Dreaming of Arizona

My parents are taking their turn in Arizona. As the temperatures fall here, I find myself longing to just jump in the pickup and head to Tucson. Every thermostat in the house reads 70 degrees, and the floor is toasty warm, but you can still feel the cold radiate in, especially if you walk by a window. An hour ago, one of the beams in the house cracked. It sounded like a gunshot.

Read a fascinating article by Peter Hitchens on North Korea this afternoon. It is difficult to believe that such a place exists today and that we know so very little about it. We just don't know the scale of human suffering in North Korea. It is probably massive.

And I am complaining about the cold?

My standard "be thankful" canard is that if you feel like complaining, ask yourself, do I have an abscess tooth? If not, be thankful.

That only works if you've had an abscess tooth. I had one right about the time Jesse Ventura was elected governor. I was on a trip. I thought I had a sinus infection, so I kept taking cold meds. Finally I figured out it was a tooth. I was in so much pain by that time that I walked down the street in Columbia, Missouri until I found a dentist. Luckily, I found one in about 1/2 mile. I went in, the dentist was kind and took x-rays, detected the abscess and prescribed antibiotic to reduce the infection before I would have the tooth pulled.

What is odd is that my memories of the trip are completely pleasant. We were in St. Louis for a day. It was late October. The botanical gardens were stunning. We ate frozen custard at Ted Drew's Frozen Custard, a St. Louis institution. I have pleasant memories of the drive up through Iowa, even though I recall that every bump in the road caused the tooth to howl.

Got home. Had the tooth pulled. The dentist said, hey, there's a wisdom tooth here, too, want that out, too? Sure. He pulled that. Having never had a tooth pulled, the sensation of something being broken away from my skull was new and troubling.

That night as I watched the election returns, I realized that there was cool air coming into my mouth even though it was shut. Sure enough...the root of the tooth was up in my nose cavity and left a hole. All night, I had to feel the cool air coming into my mouth before I got stitched early the next morning.

Again, my memories of that night are completely pleasant. I watched the election returns with relish. I enjoyed Jesse's victory, and I watched the news commentators flip out all night. It was truly a fun time, despite the pain.

I hate to push this theory too far, for I do not like to undergo pain, and I am free of it right now in every way––but it does seem that life is experienced more vividly in times of some pain, even physical pain. Perhaps there is a greater need to be distracted when one is in pain, so the mind increases its capacity to concentrate upon other things--which results in those things being experienced more fully.

When I had my jaw wired for eight weeks, I couldn't do much because fast breathing was difficult. I didn't want to be outside due to allergies (never sneeze with a wired jaw). So, I sat inside for those weeks and studied stocks. I subscribed to the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, and about a half-dozen other publications. I read books about Warren Buffett and one by his mentor Benjamin Graham. Didn't make any money, but oh well.

Yet today, my memories of those weeks are nothing but pleasant. I got a little sick of Ensure, but I enjoyed juicing carrots, apples and muskmelon. It hurt to watch others eat corn on the cob, and I felt painfully excluded at meal-time at the few extended family gatherings held during that time. I didn't realize until then that sitting down to eat together is such a bonding thing. But the meal-time losses were more than compensated for by my increased ability to concentrate upon eating well and studying something I wanted to learn.

Part of the problem with winter here is sensory depravation. The woodpile is already full. I only have to throw the chunks in the stove.

The first winter I had this house, I had to keep up with cutting wood to keep an uninsulated house above freezing. No time for sitting around. Lots of time spent wrestling logs out in the snow, chainsawing in hip-deep drifts. I loved it. The battle kept me awake and aware. And sore.

Not sure what to gather from this.