Total Pageviews

Monday, September 23, 2019

Fringeville #212: I’ve got my music back! ...and don’t be a bunch of wusses!

I finally have my new cochlear implant processors!

They are N7’s by Cochlear, and these puppies offer some pretty impressive iPhone compatibility via wireless technology. In addition to controlling the processors right from my iPhone instead of with a separate remote, I can take phone calls or listen to music via Bluetooth. It’s private. It’s awesome. It was worth the long fight with insurance to finally get these replacements.

Whether I’m using my iPhone for calls or to stream music, the clarity is phenomenal. It’s like having my ugly brother from New England right in my head when he calls or being in the studio with The Beatles while they seemingly knock out a tune just for me.

And the coolest thing? When I’m listening to anything over wireless, I’m the only one hearing it. Unless I sing along (which frightens animals and small children) one would never know I’m listening to Harry Nilsson singing Coconut, Mark Williams performing Out Past the Moon, or Clapton wailing his guitar on Motherless Children.

Listening to music is my once again my greatest joy.

That’s no small thing.

Music, you see, is by far the biggest challenge for many folks with cochlear implants. With this processor, listening to much of my favorite music is approaching (for me at least) a quality close to what I remember before my hearing loss began as a teenager.

I understand lyrics better than I can ever remember doing so. Even before losing my hearing entirely, I struggled with that. Back when I used to play in bands, I often deliberately slurred words I didn’t know simply because I couldn’t make them out. (There was no Google in those days, and most albums …yes, those vinyl things that we put on turntables back in the stone age …didn’t include printed lyrics. Did anyone notice I was fudging? Probably not. We played in noisy bars, most of the audience was drinking, and it was loud rock-n-roll.)

It's not perfect. There may never be a perfect replacement for natural hearing. Some musical artists remain more challenging for me to listen to than others. Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street wall of pure sound is still somewhat overwhelming. The same with ELO. But Springsteen’s bare-bones Nebraska, always my personal favorite by Bruce, is something I love even more.

Neatest of all, I hear things in the background I never even knew were there. Instruments I never noticed before on a track. Crosstalk in the background. Sometimes, even the clash of a pick against a guitar string.

Before this upgrade, my brain sometimes had trouble identifying songs on my iPhone that I’d listened to countless times before. If I knew the song was coming, there was no problem. But if I was shuffling songs on my phone and didn’t look at the screen to see what track was playing, it might take anywhere from ten to thirty seconds to recognize the song …even if I’d heard the song a thousand times before.

This issue has been virtually eliminated. I either know what the song is the moment it starts, or within a few seconds. It’s because, I believe, that the quality of sound is so much better that my brain recognizes the song immediately, or very nearly so. I haven’t had a chance to see what happens if I catch a song already underway. I suspect that I’ll recognize songs faster than I used to because the clarity is so superior to my previous processor technology. I also haven’t really listened to any music that wasn’t delivered by Bluetooth, so radio and live music are still untested, but they will certainly be superior to what I had before.

One problem I don’t any more have is an inability to listen to new music. That was an annoyance for the first few years after my implants were done in 2009/2010.  I’ve been blessed that I am one of the fortunate CI recipients who can experience and enjoy new music (or at least new to me). Carlene Carter and Jill Hennessey were artists I’d never heard before and all their music was previously unknown to me. (Carlene Carter was also the first performer I heard live after my implants. She opened for John Mellencamp in Hershey and I fell in love with her work. She’s a hard-working gal, too. She performed a magnificent solo set then hustled right out to the lobby to talk with fans and sell her CD’s. As to Jill …can someone ask her to perform here in Da Valley? I’ll buy her wings if she does 4 Small Hands and Edmonton. Oh, hell, if she does ANYTHING. I love her work.)

And it is a special treat when I get the opportunity to listen to Mark Williams, who has become one helluva songwriter. Perhaps it was all those practices we had in his family’s garage in West Pittston or in that hillside tilted shack just off Route 92 in Harding, but my brain seems almost pre-wired to anything he does. I am thankful for that.

Long and short, I went from being single-sided deaf with one barely functional processor on my left ear to being fully bilateral again with the latest and greatest technology. I still have at least one more visit to my audiologist to tweak the mapping for the right ear a bit. My brain must adjust to the right implant working again. (The right side used to be dominant, but now the left side is strongest after carrying the load alone for nearly a year.)

As I’ve said before, we live in an age of miracles. It remains to be seen if I can write music again or sing on key, but I think there is an open door there that was previously shut tight.

* * *
I am writing fiction again, though it is most definitely not like riding a bike. There’s been an erosion of skills, and that can be a tad overwhelming. I have lot of self-doubt and some trouble concentrating. I think the only solution is just to write every second that I can. Just keep at it, and perhaps I can get back on track.

I’m also doing “car chats” which are short little posts on Instagram. They are generally humorous. I get to let my hair down. What hair I have left, that is. I might do more with that because it’s a good pressure-release for me. I’m also fairly certain I’m entering my second childhood (assuming I ever left the first one) so I make no excuses for my behavior.

When I did a car chat on Sunday, my wife asked why I would post about the topic (erectile dysfunction commercials -OR- the great wussification of the American male, whatever you believe my point was). Hey, I’m a recurrent prostate cancer survivor. If want to spit in cancer’s eye, I’m qualified.

Here is the post. Think whatever you wish. If you don’t like what I said tell me. Don’t be a bunch of wusses.

 * * *

* * *

Finally, I’m pouring y'all a double shot.

First up, a song of great social and political import:

Next, a song of hope and inspiration. After all, if life’s been good for this guy maybe it can be good for all of us:

* * *
…and now a message of perhaps the greatest social and political import of all:

...Be good to each other.

* * *

Friday, September 20, 2019

Fringeville #211: From the Sky - New Introduction. (A gift for Bridget)

On my defunct Desktop Dynamo site, I posted segments of a novella, From the Sky which was never finished. Actually, that's not quite true. The ending was written long ago, it's just waiting for the middle to catch up.

I wrote a new introduction for it, and it is a gift for my friend Bridget who puts up with me for reasons I cannot fathom. I am working on finishing this novella, as well as other projects.

The main character narrating this scene is deaf. The person she mourns is her uncle, Gio. Enjoy.

I promise to finish the project (I swear, Bridget).

* * *

Apparecchiare la Tavola

From the stories I’ve read, it was a middle-aged man from Cleveland who first knew something was wrong. He had a starboard window seat. He was watching the clouds far below, waiting for the occasional gap that let him get a glimpse of the terrain beneath. He saw a puff of smoke burst from the wing. Before he could say anything to his wife, there was a tremendous bang. His mouth dropped in horror and his wife grabbed his arm.

“What was that?” she asked as the plane started to roll.

“The goddamned engine just fell off.”

People were screaming, of course. The 737 came close to inverting but gradually rolled back to level flight. The captain announced a “mechanical problem” and ordered everyone to return to their seats and fasten their seatbelts. There was an elderly woman in the aisle, and the man from Cleveland could see something was wrong with her leg. It was tucked up under her in an odd way. He looked away from the woman and back out his window. They were in the clouds now, and he wondered how fast they were losing altitude. And then the clouds were above them and he could see the farmland far below. He could tell they were still going down, but he could also see that they were leveling off. The 737 was shuddering. His wife was crying, and he held her hand.

The captain said they were diverting to an alternate airfield. The flight attendant then began reviewing emergency landing procedures. When she said, “…in the event of a water landing…” he glanced out the window and saw Lake Erie far ahead. He couldn’t swim, was in fact terrified of water, and hoped they’d simply hit the ground and die instantly. He didn’t want a slow death drowning. He needn’t have worried; he was in good hands. Some would say in God’s hands. The jet banked and he saw they were turning south. He guessed correctly that they were headed to Pittsburgh.

The plane was badly wounded. It took all of the pilot’s considerable skills to limp the plane to Pittsburgh International Airport. The passengers were calm as they descended to the runway. Prayers in several languages could be heard. They landed very, very hard, and there was a fresh round of screams. The 737 slowed gradually as the end of the runway approached. It came to a stop with a dozen feet to spare. Rescue vehicles arrived in seconds.

The accounts I’ve read on this near disaster laud the pilot for his actions. There were no fatalities on the jet, only a handful of mostly minor injuries. The elderly woman who fell in the aisle on her way back from the restroom broke her hip. It was by far the worst injury, but she recovered. I saw her on CNN. She was interviewed in her hospital bed, and I read the closed captions as she told the interviewer how terrified she was.

None of what she said affected me.

Please don’t think poorly of me. I’m glad they all survived. I think the pilot and crew were all heroes. But it was the last thing the news anchor said, his words in white text on black background rolling across the bottom of my television screen, that crushed my heart: “…miraculously, there was just one fatality: an elderly Pennsylvania man killed by falling debris.”

What miracle? It was a tragedy. My aunts would say it was the inevitable result of an imprecation uttered decades earlier. I can’t quite make that leap. It was simply a one-in-a-zillion bit of horribly bad luck. You see, the good Lord does play dice with the Universe after all. I’m sorry, Mr. Einstein, but He does. It’s not cruelty, it is necessity. Unless chance is built into the very fabric of our existence then we’re all powerless. Everything would be predetermined. Let my aunts lay blame wherever they wish. I don’t care about any of that. I only know that I will never again hear a voice as rich as his. My husband and children will never know him. God rolled his dice, nothing more, and I mourned.

You’d like to hear more?

Well, I suppose we have time. Our boys are going to be playing on those monkey bars for a while. Usually they say you start at the beginning. I’m just not sure where that is. So instead I’ll start with where I began and the rest will come…

* * * good to each other.

* * *