fake: part one

The Best Advice So Far - fake: part one

Due to a lack of sound sleep over the past couple of days, my brain is in a strange, swishy sort of place. Rather than fight it, I figure I’ll just ride the wave of weirdness and see where we land.

By and large, the word “fake” has a negative connotation:

Lucio’s new girlfriend is so fake.

The masterpiece was somehow stolen and replaced with a fake.

The newscast was decried as fake news when it suggested that the news about fake news was fake.

But I’d like to suggest that being “fake” isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Case in point: fake teeth.

Let’s begin with some fun facts about fake teeth. The original version of the wind-up toy teeth was released in 1949 as “Yakkity Yak Talking Teeth.” H. Fishlove and Co. was the first to market the toy, and Fishlove remains a division of Fun, Inc., where the toy is still manufactured today.

They’re fake. But they’re apparently good enough an idea to have retained popularity for nearly 70 years. (I feel obliged to point out that it’s doubtful wind-up real teeth would have fared so well.)

Speaking of fake teeth, I’ve got two in my mouth right now.

About 25 years ago, a kid I was mentoring had a PTSD flashback and head-butted me in the face at close range. The blow broke a jagged corner off one of my two front teeth and snapped one of my bottom teeth clean in half.

Regarding the lower damage, even the slowest of breaths in and out over the exposed nerve was enough to make a lumberjack drop his logs and run crying for mama.

And it happened on a Friday evening going into a long holiday weekend, which meant I wouldn’t be able to get to a dentist until Tuesday.

Well, the nub of it (pun intended) is that I pretty much ate minimally through a straw, nursed two bottles of Anbesol and cried until I could get to a (very mean) dentist that Tuesday. The bottom job was a terrible match, but stayed in. And the top repair fell out in just a few months. I decided that I couldn’t afford to shell out the money on account of vanity, so I sported that chipped tooth for over two decades.

Last year, while on vacation in Florida, I made a new friend at the gym. We got talking about stuff that matters in life, and before I left, I gave him a copy of my book, The Best Advice So Far. Well, as it turned out, Houman is a dentist and noticed my chipped tooth, and I told him the story of how it had come to be. He kindly invited me to stop in the following year and let him fix it. It was a kind gesture.

Well, this year was “the following year.” I saw Houman again during workouts at the local gym. True to his word, he once again invited me to come let him fix the tooth. (And, no, I wasn’t smiling extra wide just so he’d notice.) I did go to his practice where I got V.I.P. treatment as well as the gracious gift of his skill and care in fixing that long-broken tooth.

As I walked out of Houman’s office, I couldn’t stop running my tongue over the smooth surface of the tooth. I took pictures and sent them around. I found myself repeatedly looking at it in the rearview mirror. And I immediately became aware that, for nearly 25 years, I’d been smiling in such a way that the top of my lower lip covered the jagged corner of that front tooth. Since that day, however, I’ve found myself smiling bigger than ever.

My real tooth was great. But part of it has been gone — the shards somewhere in the carpet or under the baseboard heater of a long-vacated apartment — for more than half my life. My new tooth … is fake. And yet it’s awfully good. What’s more, if I’m being honest, it makes me feel loved that a new friend would go out of his way for me for no reason at all.

In a further effort to be fair to “fake” (and because, as I pointed out, my brain is on its own little roller coaster) let me share with you a few more of my favorite fakes … followed by a few that foster frowns.


Fake Things I Like



Fake banana flavoring (which my best friend, Dib, refers to as “breathy banana”) is definitely good, particularly when it comes in the form of a banana popsicle.

And while I know it’s basically made of Vaseline and sugar, I do love me some Cool Whip. I don’t buy it myself, but my mom does; and when I’m visiting, well … I’d be lying if I said I didn’t maybe eat a spoonful (or two) of it, right out of the tub when no one was looking.


In 2002, after three years of mounting health problems that finally had me sleeping as many as 18 hours a day, unable to work, I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was 32 years old, and my mother — a nurse — was crying with me and telling me that I could live with her and that she would be my care-giver and that they would install a wheelchair lift so I could be as mobile as possible, for as long as possible.

I was devastated.

I asked for a second opinion, which my doctor gladly agreed to. A team of specialists from Brigham and Women in Boston conducted test after test, with no change in diagnosis.

Then I got a call. The endocrinology department had discovered that I had no thyroid hormone in my body. None whatsoever. And it looked like I hadn’t for years. The best we could trace it back, my thyroid had stopped working in 1999, following a serious of freak accidents that had landed me in the hospital for four days with complete amnesia.

It was long haul back. But I didn’t have MS. The solution: fake thyroid hormone, introduced at a low dose which increased until I was, at long last, back to normal. Now, I take it daily. Without my morning dose, I start getting foggy by 1:00PM.

Again I say, fake — can be not only good, but downright miraculous.

Rubber Replicas

The kid in me has never really left. I still love rubber bugs, spiders, scorpions, snakes. You name it. (This is probably because I like the real versions so much. You’d rarely find me as a kid without a collection of creepy-crawlies in jars or riding my bike with a live snake wending between my fingers; and I still always catch spiders, silverfish or centipedes when I find them in the house and let them outside — or I just leave them right where they were.)

Equally fun are those life-like replicas of overturned soda, dropped ice cream cones, vomit, doggy doo, dirty diapers and such.

Santa Trackers

Of course, everyone knows that Santa himself is real. But I’m sorry to inform you that the news spots that track the progress of Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve … well, they’re fake. Obviously, in order to get to every house in the world in a single night, Santa has ways of going the speed of light, which doesn’t match the news trackers. But they’re still fun!


Fake Things I Don’t Like



Fake banana? Yes! Nice. Yummy. Good.

Fake cherry on the other hand? ::BLECHT:: It just makes everything taste like cough syrup from the 70s.

And fake cola from generic brands? Equally revolting. Yes, yes, I know that all cola is technically fake, but work with me here. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Don’t even get me started on fake cherry cola …


I appreciate air conditioning. I do. But somehow, if I’m in fake air too long — whether in a home, car, business, plane or elsewhere — I just start to feel weird. Claustrophobic. Same goes for forced heat. No matter how hot or muggy a summer day may be, or how frigid a winter day, I’ve just got to open windows or get outside. This is definitely an area where nothing beats the real thing.

Diet and Exercise Programs

Please — do yourself a favor and watch this short clip from 1945. Everyone wants a quick fix. The 30-minute abs program on home DVD was, last I checked, down to 3-minutes. From “fat jigglers” to those ridiculous tin-foil suits to ab “zappers” that promise you can sit and watch TV eating pizza and still look like a god or goddess, people are all too eager to believe that being fit is easy. That, my friend, is real fake news.

Being healthy, losing weight, gaining muscle: they always have and always will require (I’m sorry to say it) discipline, hard choices, time and work.

Wood Paneling

Need I say more?


There you have it: two not-necessarily-cohesive-nor-by-any-means-exhaustive lists of my personal Likes and Dislikes when it comes to fakes. I suppose like most things in life, “fake” can’t be painted in well-defined strokes of black and white. (And, as such, you are welcome to gulp like generic cherry cola and gasp not like banana popsicles.)

The Best Advice So Far: Being "fake" isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Alas, for all the fun, this post now has my mind churning on some more serious “fakes” that don’t necessarily fit here.

So … be sure to tune in soon for fake: part two!

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