Shreveport, LA comes to mind as the first truly memorable stop on our 7600 mile, 30-day road trip cross-country (the road trip on which we staged the plot for MURDER BY ROAD TRIP). As promised, Jackie and I will write a number of blog posts, providing our individual perspectives on several stops along the route. We won’t cover every stop, because a few of them were just necessary overnights, such as our first stop in Alabama, to get us to the next interesting location. This is the first blog, announcing that MURDER BY ROAD TRIP is now on sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through IngramSpark! Go to https://johnjjessop.com for more information.
I need to provide a brief back-story in order for you, the reader, to fully appreciate our time in Shreveport, LA. A couple of weeks before we left on our wonderful cross-country road trip, I had a dental appointment. According to the family dentist (not anymore, for reasons you will soon understand), one of the gold crowns on a back molar needed replacing. He claimed that he saw evidence of decay at the edge of the crown, probably indicating a lot more underneath. Actually, I’m guessing he needed to make a payment on his new Porsche. Shreveport, LA.
During that dental appointment, said dentist (he who shall not be named) pulled the gold crown off of the tooth. (A Navy dentist had done a fine job placing it there many years before). It took him quite a bit of effort to pull the crown, and after he was finished I asked him how bad the decay actually was. To my surprise, he gave me a blank look and said, “What decay? I don’t see any evidence of decay.” When I reminded him of the reason he had given for replacing the gold crown, all I got was an embarrassed stare. No explanation, nothing. Shreveport, LA.
My jaw was completely numb, I was drooling and in no shape to get up and throttle him. I realized that the damage was already done, let him replace the crown with a ceramic one, and went on my way. I didn’t even key his pretty red Porsche when I left, although it may have crossed my mind. The point is a week later, the night before Jackie and I left on our trip, I felt a twinge in that same molar. Nothing too concerning at that point, but a twinge, nevertheless. Shreveport, LA.
By the time we arrived for our overnight in Alabama, the stop before Shreveport, LA, the twinge had grown into an intermittent shooting pain. It would come and go as I drove down the road, and I did my best to convince myself it was nothing. I kept biting down on my finger, just to check if the pain was still there. Sometimes yes, and sometimes not at all. When Jackie’s turn came to drive, I googled ‘intermittent tooth pain’ and discovered that this can be a sign of a cracked tooth with a dying nerve. Oh joy! Shreveport, LA.
By the time we reached Shreveport, LA, determined to play the strong fatherly roll, I told Jackie, “Honey, my tooth is killing me. According to Mr. Google, I probably need a root canal. We might have to turn around and head for home.”
To make matters worse, I was on blood thinners at the time, so I couldn’t take any NSAIDS for the pain and inflammation. Anyhow, my daughter had spent the better part of three weeks planning a 30-day trip around the country, and she was not quite as sympathetic as I might have liked. Shreveport, LA.
I think her words were something like “Suck it up old man. We’re gonna finish this trip, if I have to pull that tooth myself. You need to find a dentist here in Shreveport to fix the problem. Why would you want to go all the way back home to the same dentist that screwed up the tooth in the first place?” Shreveport, LA.
I was both proud and sad at the same time. I did my best to raise my daughters to be strong, independent women, and I apparently succeeded. Having not thought it through very well, I didn’t realize it might come back to bite me in the butt. (Jackie might possibly have a different take on this whole Shreveport visit thing, but I’ll leave that up to her blog post).
So, when we rolled into Shreveport, LA and Jackie unpacked the Outback (thank you again, Jackie, for saving my back), my tooth was killing me. I relented, googled a couple of local endodontists, and made an appointment for the next morning. When I described the pain over the phone, the endodontist agreed with Mr. Google that in cases with intermittent pain such as this, the nerve was most likely dying and a root canal would be necessary. Then I settled down to whimper (I’m not thrilled with dentists, and a ROOT CANAL?), watch some TV and suffer through the afternoon and evening. Shreveport, LA.
Jackie, only 22 at the time, exploding with energy, and having been cooped up in the car for 9 hours the day before, had other ideas.
“Okay Dad, you’re not going to just sit there feeling sorry for yourself. You need to do something to take your mind off of the pain, something fun.” Unfortunately for me, our Marriott was located smack dab in the middle of a high end shopping district in Shreveport, LA.
Next thing I knew, I found myself in the shopping district of the fancy section of Shreveport by the River, following Jackie from store to store. This did not ease my pain. My mother had been a shopaholic when I was young, and she had dragged my little sister and me through every store in the Greater Cincinnati Ohio Area. It had gotten so bad that at one point at age seven I had run off and fell asleep on top of a men’s underwear display; those piles of tighty-whiteys and t-shirts made for a soft mattress. Jackie apparently inherited the shopping gene from Grandma. Shreveport, LA.
In Shreveport, LA, I did not run off and take a nap on top of the tighty-whiteys. But, I did find myself sitting on a park bench outside some fancy store selling high-end leather products (purses, women’s shoes, etc.), holding my jaw and whimpering, or maybe I was groaning at that point. Shreveport, LA.
Eventually, Jackie came outside with a pair of new shoes and a purse. I guess she finally felt sorry for me, because she took me for ice cream. That frozen ice cream felt really good when it hit the inflamed and dying molar nerve. The shooting pain made me forget about the dull ache for a few minutes anyhow. Shreveport, LA.
We also walked around Shreveport by the River and saw…well…the river. There was a casino on the other side from us that looked like an old riverboat that had been removed from the water and plunked down on dry ground. There were restaurants, stores and touristy things in all directions. It was a beautiful, clean place for anyone who likes to shop, eat out, shop, walk around, shop, get ice cream or shop. The guy that designed the place must have known my mother and daughter personally. It was certainly designed to their tastes. Shreveport, LA.
Next morning, my beautiful daughter drove me to the endodontist. I thanked him for fitting me into his busy schedule and he said “you’re welcome” by eventually handing me a bill for $1500. I vaguely remember sitting in the dental chair, him doing a quick exam and telling me that whomever had replaced the crown had cracked the tooth. The nerve was, indeed dying, and Mr. Google was correct, it was root canal time. When he started the procedure, I mentioned to him that I am a fast metabolizer of local anesthetics. He acknowledged the information by sticking me in the gum a couple of extra times. Then the drilling started. Shreveport, LA.
According to the wall clock, after an hour and a half of drilling, the smell of smoldering tooth filling the air, he told me “I’ve finally managed to drill through the crown. Now, I just need to drill through the rest of the tooth and into the roots in order to kill the nerves. There are usually three or four nerves per tooth.”
I was sad. I remember whimpering, but to my credit I didn’t pass out. Apparently Jackie was sitting in the waiting room reading a magazine. She later told me she heard screaming coming from the general area of the treatment room, but I assured her that was not me. I’m the strong, fatherly type. Shreveport, LA.
The dentist continued his drilling, now intent on killing the nerves. He changed drill bits several times, moving towards smaller ones, presumably to fit in the tiny root canals. He drilled for another hour-and-a-half, during which time I must have begun to hallucinate. I guess I went to my happy place, because I remember snorkeling on a beach in St. Johns. I’m pretty sure there’s no such place in Shreveport, LA, at least not in an endodontist’s office.
After a full three hours the doc told me, “According to your X-rays, this particular molar had three nerves. I spent the last forty-five minutes of drilling looking for the third nerve, but never found it. I’m confident that two of the nerves are dead, and hopefully the third one is just vestigial and won’t cause you any problems.”
I whimpered, washed, wiped my mouth, struggled to get out of the chair and staggered out to the waiting room to find my daughter. I paid the nurse the $1500 with a credit card and we were on our way. As Jackie pulled into the Marriott parking lot, I looked at the pain med prescription, and realized that the endodontist had written a prescription for Tylenol plus codeine. I was sad. Shreveport, LA.
I told my daughter, slurring words due to a numb jaw, that the last time I took Tylenol plus codeine, the couch I was sitting on spent most of the evening flying around the room.
“I don’t tolerate codeine well, the flying couch made me nauseas and the results were not pretty. Is there any way you could go to a CVS and get me some extra-strength Tylenol? I should get through the night okay with Tylenol and an ice pack on my jaw.” This was apparently a mistake. Shreveport, LA.
I settled in on the couch in front of the TV and Jackie got me a washrag filled with ice. Then she headed off to find a CVS. I was confident that she would do fine. The Outback had a GPS, we had a backup Garmin GPS and she had her iPhone with iMaps. When she got back over an hour later, she wasn’t happy. She gave me two Tylenol and a glass of water. Shreveport, LA.
“I hope this Tylenol really helps. You have no idea what just happened. The GPS took me across the river to get to the nearest CVS, and all of a sudden I found myself driving through what could only be described as “the Projects.” That CVS was located in a very rough part of the city. I locked the car, but I didn’t expect it to be there when I got back from the store. Thanks Dad.”
I felt terrible and apologized the best I could, talking through numb lips and jaw. Between the Tylenol and freezing my jaw all night, I survived the pain left over from three hours of drilling. When we settled in for the night, last thing I told my daughter before she went to sleep was, “I’m hoping I’ll feel better in the morning. We’ll see. If the pain’s too bad, we might have to turn around and head back to Virginia.” Now that I think about it, maybe it was Jackie who came up with the title of our new book, MURDER BY ROAD TRIP. Shreveport, LA.
So, in summary, my visit to Shreveport, LA included a major toothache, my “favorite activity” of shopping one entire afternoon with a toothache, and three hours in a dentist chair while he drilled and drilled, murdering the nerves in my cracked molar (thanks to another dentist). My vague memory of Shreveport by the River tells me that it was a nice place to visit and I should be glad I got to see it. However, frankly, whenever I think of Shreveport, LA, I am sad.
As to Jackie’s perspective, I’ll leave that up to her to convey in her own blog post. I know for a fact that she saw the waiting room of an endodontist’s office, and spent three hours listening to the screams of her tortured father. I also know that she spent a terrifying couple of hours in the seedier part of Shreveport in search of Tylenol for her old man. I’ve been informed that’s been added to her list of bad things dad did to her (I guess every child has one of these lists. My three daughters certainly do). Shreveport, LA.
I hope she enjoyed our tour of Shreveport by the River and the shoes and purse. And, since there’s more blog posts to come, I’m guessing you’ve figured out that we did not, in fact, turn around and head back to Virginia. The good news, the nerves were dead, the third nerve never raised its ugly head, and my tooth was fine. Thanks, Jackie, for pushing your old man to finish the trip.
Get a copy of MURDER BY ROAD TRIP on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2HauHCg. You know you want to; everyone likes a good laugh and a great mystery. And, you can find out how much of the real trip ended up in the book.