Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm working on some stencil art again for fundraising.

One of the signs I made while selling stenciled tshirts and patches on Hawthorne St. when I was couchsurfing in Portland five years ago, frustrated that people would dismissively throw change to musicians who played horrible covers all night long, but barely make eye contact with people sharing their visual art with them.
I used to carry everything on my bike. I had a photo album of my best stencils over my history of beginning in New Orleans 6 months prior, shirts with my most recent ones sprayed and bleached, and a bunch of blank shirts and paints and 20 or so stencils to make shirts on demand for people, always for donations. People offered me anywhere from a few dollars to $50 for a tshirt once in the five weeks I would sit on Hawthorne Street for a few hours each day.
In stressing myself out for weeks trying to think of clever designs related to dentistry to make silly and/or uplifting "commemorative" shirts and prints and things to sell, I had the epiphany that I ALREADY have a bunch of old designs and images that were always selling just fine in Phoenix for the year and a half I was living off my art sales and commissions.
I used to sell shirts and things in the back of the old Willow House coffee shop on 3rd Ave. and McDowell before it closed when I first came to Phoenix. It was also where I met the majority of my Phoenix friends who I am still the closest with today, and right around the corner from the roof I slept on (by choice) when I was homeless for 3 months before I saved enough money to move into the art collective the Firehouse.
So...I have decided to post some of them and try to continue to get them out into the world. Now that I am slowly finding a bigger internet following and learning more ways to network online and have a paypal account, perhaps I could get lucky with Etsy or a few properly tagged shirts or something on ebay and end up printing hundreds of shirts all of a sudden and making all the money I need without even hosting fundraisers! Who knows. In any event, here is a link to some of the old designs of shirts I will be selling and a few other odds and ends I may sell and/or reproduce again for the right prices. Stencils and screenprinting on my Facebook I also welcome commissions of all kinds, and you can find more images of my work here on myspace, and also here on flickr.
A 3-layered stenciled painting of my friend Jessica Zajicek with a wallpaper background from wallpaper from the House of Parliament from the 1800s.

I haven't really been focusing on art for the past few years, but since I began stenciling making protest signs and things for our housing sites while volunteering with Common Ground Relief in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I have made 100s of stencils in three years that I used as my sole means of support.

Everyone--and when I say "everyone" I mean 100s of volunteers over the course of 3 1/2 months, used to call me "Stencilguy" from January to April of 2006.

(Photo credit unknown. Found in shared folder on Common Ground Volunteer Computer)
 The "Not As Seen On TV" one I made about 25 of that I nailed to telephone poles in the Lower 9th Ward before I left in April 2006 was even used by Spike Lee in his documentary When the Levees Broke and later in the Green Day and U2 video Saints Are Coming. To this day I still have never been able to contact any of those people to share the story of its creation or receive any form of credit. It was another thing that always frustrated me, honestly, in thinking about my teeth. Though I never made that stencil to make money and it was always about the message, I can't help but be regretful that I never signed them or wrote a contact on the back. I tried to write to Greenday to see if I could design tshirts for them back then. Their video has nearly 14 MILLION hits on youtube. If one of every THOUSAND people who ever watched it gave me a dollar I would have nearly the whole remaining total I need for my treatment plan. Who knows how many million more have seen the Spike Lee film worldwide. I've tried to set aside my bitterness about this over the years, but I still cannot help thinking that a few grand is such a drop in the bucket to these people and public or not, they OWE me. At a very minimum, credit or thanks or gratitude. Idunno...I am less upset by the documentary. I love how it was used, and it was a really powerful moment in the film. If you look on the dvd bonus section of Photos, my image is actually the very first one shown in the album. Greenday on the other hand I can argue would not even have thought of the idea of their video if never having seen my art. It is obvious that the entire CONCEPT and big "punchline" at the end of their video was wholeheartedly inspired by my sign to anyone who watches their video. Frankly, they never even took their own pictures IN New Orleans OF it, but pulled a still from Spike Lee's film.

I know we all appropriate and I have used pictures of celebrities I've modified and all to make money here and there, but...I'm sure they payed HIM something to use HIS art. I just wish there was some sort of balance. Something just doesn't seem fair to me. But I guess the poor and struggling will always feel that way when thinking of those who are far better off. I just wish that something that was so meaningful and passionate to me that I did as a gesture of solidarity before I left New Orleans didn't have to make me feel like shit when I think of how others who have like millions of dollars could have their lives further enriched by it and get praise for it when no one even knows who I am, and I have been in pain for years. It's one of those things that always comes back to me if and when I have ever been depressed that just makes me want to shake my fists in the air, you know? Is Keira Knightley lying in bed at night mad that I probably made a grand selling tshirts with her image as Domino, or is Christopher Walken going to come hunt me down and dance on my face? No. I just want them all to at least know my name. If they want to offer me anything more than a thank you, your art is cool, that is up to them.

But ANYway....sorry, it's a sensitive subject, and who knows who might read it out there in the world who knows any of those people. Maybe Roger Ebert! Maybe something good will come of it. I've been carrying it around for far too long.
I know I am perfectly competent as a stencil artist to continue to grow and earn a living if and when I find the time and space to truly dedicate myself to earn a living at it. I can also start my own screenprinting shop and run it at any time I want, after eight years professional experience in the industry, and nearly three running TumbleTees with homeless youth. I was never really a "starving artist," and and often was making about a grand a month. I would love to begin to make that money back in addition to my dayjob at Tumbleweed, and all of this could be over before I know it! Who knows what could happen. But with all that I have written and shared on here in the past 4 1/2 months I couldn't help but feel a little strange that I hadn't really represented my visual arts in here. I hope that I can begin to find a balance between it and my writing and all aspects of my life, and only continue to be more productive, creative and inspiring as I continue to share myself and all my efforts with the world. I know only good can come of it. Thank you all for reading and viewing my links. I hope you will pass them on to anyone who you think may like them. If you are interested in my art or, as always, if you have any questions about anything or things you would like to say to me, you can either comment on here, or message me directly at
Thank you!

I never would have guessed that this new South Park was going to be about dental care.

Even South Park is trying to fight Tooth Decay! I always wondered what had happened to me. Thank you Mr. Mackey for wanting to direct a play to educate us all! Haha. Hilarious! Love all the ridiculous suicides over the Princess. I'm gonna go home and "open my box of faith" now and pray for an end to Tooth Decay!

Watch it for free now!

And brush your damn teeth, M'kay!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions

(under construction)
In this entry I am going to attempt to offer concise answers to address the questions and comments I most often receive about the status of my teeth and the creation of this blog, while also providing links to longer entries that provide what I hope are more in depth answers. If you wish to ask me a question that you don't see answered, feel free to email it to me at and I may add it to this section in the future if I feel it is appropriate and relevant. Thank you. Here are my questions, in no particular order:

Dude, what happened to your grill?
This is a long and complicated story. To answer some people's first responses, NO, I was never a meth addict, I didn't have a freak accident or get in a fight. The main physical factor is a lifetime of decay and improper care. Mental is a little harder for me to even figure out. I only ever went to the dentist twice as a kid and was never instilled with the discipline to take care of my teeth as a child. This morphed into an extreme irrational fear of dentists, shame, poor self-esteem, a distorted body image and general lack of trust in the world as I tried my best to hide my "secret" at all times. You can read a much more detailed story of my childhood upbringing here, and how it contributed to the lifetime of self-harm, denial and pain I lived with for nearly 2 decades suppressing my feelings to even my closest friends.

That looks like it hurts...a lot?
It does. Or, it has. A lot of the worst I am finally beginning to feel is over. Many of us have suffered from tooth aches. It is hard to describe what is is like to suffer from a whole mouth of them. In some ways you get used to it. You learn where to chew, what not to do, what not to eat, how to avoid pain as best you can. In general before I had my extractions, it was always hard to eat, because I had very few teeth to chew on and anytime food pushed down on any part of my mouth where my gums had grown over a broken crown, it hurt. I would have periodic infections that would make life practically unbearable for days on end that over the counter drugs hardly ever came close to killing the pain of. Sometimes I would drink. Sometimes I would just hate the world. Sometimes I would get sick of eating. I would never want to leave the house, because I never felt my friends with healthier teeth could remotely understand what I was going through, so I would just hide. To read more about what it felt like on a daily basis to eat and go through life like this, go here.

OMG I'm so terrified of the dentist, how do you do this?
It was terrifying for me at first too. I had not been to a dentist in almost 20 years! Even after I made up my mind that I was finally going to go to one, it took me 3 months to make an appointment. Opening my mouth to a beautiful stranger with perfect teeth expecting the worst possible diagnosis in my mind during my first appointment was frankly one of the scariest moments of my life. Luckily, I ended up finding a wonderful, supportive and compassionate student dentist on my first try, and that definitely made a huge difference those first few appointments. As far as the actual work being done, it has come to remind me so much of my time in art school and sculpture and woodworking classes that I have come to find it fascinating and empowering after my initial fears subsided and though some of my appointments have certainly been intensely draining, only a handful (out of 21 so far!) have I truly been in a decent amount of pain. You just have to remind yourself, that in a few hours, and a few days of healing, that you will be in far LESS.

My teeth are messed up too--you don't see my crying online and asking people for money! Why should I care about your problems, I can't even fix my own?
I wholeheartedly understand this perspective, and as stated many times throughout the blog, I will ultimately think no less of anyone if they do not wish to or are unable to donate. I do however believe firmly that there is nothing shameful about reaching out or asking for help, and I also wish to live by example in setting that precedent for others and being able to share the overwhelmingly positive response that has come from me living this way. When one of us suffers, we all suffer. We each can't help everyone, and all of us may not be monetarily fortunate enough to donate to me or even other causes or charities we probably feel even stronger about at any given time. I do however, challenge us all to regularly ask ourselves as we go about our daily lives, how we are fortunate, what we are thankful for, and what small ways are there that we can help others find happiness, health and wellness in our communities and the world that might not seem like much to us, but can mean the world to those who are suffering, and/or feel powerless or alone. Sometimes, this can be the simple act of asking a friend or a stranger, if they are okay. We won't know if we don't ask, and they might not even know that you genuinely care, if you don't take the first step.

What a great idea! What made you create this blog? Why did you decide to go so public with something so personal?
For years as a writer and person who performs poetry in the public eye, even who has always been generally brutally honest and vulnerable and open in the way that I speak and with what I choose to share, I have always nonetheless had a "boogeyman under the bed" when it came to the subject of my teeth. I knew in order to truly heal and overcome this fear I had to also overcome the huge wall between expressing my history and feelings about this part of me to the world in order to ever be able to live with myself as an artist and writer and to feel I had any true integrity as an artist, and a person in general, considering the type of honest, open person I strive to be on all other levels. I am an open book, and for the first time ever, I wanted to share myself with the world with no pages torn out. I also knew that I was not the only one suffering from this issue, and hoped that whatever crazy, creative ways I would pull out of my ass to express myself and detail this journey over the course of fixing myself, could also inspire others to face their own feels and see true tangible evidence of someone else in the world who found a way to overcome his deepest fear and pain.

Twenty grand? Dude, you can like, buy a house for that much! Why don't you just go to Mexico or Thailand or something for a vacation and get everything done for cheap?

I support your cause but my funds are pretty limited myself. What can I do to help? 
There are an endless number of things. What are you skills? Who is in your network that might be supportive of this cause?  Bakesales seem like one of the easiest ways to ever raise money with minimum investment. Community yardsales, carwashes, concerts...put a jar where you work, etc. The possibilities are really endless. If you really want to help and want some suggestions or to brainstorm, feel free to drop me a line at Above all, more than anything else though, really, all that I ask of you is that you repost my blog on facebook and twitter and your other networks and simply help me to continue to get my story out there, get more media coverage, reach more people, etc. That is the single, easiest, cheapest thing anyone can do. Roger Ebert got me 28,000 views in 2 days in nearly 80 countries and about $1,200 donations from a single tweet. I wholeheartedly have faith in my writing to do the work, if I can simply get a little help continuing to get it out there into the Universe. Thank you!

I heard about your story from Roger Ebert's tweet. How do you know him/how did he hear about you?

How has your life changed since you began to finally get the proper dental care and face your fears after all these years?

I need to go to the dentist myself but always keep putting it off out of fear. Do you have any suggestions for me to to overcome my own anxiety?

How long is all of this going to take until you are finished?
I initially had ignorantly set out to tackle everything in one year's time. I have had several modifications to my treatment plan and learned a lot since my first appointment, and though I still think that it could be possible under ideal circumstances, there are many factors that I feel will probably push it back a little further than planned. I do however, wholeheartedly aim to try my best to complete everything, which will probably be around 50 appointments, before June of 2012 when my dental student Rakhee is scheduled to graduate.

What are you going to do with your life after you are finally done? How do you think it will effect you, etc?
That is a question I don't yet remotely claim to have an answer to. I hope that my openness and transformation will only continue to open doors for me. I think it is honestly going to take some time alone with myself to relearn to smile and love food and my own skin and feel "natural" again and comfortable with first impressions and big smiles and figuring out my diet again. Sometime after or during that process, I aim to travel again, perhaps go on another bike tour, find a new place with water, grass and trees to live again, make more art, possibly write a book, fall in love, and save the world! Haha. I do however, also aspire to take some LONG-DESERVED vacation, possibly with a friend, and go to Hawaii for the first time possibly. After all I will have been through, my other fears should be EASY, and raising a few grand for an amazing vacation should seem like nothing!

With all that you have learned from all the treatments you have undergone and logging so much time in the dentist's chair, are you inspired at all to pursue dentistry yourself and help others who suffer or live in pain and fear the dentist as you have? Is there dentistry in your future?
This is another question I don't think I can answer yet. I do joke around about being an assistant or something often, and hope that perhaps I can try it out at the school one day before my treatment plan is finished. I will say that I cannot fathom me ever going to school to be an actual dentist at this time. However, I do not wish to "waste" my experiences and how huge of a part of my life this has been for so many years, and hope that in some way or another I can continue to help and inspire people to face their own fears, take care of themselves and brush their teeth in the future. Perhaps that could come in the form of a book, or with my background in social work and all the fund-raising and community organizing type of work I have done for years, I would not be surprised if I could possibly inspire some of the students I will have worked with to pursue more community-based or non-profit type of practices and programs, which I may very well try and help with. Who knows!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


It's probably far less obvious to you all, looking at my close-up pictures of a few isolated teeth here and there throughout the past several months, and what I'm about to post is still by no means a flattering smiling picture by any means, but I wanted to finally update my old iconic shot with one I took a few days ago, hoping to show the changes at least a little.

So for those of you who may have just stumbled upon this page for the first time, here are some pictures I took of myself this past October on the bike tour after tooth #7 broke in half:

This one and the next were taken on January 26th, 2011 after my full mouth debridement on my 3rd Appointment.
This one Rakhee took during that same appointment.

And this one I took a few days ago, after that gross debridement, 13 extractions, 7 fillings, a root canal and the beginning of a crown 4 1/2 months later, not that you can probably really tell!  I will try to get a better picture really soon.

Thanks for being grossed out with me! Now go brush and floss your teeth already!

Monday, June 6, 2011

My FREE Appointment #18 and My 2nd Favorite Student Dentist

Friday June 3rd I went in for my 18th appointment. This was a unique opportunity presented to me by Tyler Berkey, the student that performed my first 3 extractions on molars 30-32 on February 17th. (before I began taking pictures at my appointments, unfortunately.) As my luck would have it, he noticed from my X-rays a few weeks ago while checking in to see how things were going that one of my fillings appeared to meet the criteria for the type he needed for his board exams in order to graduate. Upon a consultation with the Dr. of general dentistry, it was confirmed that the posterior composite filling I needed on premolar #29 was indeed acceptable, and he offered to try to fill Rakhee's cute little designer shoes (haha) for a day. The added bonus for me was that, one, all procedures performed for board exams are FREE, and on top of that, he offered to arrange a ride for me to and from my appointment 26 miles away in Mesa, which sometimes is the most complicated part of scheduling since I have made the commitment to biking as my form of transportation for the last 5 1/2 years. The funny part was, HE seemed surprised and endlessly grateful for ME wanting to let him do this! From my perspective all I could think was like, "DUDE, I trust you, you already yanked 3 teeth out of my head way back when I was terrified of dentists, and Rakhee speaks highly of you, AND it's free, AND you're going to drive me, AND it means I can fit in another appointment when the school would otherwise be closed. I mean, damn. Hush. You had me at FREE."

So, last Friday, his lovely and friendly wife Nicole picked me up as is my regular ritual, out in front of Jobot Coffee down the street from where I work at Tumbleweed with a carload of their energetic children, and I babbled on about my story for the duration of our trip. What a strange way for a first meeting with someone, right? But it was pleasant and interesting and fun, and it was nice to learn more about what got yet another student whom I barely know into dentistry, what with all I post about the deepest parts of me on the internet for all to scrutinize. I was excited for him on the verge of graduation, knowing that even though I have had far less of connection to him or any of the other students at the school in comparison to my hours and hours logged in the chair with Rakhee, I was grateful to know that I could help him, and be a part of his education. I was, after all, 25% of his final exam.

I was greeted out front of AZDOH with enthusiasm and he escorted me back to yet another part of the school which after all this time I still had not seen. I signed the WREB form before we began, the beginning of which stated this:

We went to take a new PA (what the hell does this stand for again?) and bitewings X-rays since Rakhee had recently corrected another portion of this same tooth, and we needed to demonstrate that my tooth met the necessary criteria for the test, and I was sent off upstairs by his assistant for my first of three checkpoints by doctors before we could proceed. Upon my return, I got my rubber dam fitted and he began to drill a "slot" style groove in my tooth between #29 and #28 to fix yet another little clubhouse hiding spot for bacteria due to my lifetime of not flossing.

After the slot was finished I went upstairs again with my little styrofoam tray of tooth-inspecting instruments, 3 pieces of gauze and a sharpened #2 pencil (haha) as required for the test and proceeded to get my three signatures from doctors to approve Tyler's prep and returned downstairs. Tyler grabbed a color guide which I had actually yet to see because I am always facing away from the countertop where the students put them, and I snapped this picture:

As it turns out, my color, at least in that area between two premolars, is D-2. All this time I was hoping they had silly names like "prairie dust" and "eggshell" and "ivory breaze" or something, and all the other abstract names given to colors and/or air fresheners that never really make sense, that have always made me imagine some lucky art school dropout douchebag sitting in a cubicle getting more money than I have ever been payed for a meaningful job to conjure creative color names. Oh well. I guess I am D-2. I accept this. Perhaps if I quit drinking coffee I can one day be an A-38 or whatever the hell supermodels and celebrities are with their whitening kits. For now, I am happy to have whatever holes are in my existence filled with whatever the doctor's best judgment prescribes. I am happy that today marked my LAST FILLING, finally!

Assisting Tyler on my filling after his other helper student had to leave, (dammit, I forgot his name!) was none other than...his wife? In talking with her briefly about this on the drive to the school it got me thinking--if SHE can assist with no formal training for a board exam, can I assist sometime in the future? It would be like doing a ride-along with the cops! Would I get a taser or something at least? Haha. Everyone already continues to joke that maybe I will pursue dentistry someday now when all my teeth are fixed. Frankly, I have no idea what direction my life will take when that finally happens. I barely remember who I was when I had a healthy mouth, let alone what the ability to enunciate clearly and greet the world with a positive face was like, but thinking about the future and all I have learned and how much I feel like in a way I am like an honorary member of everyone's class at the school, I can't help but be curious about how I WOULD feel to assist on ANOTHER patient besides me. I know so much now, and have been through so much myself, it seems like I could help ease their fear and stress by knowing what it was like from my own experiences in some ways even more than a dentist who had never actually had a filling or an extraction or pain. I already feel like every day I act as a "mythbuster" of sorts and try to help educate my friends about what they can do to fix their own teeth and also offer floss to people regularly. At least for the meantime, throughout this transformation, I can't help but feel like it is kind of my civic duty after all I have been through and how far I have come, to spread as much of my courage and truth around in small doses in any way that I can. Lately I admit, I can't stop staring at people's teeth and wanting to ask about them any less than I can stop myself from pointing out every small way I could give a tune-up to every bike I pass. Just the other day I insisted as she biked by me that my coworker Emily's bike's tires were low on air pressure, and she seemed amazed that I guessed it within 5 pounds by squeezing it. Her and my friend Alex both joked how I should be one of those guys that guess people's weights at carnivals, but with bike tire pressure. Haha. I am one of those people that simply can't help but pass on knowledge I have whenever an opportunity arises, though sometimes I admit that some people don't know how to take it.

It was funny as Nicole got suited up with her gloves and gown and mask and was introduced to Mr. high speed suction machine and my mouth, that it was actually her first time, on the eve of her husband's graduation, that she had ever sat in that adjoining chair to him. I could sense her shyness as today she not only got to one, be an assistant in a world that was reasonably foreign to her--certainly more foreign than it was to me , but also, that she also was invited into the awkward adventure of invading someone's space like that. I am sure it is something that takes some getting used to. Even with all I know after over 50 hours of being in that chair asking questions like an annoying five year old whenever there is not a hand in my mouth, I am sure that having that knowledge as a student (AND a patient) is still a very different thing than putting it into action for the first time when a stranger's freaky orifice presents itself to you for the first time, even a reasonably clean one! Haha. It is an incredibly unique form of trust and intimacy that requires also a great deal of vulnerability, the three of which no doubt are the biggest reasons so many people find it uncomfortable to sit in that chair, not even taking into account the pain and pressure aspects. Even though Rakhee and I have come so far that I joke that she is like my "handler" on the TV show Dollhouse that I trust with my life, I would certainly be lying if I said I wasn't terrified the first time I allowed her the full tour of my mouth. So thank you, Nicole, for your bravery. Though I am sure it asks a lot more of the patient's emotions, it is no small feat to step boldly outside of your comfort zone and into the often secret personal space of a near stranger. I think that you did a fine job for your first time, and maybe one day you can continue to assist Tyler in his own practice :-)

So in case you're wondering, Tyler got his final 3 signatures from the doctors to approve his competency at performing my filling, and also the final one from the Dr. on the floor, meaning he is one step closer to graduating. When asked for a quote for the blog after he drove me back, he declared of the day's procedure and me, that "You were one of two of the most important fillings in my entire dental school career." He also presented me with, ironically, a big bucket of treats which I totally picked on him for!

I asserted that I knew he would only endow me with such an elaborate array of sugary products because he knew that I was finally taking care of myself, and would promise to brush and floss after every single cookie! Haha. ALMOST! I promise, I am doing way better than ever, and probably better than most people I know. I hope it's working?! But anyway.

We talked for nearly an hour in the car after we arrived at my destination at how far I have come and all my ideas for future fund-raising and building partnerships with the school and it was incredibly inspiring. I asked a bunch of questions I never find the time to ask, and I think almost actually now know the difference between lengual, mesial, distal, buccal and facial in terms of describing what side of a tooth is affected or being worked on thanks to his drawing he did for me. (FYI the filling I received today was an MO, or mesial occlusal. I still can't, for the life of me, tell you what the hell the difference is between a class 5 and a class 3. I had thought initially that it was referred to how many surfaces of the tooth were affected, but I am not sure if that is indeed the case.)

We talked about my ideas for a huge fund-raising art show I am working on organizing in the coming months and how I hope I can get some of the students involved to add an "outreach" and educational component to it. He gave me the email of the school's "Dentistry In the Community" coordinator and I think was sad that he would probably miss out on it if I finally pull it off, wishing there was something like that when he was a 2nd year when everyone has to do a big community project. I think we both wished that he wasn't on his way to now finding a job and moving soon, but I know that however short our time together and connection, that we have both nonetheless made an impression, and will I hope continue to remain in touch. If you ever happen to decide to write your own blog detailing your life and adventures as a dentist, feel free to use any of these words as I have used your quote:

I am grateful that I got to be a part of your education, and for all we were able to learn and share with one another in only a few appointments. I am thankful that you allowed me to meet your wonderful family and that you could all become a part of my story now.  Even if only in a few short hours of interacting, trust that you in fact, had a hand in changing my life for the better and helping me along on this slow, yet steady mental and physical healing process. I know that with your patience, compassionate heart and positive attitude you will do well wherever your sights now take you, and be a blessing to scared patients everywhere just as I was that day in the chair during my very first extractions. Thank you.

I hope that you will continue to follow along with my blog, and that we can stay in touch. Congratulations on graduating in a few days, and good luck in wherever your dreams take you. I hope you will find that magical combination of aviation, dentistry and compassion out there in the world for you one day. I am glad that I could be of service, although briefly, on your quest. Be well, and don't be a stranger!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

(While I'm on this kick of posting my old writing that's important to me!)

This I often refer to as what I think is the most beautiful thing I have ever created. I mentioned it briefly in my long autobiographical narrative at the beginning of my blog. I wrote it to the first half of the Explosions in the Sky song "First Breath After Coma." I only have one poor recording of it I made, though I do like it a lot. If I can figure out how to upload and post it I will. I consider it one of the most "universal" and uplifting things I have written, and think the general sentiment I have carried with me for much of my life. I hope you will appreciate it. Good morning, from Arizona!

the exclamation point of my life sentence

this song is dedicated to anyone who feels the same
and this song is dedicated to running barefoot in the rain
to anyone who never followed rules they were supposed to
and to anyone who still makes you feel shy when they get close to

the spaces that you hide in, dares to ask you what you're thinking
to the ones who sit in coffee shops when they'd rather be drinking
to the ones who find the strength to carry on when they've been broken
to the ones who write down every word that their love has ever spoken

this song is dedicated to anything that helps you sleep
and to the ones who search for someone else to make them feel complete
and the ones who keep a secret that they'll carry to their grave
to the ones who pray to god each night and hope that they'll be saved

to the ones that always sacrifice their dreams for someone else
and to the ones who try their best to play the hands that they were dealt
and to the ones who've ever lost the place that they used to call home
and the ones you wake up next to when you know you're not alone

this song is dedicated to everyone that you've ever known
and to the people that have good in them that they're afraid to show
and to the ones you only want to love yet somehow push away
to the one who's always loved you but never knows what to say
and to the ones you always settle for when you let them get away…

to the ones that you've inspired that you do not even know
and to the ones trying to run away that don’t know where to go
and to the friends that still have faith in you when nobody believes
and to the pain that nearly kills you every time another leaves

to the missing pieces everywhere in all of us since birth
and to the ones who say they cherish life but don't know what it's worth
and to the presents that you miss out on when clinging to the past
to the little things you'd tell someone if only they would ask

and to whatever gets you through it when you feel like giving up
this song is just another toast to never growing up
and remembering the way it felt when every day was new
this song is just another way to thank you for being you, and

to the people that remind you what it's like to feel alive
and to the ones who lie awake at night just trying to survive
to the people that you never see, and how much that you miss them
this song is dedicated, to anyone out there who'll listen…

A Promise of Time

I began making little "manifesto" sort of poetry cards around the same time six years ago as I first began formulating my ideas about digital culture and coming to terms with my upbringing, and all the central ideas that I feel are important for me to communicate to the world. This was the first such card that I ever produced that I used to leave around in public places. I have probably made nearly a 1000 of these cards since then, and only once have I ever had anyone truly follow through as directed. I recently won 500 custom business cards from a bike scavenger hunt and I have been thinking of making some of these with the blog link on them soon. I have also for years wanted to mass produce sets of them and other empowering slogans and quotes and challenges I have written and try to sell them to independent bookstores around the country. I was thinking of trying to create a Kickstarter fundraiser to do just that, actually, and use the proceeds to continue to add to my dental treatment plan. SOOO many possibilities, all the time. I need to promise myself my own time to keep slowly crossing things off my epic list of like thirty things I'm trying to do right now.
Here is the card I am talking about:

What do you think? You are reading this right now--perhaps you have been from the start? Should I mass produce this card and others like it, and do you feel that you or others would like to buy sets of them?

Unplug...and introduce me to your handwriting.

Undergoing several surgical procedures, spending seventeen appointments now in a hospital-like environment, and also the recent death of my grandmother has had me thinking a lot about what life in a small town was like, and remembering what life was like before the internet and cell phones. A discussion with my friend Kristi recently still kind of left me upset and frustrated about the way that digital culture has drastically altered the world and how we communicate in such a short time. I recognize completely the irony of criticizing the internet while also being dependent upon it--in fact I've been doing it for years. I will also add, that though I am using it daily to share my stories and connect with you all--and for the record my blog has been viewed in nearly eighty countries last time I checked--that I also love more than anything the days that I am able to unplug. The days I was able to navigate using only a book and never touch a phone or cellphone for several days on end while biking down the west coast this past fall were an absolutely wonderful and much-needed breath of fresh air, many moments of which I consider practically to be like "heaven on earth" in my memory. However, sometimes I feel like I mourn almost daily, experiences of my past that seem to be long since forgotten by the generation that came after me, never knowing life before the internet. I mourn what it was like to wait in eager anticipation all summer long for when I would first see the mailman coming down my street and how I would stop whatever I was doing and race to greet them to see if maybe, just maybe, someone, somewhere out there in the world beyond my tiny North Wolcott Life had somehow heard of little old me and decided to send me something. Hell, as a kid I didn't even care if it was junk mail!
As the years passed and I had numerous penpals as a teenager, I used to get a handwritten letter from afar often several times in a single week. I used to get birthday and Christmas cards in the mail. I always remember when someone was ill or had anything to celebrate, people used to actually do that. And it's funny now, in retrospect, because as a writer, there reached a time in my 20s when I hated people who would just buy cards from Hallmark or whoever and not even write anything inside of them but "Love, whoever." As someone who, since around 9th grade, began to write his every thought on paper to the best of my ability, I often struggled with measuring other's forms of communication with my own very prolific and elaborate ruler. But these days, I would kill for someone to actually take the time to pick out ANY card, even just a scrap of paper, and write "Hi, how are you today? How is that big bloody hole in your mouth where you used to have teeth feeling?" or "I'm sorry about your loss." and actually get a stamp and take the extra, absolutely minimal time it takes out of our daily lives and just send me something in the mail. I want to make little "Like" cards where you just fill in the blank underneath and mail them to people to mock our dependence on facebook and texting for everything. I hate how it's changed everyone. I hate how it's changed ME, and I have been the internet's biggest critic for practically the past decade. I hate to come home at the end of the day knowing that I just posted something intensely personal and vulnerable, or even amazing, like "Holy shit, I just got that job I always wanted!" or something and, upon scrolling down my wall to see all the other bullshit all my "friends" have been posting all day long and everything else that has been "liked" or commented on, see that my epic life-changing _______ I posted earlier, or my cry for help, or whatever, only has 3 notifications or something. But more than having that be the case, I hate that I care--that I have been brainwashed over the years to have it even effect me. I hate that whenever I have important things to talk about with someone close, that in order to reach them, first I usually seem required to send them a text message. I hate trying to write the message I really want, and having to continue to simplify and abbreviate it more and more to get it down to only 149 characters on my particular phone. I hate that I don't have the discipline to only check my "messages," all forms of them, as I once did only one time a day after I got home from school and would check my mailbox and my answering machine, so I only had ONE time to think about in my head that day whether or not "somebody loves me!" as I found a real letter from an actual person amidst my junk mail or I had a voice mail on the machine. These are, sadly, nostalgic feelings of the past that I can not explain to anyone under 20 any better than I can how on earth I lived with my grandparents growing up for several years without hot water, or a shower, or cable television in the MTV era. I feel it quickly becoming harder and harder to close that gap with the youth today as each new year passes, as each new updated I-phone is released.

I want to share with you two pieces of writing that for years have been very important to me. The first is a poem I heard in the one and only poetry class I ever took my last semester of college by a poet named Jeffrey McDaniel that has been permanently planted in my subconsciousness and become a theme in much of my writing and way of life ever since. I have never been a fan of many people's poetry, and I'm not even a fan of all of his, but I credit him as the person who I learned to use metaphors and analogies because of, and I recommend checking out his books The Forgiveness Parade and also The Splinter Factory. First, here is his poem:

The Quiet World

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond,
I know she's used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

Second, I want to share a piece of writing I began almost six years ago in NY that I have been slowly adding more to and editing slightly over the years. The last time I updated it was about three years ago now, and already it seems dated to me. It was my most important manifesto of sorts that I never fully felt satisfied with, but nonetheless used to read at open mics often to a generally positive response. I have been thinking about it a lot lately, especially now that I have far more of an online presence than I ever have. I owe the internet a lot. It has, after all, helped me to raise over $4,000 in four months towards my dental care. But it is a tool, not a way of life. It is something like an oven that we use when we want to bake a cake for a friend. It should never become a substitute for the cake, or the friend. It should be secondary to how we live.
Though when I was a kid we did not have touchscreen cellphones or any of this tremendous technology, one thing we did have was Atari. And don't get me wrong, Atari was the fucking shit back then! If you didn't have one, you just didn't even count. But back then, to me at least, even though I played my Atari practically every was NEVER a substitute for real life. Yes, I know, games are far more realistic now and mimic real life much more closely, but still! Even if I was in the middle of a game, and one of my friends showed up and wanted to play outside, or if someone in the family was driving somewhere or if my Grampa was tinkering with something in his shed or something, I would have dropped everything to do THAT instead. Because, it was
It was never a substitute for REAL Adventure. Even if I lived in the middle of nowhere in a town of like 800 people on 25 acres of farmland. It absolutely disgusts me how much time and human potential is being wasted worldwide every second on shit like Farmtown, or even just scrolling through the latest boingboing links. Plant a real garden already. Build relationships with the people in your community IN person, by talking to them. Invite your neighbors over for dinner. See if they need help when you come home and the hood of their car is up. Keep the dying art of letter-writing alive. Answer your phone without looking at it to see if that person is "good enough" to take up your time right now, and simply be happy that someone else out there in the world is reaching out to you--that they are even aware of your existence. Or better yet, turn off your phone and computer for a day, and learn what life was like only a short time ago. Give your carpal tunnel a rest and enjoy the silence...

    we are all in a constant search for what we feel is "missing" from our lives. well, not everyone actually "searches," per se, but there is still at least a subconscious desire to fill the voids in our lives with...people that we hope can give us what we need. conversation, affection, praise, respect, love...we are all attention-farmers, cultivating fields of dreams--each day writing the screenplay for the movie of our lives, where every new face we stumble upon we treat as a casting call. we're constantly sizing everyone up. we have an imaginary application for friendship in our minds that we are secretly offering each day, to every soul our eyes lock with. we're desperate for attention, whether we live in denial of that or not, we are. the one ultimate goal of every human being on the planet is love, connection. we are highly social animals. we must form bonds, build friendships, nurture our family relationships to stay mentally healthy, and survive.
    the irony is, we are the most "connected" we have ever been in the history of humankind, yet we are all slowly dying of loneliness. we're becoming more and more anti-social and detached and alienated as people with each passing year. our technology is quickly becoming the new "terrorist" threat, and the internet its leader. our keyboards and mice and cell phones are the slow poisons with which we are slowly yet more surely than ever depriving ourselves of life. we, all of us with cell phones and computers, constantly plugged in to myspace and facebook and texting away our days are closer to being "cyborgs" than any abomination science has yet created in a movie than we've ever been.
    we've gone from being scared that big brother is watching, to filming our own movies of our lives, sent every day in a self-addressed stamped electronic envelope to the world. the internet allows us all to be our own celebrity. the center of our own little universes, surrounded by an endless web of fiber optics, complete with live video feeds, constant status updates of banal, everyday activities that will never be as exciting in new digital pictures as they were in person to us, so can we just stop it, already? we are slowly-dying spiders, our webs extended in every direction yet with no place really feeling like the home sweet home it once did when all we had was Atari and a shared telephone. we're a generation of needy, attention-starved children, locked in a constant role-playing mindfuck of narcissist and voyeur, with no big pay-off at the end, just wasted time, running in place, hoping someone out there is watching. we're the presidents of our own networks, and star of our own hit television show, forced in a constant fight for ratings with everything else everyone on the planet with a computer has ever created.
we're terrified of living out our real lives because we have electronic parasites permanently attached to our every move, sucking our real life dreams away for the sake of instant and CONSTANT gratification online. and we've all played right into it. if you don't have a cell phone in this day and age in america, you're worthless. we've gotten so needy. in the 80s, we used to wait by the phone, expecting a call from whoever, now we take our phones everywhere, permanently "waiting." roaming. "i'm sorry, i'm going to have to put my life on hold right now, i've got someone on the line. i can't talk to you, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME."  It's either that, or our cell phone's constant prom popularity contest 4 word sentence challenge:
    what’re you doing? i'm doing this, what’re YOU doing? OH. well, tell me how it is when you get there. i might do something else. i'm here.     who's there? oh. i'll text you back in 5. hey. why didn't you text me back? what’re you doing now? well. this sucks, let's do something     else? okay, wait, i'm doing this now. who are you with? i thought you wanted to go with ME? but...
for all of their convenience, cell phones have become a substitute for real, in-person conversations, and texting a substitute for actual speech. 5 text messages to figure out what could have been communicated in ONE 30-second call. because, it just "saves time," right? why drive to spend time with someone, when you can spend phone "minutes" with them WHILE driving? our time is the single most precious gift we can offer to another while we alive, and now we BUY that time from Verizon wireless. Sprint. we FIGHT over the cheapest rates! nobody wants to be OVERCHARGED for the time they spend talking to people on the phone! and everybody wants the most minutes they can possibly get.. you gotta shop around...for that good QUALITY time...spent ear to ear with loved ones while you both sit ALONE in the world somewhere. because it saves time, right. why go out into your community and make real friendships with real people you can touch and feel and experience real emotions with when you can just sit home on your ass and talk to anyone in the world who has a phone or a computer? pretty enticing, i'll admit. far from the days of pony express or even the always romantic olden days of snail mail and mixtapes sent to friends and penpals. letters got soldiers through wars. will your facebook page ever save anyone's life? penpals are a thing of the past now. can you imagine a world where handwriting isn't taught anymore because everyone has computers as children? a world without stamps? you used to go to coffee shops to meet people, now everyone there has i-pod headphones or Bluetooth permanently attached to their heads, while texting someone and checking their "profiles" they've cleverly fashioned to take their place on their laptops. look around you throughout the day, in crowded public places, and everyone is always talking to someone who is not even there. letters show a tangible reference of a person's existence and time and love. how personal can a text message on a cell phone, assigned a special ring really be? an instant message with an emoticon. OMG <3. yet we define ourselves with these things. the color of our i-pod or the kind of cell phone we have or how our myspace pages are layed out are personality traits. "oh my god, do you see how tacky his page looks? i'm not gonna add him." somebody shoot me, my icon has become obsolete. my phone doesn't have enough bling. time to download a new layout, take a new picture
    "LOOK, it's me, right here, right now, with my new and improved tattoo, taking a shit. LEAVE COMMENTS!"
    the internet is the biggest promise of false hope that we have in this century--the new American DreamTM--the cure-all for the postmodern condition, for loneliness, despair, and terror all in one, which no new designer depression or anxiety medication could come close to...but will it be our savior, or our downfall? here, plug in, shut up, be happy--"what the fuck was it like before we got a high speed connection--how on earth did we LIVE? finally. things are looking up. our lives are no longer they can load instantly for everyone to see." the internet makes us so important. we don't have a few close friends anymore, whom we could count on in life or death situations, or hell, even neighbors to borrow a cup of sugar from, we have "buddies." we have "friendslists" categorized into little groups where we can meet in imaginary places and chat away the night with people we've never even looked in the eye. we can take quizzes and surveys all day long at work to show the world all of our favorite things while using no real words of our own, but trading in stolen images--our OWN personalities a thing of the past as the sign takes the place of the signified and we all lose meaning and purpose. We are no longer ourselves, but a laundry list of commodities posted on an imaginary fridge telling everyone what we've bought, but nothing about the REAL US.
    And we can't fucking get enough. we're getting caught up in a hyper middle school note passing frenzy of instant messages and self whorification. sure, maybe we don't pay for sex, per se, but we're all johns and whores online. and while we might not get HIV over a computer, we're getting an overall highly-diminished source of communication, and paying for it with our lives. we are every day getting "fucked" with every second of our lives we waste while "connected." and there are no condoms to protect us from the internet-there's nothing to protect us from this disease that's slowly killing us, even abstinence. because the only thing that feels more lonely and depressing than a life spent online, is trying in this day and age to live your life WITHOUT a computer or a cell phone. because no one takes the time anymore to write letters or talk to strangers in real life, we're too busy being machines. we'd rather save all that time to just run in place. wasting potential. waiting for extinction. and in these days, if you’re not connected, you're broken, obsolete. nobody needs anymore what you have to offer. they've "evolved" and left you behind. you're worthless. you may as well not even exist. "EXCUSE ME, don't even TRY to talk to me right now, can't you see, i'm on the fucking phone?!"
    but i still cant quite figure out...what will we all do one day if the power goes out, if the reception is lost, if we're disconnected for a few days. Weeks...longer? how will we communicate, if not through some sort of electronic middleman? i imagine, if its' at all possible, that something beautiful might happen.
    don't forget who you were, and what your life was like before the internet. unplug for a few days, and see how it feels. write a letter. go for a walk. ride a bike to your grandmother's house and let her tell stories of her past...YOUR past. let's carry on the traditions of what life was like before all of our neat little electronic friends gave us our modern lives of detached convenience, so we can carry them into the future with us, before there is no one left alive who remembers. all the greatest friends and lovers you will ever have in this lifetime started out as "strangers." isn't it time you turned off your technology, and said "Hello?"

(Epilogue: Consider this a really elaborate dare for you to write to me. If you are reading this and are interested in sending me mail of any kind, please send me a message at with "Unplug" as the subject and I will reply with my address. I promise to also reply in some fashion as soon as I can with some form of tangible evidence that you can touch and feel and prove to yourself that I ever truly existed. Thank you.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

NOW with New and Improved Cleaning POWER!

I wanted to take a moment to share with you something that kind of blows my mind. For the first time in entire life I am trying my best to make a conscious and consistent effort to not only actually brush my damn teeth regularly, but ALSO even floss! In addition, I actually carry a toothbrush and toothpaste and floss with me everywhere I go, and frankly I think I am the only person at work who tries to actually sometimes brush and/or floss during lunch.

I can still remember the days when I would go days or probably even a week without brushing. I remember just swishing with water after meals and gargling with Scope before I went to bed, brushing once a day for like a minute tops at most with a ratty old toothbrush I probably used for like a year. Lately it feels like I think I probably actually brush more than most of my friends. It's SO surreal. I can't help but offer floss to people sometimes even.
A few weeks ago I bought my first $30.00 rechargeable electric toothbrush I have ever owned--Doctor's orders--and part of me couldn't help but wish I was investing in one of the more advanced models. I am after all, spending as much money on my mouth as lots of people spend on student loans, myself included. I hope, by the time this is all said and done, I can proudly say that I have finally learned a very hard, and very expensive lesson and make my teeth new and old last for the rest of my life with minimal additional upkeep.
The last such contraption I remember having was a battery-powered Teenage Mutant ninja Turtles one in 6th grade that I barely ever touched. If I remember correctly in fact, I think I actually taped sandpaper over the brush and used it as a sander to assist with final touch-ups on my model cars I was always putting together. I hope that Rakhee is proud of me and how far I have come. I hope that I can continue to inspire others to take better care of themselves, to ask for help, and to brush and floss regularly, and be thankful daily for the teeth that they have. To learn to know them as I have, know them by name, even if only as a number, and treat them as lifelong friends they enjoy eating every meal with.

Appointments 15, 16 & 17 (In Pictures) and some general updates

So as you may have guessed from the past couple of blog entries, it has been a rough few weeks. There are so many things I wish to add to my story, from omitted past details I feel are important in the grand scheme of how I got to be where I am right now in my life, to more recent occurrences and things that have been on my mind lately. I'm a little overwhelmed right now, but I wanted to make sure I got some updates in from my past three appointments before I get way behind. On May 17th I had my first root canal finished in tooth #7 which as you may recall we decided was worth saving, on the 19th I had a filling in tooth #29, and on the 27th we began prep for a crown on the only molar left in my mouth, tooth #3. My appointment on the 23rd was canceled due to me being in NY for my grandmother's funeral. I currently have five more appointments scheduled over the next two months, but am hoping to arrange to squeeze in five more. With my savings and donations, I am currently about $3,500 ahead of my appointments, and that is how many I can afford right now. Those next ten include additional prep and seating of two crowns, prep on four teeth for two three-tooth bridges, or possibly additional fillings or crowns and two implants instead. It also may include a metal post being placed in an incisor if necessary, and my remaining three incisor extractions and possible bone grafts if needed. On that day I will receive a six-tooth maxillary partial to restore function where I am missing upper teeth until the bridge and implant procedures are finished over the next several months. This Friday I also have a FREE appointment because Tyler, the student dentist who performed my first three extractions who has been following along with my progress realized that one of my teeth met the requirements for one of his board exam assignments and he is even going to arrange to have me chauffeured out there for the 26 mile ride to the dental school by his wife. Awesome! Once I bust through all these appointments as soon as I can, things are going to slow down a little because, drumroll..........all that's going to be left is putting teeth BACK in my mouth! And, well...that after all, is the expensive part. So I'm trying to focus on organizing some more fundraising opportunities on a local level, and also printing some tshirts and prints and things finally to sell online hopefully real soon. And on that note, here's a bunch of pictures!

From Appointment Number 15: Finishing my root canal on tooth #7
All prepped to drill out last week's plug in my 29.5mm hole to irrigate with the grossest tasting stuff ever, sodium hypochlorate I think it was, and "pack it up, pack it in" again. Sometimes I want to wear these crazy things in public and see how people treat me!

I wish I had a picture of this to scale, but if you can believe it, this finger-powered drill was practically all the way inside my tooth!

This crazy contraption was then used to pack in this plastic stuff (that Shane clarifies is more like what's in the center of golf balls?) inside the canal and keep melting it, providing the really strange sensation that your tooth is going to spontaneously combust. Notice the name of it. Can't help but wonder if there were other names in the running before Touch 'N Heat was decided upon, like Poke 'N Burn or something?

I practically know these little critters by name now. I bet I can almost tell by the feel of them sometimes, honestly. Freaky.

Whoah, I finally made it through a day without blood on my tray!

Okay, so it's far from "perfect," but it is one far cry from those first pictures I posted! Slow but steady. Honestly I can't even fathom what it is going to look or feel like once I get my partial in a few months. Going to have to retrain my mouth muscles to maneuver my lips into a smile shape!

Appointment Number 16 I unfortunately did not take any pictures of. It was just another quick filling around the posterior side of my second premolar, #29. It went so well I guess that I can barely even remember it, though I recall it was the first day I met Rakhee's new mentee Meyer, who has been assisting on the past two appointments. This was the last filling in my treatment plan after Tyler finishes the other side of that tooth where I didn't floss, which I don't even really understand the logistics of. I fear I may have to hang out with those annoying plastic wedge things for a few hours again, which every tooth in my mouth at this point knows, ruin the party!
I will however post one picture from the next appointment before my Dentrix Nintendomouth image was updated that shows the current status of all the work that had been done by the end of that appointment. If you will notice, blue is restorative, and red is all that remains to be done.

Appointment Number 17: Crown prep on tooth #3

About to have all the decay removed from my one molar.

I think it's hilariously misleading that Rakhee says she calls these clamps butterflies to the children she works on. I don't know if that would have conjured images of a heroic army of robot butterflies searching and destroying cavities in the mouths of children everywhere as they slept for me, or made me terrified of butterflies. I would probably describe them as "tooth-huggers," who unfortunately don't seem to know their own strength!

Add caption

That was a BIG cavity. The biggest of any of the teeth I actually got to keep. Soon to be fitted for its crown and to be the first King of my mouth's small yet very hardworking kingdom.

If you can believe it, I was totally falling asleep again. I actually did for a few seconds and kinda freaked myself out of it cuz I snapped out of it and lurched a little bit when there were instruments in my mouth.