Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Wonderful Night With Three Great Performers

Hello everyone,

It has been forever since I have posted anything on this blog. Much of what has been taking my attention away from writing is finally over, which gives me some much needed free time. So this post is me spending some of that time so I can share with you a wonderful experience that ELF and I had about two weeks ago.

Ever since I heard the term CODA, it gave me a sense of belonging to something. For the most part, that tie is to Deaf people. Deaf people who use ASL, but mostly my family, my parents’ Deaf friends, and the many Deaf friends I have made here in the Boston area. There is another tie, just as strong and as unique to my tie with Deaf people. It’s the tie to other CODAs, and it’s uniqueness comes from our common shared experiences. 

It’s because of these ties that I have become increasingly interested in ASL performances. Most everything I have seen has been via the internet, watching ASL poems, storytelling, and comedy routines. One of my favorite performers has been Keith Wann. Any CODA reading this likely knows exactly who I am talking about. He may be one of the funniest performers I have ever seen. It’s been a dream to see him perform live, and two weeks ago I finally got to when he came to perform at Harvard University. 

The first surprise came after ELF and I parked the car in a local garage and began walking towards Sever Hall where the show would be. On our way down Quincy Street I had noticed and pointed out to ELF two Deaf women just ahead of us on the sidewalk. We had no idea where Sever Hall was, but knew they were on their way there, so we decided to follow them. In about another 200 feet, one of them got into a car, and the other one turned around to make her way to the same vehicle. That’s when I recognized her face. As a young child, my family spent a lot of time with hers. Her father and my father were good friends all through school. 

I waved her down and introduced myself. Before I could finish spelling my last name, her face lit up in surprised recognition and she immediately began to relay it through the car windows to her friends inside. The group turned out to be her husband, who had been a more recent fishing buddy of my father’s, her mother whom I haven’t even seen since childhood, and another couple who were also good friends with my parents and hers. They had made the four hour drive from Bangor, Maine to Boston just for the show. We had a great conversation on the way to the hall and while waiting inside before the show began. 

It was great catching up with all of them, and before I knew it, one of them expressed his thoughts to me on my father, his good friend, and what it meant for him to miss him. His little speech on this caused me to choke back some nearly uncontrollable tears on the verge of crashing down in front of everyone. It was a very thoughtful gesture, and I’ll never forget his words. Loosely translated, he said that he really missed my father, would always remember his laughter, and pointed out that I must miss him dearly. That’s when the flood came for me, and as I was nodding yes he hugged me out of nowhere. I hadn’t seen this man since my father’s funeral service over five years ago, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t even hug then, but it was a very welcome thing nonetheless. I mean, where else can one find such a small community closeness? For me, there isn’t really any other place that lives up to that Deaf community standard. 

Well, anyways, after that it wasn’t long before we were allowed into the lecture hall for the show. It was a small audience, maybe about 100 people or a few more. It turned out to be a great show. I was surprised to see one Gregg Spera perform an opening act (very good one-of-a-kind performer, by the way) before another man named Wink performed. If you’re familiar with Keith’s work then you may recognize Wink as well. They have been working together for some time now on an ASL radio show in Florida. The show broadcasts over the radio for the hearies and podcasts on the internet for all the ASLers. Wink is a CODA as well, and his stand up routine had me laughing almost constantly. 

When Keith went up to perform it was no different. The man is incredibly funny, and between the two of them I identified with so many CODA experiences. Everything they said and did was funny, but to relate to it so well just made the laughter all the more special. I really felt at home, so to speak. After the show ELF and I hung around to meet them, and to our surprise we were invited to hang out with them at a local restaurant. 

This second surprise was something I couldn’t turn down, despite how late it was and the fact that ELF and I had to be up early the next morning. So we threw caution to the wind and had ourselves a good time. I do want to say that Keith seems like an incredible guy, and he was very down to earth. We just hung out and ASLed for a couple of hours, occasionally attracting the attention of hearies trying to figure out what all this hand-flying around stuff was all about. One guy literally stopped outside a window to look in on us with his mouth wide open. Well whatever, I’m used to that, I suppose. 

What turned out to be an amazing evening of surprises had just one more for us  after we parted ways. Keith and Wink returned to their hotel room, Gregg went home, and the other person who was there led us back to the path to our garage. Enter surprise number three; the garage was locked and the security doors down. No way in or out while raining in late March at twelve-frickin-thirty in the morning. So we did the only thing we could do - I called a friend out of bed to come pick us up and bring us home. Thankfully he answered the call. It even turned to snow for a short time before he finally made it there to pick us up. 

It didn’t damper the experience at all, however. It was quite a stamp to put on at the end of the day, but we had a great time. The only thing that made it better that it already had been was the fact that not at any single moment did ELF need anything interpreted. She has come such a long way, and I am so proud of her.

There is one other piece of news that I wish to share with you all. About one year ago, I contacted Keith Wann in the meager hopes that he would agree to do a blog interview. Well, he agreed to it on the spot, and that was a wonderful surprise. I mean, the CODA Brothers didn’t respond at all, and here was this guy ready to go. So I sent him some questions via email, and over the course of the past year, we finally found time to complete the thing. I will be posting this interview 28 days from now, on May 5th. Not sure by what time, but look for future posts either here or on facebook. If I decide on something, it will be mentioned either here or there. 

Until next time,

R. M.

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