Doctor Me

Hypochondria struck me at an early age after reading a Maryknoll missionary magazine showing a photo of a young boy wearing a metal contraption to walk. I feared that an unnamed ailment would take away by legs and I’d be a tin boy. Every small cut was examined for gangrene and each fever was a harbinger of typhoid. My mother was unsympathetic to my phobia.

“You’re only sick if you’re bleeding.”

I had perfect attendance during grammar school, despite having the mumps, measles, and poison ivy. My grandfather had been a doctor in Maine. He had met my grandmother during World War I. She had been a nurse for the AEF in France. On vacations at her house in Westbrook I read medical journals and my mother dreamed about having a doctor for a son. I never explained that I was searching the pages for possible future diseases.

By high school I was an expert at counseling my friends about sports injuries. In college I handled drug freak-outs and small cuts. I was always quick to offer a diagnosis to an sick workmate. Richie Boy, my boss at the diamond exchange, was addicted to going to the doctors for his sport-ravaged knees. He ignored my advice to rest and take hot baths. His surgeon operated twice on his ACLs without any success. Americans are babes in the woods when it comes to their personal health.

I’ve set a broken finger, nursed myself to health after a severe case of amoebic dysentery, and revive my kidneys by cutting out hard liquor, except at Mexican bars. I love my tequila.

Dentistry is my only weakness and I didn’t visit a dentist for 15 years. My teeth withstood the neglect, until a point guard from the Bronx stuck his elbow into my saw in revenge for a foul under the basket on the West 4th Street courts. I spit out a piece of tooth in his face. The other players broke up the short punch fest. My teammate told me that the point guard carried a gun in his bag. I gave him the finger and walked off the court. A tooth wasn’t worth dying over at the age of 24.

I didn’t think much about the ruined tooth. Occasionally my tongue played over the cracked molar. It never got worse and sucking on clove oil alleviated the sporadic pain. Its integrity was finally overcome by chewing on a baguette at the Deauville Film Festival. A dentist in Paris gave me a root canal and placed a gold cap on the stump. It has been there ever since, although the gum suffered chronic bouts of infection, the worst case a massive abscess on a flight to Thailand. The dentist in Bangkok wanted to pull the tooth. I ordered him to lance the pus-filled sac and shot the jaw with antibiotics. A small needle pierced the flesh and my mouth was swamped by bitter filth. Mouthwash vanquished the acrid taste and the painkillers blanketed the agony in a narcotic warmth.

My teeth are relatively good, if a little yellow after 58 years of coffee, breathing city air, drinking beer, and eating spicy foods. The gold cap has been in place since 1985. Almost three decades of use and three months ago I detected a wobble. The cap was loose on the stump. I tried to suck it off the post, but the cap teeters in place. food got trapped under it last week and infected the old abscess. The pain was minor and I thought about visiting a dentist.

They are not expensive in New York.

They are exorbitant.

I recalled the deft hand of the Bangkok dentist and searched my sewing kit for a needle or an etui in French or khem in Thai. I found several and bathed them in moonshine. 180 proof. I dried the sharp needles and tested them for their ability to pierce flesh. One was better than the rest. I touched the swollen gum with my index finger. The pus within the sac stretched the infected flesh to a paper thinness. I shut my eyes and poked the abscess with the needle. I cleared my mouth of the pus and rubbed moonshine on the gum.

That was two days ago.

The swelling is gone and so is the pain.

The gold cap still wobbles on the stump, but once it comes off I have a brand-new tube of Super-Glue ready to re-fasten it to the stump.

Perhaps for the rest of my life.

“Calling Doctor Me.”

It’s the new solution to the American Health Care dilemma.

In the meanwhile brush them chompers.

They built to last with the proper care and they aren’t covered by the GOP in their anti-Obamacare package.

Trust a quack. Nothing will be covered if they have their way. Not even needles or Super-Glue

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