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Rick's List — These Are My Ears. They Work! Edition

Something interesting happened to me this week.

I could suddenly HEAR.

But let's back up. You know those two appendages on either side of your head? (Well, not you, Van Gogh, but ... ) They're called "ears," and their function is to provide you with the ability to listen. Or at least "hear," which, as any teacher will tell you, is different than "listening."

I have always had "ears" — oh, have I ever! Mine were the source of much humor in elementary school because, rather than lay back sleekly against my head as happens with those I learned to call The Handsome People, mine curved out in convex fashion. (Convexian?)

Nicknames ensued. The predictable:

1. "Dumbo"

2. "Jug-ears"

The mildly creative:

3. "Seashell Head"

And the oddly prescient:

4. "Fowler Flaps" (Naturally, I'd be the big-eared kid in the same first-grade class with a guy who'd end up teaching aerodynamics at NASA.)

5. "Obama Ears" (Naturally, I'd be the big-eared kid in the same first-grade class with a woman who'd end up a famous fortune teller. She also predicted, way back in 1961, that someday, a singer named John Denver's experimental airplane would crash due to a failure of the craft's Fowler Flaps.)

Over time, though, there were newer things for kids to be cruel about, and my ears faded as a source of entertainment. Then, in college, I made the brilliant decision to become a rock star.

Hundreds — maybe a thousand? — of performances down the road, my ears let me down again: My hearing was significantly damaged. In order to protect them, I quit music and became a concert reviewer. Over a hundred shows later, in 2016, my ears filed the necessary retirement papers. "We've had it, Loser," they told me.

"Not yet, you haven't!" I countered. "Slayer's out on their farewell tour. You WILL be attending with me."

We were about 20 yards in front of guitarist Kerry King's amp set-up and, well, it was so ludicrously loud my ears literally melted like the nubs of votives in a midnight jack-o'-lantern, finally guttering out.

Since then, I've had to review concerts for The Day relying on bands with those sign-language people whose regular gigs are with politicians during press conferences at disasters.

But earlier this week, I finally got hearing aids. I can hear! Again.

It's wonderful. But it's also a bit disconcerting and, frankly, odd to learn to hear again. It's like the difference between listening to a guy across a busy street play "Frog Went a Courtin'" on a tissure paper-covered comb and, outta nowhere, the Pat Metheny Group showing up to play "Are You Going With Me?" in your living room.

Yesterday, my wife Eileen and our dog Virgil and I took a walk down to the beach, and I was treated to an aural kaliedoscope of wondrous sounds. I kept asking Eileen: "What's that?" She'd say:

1. "A gull."

2. "Waves."

3. "Wind."

4. "Virgil peeing."

5. "Snow falling at your sister's house in Denver."

Then, as we sat on a stone wall and the early-fall sunshine aimed for the horizon, I heard a smooth, clicking, mecahincal sound way overhead. "You hear that?" I asked Eileen.

"No. What?"

I pointed up in the sky, where, if you looked carefully, you could barely see a Navy fighter jet on maneuvers from Newport. I said, "The pilot just activated his Fowler Flaps."


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