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 garden 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.

May 6 will be the one year anniversary of my cochlear implant surgery. It seems like it was just last week, but isn’t that always the case?

I have never experienced anything as life changing as this. (Well getting married the first time would qualify, but you know what I mean.) It’s not just learning how to manage the device but also the trips to the hospital in Boston for programing and learning. It has truly been an adventure.

Progress was slow in coming. I started off understanding some speech but there was little improvement for several months. Then things started to happen as I noticed sounds I was not used to hearing and we were able to “clean” up the device’s performance – searching for a purer sound.

Carol Ann, my partner in life, has a voice that has been surprisingly difficult to understand, even with the implant. After my last adjustment or mapping, things took a leap forward and we can now have meaningful conversations in most environments. Some restaurants and driving together are no longer situations non-gratis. We are thrilled about this.

Group conversations can still be a challenge and many public places are still out of bounds. The telephone is still troubling – depending on the voice on the other end. Even TV is better, but BlueTooth helps with the addition of the RemoteMic and an audio looped room for the T-Coil.

There are remaining tweaks and dedicated programs to be tried out but all in all this is a happy anniversary. There might even be a cookie somewhere.

Thanks to all my friends for your encouragement and understanding. Thanks to my friends on the Hearing Journey Forum who graciously listened to my whining and complaining and whose advise, encouragement and judgement have been invaluable.

I believe there is a new year ahead. I’ll hear you there.

The rumor is this, older people have issues around getting enough quality sleep. It’s actually more than a rumor. I know this because I am older and I have trouble getting enough quality sleep. Talk about science.

It used to be that I usually got a good night’s sleep and once in a while I’d toss and turn all night to wake up tired and cranky. Now that ratio has turned around 180˚. Since I am retired and don’t have to “be there” at 8 o’clock in the morning I try not to make too much of it – unsuccessfully, I might add. And therein lies the rub.

Years ago I participated, briefly, in an on-line discussion group for seniors. That was back when I was learning how to be one. Almost immediately it became apparent that an overwhelming majority of the participants were insomniacs. One night I had one of my wee-hour wake-ups and decided to check out the group. They were all there! I asked if anybody slept at night. Generally, the answer was “No”.

The consensus was don’t lay there and fight it – get up and do something you enjoy doing. Call a friend four time zones west of you. Sitka, perhaps. There’s the internet, of course. Read that book that kept you awake too long in the first place. Mop the floor. Eat cake. Get sleepy and go to bed. If only …

Now I have this pregnant robin who spends hours every day banging her head on my window. I just knew she was going to break her neck or beak or whatever. I finally got my loppers out and cut the branch she perched on – – so far so good. I thought I’d outlast her but she finally got the best of me. That’s when I realized that eating cake at 3 AM is not as crazy as banging my head against the wall of sleeplessness.

IT FELT JUST LIKE SUMMER ON THE OCEAN TODAY. That’s quite the happening on Easter Sunday near the 44th parallel. I have never seen so many people at Wolf Neck as there were today. Bare legs and arms bleached from winter’s darkness hanging out in springtime sunshine and soft, warm ocean breezes. Pinch me – am I dreaming?

When we returned home, there were Easter Baskets to open, sent from the Florida branch and in particular the newest of the clan – the Ethiopians. One basket addressed to Grandma B and the other sent to Grandpa Jerry. Out of respect for these lovely children – and for no other reason, as I normally avoid those abominable things – I ate a chocolate dipped Peep. I have to admit, it was good! Actually it was fantastic. I never cease to be amazed at the pure transformative joy a little chocolate can produce. There is another one, of course, but it will have to wait for desert time tonight.

Since CA and I are many miles from family, we could find little reason not to indulge ourselves with a couple of nice fresh Maine lobsters for our supper. A small spring salad, baked potato and a bottle of good Chablis from the cellars at Bow Street Market will round things out. Such indulgences do not replace family but do a pretty damned good job as a placeholder until someone shows up.

Tee shirts and sock-less sandals, walkers, joggers and cyclists everywhere. I even heard a motorcycle blast by a moment ago. It ain’t daffodils but the signs of the season of growth and harvest are at hand.

I’ll resist putting up the deck umbrella today. Maybe tomorrow. – after checking the forecast.