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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Love Is Love

The bounty from Victoria's Pride Parade, 2018
In the late 70's I took a trip to San Francisco by myself.

Truth be known, I was following someone there, otherwise I would never have traveled so far alone back then.

That's another story, but you can find out all about about my friend Ted here.

On the last day of my trip, I took a bus from where I was staying into downtown San Francisco because I had booked a seat on the Amtrak back to Vancouver. What I didn't realize was that there was a parade happening downtown that very day. A kind of parade I would never even have imagined at that point in time. There were a lot of people dressed in strange costumes, lots of oiled, tanned men dancing on floats. Strange characters handing out odd tokens to the onlookers. On one float, the men threw out coins, one of which I snagged. It had a logo and the words "Bulldog Massage Parlor" etched into it. I hung onto it for years.

At one point when I was standing there, I heard a very deep voice say hello behind me. I turned around, and looked up. It was a black transvestite, in sequins, on roller skates, handing out pamphlets. I just stared up at this creature, the likes of which I had never seen before. I'm sure he thought *I* was the odd one...

It was an unabashedly happy occasion, people laughed and yelled out and sang and danced in the streets. And I'll never forget it. As it turned out, this was my first pride parade. I just didn't know what that was at the time.

Today, my husband and I made the trek to downtown Victoria to attend the 2018 Victoria Pride Parade, something which has been happening here for the past 25 years. And as the first floats and performers walked past us, we both got a little teary eyed. For me, there were many things that brought those tears. I was thinking about my Uncle Roy, a gay, Danish man who killed himself during the second World War because he was afraid of being thrown into a concentration camp for homosexuals by the German soldiers who occupied Denmark. I was thinking about my friend Lynn who came out to me in high school, but had to keep her secret from almost everyone else back then. I was thinking about my friend Ted, the man I mentioned above, who died of AIDS.

But our tears turned to laughter and applause, watching so many people expressing their joy at being themselves. The costumes were just as bright and crazy, the music and laughter still as loud as it was at that first parade 40 years ago. They handed out colourful beads, lots of candy, Pride stickers, colouring books and postcards. And condoms. Lots of condoms.

One young woman came straight to me and handed me a little plastic bottle labeled "Pride". "Sunscreen!" she exclaimed, seeing my bare arms turning a little pink. "Thought you might need some!" She laughed and rejoined her parade group. And as we were leaving, a little girl who was walking with her Dad as part of the parade, handed me a yellow lollipop. "Happy Pride!" she smiled.

We've come a long way in 40 years. There are still issues to deal with, people with narrow minds and oppressive cultures. Perhaps one day we will have come so far that there really won't be any need for Pride Parades, but I kind of hope they never stop.

Happy Pride Day!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

I Can Hear You Think!

NOT my new hearing aids...
I remember my poor old Uncle George often fussing with his big, chunky hearing aids, trying to adjust the sound up or down, still struggling with the conversation going on around him. During the second World War, his hearing had been seriously damaged from standing too close to the artillery guns. Other than cupping the hands over the ears, there was no protection from the sound of the blasts. And those were only the blasts you were prepared for!

The technology for hearing aids was basically nothing more than sticking two speakers in your ears, blaring everything into them at full tilt. How the technology has changed.

On February 3rd of this year, I finally gave in to my husband's insistence and went to get my hearing tested. The lady who was testing me said that it's usually the complaints of a spouse that bring people in :-) Yes, I admit, I've had some trouble hearing certain things for some time because of tinnitus, a ringing in the ears. I think it annoyed my husband beyond measure to have to repeat himself so frequently. Patience isn't his strong point. But considering what I do for a living, teaching guitar, hearing well is kind of important.

The test takes about an hour, consisting mainly of sticking you in a booth and inserting small contraptions in your ears as you punch a button every time you hear something. Or think you hear something. You hear beeps and buzzes, people talking in noisy bars (well, I imagined it to be a bar to entertain myself), deep sounds, high pitched sounds. You get the picture. And then when the testing is over, you can view a little graph of each ear and its response to sounds, giving you an idea of which frequencies you are not hearing. After that, the conversation steers towards what kind of hearing aids would be best for you, and how they work. I had been researching before the appointment, so I was pretty sure I knew which ones would suit me. So we picked a colour, put in the order and paid for them, and made an appointment for picking them up.

And then I had some time to reflect on it all. It's a bit of an emotional adjustment, I have to admit. All I could picture was my old Uncle George with his big, awkward hearing aids and the stigma of needing them in the first place. How will I look? How will it feel? What will it change in my life?

This past Wednesday I finally had my appointment to pick them up. Again, it was an hour long session, because they have to test them and make any necessary adjustments. They also teach you how to take care of them, how to replace parts, batteries, clean and maintain them. It was a lot to take in. But as soon as she put them in my ears, I heard everything that I'd been missing. I could hear my voice reverberating off the wall in front of me. Suddenly sibilant sounds came to life. I became conscious of every little rustle or movement in the tiny room. Yep, I guess I needed them after all.

When I walked out of the room, I laughed to myself that the first sounds I was hearing were the sounds of Costco customers noisily shopping. I got in my car and heard the key click in the ignition in a way I hadn't before. Wow. It sounds like that. I turned the radio down because it was too noisy. I spoke out loud to myself and heard my own voice in a suddenly strange way.

They are quite small, they are very light, and they are hidden under my hair. The technology allows me to hear the frequencies I am able to hear naturally, mixed with the boost in frequencies I don't hear as well from the hearing aids. I wear them as much as I can to allow my brain the opportunity to get used to the new sounds. When I met up with one of my daughters yesterday, she had to ask me if I had received my hearing aids yet. She couldn't see them. That was a plus.

A few weeks back, I told one of my students, a 10-year-old, that I was getting hearing aids soon. I told him that my hearing aids were going make my hearing so good that I was going to be able to hear what he's thinking. He looked at me for a long time. I think he believed me.

IJ