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Earplugs Unplugged

Practically deaf, my grandfather never lets you forget it. “I can’t hear a freaking thing,” he goes around yelling, “so don’t bother talking.” If these constant reminders have taught me anything, it’s that partial deafness poses unique challenges. There is, after all, no wheelchair, Seeing Eye dog or cane to alert others of your problem. As a result people are liable to think you’re stupid, and get irritated really quickly. “When I was young,” says comedian Kathy Buckley, “I was put in a school for retarded kids for two years before they realized I actually had hearing loss.”

Watching my grandfather go through this has been tough, even if I know it isn’t such a loss for someone who regards socializing like time spent in the stocks. In fact, I often hear a hint of relief when he says, “You’re flapping your lips for nothing big talker, I can’t hear you.”

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Walter Martin – Down by the Singing Sea

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New Orleans for the Holidays

I have a thing for “dying” cities.

If a struggling town has abandoned buildings and the crumbling, cracking facades of faded glory, I’m interested. I just like the idea of a place whose existence upsets people. “Save Venice?” My father-in-law likes to ask rhetorically. “What about save me the fucking heartache?”

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Confessions of a Sexsomniac

I am a sleep fucker, and like everything else I’m self-conscious about, I first heard about my disorder from my girlfriend.

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Jehnny Beth + Julian Casablancas – Boy/Girl

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Salad Days

I held up a forkful of lettuce and stared at it, terrified.

This was my first salad in 16 years.

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Montreal Stinks

I once thought my wife was part greyhound.

“Do you smell that?” She’d ask me, pointing vaguely at some unseen presence. “It’s horrible. You really can’t smell it?” She’d insist, like someone having a nervous breakdown. Her borderline supernatural sense of smell has, in her mind, forever linked entire cities with odors and stenches: Florence (dog shit), London (urine and beer), Barcelona (sewage), Paris (car fires). My nose has never been strong enough to refute her (it may be for decorative purposes only), so I’ve often wondered if she was right. Could cities have a signature scent?

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My grandfather has lost his hearing.

Not one to let us forget, he likes to say, “I have no idea what you people are talking about,” any time we have a conversation within five feet of him. It’s possible he’s still just getting used to this relatively new handicap, but I think he also likes to remind us of his plight.

Initially, we went to great lengths to try talking to him, shouting and enunciating like coked-up over-actors. “What are you talking to me for? I’m deaf for christ’s sake!” He said. We’ve since discovered an easier way to keep him entertained and occupied: closed captioned television. For the better part of a decade, he has read everything he has watched on TV.

I’ve decided to spend the next 12 hours watching closed captioned TV.  Read more

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