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.

Customized Abduction Vans for any Occasion

It goes without saying that right now, as you read this, somewhere out there in those United States of America, at least one van is being used as what I–and I’m sure many others–have coined, Abduction Vans. Yep, if you do the math, and I haven’t, but if you did the math, I’m sure you’d come to the same conclusion. Below is a collection of all sorts of Abduction Vans that predators, mafia, kidnappers, the world’s most twisted souls and those who aspire to be them, might be using right now for a whole host of different reasons. I was kind enough to scribe at least one reason that each of these Abduction Vans is special underneath each photo representation. It was my pleasure, so sincerely, no thanks are necessary. I take great comfort in knowing that you’ll now join me in never being able to see a van as simply just another van. Oh, and yes, it goes without saying that each shot snapped put me into harms way, even as hundreds of hipsters were milling about the same streets of Williamsburg. No predator likes his methodology of abduction photographed, and they certainly don’t care for the careful analysis of the reason or reasons for their choice of vehicular man-slaughterers.

With the exception of the industrial locks (a must) and the extended cab (a nice touch for the abduction of more than one) I’d say this is your standard everyday run-of-the-mill abduction van. Complete with creepy, almost-useless, tinted circular window that comes standard in most AVs.

This darker colored model comes complete with an almost completely illegible company name, in this case for a supposed Locksmith. Nothing says, “I’m totally not trying to throw anyone in my van for later-date-torture,” like faded/peeling low-brow blue-collar Americana signage. Nothing.

This sinister ride comes complete with not only the decoy signage, but also a heavy-duty gate lift for those predators who prefer bigger-boned folks to quench their blood thirst.

The truly bold fiends apparently aren’t beyond telling the world exactly what they’ve done, or perhaps announcing their intentions. This predator has either already taken 7 Ricks, plans to Take 7 Ricks, or is only allowed to Take 7 Ricks in total or all at once.

If you are only planning on ever committing one abduction, than perhaps it is best to just pay $19.95 for a one day rental, possibly two, rather than spend a bundle on something you’ll never use to abduct ever again. Don’t kid yourself into buying a van for just one abduction by pretending you’re going to redo your backyard deck, and lie to yourself with fibs like, “It will come in handy later for making trips to Home Depot.”

Why bother securing a facility to store your abductee or bringing him or her back to your spiffy, OCD-clean apartment? Maybe you like Mother Nature and are feeling like performing your cerimonial amputations in the great outdoors. You’ll need a Camper Abduction Van for that. Heck, you can scoop someone up and hit the road for quite sometime–putting ample distance between the two of you and their loved ones as well as the search party they’ve surely formed back home. ROAD TRIP!

A sure fire way to keep suspicion of your misdeeds to a minimum is to perform your abducting in a van too stupid looking for anyone to suspect anything other than the notion that you have abysmal taste in modes of transportation. Nice play Ol’ Boy!

This one might appear to be just another fake-company van, but it is actually soooo much more! A van that features a wonderful word, in this case, “Majestic,” plants a subliminal brain-clouding worm of doubt, creating feelings associated with the meaning of lovely words, before potential worry-warts can even get their paranoia going–leaving them feeling fuzzy and wonderful inside even after you’ve snatched them!

Interested in grabbing tons of tikes off the streets or old relics of bygone eras that are fans of The Partridge Family? Or Both? This is the abduction dream you’ve been waiting for!

Maybe you just want to try a few first with tiny dogs or cats before you make the big leap and pricey, but necessary, purchase to go after bigger game. Why not a make a few bucks advertising local businesses on the side of your pre-human-serial-killing-exploits dream machine?!

And finally, and exactly how I’d roll personally–if I had any intentions of joining the time honored tradition of People Hunting for Sport–the Abduction Van that absolutely screams, “I am an Abduction Van,” so loudly, in fact, that any passer-byers will immediately dismiss it as far too obvious without ever giving it a second thought. Though, I can assure you I certainly gave it one, if not two, or possibly six more thoughts before I got home.

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.

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.

What’s all this Fizz About?

A quick glance at the morning paper would suggest that New Yorkers have–as I’m almost positive had been hoped for by Bloomberg and his cronies–soundly rejected the notion of a full-on ban of sugary beverages over sixteen ounces. I submit here, and I’m sure I’m not the first, that this had likely been the desired effect of the overly bold declaration that your sweet sugar water in mass would be removed from shelves. Has it occurred to you that perhaps the first step in getting people to accept a tax on the very same nectar beverages would be to craft a scenario in which we all started to see a soda-tax as a reasonable concession by Bloomberg and the city, in the face of our pained cries against a full-on ban?

Will we be reading about this for months, watching as they make it appear they are listening to the fine soda junkies of this fair city, while they are secretly galvanizing support for at least a small tax to be bestowed upon our vats of liquid glee? I can’t say. But I’ll be the first to say I told you so, when and if this particular bout of Friday morning Level 9 Paranoia proves to be prophetic. I’ve no skin in this particular game, as my own brand of canned/bottled happiness is of the chemical variety. D.C. for-evuh.

Memorial Elevasion

Last Friday morning I came bebopping down from my Jefferson-esque deluxe apartment in the sky filled with a special kind of piss and vinegar that only the promise of a three day weekend can impose upon a stinkin’ thinkin’ fella like myself. LIke many New Yorkers, I was only mere hours away from hopping into some form of transportation to skedaddle from my Point A to a Country B in order to rid myself of a little of the city’s oppressive this and thats. My mood was aces, my demeanor, spirited, and as I bounced off the elevator into the lobby to head out into the world I might have even been humming Matthew Wilder’s Break My Stride. “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, oh no…” and so forth.

On the other side of my building’s lobby’s wall of glass widows and electronically locked double doors were two towering gentleman in orange jumpsuits. They had tool belts, tool boxes, and each smoked a cigarette–a sure sign of questionable character–while standing there, peering into the lobby like sharks on the other side of a flimsy Jaws sequel aquarium attraction looking for the rube who’d set them loose–and after a moment of hesitation, one in which I rapidly considered recoiling back into the elevator while feigning a look that communicated “Oops, I forgot something,” indirectly to these mindless stealing machines–I decided to be their Dennis Quaid.

Precision Elevator was embroidered on the left chest pocket of their matching garb. A nice touch I thought, and as I inched closer I could see that there were indeed all manner of tools in their belts and boxes–sinister in their appearance, think torture table instrumentation from any spy, slasher, or film about dentistry. As I made it through the first set of doors into the foyer, I tried to decide if I the adult thing to do was inquire about credentials. After all, it was the start of a holiday in which countless city dwellers abandon their abodes, and posing as elevator repairmen seemed like a clever way to get inside a building with the very tools required for picking the cheap locks contractors had outfitted my condo building with, if not every condo building in greater Williamsburg.

I opened the second door to the outside world, and before I could utter the first syllable of my credentials request, the first gentleman entered and in the thickest of Russian accents said, “We are here to look at elevator.” He hadn’t even bothered to put out his smoke before joining me in the foyer, and his buddy was quick to put his foot in the door just in case I decided to try any last minute slam-and-go maneuvers–you know the kind; where you let a door close on someone and act like you had your head so far up your own ass that you totally missed seeing them there, so you act hurried and give the person a shrug while holding your cellular to your ear that says, “I’m sorry, so busy I can’t even come back to open the door for you.” Aren’t we all armed with that routine?

They had gained entry, but they hadn’t made me a believer. I decided to situate myself under the steel awning over the entrance of my building under the guise of having a smoke while texting in order to assess what options I was left with. I began mentally cataloging everything of worth in our own apartment. There wasn’t much I cared about losing to these thieves. We live an almost ridiculously minimal existence at this particular address, so if they started or finished with our unit the joke would be on them. If they got around to ransacking our apartment in the middle of all the others, its lack of quality thievables probably wouldn’t have the same impact. But then I remembered our cat, Target. If they were to break in, there was a good chance she’d escape and probably end up in a ditch by the side of a road somewhere, meowing for money, and doing unspeakable things to try to make it by in a cruel world she’d never asked to have been born in.

Panic set in, and I debated going back into the lobby to demand those credentials. I’d noticed the two of them weren’t doing anything other than milling around inside the lobby and staring back at me. I figured they were trying to decide if they should wait for me to leave before emptying out this modern day Whoville, or worse, come back out and throw me into a van they most certainly had parked around the corner (for I saw no van out front while trying to assess their legitimacy) only to deal with me later. I could leave right then, with my life, and hope that the cat might bury herself under the bed until they were gone–this seemed like my best option at that point.

Then, as I was feigning playing words with friends, I remembered, “You have a working cell phone now idiot, and Ariele put the super’s number in there for you.” A simple text was made to that very gentleman, it read something like this: “Hey dude, it’s Peter from Unit XYZ, I just let a couple of dudes in to repair the elevator and I’m concerned that they might be Memorial Day thieves of some sort.” I hit send and waited impatiently. Tick, tock, tick, tock…

“Cool. I’m here. I’ll come get them.” He wrote back.

I would say I was relieved, and I was for a moment, but it was truly short lived and any peace about the situation was almost immediately replaced with the realization that the super was in on it too. And barring that scenario, the elevator needed repairing? When would its cables be snapping, and would me or the Mrs. be the unfortunate rider on that fateful plunge. I headed to work and the sweet docile tones of Wilder’s Break My Stride never returned.

Cereal Killers and Mooood Altering Drugs

If you live in New York City, hitting a bodega for a quick food item in between large scale grocery runs is–at least for me–nearly a daily occurrence. This morning found me making an early morning dash to our nearest mini-mart to pick up a quart of milk to better our coffees with my dears. Even as I am gifted with the very diseased mind that allows me to publish this prose, I still don’t always pay close attention to the items I grab. And, unlike so many who do, when I do pay attention it isn’t just in search of expiration dates–spoiled milk isn’t likely to kill me after all. Seven, maybe eight, times out of ten–when I’m of clear mind–I’ll grab the second, third, or even fourth item behind the ones prominently displayed up front. If you were going to randomly off someone, just to see if you could–or at the very least make them sick, again just to see if you could–tampering with food items the masses purchases so blindly, with very little regard as to their origins, seems like a totally legitimate mechanism to me. That I think this, and admit to thinking it, often leaves me wondering if any readers out there have come to believe that all the things I write about are actually things that I go out and do. A natural byproduct of this blog has been the introduction of several new additions to my brain’s catalog of “Things to Watch Out For.” And high on that list is: Someone out there will eventually come to believe that a mind this demented couldn’t simultaneously be on the up and up with his own life. And if I were to write about, say, how I’ve come to believe that it is possible some sick soul might replace the soap in a Starbuck’s soap dispenser with his month’s long collection of spank aftermath, just to delight in the idea that some suit paying six bucks for a frozen bevi will wash his hands in millions of mini versions of himself–well, will someone out there decide that simply because I’ve thought it, I’ve done it. It would only be natural for this person to then decide to seek me out, take care of the problem he has decided is me, and become some sort of underground hero to all of about ten people, which would be enough, because we are living in an age where it doesn’t require many friends to feel famous. And in the end, I’m lying in a shallow grave–breathing my last breaths buried alive since he determined that was a just punishment–because I thought it’d be a good idea to share about believing it was possible at some point that someone would replace the charms in me not-so-Lucky Charms with something less holy than marshmallows.