I had my wisdom teeth removed on Monday, only about 25 years later than I probably should have. What can I say, I tend to put things off. Thankfully, it went much better than I was afraid it would, although the actual process was pretty disconcerting. I elected to have a local anesthetic only, rather than being “put out,” the thought of which gives me a major case of the wiggins. We all have our irrational fears, don’t we? The local was effective enough — I felt very little in the way of pain — but the numbness wasn’t total, and I was completely aware of everything the oral surgeon was doing. Especially when he was prying underneath the stubborn bottom teeth with a miniature crowbar, and wiggling the pliers back and forth until the little buggers finally cracked free of my jawbone. And then there was the unforgettable snapping sensation when one of them broke, followed by more prying to get the remaining portion out. I have to admit, I took a certain macho pride in remaining awake and enduring all this, especially after the surgeon patted me on the chest and told me I was very brave, and very few of his patients elect to do it that way. Brave or not, though, the adrenaline surge left my hands shaking and my heart racing for a good 30 minutes after the last tooth came out, and I really dislike that sensation.
My recovery has been smoother than expected, too. Several friends had warned me to expect the absolute worst, and I took the entire week off on their advice. But as it happens, I’ve had very little pain, bleeding, or swelling, and I started experimenting with actual chewable food only two days after the surgery. So much for all those horror stories I’ve heard.
Still, I’m never one to complain about time spent away from the office, and I’ve managed to get a lot done around the house in the past couple days. Specifically, I’ve made some significant steps forward in the overwhelming and seemingly never-ending process of reclaiming my living space from all the crap I’ve accumulated over several decades of packrattery. Today, for instance, I’ve been going through boxes of audio cassettes — most of which I long ago upgraded to CD, none of which I’ve actually listened to in years — pulling out the small handful that have some sentimental value as objects and tossing all the rest in the donation box. It’s been an interesting walk down memory lane. Generally speaking, I don’t give up my preferences easily… if I once liked something, there’s a very good chance I still like it. But not always.
For instance, is it really possible I was once an Air Supply fan? Apparently, as I have two of their albums and a greatest-hits package. I don’t think I’ve had the slightest interest in hearing Culture Club since 1985 or thereabouts. And given my modern-day disdain toward country music, the four Alabama tapes I’d forgotten I ever owned were something of a surprise. And then of course there were the two Chicago tapes. I’ve loathed Chicago since that one horrible summer back in my multiplex days, when their greatest-hits CD played for three months straight, every single day, from open to close, continuously rubbing salt in the wound of a recent breakup with every single overwrought ballad and maudlin heartbreak song until finally one afternoon… something happened to that disc. Now, I’m not admitting to anything here. All I’ll say is that CDs look remarkably pretty the way they flash in the sun as they sail off a movie-theater roof across a parking lot that looks impossibly black and glossy with its fresh coating of asphalt. Needless to say, those Chicago tapes aren’t anything I want to hold onto. (For the record, they were Chicago 16 and Chicago 17, every Chicago album being oh-so-imaginatively numbered, rather than titled.)
But then there are the tapes that still actually mean something to me, the ones that hold volumes of sense-memory wrapped in their clunky plastic casings, their smeary labels, and their too-tiny cover art. Handling Olivia Newton-John’s Physical once again reminds me of how deliciously rebellious I felt listening to something that got the local prudes all huffy, how early I made my choice to stand apart from Utah’s dominant culture, and how much of that choice came from simply liking things people around me told me I shouldn’t like. (Yes, Olivia Newton-John was once subversive here in the squeaky-clean Utah of the early ’80s, as ridiculous as that now sounds.) Asia’s Alpha brought back long afternoons of solitary adolescent brooding on my old backyard rope swing, my refuge from the confusing, hurtful world of middle school. The long out-of-print soundtrack to the long-forgotten movie Teachers triggers images of times spent with my buddy Kurt Stephensen, who gave me that one for Christmas one year. Bob Seger’s Night Moves did constant duty on my old Walkman as I stalked the hallways of Bingham High in my army-surplus trenchcoat, my hands jammed into my pockets and a pair of cheap 7-Eleven Ray-Ban knockoffs covering my eyes (these days, I’d no doubt get thrown out as a security risk, looking like that). Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night recalls afterschool make-out sessions with a certain young lady in the back of my ’70 T-Bird, parked in South Jordan City Park with the hot spring sunshine flooding through the windshield. Little River Band’s First Under the Wire was the soundtrack for several long summer-vacation nights spent chewing the fat with the Skinner boys as we camped in my family’s boat underneath the endless Milky Way. Sammy Hagar’s Cruisin’ & Boozin’ was the first (and last) item I ever shoplifted. Karma got even with me, though; the tapedeck in my Dad’s Bronco ate the damn thing the first time I tried to play it. I managed to pull the tape out of the machine without breaking it, but it was stretched and never sounded quite right again.
And then there’s the homemade mixtape with the magazine-ad photo of a sailboat for a cover. That one stirs up feelings I once had for the same girlfriend whose rejection contributed to the Multiplex Chicago Incident; she made the tape for me when she left for college, the transition of our “perfect” romance (or so I believed it was) into a long-distance love affair, and the beginning of the end for us. I recognize only one song on it, Modern English’s “Melt With You.” She and I never did share much in the way of music.
So while the majority of these dusty old outmoded forms of media are on their way to the thrift store — assuming they even want them at this late date — there are some that are going right back into the shoebox they came out of. I’m trying to amend some of my obsessive materialism… but let’s not get crazy here!