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The Complete History of My Front Tooth (Right Incisor)


1985-1994: A tooth breaks through my gum line. Then said tooth falls out and is replaced by another tooth, which is larger and according to my peers “buck.” I am both haunted and proud my large, offensive tooth.

December 12, 1995: I’m at hockey rink on a former military base. More specifically, I’m standing between the posts of a goal that’s adjacent to the actual rink near the referees’ locker room. Because I’m incredibly stupid, I’m not wearing a face mask. To punctuate my stupidity, I’m not wearing a helmet either. Yet I glide side-to-side warding off the attempts of my brother and his friend who are younger, and by my own estimation, unworthy opponents.

I’m not sure if the score is being kept, but I do know I’m caught hugging the wrong post when a shot gets rifled from probably seven feet away from me. In an attempt to maintain my shutout, I do my best Terry Sawchuk and dive headfirst toward the puck. The next thing I remember is my mouth is bleeding and I do the least Terry Sawchuk thing it’s possible to do – I shriek at the top of my lungs then run around the rink looking for what I didn’t know then, but do know now to be a half gallon of morphine.

When they finally calm me down, everyone wants to know what happened to the part of my tooth that my braces didn’t save. I dig around in the crease for a bit looking for it. The old guys say if I find it, I should drop it in a glass of milk, but we’re at a hockey rink so there’s no milk and I’m fairly certain I swallowed my tooth anyway. This is the first and last time I ever play goalie.

The next day I go to school with my war story. I play up the blood and also change the setting from a net next to the rink to the rink itself. In the revised version I’m playing up a level and it’s the save that breaks my tooth, which wins the game for us. We’re league champions. If I cried they were tears of joy because we were champions, my frieeend.

Spring 1999: Somehow I’m still wearing braces. And to no one’s surprise, I find myself talking shit about a kid who has a full mustache and is rumored to drive himself to school. We’re in seventh grade. Or at least I am. I’m not sure he’s technically enrolled. Whatever shit I may have been talking makes it’s way to the mustachioed man-student and I’m informed that he’s going to kick my ass after school. I get specific instructions to head to where they sell pizza at lunch, but not as far as the bus pick-up lines.

At 3:01, I show up certain that some school official is going to intervene and shut this thing down. Instead there’s a circle of guys in JNCO jeans crowded around. I have spiked bleached hair and I’m wearing a Girl skateboard shirt. My mustachioed counterpart tells me that I must be a girl because only a girl would wear a shirt that says “Girl” on it. I tell him he’s a fucking idiot, and has he “ever even heard of Eric Kost—” He throws a punch that I am able to mostly block with my forearm. But I’m certain that he’s shattered my ulna and as I reach for it, he sends another punch to my metallic blue braced-face. This time he connects.

He starts to charge me, but I dodge him momentarily. “Pussy,” he says. I run my tongue across the bottom of my mouth. “Fuck.” I spit into my hand, but my tooth is nowhere in sight. I bare my busted grill to the crowd and say, “I gotta go.” And maybe because they see I’m missing most of my front tooth, the crowd lets me pick up my Jansport and walk away.

A couple days later I make sure everyone knows that I barely felt either punch. Personally, I considered it a draw and I would’ve demanded a rematch, but by then my mustachioed foe had left middle school to join the army.

2001-2004: I’m sure I broke my front tooth once, maybe twice, but I honestly can’t remember how or where.

Spanish dentist

March 23, 2007: I’m allegedly studying, but mostly drinking, on the Mediterranean side of Spain when I snap my tooth while eating a goddamn bocadillo in the afternoon. I walk to my college counselor’s office and she tells me that it’s siesta so I won’t be able to see a dentist until later. She feeds me three glasses of red wine and I fall asleep in her office.

When I wake up it’s dark and I assume she’s Cosby’ed me and now wants me to hit the road. Instead she says her husband is outside and he’s going to take me to a dentist. It’s 9:00 p.m.

I take a ride with a strange Spanish man then enter an elevator that opens to a small suite. A man in street clothes flips on the lights, invites me in and tells me to take a seat in the corner room while he changes. I flip on the lights in the next room to reveal the sort of dentist office you might see in a low budget movie that only had the money for a massage chair and a couple mirrors. My dentist enters, still in his street clothes, but now wearing one of those masks. He tells me that he used to live in Connecticut and “should we switch to speaking English?” I agree and he goes on to speak a language that’s completely incomprehensible to me. When he pauses I tell him he’s very good; in particular his accent. He says in Spanish that while he’s impressed with how white my teeth are, he couldn’t match the color. He went a few shades darker and suggests that I get it fixed when I return to America. As I’m leaving, he tells me I owe him 30 euros. Sure my tooth is a little brown, but my good that’s a fucking deal. I leave happy, but also make a note to limit my medical care in Spain to the cosmetic.

October 2008: I’m in the park of the Greystone Mansion just up the street from my office, which will soon go out of business. I’m working for an agent who insists that I read on my lunch break, but instead forcing me to read scripts, he piles up James Salter, Hemingway, and Nabokov. I’m in the middle of thinking I need a drink, since these guys seem to always be drinking, when I reach for my sandwich made on a beautiful baguette from La Brea Bakery. I take one bite and instantly feel my tooth crumble off. On my way back to the office I think I have to make up a story about how I broke it – mugging? Changing a tire? (Is it obvious I’ve never changed a tire?) Elbow to the face in the elevator? Instead I keep my mouth closed and decide to go home sick. No questions asked.

2009- July 6, 2015: I have a good run. A really good run. I wear a facemask while playing beer league hockey. I eat pizza with a goddamn fork and knife. Things are good. It’s a time of peace. I go to the dentist for normal things like cavities and cleanings. They tell me all of my previous dentists were horrible and I need to get everything redone. Everything accept the front tooth. Instead they just try to sell me Invisalign over and over again. I decline, and they agree that I will be fine without it.

July 7, 2015: I get out of work early and pump iron with the Armenians that frequent my gym. I feel a sense of camaraderie among them, which lasts until I’m piled into the sauna, surrounded by tattoos that are the Armenian Genocide equivalent of “Never Forget.”


Riding high, I find myself in a market, face-to-face with a wall of baguettes. I grab one. I think of being in Paris and how everyone seems to start in on the end of their baguette as soon as they stroll home from their corner patisserie. I eye the baguette, grab it and step outside. The sun is shining, there’s a nice breeze, I practically skip to my piece of shit car. And I can’t help myself, the baguette has tempted me for too long. I give in to its allure in a parking lot in Silver Lake.

One bite. The first bite. That’s it. When you’ve broken your front tooth as many times as I have, well, you know the feeling. It’s not like a hockey puck, or a punch. There’s a distinct collapse, like a foot smashing a sand castle.

This is the way your tooth breaks.

This is the way your tooth breaks.

This is the way your tooth breaks.

Not with a bang but a whimper.

July 8, 2015: Now I’m in a high rise in Hollywood where the dentist tells me she’s surprised it lasted as long as it did. She remembers me from 2009. She asks why I stopped seeing her 2012. I assure her that it was nothing personal, just her outrages prices nearly bankrupted me. She tells me the woes of owning a small practice and then offers to set me up with a veneer instead of slapping on another bonding. It’s true that I’m out of network and it’ll cost me $1,600 out of pocket, but I need to think about my future.

“What if I give up baguettes?” I ask.

“That might work too.”

“Fuck it. I’ll go with the veneer. Do you guys take maxed out credit cards?”

“Sure! We’ll put you on a plan!”

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A Transatlantic Assessment

Periodically, I like to see what’s cooking and in some cases what isn’t on the other side of the Atlantic. With my assignment in one hand and a bottle of disinfectant in the other I dove headlong into the icy Atlantic and began to backstroke towards Europe. Landlocked as it is, I felt it best to commence my transatlantic adventure by braving the pre-and-post Haussmannian streets of “Old Paree.” Paris to the layman. I’ll tell you what’s not cooking in Paris: steak tartare. My first meal of 2011 arrived at 6:00 am looking like a well seasoned and caper-drenched raw hamburger patty. In my booze-soaked state I didn’t realize it, but looking back I can think of no finer way to ring in a healthy and prosperous year.

It’s widely accepted by the transients who frequent the Hollywood Public Library and myself that Parisians invented haute couture. What they didn’t invent are Timberland boots. At the moment there are more Timberland boots pounding the cobblestoned streets of the 1st and 3rd arrondissement than you can shake a buttery snail at. The tan boots, which were worn by rappers in the late nineties and Eye-talians with chinstraps for much longer, have infiltrated a society that has more loafer options on Rue Rivoli than we have registered voters in California. But I wasn’t sweating it.

Several weeks of blustery weather left me low on white blood cells and high on paracetamol. The only logical thing to do was get the hell out of Sarkozy’s pocket and into Gaudi country. I was craving shrimp with whiskers and beady black eyes over a bed of saffron rice. Scarves, gloves, water-resistant coats and steel toed boats—these things were for fools. I wanted to be in the land of toreros, cheap hash and fine quality cured Iberian meats. Barcelona beckoned.

My first stop was the hospital on Comte de Guell. I stripped and slipped into a smock, which exposed my ass to more Catalonians than your average ecstasy bender on Ibiza circa 1989. I find there’s no better way to view a city than from a hospital bed. I passed my days watching the telenovelas set in Miami and listening to the news read in Catalan. My suitemate was a Barcelona native and an octogenarian. We didn’t get into to details of his visit, but I got the impression that where I was passing through on vacation—he was there for an extended stay. He looked so at home in his smock I wouldn’t be surprised if he owned a timeshare of that fourth floor cot.

One afternoon while watching the news I saw there was some action going down in Tunisia. High on Spanish pseudoephedrine, I decided the reports demanded my journalistic presence. With prescribed speed running through my veins I jumped out of bed and dashed to the employee elevator. Now, obviously I wasn’t going to Tunisia. Africa, as I learned from watching Lord of War, is not really that great of a place. The human race may have started there, but it was a bad idea to stick around and it would be an even worse idea to go back. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had plenty of bad ideas in my day. Most of them were pleasurable, some were criminal, but the majority involved traversing from Lake Havasu to the Hollywood Reservoir on a pontoon boat that was knee-deep in tequila. But Africa? Even Northern Africa is no place for a man who can recite the history of the aperitif Kir as fluently as another might recite his phone number.

Tunisia is small. If there was a Little Tunis in L.A. I would’ve just gone home, but there isn’t. To be honest, if there was a Libyatown or even a Little Marrakesh, I probably would’ve still gone back and tried to hunt down a Tunisian, but alas there is not so I could not.

Rather, I chartered a boat to the port city of Marseille. It’s well known that ports from Malaga to Dubrovnik are rampant with North Africans. Though the voyage should have been tranquil and enchanting, the morning we departed I mistook a nicotine patch for my anti-seasickness patch. This left me with my head hanging off the deck spewing yesterday’s sangria and langostas from Thursday to Sunday. When I arrived in Marseille my enthusiasm had waned. If Nice is on the Cote D’Azur, Marseille is on the Cote D’Debris. At my hotel I got a recommendation for a Tunisian restaurant, which I figured was as good a place as any to begin my journalistic hunt. The restaurant looked bleak, but I ordered the Kefta cous cous and an Orangina anyway. When my dinner arrived nine minutes later I had lost total interest in my mission and Tunisia. Also, I figured the story would be old news by the time I tried to peddle a profile on a Tunisian born French restaurateur’s perspective on the future of the country he left twenty-five years ago. As they say, today’s news wraps tomorrow’s fish. Thinking of this made me regret not seeking out bouillabaisse.

I left the restaurant without taking a Tunisian coffee and boarded the midnight train to Monaco. Why Monaco? I wanted to get as far from Tunisian cous cous and politics as I could. Grace Kelly came to mind. What did she ever have to do with Tunisia? Nothing? Exactly.

Monaco is fine if you enjoy looking at the breath-taking coastline and stunning young mothers, but the French defended Principality has a sort of Orwellian feel. Everything is sterilized. Sterility often leads to paranoia. For a second I felt like Gene Hackman at the end of The Conversation where he rips up his apartment looking for the wiretap he’ll never find. I didn’t have an apartment to rip up so I skipped straight to the part where I resigned myself to my fate and started playing the saxophone. The only problem was I didn’t bring my Bill Clinton to Monaco so I had to play the air sax, which was still pretty gratifying. I thought again of Orwell and wondered if they were doling out somas anywhere. Then I realized somas might be from A Brave New World.

Overwhelmed with literary insecurities I decided to hunt down a pistachio macaron. After munching on that crunchy green, hockey puck of sugar I asked a few people at the patisserie if they knew where I could run into Princess Grace. I got some weird looks. It didn’t take long for me to realize the Monegasque are an uncongenial bunch. I stumbled across Grace Kelly Boulevard. I thought it might take me to her chateau. It didn’t. I left Monaco without seeing Grace Kelly. On a more positive note, I completely forgot about Tunisia, which was the chief interest of my trip. In the words of George W. Bush, “Mission Accomplished!”

That’s all I have to report from the continent that birthed the Black Death, Brigitte Bardot and Nutella. Au revior, mes enfants!

The Neapolitan Mastiff

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