I Went to a Hipster Dentist

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And I’ve never felt more like George Washington



This little bit of goofiness was written in response to a satire writing contest and I must have been in some sort of weird state of mind. I had a lot of fun writing it. My story didn’t go anywhere in the contest, but it found a home on Medium and I wanted to share it here.


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Photo by Nathalia Belfort on Unsplash

After working four years and six months at my Angel Investor-backed, cash-infused, market-disrupting employer, I finally qualified for benefits. Whew! I know, I know. As far as unpaid internships go, that was on the short side.

After unironically eating too many Flintstone gummy vitamins from the company breakroom, my back tooth started to ache, so I found a company plan-approved dentist in the rapidly gentrifying part of town.

Okay, it was the only approved dentist, but no matter. I have insurance!

Well, color me delighted when I arrived at Dr. Ethan’s one-room office in the backroom of a nail salon and was greeted by the sight of so many archaic dental implements scattered about. What a collection!

Never in my wildest dreams did I think he’d actually use the hand drill on me. But he did. Without novocaine.

 

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An illustration of dental keys for tooth extraction from Savigny’s catalog of surgery implements, circa 1798, and found here

I guess the screaming upset the mani-pedi customers, so Dr Ethan handed me a half-empty fifth of gin and an old Iomega at Comdex giveaway stress ball to squeeze. It was all very Old West and I feel honored to be a part of the vintage dental ways.

I can’t believe people actually lived through this! I bet my brother — the one with good job — has never experienced anything so cool.

After the rotten roots were properly canal’ed, Dr Ethan offered me a wide range of replacement teeth in many colors, none of them white and porcelain.

Oh, I could have chosen a gold tooth (not covered by insurance), an amalgam of something toxic and something radioactive (also not covered by insurance), or a nice assortment of wooden teeth.

I don’t know if it was the gin or the blood loss, but I was pleased to have the chance to choose between a knotty pine, a beautiful mahogany, or a nice hard teak.

Well, I chose mahogany that day and haven’t looked back. Sure, the varnish is seeping into my salivary glands and small splinters of tooth fly off when I eat oatmeal, but I am now the coolest, most throwback guy in the office. I can hardly wait for the next tooth to rot out of my head! And for this infection to go away.

The only downside: My urge to chop down cherry trees has never been stronger.

This item first appeared on Medium, find more of my work @karenfayeth over there

Taking Myself Way Too Seriously

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What follows is me working out some “stuff” up there in the ol’ brain pan. A bit indulgent to do this publicly, but maybe putting it out there helps someone else. Or makes me accountable for my own crap. Either way.

So here it is… I have been taking part in a Flickr group that challenges its members to do a new macro photo every week based on a theme the moderators choose.

I started participating on December 4th with this photo:



©2018 Karen Fayeth

I felt clever. Sassy. Like my photo was more creative and of better quality than the others in the group. Go me! I was rewarded with well over one hundred faves in the first day. Hey, fun!

So I kept going. Each week working hard and having fun doing these weekly photo challenges. Creating a new image every week. Some weeks I worked really hard (or agonized) over executing my idea.

Other weeks it came easy to me, I snapped a photo that was exactly what I wanted and went on about my day.

But always having fun and not taking it too seriously.

Until two weeks ago. Two weeks ago I stopped having fun and got deadly (overly) serious about my weekly photo entry.

Let me back up. This Flickr group is huge, over 13,000 members. Each Monday between 800 to 1,200 photos are posted for the theme. This means in order to function, the group must be tightly moderated. And it is. Tightly.

I both like and respect that there are heavily enforced rules for the group. But I also HATE it because I’m an *artist* and The Muse can’t be contained by your silly rules. I should be able to break them because MY work is the best.

Yeah, okay. I own it. I got weird. I hate it when I get weird.

The week’s theme was monochromatic, and I turned this one in:



©2018 Karen Fayeth

I really like this photo. I worked hard on it and felt really good about it. I feel like I did something worthwhile. Artistic.

Less than ten minutes after adding it to the group, a moderator pulled it, telling me “This is not monochromatic, I can see both brown and green.”

I seethed. I stewed. I started looking at other photos in the group and found SEVERAL that also had tiny bits of another color that made it through the moderator’s net.

I bellowed about how unfair it was. I started making a list of all the other photos that were let through. I prepared to launch my vitriol on anyone who would listen and demand answers for my mistreatment. How could they hate my photo so much!?!?! (I know, I know)

Then I went to talk to The Good Man, and as I detailed all the ways I had been wronged, I heard myself. I listened to my words and realized…aw damn…I’d stopped having fun. I was this worked up over a photo on Flickr in a group where the only prize is some eyes seeing the photo and some faves.

Yeah. I hit the wall pretty hard. This came just a day after struggling with a story for a writing contest that just would not gel for me. I hadn’t given myself enough time to work on it and the story would not come together no matter how hard I tried. I tried to shotgun it and I failed hard. I did still turn in the story but I know it’s not good.

You see, I wasn’t mad at that stupid unfair moderator. I was mad at me.

And that’s no way to create. That is the antithesis of creativity. This dampens The Muse.

So I went all the way there and now I’m reeling myself back in. I swear. I sat my Muse and my brain down and we had a talk. Feelings were felt and admonitions were issued. Promises to be better. To loosen up. To remember why I do any of my creative work…to have fun. To let the creativity out. To create something.

And I’m better. I am. The following week I swore I wasn’t going to participate in the Flickr group again, but that was EXACTLY why I needed to get back in the game. So I made a photo based on the theme “in a bottle.”

Here’s my Valentine to myself. Green like the Hulk who gets very, very mad. Sweet like the victory of turning out a piece of art and something I really like. It also met the rules and made it past the moderators.



©2018 Karen Fayeth

Lesson learned. Scars formed. Exterior just a little bit tougher.

And this week? Try, try again.





Swinging For the Fences

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When I began to seriously focus on submitting my writing to literary journals, I was schooled on the concept that it takes about one hundred rejections to get an acceptance.

Since submitting to one hundred journals takes a lot of research work, I began working with a really awesome service that helps me target submissions and keep track of rejections. Over the past several years, I have found that the one hundred rejection rule is pretty much true.

What this means is that I now get A LOT of rejections. In those first years most submissions were done by regular mail so I’d often have a mailbox crammed with rejection notices.

Now most submissions are done electronically and it is my email inbox that is filled to overflowing with rejection slips. They tend to come in waves. None for a while then six or eight at a time. Rejections usually show up when I’m having a really crappy day.

Receiving a pile of rejections just makes everything SO much better.

When I started getting that many rejection notices, it hurt at first. Each one was a tiny “ouch” and made me sad. Who could reject my perfect little carefully crafted babies?

Over time, I became immune to the sheer volume of no-thank-yous. The skin hardens a bit, the outlook toughens and now I just shrug and say “okay” and move on.

It’s what makes those occasional acceptances that much more sweet. A barrage of no and then a glowing, shiny, joyful yes.

Since I have had the good fortune to receive quite a few acceptances, my submission service has been trying to up my game a little bit.

By up my game, I mean in addition to the regular submissions to a lot of fine magazines that no one has heard of, they have been adding a few more well-known and highly regarded journals to my submission list.

I’m not quite up to the point of hitting up the New Yorker for publication, but names on the list recently include McSweeney’s, Harvard Review, Zoetrope and The Paris Review.

I always giggle just a little when I hit “submit” on those queries. That’s because the odds of my work seeing the light of such highly regarded and high circulation magazines is pretty slim. That said, you don’t hit a home run if you don’t swing at a few pitches. So I swing away.

The Good Man has a different view on the rejection process. He is always happy to see the rejections in the mailbox. His firm belief is that if they are saying no then at least they considered my work, if even for a moment.

He especially loves the so-called “good” rejections. The slips that have a personal note from the editor, or say something like “while we were unable to use this particular story, we’d like to see more work from you.”

Those good rejections are a tiny bit of bread to a starving writer. Those few words are enough to keep me working hard to get to yes.

Anyhow, all of this was on my mind as this morning I sorted through a stack of mail and opened a couple rejection slips. I can recognize them right away because when I do paper submissions, I include a self addressed stamped envelope.

When my own envelope returns to me, it’s almost always a no. Almost. I did get an acceptance one time in my SASE. I’d neglected to open it for almost two weeks and couldn’t believe it when I did open it. That was a nice surprise.

Anyhow, this morning’s envelope had a postmark from New York and inside resided the tiniest sliver of paper. What I estimate to be about one-eighth of a sheet of paper.

It’s from The Paris Review. A highly revered title.

They were able to spare just a tiny sliver of paper to tell me no way, Josephina.

And for a moment, I’d like to think about some low to no paid intern reading my story, considering it and then thoughtfully sending this slip.

I’m sure they LOVED my work, it just didn’t fit the themes on their literary calendar. Right?

Right.








The Art and Science of Rejection

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As longtime readers know, I have been trying for a few years to get my little ol’ words and stories published out into the big, cold literary world.

To that end, I have been using a really lovely submission service to assist. For a fee, these kind folks proofread my work, do market research and help me get submissions out there.

Which means that every three months I go out to somewhere between 25 and 30 magazines and journals, asking them nicely if they will publish my stuff.

What this also means is that I receive piles and piles of rejections. When magazines were still mostly paper submissions (not that long ago, actually), my mailbox would fill up with my self-addressed stamped envelopes returning home with a form letter tucked inside.

Now that most submissions are online, my email inbox gets loaded up with rejections by the dozen. They always seem to find their way to me when I’m having a bad or cranky day and that rejection is like a little sparkly topper on my crap cupcake.

Last time I had a check-in session with my support team at the submission service, they quoted some stats for me. As of a month ago, I had sent out something like 400 submissions, which had resulted in five acceptances. (one of my essays was actually accepted to three places)

What I’m getting at here is that I get a lot of rejections. A lot. And over the course of something like 400 submissions, I have become fairly immune to them. Another day, another no.

I am quite sanguine with rejections and don’t take them much to heart anymore. It’s all a numbers game. My submission service says their long and vast history shows that the average is about one acceptance for every 100 submissions. Average. Which means some people go less than that, and some people go more. But over the course of many quality writers, it takes 100 nos to get to one yes.

Those aren’t great odds.

Early in this past calendar year, I ran across this really funky short story contest. It was being put on by a well-known luxury brand and was open to everyone on the entire globe for stories written in any language.

They offered a prize worth €5,000 (~$7,000USD) and worldwide publication in a new literary collection that would coincide with their new product line. The collection would be sold online and in retail stores around the world.

I was really intimidated by this contest but couldn’t get it out of my head. I hemmed and hawed and finally read all the rules and restrictions. I even searched for and downloaded the special font they wanted submissions to use.

I twisted and agonized and worried over this contest. Then I made a deal with myself. I had to enter. I made myself promise to simply submit a story, even if I knew it was crap. Just…I had to simply write SOMETHING and submit it.

What happened next was just short of magical. I wrote a story that wasn’t crap at all. It was one of those “in the flow” moments where the words poured out of me like clean fresh water and splashed beautifully onto the page.

I sincerely believe it is the best thing I have ever written. I often worry that it is my pinnacle and I may never do better. Then I get mad at myself and proclaim I can probably do better but I will have to work really hard at it.

At about an hour before the deadline (in June), I sent my beautiful little work of art off to the good people in Europe and I walked away.

After 400 submissions and counting, I have learned to send it and forget it.

But I couldn’t forget it. This contest and this story haunted me. I had dreams about it and would catch myself thinking about it with some frequency.

And I knew this was Not Good. Overthinking never comes to a good end for me.

In August when I was on a trip to a family reunion, and I was in the car with The Good Man and my beloved cousin, I brought up the topic. These are two safe and supportive people and I knew I could be completely vulnerable with them.

They heard me out, gave me many comforting words and sagely suggested that I do my best to simply forget it before I made myself certifiably nutty. They had both read the story and knew what I was worked up about, but they also knew I had to let it go. Just let it breathe.

Their words were soothing and I did my best to heed them. I pretty much let go of thoughts of this damn contest and would only think of it now and again when something would remind me.

Well, long way around the barn, last week I got notice from those folks at the lux European brand. I didn’t make it.

Of course I didn’t win. I knew I wouldn’t win. I think somehow I found myself a little too in love with my own story and that blinded me. And hopeful. I was too hopeful.

So yes, I didn’t win and I took it very, very hard. You would think after 395 rejections that one more wouldn’t matter. For reasons I can’t quite articulate, this one really got under my skin.

My callus is not quite strong enough yet, because this one story that makes me actually believe I am a genuine writer (and not a dilettante) can still work a blister on my tender psyche.

I think my cousin (who is also a writer) calls the submission process a meat grinder. Or maybe that’s what I call it? No matter. It is. A meat grinder.

What’s next from here?

December brings the next cycle of submissions through the service I use. I will pull out one of the many stories and essays I have built up and I will edit and sculpt it and I will submit it. Then I will receive another thirty or so rejections.

In 90 days I will submit something else and I will get more rejections and the cycle will continue on, as it should.

And this one really sore spot, the unexpected blister, it will harden with time. It will add another layer to the callus. It will make me that much more resilient the next time around.

To any who might wish to give me the well known platitudes like “Each rejection brings you one step closer!” can hang on to them. 395 rejections and five acceptances mean that I’m well past platitudes. I’m not a newbie. I know what I’m up against.

And I know I wrote one hell of a story. Perhaps one day I will give it another chance to weather the mean old world on its own. But for now I’ll hold it close and hide it away until the owies stop.

It’s an exquisite pain, really. One I have earned.









Image found here.




Hard To Believe This is Me

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Over the years I have suffered a certain amount physical ailments for which medical doctors can find no cause. The better part of discretion will keep me from detailing my woes (what my beloved grandmother used to call the “organ recital”).

But suffice to say, 1) it’s been going on for a while, 2) ow, 3) four different doctors have said, “want me to write you a big script for liver killing pain meds?” to which I said “no thank you”.

After years of wailing and moaning, a friend suggested I try acupuncture. I figured what the hell, I had exhausted my options with regular doctors so why not try something different?

I am not completely sure what I think about acupuncture. I vacillate from “it’s utter bullmuffins” to “hey, there may be something to this.”

Actually, over the past year or so, I have gotten quite a bit of relief from having those little needles stuck into me. Whether it’s all psychosomatic or not isn’t my place to decide. I just know I feel better, and that’s all that matters.

Since I moved to a different city several months ago, it was untenable for me to visit the same needle sticker as it was just too far away.

At the end of last week I had my first visit with a local hokey-poker to see if she could pick up where the last guy left off.

During the course of this visit, the new gal asked me if she could use a technique in addition to the needles. I say hey, why not. Give it a shot.

The technique was called cupping. My first thought was “oh that’s nice, she’s going to hug me and gently cradle my sensitive places. How thoughtful.”

No, turns out that kind of cupping is best left to The Good Man. She meant taking these glass bowl looking deals, heating them up and plopping them on my well oiled back, creating suction.

Holy smokes it hurt. A lot.

I’d seen photos of celebrities with these big sucker marks on their back and shook my head and chuckled at the time, thinking “buncha weirdos”. And yet here I was letting this lady do the same to me. What I don’t really understand is how those lilly-sensitive spoiled celebs are able to put up with this “treatment” while I had tears of pain rolling down my face.

What have I become? Who am I?

I’m old, that’s what. The days of rubbing a little horse liniment on the owie places is over. If these painful glass jars can help me feel better, well, fine.

When I whimpered a little and called out for my mommy, she said “oh, is that too much?” and she lightened the suction a little.

Finally she removed those sea serpent suckers from my skin with a moist sound and said, “Ok, you’re done. By the way, you might want to mention to your spouse or significant other what happened here. They may be a bit shocked to see the marks on your back.”

Marks? Holy crap, I look like I was treated with a meat tenderizer. My whole upper back was a raw red with big round sucker marks scattered about.

I went home and whined to The Good Man who gave me good clucking sounds and lots of sympathy. Then he did the kind of cupping that I like and that made me feel a lot better.

The skin on my back still isn’t all that pleased but whatever happened last week between the needles and the jars seems to have helped. The pain is standing a little off to the side and I seem to be improving.

Hard to believe a little girl from New Mexico who once held up a hand and solemnly swore, “I believe in the future of farming…” Is now laying on a table letting this woo woo stuff happen.

But I am and this is me and I’ll be damned if this crazy stuff might be helping a little.

: shrug :






Now this is the kind of cupping I am looking for.




Image found here.