Nearing Six Months In SoCal

We’re coming up on six months in SoCal. This six months has gone much faster than the six that preceded it. Living with one foot out the door, unable to make long term commitments, knowing we were going, was difficult.

People say moving is stressful. It is. No one does this for fun. There are advantages living in one place an extended length of time. Reestablishing a routine is tough.

I had to go to Santa Ana this afternoon. About 20 minutes away.

It was someplace new, but landmarks looked familiar. Some, like the Orange County Register’s building, I’d only seen from the freeway. I hardly needed the GPS on the way back.

So many things to learn. Where are the light switches in the dark? Who’s got good pizza (not easy here)? We must find a dentist.

We have no wired telephone. Contemporaries ask about that, wondering if it’s a switch they should make. Probably.

Does AT&T have a cell plan where I could add a second number to my HTC One? That would be great. I don’t want to give up my 203 number.

Do I need 949?

Does anyone care anymore?

Nothing Is Easy… Ever

My tooth that suffered the indignity of root canal last week developed an abscess yesterday. It began to hurt last night. By this morning it was nearly unbearable.

I left a message on my dentist’s machine at 7:00 AM. If you know me, you know 7:00 AM means I’m serious!

Long story short, I saw my dentist and he fixed the problem. This sort of stuff happens.

I left with my pain greatly relieved, clutching a prescription for amoxicillin. I went to fill it tonight in Hartford.

I drove to a Rite Aid near the station and handed the white coated guy behind the counter my prescription, printed on 8.5′ by 11″ paper and signed by my dentist.

“Are they still open,” the pharmacist asked? He wanted to call and verify the prescription was legit. My dentist had long since gone home.

“Is there a big problem with amoxicillin abusers,” I replied.

Behind the counter someone older and wiser intervened. Prescription filled. Problem solved.

Wearing The Contacts At Work

Unfortunately when I looked in the little case where they ‘live’ the left lens had escaped!

“Adorable,” said my wife. “You look marvelous,” chimed the guy responsible for me getting hired to host “Inside Space” on SciFi. “You are squinting Geoff, put on the glasses, you look better and more trustworthy,” was the word from a Facebook friend¹. They were all commenting about tonight’s test run in contact lenses. It went reasonably well.

That is the glassless me on the left. Alas, I have my father’s tiny eyes and it always looks like I’m squinting.

The lenses have been on-and-off twice today. I am getting used to sticking my finger on my eyeball. That’s gross just to say. Both lenses stung for the first 30 seconds or so but were fine after that.

I had to work tonight, covering for a colleague whose furnace started a small fire that filled his downstairs with smoke. No injuries. Hopefully no lasting damage.

It is an awful night following an awful day with enough rain to bring flood warnings and enough wind to knock down power lines and trees.

On the drive in what was noticed at home became more obvious. My distance vision is not as good as it was with glasses. I can still see well enough to drive but signs and other objects aren’t nearly as clear.

The “Fitting Guide” for the lenses, instructions for my eye doctor, have instructions to work around this problem. I’d like to try.

My plan was to take the contacts out as soon as I got home which I did easily. Unfortunately when I looked in the little case where they ‘live’ the left lens had escaped! About ten minutes later I located it on the floor. If these things are going to last for three months holding onto them will be critical.

The real question will be how this looks at work and whether viewers accept it or even care.

¹ – Let’s just think of this guy as dentist number five. The dentist who doesn’t recommend Trident to his patients who chew gum.

Dentistry On Vacation

“I can’t believe you’re on vacation again.” That was my boss speaking to me Friday. I’m with him

“I can’t believe you’re on vacation again.” That was my boss speaking to me Friday. I’m with him.

After a week and a half off and three days on I’m off again this week!

The real culprit is longevity. With 25 years in I get four weeks of vacation, two more for working holidays, and a few scattered here and there for times I’m asked to fill-in on weekends or odd hours.

dentist office tools-w250-h185.jpgStill, God has ways of evening things out. He hit me in my weakest spot–my teeth!

I went to bed a little sensitive but woke up at the George Clooney level of sensitivity. By 9:00 AM I was on-the-phone to the dentist and in the chair around 3:00 PM.

You can’t call out sick while on vacation. Life goes on. I am typing with one hand while holding an ice pack with the other.

The problem isn’t a recent root canal but the bite that was left. One point was too high. Every time I bit down there was minor trauma. I felt nothing but the tooth was keeping score.

Alas, it’s all cumulative. Last night the tooth said “enough.”

The work took a few minutes. Bill, my dentist, says I should be fine in a few days. Hopefully he’s right as always.

Helaine and I are heading to New York City tomorrow for a quick visit. Even in NYC walking around with an ice pack stands out.

It’s Like Jet Lag

I feel like I’ve been rolled on the ground and kicked a little.

I slept a little between last night’s late news and today’s 5:00 AM. I slept a little more between the end of the early news at 8:00 AM and noon. I slept again after seeing the dentist at 1:00 PM.

I feel like I’ve been rolled on the ground and kicked a few times. My eyes are stinging. My mouth tastes like I’ve been chewing on socks. I might not be tired, but I’m exhausted.

Before I left work for the last time today someone commenting, “You’ve got a long weekend now.” Yeah–in the abstract. In reality this is wasted time.

I’m not an expert, but I know the experience. It feels like jet lag.

TV’s pretty glamorous isn’t it?

I Can’t Handle The Tooth

Parts of my mouth were immovable objects! I looked like a stroke victim. I could drink, but only if I was willing to wear the drink as it dribbled toward my chin.

My plan for today was to write about the new PC which is up and running.

Nope. Bigger fish to fry.

Today was my follow-up from last week’s journey into endodontics–Root Canal II.

I have been through this procedure before and yet I fooled myself into thinking this was some sort of “turn your head to the left and cough” type of event. Nope.

Dr. Cha had to open the tooth and head back in. Gas first (my sixties simulator) and then two injections.

If I could just relax as he did that!

Oh, who am I kidding. I tightened like a clam. My fingers and toes curled inward in an uncontrollable reflex.

When he went to inject me again I asked if, maybe, he could work with just those first two shots. Again, who am I kidding? By this time my gums were totally dead to the world and there was no additional discomfort.

Though going to the dentist is never fun (sorry guys) at least Bruce is good company. We talked about Korea and his family’s escape from the north. We talked about baseball. We talked about my teeth as I watched him work via the monitor on the ceiling. I like that he answers technical questions with technical answers. I am always curious–even about what’s happening to my teeth!

As I left the office I realized I had to work on-the-air. Parts of my mouth were immovable objects! I looked like a stroke victim. I could drink, but only if I was willing to wear the drink as it dribbled toward my chin.

I arrived at work and found Dr. Mel still there because of heavy rain and the chance for strong thunderstorms. He sat for some on-air teases until I began to feel the tingling that signifies the shots are wearing off.

After the first part of the root canal I needed ice for nearly a week. Hopefully this pain will be much more short lived.

In the meantime here’s to Advil and ice. They’re what keeps me going.

Trouble In My Mouth

This part of dentistry is all hand/eye coordination. He found the roots and began clean them with tiny hand tools. You can see three of them in the photo.

geoff-in-dentistry.jpgYesterday afternoon I began to notice tenderness when I closed my mouth. A molar was acting up. Over time I’ve learned these are never self healing.

I hoped there was something caught in my gum or under a piece of earlier dental work. I flossed and probed. Nothing.

It was a dull pain. If I didn’t bite I could deal with it. That let me fall asleep. It’s also what woke me up.

I called my dentist, this morning. I’ve been seeing Dr. Ortman 22 years. This was not my first unscheduled call.

“How quickly can you get here?” he asked. Fifteen minutes later I was in the chair.

In a perfect world our story would end here. It didn’t! This wasn’t a cavity. I was off to the periodontist.

Dr. Evans looked at my x-rays (emailed from the dentist), probed a little and decided maybe an endodontist was who I needed to see. He’s down the hall.

It wasn’t long before I was back in the chair. In the name of science my tooth had already been probed and scraped and chilled twice. One more time!

It was becoming a little more difficult to answer, “Does this hurt?” It hurt constantly.

By this time the gas was flowing and I was slowly approaching a 1968 state of mind. My new found relaxed state allowed him to administer the novacaine (I think it’s actually xylocaine nowadays) and deaden the throb.

Dr. Cha is a high tech guy. I asked if I could use a mirror to watch what he was doing (Yes, I like to watch) and he reached for a remote control to turn on an LCD monitor mounted near the ceiling. I could see what he was seeing in his dental microscope.

The angry tooth was one that had been filled decades ago. Dr. Ortman saw it in his records from my first visit in 1987. Now Dr. Cha was opening a hole in the amalgam to expose the root canals.

This part of dentistry is all hand/eye coordination. He found the roots and began clean them with tiny hand tools. You can see three of them in the photo.

A little more dental housekeeping before he resealed the tooth. I’ll be back next week. In the meantime I’ve been given prescriptions for an antibiotic and pain reliever.

My mouth is still tender, but not when I bite on that molar. I’m on the comeback trail.

The Sad News About Dan Weston

While we were at Emerson, Dan’s dad was a dentist. Somehow Dan got hold of a medical catalog and ordered all sorts of exotic condoms. They weren’t for Dan nor me. Dan got a display case and sold them to fellow students!

It’s easier to find people with unusual names than common ones. If your name is Geoff Fox and Geoff is spelled with a “G” how tough can it be?

On the other hand it’s been tough to find my freshman college roommate, Dan Weston. There are too many Dan Weston’s (including that guy on TV for the Scooter Store). When last we spoke Dan was working for the PBS station in Hershey, PA. That was at least 30 years ago.

When I stumble across people I knew from college I ask about Dan. I just don’t stumble into that many people… and having been on the accelerated dismissal program at Emerson College that’s understandable.

“On a sadder note, I’m sorry to tell you, Dan passed away a few years ago. He was an engineer at KTLA TV here. I hadn’t seen him for a long time and only saw the notice in the Alumni magazine. He had some kind of cancer, I’m not sure. He was a sweet man.”

That came from Paul Greengross in Los Angeles who I ran into on Facebook. No one wants to get this news.

While we were at Emerson, Dan’s dad was a dentist. Somehow Dan got hold of a medical catalog and ordered all sorts of exotic condoms. They weren’t for Dan nor me. Dan got a display case and sold them to fellow students!

I wish I would have found him sooner–obviously.

On Today’s Snow

It’s a winter wonderland outside… if you like that kind of thing. As it turns out, I don’t.

Today, I got an email complaining about my forecast. At the same time I got a few others thanking me for my accuracy. One of the email senders is screwy. May I choose which?

Obviously, in becoming a meteorologist, I learned something about snow and wintry weather. It’s possible, however, my most interesting expertise comes from experience. It has to do with the practical differences in different snowstorms.

As a kid, you knew snow could be different. Ever ask if it was ‘packing’ snow?

Nowadays, before the first flake falls, I’m already trying to figure out if it will be packing snow. Snow can range from fluffy powdered sugar to semi congealed ice. It’s not easy forecasting which particular form the snow will take and that forecast is never 100% accurate – not by me nor anyone else.

Today is a perfect example of how the ‘fluff factor’ can vary. There is little in common between the snowstorm that Southern Connecticut received and the one that hit Northern Connecticut! Same system… simultaneous snowfall… different outcome.

The northern snow was light and fluffy. It accumulated gently.

The southern snow was loaded with sleet and freezing rain. It accumulated like the lead blanket the dentist throws on you before getting x-rayed. It will be tougher to clear and leave a slick and icing coating when crews try.

Some plowing contracts call for different prices depending on the inches of snow received. The shoreline plowers loses in this one. There, three inches will plow like six!

My Whiter Smile

I went and had my teeth whitened today. Long overdue, my teeth looked like they’d been stained by every cup of coffee I’ve ever downed and all those cigarettes I used to smoke (thankfully haven’t smoked for the last 20+ years).

Who thinks these procedures up? This is crazy. I was stuffed with cotton and plastic and protective stuff was swabbed on my gums and lips. Red coated safety glasses were slipped over my real glasses. Finally, a caustic bleaching potion was painted on my teeth and a bright light, straight from the Jetsons, was pushed up against my mouth.

In three 15 minute segments, the light was allowed to activate the secret potion, which in turn changed my teeth from gray to white! That, of course, was the result I wanted.

Before we started, my dentist picked out a tooth sample which matched one of my front teeth. When we were done, he held it up against the same tooth. I suppose that’s cheating, because no one gets to make that kind of A/B comparison in real time.

Still, I was not unhappy. It’s a big difference.

So, that’s the good news. Here’s the bad.

Whether because of the procedure or not, I left with my lower lip swelling. The swelling continued with my lip getting plumper and plumper for the next few hours. No pain, just some discomfort.

At work, I said something probably never before uttered by ‘on-air talent’ at a TV station: “No tight shots.”

Hopefully, the swelling will continue to abate and I’ll be ready to actually smile tomorrow!

For the next few days there will be no fruits, no colas, no ketchup and no coffee! The idea is, until everything sets, I shouldn’t stain myself back to where I began.

In the meantime, there is one expected after effect from the whitening – my teeth and gums are really sensitive. I can deal with it. A little short term discomfort is a small price to pay.

Financial Talk From Geoff

It’s not just me, is it? Finances are confusing to everyone… right?

Oh please agree! I don’t want to be the Bozo on this bus&#185.

Helaine and I went through some financial papers today. Nothing dreadful, but each was more confusing than the last.

My insurance company sent me a notice saying they weren’t paying as much for recent dental work as the policy allows. My dentist is off network and out-of-state.

Uh, yeah. It’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island. I live in Connecticut. Of course it’s out-of state!

Here’s the funny part. They only said they weren’t paying me full reimbursement. In reality, they were. So, based on their paperwork, some clerk in Rhode Island and I got to spend quality time together that we’ll never get back.

Then Helaine showed me a statement from my 401-K at work. We’ve been participating over 20 years. There’s a significant amount of money in it now. It said one of the mutual funds we’re in went down over the past few months.

It was a time when the market in general was tanking. I saw that with a quick look at the Dow Jones Industrials Average (which I understand is a mainly worthless barometer).

Are we in the right funds? Not only don’t I know, no one knows!

The experts often make bad calls predicting the markets (and, hey, I know a little bit about predicting). You can get lucky, or just have time on your side. We used the latter.

Unfortunately, the difference between being right and being wrong, when stretched over 20+ years, can make a huge difference. Could I have clicked a different box two decades ago and now be set for life? I will never know if my decisions were the right ones.

We’re trying to get Stef on the right track with her finances. I’ve just applied for a credit card for her. She’ll be responsible, though Helaine and I have to guarantee that by co-signing.

I called my local bank office, spoke to the manager and was on my way… or so I thought. I had to return a call from the bank Monday. They needed to verify it was really me on the phone.

I wasn’t asked my birthdate or SSN. The bank’s operator said, “In the past you’ve owned property. I’ll give you a list, you tell me which one is right.” Then she did basically the same thing with cars I’d owned.

The answer to the car question was a 1992 Camry. “That’s 15 years old,” I said. “I’m not sure the year’s right.”

But it was Helaine who made the more cogent observation. “They know everything about us.”

Alas, they do. Neither the car nor any piece of property was financed through the bank.

Finally, Helaine showed me a mortgage statement on our house. We’ve been there 17 years and have refinanced twice. Each time, we tried to shorten the term and lower the interest rate.

We can actually see a day in the next few years when the house will really be ours.

Does anyone really think, when they buy a house, some day they’ll own it? I sure didn’t.

&#185 – Firesign Theater reference. Thanks for noticing.

More Dentistry

It’s a day and a half since I was last outside. I am recuperating after having more gum surgery yesterday. I don’t recommend this as a leisure time activity, but it’s not as bad as you might think.

I knew I needed this last treatment for a while, but hadn’t made an appointment. A few weeks ago, Helaine pointed out yesterday would be the perfect day (is there a perfect day for periodontal work?). No appointments were available.

I asked to be contacted if anyone canceled and that’s just what happened.

Actually, this was a perfect outcome. Who doesn’t anguish over upcoming dentistry – especially if you’re going to have your gums sliced open like a piece of ripe fruit? I had less than a day to be a head case.

Believe me, I am a head case!

I got to Dr. Weiss’ office at 10:15. By 10:20 I was in the chair. By 10:21 Rebbecca, his assistant, had spun the knob and the nitrous oxide was flowing up my nose.

I’m no doctor, but if you’re going for dental work, have fear of pain and don’t get gas – you’re nuts. It doesn’t stop pain, but it does relax you and (in my case) remove inhibitions.

I’ve been taking gas for dentistry since I was a kid. I remember sitting in the dentist’s office and feeling the window mounted air conditioning unit vibrate. Trust me – you wouldn’t feel it vibrate without gas!

After the gas comes the novacaine. Actually, as I understand it, it’s really not novacaine anymore. This is the part I dislike most. Getting a shot is one thing. Getting one in your mouth is way over the top.

Lying on my back in the dental chair, I stretch my body and arch my back, but it’s a reaction that speaks to fear more than pain.

By the time the injections have taken hold, I’m high as a kite from the gas and totally numb where the work is being performed. When Helaine came to pick me up, she was told I talked through the whole thing… not that I remember much of it!

Exactly what went on in my mouth is a mystery to me. Dr. Weiss said I needed this one additional section of gum fixed and who was I to say no?

Dentistry is very much a matter of trust. After all, how many places do you go feeling well, knowing you’re not leaving that way? You either trust your dentist or not.

Yesterday, after the injections wore off, I was uncomfortable, but not in pain. That discomfort has diminished over time, but it’s still there a little as the ibuprofen’s effect slacks off between pills.

Along my gum line, on the tongue side of my teeth, there is a piece of plastic material – packing. I’m surprised it’s still there protecting the surgery. When it falls away (any time I expect) the stitches Dr. Weiss used to close my wound will be exposed.

I should be pain free, with only the weird sensation of the surgical thread against my tongue to remind me what went on.

He’s a nice guy, but I’d rather just see him somewhere else.

Your Call Is Important To Us

I had to make two calls to insurance companies this morning. There were two problems that needed attention.

Let me establish two points:

  • My call is important to them
  • My blood pressure is currently high enough to power the hydraulic system in a 737

In my first call, to my dental insurance provider, I waited on hold 10 minutes before a human picked up the phone. While waiting, Helaine and I discussed whether the on hold music was specifically chosen to encourage people to hang up. It is.

The agent who answered couldn’t find my claim because he was health, not dental. He gave me the dental number.


That’s the number I called! Had I not looked, I would have gotten back in the same queue.

It was about this point I realized, I must dot every “i” and cross every “t,” but they don’t have to do anything. Sure there’s an obligation to get it right at some point, but no incentive to get it right the first time… and, if I get frustrated and give up, that’s a disincentive to get it right the first time.

I was calling because they sent me a notice saying they paid $.00 of $149 in dental bills.

It turns out, they had paid the bill. I am told the dentist already cashed the check.

Why did they send me this? Who knows? The person I spoke with certainly didn’t. No explanation.

If I got the paperwork wrong… well, you know.

The second call was to our drug plan about a prescription. It’s for a daily medication. It was for 12 months worth. They should have filled the prescription for 90 days – but only filled it for 30. That’s because the doctor wrote it up as twelve one month supplies.

What difference does it make? Well, the 30 day supply is $10. So is the 90 day supply!

I need to get another prescription to get this dispensed in 90 day chunks. So, now my pain also becomes the doctor’s pain.

Here’s the frustrating part. The prescription will be for the exact same number of tablets! It will still be for a year. It will still be for the same number of pills every month. There is no practical difference – none.

There is no reason for me to submit a new prescription, except to cut my cost. This resubmission has nothing to do with medicine.

I am really upset. This wouldn’t be a good day to piss me off.

Note To Steffie: Inherit Your Mom’s Teeth

Last Thursday I started feeling some tenderness when I bit down on my farthest back lower molar on the left side. It’s probably not the same molar you have back there, because I’m not fully ‘toothed’ anymore.

Since the problem could be intensified on the gum line, I left a message with the periodontist I see. The next morning they called and by Friday afternoon I was in the chair and soon out of pain.

They hadn’t fixed what was wrong, but had freed me for the short term. I returned this morning at 9:30 AM.

Going for dental work under these circumstances is a great leap of faith. I was in no pain when I got there. I would certainly leave in pain. I knew that going in.

I sat in the chair as the dentist fired up the gas. Nitrous oxide at the dentist’s office is as close as you can get to a 60s simulator! It almost makes the dentistry worthwhile… almost.

I’m not sure what he did after the gas took effect, except I do know I was injected a few times with Novocaine (which really isn’t Novocaine, but some modern day offshoot).

When it was all over, I felt thread near my gums, so I know I’ve been stitched. I’ve got a little discomfort right now and I’m taking the horse pill sized Motrin.

Have I mentioned, Helaine has had one cavity in her life – one! And we’re pretty much convinced that decades ago, her dentist needed to pay for a vacation or an unforeseen car repair and… well, the rest is history.

I’m sure my dental hygiene as a child enters into this. I’m also afraid I inherited my dental problems from my mom. I have a lifetime of memories of my mom dealing with dental surgery.

So far, when given half a chance, Steffie has inherited some of my worst traits. Maybe she can inherit her mother’s teeth?

Where Are They Today?

I have heard from lots of people because of this Internet thing. Though some voices from my past have said hello, there are many more I’ve totally lost contact with. Maybe if I mention some names they’ll surface.

Bob Weiss. I’m guessing the last time I saw or spoke to Bob was in the late 60s. He lived in an apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. We had gone to summer camp together. His father worked at an advertising agency.

Sometime during high school his parents took the two of us to the Village Limelight to see Jean Shepard. In our mid-teens, we watched his live radio broadcast from a bar. At that time, it was certainly the coolest moment of my life.

Bob – send me an email.

Dan Weston. Dan was my roommate freshman year in college. We were on the 3rd floor at 132 Beacon Street. As is so often the case, we didn’t know how good we had it, living in Back Bay Boston as 18 year olds. I last saw Dan sometime in the mid-70s.

I can’t imagine what being my roommate must have been like, but whatever it was, I apologize.

Dan was from Jericho, NY where is father was a dentist. His sister was a harpist. I’m sure his mom was great, but I’ve got nothing on her.

After college, Dan moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania where he worked for the PBS affiliate.

Dan – drop me a line.

Marty Ingber. Marty lived near me in Electchester, the gigantic housing project, originally built by the Electrical Workers’ Union, hidden away in a two fare zone&#185 in Queens. I probably have seen him since 1968.

Marty and I were friends, but we weren’t best friends. However, I had two memorable moments with Marty. Actually, one is sure and the other I think was Marty.

The ‘sure’ moment was when the two of us went to a Mets game at the Polo Grounds. The Mets moved into Shea Stadium in 1964, so it was 1963. I was 13. Wow – that now seems awfully young to have gone with just a friend.

By this time the Polo Grounds, situated on Coogan’s Bluff in Harlem, was pretty decrepit. The NY Giants had moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season. Preventative maintenance was probably the last thing on anyone’s mind for the five years it stood vacant. The Mets were pretty awful anyway.

We bought whatever the cheapest seat was and moved around. We ended up sitting way up high in a virtually deserted area.

At that time a coffee commercial was running on TV with the tag line, “You get what you pay for.” Every time a Met would do something wrong (a constant occurrence) one of us would say the line to the other. We laughed all afternoon.

I guess you had to be there.

This next one I’m not 100% sure about. I think it was with Marty, and it took place in Midtown Manhattan. We were there with my next door neighbor (I was in 5E, he in 5F) Dennis Westler. We were just hanging out in the city.

As we walked past a nice looking office building on Madison Avenue, one of them realized it held the offices of Mad Magazine. We went in. When we got to the proper floor, one of them (not me – I am chutzpah challenged) claimed we were there for a pre-arranged tour.

Whoever it was who came out, took pity on us and showed us around. That was also amazing. There weren’t a lot of creative people to meet, but there was a lot of original artwork scattered around. I remember looking at some original “Spy vs Spy” panels.

Marty – say hello.

I’m sure there are more people from my past waiting to be found, but let me see how I do with these three. I’ll let you know how this turns out.

&#185 – It’s not this way anymore, but you use to pay for each bus or subway ride individually. A two fare zone meant, you lived somewhere where you needed to ride both a bus and subway to get to Manhattan. Living in a two fare zone makes you, by definition, geographically undesirable.