Harvey Alter –The Passing of a Dynamic Innovator

Harvey Alter became a victim of Aphasia after a successful career as a Criminologist.

He worked with several speech therapists and became a solid public speaker, after the onset of his aphasia. He created the International Aphasia Movement, to provide help to adults who suffer from aphasia.

From lack of blood flow to the brain areas that modulate language. A contemporary study of many of the soldiers who returned from our overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq has found a great deal of Traumatic Brain Injury. This is similar to a post stroke or violent crime victim.

Harvey provided a multi-session approach of small workshops to rebuild those damaged skills, allowing the brain to retrain unused areas in the undamaged sections of one’s brain. It is very repetitive work, and many clients take a break from time to time, but they do come back for more practice.

The program does help to train speech therapists who are close to graduating.

His last few years were very trying on him. We will miss him greatly.

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Playing Guitar and thoughts on being mentally a guitar player without Playing

How Can I Start this Chapter, when all I ever wanted to do was play Guitar?

Well a hemiplegic makes a poor finger-picker.
One cannot play mental guitar for ever, when one once was a pretty high quality picker.
Several of my friends (and some of them are former guitar students of mine), have tried to help me pursue the axe in some form.  I just don’t seem to be able to figure out how to hold it with one arm. Where to place the other limp limb?
It is pretty bizarre ; my brain can image the finger movement, with no problem. But that side of the body just won’t listen!
I can still think about the right Thumb alternating like a mini-bass player.
I still can play my scales cerebrally.
Not to mention the top of the first page of Micky Baker’s Jazz Method Book. You know, the inside first page with all the inversions that starts with G Major with a third in the bass, and your left pinky on the second string.

Dave Van Ronk used to teach with some inscrutable personal tablature, with an X when all the the three fingers of the right hand played together (Thumb, index, and ring). And his tab had NO LINES just letter with either a line through it or one above or below it. Based on the concept of so called high note or low note or one in the middle.
Reverend  Gary Davis would just play it for you, and if you kept messing up he would simplify it “on the fly.”
Barry Galbraith had a huge collection of transcriptions, which he would use a wet copier (maybe made by 3M) to whip out a copy for you, and then finger it, according to your level at the time.

Anyway I had a ball. I would sit on my bed and try to read the chicken scratch.
But that was cool, it forced me to develop my  ear.

I became a great ear player, since I only learned to read music when I went back to college and studied  for a music degree.
Finally I received a BA in Music composition at Hunter College CUNY, when I was  25.

It was great to teach guitar as a living and study harmony at the same time.

I had some terrific teachers at Hunter and most of them were also composers as well.  They loved to compose! It  sure was contagious.

January 19, 2013
I have not played guitar in almost Nine years (this is unbelievable to me).

However recently I have dug out some of  my previous work as a teacher and musician. I found a few files of early demos. Also I have started to reformat my fingerpicking instruction book from the 1980s. It was created in MS word with crude guitar tablature that really looked awful.

The past few months I have come up with a makeshift technique to convert the tablature from Guitar Pro into .jpg or .gif. to embed them into an HTML formatted version of the book.

I also have an old tape of me playing the examples and was able to move the cassette versions of the taped examples into .mp3 format.

I am using an outdated version of MS Photo editor (from originally from the extra options included with MS Word 2000. Then I take a screen dump using the “print screen” key on the keyboard ), and paste that into either paint or paint.net (Paint.NET v3.5.10 ) to create the image files with the correct chord symbols.

All these parts are being combined into a HTML document using a basic text editor . I also use Araneae 5 (from ornj.net/araneae) to create the media links and to preview in several browsers (especially SeaMonkey).

In 2014 it was placed on my web site

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When a respected East coast University Medical department starts acting like a Medicare Mill

My Accidental Right Wrist Fusion

After a my disabling ischemic stroke, in December 11 2003, I agreed to a surgical procedure to relieve my right fingers curl. And also a separate procedure to straighten my `locked’ right arm. After my stroke my right wrist and hand was involuntarily (by the resultant brain damage) forced to point in an upward direction towards my left unaffected side. This made basic functioning such as dressing and walking quite difficult. My balance was affected as well as my pronounced exaggerated right leg curl (my right heel turns toward my unaffected side).

Unfortunately no printed review/summery by the University of Pennsylvania medical team was offered as to the operations I believed I and the surgeon had agreed upon. Perhaps that would have prevented the incomplete discussion and resulting continued discomfort from the second group of surgery procedures.

The first procedure went without a hitch. It corrected my `locked’ elbow and allowed my right arm to hang loosely at my side (so much so that now it gets caught in my sleeping position– and drags on the floor when I stoop to pick up something).

However the second set of procedures were unfortunately also not discussed correctly:
It was explained to me (and one of my adult nieces who was present with me in the doctors examining room).
The briefing stated that my right hand finger tendons would be extended. Also in order to perform this extension the nerves of the fingers would need to be severed. It was clearly stated that no increased function would result, nor was I under the illusion that the hand would ever function usefully again.

No mention of my wrist being fused!

After a lifetime of questioning Doctors and following my own mature health choices. I actually found the Doctor reassuring, apparently thorough, as befits her stature in a major teaching medical institution. Unfortunately, hindsight has provided an tragic explanation for the gross oversight of Dr Keenan. She was preparing to retire in a great hurry and I got lost in the shuffle. I did not realize it then but there was actually No One in charge of explaining to me what the operation that Dr Keenan had planned for me.
Her nurse on her staff was supposed to update me and also promised me some printed documentation. Nothing was provided me.

However the lack of full discussion or supplied documentation as to the two scheduled operations on my arm and hand was quite unfortunate. I believe most of these problems could easily be avoided by documentation or full disclosure of what the surgery entailed.

In fact there was documentation for a surgery on a planned leg procedure, and much of the single meeting discussion was concerning this possible future correction.

The first I heard of the wrist fusion was in the hospital room when the surgeon visited my the day after the operation and I was just conscious enough to say “What did you do.” It was then the surgeon stated that my wrist was fused.

To this day it remains swollen and often aches and the wrist is often uncomfortable and with pain. I seem to have traded one type of discomfort for another. My fingers are in a state I have termed “permanent boxtox extension.”
Note: I did try botox injections after my stroke and found that lengthening was not to my liking. I told that to Dr. Keenan well before the surgery.

From the recent surgery my right pinky gets caught on fabrics in sweaters and shirt arms, coat sleeves etc. This pinky finger seems to jut out quite annoyingly and unnaturally.

After my stroke I had pursued on the web to see if there was any possible help for my affliction, and I came across a news report on a discussion by the a surgeon in Philadelphia on a series of operations on stroke affected limbs. Unfortunately in regard to the arm correction only the finger tendons extensions was named in the news report.

The Physiatrist in NYC I was seeing at the time had noted my difficulties with my locked in place right arm and the resultant skin irritation under my right armpit.
My internist at this time misdiagnosed it as a fungous, and sent me home with a script for an anti-fungous cream which (of course) did nothing.

A year later with a different internist, I diagnosed myself and told him that the itching was due to the weight of my upper arm pressing against my torso. He agreed to refer me to a dermatologist. This specialist wrote me a script for a steroid which relieved my immediate discomfort. However the problem has re-occurred with discouraging frequency. In fact the soreness and itching persists to this day in a different form; and also affect my right breast area — i can only assume that my shoulder sublimation and weight of the inert arm adds to the problem.

The amount of cramped muscles on my right side I assume is certainly related to my post paralysis attempts to walk and exercise. I stretch as much as my spaticity and tightness allow me. My main stretching is cross leg on my bed in a “pseudo yoga position.” I now do this twice a day since the first arm operation. I have yet to find an affective release for my neck cramps and right shoulder pain.

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Robert Gellman

In the early days, before I established a positive identity as a disabled person. Robert was tremendously helpful to me.
He was similarly disabled, and he was also highly intelligent and competent.
He became disabled at a young age, I believe around 40 years old.

Actually it’s hard to imagine what he really experienced. His stroke and resultant hemiparisis was a result of an operation that a doctor recommended. My stroke was quite dissimilar and I lived until 53 years old before my right sided paralysis. Thus I had a really good run before I had to stop playing guitar.

Robert taught me many ways of coping with my walking difficulties. He once remarked that he went to physical therapy in the early day of his stroke but found it was not very helpful. I had a similar experience. I often had to teach the therapist myself, as opposed to the other way around. What a drag!

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Albert Polon

My dad was a tremendous positive influence on me.
He was quite aware and an excellent teacher.
Compassionate, creative, he helped me create and grow a strong moral core.

The Polon family was always concerned with the contradictions inherent in living in an imperfect society. We were culturally Jewish, yet we were atheists. Solidly left of center, however open to other values. We were also willing to examine our own inconsistencies.

My parent’s house was filled with The New York Times,  books by Carl Sandburg, and I recall the Golden Bough by Sir James Frazier (all the volumes!). Norman Mailer’s The Naked and The Dead. The Fifty Minute Hour (which started my successful lifelong use of psychotherapy to move past emotional roadblocks). My mother introduced me to The Golden Notebook, and movies by Satyajit Ray.  They both loved Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs. Of course Jackie Gleason was on each Saturday night. They appreciated Johnny Carson and Jack Paar.

Al, as we called him,  was fascinated by intelligent games of Chance. He loved Bridge, and other card games. He also had a passion for spectator sports, especially horse racing both Trotters and Straight Up. He introduced me Dashiell Hammett and film noir before it was called that.  We lived quite close to The New Yorker Theater, the premier revival film house of the 1950s and 60s. [I believe the owner was Daniel Talbot,  however this is a digression.]

In 1953 My Dad received some devastating news. Previously he underwent a surgical procedure — a sympathectomy, just after I was born This was supposed to lower his blood pressure. It did for a while but not for long. 7 years is hardly an acceptable bargain for all the pain and suffering from the removal of his nerves of his middle torso.  Especially since the expectation was for a permanent improvement.
He realized that he could not go through another round of failed experimentation. He decided to take the family to Europe for an extended stay. It was an incredible adventure. Al bought a Citroen, and we drove around the continent and saw the clash of cultures first hand.

The cultures, and the view while driving were more than I (as a five-years-old) were open to experience. However many memories are retained, all of them good.  I recall the beach at Cannes, and a certain Austrian (I believe) funhouse, and the many great meals in unusual places and restaurants.

However his mother Rose died suddenly  however and Al flew back to the States in  a rush without us. When he got back to NYC his doctors started him on a new blood pressure lowering drug (surpersill ?spell).

It worked fairly well. He still had tremendous difficulty standing up since his nervous system  was surgically compromised.  But he lived for 20+ years. Unfortunately at the age of 54 he came down with colon cancer,  and the Barium test was unhelpful (it missed the growth). Remember this was 1970s. He died in the early 1970s.
During my youth, and especially as I became of college age I grew more rebellious. This was the late 1960s, and I was looking for a fight, so I fought with all authority figures.  A  problem I retained for many years. I fought with him often, but my household could accept conflict. We were all quite strong willed.

I remember when the Kubrick film  2001 came out. We saw it as a family. And we also saw Mike Todd Jr.’s Smellovision film about China (boy did my mom freeze, since it used the AC system to distribute the aroma). Such was life with an extraordinary man, my Dad.

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Love is anything But

When you fall in love you’re able to take a welcome
Brief pause in the chaos of life
A safe island where you can catch your breath.

We grasp for happiness and feel it slip away
How to slow down the cruel clock, is to ask the impossible.
It can be an agony to discover (know what)?
That it’s all so Temporary.

Now a giant gap parts us.
The brief moment of Oneness ended while I was unaware.
We have lost again, and no one is left for the better

I was clueless that a change was about to occur.
I suppose I was unaware,  how unhappy You Must have been.

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I Thought I Knew Love

The worst of it I was convinced that we were of a same desire and mind         to make it work.
The pull to each other I believed was unstoppable. 
I felt that we could work any tensions out because I was so in love.
I must be the densest person on Earth. Could I missed many signs?
I miss not waking up with her and seeing her at my breakfast table.
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