Hostel Dentistry

Blame Delta Airlines, that’s my motto. Sunday evening I took a red-eye to Prague, CZ. When I got on the plane, I had nothing wrong going on in my mouth other than the nearly lifeless tastebuds smoking gifts me that currently inhabit the surface of my tongue. But when I awoke, there were the beginning inklings of what I surmised might be a loose filling. How Delta Airlines is responsible for what by Wednesday had turned into a full-on tooth ache isn’t really important. It’s simply important to have someone to blame, and I have chosen them and not the tobacco companies, the M&Ms I crunched upon relentless pre-nap, nor am I willing to blame the age of that particular filling, which I think has been riding around in my head for over twenty years now. It’s a trooper that filling! A gutsy little metallic mofo that refuses to let go and die. How do I know that it is still clinging to what’s left of that tooth like a champ? Because I caved and had the production company book me a visit to a dentist here in Prague.

I was pretty proud of myself, “This is a real adult move,” I said to no one with near visible self-high-fives. “An adult doesn’t let everything he thinks of the Eastern European Block, that he has based almost solely on the flick Hostel, prevent him from seeking the pre-emptive treatment he deserves.” My rah-rah-Rosch moment was short lived, and slowly the very things that movie and its successors taught me about the inhabitants of this part of the world grew, until they were large enough to stomp any delight in my decision. That said, it was too late to turn back. This whiney baby had made quite the fuss about his tooth, and arrangements to see a specialist had been made on his behalf–to tell them I wasn’t going to go through with it might brand me a liar about toothaches, and that’s a particular type of liar I aspire not to be. Filthy buggers that lot.

So, I laid my head to my pillow, quite late I might add, and did the only sensible thing a man in my situation could do: I watched a slightly crappy, but full version, of The Descent on YouTube. My mind quickly relented and those slimy cave-suckers all but erased any thoughts I was entertaining about the possible outcomes of my visit to the dentist a short six hours from that moment.

This morning I was greeted by a lovely woman by the name of Veronika. She assured me she would sit with me to translate, and I found that reassuring, but I wasn’t entirely convinced that she wouldn’t be in on the sale of my body to others for the sport of torture. Perhaps she was too nice about it all, and as we took a cab, instead of a sanctioned production van, to a part of Prague covered in the most sure tell that indicates bad parts of town, graffiti–graffiti I couldn’t even understand at that–I began to more than suspect, and indeed decided to believe that she wasn’t above dropping off some ad schmuck from the states at a place of the illest repute imaginable (Cameron, I know illest isn’t a word, go with it).*

We went inside, the office itself smelled delightful. “Very nice,” I thought. And then began a brain loop of an old Wendy’s commercial where there is an Eastern European fashion show taking place–”Svim Vear, Very Nice. Svim Vear, Very Nice.” My escort introduced me to the dentist himself. That struck me as odd, and yet I proceeded into the next room. I lay down upon the chair, a horrendous looking beast of a contraption next to all manner of deadly instruments, nothing unusual about that. Veronika left the room. The moment of truth: This would be where I finally met my Level 9 Destiny, I would be dead soon, but victorious when my current partner was forced to utter at my funeral, “I guess he was right, that poor bastard was right.” We’ve made an arrangement to this, and I trust he’ll come through for me.

The dentist asked me to open my mouth in better English than the Starbucks baristas I hold so dear back in NYC. And so I did. He proceeded to slam a small hammer into the tooth in question, a gigantic pain coursed through my skull. “That’s the one!” I shouted. And he agreed then said, “Let’s have an X-ray, shall we?”

I got up and followed him to another room, farther removed from the front desk, and with my companion nowhere to be found. He opened a door. There was an X-ray machine there, and it looked legit, but I still couldn’t shake the absurd idea that maybe they’d tweaked it to render you unconscious upon firing it up. No struggle, no messes. Just ZAP, and I’d be ready to be moved to the dungeon that lay below that mini-mall. He exited the room, and the machine began to whirr. I took a deep breath, had a momentary panic about being radiated, and then it was over.

He opened the door, smiled large, and asked me to come have a look with him back in the first room. By now, my fears were subsiding, and I was ready to admit that today would not be the day I’d concocted at all.

After politely telling me that he saw noting, and that there was little else that could be done, he sent me on my way to pay and rejoin Veronika so that she may see me back to my hotel. And so I did.

I asked her if it was possible to walk back to my hotel, as I didn’t believe there was much point in allowing this charade to continue. It was very nice of them to make sure all my teeth were in great shape to charge a much higher price to the suit who’d pay top dollar to destroy a perfectly good pair while wearing a pig’s head in a dark dungeon and all. Very nice indeed. She seemed puzzled by my desire to forgo the cab ride back, but agreed to drop me off half-way so that I could enjoy a perfectly nice stroll on a beyond perfectly nice day here. I’d tell you that I thought this was nice of her, but a more accurate way to end this story would be tell you that I am pretty sure that just about the time I was ten feet from the cab and headed into a menacing looking park, I heard her say, “You’ve von for now Mizter Rozch, enjoy your valk, for it will be you’re very last.”

That I have turned her into some sort of vampire-talker at this point is a sure indication I’ve got no business finishing posts at one in the morning in foreign countries in the hopes of hitting my commuting friends back in the states in time for them to be able to read this post before climbing aboard their respective trains.

Thanks for taking this ride with me friends.

* My nephew assures me that actually illest is, in fact, a word. Thanks Cam.

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Which of the Seven Circles of Hell?

“I don’t think I should have to work overtime to convince anyone that I deserve future kudos. But, this is the world I live in. Anyone who doesn’t religiously talk-up their own bullshit, no matter the validity of its purpose, the enjoyment it provides others, or the sincerity of its intent on the betterment of life or mankind, is left sitting amongst the also-rans. Barnum couldn’t have foreseen the utterly egomaniacal nature and ease of future communications when he said, ‘Without promotion something terrible happens: nothing.’ It is no longer enough to be fantastic. You have to be fantastic at letting people know just how fantastic you are, and I hate it.”    – Elisa Hardwick, from my forthcoming novel But I Love You.

To quote one of my own characters from a book I’ve not even finished might just be the epitome of the very type of behavior the quote itself references. But alas, I’m a man who enjoys having people read what he writes–and to some extent it matters very little whether they enjoyed having read it, or found what I had written loathsome, dull, or unrealistic. In the latter instances perhaps I get the tiniest bit of satisfaction in knowing that I’ve managed to trick them into wasting some of their day on me. It’s a dark part of my personality that I currently work very hard at squashing with a trained professional on a comfy couch on the Upper East Side. I’ll get there.

To shout about the things I put out into the world goes against everything my sobriety and my leanings towards Buddhist practices would have me do. Indeed, my own preference would be to put content in the form of books, music, musings, ads, and the like out into the world for it to be found naturally, on its own time, and because others made the discovery of it serendipitously and then shouted about it themselves. But, I’m not perfect. I don’t aspire to be perfect, and perhaps I’d be labelled a fool by most to not use what life throws at me in order to give my other pursuits their best possible shot at an existence beyond simply existing. I try not to let what others might think of me dictate my actions, but I do let it inform them.

So, is it wrong to post the commercial I wrote for AXE, here on my blog, because it is garnering so much attention and in theory could lead to a few people finding and purchasing my novel? Maybe. Maybe not. For those of you who share my disgust in regards to self-indulgent, self-congratulatory postings, tweets, and the like (Yes, I do it. A lot of it, but it doesn’t mean I care for it) perhaps you can take some solace in knowing that so far my triumphs in the realm of advertising, present and past, have not meant squat to the readers of fiction. Even fiction that is based in the complex realities of who I used to be.

But, maybe it’s only because they haven’t been exposed to it yet. I am still surprised when people who I consider close friends reveal that they only just found out that I wrote a book. And so, at the risk of having perhaps only myself condemn me for all eternity, I have decided to embed the Susan Glenn commercial here as well–tag the fuck out of it–and maybe earn a few more followers of my regularly scheduled programming. It’s worth a shot, no? It’s also important that any readers of this post know this: I do not consider myself solely responsible for the creation of this branded film. It was only through the rigorous efforts of many people, both agency and client, that a film the likes of this one could ever make it out into the world. And so I thank them all, and last, but most definitely not least, I thank the brain of my good friend and partner, Nate Able, for co-creating the idea from scratch with me. It was our baby, and it’s nice to see it doing so well so early in the world.

Enjoy, and if you feel so inclined, why not take a chance on my book. Good day. I said, Good day.

The Person You Most Suspect

I have been sitting on a particular subject for a post for quite some time now. I guess when you are really postive that a certain someone is quietly observing you and everything you do–which would only naturally include punching your name into a Google search box in order to inform themselves about you–the idea of blogging about them and what you think they are up to as it pertains to you, could have dire consequences. The most probable consequence might be nothing more than their hurt feelings, though I might suggest hurt feelings can be the impetus to a whole slew of scenarios that unravel because  you’ve mischaracterized some soul who wasn’t up to anything close to what you’d been surmising–other than the part about plugging your name into that big-brother search box. On the other hand, maybe you make the post, as I am now, and that person reads it and decides to put their plan to enslave you, own you, torture you, and finally eat you into supersonic hyperdrive.

Yes, if you read that carefully, you could distill this episode down to one simple paranoid thought: Is this person basically Hannibal, and is he or she currently engaged in the time-honored sociopath’s orgasmic ritual of allowing me to go on living.

You see, the thrill isn’t just in the capture, the pain, and the kill–no, if what I’ve read about some of history’s best and brightest regarding serial killers is true–then a big part of the plan for you (or in this case me) is them watching you go about living your life like normal, all the while delightfully relishing in the not-so-misguided belief that it is they who are ultimately allowing you to keep doing just that. Sick as that sounds, if they are committed to their cause, then ultimately it isn’t really untrue is it? If someone is actually sitting around, debating the date they will put operation extinguish-your-existence into effect–well, unless you yourself have identified the individual and are making preparations to combat them on that fateful day, it would seem to me that they do, in fact, deserve to feel like they hold all the power.

So, let’s say you are near one-hundred percent positive that an individual, who in some social sense you “know,” is mapping out the remaining days of your life in their own-blood-ink onto the pages of a diary wrapped in the human skin of some, but not all, of their previous victims. Hold that thought for a second, and then answer this question: what are you prepared to do about it? (Not sure what movie that is from, but Morgan Freeman’s voice comes to mind).

If you are me–and thankfully for you, you are most definitely not me–you walk the line of believing your gut and dismissing it as just another one of your schizo internal ramblings; a fabrication based on bad films, nicotine, and the over-consumption of chocolates and aspartame infused beverages. And nearly every single day you lean in favor of the seemingly logical notion that anything so perverse couldn’t be true of anyone, and that your imagination is simply getting the better of you. Thus, you do very little about it. You ignore the gut feeling that nature gave you in order to sense impending doom so that you may run as far away from it as possible. You write a blog post about it instead, believing that airing that particular scenario to the world will somehow fortify the more sane notions in your skull that suggest that anything your gut might be telling you can’t be believed–and that your life is not a movie, and fiction, despite what they say, is still stranger than the truth.

And maybe, just maybe, you sit back and hit the publish button on your blog–in the hopes that admitting to all of the above will be seen by said person, and that he or she will become disillusioned with you now that they know that you know and thus some of the thrill of the sport of it all has been diminished for them.

After all, would you still eat a pig if right before you went to slaughter him, it said, “I knew you were going to eat me all along.” If your answer is yes, then perhaps you are the very person my post served to foil, though apparently most miserably.

Beep, Beep. She’s Dead.

I run to clear my mind. That makes me one of millions who do it for the very same reason. Just how much crazy can actually be removed during a run of three or four miles is debatable. Most days, if I’m blaring my music loud enough and mimicking the structure of what the guitar player in each track is doing with his hands, with my own left and right hand, I can put a good deal of my lunacy off for the duration of the run itself. But, somedays–like yesterday morning–no amount of music, pounding, increase in speed, or anything else will remove the thoughts I’d rather not have. And, again like yesterday, too often the impetus of something disturbing only occurs to me because I am out there running in the first place.

I’ll admit, yesterday morning I had the music down pretty low. I was already feeling a bit skittish about the possibilites of either vehicular manslaughter or early morning muggery. So, let’s call the volume of my iPod Shuffle a four out of ten. My wife was out running as well, which is also the norm, but had left sometime after my own start–so I had no visual on her, and due to our recent return from vacation (cat burglars, you missed your chance. our cat is still here by the way) Ariele’s house keys were still at the sitter’s. Girl is always on my mind, but knowing I’d have to keep a keen ear out for her return to our abode was the thought leading the majority of the crazy parade marching within my skull. Would I be showering? Would I be on the roof? Is the buzzer broken, and how long would she be locked out? Basic stuff.

As I crossed an intersection, with the light, a lone black SUV with tinted windows sat awaiting the green indication that would allow its driver to proceed to their destination. For no particular reason that I can figure, the driver honked his horn–beep, beep. There wasn’t anyone else around at that ungodly hour, this is Williamsburg, Brooklyn after all and hipsters–even the ones who jog, and many do–don’t usually patrol the street prior to seven AM. After a quick scan for the intended recipient of those devilish toots, I made a quick spin to see if the driver was trying to flag me down for directions, or if it was even someone I knew using their horn to say, “good morning.”

Couldn’t make anyone out, there were no additional honks, and so I continued on my way. So did the SUV, making a right turn at that intersection and fading off into the distance behind me. Panic set in, and in less than two seconds my brain decided it knew exactly why the SUV’s driver had made those honks. Clearly the driver had Ariele bound and gagged in the back, and either she had managed to scream my name or, and far more likely, her abductor had been tailing us for sometime and already knew that I was her husband. Being the sick twist that is an entry level requirement for purveyors of such misdeeds, he had decided to take the game up a notch–in his head, his own thinking was, “I’ll give this guy a sporting chance. I’ll honk the horn, if he has either the courtesy or balls to come over to the SUV to see if I need something, I’ll release his wife and never bug them again. And if he doesn’t, well, then what happens to his wife is meant to be–I gave him a chance, one last chance to save his bonnie lass (he’s a Depp fan apparently) and he blew it.”

I didn’t bother spinning around to chase the SUV to at least get a plate number, something I might have done a decade ago. Nor did I spin around and attempt to immediately find my wife out there, to verify her safety–zig zagging up and down every block at double speed in the hopes of catching at least a glimpse of her to reassure myself that my brain simply hates me and gets a kick out of making the rest of my body perform ridiculous tasks. Ohhhh… if I didn’t need that brain for other things, I’d give it a good punching for certain (shake of head to self).

Ariele made it home of course, which was a real relief to our cat, because in the time between my safe arrival home and hers, I had informed our cat that it was possible her mother wasn’t coming home that day. Laying the ground work for the kitty version of the seven stages of grief–after all, they are like twenty stages in human stages.

Improbable vs. Probable, and the role of Preparation

Full Disclosure: I’m out for blood. In this particular instance blood in the form of restitution. I am not writing this post solely to achieve this goal, I’ve got to write about something, and the gift of Level 9 Paranoia is unapologetic about its ability to infuse itself into nearly any inane occurrence I might experience out there in my world. So, do I want to rave on like a lunatic about how disappointed I am to have arisen this morning to find that Jet Blue didn’t make good on its promise to deliver our luggage yesterday evening? Of course I do. There’s not much of value in that one bag that my wife and I had co-packed with just enough possessions to cover our four day journey to Austin to see our family and a few friends. Also, I am far from cranky about it. I’m super appreciative that we made it to our destination in one piece. And, if I have been informed correctly, since it has been twenty-four hours since we arrived, and we still don’t have our stuff, we can and will submit our receipts (up to sixty dollars) to Jet Blue in order to cover the items we deemed essential to not losing a whole day to the incompetence of someone, somewhere-who made sure our bag took a trip from John F. Kennedy Airport to Seattle, via Long Beach, and then back.

Since the minute my wife delivered the news about our missing bag to me while I stood in a long rental car line, I’ve been wearing a pretty shiny optimism hat about the whole thing. And while I’m a little saddened that no one from Jet Blue bothered to phone us last night to tell us our worldlies still weren’t on the way, and actually hadn’t even left the airport yet, I’m living the advice I had tattooed on my arm five or six years ago and surrendering to however this plays out. And in the mean time, we’ve been having a sick-good time out at LBJ. It’s hard to be upset when you are surrounded by so much love, beauty, and are saddled atop a bright yellow crotch rocket (sans wheels) skimming across the lake while taking in the smiles of family and strangers. I’ll live without this bag, and live well-and if you’ve stayed with me this far, I’ll be grateful that this more than probable scenario and inconvenience is all that came to pass. Because, on the 3rd of July and a few of the days prior, I had an infinite amount of less-than-probable situations playing out in my head that revolved around one of my favorite things to do: travel via flying machines and deal with all that entails.

The LAST thing I’d given any significant thought to was having Jet Blue lose our bag, even as I am aware that it happens to people every day. I don’t care why it happens, it just happens, and no amount of uprising against the airlines and their inability to make absolutely sure your bag makes the same journey you do, is going to completely remove the chance of it happening from the travel-equation. Will I check luggage again? Yes. I’ll roll the dice again, confident that lightning does, indeed, strike twice-but dammit, I like my liquids and gels, and I also enjoy the illusion of roaming freedom that I experience when my hands are free of any handles, cups, bags, satchels, and the like. It’s a physiological feeling that works a psychological number on me in airports and even out in the world-for me, no matter where I am headed, having my hands free of any responsibility leaves me feeling really really swell about dealing with all the other improbabilities my conjuring mind might claim to foresee.

I’m not going to bore you with every little twist I dreamed up before getting on what hopefully won’t be our last successful flight. For one thing, my laptop’s charger is in that cursed but well-traveled piece of luggage. And, if you’ve been paying attention to me here, than you should have a pretty good idea of what kinds of things I had prepared for, and then you can laugh extra hard at me for having given zero thought to the most obvious of them all.

Gas Powered Cement Saw: WINNER!

I’m a big fan of horror flicks. I’m not a gore-porn-aficionado, no sir. Frankly I don’t need the blood, guts, squirts, and pulsing organs to be afraid. One would think that given my very real problem of having a brain that constantly conjures the worst case scenarios possible for any situation, that I’d steer clear of anything that puts new ideas into my head. Quite the contrary friends. In my mind, feeding my brain with as many of the demented possibilities dreamed up by others is a methodology of preparedness that moves me up the Darwinian chain. I’m pretty confident that my exposure to the likes of American Psycho, Se7en, Hostel, Motel Hell, and the what-must-be thousands of others of films I’ve allowed these peepers to ‘enjoy’ have kept me alive from time to time. Very possibly they have kept me from doing things I might have loved to do too, like long solo backpacking adventures in third world countries, or following some hot-mess home for the night back in my bachelor daze–thanks a bunch Fatal Attraction.

There is a film, not seen by many, that was titled High Tension here in the states. It was a French horror flick that until the end had seemed like a total rip-off of the story Dean Koontz presented in his book Intensity. I’ll spare you most of the details, but let’s just say the twist that the writers, producers, and directors attempted to pull-off wasn’t disimilar from the character Donald’s film, The 3, in the Nicholas Cage picture, Adaptation. In High Tension there is a grandiose climax featuring a gas powered cement saw, and until I’d viewed the film, I’d not once given thought to what a device like that might be capable of in the wrong hands. It gives me shivers just thinking about it.

This morning, not unlike many times since my return from the jungles of Costa Rica, I found myself walking down a street only to be confronted with construction workers performing miracles on the streets of Manhattan with their mechanical wizardry. The buzz made by a saw hell-bent on carving up the manmade ground beneath cars and feet here makes a wickedly sick and recognizable scream. Crossing the street is always an option, but who is to say the guys wielding those mini-monsters aren’t quite a bit faster than me and on the backend of a bender that’s left them disoriented, angry and confused? So, like each time before it, this morning I reversed direction, marched back up the street I’d just come down, to shift my path one block over where at least I might stand a chance of making it to work without missing appendages. A minor inconvenience to be sure, but I couldn’t help thinking that in the game of Rosch vs. Gas Powered Cement Saw, the match tally is currently 0-7, possibly more–I don’t keep count of my crazy, I just live with it.

Agents of Sloth

My paranoia never leaves me completely, but it’s seemed relatively quiet upstairs the last few days–if I didn’t know better I’d say the curse had been lifted. I hadn’t give much thought to my current state of bliss, at least what bliss is for this guy, until I started formulating ideas for this very post. It wasn’t the first time my mind put wondering against the notion that some day I’d not be able to write for this blog anymore, and that perhaps I’d have to change the title to Level 9 Happy Goodness Times. In and of itself, that thought proves things are still cranking up there. The battle between my brain and me rages on, but at times it plays a quieter game–moves to destroy my sanity with the more subtle themes of self-doubt and dread. I think my psyche knows that if it positioned every evil twist, potential fate, and the doings of others as over-the-top Hollywood blockbusters, that in time those fabrications wouldn’t impact me with the same ferocity. And so, this past weekend, it decided to play me a quieter head-film, in the vein of an Indie feature that dwells in subject matter one might describe as more probable in the real world, and only seemingly less heinous due to the lack of guts, blood, and booming soundtrack.

I spent a great deal of time working on my next novel on both Saturday and Sunday. It was equal parts rewarding and frustrating, not too disimilar from the efforts I put against My Dead Friend Sarah, but perhaps with the additional creative-crushing notion kicking around that the table of my life has now been set with some lovely place settings, at least according to some, and this second book will serve as the metaphorical meal for those waiting patiently at this table to consume it. Yeah, there might be a little more pressure this time around–no one even knew I was writing the last time, and even I had no expectations going in to that one, other than to complete a rough draft of a full story in a timely fashion, rather than give up just twenty-two or thirty pages in, like had been the case in previous attempts made by a younger, and often pig-stink drunk or hungover from having been pig-stink drunk, version of myself.

If you care to know, I can tell you that in spite of the laundry list of thoughts that worked feverishly to prevent me from putting pen to paper on the next book, I was still able to get quite a bit done by committing to the doing of it as though the results of my labor meant nothing to me or anyone else–even though they eventually will. Only by committing to writing was I able to ignore the following gems of delusion that seek to keep me lethargic and in a permanent state of sloth: This story had been told before, You can’t write in 3rd Person, People were just being nice about the first one, Did you read what you wrote in the last chapter–laughable Rosch, The title is taken, The title is taken because someone is writing the exact same plot as you at this very minute and will publish their story long before you are finished, You are missing out on a great day out there that could be your last, You aren’t getting paid squat to write this book–mind telling me what the point is friend, Wouldn’t our time be better spent coming up with a gadget people really need, Being a writer isn’t a real job Peter, stop wasting time on this and let’s butter-up that resume with actual accomplishments.

It’s going to be a long, slightly different journey than the last. Here’s to hoping the part of my brain that likes me continues to do just enough to beat back the parts that most definitely don’t.