Here’s a column you can really get your teeth into

First, an update on last week’s column. Hank, knowledgeable on the subject, wrote me that the little blue and grey birds on my balcony are not finches, but tanagers. Of course, he is right. I am not the urban naturalist my friend Sandy called me.

Cutie Pie, my gecko friend living behind my bedroom bookcase, disappeared after last week’s column. Obviously he’s publicity shy. He returned one night and the next night, when I had a small invasion of winged ants, I stunned one (ants can recover from lethal blows) and dropped it behind my bookcase, should he return. Then I heard Cutie Pie chirping good night from the living room.

Doing a little research on ants, I discovered that there are slave-making ants. I entertain myself with developing theories about life and animal behavior. One recent theory, inspired by worldwide concern about present-day slave trade, is that along with our other drives, humans have a need/desire to own slaves to do their bidding, and like the other drives, for food, sex, experiencing another reality ordering chaos, is susceptible to corruption and greed. Even ants steal the pupae of other ants and raise them to be slaves! Some religions, but mainly democracy, helps keep our drives under control, at least from harming others.

But we must be careful about striving for a too perfect world. My daughter has just returned to New Mexico after visiting the Greek island of Serifos. She was thrilled with the island, especially the freshness of island-grown vegetables and fruits. Recently some newly arrived expats were extolling the same discovery in Costa Rica, especially at the ferias. I had to smile because that was my first reaction years ago after my first lunch at Tin Jo’s and those expertly cooked day-fresh asparagus.

But, of course, it is always the tomatoes that are mentioned. They were like the tomatoes of my childhood. Beefsteak tomatoes with a little mayonnaise were a better treat than an ice cream cone.

Now I am dismayed at the deterioration of the quality of tomatoes at the ferias. So many seem to be cultivated to withstand travel with hard white cores.

I am waiting for some company to develop the genetically modified but perfect and uniform thick skinned cube tomato that will pack easily.

Lots of things were different in so many ways. Life was healthier back then, but it was not perfect – especially our teeth. Unless you could afford braces, you were stuck with the way your teeth grew. Dentists probably did more extractions than anything else, and you had to adjust to spaces in your mouth if it happened to be a permanent tooth or live with false teeth. As a kid, I thought two sets of teeth were not enough, three would be perfect. Now we have that third set and it is perfect. It is called dental implants, and business is booming in Costa Rica because the dentists are good and the price is right.

I decided to check out what dental implants could do for me. I wanted, along with a couple of molars, two front teeth replaced because of chips and rough edges. I carefully explained (I thought) that I wanted the same teeth, only without the signs of aging. Of course, doctors, along with fathers always know best, and I was, through the process of what felt like trying to put on a cement lined wetsuit over all of my upper teeth, presented with my new look. They not only replaced my two front teeth but others that didn’t fit with the new look. They were perfect, exactly like those of the other people I had seen. No different, really, than false teeth without the nuisance. I no longer was me. Part of me was perfect.

I had invited my friend Doug, along, so he could give his opinion. “They’re perfect,” he said. “They look artificial, and they are not you.” Later he said, “The problem of being perfect is there is no individuality.” He was right. I thought of all of the breast implanted bosoms and facelifts I have seen. Most of them were perfect – and eventually, boring.

This is a plea to some brilliant lab technician who makes teeth. Please figure out how to improve our bites without removing our identities.

And dear readers, I hope you could follow this circuitous journey I just traveled.

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