Like Pulling Teeth: Adventures In Gardening And Dentistry
09 January 2014
By Jane Stillwater
Two rather interesting things have happened to me
lately. First, I had one of my teeth pulled this week
-- totally not a fun experience. And, second, while
still oozing pain and eating Hydrocodone and climbing
the walls, I started reading a book about plants by
Michael Pollan, entitled "The Botany of Desire". So
now I have suddenly become an expert on both
pain-killers and gardens.
Having one's tooth pulled is like, er, pulling teeth.
It really hurts. So from now on I plan to brush and
floss constantly and do whatever it takes to keep my
remaining teeth healthy and clean. Someone recommended
gargling with Bombay Sapphire twice a day. I'd try
Even though the student doctor who pulled my tooth at
the UCSF School of Dentistry was an angel of mercy
combined with Dr. McDreamy, having one's tooth
extracted is never pretty. I kept reciting that mantra
"Challenges make me stronger" in the dental chair and
silently doing jin shin jyutzu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4eRsF3PRQo
(Preview) -- but even that didn't work. I'm a wimp.
And not only that but once the tooth was out, they
wouldn't even give it back to me to give to the Tooth
Then, once finally back home and safely collapsed into
bed, I took some of those "opioid" pain-killers they
gave me -- and dreamed that I was an escaped convict
running a funeral parlor in my childhood hometown
(Millbrae) and hiding under my daughter Ashley's bed
(probably from NSA). Forget that. No more weird Kubla-Khan
dreams for me. I'm sticking with aspirin.
Now I'm wishing there was something I could do to
replace my poor sweet little lost tooth, but there
doesn't seem to be anything. Getting a dental implant
is expensive -- $3,000 per tooth, even done by a
dental student. Who can afford that? Not me. So now
I've got a big gap in my teeth. How ugly is that!
However, I won't be alone for long. Two-thirds of
America will soon be joining me in being gap-toothed
as well unless affordable dental insurance becomes
available reasonably soon. But if not, then we'll all
be totally ugly together, not just me. America goes
third-world. Who would have thought.
I also have a postage-stamp sized garden attached to
my apartment, which grows nothing. According to
Michael Pollan, this shouldn't be happening -- unless
there has been some really heavy-duty weed killer
sprayed there at one time. Yes, there was. But not by
me. So, apparently, what I need now is all new dirt.
And at the rate that American agribusiness keeps using
millions of tons of herbicides and pesticides each
year, all of America will soon be needing all new dirt
"Actually, it's not the heavy use of herbicides and
pesticides that is causing the most problems on huge
agribusiness farms," to summarize one of Pollan's
chapters on the potato, "but rather the monoculture
nature of their crops. Organic farmers can vary and
rotate what they plant and thus stave off insect and
fungal infestations -- but if your main customer for
potatoes is McDonalds, then you have to plant Burbank
russets and only Burbank russets all of the time. So
it is Americans themselves that are causing the major
use of [stuff] like Roundup and Roundup-Ready GMOs."
So if I promise to plant a huge variety of everything
in my garden, from fingerling potatoes to roses to
dandelions, then will at least SOMETHING finally grow?
And will I also be able to grow a new tooth?
PS: Aside from Michael Pollan, why else have my
thoughts been turning to gardening lately? In the
middle of freaking January? Because this winter has
been the sunniest one in Berkeley that I have ever
seen. It's like freaking summer here now, like July,
every day -- even going beyond April or May.
www.weather.com even declared Berkeley a drought area
the other day. Time to bust out the seeds.
Michael Pollan also wrote about cannabis in his book
on plants. "Marijuana doesn't make you forgetful of
everything. It just makes you forget [stuff] that's
not important." Interesting. I always forget names. So
I guess names aren't all that important or necessary
for me to remember. Whew. I'm off the hook then. Am
not getting senile dementia after all, just sorting
out my priorities.
And maybe that's why Alzheimer sufferers forget so
much mental stuff too -- they might be shutting down
everything that won't immediately help them to cope
with this devastating disease (yes, I know that
Alzheimers also rots its victims' brains -- but isn't
that just one more good reason for them to shut said
PPS: With regard to raising the minimum wage here in
soon-to-be-toothless America, wouldn't it make more
sense to just cut the rate of inflation instead?
Starting by eliminating the Federal Reserve and its
tendencies to print meaningless Monopoly money and to
finance Endless War? And, while we're at it, let's
stop giving out billions in "food stamps" to corporate
welfare queens like Bank of America, BP, WalMart,
Halliburton and Monsanto. Works for me. And can we
also please bring our millions of jobs back from
Back in 1963, I made $1.75 an hour while working in
the post office on weekends and during summers. With
this money plus some help from my parents (yes, they
could also afford to help me back then), I was able to
graduate from San Jose State College without requiring
any student loans. And in 1966, when I got a big
salary-bump to $3.50 an hour for working the stamp
window instead of sorting mail, I was able put myself
through graduate school at UC Berkeley, just by
working during summer vacations. Can you even imagine
staying alive and not homeless in Berkeley today on
that kind of salary -- let alone paying for your
tuition at Cal as well.
What has happened to all of America's jobs and wealth
since the 1960s, back when we were the richest country
in the world? That's a no-brainer. It's all flown away
into the pockets of Wall Street mega-bankers, the
numbered Cayman accounts of war profiteers and the fat
wallets of all those corporate welfare queens who
currently own and run our government.
While it's always a good idea to raise America's
minimum wage a few dollars, it's also important to
stop runaway inflation -- and to also start lowering a
certain type of maximum wage as well: The maximum
amount that rich guys can steal from us before they
get sent to jail.
And we need to put some teeth into these new
PPPS: New development. Holy cow. Now I'm all sitting
here in abject pain being caused by my phantom tooth
that has already been pulled. Why can't I have the
same dental plan that Congressional representatives