“You boys want some gummy bears?”
“Yes!” Solomon yelled.
“Gummy bears!” Samson screamed.
It’s easy to please children.
“You got it, boys,” I said, grabbing a bag of gummy bears from the candy aisle.
Solomon was in the big part of the red cart. Samson in the small part. Samson is tiny for his age. Really short. He gets it from me. I’m tiny for my age. Really short. But Samson has my same winning smile. Dashing good looks, too. So he’ll be okay.
Target was bustling on a warm, Saturday morning in Happy Valley. Katie sent me with a list. The usual. La Croix, shaving cream, and goldfish crackers. Pull-ups for Samson. Can Samson poop in a toilet? You bet your sweet ass, he can. Will he? No. He prefers pull-ups. To each their own.
We also needed new shoes for Samson. He fell off his scooter and, somehow, put a hole in his old shoes. So we tried on a few pairs.
“I feel jealous of Samson, Dad,” Solomon told me. “I want new shoes.”
“Good job describing your feelings,” I told him. “But you’ll have to wait.”
Solomon, like most adults I know (myself included), has trouble communicating his feelings. So I was happily surprised by the calm description of his internal state.
We checked out. Made it back to the car.
“Can I hold my new cars?” Samson asked.
“Can I hold me new slime?” Solomon cried out.
I’m putty in the boys hands. Slime. So they convinced me to get them each a special toy. Cars and slime. Again, easily pleased.
I buckled the boys into their carseats. Handed them their toys.
“Who wants gummy bears?”
“I do!” They screamed in unison.
I dropped a handful of gummy bears into their laps. Took a scoop for myself, too. Started the car. Turned up the Purple Mountains album. Began the journey home.
I popped a gummy bear into my mouth. Something cracked. I bit into something solid. Disgusted, I spit the gummy bear out the window. My tongue explored my mouth. Not sexually, you sicko. Scientifically. Yes, there it was. A hole in my molar.
“Boys!” I said with all the frustration an ornery thirty-nine year old could muster.
“What?” They asked.”
“My tooth fell out.”
“That’s funny,” Samson said.
“Yeah,” Solomon added.
It wasn’t a tooth. It was a filling. And the rest came out later that afternoon. My tongue continued to explore my mouth. Not sexually, you sicko. Compulsively. The gaping hole in my tooth felt strange.
I was irritated. Things like fillings falling out of my mouth irritate me. So do sore throats (I have one), constantly running from one meeting or appointment to another (I’m busy), and always having ten emails to react to (you should see my inbox – again, not sexually, you weirdo.)
I’ll communicate my feelings here: I was irritable on last Saturday. Last Sunday too.
“My teeth are falling out,” I told Katie with an exaggerated frown. “I’m dissolving.”
She looked at me with exasperation. My wife is accustomed to the ways I dramatize things. What things? Most everything. I was a drama teacher. So sue me. Better to dramatize your feelings. Worse to repress them.
About dramatizing things.
Alone in a Church, Happy Valley Improv’s founding group, traveled to Pittsburgh to perform in the Steel City Improv festival last weekend. This was back when I had all my fillings.
Pittsburgh is about three hours west of State College, depending on traffic. You drive through coal country. Rolling hills. Strip clubs. America the beautiful.
We spent the evening in the theatre district. I haven’t seen much of Pittsburgh. It was nice to be in a city, again. Bustling people. The smell of weed. Lots of lights.
We had a middling audience for our set. They put us up in an early slot. We performed a twenty-minute set for probably 75 people. Had lots of fun. Went really well. My colleagues in Happy Valley Improv are great improvisers, and I’m fortunate to work with them. The audience howled with laughter as we deconstructed Reaganomics, contemporary journalism, and the fall of America.
It was a new experience for me to participate in an improv festival.
“How long have you been doing improv?” I asked the guy who was hosting our set before we went on. We stood backstage, in a hallway that led out to the theatre.
“I decided to do this full-time last year,” he said.
Full-time? How the hell do people make a living from improv? I guess if you’re Paul F. Tompkins or something.
If I were in my twenties, single, and independently wealthy, I might be able to make a go of it as an improviser. Sure, I’d love to be a famous and wealthy improviser. But I’m in my thirties. Late thirties. And I have a family. And I’m pretty happy, when I’m not irritated about my teeth falling out of my face. So traveling to an improv festival and even founding an improv theatre company is more of an off-shoot of my work than a primary source of income. For now. Who knows what the future might bring, I guess. Abraham had his first kid when he was an old man. I bet he lost a couple of teeth before his vision started to come true. (They didn’t have fillings back then, I don’t think.) Faith, right?
Teeth dreams are, according to a google, often an outgrowth of fear and anxiety. Teeth Dreams is also the title of a recent album by a Minneapolis band called The Hold Steady, an album I listened to as I drafted this blog. How do those two things connect to this blog? Why did I title this blog Teeth Dreams? Beats me. I’m an improviser. Semi-professional, with a day job. Here’s a summary of something Kurt Vonnegut once wrote: I do what I muddily-must until I bodily-bust. Let that me the rationale for this writing. For all my writing.