I woke up in my bed at home. This is usually a good sign, because it means I didn't wake up in a gutter or on the floor of anybody's bathroom. My tooth was still missing.

A thin layer of dried blood covered my lips, and memories drifted back, unbidden, of strobe lights and speakers, and a hundred swinging fists.

I walked downstairs to make breakfast, and saw that my mother was awake on the couch.

Shit. Best to get this over with.

"Morning," I said.

"What happened to your tooth?" she asked.

"I misplaced it," I said, walking past her to the kitchen.

"You realize we don't have dental insurance, right?"

I started making a sandwich

"This is coming out of your pocket!" she yelled.

"Thanks, mom, how about an 'Oh honey, are you okay?'" I asked, spreading mustard on my bread.

$750 and a root canal later, I still wasn't much closer to having a smile anyone with a family tree that branches would be proud of. The dentist estimated he could fix my tooth for $1400.

Now, a funny thing about the geography of Southern California is that Mexico is really, really close. Tijuana is a wonderful place where all manner of things can be obtained cheaply or illegally. I happened to live not far from this wonderful place, and decided to take a risk.

The only real problem with my plan was the fact that I don't speak Spanish, but I managed to communicate my problem with liberal use of hand gestures and the few words of Spanish I could recall from elementary school.

"It will be very expensive," Dr. Trujello explained.

"How much?" I asked.

"One hundred fifty dollars," he stated.

I booked an appointment for Thursday.

I half expected to have a wooden tooth nailed into my gum for what I was paying, but saving $1250 appealed to my Jewish heritage enough to take the risk.

Things did not go entirely as planned.

I was sitting in the chair, as an assistant tried to remove the temporary replacement that they had put in until the final could be made. She attempted to gently coax the plastic tooth out, with no success. Thirty minutes later, we had progressed to pliers, and her muttering things which I didn't understand, but probably shouldn't repeat in polite company.

With one last groan, she gave up, and attempted to explain the problem to me, an act which was complicated by our lack of common linguistic ground. Eventually, she communicated to me that someone used the permanent glue instead of the temporary glue.

Flustered, she told me to come back the next day. She pulled out the schedule book, and started writing my name over the frowny face with "NO MAS!" written under it, and underlined in triplicate. "Look," I said, "It's okay. Let's do it when you aren't busy. Really, it's okay."

I pointed at what I was fairly sure meant "Tuesday."

They finally got the temporary tooth out, but a mix-up had occured at the lab, and it would take another four hours until my final replacement could arrive. Not being worth the time to drive home and then drive back, I decided to have an adventure.

I took the opportunity to indulge in lunch, and the accompanying two for one margarita specials. I still had three hours left to kill. I decided to go exploring off the beaten path, and turned down a narrow dirt road.

And so it was that I found myself in the whorehouse district of Tijuana, drunk, in the middle of a police raid, with no front tooth.

I quickly realized that I was not where I wanted to be as the men standing in dark doorways called out to me, asking if I liked women and motioning for me to come inside. I kept walking, but more and more of them tried to talk to me, becoming more aggressive, one even going so far as to grab me while his buddy blocked my path. I pushed past and kept walking. I quickened my pace, turned the corner, and found myself face to face with a barricade of police and Federales with automatic weapons drawn in front of me. Intuition told me that this was probably not an ideal situation. Mentally, I inventoried my bribe money supplies, and realized that I didn't have any money left aside from the money I needed to pay for the tooth. Guess I could only hope for the best. I crossed my fingers and walked, in the most non-threatening manner possible, past the police line. Nobody stopped me.

I looked up and saw the silver arch in the distance, and decided it was time to head back. They restored my tooth, I paid the bill, and I left. I haven't been back since.