Tooth trouble

The weekly Bay Guardian comes out on Wednesdays, but this week and for the duration of the newspaper strike, they’re printing on Friday, too. So my biggest problem of life without the dailies — no Friday edition, with all its movie listings and reviews — has been solved. 

Yeah, I miss the news in the newspaper too, but I can get news elsewhere. Long as I know where’s the best double feature of the week, that's "fully-informed."

Also picked up the first issue of the strike paper, called Free Press, written and assembled and distributed by the striking staff of the Chronicle and Examiner. It’s nice to see Herb Caen’s column again, and Free Press is free, so I shouldn’t complain. If people didn’t complain, though, we’d still be living in caves and eating raw dinosaur gonads, so ...

Free Press is too damned detached, that’s my complaint. It has a welcome helping of local news, including coverage of the strike, but it’s written in that all-too-familiar and aloof “objective journalism” style, perfectly up to the Chronicle and Examiner’s standards of dullness. 

Objective journalism bites. Report the facts, yes, please, but if a reporter is angry about the situation — and they’re on strike, so they have some things to be angry about — then that anger is a fair part of the story. Don’t suppress it, tell us about it.

I’ll take fair but angry journalism like the Anderson Valley Advertiser or Bay Guardian over impartial-observer play-acting like you find in the dailies, and now, sadly, in the Free Press. Finally unshackled by the millionaires (maybe billionaires?) who own the Chronicle and Examiner, its workers have delivered something just as bland, but without Calvin & Hobbes.

♦ ♦ ♦

Regular readers have heard me grumble about the company I work for, but for any newcomers, here’s the basics: It’s one of America’s largest retailers, operating hundreds of department stores under several different names. This company has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy for several years, but they’re now in the process of merging with their top competitor, which ought to be illegal. It will create an international conglomerate of almost 500 stores, operating under fourteen names — regional chains, national chains, and international chains.

Think of it — any time you walk into any department store, more than likely it’ll be one of my employer’s stores. When you think you’re getting shabby treatment at one store, and you vow never to return and take your business elsewhere, harrumph? You’ll probably be taking your business to the same corporation, just with a different sign on the awning.

Dissatisfied with your Pontiac? Buy a Buick next time. That'll show 'em.

The merger hasn’t cleared anti-trust regulators yet, and won’t be approved by the feds until December at the earliest. That’s just a technicality, though, and technicalities be damned, corporations are more important than laws, so today in our e-mail directories, everything came together. Both corporations, all stores. I can now send an interoffice communication to the flunkies who do what I do in any of those other chains that aren't really "other chains."

First thing I noticed, scrolling through a directory twice as big as yesterday, is that there are lots of people doing basically the same work I do, in the other corporation, and in various branches of the monstrous merged entity. Will there be layoffs, then? "Efficiencies" to be sought, people to be pink-slipped?

Why, absolutely not. What a silly question. Someone in New Jersey sent everyone in the company a memo today, reassuring us that no layoffs are planned.

A memo from New Jersey? Well, I’m certainly reassured. How stupid to they think we are?

♦ ♦ ♦

Where my latest two missing teeth used to be, there was no pain yesterday, but plenty today. The two extractions aren’t healing the same way. One toothless hole has the pink color you’d expect two days after surgery, but the hole on the other side of my mouth has turned white and painful, the pain increasing as the day goes on.

I’ve taken several of Dr Dentist’s marvelous prescription pills, but to be safe I called his office, and explained what's going on in my mouth. Whoever answered the phone reassured me. "That's normal," she said. "It'll take several days, up to a week or longer to heal."

I don't think she heard or understood what I'd said — that the holes are healing differently — and I believe her reassurance that "That's normal" about as much as I believer my employer saying, “No layoffs.” 

Something’s gone wrong in my mouth. Playing with it like I probably shouldn’t, I tongued a gooey oblong black and pink blob out of the tooth gap that’s hurting, and with a little pressure the blob squirted all over. It’s not a remnant from breakfast or lunch, and not the right color or consistency to be congealed blood.

Oh well. Took two more pills, and I'll call again in the morning.

♦ ♦ ♦

Kallie invited me to join her, and several of her flatmates and friends, some night soon, and watch the Stones video she purchased at the concert. I told her I'd check my calendar and get back to her, because simply shouting NO! would've been rude.

I like the Stones and enjoyed the concert, but I’m not especially eager for another night of the Rolling Stones right away. And with all of Kallie’s friends and flatmates there, too? It sounds suspiciously like a party.

Kallie is cool, but — a party? No.

I’ve been to so many parties (at least three!) and regretted it every time. Hang out with a bunch of strangers, whose names I’ll forget thirty seconds after shaking their hands? No.

It’s a Kallie event, so there will undoubtedly be marijuana and probably harder drugs. If it was just Kallie and me, the drugs might be a plus, but unlimited drugs in a room with an unknown quantity of strangers? Mama told me not to come, so — No.

Just, 77 kinds of no. I’d rather have more teeth pulled.

♦ ♦ ♦

Silk Stockings at the Paramount Theater was not bad, for fluff. It’s Ninotchka with tunes, and also with Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, and music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Cold war comedy about good old American romantic know-how that melts a communist woman’s heart. There's also a peculiar performance by Peter Lorre, as a comical commie who almost sings and almost dances.

It’s pleasant but dated, and the movie’s 1957 vintage turns sour when Charisse sings, “A woman to a man is just a woman, but a man to a woman is her life.” What the hell? Did people really believe that crap, even as lyrics in a silly song? Charisse and Astaire have an argument a few minutes later, though, and she tells him off in fine almost-feminist fashion.

The original Ninotchka — Billy Wilder! Greta Garbo! — is preferred, and not marred by any songs. Also, the remake would've been better if I'd won Dec-O-Win, the spinning wheel game they play on stage before every screening. I've been to dozens of shows at the Paramount, so one of these nights, odds are, I'll finally win Dec-O-Win. Tonight was not that night. I was singing songs from Silk Stockings on my BART ride home, though.

From Pathetic Life #6
Friday, November 4, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Pathetic Life 

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  1. Yoyr Ninotchka talk is stirring a possibly false memory - did Steph speak Russian, or am I nuts? Or both?

    1. Both. Stephanie had a degree in Russian language, and spoke it fairly fluently.

      It came in handy at the movies! American flicks often have Russian bad guys, and we sometimes saw artsy movies imported from Russia. She couldn’t translate paragraphs of complicated dialogue on the fly, but she could always get the gist of something spoken in Russian, or any Eastern European language, since most or all of those languages are related.

      She could read the signs in the background, if the movie or scene was set in Russia or Eastern Europe, and when they spoke she could always tell whether the actor was native to the language, or faking it phonetically.

      Best of all, she could sometimes explain subtle plot points before they were explained by the movie. "He's saying that the detective is crooked," she'd whisper as someone spoke Russian, even if it wasn't in the subtitles. Five minutes later it would come out in the movie that the detective was crooked.

      Or, "She's saying that she has a crush on that guy," and later, yup, it turned out this character was smitten with that character.

      She also spoke a little Spanish, and a few other languages far removed from Eastern Europe, so to a lesser extent she could do this parlor trick with movies even in unexpected dialects. It was like being married to a universal translator from Star Trek or Doctor Who.

    2. Pretty neat!

    3. Did I ever tell you this? My niece Dorothy went to school for quite a few years in a Chinese (Mandarin) Immersion School in San Francisco. By the time she was 10, she spoke pretty good Mandarin. She is whiter than fuck, physically - just a stereotypical white person with Irish ancestry on both sides.

      The family was once at a Chinese festival of some sort, and she went up to a food booth, and asked something in English. The booth owner (An old Chinese lady) answered in Mandarin. Dorothy responded in Mandarin. Booth owner went white, and fell silent for like 30 seconds until Dorothy walked away.

      As they were leaving, the family passed the booth. The old lady and (presumably) her grandson saw them, ran from the booth, and talked to them. The grandson explained that his grandmother was terrified in the moment, and thought Dorothy was a ghost of some sort.

      I was not there for this, but I swear it was told to me as presented.

    4. That's also pretty neat. I was expecting she'd overhear an insult or a leering wisecrack, but I hadn't seen the ghost coming.


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