The True Story of My Dentist, Dr. Mark Litvack
(from “Lightning Struck My Dick” , pages 41-46)
You know how it is when you’re a writer. Everyone you know wants you to write about him. One of these days, I’ll put all of those people in one story, give each of them a few good lines to say, and that’ll be that.
However, my dentist, Dr. Mark Litvack of 1500 Bathurst St., Toronto, has finally persuaded me to devote a story to him. The fact that I have a bill outstanding since last year is not the main reason for doing so. When I find a fascinating character, I can’t help but sit down and write about him.
I’ve come to learn quite a lot about Dr. Litvack, or Mark, as I call him since we’re about the same age. He never rushes with me, because he likes to chat. Sometimes he poses questions I cannot adequately respond to when he’s working on me, but I’m sure when I grunt, he knows exactly what I intend to say. That’s the kind of rapport that one only finds between a writer and his dentist.
Before I get down to the story itself — although it’s more of a biographical sketch, I guess — I want to take a moment to tell you that a lot of my success as a writer is due to Dr. Litvack. When you have pain in your mouth or have lost a filling, you just can’t concentrate on writing nice Canadian stories. At least I can’t, and I’ll bet if you’re honest, you’ll admit you can’t either. So I see him regularly to take care of those cavities before they get big. Usually I don’t have any because I take good care of my teeth. Dr. Litvack showed me how. He took out this giant-size plastic set of teeth and showed me the proper way to brush. I also floss, which a lot of people don’t. A lot of the confidence that comes across in my writing is really the result of good oral hygiene.
What He Looks Like
Dr. Litvack is thirty-ish and very tall and muscular because he lifts weights. He is not one of those dentists who think all you have that’s important is your mouth. No way. He works out. He is dark-haired, wears glasses, and is pleasant-looking. I’m sure he won’t mind if I say he has rather Jewish features. He knows I don’t mean this in any derogatory sense.
His Professional Ability
Dr. Litvack graduated first in his class at the U. of T. School of Dentistry. His technique is great, and he keeps up with all the latest miracle breakthroughs in modern dentistry. One time I lost part of the acrylic facing of my crown, which can be a tricky problem because you have to choose the right kind of material to patch it up. Dr. Litvack tried out some new stuff he had never used before. He said, “I don’t really know if this’ll work, but let’s give it a try.” Did it work? You bet it did! That man’s got instinct, a certain sixth sense that is the mark of genius in a dentist.
His prices are about as low as you’ll find in a private office in Toronto. Dr. Litvack is not like some of these gyp artists who want to retire in ten years and to hell with the disasters that take place in their patients’ mouths due to hasty work. Sure, he wants to enjoy a good living, the same as anyone. He has a wife and a big apartment and a new car and is constantly adding to his amazing collection of transit tokens and tickets of the world – probably the biggest such collection anywhere. But he knows that his financial security is assured by his talent. Later, maybe, a book or two on orthodontics or gum disease, and some lecturing at foreign universities, where they’re not quite up to our level. Meantime, he only works about four days a week so as to keep his mind sharp. His middle name is “Quality.”
Dr. Litvack was born in Toronto, but his family has its roots all over Europe. He has traced his line of descent all the way to the days of the Hanseatic League, when dentistry was not the modern science it is today. His ancestors include scientists, philosophers, naval heroes, and more than a few counselors to the thrones of Poland, Luxembourg, Austria-Hungary, Prussia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. One of his mother’s people in Prussia invented a clever device for reaming the hairs of the nose, which was awarded a gold medal by none other than Wilhelm IV, Landgrave of Hesse.
His Success With Women
Although at present married to a lovely girl from Pittsburgh — a former homecoming queen for the University of Pittsburgh, I might add — Dr. Litvack formerly enjoyed a lot of attention from the ladies. They just couldn’t keep their hands off him. His female patients have the cleanest teeth in the city. He says they still sometimes give him a hard time by trying to seduce him. But don’t get the idea that Dr. L. is one of those unscrupulous dentists who put girls under anaesthesia and then feel them up. He is a man of sterling integrity – a model of professional ethics. Of course, if a particularly attractive lady invited him out once in a while, there was nothing wrong with that. But he always kept work and pleasure separate.
Once when he was driving late at night in one of the worst neighbourhoods, he thought he saw two boys fighting and pulled over and shouted at them to stop. It turned out that they were just horsing around, but it took a brave man to do what he did.
Another time he was in a record shop, and an American tourist was buying records, and the clerk was going to take the man’s U.S. dollars at par. Dr. Litvack told the clerk the man was entitled to the proper premium of exchange because it was only fair. The clerk was embarrassed and agreed at once. That’s moral courage, as opposed to physical courage. When a man has both kinds of courage, you can’t help but admire him.
Why He Chose Dentistry
He wanted to help alleviate pain and suffering.
His Love For Animals
He almost chose veterinary medicine instead of dentistry. He decided dentistry was a little cleaner and also allowed him to meet people. He likes to meet all kinds of people, although he enjoys meeting animals almost as much. At home he and his wife have two Dalmations, three cats of mixed breeds, five budgies, eighteen neon tetras, a garter snake, two hamsters, and an ant farm. I have forgotten all their names. Believe me, they all have names, and he treats them just like family. Whenever I see him for a check-up, he never fails to bring me up to date on all the amusing antics and rascally tricks his animals have been up to in the previous six months. There are no animals in the office because of hygeinic reasons, but the many pictures of his pets on the walls (which he took himself) are there to remind him of how much he and they love each other.
His Contribution To World Peace
What I’m about to reveal is for the first time anywhere. Dr. Litvack is much too modest to brag about it, so I guess it’s up to me to tell you. Well, it so happens that the successful signing of the Arab-Israeli peace agreement was due in large part to Dr. Litvack. I don’t mean to imply that Jimmy Carter didn’t contribute in some small way. I’m sure he did. But I’m equally sure even he does not realize the role played by Dr. Litvack in getting Anwar Sadat in a signing mood. It so happens that Dr. Litvack was vacationing in Cairo at a time when Anwar Sadat was feeling particularly intransigent and grouchy. The two met in the elevator of the Cairo Hilton – purely by chance – and in two seconds flat, Dr. Litvack took one look and knew that here was a man in pain. Would you believe that Anwar Sadat was afraid of dentists and didn’t even have an official dentist? He had really let his mouth go and had one hell of a cavity eating into the soft tissue of his third molar on the lower right side. Dr. Litvack reassured him as only he can and treated that tooth in a private clinic an hour later. With his pain relieved, Sadat felt like a new man. The whole world looked brighter and more hopeful. He even liked Menachem Begin a little. He went back to the negotiations in a better frame of mind, and the rest is history, as they say. Whether he will ever reveal this secret in his private memoirs, I don’t know. I think he wants Carter to believe that he (Carter) was the key. He even said to the press, “It was Jimmy who did it.”
I bet a lot of you think I made all this stuff up because you’ve read some of my more crazy stories in which I made up false facts that never happened. Well, if you don’t believe Dr. Litvack exists, just look him up in the phone book and call him and see if I’m not one of his patients.
And while you’re at it, why don’t you make an appointment to have your teeth examined? If you’re like most people, you’re probably overdue. Regular check-ups are cheaper in the long run than a serious problem resulting from long neglect. I once had to have a root canal, so I know. I didn’t look after my teeth, and right away, BINGO – a $125 root root canal job, plus a $55 gold crown on top of that. And that was in 1967. Just imagine what it would cost now. Of course, Dr. Litvack would give you the fairest price he possibly could for any kind of dental work, but the escalating price of gold is one of the few things that are, unfortunately, beyond his control.
copyright of Crad Kilodney, 1980