Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Legislation without teeth. Political accusation without teeth. Proclamation without teeth. A former resident of postwar Poland without teeth.

I saw them all today.

Before my morning class, I was sitting in my favorite dentist’s chair asking him to please glue back a crown so that I would not look silly in class. Not so fast, he tells me. You see, you no longer have a tooth.

I have heard this before. I'm Polish and those of us who resided in Poland in the after-war years have troubled teeth. Maybe it’s all that kielbsa we put down on the dinner table. More likely it’s the absence of fluoride in the water and the utter dread everyone had of dentists who practiced the mantra of drill baby drill without much attention to issues of pain.

The interesting thing about my current state dental insurance program is that it pays for the cheap and bypasses the expensive. I left the clinic knowing that I had both lousy teeth and lousy dental insurance. Perhaps I can forgo teeth in the years ahead of me. I can see it: I become a caricature of a person, dependant on rosé wine and very soft cheese. Without the crusty bread.

In the afternoon, I take my papers to a favorite café, one that no one appears to like and so it guarantees for me the peace and quiet that I need for class preparation. I finish early, pack my papers and head back for my late class.

I cross West Washington and remembered how, four years ago, I had witnessed a demonstration here. A packed street. Tens of thousands of hopefuls, turning out for Kerry. Not that it did him any good in the final scheme of things. But the scene was like no other that I witnessed in Madison before or after.

Today, the street is golden and empty.

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I note it and keep walking toward school. But here’s a little twist to this day: on State Street, I hear the announcement: John Kerry, speaking in support of Obama on the Capitol steps NOW! I look at my watch. I have a few minutes. I turn back toward the Capitol. This is what one does in American politics, I tell myself. You listen, over and over, to people who support your candidate. Big crowds or small.

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I listen to the Obama people drown out the group of students who have a different vision for the next four years.

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But still, for me, it’s all slightly bizarre. A toothless rally if you will. Kerry, who once drew crowds, now has this to deal with. Does he remember his West Washington speech, introduced by Bruce Springsteen, four years back?

I wait, but Kerry still does not show up by the time I have to head back to class. I leave the relatively small gathering and make my way to the Law School.

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Do tooth fairies make the rounds only when baby teeth bite the dust? A shame.