Sunday, February 15, 2009

Silence is golden

After a half century of lurching from one role model to the next, I've decided to settle on someone new to guide me through my cancer crisis.

Ron Mael is the senior member of the band Sparks, who performed at UCLA's Royce Hall on Saturday. Ron and his younger brother Russell have been making records since 1971 and last night they performed their latest album, "Exotic Creatures of the Deep"; an album from 1974, "Kimono My House"; and a smattering of songs from over the years.

I've been a Sparks fan for a long time but it wasn't until last night at Royce Hall that I realized how much I could learn from Ron Mael during this awkward phase of my life.

Ron makes being speechless look totally cool.

Sparks' songs are full of words but Ron doesn't sing any of them. Ron leaves the singing and between-song patter to Russell, while he stands behind his keyboard and stays mum.

Every now and then, Ron steps away from the keyboard. At one point in last night's performance, a stage hand brought a microphone on stage and Ron stood behind it. But Ron didn't speak into the mic.

How cool is that?

Me, I've been mum since early December, thanks to a renegade tongue that has ballooned to outlandish dimensions.

I get by with grunts, making scribbles in a note pad, and by overusing the single hand gesture in my repertoire: a thumb's up to signal approval.

My attempts to compensate for speechlessness are slowly driving the people around me crazy, and the reams of paper that I consume for scribbling notes are bound to result in some kind of sanction from Al Gore's people.

My penmanship is also getting sloppy. The other day I tried to warn the radiologist at Kaiser that I felt nauseous, but he couldn't make out my lower-case a, and I almost resorted to upchucking on his shoes to get my point across.

And that thumb's-up signal is really getting on everyone's nerves.

But as I watched Ron Mael perform at UCLA last night, I realized that I was missing out on an opportunity to make my disability work in my favor.

Ron is just another in a series of men who have used the absence of speech to their advantage. From Harpo Marx to Shane to Marcel Marceau, history is full of guys whose speechlessness made them more interesting, not pathetic.

So until my tongue gives up the fight and allows my voice to return, I'm going to try out some new styles, inspired by the great silent figures of our time.

If you see me out and about, I just may be sporting white greasepaint, a horn and a cowboy hat. You can't tell me that's not a definite look.


  1. I see I'm not the only one that has an issue with your lower case a

  2. I love your strength and your fight and I admire that in you. I strive to be more like you. Ok - I'm a big mush pot. But I love you and could use a bit of your strenght and humor.

  3. I'm looking forward to your encore of Suburban Homeboy.