Picking the Proper Toothpaste is More Painful Than a Root Canal

 

It was 20 Years Ago Today (almost) … Here’s my More Stuff column from April 5, 1998:

If you’re anything at all like me, you brush your teeth.

That’s the easy part.

The hard part? Buying toothpaste.

The choices are mind boggling, and selecting the right toothpaste is more complicated than filling out your income tax forms.

Do I want one with baking soda? One with extra tartar protection? Or one that will make my smile dazzle?

And so, I called my dentist, Dr. Richard Bash (and yes, my dentist’s name really is Bash) and asked him to go toothpaste shopping with me.

“No problem, that sounds like fun,” he said.

And that’s how Rich and I came to be standing in the toothpaste aisle at the supermarket.

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We began with the Crest section, which offers the following choices: Sensitivity Protection, Gum Care, Tartar Protection (which comes in smooth mint gel, mint paste with baking soda, fresh mint gel and regular), Cavity Protection (mint paste with baking soda, icy mint and regular), Multi-Care (cool mint and fresh mint – as if anyone could tell the damn difference!) and Extra Whitening.

Whew. And help, which is where Rich comes in…

“The Sensitivity Protection has 5 percent potassium nitrate,” he began, taking a deep breath (which was quite minty fresh). “When you have sensitive teeth, the gums are exposed, and the potassium nitrate prevents them from getting excited … The Gum Care has stannous fluoride, which is more of an antibacterial agent than sodium fluoride (the fluoride found in most toothpastes) and prohibits the growth of bacteria that causes gum disease … The Tartar Protection has pyrophosphate. When tartar forms, it’s tenacious. And this helps prevent the formation by inhibiting the matrix formation.”

I have no idea what a matrix formation is (and the Matrix movies with Keanu didn’t start until 1999), but sure as heck don’t want any on my teeth. Not even the back ones. It’s tenacious.

“The Cavity Protection has sodium fluoride,” Rich continued. “The Multi-Care has sodium fluoride for cavities, baking soda, which helps adjust the Ph levels in your mouth and makes it inhospitable for germs, pyrophosphate for tartar control, but it doesn’t have stannous fluoride for fighting gum disease. And, the Extra Whitening has silica, a polishing agent.”

Rich let out a sigh of relief and collapsed to the floor.

But wait, there’s the Colgate section. Come on Rich, get up.

Here we go for Colgate: Total, Baking Soda & Peroxide Clean Mint, Baking Soda and Peroxide Fresh Mint, Tartar Control with Micro-Cleaning Crystals (even Rich didn’t know what these were), Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening, Regular Cavity Protection, Tartar Control Plus Whitening, Cavity Protection Gel-Winterfresh and, finally, Baking Soda-Natural Mint Flavor.

But wait, there’s still my old favorite: Aquafresh. I love the way the separate red, green and white swirl together in perfect harmony on my toothbrush. How do they do it?

And yet, after all this, I was still no closer to an answer to my all-important question: Which toothpaste should I buy?

“Steve, let me tell you a story,” Rich began. There’s no stopping Rich once he starts storytelling … and drilling. I was hoping his story would be less painful.

“One day in dental school, a teacher walked into class with a glass of water, a bar of Ivory soap and a toothbrush and proceeded to brush his teeth with them. Then he told us, ‘It doesn’t matter what toothpaste you use, as long as you brush your teeth properly.’”

“Oh no!” I shouted. “Rich, there are as many different kinds of toothbrushes as there are toothpaste. Which one do I get?”

I’ll get to this all-important question in another column.

PS: It’s 20 years later and even more confusing to select the proper toothpaste. 

Johnny Oakland: Squirrel Detective Chapter One: The Case of the Missing Nuts

“OK Phillip, we can do this the hard way or we can do it the easy way … (pause for dramatic, fear-inducing effect) … it’s up to you.”

Johnny was so darn proud of himself for coming up with his tough-guy line, and he used it every chance he got. He said it real slow, and in as deep of a voice as he could muster, which, truth be told, wasn’t an especially deep voice. Even for a squirrel.

It didn’t matter.

All the squirrels from Elm Street to Church, across Maple Avenue and over to Poplar, and even as far as Elm and Hillcrest, knew better than to mess with Johnny Oakland, the world’s greatest squirrel detective. And a well-known master of the nuggie.pexels-photo-681178.jpeg

And yet, they messed with Johnny. Time after time. After time.

Why?

Simple: Squirrels are stupid. That’s right, I’m using the stupid word. I know, it’s really mean to call any creature stupid, even cute little furry ones. But in this case, it’s just so darn true that to not call squirrels stupid would be intellectually dishonest. And an insult to smart.

FYI: Same goes for chipmunks. Maybe even more so.

And, when you combine stupid with a heaping helping of stubbornness and selfishness, especially when it comes to their nut stashes, well, you can sorta understand why so many squirrels insisted on doing it the hard way with Johnny. Their nut stash – and the quantity and quality of the nuts in their stash – is the difference between surviving and starving during a long, cold winter. Thousands of years of genetic conditioning, the whole survival-of-the-fittest squirrel thing, and the never-ending encroachment of civilization – not to mention cats – have combined to make squirrels totally obsessed with their nut stashes.

And, on top of all this, squirrels have terrible memories. Which, when you think about it, is probably connected to the stupid thing.

So, at some point during every long, cold winter, when there’s snow on the ground and it’s hard to remember where you buried your nuts or sniff them out, about 87.5 percent of all squirrels will forget where their nut stashes are buried.

It’s a recipe for disaster. And starvation. In fact, it’s the second leading cause of squirrel death, right after being run over by a car while running back and forth across the street for seemingly no good reason. More on this later.

The finding of their nut stashes is where Johnny comes in. And how he makes his living. For the most part.

Johnny is smart. Or, to be more precise, he’s a lot smarter than most squirrels. He’s not quite raccoon smart, but he’s pretty darn close. Then again, some squirrels say Johnny is part raccoon. He’s not, but he doesn’t do anything to discourage this rumor. It helps his image. And detective business.

And then, there’s Johnny’s nose. His sniffing abilities are off-the-chart amazing. He can detect an acorn buried deep within the frozen tundra from 50 paces. That’s squirrel paces, which are a lot shorter than cat, dog and human paces.

***

So, all of the above is how Johnny came to be sitting atop Phillip Oakington, with his sturdy squirrel legs wrapped tightly around Phillip’s arms and chest, slowly squeezing the air out of his lungs.

“Phillip, a deal is a deal. Pay up,” Johnny growled, balling up his tiny fist and rubbing it across Phillip’s forehead.

“Stop it Johnny, that hurts.”

“It’s a nuggie Phillip, it’s supposed to hurt, you idiot.”

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The day before, Phillip had sent word that he needed Johnny’s professional help. And so, Johnny made the dangerous journey over to Phillip’s yard. He avoided two dogs, that nasty one-eyed cat on Hillcrest with the messed-up ear who had murdered Frank Oakman three days earlier, and safely crossed three streets to get to Phillip’s yard.

Seconds after he arrived, Johnny got to work.

He sniffed Phillip up and down, memorizing his scent. Let’s just say Phillip wasn’t the most hygienic squirrel, so Johnny had quite a pungent scent marker to work with. Johnny’s sense of smell is so magical that he could pick up trace whiffs of Phillip several inches beneath the surface of his yard. Sometimes, the scent from one of his squirrel clients was stronger than the nut scent, and sometimes it was the other way around. And often, the two combined to lead Johnny right to a well-buried nut stash.

Johnny started at the big oak tree and began walking slowly, in ever-expanding circles. He stopped several times and started digging, each time finding a few of Phillip’s hidden treasures.

Over the next two hours, Johnny sniffed out six of Phillip’s nut stashes; a total of 43 nuts.

It’s not overly dramatic to say that Johnny had just saved Phillip’s life. It was the middle of January and quite cold. At first, and for about 2.4 seconds, Phillip was grateful and totally planned to live up to his end of the bargain. And then, the whole deeply ingrained, stubborn, selfish squirrel thing kicked in.

It always did.

“I don’t know Johnny, 20 percent of my stash seems like a pretty steep price to pay. After all, I would have eventually…”

Johnny immediately pounced on top of Phillip. Experience had long ago taught him that an aggressive and preemptive strike would get his client’s attention. Most squirrels are meek and mild, and the mere threat of violence was enough to convince them to do the right thing.

And now, sitting atop the quivering, shaking Phillip, it was time for…

“OK Phillip, we can do this the hard way or the easy way … (pause for dramatic, fear-inducing effect) … it’s entirely up to you.”

Phillip thought about it for a couple seconds. While he contemplated his options, Johnny nuggied him again, hard and fast.

“OK, OK Johnny, I give. Uncle. I’ll give you your stupid 20 percent.”

Johnny loosened his grip and climbed off of Phillip, who rubbed his head and trembled the way scared squirrels tend to tremble.

“Johnny, that really hurt. You didn’t have to get so rough. I would have paid you.”

“They never learn,” Johnny mumbled as he collected his nuts.

***

By all rights, Johnny could have rounded up and taken nine nuts. And he could have taken any nine he wanted: the biggest, juiciest, tastiest nuts in Phillip’s stash.

“I’m letting you off easy and I’m only taking eight nuts Phillip,” Johnny said. He picked out two of the plumpest, tastiest-looking nuts, and then took three mediocre nuts and three borderline-spoiled nuts.

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You see, while Johnny could come across as quite tough and nasty when he had to, deep down he’s a softy. All the other squirrels, including the idiot Phillip, know that when push came to shove and there are three feet of snow on the ground and their nut stashes were unreachable and they were losing weight and shivering and things looked bleak, Johnny would share a few nuts from his considerable – and well-hidden – stashes.

And this is why Venus Oakingham, when she found herself in more trouble than any squirrel should ever find herself in, came to see Johnny.

“Johnny, I need your help,” Venus said.

A Pulled Groin, Mollies, Cucks and Why I Will Never Again Run for a Bus

I totally knew better, but…

The bus was two blocks away. It was right there, pulling up to the stop. And the next one was probably 15 minutes away. Had to get somewhere, I’m impatient, I can make it and…

pexels-photo-374132.jpegYep, I ran. An all-out sprint. OK, as close to an all-out sprint as I can muster at my age.

Made it. With a second or two to spare.

Whew! Was a little out of breath as I boarded the bus, but no worse for the wear. And then, the next day … woke up and my groin hurt. A lot. Something down there was pulled or tweaked or inflamed or some combination of these painful options. And then, my left knee started to hurt. A lot. Whenever I bent it, which you kinda have to do in order to walk.

And so, I now hereby solemnly swear: I will never, ever again run for a bus. Never!

No matter how close it is. Another bus will come. They always do, it’s how they work. Saving 15 minutes isn’t worth four to seven days of pain.

It seems I’ve reached the age where running for a bus can be hazardous to my health. It pains me to admit this, and to have to make this solemn pledge, but, as they say, Father Time is undefeated. And is kicking my butt. And groin.

So, three painful, limpy days later, I missed the bus home (barely) … and was waiting for the next one at the stop, which was on campus, on N. High Street, inches from the patio of a bar. It was late Friday afternoon, about 4:30, sort of a spring-like day, and thousands of Buckeyes were out kicking off their weekend of drinking. It was hard not to eavesdrop.

“Pledges are not people,” one guy said. He was there with another guy, a pledge in his frat, I presume. The two of them were chatting up a couple of girls. I think the goal was to impress the girls and get them to attend their upcoming frat party.

“We only have Mollies,” the pledge said.

Mollies?

I figured Mollies were drug slang, but for what? Hey, I already told you I was old. Turns out Mollies are MDMA, a synthetic drug that alters your mood and perception. You know, Ecstasy. Mollies are quite popular in night clubs. And, so it seems, frat parties.

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And why did they only have Mollies at their frat party? What’s the alternative they didn’t have? Was tempted to tell the two girls to run, but was worried they might pull a hamstring.

The subject changed…

“Our landlord is suck a cuck,” the first frat guy said, trying a new tactic to impress the girls. “Do you know what a cuck is?”

I wasn’t sure. Is it short for cuckhold … a guy whose wife cheat’s on him?

Fortunately, Mr. Big Shot filled the girls and everyone waiting at the bus stop in on cucks: “His wife definitely cheats on him. I could have his wife.”

A little later, the two girls migrated over to a different part of the patio. Was totally relieved. I hope, I pray, they didn’t go to the frat party … and that the frat guy doesn’t “have” his landlord’s wife. Who does he think he is, college Donald Trump?

And so, there you have it: All the reasons I will never, ever again run for the bus.

Cary Grant Is In Big Trouble for What He Did To Katherine Hepburn

The Philadelphia Story is on TCM tomorrow (Sunday March 18) at 4PM. Seeing it listed brought back memories of a column I wrote a long time ago that now, in the age of #MeToo, seems relevant. Here’s what I wrote on January 27, 2002.

Something’s always bothered me about the opening scene of The Philadelphia Story, the 1940 flick starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart.

The romantic comedy opens with Cary storming out the front door of his mansion. Kate, his soon-to-be ex-wife, is fast on his heels, carrying Cary’s golf clubs.

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With a fierce look in her eyes, Kate pulls out a club and snaps it across her knee. With steam coming out of his ears, Cary approaches Kate, his left hand in a fist and poised to pop her one in the chops. At the last instant, he pulls back his fist and, with his right hand, grabs Kate by the face and flings her to the ground.

I know this is make believe, the movies and all, but it bothers me every time I see it. And Turner Classic Movies has been showing it a lot lately as part of a series of clips celebrating the history of the movies.

So, I decided to do something about it … and invited Alan Rubenstein, the feisty former Bucks County (PA) district attorney, and currently a feisty Bucks County judge, to watch The Philadelphia Story with me. Turns out Alan is a huge movie buff and a big Cary Grant fan. He even knew his real name: Archibald Leach.

Unfortunately for Cary/Archie, that’s not enough to get him off the hook with this
judge.

“That’s technically a simple assault,” Alan said after Cary threw Kate to the floor. “Today, Katherine Hepburn could immediately contact the police and say: ‘My husband, Cary Grant, assaulted me. I fear for my future safety.’ The police would advise her to immediately file for a PFA (protection from abuse order) and within 72 hours a hearing would be held.”

“Alan, if you were the judge and saw that video in your court, what would you rule?” I asked.philly3

“I could, on the strength of that alone, grant a PFA. In the worst-case scenario, for Cary Grant, he would be excluded from the marital residence, would pay temporary support and for 18 months be prohibited from any contact. He could also be arrested for simple assault and prosecuted.”

“What if he had gone ahead and punched her with his left hand?”

“He could have been arrested on the spot, if she suffered some type of injury. The police could have been called and charged him with simple assault. The maximum sentence is one year.”

Alan continued: “There has been abuse between spouses since there were cave dwellers. It’s only been in the last 15 years that it has come to the forefront. Men routinely commit aggressive actions, acts of assault. And it’s not just men. In the past, the stigma was on the victim. Now, it’s appropriately on the ones committing the assaults.”

I know I’m 62 years late on the whole Cary/Kate incident, but hey, I didn’t have a column back in 1940. If I did, Cary would have been in big-time trouble.

OK, there you have it, my column from 16 years ago.

The Case of the Mysterious Backpack: Another Lost Wedding Band Story

So, I’m at a party and suddenly a great lost wedding band story breaks out…

Coincidence? Or are these blog posts sparking discussion, conversations and storytelling all over the world about lost wedding bands? I’ll go with coincidence. Or the fact that I asked if anyone at the party had a great lost wedding band story.

pexels-photo-89089.pngLauren: It was 2007 and I was home from college after spring semester, before my summer job as a counselor at Camp Cheerio Adventures.

Me: Camp Cheerio Adventures? Like the cereal?

Lauren: Like the cereal.

Me: I didn’t know Cheerios were so adventurous. What is it you do with them at this camp?

Lauren: Ha-ha Mr. Funny Guy. My dad and I went on a hike and at the top there’s a rock scramble. So, he took of his wedding band and put it in my backpack in this extra zipper pouch.

Jeff: Why?

pexels-photo-547116.jpegLauren: Because sometimes his fingers swell up. We did the hike, no problem, and at some point during the next few days, before I left for camp, he remembered I had his ring. But it wasn’t in the zipper pouch. It was gone. I worked at the camp all summer, for eight weeks, and used that backpack every day. I finished the summer, got home and opened the bag and there it was. His wedding band!

Jeff: How did you tell him you found it? What did you say?

Lauren: Now that I think about it, maybe I wasn’t home when I found it. I think I was back at college and I called him and said “Dad, you’re not going to believe what I just found.”

BTW: Jeff has an inscription inside his wedding band: Vous et nul sutra.

For those of you who can’t read French: You and no other.

OK, who else has a great lost wedding band story? Either email it to me, or invite me to your party.