Sinking Your Teeth Into Florence

No, Not Florence, Italy: Florence, South Carolina

I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine about dentistry. Depending on where you are, dentistry can take your household finances and turn them into mulch.

For their dental care, my Mother and Father actually ripped off the Peoples’ Republic of Hungary (that’s Magyar Népköztársaság for you fellow Hunkies) by having the Communists pay for their false teeth. I doubt they flashed their American passports, but they got thousands of dollars worth of dental care for bupkis.

One could cross the border into Mexico for inexpensive dental work, but there is no good way of holding the dentist accountable if something happens.

My Aunt Margit moved to Florence SC in the 1970s. When she died in 1977, my parents were in Budapest and couldn’t get back in time for the funeral; so my brother and I went instead. One of the things I discovered while there is that Florence was a major dental center, with some clinics doing dental procedures 24/7.

I don’t know if that’s still the case, but there are scads of dental clinics still in operation—many of which have no problem with giving you a price list in advance of need. I suspect that since dentistry is so competitive in Florence, there must be some good dentists to be found there. Even if they voted for Trump and Lindsey Graham.

Worse Than Al-Qaida

Morgue Overflow Into Hospital Corridor

Today we commemorate the nineteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack, in which some 3,000 Americans lost their lives in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

We are fighting another enemy now that has killed 200,000 Americans this year to date, and infected 6.5 million of our countrymen with a virulent disease which we are just beginning to understand. Many thousands of those dead from coronavirus died needlessly, and millions of those afflicted with the virus need not have suffered from it.

Solidly to blame is our leadership in the White House. President Trump persistently downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak (though now he claims he knew back then the danger). Millions of Americans did not know what to think. Many Trump voters now claim there was no pandemic, and that all this is false news. They refuse to wear face masks—largely because their President has sent mixed messages, frequently at variance with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Even people think less of Trump than I do (there must be some, somewhere) are confused as to what to do in the face of the outbreak.

I hold Trump responsible for thousands of deaths and millions of sickened Americans. One of the responsibilities of those in power is to make sure the right information gets to the people. It didn’t, with horrendous results.

Very few other countries had an experience as bad as ours, with so many needless casualties due to misinformation. To cover his ass, Trump lied that we had done better than any other country.

Why do people still believe his lies? I guess it’s a case of misplaced faith, as Mr. Spock explains below:

I’ll Go Along With That

 

Medical Miracles

Me in Ojai 1999

I bought my first digital camera, a Kodak, in 1999. Although I had severe osteoarthritis in my left hip and did not dare walk without a cane, I was still pretty active, working full-time at a busy Westwood accounting firm, traveling, and even hiking on weekends. It was not without pain, however, which was to get worse until 2002, when I visited my orthopedist who asked me, while looking at my X-Ray, “Tell me, Mr. Paris, how is it you are able to walk at all?” At that point, my left leg was 1½ inches shorter than my right; and I had a few bad falls.

Within a few months, I had a hip replacement, during which my left leg was somehow lengthened to be even with my right. After my release from Cedars-Sinai and several visits to a physical therapist, I was able to walk without cane and without pain.

The surgery was nothing less than a miracle—and not even the first one in my life. Back in September 1966, I was hospitalized at Cleveland’s Fairview Park Hospital with a chromophobe adenoma, a pituitary tumor that had given me over ten years of severe frontal headaches on most days. With considerable pain, I managed to get a four-year education at an Ivy League college thinking I was just just being a coward about pain. My headaches were due to migraines, a “lazy eye,” hay fever—you name it! It was only when I got the mother of all headaches, one that segued into a coma, that my doctors figured out there was something else happening. In those days,it was not easy to look inside the body except via X-Rays, and X-Rays did not show tumors.

Fortunately, my family doctor just happened to be an endocrinologist who managed to guess I had a pituitary tumor. The surgery was one which typically killed the patient, turned him into a paralytic or a blind man. I was the first person ever to have my pituitary accessed through the brain without dying or becoming totally disabled. And the headaches are totally gone, except for an occasional small one that responds well to aspirin.

 

 

Toenails and Teeth

My Own Toenails Don’t Look Anywhere Near So Good

I am happy to say that basically I am in good health, even though I have lived three quarters of a century. Of course, I still don’t have a pituitary gland (and never will), and my Type II Diabetes, though under control, doesn’t show signs of leaving.

Of late, my major complains have to do with my ingrown toenails and my teeth, both problems I inherited from my father. My father also had Diabetes, and suffered from the pain of excruciating neuropathy. Back in his day, though, I don’t think that his doctors really understood Diabetes. Neither did anyone in my family. The word for Diabetes in Hungarian is cukor (pronounced TSOO-khor), the same as the word for sugar. Naturally, people believed that if you switched from sugar to saccharin, everything would be A-OK.

This week I have been soaking my toes in warm water with Epsom Salts, applying triple antibiotic ointment to two ingrown nails, and bandaging them—with Martine’s help. Tomorrow, I see the podiatrist who will past judgment on how strictly I’m going to have to care for them.

I have bad teeth, but much of the problem is my own fault. I have generally avoided brushing my teeth; consequently, plaque ran wild, caused cavities, and in general undermined my crowns. Only recently, I bought an electric rotary toothbrush (Oral B) and began the long slow process of undoing a whole lot of negligence. Medicare takes care of my toes, but teeth are an entirely different matter. As things stand, I could easily spend $20,000 or more in the next two years on my teeth—and I can’t really afford that.

 

 

Cankles

The Ancient Greeks Certainly Didn’t Like Them

Semonides of Amorgos (floruit 7th Century BC) is by no means the most famous ancient Greek poet. In Richmond Lattimore’s Greek Lyrics, which I read at Dartmouth in a class on ancient Greek literature in translation, there is a brief quote (the rest of the poem has been lost) to the effect that:

A woman thick around the ankles is no good.

There isn’t much literary quality there. In fact, there isn’t much of anything. But there is something about that line from 2,700-2,800 years ago that has somehow survived whereas many plays by Sophocles and Euripides haven’t.

And are men with thick ankles any good? I know that whenever I visit the doctor, she checks my ankles to see whether the blood is pooling there, indicating poor circulation. (I used to have thicker ankles, but over the last several years it’s been OK.)

There is a word in popular parlance describing the phenomenon. The word is cankles, combining the words calf and ankles. My Mom had cankles, but then she did have problems with blood circulation that eventually precipitated fatal heart failure in her 79th year. Based on my Mom and what I have picked up from my own doctors, cankles go with all kinds of bad things relating to the heart.

Now it is possible for cankles to not be related to heart or kidney failure. I just don’t know what else they could signify, other than obesity.

 

 

Plague Diary 24: Zoom, Babies, and Barkies

Boredom Times Infinity

There are a number of stereotypes emerging from our months’ long quarantine: Zoom images of not altogether with it participants, small children, and pets—just to name a few. Being retired and not involved in alcoholism or recreational drugs, I am not into Zoom. There are zero circumstances which would call for a number of my friends and acquaintances being dragooned into meeting with me. Besides, I don’t have a camera on my PC at present. If I decide to get Skype or some other video telephony application, I might change my mind. Otherwise, nyet.

Pets and Babies Do Nothing for Me

It seems that most quarantiners have an irresistible urge to feature their pets and small children. That would have meant something to me decades ago, when I wanted to join that particular club. But having my pituitary gland and the chromophobe adenoma that devoured it removed at the age of twenty-one, I became ineligible to have a baby that looked anything like me. Nowadays, when I think of babies, I think of overfilled diapers. And I become comically allergic when I spend more than a couple hours with a dog or cat.

I would very much like to see my friends, but fortunately I am not going crazy from isolation. It seems that I am well-prepared for quarantining:

  • I have a library of several thousand books
  • I own hundreds of DVDs of classic movies, foreign and domestic
  • My cable TV gives me access to hundreds of free movies each week
  • I like to cook
  • I have a telephone

So I don’t have to shove pets and poopy diapers in your face, and I don’t need to appear on Zoom wearing nothing below my navel. You might call it the joys of sublimation.

Plague Diary 23: An Etymological Curiosity

A Look Back to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

I was scanning the channels early this evening when I made a surprising discovery. There seems to be a term from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic that has become part of our language. The “crawl” on one of the news stations casually mentioned that the term “slacker” derived from scofflaws during the pandemic that refused to wear face masks.

According to the Saturday Evening Post website, then, as now, there was an organized resistance to wearing masks:

[T]he Influenza pandemic of 1918, triggered a comparable patchwork of ordinances and ensuing economic fallout. Some Americans’ reactions a century ago took similar form, particularly a group of fed up San Franciscans who called themselves the “Anti-Mask League.” Although San Francisco saw one of the worst U.S. outbreaks of the pandemic, these dissidents opposed orders from the city’s Board of Health not because of the economic implications, but because they saw it as their right to walk the city maskless. Besides, they didn’t think the things were working anyway.

The more things change, the more hey remain the same. The members of the Anti-Mask League were referred to as slackers.

From the Enid Daily Eagle of September 25, 1918

There are, of course, some differences between the coronavirus and the outbreak following the First World War. All I can do is re-iterate the warning from the newspaper clip above:

Don’t get “scared.”

 

 

Rights vs “Rats”

End Quarantine Protest in Huntington Beach

They are both the same word, but “rats” (R1) is the Southern Confederate drawl version of “rights” (R2). They do not, however, refer to the same thing. R1 people are likely to insist that this is a free country, meaning they are free to do anything they want, even if it causes harm, like shouting “Fire!” precipitating a riot in a crowded theater. They are free to think that whatever they believe is true, such as that Covid-19 is a lie.

Myself, I consider myself to be an R2 person. I have certain inalienable rights, but these stop short when they cause harm. If I fire an AR-15 automatic rifle into a crowd, the possibility of killing multiple people puts a limit on my “rats.” Likewise, going to a crowded bar, getting coronavirus, and passing the disease on to my friends and relatives, possibly killing several of them, is to my mind a criminal act.

Confederate Prisoners Fighting for Their “Rats”

I first stumbled onto the difference in a scene from the 1993 Ted Turner film Gettysburg, when C. Thomas Howell, playing the part of Lieutenant Thomas Chamberlain, comes across a group of Confederate prisoners and asks them what they were fighting for. He doesn’t quite understand their answer, that it wasn’t for slavery that they were fighting, but for their “rats,” making him wonder why they were talking about vermin. It’s interesting to me that one person’s rights could be seen as another person’s crimes.

I see Trump in a difficult position. The disease is a serious one, and at the same time the economy is in dire straits. On one hand, his return-to-work policy could result in tens of thousands of deaths, especially of those misguided people who believe in him. On the other, it could lose him his presidency if his followers get so an inkling of what is really happening.

 

Plague Diary 21: Open With Restrictions

The Los Angeles Arboretum in 2017

Little by little, selected trip destinations are opening up s-l-o-w-l-y and with multiple restrictions. I can now visit the beach, but only if I am actively swimming, walking, or running. If I lie down and try to get a tan, or picnic, or even bring a cooler with me, the police would roust me. And of course, the water fountains are closed, together with the snack bars. Also the parking lots along the beach will be closed.

At the Los Angeles Arboretum, one can only walk on the paved paths in a park where half the paths are unpaved. And, of course, the benches are off limits, water and food are not available. I assume that if you sit down on one of the capacious lawns, you will be asked to move on.

Descanso Gardens is not closing down any of their unpaved paths, but again no benches or food, though water will be available.

The next time we get a heat wave, I will probably take a bus down to the beach and take a walk. I would like to lie on the beach, but I suppose a walk would be good for me.

I have this funny feeling that it will be many months before anything resembling normalcy will be restored to us.

 

 

Plague Diary 20: The Virus Mutates

As the Virus Mutates, the Symptoms Change

In a way, I hate writing about Covid-19. It seems that over 80% of the news on any given day is about the virus. One result is that most of us stay-at-homes are itching to get on with our lives. The pressure to do away with social distancing is growing from the top down, thanks to the current occupant of the White House. Suddenly, reasonable measures to contain the virus are being treated by protestors as violations of the constitution of of our God-given rights. (That last word, given a Southern drawl should come out pronounced as “rats”)

According to a CNN article released today, it seems the virus is mutating before our eyes and exhibiting a different array of symptoms, including:

  1. Aortic occlusions causing blood clots in the body’s main artery.
  2. Multi-system organ failure, when all the patient’s organs shut down at once.
  3. Pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome in which a child suffers “persistent fever, inflammation, poor function in one or more organs, and other symptoms that resemble shock.”
  4. “Covid toes,” in which red or purple lesions appear on the bottom side of the toes.

Based on conversations I have had with people, most think a vaccine is on the point of being developed that will allow all of us to return to work shortly. Please note, however, that the fastest a vaccine has ever been developed to fight a particular disease is four years, I suspect that if the coronavirus is mutating, it will probably take longer.

My prediction: As a result of social distancing, coronavirus will die down and then return in sudden outbreaks when the controls have been lifted. The people who are supporters of the President will, upon relaxing social constraints, be particularly likely to catch the disease in one of its new, more troubling configurations.