Kamis, 12 Januari 2012

Goodbye Old Tooth

West 4th Street's basketball court on 6th Avenue attracted the best talent in the five boroughs in the late 70s. Passers-by clung to the chain link fence, as the players ran the short distance between the steel backboards. Most streetballers were devoted to offensive, but I was welcomed into games, because of my defense. My teammates depended on my stopping the big man and no one ever dunked on me.One afternoon in 1978 a young baller from the Bronx kept driving to the hoop. I refused to give way to the hole. The contact between us belonged more on a football field than 'The Cage'. I hooked his arm, bumped his shoulders, and slapped his shooting elbow. Each foul was accompanied by an apology. "If you were sorry, you wouldn't do this shit. You're nothing, but a fucking hack." The muscular guard lifted his hands for the hand. His dribble blazed from left to right. He wanted points."You may be right, but you're not scoring in the paint this game." I was a hack. Scoring was secondary to neutralizing my opponent. My team needed only three points from me to win a game. My adversary shifted to his right. My left hand tipped the ball from his dribble. Our guard dashed to the opposite end of the court. It was an easy basket."Defense versus offensive. It's all part of the game." I should have kept my mouth shut. Ragging another player only brought out their best or worst.My opponent backed to the hoop. His team cleared out the zone. This was a one-on-one play for the win only this time he wasn't looking for a score. His left elbow winged over my shoulder and contacted with my mouth. Blood spurted from a gash inside my cheek. He wheeled and made a one-handed lay-up. It was a dirty play made dirtier by his trying to hurt me.Both teams had to separate us from going to blows.Everyone suggested that I go home. The other player was a known gang member. Guns were easy to find in Washington Square Park. I accepted their advice and walked to my apartment in the East Village thinking about revenge. It was not a healthy thought and I avoided the Cage in favor of the basketball court in Tompkins Square Park. No one fought there. It was a three-minute walk from my front door. My nickname was 'The Butcher'.I moved to Paris in the early 80s to work the door at several nightclubs. Fights were rare. The food was exceptional, especially the bread. One afternoon I bit into a thick-crusted baguette. A tooth on my lower left jaw cracked into shards. No doubt the molar had been damaged by the guard's elbow. A dentist explained that many people broke teeth on a baguette and the two choice were extraction or a root canal with a cap. I opted for the latter. Only hillbillies and the British didn't care about gaps in their teeth.The gold crown stayed in place, until it came loose during a meal in Kensington with a female painter. She laughed hearing that I had swallowed the cap and said, "It'll show up in the next day or so."She was right and I felt the crown passing out of my body. I rescued it from the toilet and the dentist in Paris reset the cap on my tooth.Another nine years passed before this tooth resumed its troubled existence. I noticed a small blister after getting a # 2 buzz-cut in a Fulham barber shop. My friend, Sam Royalle, suggested a quick visit to the dentist. His sound advice was rejected since my flight to Thailand was leaving Heathrow that evening and I figured that the tooth was safe until I arrived in Bangkok.I was wrong.The blister infected my jar and the left side of my face was swollen by the painful abscess. The customs official grimaced looking at my face. I must have resembled Frankenstein with the skinhead and distorted face, but he stamped my passport with a month's visa. I directed the taxi driver to a dentist on Soi Duplei near the Malaysia Hotel. She had cleaned my teeth a year ago. Once more there were two options; extraction or see the results of an antibiotic injection and treatment. My teeth weren't white, but food was easy to eat with a full set of chompers. Every trip to Thailand included a visit to the dentist on Soi Duplei. My teeth remained intact, despite the increasing frequency of losing a tooth dreams. The various interpretations such as my diminishing looks and strength, my hitting 50, the fear of becoming an old fool One gay friend suggested these dreams were a sign of sexual repression."You've been straight too long."I remained a reformed straight to the present, but my dentist on Soi Duplei had bad news for me this week."The tooth has to come out. It has cracked in two." Her business has expanded to three floors and the equipment is state of the art. "What are the other choices?""This time only one choice.""Extraction." The other options had been eliminated over the years and I agreed to have the tooth pulled this morning.The entire procedure took thirty minutes.Afterward my dentist explained the new set of options."The gum is too damaged for an implant. A bridge requires putting caps on the teeth on either side of the gap. A denture is easy and cheap and there is always the do nothing option." She further informed me that the gums needed 2-3 months to heal before the next step."Can I have the old tooth." It had been with me over fifty years. "Sure." My dentist made a face and dropped the shattered tooth into a plastic tube. It was no longer part of me like the hair on the barber's floor, but the old molar deserved a better fate than a waste bin. The silver and gold in the crown had to be worth a good bottle of wine from a gold shop on 47th Street. I put the tube in my pocket and left the dentist. My tooth was going home, unless I lost the tube on the way and with me that possibility was always an option.photo is from the balajo in paris1985

Tidak ada komentar:

Posting Komentar