Richard Lutz painstakingly looks back in anguish at the week that was and a spring that will be.
I thought about this opening paragraph while in the dentist’s chair. I am having root canal work – a procedure I have been seemingly undergoing every Thursday since about 1962. My mouth is a rotting cavern of enamel, bone and gum.
But to kick things off, let me put something into perspective. As recently as about five years ago, making an appointment for this insane dental digging was a suicide note etched in pain. The “unfortunate discomfort” as dentists liked to describe it, was intense, explosive, deadly. But gently the junk that doped your mouth improved. Now it is close to blissful. I feel nothing.
Yes, I feel nada thing. My endodontist may be wrestling with a root infection that seems to stretch down to my left ankle. But I feel nothing – el zippo. And I would like to describe this good news to the dental team except my mouth is crammed with medieval metal equipment that would stand proud in the London Museum of Medieval Metal Equipment.
I would also like to add, after the injection, that I am so taken with the improved dope that I would instantly sign a six year lease on the dental chair and just sit there and have all my molars and incisors ripped out with rusty nails – as long as I get the calming hit of the new improved anaesthetic juice. But I don’t.
And I couldn’t anyway, because my dentist carries out a strange totemic monologue as the canal work is underway, almost as a rhythm to the surgery: “Now, I’ll use the 21mm colour coded titanium alloy file for this root and then we can discuss cleansing of the gutta percha…”
You get the idea. But as I sit high as a kestrel with hands, fingers and legs in my mouth, I wonder if this monologue would continue in other forms of life, say during lovemaking: “Now, I’m just going to move my left knee a bit upwards and hopefully it will…” You get the idea.
Anyway, after my dental reverie, I leave benumbed, hazy and dopey. One more canal drained, patched up and checked over. Now comes the banal part. I use the bus to get home. It’s the famous number 11. Yes, the famed 11. For some reason here in Birmingham, it is not just the simple number 11. But The Famous Number Eleven. It circumnavigates the city. The 11C goes clockwise around the town (the clue is in the letter C). The 11A goes…well, guess which way it goes and you win a set of 21mm titanium mouth files.
My chin is beginning to re-attach itself to my face and pain flexes though my gums as I board the famous 11. I grip the tattered remnant of a bus seat. In front of me is a strange poster about cheap flights to Moldava, somehow not in the same vacation league as Florida, Paris or what is left of Greece. I try to forget the canal work and remember, after gaining memory of my name and serial number, when I last used buses regularly.
The answer is that it was way back in high school before I became, like the rest of the world, a card carrying member of the Universal Brotherhood of Motorists. Each school day, as I transvectored New York, I would have two things on my mind. The first was my high school wrestling career, a slow rise to mediocrity that once landed me a minor medal in a league championship. Then injury set in and then half the school (and my sister) seemed a better wrestler than me. My career drifted and disappeared.
The second thing on my mind on the buses was the weekend. The thoughts obviously began on a Monday and erupted come Friday. The anticipation wasn’t so much about girls and girls and girls. It was really about being with guy-friends from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. It really didn’t matter what F, S or E nd me were doing that weekend: it could have been hitting the dance floor, underage drinking or watching too much Friday night baseball. The real thing is that we loved our friendships even though back then in the prehistory of life, you really couldn’t go around admitting this – it just wouldn’t do. But friendship, boy-dom, lad-dom was our lifeblood. We carried on, dipped a foot into the world of nighttime seediness, nicked some booze form the family cupboard, stayed up too late.
But, you see, just being with your pals was what was Right With The World. I soon see this set of guys, now nestling retirement, later this month when I attend my graduation year’s fiftieth reunion. What will I see? Who will I remember? Crucially, who will remember me? Who died, who monumentally succeeded, who fell off the high wire and simply vanished?
I ponder this not only on the bus with its cheap flights to Moldava but on a voyage through an English wood in Staffordshire. It’s called The Million, seemingly because some wag once said “..arrghhh, there must a million trees yonder up there in yon forest …” Or words to that effect.
My friend P, who helps me bolster the slow rearguard, asks if I ever noticed that spring foliage in The Million (see above), which is near Kinver, always has a haze around it in April.I never took this in and I grab a long peek. P is right. It has a mist, a faint curtain of green and light blue. And it seems to vibrate in the early April warmth that touches our pale skin.
The evanescent haze evaporates when we leave The Million and we take a needed halfway break at a pub called The Cat in the village of Enville. It serves, appropriately, a brew called Enville Beer. And its dark, almost black, porter specialty is so heavy, so thick, so rich it could be cut up and slapped inside a chunky sandwich.