To Burbank

Off to work this morning, that is to say, with Jane about to hit the pulpit, we had a long overdue discussion about hearing. Mine isn’t what it was. And to put a finer point on this, I’m not sure that I’m missing sounds as much as slowing down in their interpretation. I don’t know. And, yes, this is worth googling, but whatever the answer, there is an inescapable fact. I am getting older. And as for hearing, mind you this is a fairly subtle matter. I suspect this is a more advanced version of the lack of sound discernment that comes with age. Meaning, this is a unfolding of the thing that happens with loud restaurants and why older people don’t like background noise, regardless of whatever score their audiologist renders. Okay, okay, since this writing and questioning is occurring in real time…it seems, according to Messieurs Google, that lack of word discernment is in fact related to a loss of high-frequency hearing. So, fuck that and fuck me.

But actually what is on my mind has nothing to do with hearing. It has to do with fearing. Which in turn has to do with my gradual loss of independence, which annoys me more than I can say, and has me fighting back with whatever I can muster. For example tomorrow I am off to Los Angeles. I honestly can’t remember when I was last there. I recall visiting Pasadena more than 20 years ago. There was a wedding. But before that? Nothing rings a bell. Pasadena is just one corner of Los Angeles and, one must add, a pleasant one. But when did I last tool about the city? I just can’t recall.

No matter. For this trip, Jane and I are going our separate ways. She has a friend in Texas. I have friends in, yes, Pasadena. So at the crack of dawn, we both hit the road. I take the subway to San Francisco Airport, get on a plane for Burbank, then check into a Pasadena hotel where my sister and brother-in-law have an adjacent room. Or so the plan should go. And that’s the thing about travel…the best laid plans get mislaid. Overall, the situation reminds me of my neuromuscular decline. Which so dramatically outpaces my hearing, that the latter seems trivial.

Let us briefly celebrate my neuromuscular Golden Age, which in retrospect, peaked as I approached 40. In that era I often had to go to Los Angeles on business. I always combined the latter with pleasure, visiting friends hither and yon. How, you may well ask. You should ask, because visiting anyone or doing anything then, and to a large extent now, requires an intense commitment to the region’s road system.

No wonder I hold two images in my head. One involves my apprehensions of tomorrow. With Jane already on her way to Texas, I head out the door about 6 AM. And what is just outside the door is the cracking tectonic plate known as my neighborhood. 

Down the hill I will go, having transferred to my portable electric wheelchair. The latter cleverly disassembles in three handy chunks. This is great for stowing the thing in the back of my sister’s car. But not so good at maneuvers. And also, as time as shown, not so good on hills. I have skidded out of control a few times in this chair and always on my hill. Thus my 6 AM journey to the subway station. After which, things are more of a known. At San Francisco Airport once I check my bag, all should be well. I will be under adult supervision all the way to Southern California.

But the other image goes back to that time, almost 40 years ago, when I routinely arrived at Los Angeles Airport. The next step was to hobble down the long corridor, make myself known at the Hertz counter, and continue hobbling out to my rental car. What happened then? What now I can barely believe. I climbed into the driver’s seat, tucked my paralyzed right leg under me, twisted myself into position and commenced driving with my left foot. Onto the freeway, onto another freeway and doubtless another, flying across the moonscape traffic through Santa Monica, the San Fernando Valley, whatever, brake lights and concrete and signs and miles and miles to wherever I was going. And of course all this had to be repeated going home. Back into the Hertz lot. And so on. Another era. Life being composed of many. We never appreciate these eras until they are gone. Including that one, my LA era of Hertz and, doubtless, better hearing.

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