My dentist looked at me as though he knew a secret, as if he knew something about my underpants and extra-virgin olive oil. He twisted his face and covered his mouth and whispered to the mousy assistant, "dry socket." She winked and nodded knowingly to him, put on a brave face for me, and shouted, "Everything's going to be okay!" A single tear crept from her lazy eye over her sea-foam green face mask. According to the hushed rushing about and urgent glances of the hygienists and nurses, I gathered that a dry socket is the dental equivalent of Hitler climbing from his tomb, chugging a gallon of gasoline, and marching a zombie army to the Champs Elysées.
I grabbed my dentist by his sequined vest, twisted my fist into it, and asked him what the hell was going on. "We're going to get you a little handful of pills that will make it all better. It will make it all go away."
My dentist's office doubles as a gay dance club and tapas bar after normal business hours. I figured he was rushed to get me out of the chair so he could crack open the mojito lounge, since I was the last patient of the day. But there was something else, something more sinister.
So I asked, big and loud, "What's a dry socket, doc?"
"Shhh, please," he shushed me and put a latex-gloved hand over my eyes and cheek. "Please. We don't want to alert the other patients. Stay calm. Stay calm. We'll have you fixed up right away. Are you a religious man?"
I heard him lean away from me and whisper to an assistant, "Cancel the priest. No last rites needed."
The latex of his gloves closed my eyelids, rubbed my lips, and opened my mouth. He crammed a metal instrument with a wad of stinking cotton halfway down my throat. I gagged and squirmed away. His strong, plasticized hands kept after me, muffling my protests.
"There!" he said and removed his fingers from my maw. "We've got that implanted. Here, take these." His outstretched palm proffered a cocktail of red, white, and yellow pills. Never one to turn down pharmaceuticals, I licked them from his hand and swallowed them dry.
The next thing I know, I wake up in my jeans and T-shirt in front of my TV watching Judge Judy . It's three days after my dentist appointment, and my jaw hurts like fire. Whatever a dry socket is, folks, steer clear.
Thursday, September 13 The Bold and the Beautiful CBS 9:30 a.m.
I like to blindfold myself, crawl around my floor, and pop any nugget of a thing I find into my mouth. I've got my apartment laid out in my mind. I steer clear of the dog's bowls as much as is possible, but these things sometimes can't be helped. Every once in a while I get a bit of donut. Every once in a while I get something kind of like this show.
Ugly Betty ABC 8:00 p.m.
As a single mom, I don't like this show. Nobody is ugly. Especially not my daughter, Caitlin. She may have been mangled horribly in that mousetrap accident of '05, but that's why God gave us two eyes. Since I work as an exotic dancer at nights to put Caitlin through special-ed daycare, I'm out of the house Thursday evenings, and she's left alone with one big wet eye to watch whatever comes on. I need to write a letter and have this show removed. Our children's self-esteem is at stake here!
Friday, September 14 Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County MTV 9:00 p.m.
Finally, a show about the real Orange County. I have had it up to my sideburns with impostor shows about the faux Orange County. How I've been waiting for you, real show about that magical county. I've tied my hair in pigtails every day, the way you like it. I'm wearing that special perfume you love so much. (And I left my undies on the shelf. Wink. Eyebrow waggle. Wink.) Oh, how I've waited. Let's get drunk on Blue Nun wine and give ourselves permission to do what we've always wanted but never dared. Oh, real Orange County show. Oh.
Saturday, September 15 BET's Morning Inspiration BET 8:00 a.m.
If by "inspiration" you mean "coffee and a big dump," then, yeah, me and BET have a lot in common on a Saturday morning. I used to call it "getting the mail truck running and that package delivered," but I think I'll use "inspiration" from now on. It sounds enlightened and religious. And isn't that really where we went wrong as a nation? I mean, prayer in schools and everything.
House USA 6:00 p.m.-midnight
If it came down to it, and there were a way to offer it to you, would you take a wicked case of mouth herpes or a long marathon of this show? I'm on the fence. A blooming rosebud on your upper lip or irreversible psychological hijacking? Neither is pretty, and both are permanent. Well, here's your chance. USA offers the House marathon from 6 p.m. to midnight, and I know a one-legged Tijuana call girl with a cold sore the size of a throw pillow. The choice is yours.
Sunday, September 16 MLS Soccer FSW1 12:00 p.m.
There's a barbershop down the street from my place that sells hot dogs. The quick market on the corner doesn't have a working refrigerator. Barbershop hot dogs and warm malt liquor. What could make a Sunday better? Soccer. That's right. A fuzzy wiener, hot Schlitz, and European football. Just like mom used to make.
Monday, September 17 Antiques Roadshow PBS 8:00 p.m.
Antiques Roadshow is a parade down Main Street of What-Used-To-Be, USA. Here come the veterans of foreign wars, followed by the Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Shriners in their dinky hot rods. They wave at the whizzing-past faces of modern America, their rear ends seat-belted to an era long gone. And they hope it's worth more than five dollars. Please, let it be worth more than five dollars. It's all we have.
Tuesday, September 18 The Price is Right CBS 10:00 a.m.
Bob Barker should come back on and launch into a tirade: "I couldn't trust you morons to run a sixth-grade talent show. The Price Is Right is nothing without me! Nothing! I was handing out RVs in the Showcase Showdown while you were still wiping snot on your mommy's sleeve. And I did it all with eight strains of VD and a hunk of Japanese shrapnel in my hip! Sissies!"
Wednesday, September 19 Losing It: Tales from Fat Camp TLC 7:00 p.m.
Ah, yes. Have a weight problem? Want to get in better shape? It's going to be a sweaty, ugly mess. You're going to question yourself and your self-worth. You're going to push your body, red-faced and crying. What can we do to make this a little more humiliating? Oh, great idea! We'll record everything you do and put it on national television. You don't mind; do you, fatty? Do you?
Thursday, September 20
Road Trip with Huell Howser
PBS 8:00 p.m.
There's a girl in North Park, Robin, who drives the Vagina-Mobile. The Vagina-Mobile is a '99 Subaru plastered with centerfold layouts of triple-x porn. She's been pulled over, but the police have no recourse; the naughty parts are diligently blacked out with Magic Marker. Robin claims to be "taking back the vagina" from...whom? I don't know. All I know is that it works. When I'm in the car, I can't even crack a joke, and I rely on mundane conversation to ease the disquietude. "So. What kind of mileage does she get?" is all I can think to say.