Sunday, March 27, 2011

3 more teeth gone, and appointment number 8!

Last Tuesday the 22nd would mark my eighth appointment in Mesa and my last day with teeth 17, 18 and 19. I think I impressed the latest oral surgery student Trent that Rakhee would be assisting early on by actually knowing them by number. It had been a little longer of a wait after the frequency of past visits with the school being out for spring break, and though there was lots of new stuff to talk about, I think my energy felt a little bit off. This was all really happening. It was kind of hard to believe that after today I would have virtually all of my back teeth out. With only a few premolars and canines left, today would mark a commitment to pudding and overcooked macaroni and cheese, blended soups, smoothies and ice creams far into the future, the end of which I could not say. Though it was very hard for me to try to chew many things with broken crowns before, it is a much different story when there is no tooth there at all. It has been interesting, as the weeks have passed, to become more and more aware of the teeth that I do still have, feeling them touch in ways they never did before. It doesn't really make a lot of sense to me, because the rest of my broken teeth could have never really touched before them much in the first place, but I nonetheless can feel  their presence with each bite in a way I never have before. Perhaps it is their way of calling out to remind me as the rest of the walls are being knocked down, that they are still there. A reminder, that I have a strong foundation of canines still intact to act as anchors for the new structure yet to come?
They prepped me as has become the ritual for the past several appointments now sign on the line and I lean back to let the shots begin, noticing that this time there was no coconut-flavored topical agent as Rakhee customarily administers before pricking me. (Are you reading this, Trent?) He defended with an, "actually, a topical only reached a depth of 2 milimeters whereas the needle enters much deeper, yadda-yaddah-yadda" but I think we ALL know that upon the initial entrance of the needles, perhaps especially if puncturing infected tissue such as mine, that however small it is, I promise you that the artificial taste of coconut, strawberry or even if it tasted like Peridex, trust me when I tell you it makes a difference. This was the first time that I have felt a needle in four appointments, dear Trent. Just saying :-)
Okay, so...sparing you the graphic details...this visit...was really hard. Rakhee confided early on that she had apparently saved me the best for last (?) informing me that this quadrant was in fact the most infected of all. All I could think was, that's funny, how the hell could you tell? It all looked the same to me. As Trent's magic memory would inform me again, the infection apparently changes the ph in my body making it harder for me to get numb, and though what I felt was a far cry from not being numb at all, I was surprised over and over to feel ______ when the drill would sneak around the corner and ring my bell. Though I think my pain tolerance is much higher than most, I will be the first to admit that I often flinch a little at the first twinge of surprise discomfort. I get that from my Grandmother, who would always stub her toe or cut herself and yell "Ow, bitch!" at some inanimate object before even realizing if she had pain, I think. Though I jump at times, it is hard for me to backtrack in the moment and realize what just happened, but I think that for the most part that day, that it was indeed pain.

A few more shots and some continued cutting to separate the two roots of my rear left wisdom tooth, #17, the first piece finally came free. As Rakhee and Trent's hands full of tools played what seemed like a losing game of Twister in my mouth for several minutes, the other half finally broke free as I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and lay in waiting for the next round. Showing me the X-ray, Trent pointed out why this tooth was so stuck in my mouth, its roots curving together to touch at the bottom around bone, instead of growing straight.

The worst of it I hoped finally over, I chose to try to distract myself by taking pictures, taking a break from my usual focal point of the overhead Peyton & Crane logo on the lightbulb, or the sprinkler nozzle in the ceiling. I am particularly amazed by this composition on my second try:
Trent and Rakhee headbutting. Hey, what're you guys looking at?

As they tagged each other out and Rakhee got the chance to wrestle again with the remaining evil team of 18 and 19 in my mouth with tools I still have not quite memorized the numbers of, (though for the record, I know and HATE the infamous "Minnesota" and I think it has quickly become to my mouth what a whisper of "speculum" provokes amongst women everywhere!) she asked a nearby doctor if she minded taking a few more pictures.
Seriously, am I right, people? Is this Twister, or what? Right hand suction on #17! Left hand pokey proddy thing...oh, dental humor. You guys are going to get sooo tired of me!

God, I look so serious. You would think I had a mullet and there was Nascar on the ceiling or something.

Okay, after two hours I get kinda giddy. Luckily my dentists and I have learned a secret language or grunts and gurgles despite having a bite-block in. Seriously though, I think Rakhee is starting to get it down. Ugh" once means pull this gauze trap out before I gag and cough blood at your masks and earn you another "Contaminated" sticker and "Is your nose itchy?" jokes among your colleagues. (Haha.) "Ugh" twice means my lips are not numb, and get offended when you forget about them and their ability to still be pinched between numerous tools and hurt!" No "ughs" means...well. "OWWW! Hold your breath, Paul. You are the Zen Master. You are one more tooth away from Enlightenment. Hang in there..."

Moneyshot, moneyshot! Save this one for your portfolios, guys. Feel free to Photoshop out that bug-eyed ass look on my face. Good lord.

More little bloody angry bits of the old Paul, in the trash. Soon to be replaced by titanium Terminator teeth! Boo-yah! (Yeah...I never say boo-yah. Fooled ya, people who don't know me. Haha.)

Take a bow, guys. You, are my heroes of the day.
I'm gonna cut it short and let the pictures tell the story for this day, but I will add that today's stitches SUCKED! I guess it was because the surrounding tissue was so infected (?) but strangely enough it was among the worst sensations felt thus far, and generally it is not too bad. Different technique? Idunno, but I would have rather got two more #17s out than endure those stitches again. It felt like the first time I was truly sweating in the chair. Remind me to go watch that scene in First Blood again where my childhood hero Rambo stitches up his own arm after jumping off a cliff into an evergreen forest to psych myself up, I guess.

I left that day paying for all three extractions with the money from my dinner party, and scheduling my next three appointments for April, which I currently put down enough credit from Paypal donations (mostly) and my own money to also pay for, and more. I got antibiotics this time and may be switching gears to do some fillings and stuff before yanking my front four. I am humbled to look back to only two months ago and realize how much has happened, how much every aspect of my life has changed and continues to change, how differently people have been treating me, and how moved I am to have ventured so far on this new journey so quickly with Rakhee's and all of your support. Thank you all so much for reading and continuing to spread the word. I hope my ramblings can continue to be interesting and inspire others to take care of themselves as well, and ask for help. Thank you.

I almost forgot, I made blog promo cards!

I had my friend Mike over at print me up the first batch of cards to give out on the 18th to promote the blog. There will no doubt be more designs in the future. Feel free to grab either or both of these if you want to help use them to promote the blog as well in any way. Thanks!
I will add, that though I know I have come a long way in a short time as far as my openness to talk about this issue and share my story and pictures of myself and my procedures, or let others repost them, it is a little different than handing a stranger (or a friend, even) one of these cards with my mouth on it and waiting for a reaction. But I think that so far, I mostly am able to deal with it. Though when I leave them in public, I don't place them all mouth up, the very fact that I even leave one of them upturned now and then feels good to me, and feels like another small step in a positive direction.
Let me know if you would like any cards to give out. I still have a bunch, and will be making more regularly. Thanks!

On the "Rockys" in my life

Ever since I was a kid, I have always found inspiration from the heroes of action and adventure movies. I attribute a lot of this I guess to living a pretty sheltered life in the backwoods of upstate New York and having few real life heroes per se, outside of family members. In the 80s, if you had asked most any boy in America who their heroes were, I would wager most would have said a character from an Arnold Schwarzeneggar or Sylvester Stallone movie, perhaps Indiana Jones or Hulk Hogan or Superman close runner's up. I grew up loving them all, but it was always Rocky that inspired me to exercise and want to get in shape. Though Rocky IV in all its Cold War propaganda glory will always be my favorite, and the one that to this day stands as the main inspiration for me wanting to do pull-ups as a kid, there are numerous sequences and songs throughout them all that I still can't watch without being on the edge of my seat wanting to destroy whatever obstacles are in front of me, pulse pounding, veins filled with blood.

On the bike tour this past fall for several weeks I was sad that among all of my endless precautionary items for every emergency that I packed, one of the main lapses in judgment I seemed to space out on was, well, the inclusion of a soundtrack for my adventure. As Pinar and I biked on and on, I began to get a little bitter, honestly, that she had brought an mp3 player and was lost in song somewhere ahead of me, while I had only my thoughts to listen to. Sometimes that can be good, others...not so much. One thing is for certain however, and that is during times of intense physical challenges, upbeat and/or aggressive music can work wonders at helping you to find the strength to overcome whatever obstacles are in front of you, whether that be a giant hill, another ten miles before sunset, or the ability to ignore the cold chill in your bones in the morning. The day that I finally gave in and bought an mp3 player at a Walmart, it should be no shocker to anyone who knows me that one of the first albums I downloaded was the best of the Rocky soundtracks. Pedaling off down the road from the Fred Meyer parking lot that day, listening to "Eye of the Tiger" for the first time in months was a communion with my inner child I had almost forgotten about, so wrapped up in the logistics of each day's ride. It was a reminder of a part of me that existed long before this current journey, a fearlessness I found as a kid through music that as silly as it might have seemed to some people, gave me strength that day in ways that nothing else could have.

I wrote the following in an email to a friend last October about that day:

"I was sleeping alone inside the burned out guts of a redwood tree in the middle of the first forest I met in California and it grounded me back to remember more about who i was, knowing that i could be doing all this alone right now--that, regardless of if we have a lover, best friend, adventure partner to brave the daylight with, whatever....ultimately, we are all alone each night, anyway. Being in that tree took me back to my childhood, when i spent hours and hours alone with trees, in my imagination, where every day was a game and nothing mattered. Things were so easy. I've been really nostalgic or sentimental or whatever on this trip, thinking of my childhood. Riding bikes, playing in nature, every day always worked out. A snickers bar on the table when i got home from school, Hulk Hogan on TV and everyone a hero in my head.

In the end, you have to be your own hero. You have to love yourself. You have to know that you are capable of anything and look forward to those challenges, not be frustrated. We keep downloading silly adventure movies in cafes along the way that we watch while camping. Goonies, Indiana Jones, The Matrix, Star Wars....they only seem to prove this point.

The Rocky soundtrack isn't what gets me over hills. It's not a challenge to myself to be like Rocky, it's a challenge to myself, to be like ME. To stop hiding, to stop being afraid, and to let the deepest most inner secret parts of me, fears and bullshit and all, out for the world to see. Throw it all on the table each day and risk my comfort and sanity to be passionate and inspiring to others, to elevate us all higher into one euphoric dreamlike consciousness where we know and believe that we can ALL be superheros--we can all find, create, and nurture happiness in ourselves and others. We can all kindle our adventurous spirits and find our inner Macguyvers or Indiana Jones. We are all Goonies. We can all have fun...

I'm still learning this. or developing it, like a magic trick, perfecting, to every day become a more powerful and clever wizard to pull the wool over people's eyes just for a moment before pulling it back again and showing them that there are in fact, no strings. This is the way that it is. This is the way that you can live as well."

My "eye of the tiger" however would immediately lose its fire shortly after I mounted my new stereo on my bike
and in Trinidad, California, on October 21th, 2010, I would lose yet another large piece of a front tooth while eating a roasted panini sandwich. This was the day that I would take the first picture of my mouth in years, similar to the one that is now on its way to becoming viral it would seem, in an effort to try to let the reality of my situation ever sink in,

staring at myself in the bathroom of that cafe that afternoon, feeling completely alone and powerless. Shortly before that moment, as my best friend was dancing outside on the phone, having just received word over the phone that she had gotten accepted into the college of her dreams, I could not have been on a further planet, emotionally, as I wrote these words in my journal:

It is hard now, to think back to how I felt that day. Though it has been over five months now, I am still haunted by the intense feeling of loss I felt that day.  Though she held me as I cried myself to sleep that night in our tent on the beach, my mind could not have been further away. My problem that night, every night for years, was not one that love or hugs alone could fix.

We had been to hell and back on a hundred different horses it had seemed over the past year of adventures together, with my shoulders more often than not hefting a lot of the burden. But on this day, finally, it was written all over my broken face that things would simply not be the same. Though we may have rolled across the Golden Gate Bridge together, the fact that our own internal struggles were very different could not have been more clear. Now, more than ever, I knew that the only real obstacle in my life to my own success and happiness was myself. To find my Apollo Creed I need look no further than my own mouth. The real battle I had left Phoenix with my closest friend to face, and left New York even 5 years before, was one with myself, over the regrets of my past.

All I had wanted for years was to have a big climax of my movie like in Good Will Hunting and cry on someone's shoulder while they tell me "It's not your fault," and to somehow be okay with it, and move on. I still never was granted that wish, and I think I have also reached a point where I don't care anymore. I can't blame my parents or my family my whole life any more than I can blame my friends for not being mind-readers. I used to always think that if my friends never asked me about my teeth that it must have meant that they were uncomfortable with me. It never once occurred to me that maybe they didn't know my secret because I went to such great lengths to hide it, and it was in fact only me that was uncomfortable with myself. I always imagined people talking about about me after I left the room, inquiring to my friends what had happened to me, like I was missing an arm or something. "Oh, you mean you don't know about the accident?"

But I've come to a new place of acceptance, for the first time in my life. There was no accident. I refuse to any longer be sorry for myself, and though my hands have ten fingers I could point at others for the rest of my days, I am proud that for the first time in my life a few months ago that I began to finally instead make a fist with them, like Rocky, and take a stand. If you will recall from Rocky 3, the real enemy he had to face, was his own fear. To look oneself in the mirror and not be ashamed of what you see has been a test I have struggled with for years, but I am finally learning to face these old pictures of my mouth as an enemy that with the help of you all, my fans, that I feel I am in constant training to overcome. The ironic part, is that though my words often dance in and out of metaphors in everyday speech, of movies and reality and everything in between, I couldn't help but find significance in the fact that when I first began to share the story with the world of this epic battle I was about to face upon my return to Phoenix a few months ago, suddenly, two more "Rockys" entered my life. The first, as you all know by now, is my wonderful student dentist I ended up with, Rakhee Patel, that with each new appointment feels like my coach and tag team partner as we each knock out another few rounds toward that final championship smile, so far away but so well on our way to the finish. The second, though only somewhat of an acquaintance in the past, Rocky Yazzi, happened to read my story on facebook at the perfect time when he needed a little inspiration I guess, and a reminder that all of us in our own ways were suffering, but it's whether we choose to do it together and ask for help, or doom ourselves to lives of isolation and self-pity, that makes all the difference. This is of course, only me speaking.
Rocky recently recorded this song and video before moving out of his home and saying goodbye to parts of his past. If you listen closely you can hear how his compassion for my current predicament inspired the second verse.
Rocky is throwing me a benefit this Wednesday night in San Francisco's Mission District at the El Rio if any of you happen to be in that area.!/event.php?eid=153236068069644
I have a few more weeks before my next appointment, but I presume my other Rakhee is home training for her presentation on me due very soon.Thank you both, for all of your continued inspiration and for always being in my corner during this fight. Here is one more cheesy video, dedicated to all of us:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fundraiser #1 Vegan Dinner Party @ Mario's

So this past weekend as Art Detour was winding down, I organized a big vegan dinner party with my friend and old housemate Mario Etsitty, much like his infamous First Friday after after parties, minus an after, perhaps. I met with him several days beforehand and worked on a list of meal ideas and ingredients to begin shopping for in preparation, and lo and behold another friend of mine took it upon herself to tweet it out to the universe and got virtually the entire list donated! (Thanks again, Reva and friends. She ALSO took me to Costco and let me stock up on pudding and yogurt and frozen fruit for my ongoing pouty "smooth" food months.)
Thanks also to Alia for helping me transport all this food and borrow her car to pick up a few remaining items at the last minute. Sunday was a really exhausting day of baking 150 peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

cleaning and setting up and prepping food--I actually got I think the first blister ever from chopping vegetables! I blame it on using different-handled knives from my own. We ended up starting a little later than predicted, but it was a good turnout after all. Thanks to everyone who braved the windstorm and held onto the tent outside for dear life and helped break down so quickly! And thanks to all of you who came. Thanks Alex for bringing some burros--one of the last people to come by, Nathan, was totally excited that there was still a half of one left. It was great to see everyone, many of you I don't think actually having often been in one context with so many other people from my different little circles. Thanks Kristi and Kristy for coming all the way from GLOBE! Thanks Virginia for making all those little cupcakes that everyone was raving over the whole night. Thanks anyone else I'm forgetting, and of course Mario for always humbling my meager chef ego in his presence and always knowing exactly what to cut and stir when it seems to pull a party off in the nick of time. Haha. Thanks to everyone's donations I raised $321, which totally covered the cost of Tuesday's appointment of three more extractions! Here are a few pictures I snapped that night:
Here is a view of our spread of food Sunday night.
This is the huge pot of curry we made.

And here we have gluten-free spaghetti with marinara sauce.

Here are Virginia's huge pile of cupcakes, fraternizing with my gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

Here is a close-up of the salsa I made.

And here we have 3 gallons of homemade Sangria!

Here is Mario, looking for teeth under the many pillows in the house!
And Ian, trying to spread more fairy dust!
(Anyone else have anymore pictures?)
Thanks also to Hans and Becca and Nate for helping to pack up everything so we could take the leftovers to my work. Little did you all know that by supporting me, as it turned out, you would also be providing and awesome meal and a ton of cookies for homeless youth the next day at the Tumbleweed Drop In Center! So thank you all on behalf of our kids and staff as well :-)
Thanks for helping to contribute to the first of what I hope will be many exciting and diverse fundraisers over the coming months, and for helping me to continue to pay for treatments. For the record, I am currently about $1,800 ahead of my appointments, which will only help me to add more momentum to the more costly procedures once I get my 4 remaining extractions and fix the teeth I have over the next month or so. At this rate, I may just pull this all off this year!

I found some old writing from journals I wanted to share.

Both of these entries are from Februrary 4 years ago, shortly before I came to Phoenix. I'd like to add, that if the time of deepest physical pain from my teeth over the past several years has always been during times when I was also sick or worn out from lack of sleep or stressed, so my body's immune system is distracted by fighting other things than infected teeth, that often in my life the time of biggest MENTAL pain has been when I've felt alone, without a supportive community of people to talk to or friends to share with. When I wrote these words, I had recently left NY to travel for the 4th time in a year, and had been staying in a basement for a month in the middle of winter in Ann Arbor with my friend Jeremiah I had met in Portland, every day feeling more and more like I had no one to communicate with but myself. I saved enough money from stencil art commissions a few weeks later to take another chance and risk spending the majority of my earnings on a bus ticket to Phoenix, where I only knew one person via the internet for several years whom I'd never met. (Rikki) I came here, starting over again, with $15 to my name, hopeful that perhaps my magic "answer" of how I could change my life and find happiness and success might finally surface here after passing through nearly half of the other 50 states over the previous year of couchsurfing while surviving off of art. Though these words happened to come out during those lonely, 13 degree depressing days in Michigan, I nonetheless carried them with me always in the back of my mind over the past several years, pulling them out of hiding in my thoughts with every awkward attempt at a smile throughout my days. I can happily update this first entry however, with the new information that I do in fact finally HAVE dental records, not to mention a perfect model probably still in Rakhee's messy locker of my mouth so in case anything terrible were to happen to me, I could finally actually be identified for the first time in my life. Thanks Rakhee! Haha, I know, I give the most ridiculously unique compliments, huh?
Don't support "Billy Bob" teeth, or buying all of these wretched costumes that mock people with poor dental hygiene. Furthermore, "white trash" is a derogatory term no less hateful and offensive than "nigger" or "spick" or "cunt" or any other racist or sexist term. I would argue that most of these words have their roots in classism anyway, all translating to mean that one person is "less than" another. I beg of you to hold your tongues if you get the inkling to utter such words, so that others can simply smile, and not feel like their teeth are not "good enough" to do so.

I am beginning to finally find the confidence to remove words like "never" from my vocabulary and replace them with others, like "hope." In the words of Helen Keller, "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." I most certainly choose to embrace the journey, enjoy the ride, and live my own fucking movie, be my own hero. I encourage you all to do the same.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

So I was interviewed last week...

My friend and old housemate from the Downtown Arts Collective and live/work space, the Firehouse, Pete Petrisko, recently emailed me about interviewing me for AZ Kaos, "Arizona's Punk Rock Resource." Confessing some of his own experiences with "bad teeth" and the effect it has had on him was a moving introduction to our reconnection as friends, having not seen each other in over a year. This interview is a perfect example of the continuing positive experiences I am having with others reaching back, sharing their own stories and offering their own talents and utilizing their own networks as I am reaching out. It is kind of  mindblowing each day, watching everything continue to grow! I almost feel like a pyramid scheme or something. Haha. I received another considerable donation today, from someone I don't even know, and I have planted so many seeds at this point through direct conversations with friends, the blog and all sorts of digital profiles, that I am not even sure how people are hearing about my story now, but I am excited to watch it all grow as it takes on more and more of a life of its own. Thanks again everyone for all your reposting and sharing in whatever digital and analog circles of friends you have, and for helping me to be a little less pouty as all my foods begin to take on the same goopy texture at every meal. It feels great after so many years to be derailed in so many directions of denial, to finally feel like every aspect of my life is beginning to feel focused and on the right track toward a positive and healing future.

I hope you will enjoy this interview, and take the time to peruse the rest of their website and zine if you can find a copy. Thanks again, Pete, for your own honesty and compassion, and sharing your story. I am equally inspired by you and your own "cyborg" teeth :-)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I've been working on an "Altar," of sorts.

Until about 10 months ago, I had for my entire life, identified as an atheist. This was partially due to my loosely Christian upbringing I never remotely identified with, but also because, I have always been a person who was very grounded in the present. I have a tattoo on my wrist (instead of a watch) that reads "This is all we have," meaning that as far as I presume to know, this life, is the only one that I get, so I have to make it count. I got that tattoo in 2004 after the closest connection I have ever believed I had to a "fiance" broke up with me. It was a somewhat "secret" relationship of eleven months, and those words were something we often uttered as a reminder that our happiness, however fleeting perhaps, on that given night, took precedent over the consequences of her disapproving parents finding out about our continuing relationship.

Last year I reached a point where for the first time in my entire life I began to call into question my reactionary Atheism, and to begin to think of myself more as a single cell in part of the greater organism of what many would refer to as Gaia. While I still do not put much of a regular focus into it, i.e.-prayer, searching for books that better quantify my confusing "spirituality," My journeys back into nature with Pinar reminded me that I am in fact a spiritual person, despite not having a religion, per se. Spending six weeks biking with her 1,100 miles down the Pacific coast this past fall helped me to not only reconnect me with nature and my childhood, but also get in touch with the deepest most intrinsic parts of who I am, from the darkest, most repressed demons, to my brightest hopes and dreams.

Above all, I view the world as a series of connections. I also believe that the majority of humankind has thrown our planet out of balance. I believe the mind is a more powerful tool than we think, and I believe wholeheartely that any of us, at any given time, when we can find a focus and balance within us, can manifest our dreams into reality. It may, however, be very hard work. "Where there is a will, there is a way," and the less we live disconnected digital lives of isolation, the more connections we can make in real life when we genuinely talk to people and express our open and honest convictions, and live with the consequences. Being vulnerable and honest with each other, is the most human thing that we can do. This all being said...some of you might think some of my "beliefs" are a little wishy-washy, and that is okay. I am simply supplying you with a little bit of background information as to how I ended up making altars for lack of a better word for the first time in my life this past year.

Here is the current one I speak of:
The majority of the top collection are artifacts from the earth sampled over 6,000 miles of mine and Pinar's adventures together, each footnotes of the epic story of 2010 for me that propelled me forward to face my dental journey of 2011. The bottom are several photos from my childhood and of my closest friends, lovers and connections over the past several years, and reminders of experiences where I felt the most happy, even if I wasn't necessarily comfortable smiling.  

Many of these items I have carried around with me as tokens of power throughout different trials in my life. If I missed someone and want to feel them closer to me when I'm going through a rough time, I have often carried a picture of them or some sort of charm I acquired with them to feel able to summon more courage than usual. I could spend days writing out the significance of every single object in this picture, but I will refrain, and ask that you only remember, that things like this are far more important to me than general material possessions. Though I am sometimes mocked for liking pictures and documentation, like it makes me a hypocrite as someone who claims to live in the present and seize the day rather than get caught up in daily deja vu of a forgotten past I can only conjure again through pictures as my aging memory betrays me, I believe that all of our stories have value. This altar, in a way, is a collection of memory cues and triggers, that helps me to capture a lifetime of my most important moments at one quick glance, and remind me daily, of all of the wonderful times that my soul was smiling. It is a call to action and a challenge, to continually find the strength to face each day with new-found strength and commitment to heal myself from nearly two decades of alienation and masochism, and free myself from that past to finally begin to write a new story for myself of who in fact Paul Clark Jones Jr. really is.

Donation Update

Whoah, amazing news. As of last Thursday, after I received not one, but TWO $500 donations in a 24-hour period, that brings my 33 day total since I got a paylpal account up to a whopping $1535.54!

Without even actually having a fundraiser of any kind yet! This means two things: first, that the help of others has now surpassed my own investment after the past seven appointments and I can rest a little easier finally, and afford to buy slightly more pudding! and second, that I currently have enough money saved between my own resources and donations to cover the cost of my next 5 appointments! Basically, all seven of my remaining extractions, and fixing all of the remaining teeth I have that need work is already payed for.

My next appointment is on March 22nd, and I hope to schedule the other 4 as soon as possible after that, perhaps to be completed by mid-April. By that time, I will have probably another grand of my own savings, and at least one fundraising dinner party this weekend and another benefit in San Fran on the 30th, and who knows what else, but I believe that it might, just might be possible to begin the implant procedures by the end of April. If so, that will be a pretty remarkable accomplishment for only 3 months. I almost can't believe it! So far, so good. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Exercise Those Choppers!

Idunno if anyone remembers this, but this used to always play during Saturday morning cartoons back in NY when I was a kid. I remember that one with the reading cat also, Captain OG Readmore. Haha. This popped into my head the other morning at work eating breakfast and I haven't been able to get it out of my damn head since!
This is an interesting commercial. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I felt like my jaw muscles have no doubt atrophied after years of only working them out with softer "dumbbell" foods and not doing any tough weight training on meats and nuts and apples and things out of fear of breaking teeth and also cuz I was vegan for nearly 11 years. I wonder if when I have teeth again I will be able to fully work out my "choppers," if I will gain like, definition and have an entirely different looking "chiseled" jaw? Hahahaa. We'll see, I guess.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Networking and Fundraising Updates

So lately it feels like I have 2 full time jobs. Besides Tumbleweed, virtually all of the rest of my spare time (when I'm not eating pudding and watching House reruns, that is. haha) has gone to emailing, reposting links and blogs, brainstorming, calling people, and trying to plan all sorts of fundraisers to continue to get my story outside of the context of all my poor downtown friends. Something I feel that people are slowly starting to realize, is that though they may not have money, they have their own skillsets and resources and slightly separate group of friends. I feel like a "weaver" I guess, finding new ways to constantly mix and match everyone's unique thread together to create colorful new events that everyone will want to be a part of. Here are some of the exciting things happening soon or in the works, but first of all, here is a glimpse of the OCD Hollywood "serial killer" way that I organize my thoughts:

I got a twitter account yesterday! That, is pretty hilarious and weird to me, that me of all people finally has one. And I still am not fully sure how to best utilize it, but I will hopefully get lots of pointers from all my geeky friends soon! :-) Right? Come be my followers at:!/smilepaul2011

My friend and old housemate from the Firehouse, Pete Petrisko recently interviewed me for AZ Kaos, an online journal of local art, music, culture and happening. Check out their page at: The story should be posted early next week, and will hopefully help pitch my first big upcoming benefit, on...

March 20th at 6PM at my friend (and coincidentally OTHER old housemate) Mario's I'm having my first big vegan dinner party fundraiser. If you don't know, it's the red brick house next to the giant red brick church on 908 E. McKinley St. If you are on Facebook, here is the event link and more information.!/event.php?eid=170356473016237
Mario and I (and anyone else who wished to contribute) are going to serve up a smorgasbord of vegan delights. We will have some gluten-free options as well, a variety of the cookies I used to be making at Conspire, Sangria and who knows what else. I promise it will all still taste good AFTER I rant my little monologue about my treatment plan and share gory pictures :-)

March 30th my friend Rocky Yazzi is hosting a fundraising event for me at the bar he works at in San Fran, the El Rio.  More info of performers and details soon.

I'm also working on designing promotional materials for a campaign I'm calling "One More Tooth" right now which I hope to have ready in the next week or so. I going to reach out to local businesses in the community and inquire if they are interested in letting me put a jar by their cash register for weekly collections of change. With this, I will also make "business" cards with the blog and twitter and my contact info to be displayed near them. I believe the text for the campaign is going to read:
"Our dear friend Paul needs several thousand dollars worth of dental care. He is saving for a full mouth reconstruction to finally be able to smile again and eat without pain for the first time in nearly 20 years. Together, your spare change can turn into real life change. You can make a difference, and help him cover the cost of ONE MORE TOOTH."
Then on the other side of the jar I would also have a current pic and short bio. Trying to find the ideal "jars" or containers to use still, currently, if anyone has any suggestions? Also contemplating making little molars out of sculpey to put inside each jar. I know, I'm so clever :-)

My friends Erin and Tristan are going to work on booking me a music show, possibly at Trunk Space or Firehouse in April sometime. Kimbur Lanning at Stinkweeds has also offered to let me use her space for an acoustic in-store performance or an outdoor show in the courtyard if anyone else wished to help with that or knows bands who might like to play for either show. I'm currently pursuing the possibilities of local favorites and friends of mine: Dogbreth, Haymarket Squares, Scrupulous, Haunted Cologne, Michelle Blades, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Lauren Farrah, Empire of the Bear, and others.
I am going to also talk to Wesley at the Bikini Lounge about possibly doing a fundraiser there one night as well, probably with the likes of 602sdays heroes Djentrification, Tara, Matty P, etc.

On top of all of this, My friend Anna Moncada has offered to begin accepting donations at her Tapdancing lessons for me. She is also exploring the possibility of her burlesque troupe Provacatease performing at a dancing fundraiser, possibly with a "sexy" bake sale. Hahahaa.

My friend Reva, the instructor of is offering to also donate a portion of the proceeds from her workshops if I can help her spread the word and find a more permanent and centrally-located venue in which to teach them. Am currently looking into the YMCA and some yoga studios. Anyone have any suggestions? Her trainings primarily focus on educating women, girls and the LGBTQ community. I am going to try to network with ASU student groups.

In addition, I still am working on designing some of my own tshirts to sell and also designs for my awesome friends Andrew Jackson Jihad which they have graciously offered to allow me to produce and ship and sell from their band website and let me keep full profits.

I have brainstormed other ideas with friends as well. There is talk of drag shows and scavenger hunts and improv performances and endless ideas. I am also in the works of writing a proposal for a seriously EPIC Dentistry-themed art show and silent auction that I think could probably be one of a kind and hugely attended, promoted to all dentist practices in the valley to bid on teeth-shaped paintings to put in their offices, and (I hope) to gain a lot of publicity for the students of the Mesa Dental University, educate children (AND adults) about proper oral hygiene and also offer hope and support to those who struggle with teeth issues, physically and mentally, and be informed by my intensely vulnerable and honest, interactive installation and performance piece telling my story. I am, after all, an exciting story of hope, healing, transformation, and rebirth.

I am now, finally done with this update. I told you, I have been B-U-S-Y!!
Please if anyone has any advice or suggestions or wants to help organize, promote, perform, bake, etc. for any of the above events, or if you have any other ideas of your own, please contact me. You can use here, twitter, facebook, email me at or call my cell, 602-575-9824.

Thank you all of you who continue to make this creative chaos possible, to have helped me to finally focus my brain into one single purpose for the greater good of my health and sanity and to together, provide awesome events in Phoenix!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How quickly can I write about my 10 mostly surgical extractions in 13 days?

I want this to be fun and uplifting for you after all, and not like reading the script of Saw VI or something, right? Well, maybe you can kinda have both. Well, it's March 6th now, and beginning February 17th, I have had one appointment of extractions for the last 3 weeks. How can I be brief?
 Okay, so I am surprised to know that some people seem to not know that they generally have 32 teeth as an adult. In discussing them at the dentist, they refer to them by number, 1-16 beginning on your back right, across the front to back left, and then directly below to 17 and back to the bottom right wisdom tooth to 32. To help this make a little more sense perhaps, Here is a picture of the fancy Dentrix Program diagram of my treatment plan as modified after my first 3 extractions:
The ones with the lines through them are all set to be removed. It is all somewhat of a Vicodin blur now so I am only going to report the basics. That first day for 30, 31 and 32, my bottom right rear molars, the surgery was done by Tyler with Rakhee assisting. It was probably 2 of the longest hours of my life, much of which I longed really intensely for music or any sort of distraction, though I don't think it would have helped. It was hard for me to remember to breath. I kept sorta zoning out and staring into the lights or focusing on a spot on the ceiling tile, trying to count and control my breaths, but had a really hard time. Between the urge to gag from blood, my throat feeling dry and wanting to cough, yet trying to hold as still as possible it was hard to find any sort of calm thought to meditate on with the violence being done to my mouth, even if I couldn't really feel it. My broken teeth with their long roots proved hard to get a grip on, and hard to reach. Though my mouth may have been numb beyond feeling, the muscles in my jaw were most certainly not, and there were times it felt like my jaw might be torn clean off my skull to me! Imagine yourself trying to do pull-ups, being halfway up, but then someone pulling on your legs. I am sure I have a weak jaw to begin with, having not chewed hard foods for years, so to force constant resistance against the pliers in Tyler's grip with more strength than my jaw really had felt more exhausting than any workout I have probably ever endured. It was like trying to pedal my bike up the hills of the California coast again, but with my mouth. Imagine THAT crazy bike!

When it was finally over, I presented Rakhee with a tooth-shaped card that I had made that morning, anxiously wishing there was time for her to read it right then, excited to express my gratitude with something a little more personal than cookies:

I left that day glad when it was finally over and I could just close my mouth again, heading back to Phoenix in rush hour traffic with Robyn to fill my Vicodin prescription. This however, would prove difficult, as my numbness wore off a little quicker than planned as I paced around Walgreens nauseous, dizzy, and feeling like I was going to pass out for a half an hour. In retrospect I feel that most of that was because I didn't really find time to eat much that day before my appointment. I chugged a protein shake and changed my disgusting mouthful of gauze and went back inside to sit down. I think I got my meds and checked out just in time, stopping at the store to buy an assortment of pudding and soup and smoothie-making materials before I went home to relax.

On February 25th for my 6th appointment I went back to have 3 teeth on the upper right removed. I did not, however, realize that Rakhee for the first time would not be there. It was strange, noticing that my blood pressure was actually lower than usual (and more normal) I wondered if each time before I was not actually "nervous," but excited to begin. With the new guy Ky this time, I was sad that she would miss out on the day's treatment and being formally introduced to 3 more broken old guys hiding in the back of my mouth, about to finally be thrown out of the party.
This day, was a different kind of pain. Although I had 5 shots, it seemed today hurt a lot more than last time. Instead of the jaw-stretching feeling, it was more like my mouth was going to be tore open! As most people know, I seem to have stretchier skin than most anyone, but around my mouth, that certainly does not seem to be the case. These teeth were also infected and that unfortunately makes it harder to get numb, though luckily, these 3 came out in almost half the time as the last appointment.

March 2nd I just had 4 more out, one by another new student, Chase, and 3 by Rakhee on the upper left side. Though still not really feeling much "easier," these extractions went the quickest yet, and it left us more time to catch up on the status of everything than usual. I appear to be healing well, with all going according to the plan. I had been a little intimidated, having left a message with Rakhee with the blog address, a little intimidated to bombard her or anyone unsuspecting with my intensely honest writing style, let alone, much of which was about them. Haha. But from the moment I walked in that day she put my mind at ease and in fact loved my card and all my writing and even shared it with her parents. It was a really connecting day and I left once again, feeling endless gratitude for how our lives have come together in this unique and courageous partnership for the next several months of adventures. I am continually excited for us in a way I have never felt excited before, and each new appointment is a giant healing step for me, that I know would not be remotely the same if I had been going to Mexico or something.
I took some pictures that day of the battleground 4 hands fought upon with an endless array of weapons that day in my mouth. Here is the before and after:

Ten down, 7 more to go! Next appointment is on Friday the 11th before the school goes on Spring Break. I'm hoping I can have enough money between work and donations and squeeze in enough appointments to cover all my extractions and fix the teeth that I have this month. I think I maybe, just maybe, may be able to just squeak by if I can earn enough money from fund-raising to be able to maybe have 4 new front teeth by early summer. I can't even imagine that day...

Broken windows

F   E   A   R      L   E   S   S
Since I first posted my secret to the world, and since my first dental appointment a bunch of awesome things have been happening. Also, just to clarify, when first talking about the idea of posting some sort of a story to facebook friends with Pinar in December, I made a list of only 20 or so names of closest friends I felt I could bear to share it with. The momentum and excitement building in me however due to the new comfort and empowerment I began to find inspired me to actually post it to about 40 people, a few days later adding more, and after a few more making it public to all 200 or so friends and acquaintances of my profile. More recently, something I would have never thought possible in a million years, I posted a full open mouth "before" picture on facebook the day that I went to my first appointment to have teeth extracted. A lot is changing, in me and in my circle of friends every day. Momentum is growing, word is getting out, donations are starting to come in, brainstorms are growing all over the place, and it is truly magical and exciting to witness and experience in such a short time, to even believe that this is all occurring sometimes.
If you told me a year ago that I a day would come EVER where I would look forward to going to the dentist with excitement and enthusiasm like it were a fun art class with a fun partner in crime to make jokes all day, I would have never have believed you. And though I spend much of my time in the chair each visit bleeding with multiple people's hands in my mouth, I still hope my eagerness and sense of humor shines through the broken window's in this vessel of flesh and blood that my spirit calls home. It was due for a new coat of paint, anyway. Speaking of, I just hacked my hair off tonight! Thought the bushes around my new smile were in need of a trim after a whole year's growth. Here's to new beginnings, with a few more pictures Rakhee took of me at the end of my 3rd appointment after my cleaning. Don't be scared! Think of how I've always felt. Imagine how you might feel if this is what you saw when you looked in the mirror. Take a deep breath, and smile. And now go brush your teeth! Maybe throw me a quarter every additional time you do so while thinking of me ;-)

It's confusing, I know. This is a pic of a mirror in my mouth reflecting my upper teeth, or lack thereof.

Reflection of the right side of my mouth.

This is the first full mouth X-ray picture I ever saw of myself about a half hour into my first appointment. A little intimidating, to say the least. It's since become somewhat endearing, as I imagine all the windows continue to get knocked out each appointment. I hope I get to see another after all the extractions, and a final X-ray months from now as well.