The Daily 750









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In The Chair: Nitrous, Saddam, Bono, Bush

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Ocian in view! O! The Joy!" wrote the notoriously bad speller William Clark, when he and Merriweather Lewis and team finally reached the mouth of the Columbia River in early November, before that soon-to-be-hideous winter of 1805. My dentist, also the Official Dentist of Miss Oregon, has a partner too, and their office is built on pilings in the mouth of the Columbia River, with each of six operating cubicles arranged so that the patient, when not horizontal, looks through a wall of glass over four miles of brackish water dotted with gulls, the occasional piece of flotsam, passing sea lions and fishing boats, and, once in a while, a freighter – and in the distance the damp, forested hills of Washington state, all underneath a perpetually changing sky. The ocian is in view but joy isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when I arrange myself in the actuator-controlled chaise longue.

Yesterday’s dental appointment was scheduled before I began this daily writing exercise, and I could have postponed it to the afternoon of another day, but I’d already put the task off more times than I’d thought: the hygienist said it had been 18 months since the last cleaning. I don’t like the process of having my teeth cleaned – does anybody? – although . . . two words: nitrous oxide. I was practicing deep breathing exercises to relax myself through the scrapings and pickings of a skinny instrument when the hygienist, with the violet eyes and pitch-black wavy hair of a young Elizabeth Taylor, said, “Would you like nitrous oxide?” I wasn’t sure then but I can say now without a doubt: Why yes, I do like nitrous oxide. It made me a little bit dizzy and a little bit sleepy and a little bit thick tongued, and completely eased the fist-clenching, ankle-crossing sense of torture-for-the-better-good that a thorough hygienist evokes. Two minutes of pure oxygen at the end returned me to normal, and the only after-effect was the pleasant run of my tongue along the smooth ridges of freshly cleaned enamel. If I could afford it I’d make an appointment with Laurie and her nitrous oxide treatment every other month.

There were two fascinating pictures in the paper today. One is of Saddam Hussein, slouched in a poorly fitted suit and no tie, a Koran held by both hands and resting on his parted knees, sitting in black leather-and-chrome chair behind a low white cage, on trial in Baghdad for a pittance of his many crimes against humanity. Earlier reports had called the cage "Hannibal Lecter style," but more threatening fences surround middle-class homes in the flatlands of Southern California. The magnificent John Burns, of the New York Times, is covering the trial, and in yesterday’s report he wrote:
If Mr. Hussein saw even a glimmer of contradiction in mocking a process that gave him a right of defense not granted to those he persecuted, he gave no sign. In court, he behaved as though his downfall had been a mirage, or something against nature, bound to be reversed. Four times, he refused to identify himself when asked to do so by the chief judge, Mr. Amin, a slim, gray-haired man in his 50's.
And this:
In the courtroom, Mr. Hussein behaved as though his role in Iraq's history is far from done. He seemed to bask in the deference shown to him by several of the defense lawyers and his old political cronies. Some of the lawyers bowed their heads and touched their hearts when they greeted him.

Mr. Ramadan, his former vice president, approached from his seat in the dock, caressed Mr. Hussein's thick head of dyed-black hair with both hands, then leaned forward and kissed his head.

The C-SPAN website has 45 minutes of captivating video.

The second picture is of President Bush and Bono standing mano-a-mano on the seal of the President woven into the rug of the Oval Office and in front of an ornately framed portrait of George Washington that hangs over what looks like a mass of ivy decorating a fireplace mantle. Bush is a bit hunched up around the shoulders, his arms loosely by his side, his mouth slightly open. He’s clearly doing the talking while Bono looks directly at him, standing with his hands in the pockets of his usual black suit. Think of Nixon and Elvis without the giddiness. Press Secretary Scott McClellan denied the possibility of giving Bono a spot in the administration, saying, “I think he’s enjoying the career that he has right now,” but reported the two men had spent an hour and 40 minutes together, including lunch, following up on their “good discussion” at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, earlier this year, about AIDS, malaria and trade ; and that Bono would go on to meet with the administration’s National Security Advisor, Scott Hadley, before heading out to front U-2's concert at the 20,000 seat MCI Center, at 6th & F Northwest in downtown Washington, home also to the Wizards, the Mystics, the Capitals and the Hoyas.

Wonder if Bush scored some good seats.