Monday, July 24, 2006

Hot Day and the AC Don't Work Right

Hola blogistas! Sorry again for not writing. I’ve been busy writing my book and even more busy thinking about writing my book. Fascinating, I know, but it doesn’t really lend itself to exciting blog entries. And actually it’s not all that fascinating. Writing, when you get down to it, is sitting in a room trying to hold off another five minutes before checking your email. Which, as long as we’re being honest, pretty much describes what I did when I worked at a law firm two years ago. Probably why they laid me off. But I did take my unemployment check and head up to my friend Gary’s barn in rural Maine and write the first chapters of the book. I have no point here.

Sometimes, I do get in a groove and enjoy the writing. When I started, my goal was to honor my friends in Zambia, the villagers who gave so freely of everything they had. And the book is still about them – but it’s grown to become an exploration of the many aspects of the experience of deafness.

Unlike this blog. This is usually just about the cheap laugh.

Take, for example, the experience of silence. A deaf person can change the volume of the world just by flicking his hearing aid or implant switch. Noisy, silent, noisy, silent. So a two part question: first, what does it mean that everything around you, every single person, every single object can, with a switch, be given the same exact voice? What is real then? When things are different or when they’re the same? And second, now that you’ve considered that, what if your hearing aids got stolen off a Tanzanian beach while you were dogpaddling in the ocean, in the grips of wicked Malaria hallucinations?

Tough one, eh? Truth is stranger than fiction and the fruth is stranger than both. Don't fret it, just bring a spare hearing aid.

Meanwhile, they keep blowing all their shit up.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Break a leg (or a knee)

Then last weekend we rode a beautiful highway up a mountain and down the other side, to a small Catskill town named Ellenville, where I attended my first play since getting a cochlear implant.

Plays obviously, were not developed with hearing impaired or lip-reading people in mind. Actors run around the stage and speak facing in every direction, and playwrights seem to enjoy surprising their viewers with made up curse words, random sentences of Elizabethean doggerel or odd quotes from the bible. The dialogue never goes quite where you expect it to go; which, while making for an interesting theatre going experience, is hard for the hearing-impaired to follow.

The play was called The Drawer Boy, and it was perfect for trying out the implant. Only three characters are in it, they spend most of the play shouting at each other, and one character was brain damaged – I got to say, it brought back warm memories of hanging with my brothers in childhood.

And I damn near heard it all. Incredible stuff. In fact, the only parts I had trouble hearing were when the actors yelled really loud; then their voices distorted into flat noise. “Speak softly so I can hear you!” I wanted to tell the actors, but that might have just confused them. Also, apparently, they don’t like it when the audience lobs helpful advice.

It was a good play and a great performance. And I was really struck by the commitment and honesty of the actors. I think I finally understand why people go to the theater in this day and age, when there are 600 television channels, 500 professional sporting leagues, 400 ways for the world to explode on CNN right now, and in the movie theatres talking cars, men in tights, and pirates dressed like smack addicted rock stars fly through the air -- there’s something intimate about a play that none of these other experiences can match.

Another intimate experience: knee surgery! Just had a second one yesterday as the first one didn’t take – while I was pumping gas on my way to the racetrack, it tore. Kids: car racing is dangerous. For a week, I hopped around and moaned to everyone in sight and then scheduled another procedure.

While I was being strapped to the operating bed and getting my upper thigh shaved, the knee surgeon said, “Dr. Roland’s in the hall. Want to say hi?”

Roland, you recall, is the neurosurgeon who put in my implant. I haven't seen him in ten months. It would have been something to thank him for this new world he had opened to me. I could even recommend a play.

“Dr. Roland? Definitely. Bring him in,” I said, and the knee surgeon went out to get him. Unfortunately, no one had told the anesthesiologist about this reunion, so the next thing I knew I was lying in a bed in the recovery room and a nurse was asking me if I was awake. Which may have been appropriate -- that’s pretty much what happened the last time I saw Roland.

That’s three surgeries in a year for those counting along at home, which gets you a coupon for a grand slam meal at Denny’s, and Otis showed his admiration by barfing on my bandage and nicely shaven thigh while AJ drove us to the Scarsdale ranch for some R-n-R. (That's Otis on the right, his brother Amos and cousin Rami next to him)

So it goes. Now I'm icing my knee on the couch and making people bring me things. Otis is sacked out next to me, dreaming, I imagine, of a land where all the beds are close to the ground, easy to climb up on, the bushes are full of edible delights, and dogs get to keep their balls as long as they desire.

I don't know -- could be Mexico.