Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, specially if it’s early, I leave my CI and HA on a side table and just listen to the ringing in my head as my coffee silently brews.

Sometimes when walking in the woods I turn up the volume to hear the leaves breathe or if it is winter to hear the the bones rattle.

Sometimes I don’t worry about the quality of what I am hearing. If the meaning comes through I count that as success.

Sometimes, when I am alone – I sing. What a jolt! But it seems to have a positive effect. Don’t ask. I don’t have a good answer as to what that means.

Sometimes when out in the real world I forget my disability for brief moments and I feel almost normal. Of course that’s an illusion. I tell myself, “Give it up! The whole concept of normalcy is an illusion.”

Sometimes I secretly enjoy a really good illusion. You don’t even have to hear to do it.

Sometimes it helps to realize that I am really really deaf.

At all times I am grateful for the help I have received. Thank you.

I recently read that Eric Clapton, legendary musician, is suffering from tinnitus and is loosing his hearing. While this does not surprise me it does give me pause to be sympathetic. Extremely loud rock concert venues produce levels of damaging sound that if converted to simple physical assault would be considered a crime. Clapton is only one among many “rockers” who will be affected.

In my case it was unprotected shooting as a child and teenager. Then as a young adult I was drawn onto what was then called Hi Fi music – played loudly. It was thrilling. My concert experience was limited mostly because, although I loved the music, I disliked the noisy intrusive crowds that seemed more interested in the noise they made than the music being made. So, I rattled the rafters at home. Probably just as harmful as concert volumes.

Clapton is 72. I was 66 when friends gently “confronted” me and my deafness. I was essentially unaware of my condition. I just turned the volume up to acceptable levels and unconsciously developed the ability to read lips (today called speech reading) quite effectively.

To be sure, much late life hearing loss is inherited. I had to shout to hold a conversation with my grandfather. Many of the men on my mother’s side of the family were hard of hearing. Even so, had we been enlightened enough to insist on ear protection for me, my deafness might not be as severe as it is. It just wasn’t an issue in that day. The thing is, young ears are easily damaged. That damage does not heal like a cut or bruise. It’s cumulative.

The tide is turning. The level and quality of public awareness is increasing as we speak. Over the counter hearing aids are practically a reality. This addresses the prohibitive expense of a quality digital haring aid. Even with the development of technology the most effective tool is public awareness and insistence on a quieter public experience. Restaurants, theaters and public areas will respond to public input. The theater promoting “Sound that you can feel” must be avoided or provide ear protection. Loudness is not a prerequisite to happiness.

Finally it’s an individual responsibility. Make your voice heard. You must vote! If we stop supporting loud venues they will disappear or become quieter.

I am probably the last person on the planet to sign up for “Bill Pay” at my bank. CA has been doing this for years while I write out a physical check, seal it in an envelope with the proper documentation and walk it out to the mail box to be picked up around 4 PM.

I don’t have many checks to write. And I hate writing checks. Always have. However, the activity of writing out a check and mailing it provides an opportunity for contemplation and evaluation. Any more it’s just click click and it’s done! I like that, but nevertheless, it is one more part of the unraveling of the social fabric.

For many years, I had a physical Post Office Box at the physical Post Office. I liked that. I got to know the people there and they would call me by my name. There was contact. I realize there is no physical contact when mailing an envelope but my correspondent and I share a physical contact with the same envelope. That’s not exactly a hug but it’s at least physical. We both touch the same object, albeit a few days appart.

Bill Pay eliminates all physical contact. Surely this works to prevent the spread of disease, but does little to build community.

When I was a kid, the first Monday was bill pay day which entailed a car trip to downtown Baton Rouge, all of six miles, to actually walk into the bank to pay the house note, then the electric company, the gas company and the water company – all of which were paid from a pouch containing actual money. No checks. There were people everywhere – on the sidewalks, in stores. Often you would meet people you knew. There was a huge social component about the whole process.

A few days ago my son, David, sent me a text saying he wanting to try out a feature of Apple Pay called Pay Cash. He sent me $1 in a text message. Son of a gun – it worked! Even though I am a dollar richer, nothing physical happened. All virtual. All digital. No handshake. No actual passing the actual buck. I sent him a return text reminding him that he could probably send a larger amount. I haven’t heard from him since. There you go.

I was sitting here the other day contemplating fetching another load of fire wood and I was sidetracked by the realization that I hardly ever actually see any of the few friends I still have, in the flesh. There is no town cafe where you invariably run into someone to talk to. I gave up the post office box years ago. Now and then I run into someone at the market but that is more like a drive-by encounter than an actual arranged visit.

So-called social media is social only by a vigorous stretch of the imagination. Vocal inflections, scents, the tone and nuance of body language and most of all touch – all are lost on the Internet. We are morphing into a "touch free culture.

I suppose it could be said that less touching would go a long way toward a less harassed culture. I suppose that would be a positive outcome. I don’t want to get bogged down in that worthy discussion but it is enough to say here that as long as there are women and men there will be some level of sexual tension and from that tension comes growth and learning and occasionally, intimacy.

Touch free is great for your car but it is devastating for your soul.

You’d think that after that comment I’d drive over to Yarmouth and write out a check for the propane and have a chat with the friendly woman there an catch up on the local weather gossip. You’d think. More than likely I will fill in the amount on Bill Pay and click “Pay” and be done with it.

Just last week we were on a trip to western New York and central Pennsylvania visiting family. Lots of driving – an activity I used to relish and now find to be more like drudge work. When we got home I was fit for little more than a shower and unpacking.

The next day we had a ferocious storm that knocked out power for over 300,000 Maine homes – one of which was our house, of course. Loosing power means loosing things like TV, Cable, WiFi, Internet, and usually the land line if you still have one. Or in other words, life as we know it.

It seems, at this writing, that we will be existing without electricity from the grid for most of if not all of this week. I heard that we should be back up and running by Friday but that is, as I said, hearsay.

If you are fortunate, you have a few workarounds that require some actual work. We have a generator. You have to drag it out and plug it in. Then you have to disconnect from the grid so that the electricity you generate does not electrocute a lineman who is trying to help you. Now you can have lights, make coffee, charge a stable of digital devices, possibly run a burner on your electric stove at a low setting and keep the refrigerator humming. Of course you have to go to the gas pump down the road and fill up the 5 gallon can every couple of days.

If you are desperate enough you can “tether” your computer to your phone’s connection and get on the internet that way. It uses data but for checking email and your bank balance you can plug in and unplug when done and feel marginally alive again without putting much of a dent in your data account.

Then there is the wood stove. It was a chilly morning today and I longed for a bowl of grits. So I put a cup of water and 1/3 cup of yellow grits with a little salt in to heat up on the stove, in which I had set a small fire at first light. It takes a bit longer to boil but what else do I have to do? When the grits are done I stir in about a half cup of shredded cheese and some chopped jalapeños and maybe a shake or two of Tabasco. Fan-Tas-Tic! All without electricity – which, by the way, I love with all my heart.

Food is the real challenge. For on-hand fodder we have cold cuts and bread. Take out is pretty good in the area. Tonight it will be pizza from the New Gloucester Village Store. If you haven’t you really should.

When the power comes back it will be life as usual and we will have learned a few new tricks and realized that we can make do, even with a bit of style. I don’t want to sound too sure of myself. After all it’s November 1. It’s just beginning. Will it be the worst of seasons or the best of seasons?

FOR THE FIRST HALF OF MY LIFE SINGING WAS AN IMPORTANT PART OF MY LIFE . Then came hearing loss. Even then with hearing aids I was able for many years to hear and enjoy music. Then one day the guy who was doing some roofing on the house had his truck backed up to a window near my desk and had his radio playing. It sounded awful. I went over to close the window and paused for a moment and realized I knew what the song was by listening to the drum beat rhythm. I couldn’t hear any melody, and the words were unintelligible. It was CCR knocking out Proud Mary. I was shocked that I could not hear the song.

It has taken me years to make peace with loosing music in general and singing in particular. Well, peace may be the wrong word – truce or cease fire may be better. It was about then that I realized that disability might be a good word to add to my growing vocabulary.

When I am alone I do sing sometimes. With the hearing aid and the cochlear implant both up and running I hear some useful tone differential but not much in tone quality. With the CI alone it is harder but I have the sense that it helps in a rehabilitation kind of way – the kind of exercise I am supposed to do to train the brain to hear what the sound processor sends to it.

Not long ago I realized that there was another benefit from making the effort to sing. That is that doing something aurally and familiar that I used to do all the time is good for the soul, or if you rather, that deep part of the being where hope lives and joy sometimes comes for a visit.

There may be more important things in this world than fried clams, but not many.

Recently good friends who were staying out at Popham Beach for the week invited us out for lunch and a beach session on a crystal clear beautiful September afternoon. We jumped at this chance to enjoy one of our most cherished spots in Maine. Just being on that beach is healing. It’s never the same. Perhaps that’s the magic element.

After a brief greeting we decided to go down the road to Percy’s, a rustic diner off the main road with a hand scrawled special menu which included lobster roll and fried clams. Well I am a sucker for a good lobster roll but I confess to being a flat out fool for fried clams so, naturally, I chose a plate of the crusty bivalves. CA went for the lobster roll – it’s a religious thing I think, something about keeping the faith. Bill went for the lobster as well while Gari chose a burger. Three root beers and a real Coke rounded out the table.

Percy’s is one of those places known best by those who frequent the beach more than a few hours at a time. I’ve been going down there for 35 years and never heard of it. The only eatery I was aware of was the one at the end of he road next to Fort Popham. This was a revelation, made all the more poignant because on the 25th of this month Percy’s will close for good! I mean that’s sad.

Civilization can’t afford to loose a single great fried clam joint, and IMHO Percy’s is one of the premier spots. I’m looking at going back this next week for one last plate of those wonderful clams.

The rumor is that there are some overbearing personal issues involved but hopefully someone else will come along with 1.5 mil to take over and keep things hopping every summer. I would, of course do this, but I am considering a new iPhone.

My first encounter with world class fried clams in Maine was a place on South Main in Bangor: Perry’s – Famous for Clams – the neon in the window proclaimed. It was one of those neighborhood places that reflected the neighborhood on the edge of which it stood. Likely as not there was a line of Harleys out front and it was not unusual to see a police cruiser there as well. It was that kind of place. Their clams were the stuff of legends.

There was a bar to the side and no matter when you went there the same three people sat at the end sipping glasses of light beer. Regulars. From the neighborhood.

In the already legendary wisdom of Bangor City Fathers, who had wiped out their “Old Port” section in a frenzy of urban renewal decades ago to make room for a parking lot, Perry’s Famous for Clams and the neighborhood for which it stood was bulldozed to make room for a Shaw’s grocery store and parking lot.

I don’t know what the Queen City does for fried clams these days, and I don’t know what those three regulars do these days for a place to “be”, but I am going down to Percy’s one more time to make sure I haven’t made a mistake. One must be sure, you know.

I follow a blog written by a woman, Shari Eberts, that is dedicated to issues about living with hearing loss – the name of her blog. I highly recommend it whether or not you have hearing loss. A huge portion of the American population suffers from some degree of hearing loss and among the resulting effects of that loss is isolation, loneliness, even dementia to name a few. Someone you know suffers from treatable hearing loss. Sometimes that untreated hearing loss is profound and it is kept secret for a variety of reasons.

On a recent blog Shari mentioned being on vacation when both of her hearing aids suddenly failed. Her experience was instructive for those of us who are profoundly deaf and depend on technology to relate to the world. The following is my response to her blog.

Shari, I can’t think of a more unsettling experience than to be on vacation and loose hearing. As others have reported, removing my “appliances” at night plunges me into complete sound darkness. Every night as I prepare to go silent, I am reminded that I AM DISABLED! For years I resisted that truth largely because my HAs kept me in he normal range of performance – even to appreciate music! Then one day before I inserted my little instruments I realized I could not hear the water as I filled the coffee pot. I thought, “I’m not just hearing impaired – I’m deaf!”

Your comment about feeling at risk when deaf and out on the street was instructive. Without auditory clues the mystery of our environment goes unsolved. Even with all the technology hanging on my head, I often find myself in situations where I feel challenged just to know what’s happening. Quite honestly, it’s frightening to consider what it would be like without my instruments.

There are several places on-line where people with some degree of hearing loss share their experiences and advise with each other. There is a dedicated FaceBook group that you can join. then there is a forum that is produced by Advanced Bionics, a leading maker of cochlear Implant technology and the maker of the device I use. The forum is called Hearing Journey and can be joined by anyone with an interest in hearing loss and it’s treatment. Hearing Journey (HJ) can be accessed through the Advanced Bionics web site – www.acvancedbionics.com.

There is a time every day when I experience total deafness. I remove my hearing aid and the external sound processor component of my cochlear implant when I go to sleep. I have slept through violent thunder storms and ringing phones. My watch has a vibrating alarm feature that can wake me. There are other safety items that I am installing but the point is this: coming to grips with what can only be described as a severe physical disability has taken most of a year – how much more difficult must it be for others to realize? Hearing loss / deafness is an invisible disability.

There is a famous photograph, which you may know, by Paul
Strand. It is of a street person standing against a building with a sign around her neck with the word “BLIND” written in block letters. Her eyes are vacant and obviously useless. Even without the sign her condition would be clear.

But how would you know if someone were deaf? A sign hanging around the neck would be a dead giveaway. I’l’ll talk about that in a future post. Meanwhile, what do you think? What are the clues someone might reveal that would signal a hearing deficiency?

In a weak moment about a month ago I ordered and paid for the complete book of Bob Dylan’s lyrics. I mean, how many guitar thumping, harmonica blowers ever won the Nobel Prize? It’s a huge thing. The guy wrote more than is in the Talmud, it seems. Over 650 pages. The book weighs four pounds and four ounces!

The thing about Dylan’s songs is that no matter how you sing his words it’s OK. He wasn’t much of a vocalist but that was his thing. Or, at least it became his thing. I actually saw him in Houston. It was during his Christian period. I was sitting high and to his right. It was a remarkably uninspired performance. But what do I know – that might have been my problem. His genius was in the writing. A lot or song writers had their moments back then – he had a generation.

These days we have comedians. People are still dying by the thousands and we have comedians. Is it so bad that we can’t look at it anymore?

Don’t give me too much credit. It’s easy too write about this stuff. When Dylan was writing and performing the words that have now become part of our national lexicon, I was searching for meaning in a forest of religious irrelevance. I did find that I had a knack for helping people find their way through some dark patch in their journey. That was my contribution while all around me the times were indeed a changin. Hell, Woodstock was in the history books before I even knew about it.

When I read his words – not that easy without the phrasing or his voice – I am able to feel the anxiety of the age. His voice was the voice of a generation who felt cut off from their own time in history.

Anyway, my daily dose of Dylan seems right for me right now. I’m not sure how long this will last. Four pounds of lyrics is a lot. I may have to balance it out with a few ounces of The Captain and Tennille.

I love recipes. Actually I love to eat and a recipe is just a road map to a meal.

Over my lifetime, attitudes toward making a meal have gone through several stages. When I first became aware of a meal being prepared, my mother was doing it. The kitchen was the gathering place in my boyhood home. It was large by today’s standards. Our dining table was in corner of the kitchen and that was the focus point for conversation as well as eating.

My mother cooked from raw and unprocessed ingredients. Almost nothing was prepared in a box or or in a can. Now and then she did open a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup which she liked and which we ate. My memories of that consists mostly of salt.

My maternal grandfather lived next door and was a lifelong farmer. Even though he worked full time at Standard Oil, he cultivated as many as four full sized lots in our neighborhood. He grew everything and enough of it that we ate out of the garden the entire year. Unprocessed ingredients!

When I married and left home, barely post-pubescent, my new wife could boil water if she was careful. My mother took her under her wing and in time she was an excellent cook. This was happening in he 50s when we were being brainwashed by black and white TV that kept telling us that the modern cook would have it easy in the age of prepared or semi prepared boxed and canned foods. I remember it as being the age of Cream of Mushroom soup which was never consumed as actual soup.

The standard weeknight dinner was something in a casserole dish with a can or two of Cream of Mushroom soup poured over it and baked. For company we added tortilla chips and cloth napkins. It was a matter of homemaking faith that you could mix some Cream of Mushroom soup with a sack of marbles and it would be quite tasty. Throw in a hand full of Fritos and it was Fiesta time!!

We were not in the 50s anymore, Toto.

Slowly we came to our senses lead by an army of nutritionists, food police and oncologists, all waiving flags on which were the words: EAT RIGHT OR DIE! All at once we were seeing menus that included Cajun style antioxidants and green tea.

I shudder to shake off the confusion spread by food writers and gastronomical pundits who seem to latch onto any recent “study” that shows some trend or remote connection between drinking coffee or eating raw cabbage and long life or clear skin or whatever. In my humble opinion if you make dinner from raw and unprocessed ingredients you can’t go wrong. My boyhood diet: eggs and bacon at breakfast, white bread sandwiches for school lunch and rice and gravy at supper – well maybe there was a pork chop in there – is, from time to time still resurrected in our house as a tribute to truth, tradition and the American Way.

Ding Dong – it’s dinner time.

Sometimes I’m just overcome with a wave of thankfulness. It’s easy when you think about it. Big things like the roof over my head, fair health, adaquate good food – you get the picture.

What got me going this morning was not the big stuff but those items that are sort of invisible in our daily lives. Take soap, for instance. When I was a boy, my mother, Ruby Lee, was a big fan of Ivory. She liked that it floated. Easy to find in the bath. She bought into the corporate jargon that it was so pure that it floated. I doubt that purity had anything to do with it. Anyway it was a mainstay in our home for years until Lifeboy came along. I loved the tangy scent and it was tangy enough to overcome whatever body oder that might arise during a hot summer’s day. And it was red. That had to count for somethiing.

Today I like Dial, “Don’t you wish everybody did?” It has the pleasant but not overpowering scent of clover. The antibacterial bar has been around since the 40s. I even like it’s shape. It has dints and curves in places that meke the bar easy to hold as it moulds around various parts of the body.

I am specially fond of the depression on the imprinted side that is a just right place in which to press a nearly used sliver. I mean, I’m thankful for that. What an idea!

Look at it this way: If I can be thankful for a bar of soap, I can be thankful for almost anything. That’s got to be a positive thing, don’t you think? These days, I need more positives in my life. Thankfulness probably helps.