Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jack Bauer Visits the Dentist

Today I went to the dentist for my six month exam. While at the dental office, my mind for some reason decided to pretend that I was Jack Bauer from 24 being interrogated by enemy agents . . .

The following events take place between 9:00 am and 10:00 am.

Upon getting captured [summoned from the waiting room] I find myself strapped into a chair. My interrogator, a tall blond woman, lowers the back of my chair so that I am staring up at the ceiling. The woman wears a blue mask over her nose and mouth to conceal her identity. I know that all operatives from her home country, Oralhygienia, are highly skilled at extracting information.

On the ceiling above me are posters with propaganda slogans. One of them shows a dog hugging another dog. The caption: “Hold a true friend with both hands.” Another poster features trees and a lush green hillside. Its caption: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” I hum the Star-Spangled Banner to avoid being corrupted by these subversive attempts at mind control. The masked operative shines a bright light in my face and forces me to open my mouth. She then assaults my gums with a sharp metal poker thingy. After about ten minutes of jabbing and scraping, the interrogation begins:

“Ready to talk, Mr. Bauer? Tell us the passwords for the White House security system.”
“How about now?” She drives the metal poker into the gum line below a molar.
I cry out in agony and shout, “Why do you hate freedom?”
“We do not hate your country's freedoms, Mr. Bauer. It is America's greed, materialism, and inconsisent flossing habits that we seek to destroy. Oh, could you tilt your head a little more towards me?”
“Thank you. Now where were we? Oh yes, the White House. Perhaps you might talk if you knew that we have your daughter Kim locked in a room with a cougar.”
“That didn’t work in Season 2 and it won’t work now!”
“Very well, Mr. Bauer. You have forced me to use a little something I call the Cleaner.”

The masked woman puts a paste-like substance on the tip of a small cylindrical device, which she uses to start buffing my teeth. The device sounds like a small drill, but this process doesn’t hurt at all. I consider telling her that, but decide against it. When I still refuse to talk, the woman says that I must now face their master interrogator—a man known as “The Dentist.” The woman exits, leaving me alone in the room. Deciding that it’s time to escape, I shift my body to turn on the cell phone in my pocket. I shift again to activate the speaker function and dial Chloe at CTU.

“Jack, where are you?”
“I’ve been captured. They've taken me to a torture facility, a place they call the Dentist’s Office. I’m trapped in Exam Room A and need an escape route. Can you get me the schematics for this building?”
“Sure. I’ve got ’em right here on my desktop.”
“I’m thinking if I can get out of this chair I’ll jump on the counter, punch through a ceiling tile and then shimmy out through an air vent.”
“Well Jack, you could do that. Or you could walk out the door behind you. That leads to a hallway, which leads to the waiting room and the front exit. Oh wait, Jack! My screen shows that someone is moving towards you.”
“Damn it!”

I hear Chloe taking a drink. The door to my room opens and The Dentist enters. “Hello, Mr. Bauer,” he says, while examining X-rays on the wall. “Good news. No cavities. But Yvonne tells me you still won’t give us the passwords. Perhaps this will loosen your tongue.” He pokes around in my mouth with a metal wire thingy similar to the one that his assistant used earlier. A while later he turns to write something on a sheet of paper. While he’s distracted, I’m able to wriggle free of the straps holding me in the chair. I grab a cup of Listerine and throw it in his face. I then snatch some of his torture implements [a toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, and a roll of floss] and burst out of the room. Following Chloe’s escape route, I race down the hallway and into the waiting room. But someone is blocking the door. So I leap through the window, landing on the sidewalk amid a shower of broken glass.

In the parking lot, I toss an old lady out of her car and prepare to drive away. From the building behind me I hear The Dentist call out, “You may have escaped this time, Mr. Bauer. But we will meet again . . . in about six months!”

09:59:58 . . . 09:59:59 . . . 10:00:00

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My First Car

There I was looking through some old photo albums, and what do I find? Pictures of the first car I owned. It was a 1975 Datsun B210. I bought the vehicle from my parents in 1986, when it was already 11 years old. I drove it for another decade. So the Datsun was there for my first date, my first job, my high school graduation, my college graduation, the day I received my master's degree, and the day I got married.

Here are some of the notable characteristics of my Datsun B210, the pinnacle of mid-70s Japanese automotive craftsmanship:
  • Color: Blue - except for the rust spots that covered about 40% of the body.

  • Acceleration: Zero to 60 in uh . . . well it eventually hit 60 mph, if traveling downhill.

  • Sound System: AM radio with one small dashboard speaker. Great for listening to Paul Harvey talk about the rest of the story.

  • Heater: Worked well in the summer.

  • Air Conditioner: Roll down all four windows and hope for a breeze.

  • Seats: Ripped vinyl. Able to reach temperatures in excess of 212 Fahrenheit when parked in the sun. Great flesh-searing summertime fun.

  • Floormats: Effective at hiding the holes in the floorboard. Kept me from being distracted by the street whizzing by below.

  • Engine: Well, I know it had an engine. I saw it many times when opening the hood to refill the radiator. Never did get that head gasket leak fixed, but dozens of bottles of Bar's Stop Leak kept me on the road.

  • Starting: Gotta give it up here for the Datsun. Though it sat outside all year long, the car was a consistent starter. Even on bitterly cold winter mornings, the Datsun coughed to life more often than not.

  • Endearing Quality: The engine would sometimes die while I sat in a busy intersection waiting to make a left turn. Good times.

I have mostly fond memories of my first car. It may not have been "a sweet ride," but for ten years it took me where I needed to go. My old blue Datsun was a good car . . . the same way that Marley was a good dog.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

North Platte

It has been a while since my last post. The reason: I took a trip to North Platte, Nebraska. Some of you may be wondering why North Platte. To that I reply, why not North Platte. For in that town is the Union Pacific Bailey Yard—the largest railroad yard in the world. Bailey Yard includes 315 miles of tracks (covering 2,850 acres), which can be viewed from the observation deck of the eight-story Golden Spike Tower.

North Platte is also where you will find the Buffalo Bill Ranch. There you can visit the elegant Victorian house where Buffalo Bill Cody once lived. (No, that is NOT the guy in The Silence of the Lambs)

There are many other attractions in North Platte. One of my favorite spots was Cody Park, where I took this picture. Cody Park is a magical place where the donkey and the peacock put aside their ancient hatred for each other and live side by side in peace. If only the world would follow the example set by these noble creatures.

Finally, it was in North Platte last week that I completed a one-page outline for my next novel.

It’s a start.