Choices

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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Prolly

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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Pro Life… Until Birth

Our U.S. Chief Exec recently admitted he envied Australia “…because you have better health care than we do.”

So I’ve tried, tried, tried to remain apolitical here ever since back in January, when the first ever game show host-elect was sworn into office right in front of millions of totally invisible angry old white guys.

And maybe it’s because there’s a misleading, stupid banner hanging irresponsibly across the front of my practice (courtesy of property managers who studied service at the United Airlines School of Business) or perhaps it’s those twenty-one (count ‘em) 5-Star reviews Yelp took off my page in one week or maybe it’s the fact I had another birthday a few days ago. But today I feel like channeling the unfiltered heart and soul of Golden Girl Estelle Getty; time to stop holding stuff in because that can’t be healthy.

Oh, did I just write down something about health?

Don’t know about you guys but if you’re even a fraction like me, maybe you too were wondering about a bunch of aging male Caucasians wearing their Sunday suits and come-overs to a little party held at the White House Rose Garden. I’ve never seen an uglier group toasting the deaths of Americans who just never had the chance to lick a silver spoon. And maybe today’s American way is to hide incompetence with bluster. Or maybe now days P.T. Barnum is so last century and suckers are born every second.

And I never thought I’d ever see the day our current tweeter in-chief could be described as an over-achiever, but it’s true. I guess when you idolize dictators who tend to take out big numbers of the folks who vote ‘em in unanimously, things can get sort of competitive (especially if you’re just a wannabe.) It’s one thing firing make believe apprentices on TV but how does that stack up against murderous-type mentors like Vlady-P, Rodrigo, and the honored-to-meet-you Jong Unster? I guess sometimes you’ve just gotta kill some expendable Americans and then throw a party…just to keep up?

The American Health Care Act is exactly that; it’s an act…of heartless, cynical, and murderous treason. And if celebrating 24-million low-moderate income Americans losing their health insurance while passing the pre-existing conditions buck onto the states in order to generate $600 billion for the wealthiest U.S. “patriots” floats your boat, you suck. If you have the gall to cut off 7-million veterans and take out 1,100 VA facilities to get a “win”, you deserve to spend 5-minutes in the super-sized industrial elevator it would take to share it with every worker and vendor you’ve ever cheated.

And maybe our only hope is that the psychological pathology our narcissist in-chief suffers can be guided to the nation’s advantage. It’s like our guy loves to be liked by everyone; especially the peeps he admires and envies…like dictators. But what if we hook him up with influencers from friendly countries that once posed a threat…like Australia?

Sitting next to Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, the U.S. Chief Exec admitted he envied Australia “…because you have better health care than we do.”

So why not improve Obamacare or go totally Aussie and replace it with single payer (like the rest of the industrialized world)? And why not, the next time you have the chance, replace a clueless demagogue and his spineless gang who wouldn’t know Christian charity or human decency even if they sang the National Anthem with one hand on their “heart” and the other holding the Bible?

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Under The Banner Of Confusion

Though the implication is Temple City Dental Care is taking the 3:15 to Yuma straight outa town…we are not.

So today’s one of those days when I get to reflecting on stuff; and that’s what happens when the likes of May 3rd rolls around.

Yeah, I reflect big-time on May 3. Like I’ve shared with you guys before, the two words can suggest both possibility and the end of an inning. But when you’ve been serving patients for more decades than I care to reflect, what you really look for is the possibility of extra innings (lots of ‘em).

This year, I had kind of a reflection head start on what used to be a few candles atop a load of refined carbohydrates and is now a blaze profound enough to attract large red trucks.

Exactly two weeks prior to my annual Big Day, something embarrassing happened to good friend of some forty years. And when you’re a dentist it’s okay to count buildings as Facebook friends. This time it wasn’t the roof or the plumbing; but there was some confusing tagging involved.

If you’re doing an East Las Tunas Drive-by about a block west of Baldwin and you look north, don’t believe what you see at the 9929 address.

There’s a large banner reading “NOW LEASING”. But it’s not true. Though the implication is Temple City Dental Care is taking the 3:15 to Yuma straight outa town…we are not.

The place that’s been our happy dental home ever since Cools Candy, Vernon Brothers Pharmacy, and Lieberg’s graced our little town is not going anywhere; we’re not up for grabs. We’re growing, training, and remaining leading edge. We’re still committed to making dentistry fun and making a world-class difference for others.

In fact, what we’d really like to do is occupy the “SPACE AVAILABLE” right across the hall.

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Anatomy Of A Delicate Flower

I was a tenth grader on my way to being the next great commercial artist/NBA point guard…until Bruno showed up.

So it all started with Bruno, a small-time high school hood.

I was a tenth grader on my way to being the next great commercial artist/NBA point guard…until Bruno showed up. Yeah, I wasn’t always a delicate flower.

Anyway, first day of sophomore Art class, the dreaded, legendary Mark Keppel High thug was seated on my right as we shared a rectangular table. And Bruno’s ultra-hot girlfriend sat directly across from me. When I closed my eyes, all I saw were the words “Awkward, dangerous, and death.”

Bruno only stood about 5’3”; he looked like the felony version of the Fonz. On his left forearm, a tattoo read “Born to kill”; on Bruno’s right I noticed some serious black widow art.

Bruno looked like he was about 23-years old (coulda been the shaved head.) I wondered how many attempts at grade-10 the little punk had actually had. And I’m not so sure he ever did make it out of high school; Bruno undoubtedly had a better chance of being paroled outa Folsom.

But one thing’s for sure; Bruno could really draw. When I glanced over at the little criminal’s work, I saw what Picasso might have been had he chosen an assault and battery career. And at 15-years old, I’d never been more enthralled by elaborate sketches of low-rider cars and incredibly beautiful naked women.

Yeah, Bruno could really draw. But sadly, while sketching, Bruno could also kick my butt without even trying.

In a moment of clarity, I made a career change. I picked dentistry. What could be easier?

And the journey might have been a little bumpy at times. That first quarter 2.13 GPA at Cal State LA and my Dad’s wake-up call that followed pretty much transformed me into a stellar student, a passable warehouseman, and a social activist. I also acquired a fear of lifting heavy things and being shot at in the jungle.

I was accepted into every dental school to which I applied. I was first welcomed by Creighton University and compared to looking over my shoulder for the Viet Cong version of Bruno, freezing half the year in Nebraska and actually going to Mass every Sunday seemed like a fairly sensible option.

But my family had suffered the tragic loss of my brother and it was a blessing that I received a letter of acceptance from USC. I could stay close to home. But I wasn’t so sure about the “bottom line” part of the blessing when my dad got the bill.

Back in The Day, if USC was a person, it would have been slightly more conservative than Mike Pence’s redneck uncle. At my interview, the Dean of Admissions shared he was impressed with my work and thought I looked more or less normal; he then asked what my dad did for a living. When I answered “Teamster Business Representative” the dean shared “…unions were good in their day.” I asked the Dean what he thought about slavery. Maybe a tactical error but nobody talks mess about my dad.

What followed were arguably the worst four years of my life (I wonder why?) It seemed like every pipsqueak who’d ever wanted to wear a barber’s smock with red strips on its sleeves and would later watch the first half of Full Metal Jacket at least thirty times was in my freakin face nonstop.

USC dental school is located on 925 W 34th Street. I’ve called my D-school escape the Miracle on 34th Street ever since. And I think I’m still looking over my shoulder for Bruno; sometimes even when I’m presenting care I know I can deliver. Only this time Bruno is suited up in a barber’s smock with red stripes on its sleeves.

So this past weekend, I attended Supreme Invisalign Commander Dr. David Galler’s Reingage course for the second time. And no, the Wolf of Invisalign didn’t make me do it; it wasn’t remedial. I volunteered. Honest.

As Day Two was drawing to an end, David talked about dentists as a group; about how ours was different from other professions. It was like somewhere deep down, we were all somehow broken. It was like we were prone to second-guessing ourselves even when we were trained and prepared almost to an OCD fault.

But thanks to David, one of the most generous souls I’ve ever met, I now know the answer and I’m totally on my way from Premier to Elite Invisalign status. Nothing’s gonna stop me. I’m leaving the past in the past and movin’ on.

So goodbye Bruno the thug and goodbye dental school Brunos too! You’re both dead to me now…unless I see you on Highway 5, where in my mind; you’ll both be driving between LA and Anaheim…for eternity!!! I’ve got your delicate flower right here!!!

Think I’ll sit down and maybe have an Arnold Palmer or something. I know; I’ll watch the Wolf’s viral Youtube wave thing for a little while…that’s the ticket.

But…watch out Monday, there’s a new artist in town!

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Affordable Care… But Do They?

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.” Francis of Assisi

I wrote a column three years ago, directed at colleagues dead set against the Affordable Care Act (ACA); little did I know it was only the beginning. This morning, the LA Times front page served up some irony I couldn’t help but notice.

So today, the Times published an above-the-fold front page piece titled, “What’s at stake in health law’s repeal.” Just under the fold, I read “Unearthing atrocities in Iraq’s newest mass graves.”

And when you begin doing the math that says you’ve now walked the earth way more days than your dad; for me, it’s cause for reflection. I wonder; if like me, my dad cultivated a finer appreciation for irony as he nurtured a closer relationship with AARP?

Like many fortunate sons, I don’t assume I’ll ever be nearly the man my dad was. To a fault, he believed everyone deserved a chance; last time I looked, that was an American ideal. Even for the 30,000,000 citizens who were one banana peel away from losing everything just a few years ago and the 30,000 Americans/year who lose their lives for the lack of effective health insurance.

If the only leader of the free world who’s ever tweeted out TV reviews, baseless accusations, and Twilight Zone head counts (at 3AM) ever has his way, he’ll be killing Americans. And I wonder what he’ll do about those mass graves? I wonder if he can even spell “atrocity?”

When I look at social issues, I personalize the consequences. How will the results impact friends and family (and that includes my co-workers and patients.) And what would my dad have said? And what if MY family was being denied the chance for the same sense of security available to the rest of the industrialized world?

I don’t have to go very far to find an example. Both of my parents suffered from diabetes. Had my dad been one of the 30,000,000 he would have lost his life instead of a leg. I would’ve never made it through college, and my mom and I would’ve probably qualified as part of that notorious demographic that lives the high life while relying on government support. My mom would have died years earlier; I wouldn’t be serving others today and I would’ve never had the privilege of meeting the friends and family I know as my co-workers and patients.

In California, an ACA rollback will be a catastrophic gut blow for the sickest and poorest among us. In Los Angeles County, since ACA was fully implemented in 2014, 350 community clinics have served 1.5 million patients who otherwise would have no health coverage. Statewide, 13.4 million Californians are covered by Medi-Cal, our version of Medicaid. With the planned cuts in Medicaid, millions stand to lose the only health insurance coverage they’ve known.

In return, the wealthiest families in the nation will receive an average tax cut of $7-million. Increased insurance costs for those between the ages of 50-65 are projected to range from 20-40%.

Supporters of the repeal and opponents of the ACA have had approximately 65-years to come up with a plan, a clue, or most disgustingly, the will to generate any kind of health plan; let alone a viable alternative. Apparently, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” really doesn’t mean crap to these so-called “Americans.”

And my question is; who are the 30,000 Americans the ACA repeal advocates plan to kill? Ironically, many of ‘em apparently didn’t have P.T. Barnum on their mind on November 8.

According to the President of the United States, “It’s (health insurance) an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health insurance could be so complicated.”

If she still had a pulse and could respond on Twitter, Francis of Assisi could tweet back an old quote, “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.”

Seems like these days, there’s a scarcity of charity and wisdom while fear and ignorance are all too often only an early AM tweet away.

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Scared Straight

Our leader is wise and inspires us with the mysterious vision and power of Yoda; and he does world-class stand-up too.

So today’s one of those days when I get to reflecting on stuff. And for me, reflecting can only mean one thing…or maybe two.

Of course, I reflect big-time on May third. Like I’ve shared with you guys before, the two words in question can suggest possibility and the end of an inning. But once you get past 420 dog years, what you’re really looking for is extra innings (lots of ‘em). So when the bonfire atop the cake with my name on it got bright enough to attract large red trucks, I became a freakin’ reflecting machine.

And birthday reflecting can be hard work and just like with spin class, I’ve yet to see a single endorphin come outa the whole weighty process. Not so with reflection #2.

Today, the conditions were ideal for some major league deep thought. It could have been the gloomy day and the torrent of cats and dogs that were falling out of the consistently sunny (like for 7-years in a row without a drop) SoCal skies. It might have been the pile of bills that I somehow overlooked while touring Nashville, Las Vegas, and the Zombie Apocalypse the last two weekends. But more than likely, it was the friends and family that shared the ride…and the emoji of me I’m supposed to design.

Until I fell in with this elite international marauding band of Invisalign-providing ladies and gentlemen, stuff like staying up all night, killing zombies, sleep deprivation, and listening to dentists, just like me, attempt karaoke never really scared me that much. And I’m no hero; spiders and Delta Dental totally creep me out, same goes for Brussel’s sprouts and chicken pot pie with peas in it. But last night (after 10PM), I willingly watched CNN and then wound up sleepless in Pasadena after finally stopping a nose bleed following a solid hour of aggressive nose grabbing. But I think what scared me was just the challenge my being able to keep up with my fellow zombie slayers and elite colleagues…and the emoji.

So as I reflect on the rotator cuff surgery I’m gonna need after autographing and clicking away the tower of bills that accumulated after two lost weekends from Temple City, I’m amazed by what can happen over the course of 17.5 dog years. “Scared” is really about “excited” and “straight” is about what we can do for the people who honor us with their trust and are looking for the healthy lasting smile they’ve always really wanted. I get to hang out with the Top 20 GPs of Invisalign. And we are awesome at what we do. And dang it, I will not be intimidated by an emoji.

And they might not all be Trojan fans; shucks, one of ‘em is a Domer (went to Notre dame) and one of the smartest of all-time actually roots for the freakin’ Patriots. They come from Canada to Puerto Rico; New York to SoCal, and Miami to Seattle. We even have a prince. Our leader is wise and inspires us with the mysterious vision and power of Yoda; and he does world-class stand-up too.

Two and a half years ago, I never saw this opportunity coming, especially after almost 280 dog years in dentistry. But now, to quote Humphrey Bogart from my all-time fave film, Casablanca, “…I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

But I’m still a little concerned about what that emoji’s gonna look like.

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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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