Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Ears Have It

I'm wrapping up a busy weekend. Friday, I had lunch with a couple friends one of whom is having a baby girl tomorrow if she didn't go into labor this weekend. Exciting stuff. Pregnancy agrees with her, she's absolutely glowing. Lunch was followed by an afternoon with my knitting group. Everyone seemed to be talking about what they're reading (Me? Sting's memoir, "Broken Music."), and one of the women was pleased to share that her son recently became a published author and was invited to participate in UCLA's annual Festival of Books.

Friday night, I met another set of friends for a bite to eat followed by slipping into a business park where they set up their instruments and rocked the office complex. I am so not kidding. I was surrounded by incredible talent, too; so much so, in fact, that I actually declined the mic when it was offered. Trust me, I'm a whore with the microphone as much as anyone, but I also have a shred of dignity. I can sing with my brother's band, but I'm way, way out of my league with these guys. Anyway, can I just say I love Led Zeppelin? Do you know how cool The Immigrant Song sounds live with really solid bass and drums? It's like a religious experience.

Saturday, I went to Santa Barbara to attend a reading by David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell. They were together at the Arlington Theater on State Street which is a must-see if you're a fan of architecture. The interior is designed to re-create the feel of an outdoor amphitheater with faux moon and stars in the fake sky. The effect is really quite lovely. David and Sarah switched off reading their pieces. On stage with them was a woman signing, translating for the hearing impaired. I kept an eye on her because she kept cracking up throughout the reading, especially as she translated lines like (from Sarah), "Is one of the five languages you speak pussy?" But I also watched her because I've always been curious about sign language. It fascinates me how few hand movements it takes to convey so many words.

The week of the Virginia Tech shootings, I started to imagine the same situation unfolding at my alma mater (San Diego State) and felt the strong urge to call my old college friends, just to connect. A day later, I checked my caller ID when the phone rang to see that one of my dorm buddies had beat me to the punch. Imagine my surprise when she told me she was calling to tell me she had a brain tumor. Don't worry, this story doesn't take as bad a turn as you think and like I thought when she imparted the news, just like that. Her brain tumor is not cancerous. It's a slow-growing tumor called an acoustic neuroma which, as the name suggests, affects the part of the brain related to hearing. She had acute and profound ringing in her ears (the symptom which led her to seek medical attention), and she's already permanently lost partial hearing in the affected ear. While it's not life-threatening, she is faced with some hard treatment options with fairly unpleasant potential side effects (permanent tinnitus, total hearing loss, hemi-facial paralysis, cerebral spinal fluid leakage from her nose, to name a few). I don't envy her the decision.

In my line of work (I'm a medical transcriptionist), I think a lot about disease and illness. All day, I sit at my desk wearing headphones, transcribing dictated medical reports, with my music playing in the background. And even though my friend kind of won the lottery as far as brain tumors go, I would personally be devastated if something happened to my ears. My ears and my hands are positively sacred to me. I couldn't work or live without them. If the world went silent to me, I honestly don't know if I could enjoy life.


At Monday, April 30, 2007 6:43:00 AM, Blogger Diane said...

I wonder if you had the same translator that we did? She was fabulous (tall, slender, blond woman, gorgeous skin?). I've wanted to learn to sign.

Best of luck to your friend. About 10 days ago my mother was asking about a good friend of mine from college - a few days later he showed up at my door, having lost my phone number. It was great to see him.

And I didn't know you sing - you must let me know if you are ever going to be taking the mic with your bro's band.

At Monday, April 30, 2007 7:46:00 AM, Blogger Prunella Jones said...

I hear that! (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun.)

I think alot about disease and illness too but mostly because I'm a hypochondriac. I hope your friend will be okay. Being deaf would be terrible. I couldn't stand not be able to enjoy music.

At Monday, April 30, 2007 8:48:00 AM, Blogger EditThis said...

I've often wondered to myself, if I had to choose, would I rather be deaf or blind? Sound has so much to do with my life - I love music and so many sounds. If I were blind, I couldn't read, but I could listen to audio books. But think of all I wouldn't see. I can't imagine either is preferable, and for people who suffer from deafness or blindness, I'm sure the grass is always greener. But I would FREAK OUT if I heard I had a tumor in my head, cancerous or not.

At Monday, April 30, 2007 12:23:00 PM, Blogger LA said...

Diane - The translator in Santa Barbara was as you describe except definitely brunette. I'll keep you posted on my bro's gigs, though they occur with relatively low frequency anymore. Fun to have an old friend knock at the door, eh?

Pru - If you're a hypochondriac, take my advice. NEVER do ANY job in medicine. It will only tortue you.

Edit - I know, it's not a good choice. Either way would suck, and of course, it would be easier to get around and be independent if you had your sight. But an irreplaceable element of joy for me would be gone if I lost my hearing.

Luckily for my friend, she's not really a music fan at all. The one thing she's most upset about is the ringing in her ears. She said it's terrible.

At Monday, April 30, 2007 12:51:00 PM, Blogger GetFlix said...

LA, any band that can pull off Led Zep is bound to be super talented.

Best wishes for your friend.

At Monday, April 30, 2007 4:48:00 PM, Blogger M-M-M-Mishy said...

Like you mentioned, you could say she is lucky that her tumour isn't cancerous. The continuous ringing must be incredibly unpleasant.

Personally as someone with incredibly bad eyesight, I worry most about my eyes.

I'm very jealous that you and diane saw David Sedaris. His books crack me up so I could only imagine how great he would be live.

Sounds like you had a very busy weekend!


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