A Wonder Years Drive-by

Who says you can never go back?

So Stand by Me remains my all-time favorite film, barely edging out Casablanca. And if Fred Savage had traded-in his NY Jet’s jacket for a pint-sized USC letterman’s sweater, he could’ve been happiest Wonder Years me several decades earlier.

I freakin loved being 12-years old. Our little family was thriving, I knew exactly who I was, and I had friends who turned out being the best friends I’d ever have. In Rob Reiner’s 1986 classic film about four 12-year old boys hiking to find a body next to the tracks but discovering much more about themselves, the narrator sums up friendship (years later as) “…I hadn’t seen him in years, but I’ll miss him forever.”

Last week, right in the middle of contractors, property managers, sales guys, H/R consultants, nervous patients, and a few troublemakers asking about my potential retirement, I experienced a couple of hours of magic. And a Wonder Years’ drive-by.

Oscar and I met when my dad took on coaching the Peewee Pirates over at Garvey Park in South San Gabriel. And Oscar and I were classmates from the 6th Grade at Richard Garvey through Mark Keppel High and all the way through our years at Cal State, LA. But I think maybe because Oscar turned out being the amazing athlete I envied but never was, we were closest while we both enjoyed the simple freedom of being junior high kids.

When I successfully escaped the clutches of USC dental school, Oscar, his wife Pat, and their two young daughters were among my very first patients. Last week, I learned Oscar and Pat were grandparents and just a few married years away from #50. My relationships, on the other hand, have tended to become sort of problematic at around 6-months.

Oscar has been part of our TCDC folklore for years. The way I remember and share it, I could dunk a volleyball, ala Woody Harrelson, maybe once out of about twenty attempts. Oscar could go straight up with two hands. After our 10-year high school reunion, we put a slow pitch softball team together and it was as if Gold Glove Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson had suddenly been transformed into a skinny 28-year old Mexican third baseman.

I was a decent athlete who worked hard to be a good student. Oscar was a pretty good student who was a gifted natural athlete. I wanted to be Oscar.

Through the years, we both lost brothers far too early; Oscar and family moved up to northern California. And like my dad, Oscar had the passion for and found the time to coach kids; starting with his daughters and continuing with all those fortunate enough to cross his knowledgeable and caring path.

Last week, thanks to social media, true friendship, and good fortune, and after thirty-something years, Stand by Me met up with the Wonder Years for a couple of hours in Temple City. And who says you can never go back?

It was beyond special reliving good times with someone I hadn’t seen in years but whom I would’ve missed forever. And it brought a tear when I learned my dad had been a mentor for more than just one Peewee Pirate.

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No Problem In Paradise

It was as if they (my team) could all do family, caring, and fun the way Pavarotti could do Ave Maria.

So when I opened the doors in Temple City, the likes of Kanye and Tom Brady weren’t even born…but they both knew just as much about business as me.

One month into my providing dental care for pay, I thought I was doing alright. But then The Man hit me with stuff like payroll tax and worker’s comp insurance.

And if there’s one thing I can say about the practice management education I received in dental school (right across the street from the Coliseum), it was that the faculty totally made sure we weren’t over-prepared.

Fast-forward 20-years and for the first time in my adult life, I actually boarded a plane seeking continuing education outside of LA County. Three of us headed out to Canmore, Alberta, Canada; we were looking for information, inspiration, and help. We learned systems, practiced verbal skills and talked about marketing. It was the training that had been missing for a couple of decades…and we haven’t stopped since.

I read Think and Grow Rich, became part of a mastermind group, and my team and I engaged the community. We developed an intention: “Making a world class difference for others and making dentistry fun.” My first mentor with no Von Bulow DNA encouraged me to write and I’ve only missed a few published weeklies since 1996.

Writing was probably the substitute for all of the serious counseling I needed but never had after some tough family times. My big brother died the year I applied to dental school; my dad died before my eyes three months into my new practice. I was caregiver for my mom’s last ten years. What was most important and vital to my existence was my family…and it was gone.

Relationships didn’t work because of my fear of loss and their fear of playing second fiddle to my caregiving or my ghosts.

And just when I was resigned to never getting close and never being happy, something crazy happened. And then it happened again…and again.

As I focused on business and learning I found myself in the company of like-minded people I couldn’t help but grow to love. It was as if they could all do family, caring, and fun the way Pavarotti could do Ave Maria.

And over the past year, my team and I worked hard, lived our intention, and saw family in ourselves, our patients, and our community. We also hit some impressive goals. Last week we celebrated with laughter, a few tears, and even a head first “launch” off of a 40-foot tower and down a 4,000 foot zip line.

We weren’t leaving anyone behind; we had one another’s backs, and together, we all experienced some breakthroughs…even though we didn’t always agree on stuff 100% of the time.

But isn’t that what family is all about?

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All In The Family

So here’s to fulfillment! And here’s to family!!!

If you’re anything like me, there are probably some dates on the calendar that rack up way more anticipation endorphins than you’ve ever likely scored spinning on a stationary bike in a roomful of mirrors.

And there are times when I can get slightly linear; like I’ve been stuck on The 405 at 6PM…for a week. But when doubt seems to be transitioning to burnout, I source the spirit of legendary USC Coach Pete Carroll because, “…something awesome is probably coming right around the corner.

Last week, something awesome happened in Washington D.C. (and who coulda seen that coming?) It was time for the GP Invisalign Summit and a chance to be reunited with a family of colleagues. Our inner circle of 26 presidents is composed of professional cousins who are smart, funny, loyal, and generous; they lead with their hearts.

Somehow, I was drafted into the elite group while nature called and nobody was making eye contact with anybody. And it’s really cool even though I remain the oldest guy in the club.

We have a leader who calls himself The Wolf, has cajones the size of basketballs (figuratively), is really smart, has an x-ray vision of the future, lives on Long Island and does stand-up comedy. He can also teach the way Elvis could move…for a white guy.

We love Invisalign care and we’re freakin good at providing it. And who knew you could transform lives with plastic?

Two years ago, I made it to the stage for the Invisalign Summit Shootout, a competition featuring the four top Invisalign cases completed over the preceding two years (I lost to a skinny guy with skinny pants and an accent.) This year, I didn’t make it to the Final Four but managed two of the top sixty…and I think I see Pete Carroll comin’ around the corner.

My two semi-finalists have lives forever changed. Chris has become a true scholar…with a smile; and Ming now has a social life (and should probably owe me ten bucks for every date he successfully negotiates.)

Turns out, my case from two years ago was also in play. Over some red wine and popcorn and wearing hooded owl pajamas (don’t ask), a dentist introduced himself and then asked how 2015 patient Jessica was doing (with a singing career, a marriage, and a baby on the way, Jessica’s doing just fine). My new dentist buddy from San Jose had shown his patient the video of my Jessica presentation and now someone’s family photos, job interviews, smile, and life will never be the same.

When you can be part of something bigger than yourself and make a difference for the family you serve, the family of which you’re a part, and even people you don’t even know, you have a legit shot at fulfillment.

Years ago, I heard Anthony Robbins speak of fulfillment. Robbins shared the rich, the famous, and the privileged still commit suicide. People who are fulfilled seem to learn the true value of life…and have a chance to live life to the fullest.

So here’s to fulfillment! And here’s to family!!!

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Long Distance, Calling The Universe

Last week, the CEO of a global top dental manufacturing company came under fire, mostly from my colleagues, for sharing his conscience.

So every morning, on walking through the office door, I check-in on what’s up with the Universe. And it’s cool because the Universe sends me emails…as in “Tut: A note from the Universe (www.tut.com).”

And what I’ve learned from Tut is the Universe is a lot like my mother; it’s good at making me feel guilty.

Having recently spent considerable time thinking about stuff I never thought I’d experience in a million dog years in the U.S., I knew I needed a good stiff 100-proof shot of the Universe to get me back on track. So I looked up what the Universe had told me on my birthday.

“Every burden bears a gift, Jack, every challenge brings a treasure, and every setback hides a blessing.

Is it just me, or does time and space sometimes seem far too good to be true?”


The Universe

And to make it worse, the Universe always signs off with, “Thoughts become things; choose the good ones.” Dang it!

Last week, the CEO of a top global dental manufacturing company came under fire, mostly from my colleagues, for sharing and speaking his conscience…through a full page ad in USA Today.

Dr. Dan Fischer founded Ultradent Products, Inc. 38-years ago in his garage with the help of his children. Today, the company lives up to its mission to “Improve oral health globally through science, creativity, and education” by being a world leader in developing high tech dental materials, devices and instruments. The company and its leader also have a long history of reaching out to help others. In fact, for the last several years, Ultradent has contributed its top whitening product, Opalescence, to our Smiles for Life campaign. And I wish appreciating a company with a conscience wasn’t so special these days.

The one page ad shortly followed the weekend of intolerance, hatred, violence, and racism in Charlottesville, Virginia. Dr. Fischer’s essay addressed the president’s response and expressed an incompatibility of his and the country’s core values with those of the chief executive. Fischer wrote of his respect for the presidency and love of country. But if Dr. Fischer met the president, he would simply turn his back and, ideally, face the flag.

Too many of my colleagues seem to either embrace the president’s behavior and approach or are not willing to rock the boat while Nazis and Klan members are identified as “some fine people” and racist sheriffs are pardoned. For me, it’s odd that someone can spend eight years in college and have more tolerance for someone like the current president than they can muster for Dr. Fischer. One of my cherished mentors taught me “You teach people how to treat you”; seems like tolerating bigotry teaches others bigotry is okay.

In a perfect pre-Tut Universe, I’d attack my Mr. Trump-supporting colleagues mercilessly. But then that’s where the “Thoughts become things, choose good ones” stuff always stops me…just like my mom.

So today I gave Dr. Fischer gratitude and 5-stars on Facebook and pledged my total loyalty to Ultradent and its leader (They already had it). I also shared “Every burden bears a gift, every challenge brings a treasure, and every setback hides a blessing…”

I hope so.

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Buon Natale

Cousin Leslie, a professional writer, wanted some info for a piece she was writing all about a Sicilian Christmas done SoCal style.

So over the past weekend, I savored a brief escape from charts, bills, the property manager, and my troubled and troublesome right nostril. I took advantage of the chance to sit back and reflect on some days I’d re-live in a heartbeat. And what are relatives for, anyway?

My cousin Leslie is a professional award-winning writer and she lives in Santa Barbara. And now you why I was smart enough to get into dental school but not nearly as smart as Leslie.

Leslie is writing a piece on Siciliana Christmas traditions; especially those carried over to the U.S. (for our Blandino famiglia, by way of New Orleans, the Valley, and near Downtown LA on 23rd Street.)

And yeah, even though my last name’s Von Bulow, about 90% of my relatives (known and unknown) are Sicilian. I’ve actually visited the Blandino hometown in Piana degli Albanesi, only to find out no Blandinos were listed. My good buddy, local Albanesi Catholic priest Papa Steo (Papa took a business card and referred a Pasadena patient); explained Blandinos were like “Smith” in neighboring Altofonte. And I now have the visual of Blandino men stalking Albanesi young women so let’s move on to Christmas.

I’m not so sure what the Christmas traditions in Sicily were like but if the 2007 film “Golden Door” is any indication, I don’t think there were that many shiny blue Schwinn Corvettes standing next to the Christmas tree. I’ve often wondered about how things were for the Blandinos in Sicily and my pride for their courage, mental toughness, and determination is about as authentic as a sunrise.

Our Monterey Park Christmas days were epic. Everything about Christmas was about as American as baseball until we made it to Aunt Clara’s house shortly following noon Mass.

In its Blandino Christmas prime, three aunts, three uncles, and Great Aunt Kay and Great Uncle “Uncle” attended, in addition to wave upon wave of cousins. And in the Blandino tradition, I was supposed to kiss every aunt and female cousin (when I was in single digits, this was the challenge of Christmas).

The women hung out in the kitchen and the guys talked sports and politics out in the spacious patio. I’d love to think none of my uncles would have ever voted for Trump but I know for sure my dad is probably still tempted to come back and give him a piece of his vastly superior mind. My dad would allow me to debate my conservative Uncle Bill but always with respect.

Dinner was freakin amazing! Sure, we had turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry, and gravy. But we also had either lasagna or ravioli with meatballs, lamb, and sausage, not to mention several eggplant dishes and an artichoke heart casserole that I would devour right now if I had the chance. I had my first sips of beer and wine and it seemed like forever before I made the jump from the card table to the big-time. On one memorable Christmas, a lasagna dish spilled to the floor; my brother Jay and Cousin Herb saw it as an opportunity-first time I ever heard of the 10-second lasagna rule.

After finishing off all the big table had to offer, we’d have some fruit to cleanse our palates; talk about sports and politics, and take a little recovery time before dessert would be served.

We then indulged ourselves with a variety of pies and ice cream…plus Italian cookies, cannoli, and struffoli honey balls. I never did understand the big deal with the struffoli that would be piled up like a honey-soaked pyramid but my mom and aunts were major fans.

In the Sicilian tradition, some wings of the family never attended, some were temporarily excommunicated, and others always showed up just in time for dinner.

After dinner, I’d join my dad, Jay, and my uncles out in the patio around the coolest outdoor fire I’ve ever seen. My uncles Tony and Johnnie would have the same arguments (ala the film Avalon) year after year after year about stuff like who got here when and where. But sitting back and being part of the circle, I felt the warmth of the fire, my family, and a sense of safety that I’ve really never known since. I loved those moments and I love re-living them.

As in Avalon, my uncles’ back and forth reminded us all where we come from and who we are. And I haven’t forgotten for even a second.

Leslie, thanks for the memories.

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Most recently, I learned (something I really already knew) the stuff that scares me the most is most likely the stuff I should be doing.

So yesterday, while I was reflecting about how I used to fantasize about getting even with dental school instructors who really didn’t recognize a creative genius when they saw one, I realized I should have played things a little differently.

Instead of seeing myself as a victim and daydreaming about ways to turn the tables on my white coated, white belted and white shod perpetrators (yeah, they really dressed just like wannabe golfers), I shoulda just apologized Canadian style, left the past in the past, and claimed whatever power I could’ve scratched out.

And going Putin on these guys (no, not the poisoning thing) in a KGB good cop manipulative kind of way would’ve definitely been possible. I serve up my D-school lab partner as an example. Billy-G got outa the blocks in great style, mostly because he was already over thirty and knew who he was.

We had this first project where we had to carve something out of a cube of wax just to prove we had any talent whatsoever beyond acing Organic Chemistry, having a pulse, and not coming out of the psychological testing rated “Sociopath.”

I carved a beautiful rose. And so my first project (combined with my previously having trash-talked the Dean of Admissions for talking mess about my Dad’s job) availed me the unfortunate label, “soft wise-ass.” Billy, on the other hand, carved a monkey with moveable parts and a proclivity for self-satisfaction. In the eyes of the “cool” guys wearing white shoes and white belts, Billy-G became Billy-Great.

And I think Billy-G actually loved his four years of D-school. On the other hand, I was really happy the psychological testing wasn’t a regular thing.

Today, however, everything is different. And I still can’t believe I went four years without hearing a single bird chirp. My bad; I chose my four years of attitude and created a self-fulfilling prophecy…being miserable.

About twenty years ago, one of my first mentors outside of mom and dad shared, “You teach people how to treat you.” Later, I learned there’s no power in being a victim (a corollary is resolving conflict by first apologizing for your role in the experience.) Most recently, I learned (something I really already knew) the stuff that scares me the most is most likely the stuff I should be doing. And I could’ve used some of this fortune cookie material while I was contemplating a dental school instructor beat-down in the parking lot…but I’ve never claimed to be a quick study.

Eventually I learned to look and listen for opportunities that connect with actions that bring me joy; that’s when I started writing these pieces about 20-years ago and that’s when I chose to make dentistry fun. And I have to tell ya, those Temple City parrots are freakin’ power chirpers.

On a recent trip to Seattle for yet some more team training, we stopped by for a visit with our fishmonger friends at World Famous Pike Place Fish. And it’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since our first visit. The trip came after watching a video that helped change our culture and whom we chose to be.

Back in about 2005, we hung out with the Pike Place crew; invested in some cold ones and some coffee and got a return that will never be measured in dollars and cents. I had a conversation I’ll never forget. I asked a 27-year old with a master’s degree, a high school teaching and coaching job, and a family why he chose to return to his fishmonger role. The young man explained he had three children and his wife had just been diagnosed with cancer; when he worked at Pike Place Fish, he was a better husband and father.

The young man’s response shook me in my Nike’s. I couldn’t help but shed a tear…just like now while I’m punching the keys. That’s the kind of culture I wanted for the people I love and with whom I work and serve patients every day.

I don’t think we’ve ever been the same…I know I haven’t.

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And I can’t help it; when I read “prolly” my left eyebrow starts twitching sort of like Dirty Harry.

So it’s been 5-weeks since the total Anchor Steam on tap-type nosebleed meeting breaker landed me in Kaiser with a Tampon secured way up my right nostril. But after a couple of lesser flare-ups, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel (yet another misapplication of probably one of my all-time fave overused metaphors.)

And I haven’t ridden a stationary bike in a roomful of mirrors listening to crappy club music or dropped a primordial profane “Yalp!” during a beautiful walk ruined by a little dimpled white ball…in five freakin weeks!

The NBA playoffs are history; college football is a couple of months away and my Giants and Angels are probably two of the worst clubs in major league baseball. All I’ve had goin’ for me is counting lies like sheep after watching CNN coverage of the game show host in-chief and figuring out the over/under for how many Americans we have to kill so that the super-rich can get a little super-richer.

Currently, even though I’m the consummate uber-cool professional on the outside; I’m former VP Dick Cheney handcuffed to a chair in a roomful of Big Macs on the inside.

But what a relief! I’m part of an innovative, fun, and off-the-charts talented elite group of colleagues led by the mentor you’ve always wanted but just didn’t know it…and he does great stand-up too.

I’ve been practicing dentistry for almost as long as the president has been delusional and by now I know special when I see it. And I get to work with twenty-five of the most capable Invisalign-providing GPs in the history of fixing cockeyed teeth and smiles in 9-months or less. The Magnificent Twenty-five come from all across North America; hand-picked by the Wolf of Invisalign. I was granted admittance by way of an athletic scholarship and because I laugh at all of the Big Guy’s jokes. Yeah, I happen to be the fastest cyclist on a stationary bike on East or West Las Tunas Drive, a 3-handicap golfer, and the owner of the best early topspin crosscourt backhand return of serve in the history of my own mind.

And just when I needed my elite corps of colleagues to support me during my five week Bataan march through and around Pasadena (because walking is my only allowed “exercise”), the whippersnapper component (in their own mind) of the Mag-25 up and let me down. The kids started texting “prolly” to replace the very respectable word, “probably.” And I can’t help it; when I read “prolly” my left eyebrow starts twitching sort of like Dirty Harry and I get all paranoid about another nosebleed. It’s sad.

And after five weeks of nasally induced frustration and inactivity, “prolly” probably could have been the last harmless cute little urban colloquial irritant to snap Smilin’ Jack into that “get off my lawn” guy nobody wants to be. And it’s bad enough I’m already the oldest guy in the club.

But just like my 2-iron, Soul Cycle, and my wooden Jack Kramer racket, this too shall pass. I’ll probably just put “prolly” away in the garage and then probably just keep on smilin’.

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Big Night In A Desert Town

And don’t tell anyone…but it’s not so bad having three moms who are all way cooler than you are.

Last night, three of my co-workers, friends, and adopted daughters in my own mind treated me to an amazing night on the town. And true we were still celebrating yet another of my birthdays and the town, Palm Springs, is home for citizens who remember Dwight D. Eisenhower as a lad. But as we would learn; even my fave comedian Chris Rock, whose Total Blackout tour stop in the desert was my B-day gift, isn’t a kid anymore.

We’ve been working together for fourteen, fifteen, and going-on nineteen years. These three young women couldn’t be more distinctive; their personalities and instinctive routes to problem solving are all their own. But for Kolleen, Dani, and Dalila, family is everything. And though I think of them as daughters, there are times when I know they see themselves as my mother. And being responsible and accountable for me is really hard work.

And it seems like recently I’ve given a fair amount of press to dental assistants Dani and Kolleen and they deserve it.

But what about someone who has been there for you for almost two freakin decades? Financial Coordinator Dalila has been an often outspoken factor around here from President Clinton to President Apprentice.

Dalila walked into our office for the first time before we were even Temple City Dental Care. And there are a few things I remember about our first encounter. For one, I went a little too ethnic with the name most famously linked to an unfortunate haircut. Dalila went to Mark Keppel High School just as I had only a few years earlier (in my dreams.) And family was Dalila’s most important core value while teamwork was the missing ingredient in her previous workplace experiences.

Several months into her new job, Dalila and her husband were sitting in the chapel when I eulogized my mom. The next day, Dalila was working in the kitchen over at my aunt’s house following the funeral services. And we all look back at some indelible images.

And Dalila might resent my sharing it, but I think she’s mellowed a bit. During those early years, the NBA Finals paled by comparison with our battles of will. But Dalila was my first co-worker whoever followed my coaching to apologize to resolve conflicts, even when thinking you were somewhere between 95-99% in the right.

Team Leader Dani and I became godparents to Dalila’s first born. We were also there for one memorable Karate Kid type performance by son Andrew. And I think, these days, Kindergartener Jacob and I can actually both smile in the same room.

There are times when Dalila could be the next great source for renewable energy; her love for and loyalty to family shine through as authentically as a sunrise. Dalila and I and her co-workers can be on different pages of the same novel but when our vision is on the line, we’re all still family.

What’s kind of scary is the fact the last time I saw Chris Rock on tour was ten years ago; Chris hadn’t toured since. And it seemed like Dalila wasn’t the only one who’d mellowed a bit.

Chris Rock was as smart, fearless, and edgy as ever; and is there better medicine than 2-hours of prolonged abs-crunching laughter?

But this time Rock was more reflective and thoughtful; he pretty much shared a confession, revealing what a poor husband he’d been during a marriage of 16-years that ended in divorce only months ago. “If you have somebody you love, hang on tight.”

It was a great night. I’ve known Dalila for as long as I had the chance to know my brother. And don’t tell anyone…but it’s not so bad having three moms who are all way cooler than you are.

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Not Really A Hater But…

…it still felt good being back, serving and working with friends and family, making dentistry fun and… breathing freely though both sides.

So a few days ago they pulled something called a “rocket balloon” straight outa my nose over at Kaiser.

And after six days of ballooning around the streets of Pasadena, what a relief and a pleasure it was rolling up those Canali sleeves and providing dental care. Say what you will about dentistry; I’m here to tell ya there are way worse work locations than the oral cavity (I can think of two just a little to the north.)

Every day, I get to help friends and family smile expressively, choose their ideal food truck, and maybe live a decade or so longer. I work with people I love, don’t have to lift heavy objects, and spend most of my day at the office looking like my USC football Trojans just won another national championship. The Kaiser ENT doc I saw started his day by pulling what looked like a small rat out of my left nostril. I rest my case.

But sometimes reality can travel faster than a speeding bullet.

I started thinking small rat myself when I pulled into our parking lot and saw the same 2-month old NOW LEASING banner strung out across the front of our building. And after emailing my lawyer, I’ll admit to having had impure thoughts about the property agent who brought to mind another acrobatic use for the presidential word, “Covfefe.”

I love my team like the children I wish I had: because they’re all self-sufficient grown-ups. So why can’t they have perfect immune systems and even better flu resistance and never ever have a sick day…like today? Then, in mid-whine, I remembered I was the one who wound up on the disabled list because of what might have been (in my mind) the greatest nosebleed in the history of East and/or West Las Tunas Drive.

With a few minutes between the morning huddle and patient #1, I checked my emails and texts. For about a year now, I’ve been helping thirty or so other dentists who, like me, love providing Invisalign care. And I’m also in communication with maybe fifty or so California DDS-types in an effort to set up Invisalign study club training. And in most of the United States, Puerto Rico, and all of Canada, organizing courses with Invisalign seems easier than leading a group in silent prayer and way easier than pulling a rocket balloon out of a human nostril…but not around here. Ugh, the beauty of corporate America.

So I flipped off the banner and corporate America and settled in for the first day back. At about 10:30AM, Scheduler Denise reported the first dental insurance complaint of the day. The patient was screaming bait and switch; she couldn’t believe she had a balance.

Denise went over the bill and explained the patient hadn’t met her deductible and Delta had paid for a Mercury/Silver material (we haven’t used in 25-years) instead of the resin material for which we have an accepted fee that was submitted. “I’m not paying 85-bucks; I already paid!” Denise responded that an agreement had been signed and payment was her responsibility; we were on her side in maximizing her benefits. “But I didn’t read the agreement; I just signed it!” Denise: “Doc, there’s no way she’s getting $85 back. And…she’s threatening to give us a bad review on Yelp!” And I have to admit, this kind of stuff used to really bother me…until they pulled that balloon outa my nose.

And yeah, what a day! I also had the chance to chat with my friends at Yelp regarding their top secret algorithm. Seems like, in my case; the algorithm works in very mysterious ways…and beyond.

So I pay Yelp $800 a month to post an ad that features several of our many 5-star reviews; the investment has been good for our practice. Then during one week, shortly before the Wednesday Bloody Wednesday affair, Yelp dropped twenty-one 5-star reviews and retained the three poor reviews coming from experiences like the 10:30AM special. Our lifetime 5-star status dropped to 4.5 in one week with the addition of one 5-star review. The secret algorithm machine now has us with 47 posted reviews and 49 filtered-out 5-star reviews.

But it still felt good being back, serving and working with friends and family, making dentistry fun and… breathing freely though both sides.

And it felt good and it was fun firing Yelp. I suggested it was probably time for the algorithm to take a good look into the mirror for a self-review…or maybe it could just go and Covfefe itself.

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Spring Break

And the last time I took a week or so off, it all began with a tube up my nose.

So the last time I took a legit vacation we had a Republican in the White House who hadn’t stiffed any vendors and could speak in complete sentences whenever necessary.

And the last time I took a week or so off, it all began with a tube up my nose.

Call me crazy but there’s nothing like a nasal medical intervention to wake you up, get your attention, and help you focus on stuff that matters. Plus, believe it or not, there are far worse orifices that can serve the same purpose.

A few weeks ago I tacked on another year as the most notable elite athlete/scribe/DDS-type in the San Gabriel valley (in my own mind.) And don’t even try convincing me that I’m not the Rose City’s fastest living most immature old guy on a stationary bike in a roomful of mirrors!

But lately I’ve been obsessed with CNN; fall asleep on the couch at about 9PM, and then get up at 5AM even on Sundays. I’m in the office seven days per week. And I worry about stuff…at 3AM. Some days after work, I even lose the will to exercise while surrounded by really attractive women.

I used to be normal…before dental school…several decades ago. Geez, when I was a kid my dad used to think I was physically and psychologically allergic to work and now it seems like work is everything.

So the first time I wound up with a tube up my nose it helped seal the deal on my adding an associate dentist to our practice (like my team had been advising for years.) And even though he went to UCLA, bringing Dr. Lee aboard was one of my wisest drug-induced choices ever. But it took a tube up my nose to get me to listen and move forward.

This time around, my right nostril passage triggered a freakin six-day Memorial weekend, lots of stares, and…some appreciation.

Geez, I haven’t even shaved (the result is NOT impressive). I’ve slept in, taken mid-morning walks, indulged late afternoon naps, read Sicilian crime novels, and listened to Nat and Frank as I’ve sipped nectar and nibbled on Trader Joe’s most healthy offerings. Aside from the lack of dangerous women (their choice, not mine) and my patrolling the mean streets of Pasadena’s Madison Heights, not the Caribbean, it’s been a freakin pleasure cruise…with a tube up my nose. Makes me wonder; why not try a week off WITHOUT the tube?

So every quarter, Temple City Dental Care goes off-site for an all-day review of the last 90-days and planning for the next 90. We share and celebrate what’s been great, go over the numbers, and figure out where we stand on the figurative bricks that determine the structure and growth of our business.

Last week, no sooner had I started passing out the meeting materials when I sensed a nosebleed coming on; I’d had ‘em ever since the first not so “tubular” N-G tube nose job but lately they’d become more frequent.

40-minutes later I was still bleeding like a stuck hog even though I’m not so sure about the origin of that metaphor. Then we had a family intervention. Dalila has been a major part of our team for going on 19-years, Team Leader Dani (pictured) is close behind with 15-years in; they’re family. If you throw in Dental Assistant Kolleen, it’s like I get to work with my three adopted daughters every day. At least that was their story as Dalila and Dani dragged me out of the men’s room while onlookers stared. What later transpired as my two kidnappers baby sat me all day (including two trips to Kaiser) was basically, a family intervention.

And the thing is, I guess when the true family you know consists of the people who join you every day and share your passion for making a difference for others AND one another, home is where the heart is and where THEY are. And I guess there’s always room for improvement regarding my listening skills.

So the next time you see a guy walkin’ around Pasadena wearing USC gear with a tube up his nose, he just might be having a good day after all. There’s a lot to be said for family and sometimes the journey to male common sense happens in mysterious ways.

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Jack Von Bulow, DDS
Jack Von Bulow, DDS
Temple City Dental Care

9929 E. Las Tunas Drive
Temple City, CA 91780
Call: 626-285-3161
Fax: 626-285-5379
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