after 4 hours of sleep i woke up at 7am with the sky still dark and got myself ready to go over to renata's place to take her to the dentist. bag filled with books (who knows how long it'll take) and a single cantaloupe, i made my way to harvard square. instead of having renata drive all the way to the other side of cambridge to pick me up, i told her i'd be taking the bus. i stopped by the dunkin' donuts to get a croissant sandwich and a coffee and ate breakfast in the underground terminal, the heat from the food forming columns of smoke in the cold weather. the 78 bus actually arrived 4 minutes early (thank god i was there early, lessons learned from years of bus riding) and i hopped on with my 90¢ fare. once i got off the bus, renata called me to remind her to bring back the tooth for her brother marsian (who wanted to use it for an art installation); i think her real reason for calling was just to make sure i was actually coming (as if i would forget! i had two alarm clocks set to ring, in case one should fail). i found renata in her house, as cordial as ever, but below the surface she was a nervous wreck, worried, afraid, of going to the dentist. she looked like she was about to face an execution.

unlike most people who get their wisdom teeth taken out before they turn 25, renata still had all of hers. blessed with molars that grew straight rather than sideways crooked, there was never any need to get them removed. until today that is. a prior cavity on a wisdom tooth that wasn't properly filled in came back to haunt her, and now her dentist's advised an extraction rather than trying to repair the tooth again. however, little did i know, and renata just told me about this today, but back when we were adolescents, she had 4 perfectly good teeth removed in order to accommodate her braces, just like the urban legend of the model who gets ribs removed so she can fit into a particular dress size. her wisdom teeth are in fact not extraneous teeth but actually a part of the normal set of teeth. but now with one tooth missing, renata's down to just 27 teeth, and she told me that her dentist wants to remove the other 3 remaining wisdom teeth as well, leaving renata with just 24 teeth to work with.

it was snowing by the time we left. the weather reminded renata of the last time she got her teeth pulled, which was snowing as well; i think it set the perfect backdrop for the occasion. we found a parking spot as soon as we arrived in belmont center, and i escorted renata to the dentist office. soon after checking in, an assistant came out to ask renata to come in. "bye tony," she said with a nervous smile, as she was led away. in the back of my mind i could hear ominous music playing. i took the time to return some cvs purchases for her then came right back to the office. before i even had a chance to read a few pages of river town, renata came back out. it happened so quickly, i thought maybe they didn't even do it, but the dried blood on her cheek and the traumatic gaze in renata's eyes told me otherwise. with jaws clenched over a gauze pad, renata said we could go. the dentist wouldn't let her keep the tooth because it's a "blood-born pathogen." in her hands she held a gauze-filled paper bag with printed care instructions. we went to cvs again to get an ice pack (renata also got some ice cream) before i drove renata home.

i was ready to spend the day pampering renata for her post-extraction recovery, but there wasn't very much for me to do. she couldn't talk very much with the gauze still in her mouth to stop the bleeding, and eating was of course out of the question. she seemed to be in a daze, perhaps residual effects of the nitrous oxide, perhaps other factors. i looked at her with helpless concern. she went to take a nap and i stuck around, reading the latest issue of newsweek in the living room, on standby if renata should need anything. when she woke up a little bit later, we watched some television, then she fixed me lunch. wasn't i supposed to be the one doing the pampering? she made me an egg ham sandwich, while she herself had some homemade egg drop soup from a mug. we watched a little more tv (tv, my anti-drug, which in itself is already a drug - upright citizens brigade was what we saw) and i helped renata put in a new ink cartridge for her printer (tony yang, your friendly neighborhood IT guy). renata went to her bedroom to take another nap. at that point i felt a little useless, and maybe she was too nice to ask me to leave, and maybe i just didn't read the signs and overstayed my welcome, so i gathered up my things, said a quick good bye, and walked out into the snow, back to the bus stop that'd return me to harvard square. my senses heightened by the caffeine, with the landscape draped in snow, everything suddenly had a sharp crystal clarity.

i wasn't home very long before i went back out again. sara had sent me a pass to see million dollar baby in boston common and i asked julie to come along. dan dropped by my place before i left,



to retrieve his keys after returning from brazil and to share a few vacation anecdotes. by shear coincidence julie and i just happened to be on the same train heading into boston. in her hand she held her ultra-insulative thermos. "is it weaponized?" i asked, almost certain that they wouldn't admit her into the theatre with a missile shaped device hiding in her bag. there was a long line when we got to the theatre, which turned out to be exactly the line we were supposed to be in even though we were there 40 minutes early. i saw sara walking around checking out the line situation and i waved to her. "oh, you don't have to wait in line," she said, then escorted us into the screening room, down the stretch of people waiting to get in. it felt weird but cool. there was nobody inside but joel, as we looked for seats in the empty theatre room. soon people started coming in. the event wasn't as capacity-filled as prior engagements (maybe this was a bigger room, maybe less came out due to the weather), which made for a less stressful screening.

million dollar baby could've been a well-made rocky style clone, the story about an underdog aging woman boxer (hilary swank) who compels a tentative boxing trainer (clint eastwood) through a show of determination and good work ethics to take her under his tutelage and mold her into a competitive boxer, with the chance of one day competing in a title fight to win the big money. throw in a wise old black man as the go-between foil (morgan freeman), sprinkle a few other interesting characters, and you have yourself a pretty decent movie; a decent movie that's been played out before time and time again. but get this: the final 20 minutes of the film takes an unexpected turn, and now suddenly you have something different, transforming the movie from a rockesque venture to something thought-provoking and genuine, something that stays with you long after the movie's over, something brave and sad and wonderful and gut-wrenching. those looking for formulaic should look elsewhere: million dollar baby is all about doing what you don't expect, and in so doing, it makes for a more realistic movie, because that's life for you, all twists and turns, where good guys occasionally lose and bad guys sometimes win. it wouldn't shock me to see all three of the main leads with some sort of oscar nomination come award season. despite the film being a drama, there's a surprising amount of humor as well. it's definitely one of those movies with some staying power, makes you laugh, makes you think, and makes you feel.

after the movie i took julie to the noodle alcove. "i don't like chinese food," is something i've heard her say more than once, so i sensed some reluctance when we went there. other than one other table the place was empty, which made me think maybe it was about to close but they served us anyway. i recommended one of the noodle soups (which is their speciality) but julie decided to get the double pan fried noodles. after a dash of hot sauce my beef noodle soup (actually tendon, they ran out of beef) became an intoxicatingly delicious blend of flavors. the heat of it all made me sweat like i'd just been through a hard workout, but that's the perfect food for cold winter days. a lot of restaurant friends and family members came into the shop, and everyone sat around us, chatting in taiwanese mandarin, which made for some awkward eating, like we were being watched, or maybe they were waiting for us to leave. i spoke with the owner, who said she thought i was korean when i first came in, that the shape of my head looked korean, along with the curls of my hair.

the train ride home was loud, so we had to shout in order to be heard. the lights in the cabin were broken, so we rode in partial darkness for most of the way. i got off at porter square and went home. lying on the couch, it didn't take me long before i passed out.