My parents placed me in a normal kindergarten class. They were then told that I might benefit from attending a special school with other blind kids. For grades 1 through 4, I attended a limited vision program. Well, there was a problem with that. I was put in a class with children that had much more severe problems than I did. Some were nearly totally blind, some were deaf, and a few others had mental challenges. My parents felt that this was holding me back, as I started copying them and wanting to be like them. I remember wanting a hearing aid, and wishing I could have glasses an inch thick, like my friend, Derm. The teacher felt it would be best if I went back to a regular school, and would later help my parents put me in one..
I think that the human brain strives to take in as much information as possible in order to perceive the world around it. Because of the limitation in the visual area, my brain turned to my ears for a clearer picture. I've spent my life so far, seeing with my ears, thus developing an acute sense of auditory perception. My ears are no different than anyone elses. Its the way I interpret sound that is unique. There are times when I think that I can actually imagine what some sounds would look like. On the street, it became very important for me to recognize a voice, instead of a face. Thinking back to when I was five or so, I knew when the needle on my record player needed replacing, not because it was broken, but because the cymbals were not clear in the music. This compromise of senses must have been what caused me to sing and play music...
It wasnt long after I started to talk when I sang along with all of my
favorite 45s. At age 5, I new all the words to all the hits on top 40 radio. My
grandfather gave me an old radio that had no back on it. For hours on end I would stare at
the insides while listening to "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak
Tree", "Silvias Mother", and my all time favorite, "I Got A
Brand New Pair Of Roller-skates" on top 40 radio, AM 1150 CKOC.
What do you get when you have white hair, a special scope to see the black board with, and are placed in a grade 5 class with 30 "normal" kids? ..A girlfriend! Her name was Judy. We went steady for three years and only kissed once. She stuck up for me when the name calling started. The first kid that called me "whitey", became a friend of mine. He still called me "whitey", and I simply called him "Brownie". Although I didnt know it at the time, this was a clever way of putting things into perspective. I had white hair, and he had brown hair. Simple right? Well, that didnt work for long. Almost every day, some sort of name calling ritual would take place, and after a while, it really began to hurt. I would take different routs to school to avoid it, but it still managed to happen. I did my best to retaliate, and eventually learned to pick on other people as a means of maintaining some feeling of control. Unfortunately, I probably ended up hurting some people just as I had been hurt.
My eyes are very sensitive to light. As a child, I loved being outside at twilight. During the day though, I could be found down in the dark basement of our house, rather than outside playing road hockey. I resorted to taking apart every record player and tape recorder I ever owned. I think I am the only child to have gone through 4 or 5 tape recorders in only a few years. My curiosity for the inner workings of things started to unfold. The basement began to look like a techno-morgue, with all of the skeletal remains of old record players, tape recorders and whatever else found it's way into my dark laboratory. My parents were very patient, however, a point was reached when it became a very expensive endeavor. Learning how to put things back together again was the key and once mastered, I could dismantle anything, put it back together and nothing was lost.. After a while, I was able to actually make improvements to the things, adding extra functions and switches. All of this led to one thing...my passion for electronics, and to my familys despair, a never-ending erray of alarms, infra-red sensors, and bugging devices. Until this day I'm still not sure if they know about some of the devices that were hidden under baseboards and on top of doors. In fact, some of the old wiring is still in place down in the bowels of the basement. My Father, David, supported my interests by bringing home old components, batteries, wires, speakers - you name it. Every day when he got home from work, his lunch box was nothing short of a gold mine.
My eyesight didn't stop me from tinkering with electronics, nor did it stop me from speeding across the city on my ten-speed. I only managed to hit one lady in all of my travels. Yes, my parents worried, but they were told to treat me as a "normal" person and not to limit my aspirations. My boundaries quickly stretched beyond the few city blocks that, for so long, were all I knew. I started off following behind my friend, Chuck, but soon I was on my own. My favorite destination Radio Shack. It took a half an hour to ride there, taking the side streets wherever possible.
My desire to create music grew apparent, and drums were my first choice of musical
expression. They were loud, both on the radio and in my room, and they were the closest
thing to the pots and pans I had been accustomed to. At age 8,
I was banging away on a four piece set
that my parents bought for $25. Every day I would spend 15 minutes practicing the lessons
I was given that week, and the rest of the time doing solos that, to my parents, sounded
like the drums themselves were being thrown down many flights of stairs! By age 14, I was
in a band. We practiced every Sunday for years, managing to land a few gigs in schools and
contests. It was fun, and eventually led to my song writing. I started writing tunes on my
big brothers guitar but got frustrated and switched to piano which better suited the
type of songs that I was writing. I had always loved the piano since a very young age, and
by this time had spent enough time playing other peoples pianos to actually play
several tunes on my first keyboard, the same day it was brought home. By age 18, there was
a large collection of mostly sad and frustrated songs reflecting the life of a teen who
was obviously different, and was teased about it. Having white hair, bad acne, and being
"Blind as a bat" didnt exactly excite the hormones of the average high
school girl. With little confidence, I became lazy in school and spent most of my time in
that same basement. The echoes of melodies from that old childhood radio, and the
inspiration of my life as a frustrated teen, wrote songs that boosted my strength and self
esteem. People started fussing over my songs and wanting copies. This made me crank out
even more tunes. I recorded my songs on a four track which I bought with money I made on
my paper route, and the recordings I made still exist.
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