Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Infection in My Bone? No, I'll Take the Navigator

I went to see my dentist this Tuesday last. It was a routine visit. I didn't expect any problems, and there weren't any.

My dentist is a perfect fit for us. He's a retired lieutenant commander of the U.S. Navy, and has been in private practice as a civilian for over 15 years. He keeps a simple, but clean office and most of his staff are family members. He drives a used minivan, which improved my opinion of him greatly. Any medical professional that keeps overhead reasonable is good in my book. But, perhaps the biggest reason he is a perfect fit for us is his blunt honesty. Years of military service as an officer paved way for this man to be black and white -- no gray areas. He tells it like it is, and that particular character trait brings me to my point...

So, I was sitting in the hallway, as the doc, his staff and I have become really simpatico. His hygienist was working on my two girls.

Enter Mexican patient, about 28, casually dressed and in quite a bit of molar pain.

The doc does what he can to speak in Spanish. He can find his way around it fairly well. The gist was this:

Mexican patient (whom I'll call Pancho) had a bad root canal with a questionable dentist in a border town. He claims he only paid $100 for the procedure, which is about $1100 pesos, maybe more. Doc, my dentist, told him that was too cheap for any good work to be done.

Understandably, there is some American dentist bias in my doc's appraisal. No doubt. After all, ya can't make a living cleaning healthy teeth -- only. Nevertheless, what really struck a chord during this affair was what happened next.

Regardless of what was or not done with border town dentist, a problem existed NOW. X-rays showed a pretty bad infection, one believed to be penetrating the bone tissue, the same that holds our teeth in place.

Folks, I've buried one man who didn't take care of a bad tooth -- no joke.

So, instead of Pancho taking care of this problem -- now -- with the local American dentist, he kept lobbying for his border town dentist, claiming cost would be considerably less and he trusted him more (the whole race thing came flaring up). My doc got irate, without being rude. He told him like it was and warned him of the dangers of letting this thing go for any amount of time.

Pancho claimed a trip to the border town was imminent, and he'd take care if it then. My doc finally conceded and sent him on his way with a prescription for an anti-biotic, ordering him to fill that prescription, at the very least.

Now, I understand both sides of this story. On the one hand, I've traveled to Mexico exclusively for medical care, when the system here failed me and/or cost was a factor. But, but, I have family in medicine. I have an uncle whose a highly respected practitioner and will have my best interest in mind.

For the American dentist's point of view, he's not happy to lose patients, revenue, etc., to Mexican practitioners. I mean, we're not necessarily close to the border like El Paso, for instance. So, for a patient to prefer to make the drive to a Mexican doctor, incurring cost in doing so, feels like slap on the face and further numbs any race relations which may have quenched in recent decades.

The best is yet to come...

Sometimes Mexican people (or other immigrants) have legitimate needs. The United States affords (although I'm not sure how much longer) people with needs many, many opportunities not available in Mexico or other countries, perhaps any countries.

Nonetheless, not all people have needs. Some come here with the system knowledge and abuse said social system of assistance.

Though Pancho did not ask for any proverbial meal tickets from the dentist here, he refused treatment in spite of his advice that the infection was serious. I'm inclined to think he can't afford it.

But then I happen to walk out of the office the same time he did. And this is where I shake my head and realize some things will never change.

Pancho walks to a fairly new -- if not brand new -- Navigator. Yes, the Lincoln luxury SUV. Sitting in the passenger seat was Mrs. Pancho, clad in fashionable clothing, burning cellular minutes like there's not tomorrow. I know, as a seasoned consumer, that on the low of things, that SUV, complete with insurance (unless Pancho pays cash for things), gas and maintenance sets him back $1,000 a month --easily.

Judgement. Yes. I can't deny it. I'm not free of it, nor free of frivolous spending. I live with three women, remember?

But, we do have enough common sense to take care of our teeth, certainly if there is a problem. Until recently, my wife and I drove two used cars that amassed 20 years in age; nearly 400,000 combined miles. We finally gave in and bought a Dodge Caliber. It's pretty sweet.

I guess my message here is this: It always amazes me how much people are willing to sacrifice their well being for material things. Again, I'm not free of that thinking in some ways, but I blame Capitalism for this in some regard. That Navigator sure is sweet. No, it's pretty damn impressive, and anybody looks good in one.

But, as the girls and I walked to our 2000 Chevy Astro, in dire need of a new tranny, and with 160,000 well-driven, memory-enriching miles, I couldn't help but feel good that all three of us got a clean bill of molar health.

I hope Pancho took the meds. He'll resist medical care here, but his drive to the border will certainly be sweet.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baseball Stigma

OK, we have to talk about it. We have to talk about Alex Rodriguez, a.k.a., A-Rod, a.k.a., A-Fraud, a.k.a. A-Roid, a.k.a., A-Hole.


Where to start. So many arguments. So many comparisons.

I wrote a piece once, actually admitting I felt sorry for Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez. Why? Because during a TV interview of him in pin stripes, my wife and I were having dinner and she said, "I hate A-Rod."

My wife is a casual sports fan, but she likes baseball more than any other sport. There's reasons for that, and, of course, she's a devoted Red Sox fan with me.

So, the sorrow for our man A-Rod came after she made that comment. I thought, "How much has this loathing for this man spread! I mean, here's my wife, who could not tell you which team A-Rod came up with...who could not tell you what position he would play with the Bronx Bombers, but loudly made sure we knew she hated him."

That's a pretty big accomplishment, as far as that goes. And, for a second, I felt bad for the guy. I mean, does anyone like him? You see some kids and many women with his jersey, but do they like him?

Now the roids sorta-admission. Shocker.

He hit 109 bombs during his 3-year tour in Texas, 57 at its peak. Now we know they were juiced bombs. Now we know his 553 lifetime bombs are tarnished.

Now we know there are 104 more names. Everybody is suspect now. We enter the new season, and the World Baseball Classic, wondering who juiced-up, and when.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Baseball fans are a much different breed. They have a love affair with the game. It's visual stimulation without comparison. They're score keepers. They're stat readers. They're passionate writers of America's past time.

Like any love affair, having to put up with this roid mess is akin to learning the perfect Italian opera was using digital strings for that solo, that the tenor was really just moving lips to recorded lyrics.

It ruins the affair.

Why do we love the Babe...Mickey? We can we forgive them and not A-Roid? Bonds?

Because like those in attendance of a beautiful opera, the musicians, the actors...those players loved the game, too.

It's that simple. The likes of some modern day players don't give us the impression they love the game -- as much as we do.

I really think if A-Roid would start chewing tobacco things would change.

Anyhow, I don't know about you but I CANNOT wait for the bats to crack.

It was a great Valentine's Day for us. The ladies -- all three of them -- prepared an exquisite meal we enjoyed upon my arrival at home from the office.
The matire d' of our home, Snowball, greeted me at the door, clad in his tuxedo outfit.
Pre-dinner drinks were served and homemade cupcakes finished the night.
We are blessed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

**This was the sign-off I wrote for my fantasy football league.
Undertaker’s Football League
Office of the Commissioner

Digger Bowl VI: The Road to Staubach

Searching for Reality in the Midst of Fantasy

It was a cold evening in 1990. The sun had long set and disappeared amongst the mountains and desert sands of El Paso, Texas. The strong wind kept reminding all of us Mother Nature was still in charge. And, though there were hints of perspiration under our armor, soon enough we felt what the people in the stands felt for 3 hours – cold desperation and defeat.
We gathered ‘round coach and took a knee. It was a tight, red-clad cluster on that pristine green turf at the Sun Bowl, home of the UTEP Miners. He took a minute to look around, almost as if to make sure he could see into each one of our eyes. Perhaps, he did. Some were audibly sobbing. Some had looks of defeat. Some had already moved on, grateful for the opportunity. History had been made this night, in spite of the loss to Coronado High School. It was the first trip to the playoffs in the school’s history. A pattern had begun and coach said, “You seniors…most of you will never put on a football helmet again…”

I stopped paying attention after those words. They hit me harder than the brisk wind. They hurt more than any contact I absorbed that night. And, almost 19 years later, I can still remember the scent in the air…the look on coach’s face…the feeling on that long ride back to Socorro High School. Indeed, I would never wear a football helmet again.

On that occasion, and up to that point, I felt the end of my football career was something I might not overcome. For years, in fact, I had dreams of coming back to a game and being asked by my coach to “come back in one more time”. Silly to think, and embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. It took years to release the feeling of belonging that comes with participating in team sports, especially Texas high school football.
Some did go on to continue their participation by becoming football coaches. And, perhaps that was the best therapy. But, for the great majority of us, who completely separated ourselves from the game, finding a way to get over it, yea overcome it, was not easy.
Enter fantasy football.

Men who were longing for sports participation with a reach farther than watching a game on TV had a venue by which to vent frustration. The Internet was the perfect way to accomplish this en masse. We, the UFL, took this phenomenon a step further, though more simplistic. We don’t pick players. We pick games.
Through 7,000 picks we crown a champion and organize a championship party worthy of a news spot (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK2EsLyzKtk). Though the spot is only a few seconds short, it is the best example of the vision, the feeling we try to give our league and those who attend the celebration. Without worries of gifts, special outfits, and/or pomp and circumstance, we gather those of our closest relationship on one big day in this country.
This is a trying time for our country. In the midst of our football season, a historic election took place, giving hope and/or defeat to a very divided consensus of registered voters. The season marked the beginning of a devastating economy, which continues to weaken day by day, like a disease ravaging an organism. Denny’s gave food away yesterday. Middle-income families resort to food pantries to make-up essentials they can’t afford. Better than a thousand people lined up in Miami for a shot at getting one of 35 jobs offered by the city. Staples of the American economy: GM, Lehman Brothers, and many, many more are soon to or have dissolved.
The spirit of Digger Bowl and what we have intended for it to mean in our lives gave a bit of relief to such angst. Scheduled for February 1, date of Super Bowl XLIII, Los Tequileros hosted Digger Bowl VI marvelously, a UFL team composed of Jose, Tina and Monica Najera, and Jorge and Minnie Najera and their children. Los Tequileros printed sweaters with team logos, which were and awesome sight. We crowned a champion – Six Belows, owned by Mark Dean of Grand Prairie. We enjoyed good food and drink. We decorated and erected a place of gathering which dad likes to call, Tequilero Stadium. For a few hours we forgot that the world is in turmoil, though it was evident in many of the faces that we stare at a very rough road.
Season VI welcomed new members, too. Ken Bedell formed Team Blaize; Matthew Cannon and Cynthia Soto formed RTGM; Jesus Hernandez Jr. and Monica Najera formed Los Hernz (Los Hernz showed UFL pride by custom printing shirts and caps to promote their team); Linda Alvarado was The Untouchables; and Kike Rodriguez brought The Legenderies. Though a couple ended Season VI early, all form part of a league of veterans and are welcomed in the future.
Rounders, a team owned by Mike Hromek of Arlington, won the first ever Azteca Bowl, a trophy sponsored by theUFL Mexico, namely Carlos Flores and Juan Zuñiga, who own Las Liebres and Indios de Juarez, respectively.
Steve McCully and his Cannolis won College Bowl V, his third championship trophy in our league’s history. He came close to Digger Bowl VI, as he was head-to-head with Six Belows in the conference title game, but redemption, yea revenge came sweet for Six Belows, who lost Digger Bowl II to the Cannolis by one tiebraker point. And, it was Big Blow, owned by Jeff Messer of Florida who lost this Digger Bowl by two tiebreaker points.
Football season is back on cruise control. For now, other sports begin to blossom. UFL challenges and updates will come to an Inbox near you.
The genius in fantasy sports is the ability to live vicariously in your sport of choice as an adult. Many people have told me their greatest and happiest moments as a human being was during childhood. A big reason was the ability to play and/or pretend. To live in a fantasy world. Though I never wore a football helmet, again, I have many, many reasons to feel happy and fulfilled in my life now. And, when that need for football intake spikes up in me, I can inject this project, this league and quench it beyond any satisfaction I expected.
I hope it does that for you in any way, however great or miniscule. The UFL affects people very differently, and many have really taken it to it and what it brings every season. I’m very proud of that. I’m very proud to have a tradition of gathering together once a year and celebrating this occasion.
It also reminds us of the incredible opportunity we have as Americans. That we have opportunities – still – to enjoy many things, as members of UFL Mexico have really taken a toll with all that is evil and criminal. Drug lords have simply taken over. It’s undeniably horrific and devastating.
Cheers to you, all the members of the UFL. I wishing the best for the coming months, I do want to offer an apology for all the technical problems we endured with e-mail, etc. One day, we’ll have a smooth operation for our 7,000 picks.
I bid you adieu, for now. Remember to keep getting up. The promise of better things always lies in your ability and motivation to find it, however dark and difficult it appears to be.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Daddy Daughter Dance 2009

Few things have been as amazing as taking my two girls to the annual Daddy Daughter Dance. Though only our second year, the anticipation of the day was as exciting as being there. There was a limo ride. There were great pastries. There was music and many pictures. But, more than that, there were two little girls who gave me the honor of a dance.
It's a moment I hope lasts forever.
God help me when I have to give them up to another "date."
I may not be able to do it...