Saturday, January 14, 2006

Extreme Listening

Monday I had my first speech pathology session in a month. To practice listening skills, speech path and I flipped on NPR and listened to the Alito confirmation hearings.

Now, I don’t know what was more astonishing – that I could understand easily 90 percent of what was said, or the sheer crapolitry of what was said. Actually I know -- Good Lord, were these people to ever remove their heads from their butts, the fresh air would kill them. The big bad wolf never spoke such bull to red riding hood. At one point, Senator Hatch spewed so much hot air that he just lifted up and floated off through the clouds.

“There he goes,” said the NPR commentator. “Out over the mall. Drifting south by southwest. The second since lunch.”

I took notes:

Sen FEINSTEIN: Me. Bush. Me. Me. Bush. Me. Me. Oh azure skies, rhetorical flourish! Me. Me. America.
Sen COBURN: Baby killer.
ALITO: My wife. Tears. Dark rain. My mind: open like sesame. No, whoops, it’s closed. Everywhere, the men are white.
Sen BIDEN: Anyone hungry? Anyone got popcorn, no-fat butter? I got Mike & Ikes to trade.
Sen SPECTOR: I’m in charge here. Don’t forget it. Sen Kennedy?
Sen KENNEDY: Yes, senator.
Sen SPECTOR: I’m in charge.
Sen KENNEDY: But can you look upon me and not think of all that could have been? Camelot! The heart stopping moment before the miracle ended!
Sen BROWNBACK: Word. Your neck is big.
Sen COBURN: Baby Killer. America hater.
Sen BIDEN: Raisenets, anyone?
Sen FEINSTEIN: Me. Still here. Me. Me.

After half-an-hour of this, I reached over and shut the radio off.

“Why’d you turn it off?” the speech path asked. “We still have twenty minutes left in our session.”
“Can we read some of that Shakespeare instead?”

And so we read some of that Shakespeare. And from 400 years in the past, he peeled off all the layers so that the insubstantial pageant revealed its true face-less face. But you people—

--have some splaining to do.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Good Night Good Looking

Happy New Year!

Last week, I had lunch with the brave and generous pioneer of Implantania, Michael Chorost. Mr. Chorost, as I have mentioned before, wrote the book Rebuilt, about his experiences growing up hard-of-hearing, becoming completely deaf, getting implanted and discovering the cyborg world of the implantee. His book was a great resource for Sam and me as we wrestled with the decision to get implanted and then acclimated to a new way of hearing.

Mike and I met for lunch at a midtown restaurant. He was in town from San Francisco for a radio interview.

“Thank you for your work,” I said, after sitting down. Huffing about on crutches, I was fifteen minutes late – not bad, for me.
“You’re welcome,” said Mike
“It’s loud in here. Who picked this restaurant?”
“You did.”

Twenty minutes later across the street at a Starbucks, with I Shot the Sheriff playing in the background, Mike and I talked of the vast new horizons implants open up. For Mike: he has written a book, traveled across the country (and will soon be going to London and Vienna) to promote it, quit his day job to freelance write fulltime, worked with fascinating people at the cutting edge of technology, taught a creative writing class, and romanced a bevy of west coast beauties.

For me: I have a blog. Also, crutches -- steel crutches, brothah!

We talked some more, each of us hearing the other quite well, despite the Starbucks Reggae mix blasting overhead. A nice easy conversation between two men over tea, no problem at all; I realized a chapter had come to an end. This chapter. The one about implant stuff. Mike could hear and I could hear, more or less; new challenges awaited us.

“I like your blog,” Mike said.
“Thanks,” I said. “Your opinion means a lot.”
“What you should write is a summary of how the world is now, three months post. A philosophical look back.”
“I don't know if I can do that.”
“Why not?”
“I'll try.”

But…I have no grand summary, friends. Except this: turn off the TV and take a walk once in a while. The implant works, God yes, but silence or noise, it’s all the same story; and it begins and ends every moment, on the breath of grace. Every sound has been waiting for you, and every sound sings ‘my love! my love!’ -- but so does the ground beneath your bootsoles, and the visions that greet your eyes. It couldn’t be more perfect, regardless the volume. And it couldn't be harder to sum up. Maybe this picture says it best:

The Jets and Knicks, of course, are in last.

Now we’re in 2006. Cochbla will be suspending publication for a few weeks as the well, the borderline-amusing-ancedotes-about-learning-to-hear-with-an-implant-and-having-a-brother-with-an-implant-and-a-roommate-from-Minnesota well doth run dry. The blog will reappear at some point, based on a different topics, I’ll let you know. Until then, gracias Mike, Sam, Zev, Ari, Carl, Elvis, Cleopatra, Bankable Poet Stud, Parental Units and loyal and un-loyal readers. Thank you for your support through this exciting time.