Dental Plate Tectonics

A portrait done in colors beyond the blues of the spectrum: Oh, those subducting plates! Oh! Those erupting molars! Not to mention, please don’t mention, the sedimentary layers of tartar, geological ages fossilized, never seeming to erode… but mined instead. Is there gold in them thar petite tetons?

You really should smile more.

Photo by a forgotten dentist.


Here’s an update: I had my second dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine yesterday.

So far, the only definite side-effect so far has been that classic sore arm. The arm was sore for a day from first dose also, but that soreness seemed to be as much mechanical as anything else: The result of having liquid forcibly injected into a spot not intended for such. One can imagine the cells in that vicinity on the nerve-wire to the conscious “I” complaining vociferously about the insult, ending with: “Furthermore, we’re calling the police!”

Yes, thank you, that was the intent.

This time the shot seemed smaller in volume and the soreness had a burning quality that suggested something other mechanics. To pursue the earlier image, this time the T-cells were reenacting the 1968 Democratic National Convention police riot. Chicago cops seem to like that idea. And this time, there’s a virus worth clubbing.

Some folks have reported fatigue, but there was none that I noticed. Bedtime that day was at its usual time. But I ended up awakening just three hours later, and it was a wide awakening, that definitive certainty that this day’s sleep is over. Don’t bother to try to recapture sleep. It’s gone.

Unlike the first dose, I was unable to avoid the weather. It was a chill and rainy day until an hour or two after I got home. It may not have warmed much, but the rain stopped and the sun appeared.

But this did offer the amusement of watching some of my fellow CTA passengers come on board dressed for yesterday’s weather. There’s always a few.

Coming home, the bus pulled away from the Michigan Avenue bus stop just a minute or so before I got to the stop. Bummer! But there is a shelter for the stop, and the kiosk helpfully informed me that the next arrival for that bus route would be in 10 minutes.

A Story Goes With It

“Now,” Herbie says, “wait a minute. A story goes with it,” he says.

Well, of course this is a different matter entirely. I am such a guy as will always listen to a tip on a horse if a story goes with the tip. In fact, I will not give you a nickel for a tip without a story, but it must be a first-class story, and most horse players are the same way. In fact, there are very few horse players who will not listen to a tip if a story goes with it, for this is the way human nature is. So I turn and walk back to Hot Horse Herbie, and say to him like this:

“Well,” I say, “let me hear the story, Herbie.”

–“A Story Goes With It” by Damon Runyon

Within a few minutes, other buses arrived and the shelter’s population dropped to two. On a quick and careless glance, the other inhabitant might be a bag-lady about my age. On reflection, I’m not so sure, but she suddenly demanded my attention.

When this happens in the big city, it usually means that something is wanted of you. My strategy is to give that person my undivided, non-judgemental attention, even sometimes including questions to expand on some point or other. All the while, I’m listening “with a third ear” to what is included in the story, what is left out, but not whether it is true or not because I do not need to know.

“Listening with a third ear” is one of those phrases from mid-20th Century pre-feminist America, back when psychoanalytic self-help grifters suggested to women that, if their spouse was a troublesome character, the strategy to deal with it was not to dump him but rather to understand the root of his problem so as to avoid the next manifestation. In the meantime, the woman was to be alert for those “teachable moments” that would in theory enlighten said spouse to the errors of his ways. You can still find this advocated in family drama movies aimed at a religious female audience.

I don’t think it worked out happily ever after very often, but it is a useful technique.

I won’t go into her story, but it did make what turned out to be rather more than 10 minutes seem fairly brief. More to the point, it distracted her from the bite. The bus arrived and I was gone for the bus door before she could shift gears. It turns out that she just wanted to have someone pay her bus fare. And she really did not need me. She just contritely confessed to the driver that she had no money and could she ride the bus for a few blocks? She coulddah been his grandma and letting her ride would only cost the CTA a few pennies more in fuel. Why not?

She got off at Michigan Avenue and Delaware Place. Now do not jump to conclusions. She could have been going to work, even with her wheeled shopping basket. She could have been going to visit a friend. She may have been going home and home, on Delaware Place, could be an outrageously expensive condo, a tent, or a cardboard box. What is most certainly true is that she really did not want to walk in that rain.

Me neither.


Just a small update on personal affairs: I had my first dose of Pfizer COVID vaccine. The recommendation for folks in my shoes was to use one’s own healthcare provider and for me that meant a trip downtown to Northwestern. Being a reclusive geezer in any case, the errand was something of an adventure for me.

(Plus I have the usual geezer obsession with “how far to the next restroom?” You probably don’t want to know the details so I’ll just say that it is really effective at keeping one close to home. Home, as they say, there’s no place like it!)

Northwestern was running a pretty efficient operation, probably over-staffed though when dealing with folks my age or more, over-staffing probably doesn’t hurt. The hospital’s risk-management folks must be purring. Likewise, they asked us to stick around for about 15 minutes so as to not scare the pigeons if there were any short-term reactions.

The shot was administered by a seriously perky young woman. Employee perkiness usually inspires a mildly sullen attitude in me, but this time I had the feeling the perkiness was all-at-once genuine, a technique for getting through the day, as well as a behavior desired by management. Plus these geezer ears are no longer adept at separating a young woman’s voice from the dull roar of a large and active room. Which is to say, I had too much to do to have time to cop an attitude.

And it could be that even recluses need occasional company. Conversation? I dimly recall such a thing.

The shot was a bit more consequential than a flu shot. It seemed to be more voluminous. The advice to rest for a short while afterwards seems to be good as well: for a short while, the connection with my feet seemed to demand my attention. And I do still feel a bit stoned but not unwell. The word is that the second shot is usually the one that makes one feel mildly unwell. Unwell? I’m old enough to have had a vaccination for small pox. Unwell? Bah! Go get a small pox vaccination then talk to me about side effects.

But then there was also the weather. Mid-March has been downright nasty for most of the “lower forty-eight” states. Here in Chicago, Thursday started out cold, wet and seriously windy. Not bad by comparison, but it was still classic “catch your death” weather for the underdressed. I was not one of them, but there were enough of them (sweet young things of every gender) on Michigan Avenue to be a tad concerning. By the time I left the apartment, the rain had pretty much ceased so at least I dodged that.

Still, I’m looking forward to bed early this evening. In the meantime, maybe I’ll find a stupid movie on the web somewhere.

Voilà. That’s my COVID report update.

“The Kármán Line”

The Kármán Line is the formal and somewhat arbitrary altitude where outer space begins. This 24 minute drama from Oscar Sharp is a fantasy starring Olivia Colman, an actor whose work is in pretty constant demand in the U.K. The story is not really about the Kármán Line, which is used mostly as a metaphor. The story is a fable and perhaps a bit heavy-handed or wishful-thinking in spots. But the acting is superb, imho, and worth every minute of your time, even if you find yourself taking breaks from it:

For some folks, this fable might be a little too close to home. It took me three tries before I could watch it all the way through. And there’s a lot to unpack; I’m still thinking about it and am not comfortable with some of it…

“Music and Clowns”

This documentary by Alex Widdowson is about Alex’s brother, Jamie. Alex Widdowson describes the film this way:

“We rarely see portrayals of the diverse, ordinary lives of people who have Down syndrome (unless we are connected to someone who has it). Much of what we hear instead is based off a medical narrative. As prenatal screening tests improve, the birth rate of people with Downs has fallen. I believe people should be able to base life-changing decisions on accurate information. But I also feel that a diagnosis does not reflect my brother’s human worth. This film attempts to complement the medical narrative with first-hand stories of what it is like to have someone with Down syndrome in your family. Jamie has enriched our lives and I believe a society can be measured by its capacity to nurture those who are most vulnerable.”

The Right to be Healthy

This is an audio file originally from an open reel tape the late Carl Shier found in his basement when he moved from his apartment on Touhy Avenue. He gave this reel and several others to me as, at the time, I still had a functioning reel-to-reel tape deck.* Digitized, it was among the audio files posted on the Chicago DSA web site back when I was the web master:

Dr. David Stark Murray was President of the British Socialist Medical Association (renamed the Socialist Health Association in 1980) from 1951 – 1972. He was one of the architects of the British National Health Service.

Dr. David Stark Murray

In this recording, Dr. Murray gives an avuncular, insightful comparison between the British system and the U.S. system in the early 1970s, much of which remains the same. In a few cases, Dr. Murray mentions prices. To convert to 2004 Dollars, multiply by 4.5.

Dr. Murray, incidentally, did not feel the British system merited the label “socialist”; the system wasn’t good enough! He preferred the label “social medicine”.

If you can get past the paisley elevator music (sorry, Howie) used as bridge and background, this is a fascinating exposition of values and medicine that remains (sadly) all too relevant today.

“The Right to Be Healthy” was professionally produced in 1971 or early 1972. At that time, the prospect of national health insurance was a real possibility. Even President Nixon called for a National Health Insurance plan in his State of the Union Address in 1971. This “infomercial” was intended to influence the debate. There was no indication in the program or on the original tape as to the group that sponsored its production let alone how it was actually used.

There were several competing plans before Congress that year. Most of them were National Health Insurance plans (something Britain has had since the very early years of the last century); none were proposals for a National Health System. Nixon’s proposal was actually rather close to the political center among all the plans, mandating employment based coverage through private insurance carriers (subsidies available under particular circumstances), but including a government run insurance plan for those not otherwise covered with premiums scaled to income.

Nixon’s proposal would be considered the left wing of the possible in today’s Congress. Consider the similarity to “ObamaCare” and that Nixon included a “public option”. At the time, there were a variety of other proposals before Congress, including one backed by the AMA that was mostly tax credits toward the expense of insurance premiums: sound familiar? The good doctors apparently felt those too poor to pay taxes could die or beg; they certainly had no right to be healthy.

Dr. Murray specifically mentions the Kennedy – Griffiths Plan. This was to have been a national health insurance system administered by the Federal government. Everyone would have been covered. It would have been financed by employment taxes (payroll and self-employment) and by general tax revenues.

None of these proposals passed. To some extent, they were victims of the election cycle. Oddly enough, one point that Dr. Murray makes, the need for planning, was passed by Congress. The government established a system of health care planning done on a local level by “Health Systems Agencies“. These planning bodies functioned for several years in the 1970s before being deliberately strangled by a lack of financing. In some states, some degree of planning remains on a state-wide basis.

(Length: 31:13)

* I still have the deck, no longer functioning, a Tandberg TD20A. It’s available. Cheap (make an offer). But you pay the shipping. It’s heavy.

The Blood is at the Doorstep

This documentary by Eric Ljung may be a look in the rear view mirror but if you have an hour and a half, you’ll find it worth your while. There’s a lot to unpack and, as a former political activist, I’m left with some questions that the filmmakers did not choose to explore though they touched upon a few of them. This is not a criticism but rather a recognition that the politics of community organizing can be complicated and historical. You’re not going to get it all in 90 minutes.


The Blood is at the Doorstep is a story about one family’s quest for answers, justice, and reform after Dontre Hamilton is shot 14 times and killed by a Milwaukee Police Officer responding to a non-emergency wellness check.

“Filmed over the course of three years in the direct aftermath of Dontre’s death, this intimate verite documentary follows his family as they channel their grief into community organizing in an attempt to reset the narrative. Offering a painfully realistic glimpse inside a movement born out of tragedy in what the Hollywood Reporter calls ‘a clear-eyed film that finds hope within terrible circumstances, and strength
within heartbreak.'”


What have they in common,
Those who are dead and those who live,
But blood and shit and shit and blood?
Whether dead or live or live or dead…
It matters not; we’re leaking bags of it.

— Yip

Begging your pardon. This was inspired by some minor ongoing health problems that could be the subject of some geezer gossip… but I don’t know you well enough. However the circumstance brought to mind Aidan Hartley’s autobiography, The Zanzibar Chest, wherein he writes about his experiences as a war correspondent (a good and vivid read, as you might imagine). Out came this dismal bit of doggerel.

I think I’m in a bad mood.

You’re welcome.

In Need of Excitement?

Photo by Roman.

Blood pressure 97 / 58 pulse 61…

It may be that I am in need of some excitement…

Though it’s wise to be careful with one’s wishes. Back in October of 2019, I noted an ominous gathering of suits on the sidewalk outside my apartment building. This was followed by a survey by an architect. These were evil flags of pending change, and change was not likely to be good news.

Sure enough, the building management (and maybe the ownership*) changed. The original management could not be said to be friends of tenants, but they were competent, responsive and not particularly greedy. The building seemed to be a long term investment that did not need major immediate returns.

The new management company seems (too soon to be sure) to be equally competent and responsive, but they also have a gentrification record: buying properties around Rogers Park (and elsewhere), doing some amount of rehab on the units and raising the rents considerably. This seems to be the new gentrification strategy. Prior to the Great Recession, it would have been more common to turn the property into condominiums. Consequently, the new management had been the object of a community campaign over one of their new properties in Rogers Park a few years ago. That experience maybe has had an interesting consequence: The company seems far more aware of their tenants as people who need to be sold on doing business with them; the company (prior to the plague) had been organizing happy hours, book clubs, give-aways, and other social activities for tenants.

My Geezer Downsizing Project (now on covid-19 hold) was an attempt to get out in front of this, to be able to fit into a studio apartment and to raise at least some of the costs of moving. It appears as though I’ve been far too geezerly in doing this. My lease is up at the end of July and the newly advertised rate for an apartment my size in my building is 122% of what I’m paying right now. This is a lot more than the nice plague support money the IRS so kindly deposited in my account.

Of course, this is assuming they will propose charging the advertised amount for an already occupied, unrehabed apartment. But don’t accuse them of thoughtless greed if they do just that. Greed, yes, but thoughtless, no.

If I object and move, they can begin work on making the unit seem new and shiny and expensive. During the summer when students from Northwestern and Loyola are absent, during the summer of our plague depression, it may not matter much if the unit is off the market, even if Rogers Park real estate does not go back to something resembling normal come September. Just where that would leave them depends on just how abnormal things remain… but with testosterone intoxication, overcoming anything will seem possible.

If I acquiesce, the cash continues to flow… but all my income will go to rent.

What about negotiations? It’s always worth a try, but my experience has been that for all but the most trivial issues, tenants are not regarded as having any standing worthy of a response. In Chicago we have in law a “Tenants’ Bill of Rights” but elsewhere a tenant has fewer protections from abuse than your average minimum wage employee.**

But if the plan is to rehab and rent gouge (as it seems to be), they may simply decline to do a new lease or insist that I move to a different apartment within the building or within their empire.***

It’s worth noting that as a geezer, it’s a bit problematic to organize a moving party.

Eh, well. As I wrote in an earlier post: Sufficient unto the day is the haemorrhoid therein. Even if trouble is on the way, it ain’t here yet.

* The old management company said they were going out of business. The letter from the new management company referred to the building as having been sold. Whatever. Illinois has multiple ways of concealing ownership of real estate and of privately held companies incorporated in Illinois. The game, as they say, is rigged.

** The Real Estate Industry, in general, views any attempt at giving tenants “rights” to be obscenely unnatural. At best, tenants are cattle to be milked and at worst destructive, conniving thieves and, by golly, what good is government if it doesn’t kick the butts of the latter? Tenants, in general, view landlords as leeches, thieves, or incompetent bumblers. If you talk to either side, you’ll get an earful of war stories involving outrageous bad behavior. The one thing both sides agree on is that the courts do not provide relief unless, maybe, you’re all lawyered up. In any case, it’s viewed as a zero sum process: I win! You lose! Note that I do have a dog in this fight as I am a tenant and was once, briefly, a tenant organizer.

*** I hear there are some plague related temporary restrictions in Chicago at least, but I’m not hip (for example). In any case, the end of July will probably fall between the cracks.

The Painful Blue Finger of Death!

Photo by Roman.

No, not really; the title is click bait. What we have in this unfortunately crude photo is one of my digits serving as an illustration of Achenbach’s Syndrome. This is a spontaneous bruising of the hands or fingers. It really does get one’s attention as it can be fairly painful. If it is a tiny artery, the sudden pain can warrant an exclamation. Bleeding from a tiny vein is usually painless, but it can put pressure on nerve, resulting in a burning pain or numbness. As one account posted at the National Institute of Health put it: “The acute phase can be very alarming and could suggest more serious vascular disease.”

And since the symptoms somewhat overlap with possibly consequential conditions, there’s a natural tendency for naive physicians to test the heck out of it when confronted by a case even though, as the NIH article put it, the condition is benign, self limiting, and self resolving. The worst one can say about it is: The pain is a sharp but harmless reminder of one’s mortality. See? “The Blue Finger of Death!” I knew I could get old Death in there some how.

The online articles suggest the condition is more commonly found among older women, though maybe this is a sampling issue. My first experience with it was in my mid-20s. I was seated at a desk, reading, when it suddenly felt as though someone had driven a nail through the palm of my hand. And sure enough, there was a penny-sized bruise nestled in my palm.

Since then, it seems to happen a few times a year. If I’m inclined to treat it at all, it is with the immediate application of ice, the way one might treat any bruise. In my later years as someone with coronary artery disease, I might also lay back on the aspirin for a few days.