing, and I did.

Fast for­ward to Labor Day, 2008. After a long and recre­ation-filled hol­i­day week­end my wife and I are snack­ing on left­overs as the evening begins to wind down. I have just spread some deli­cious Brie on a hunk of crusty bread torn from a loaf that is prob­a­bly three days old. I bite down, and the hor­ri­fy­ing crunch that fol­lows brings my mel­low-train to a grind­ing halt. I know instant­ly what has hap­pened, for at some deep lev­el of my sub­con­scious I have been both dread­ing and expect­ing this day for a long time. My beau­ti­ful, func­tion­al bridge has shat­tered, shear­ing off one of the adjoin­ing teeth at the gum line, leav­ing me with a jagged gap twice as wide as the one I had endured near­ly a decade ago. I was not thrilled. And my poor dear wife, who had not known me back then, was sud­den­ly con­front­ed by a hus­band with a very dif­fer­ent appear­ance than she was used to.

A cou­ple weeks lat­er I arrive at the den­tist of my choice for my first post-shat­ter exam. I could have got­ten in at any num­ber of Twin Cities den­tal offices quick­ly, prob­a­bly even first thing the next morn­ing. But there was no pain, at least not phys­i­cal, and after care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion I decid­ed that at the age of thir­ty it was time I start­ed to make some seri­ous choic­es about my own life and well-being, and this was as good a time to start as any. Fif­teen years ago my par­ents drove me four hours across two states to have my ortho­don­tic work done by a den­tist whose phi­los­o­phy they sub­scribed to. After much care­less pere­gri­na­tions in my post-col­lege care choic­es, I felt deeply that now was the time to return to what I could tru­ly believe in, even if it meant delay, trav­el, and expense. It is time to grow up this year, and I am doing so one painful step at a time.

And then the bad news; news I had­n’t con­sid­ered a pos­si­bil­i­ty but was not the least bit sur­prised by. The X‑rays revealed clear­ly that the two front teeth on the left side of my upper jaw — cor­re­spond­ing to the two on the right that are so glar­ing­ly gone for­ev­er — are bad­ly abscessed. There aren’t a lot of options. I could have root canals, but leav­ing a dead tooth to linger in my jaw, even­tu­al­ly to cause trou­ble down the road, seems a rot­ten sort of choice to be offered, which leaves the oth­er option, the one I am going with: extrac­tion. In a few days or weeks, when­ev­er I can get in at the oral sur­geon, I will have a sym­met­ri­cal gap in my upper jaw where God once put four teeth, teeth I was unable to keep healthy and so, ulti­mate­ly, was unable to keep.

I will nev­er bite into an apple again, nor will I ever again enjoy corn on the cob. Big gourmet ham­burg­ers will now be more trou­ble than they are worth, and I will be eat­ing piz­za with a knife and fork from here on out. Oh, I will even­tu­al­ly look pre­sentable. My new flip­per will hold four plas­tic teeth, and my wife will get her chance to put Fixo­dent® to the test. But it will be a façade, just for show. I will nev­er get to for­get that my head has a lot few­er teeth in it than I was orig­i­nal­ly issued.

Yes, I want­ed to cry this after­noon after I left the den­tist’s office. But I am not cry­ing now. I am pret­ty okay, as okay as I think I could pos­si­bly be with­out cross­ing the line into creepy-calm. Yeah, life is going to be hard­er for me on a prac­ti­cal, day-to-day basis. I am going to have to get over my appear­ance yet again, in an expo­nen­tial­ly-big­ger way, and remem­ber not to fright­en chil­dren with my shock­ing­ly-incom­plete smile. But I know that this is not my fault, not some­thing I chose to do. And it reminds me strong­ly, forcibly, that there are things I can choose to do, that I want to do, that I can no longer leave for lat­er. Now is the time to live delib­er­ate­ly, now is the time to pas­sion­ate­ly pur­sue the dreams I have scarce­ly dared to dream. There is no “lat­er” to wait for, no “even­tu­al­ly” when these things will take place. I need to act now, and every­day hence­forth, to achieve the life that I will find ful­fill­ing, the life that I am called to live.

I told my wife that in the moment that my cos­met­i­cal­ly-func­tion­al bridge audi­bly shat­tered, so too did my com­pla­cen­cy. I can no longer sit back and wait for my life to hap­pen. I am no longer con­tent to coast along the path of least resis­tance. I am no longer sat­is­fied with sub­sis­tence liv­ing for me and my fam­i­ly. I know well that, like my appear­ance, the road ahead will be rough, even ugly, but it will also be real, gen­uine, and ulti­mate­ly this new path will lead me to a place where I can be tru­ly proud to be who and what I am, where I can look into the mir­ror and say to my reflect­ed self, “I am liv­ing ful­ly a life that I am proud to live.” I can stand to lose a few teeth if I can make that hap­pen.

Pondering new directions for writing

I am writ­ing again. I can’t express how excit­ed I am about this. These entries are not as reg­u­lar as I would like, but that will change. Nor are they as in depth and dis­cur­sive as I could wish, but there are lim­i­ta­tions of the for­mat to bear in mind there, and per­haps I should not dream too big just yet, since I am still get­ting my legs back under me, writ­ing-wise, and I am so hap­py for that.

What do I want from myself as a writer? Do I want anoth­er round of The Float­ing Egg? Is that still a viable form for me to be work­ing toward? Or is it time to real­ly stretch this time, to look beyond what has worked in the past, and try some­thing new, per­haps even bold? Yes, to both.

The Egg is part of me, a vital step in my jour­ney as a cre­ative writer, and I want to keep it float­ing as long as I can. Which is not to say I don’t feel free to evolve the hell out of it. In fact, I see this forum, as it takes shape, become inte­gral, even cen­tral, to the renewed incar­na­tion of my lit­tle jour­nal. This is where the me, the writer, flings him­self most direct­ly at his per­ceived read­er­ship, always the live­ly ker­nel at the cen­ter of what made the Egg tick.

But it can­not stop here. I can no longer con­tent myself with self-cen­tered prat­tle and call it my favored form. I need to actu­al­ly com­mit myself to pro­duc­ing work of length and (more impor­tant­ly) of sub­stance. I have projects in the (very) ear­ly stages of devel­op­ment, but they give me cause for hope, as does this blog. Small steps, and as I prac­tice more and more, big­ger and big­ger steps will be prac­ti­ca­ble.

Next time, a look at some of my embry­on­ic writ­ing projects.