Archive for June, 2012

World’s Funniest Legally Blind Comic

June 30, 2012

Never in a million years did I think I would have to defend myself for calling my website “The World’s Funniest Legally Blind Comic!” Over the years, I have received random emails through my blog or my website, some of an attacking nature some just pointing out that there are other legally blind comedians out there. So now, I am officially going on the record, there never was a vote that I was the World’s Funniest Legally Blind Comic! That’s right America, I self appointed myself that title. I didn’t even win it on a reality TV show, it was all my doing. I guess King James and I have a lot in common, as King James was really never appointed a King, in high school he just decided to start calling himself King James. It’s called a brand name and marketing yourself. My buddy Judah Friedlander is known as The World Champ, and guess what, he really isn’t the World Champ, although I think he is. When you work in an unbelievably competitive industry like comedy, you have to do what ever it takes to separate yourself from the billion other comic’s out there, and yes, that does include all the other blind comedians out there. I am well aware of at least six other blind comedians out there, and I am sure there are a lot more than that. I am even friends with a couple of them, and I bet ya they think they are the world’s funniest legally blind comics! I will even go one further, since I started on this endeavor in comedy my vision has severely deteriorated, and I wouldn’t even be classified as legally blind anymore, just blind! So my website is now false advertising, but thanks to there not being a web design program that works with Apple’s Voiceover for us non HTML coding experts, I have no way of updating my website. That’s right, my website hasn’t even been updated in about two years.

It just blows me away that people will actually take the time to send me an email attacking my website and my self anointing as the World’s Funniest Legally Blind Comic. People get a life, and do something constructive with your time. May be offer your services to blind people to help them edit their websites.


Taking the Alpha Back From Your Dog

June 28, 2012

We all love our dogs. In fact most of us like them better than people. I even share my bed with Nash, well actually I think he has commandeered it as his own bed. During the day as I am on the computer he can be found in my bed if he isn’t underneath my desk on my feet. Some times I will go in and see if he wants to play. And it is funny, as at times he will let out a groan telling me that he wants to sleep. I don’t mind Nash sharing my bed. I do mind when he drools in it. Yes, Nash is a big drooler. My question is what do you do when your guide dog think your bed is his bed?

I go to sleep pretty late these days, so after our night walk, Nash will come by my desk expecting a treat because that is a habit we seem to have gotten in to at the end of the day. He will sit by my desk until he gets his treat. Then I have to tell him sorry buddy that is it for tonight. Some nights he will join me at my desk and sit on my feet until I tell him it past doggy bed time. Other nights when I tell him sorry buddy that is it for tonight, he then pitter patters off to the bedroom, and I can hear him make the leap in to my bed.

Nash has gotten pretty understanding that late at night when I come in to the bedroom that it is his cue to go down to his bed, as unfortunately my bed really isn’t big enough for both of us because we both like to spread out. One thing I have noticed is that Nash really likes to fall asleep right in the middle of the bed either at the head or the foot, but directly in the middle. This makes it pretty hard for me to get in to my bed comfortably. Every now and then Nash must be pretty zonked out because he doesn’t go down to his bed and will barely move. I have to attempt to slide in to the bed and maneuver the sheets. It is pretty funny.

The other night I got up in the middle of the night because I must be at that age where you have to get up to go to the bathroom. I came back in to my bedroom half asleep and plopped down in to my formally empty bed. Only to land on Nash who had settled in the middle of the bed at the head and he had even stolen my pillows. He wouldn’t move. I gave it a few minutes but Nash wasn’t going anywhere. He was pretty content with sleeping in my bed. I had one little area on the bed, and I think we were trying to determine who the alpha male of the house is. I eventually fell asleep next to Nash, but it does make me wonder does your dog ever try and tell you that he is the boss? If so, how do I take the alpha back?

Nash and My First Staycation

June 23, 2012

Wow, I never in a million years thought I would use the phrase Stacation or actually take one. So I am not even a hundred percent sure that I am using the phrase correctly, but I guess this weekend is my version of what a Staycation would be. And I do apologize in advance if my using of the term Staycation is spelled differently throughout this blog, as when you are blind using voiceover and have spell check enabled, sometimes you end up with some bizarre spellings.

Living out in Hell, Queens, Nash and I try to get away from home as much as possible. We do venture in to the city a lot, but not as much as either of us would like to. When ever we do venture in to the city, it is a round trip. So it ends up being a fairly long day. This upcoming Tuesday we will head in to the city for a doctor appointment, and we will have to head back. The last time I went in to the city for a doctor appointment and spent about 45 minutes with the doctor, it turned in to an 8 hour trip, so you can imagine that it can be quite annoying. This weekend a good friend of mine is here in NYC, and his company is putting him up in a hotel, The W, and we have plans to get together, and thankfully, he suggested Nash and I just stay at his hotel, so we wouldn’t have to worry about what time we headed home. Wow, a hotel in the city, and the W. This should be fun. Our Staycation will just be a typical night out in the city. We are meeting at my old local bar Matt’s Grill, and then will go from there, probably hit a few of the old local hangouts, and who knows, maybe even might venture in to some place new. I kind of prefer going to places where they know Nash and me, because even though it is illegal to refuse service to someone with a guide dog. A lot of the time, you still have to deal with an issue. Which is definitely strange because Nash is a giant cutie, so maybe they are just attempting to refuse service to me.

The great thing about getting away from home for the evening besides not just having to worry about what time and how I am heading home is a day and a half away from the planes. Oh my God the last two months it has been brutal as the planes fly directly over head every 34 to 45 seconds all day and night. Yup, I counted it. Then there is the neighbor who must either be going for a record on longest home improvements or is just the world’s worst home improvement project planner. Amazing how much noise they can make. It doesn’t help that the walls here must be paper thin, and even though they tell me the windows are double paned glass it must be the cheapest double paned glass ever used because I can hear people talking outside on the sidewalk of the apartment. That doesn’t annoy me, but when you do a lot of writing, you actually have to concentrate and focus what you are working on. The only quiet time, and this is if the worst neighbor I have ever lived next to isn’t banging away on something is from about 1130pm to 430 am. Needless to say, my hours have really gotten way off, as I need my quiet time. But for the next day and a half, we will not have to deal with any of this as Nash and I take our first Staycation!

Introducing You To Fleksy A Revolutionary Way Of Typing For the Blind

June 20, 2012

We are going mobile! Not only am I typing this blog on my iPhone but I am using a very exciting new technology designed specifically for blind touch screen users. While the app has yet to be released to the general public, I have been selected as one of the beta testers the name of this new amazing technology is called Fleksy and after only using it for a few days all I can say is wow!

There have been several amazing apps released on the iPhone for the blind. There are money identifiers, color identifiers object recognizing technology, even games but one of the biggest problems the blind encounter is communicating. And while I know a lot of you think siri has fixed that I am sorry to say that it hasn’t while siri has definitely improved blind users ability to use a touch screen siri doesn’t always work. Additionally the ability to type something instead of dictating it when you are out and about is very nice as sometimes you do not want the entire world to hear what you are sending.

So how does it work? Fleksy is designed to work with voice over which is already preinstalled on every iPhone. You will toggel voice over on and off with a triple click of the home button. You do this to switch between the typing mode and the menu mode. If you are like me and know the position of all the keys on a standard keyboard than typing on a touch screen can be quite annoying as it really slows you down. And the problem with siri and other dictation programs is a lot of the time it misunderstands what you are saying. The amazing thing about Fleksy is all you have to do to type is touch and swipe. That’s right it is that simple.

While the iPhone has improved the typing with Voice over since its initial release, as you now have to choices you can double tap to select a letter, or touch a letter have it read and then selected, this is still a pretty big time constraint. The amazing thing about Fleksy is you just touch the screen where you think the letters are to the word you are typing, than swipe right when done and Fleksy reads the word it believes you have typed. It is amazing how accurate the app is if you know how to spell. Though sometimes you are off a letter, and it announces a wrong word, when that is the case, all you have to do is swipe down and Fleksy announces the words closest to where you have touched. If you hear the word you want you just swipe right and continue on typing. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and computers are even less perfect so some times it will not recognize the word you are typing. When that is the case all you have to do is swipe left and it delete the entire word you are typing so you can start again. On the traditional iPhone keyboard you would have to take the time to hit the delete key several times to delete every character. Also sometimes Fleksy may not recognize the word you are typing if this is the case, just slow down make sure you are spelling the word you want correctly than just flick up once to select it. There are also some nice shortcuts built in to Fleksy swipe twice to the right and it inserts a period, if you want a comma or question mark, etc just swipe up or down to choose what you want.

After typing the message you want you can than again triple click the home button and swipe to the right to access the main menu. You are than presented with the choices to email, text message, tweet, or copy the text where you can than go and paste in to another app like I am doing here with this blog.

Up until now, I have loved my iPhone and all the amazing apps that help me in my daily life, but absolutely hated typing on the iPhone. Well, thanks to Fleksy that is no longer the case!

He Really Wasn’t A Goodfella: Remembering Henry Hill

June 13, 2012

“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a gangster!” utters Ray Liotta portraying Henry Hill in the opening moments of the movie Goodfellas. When I was younger, I was enamored with the life of the gangster. As I have gotten older, I have learned and been thankful that I had no part in that kind of a lifestyle.

I first met Henry Hill in 2000. At the time I was still in awe of the Mafia and the gangster lifestyle, so it was quite a thrill to be introduced to Henry. I was hosting my first charity benefit, The Blind Man’s Bluff in Beverly Hills, California. It was a huge bash that was being held on Rodeo Drive. At the event, we held a silent auction, and one of our donors was Henry Hill. He donated three autographed Goodfellas posters that he would personalize. The item fetched a good amount, as every business man wanted the framed personalized poster for their office. It was cool getting to meet Henry and hang out with him for a night. He was smaller than I would have thought, quieter, more reserved, and looked nothing like Ray Liotta. I was very grateful to him for donating the autographed items, and was even more thrilled that he gave me an autographed poster of Goodfellas which read, “To Brian, Don’t Be A wise guy.” Wiseguy is the name of the book that the movie Goodfellas is based on.

A friend of mine was working with Henry on a few projects, and I got to contribute some research to Henry’s book, The Goodfellas Guide to New York. I am even thanked in the opening acknowledgments of the book. That was really cool.

In 2002, I still didn’t really know Henry that well. I was really caught off guard one day when I received a phone call from a friend in L.A., and he told me that Henry was in NYC for a project, but he must have gone out and gotten drunk, and now they couldn’t find him. My friend asked me if I would mind going over near Henry’s hotel and check the bars around the hotel to see if Henry was in one of them. My first reaction was, are you out of your fucking mind? Again, at the time I didn’t know Henry that well, and I was like wait a minute aren’t there people in NYC looking to kill this guy? No way am I getting mixed up in that. They ended up finding Henry a few hours later, and I was told that he was pretty much drunk out of his mind, as he did have a history of some pretty bad substance abuse problems. From what I knew, over the years, he was in and out of rehab. I was told that they hired a couple of off duty NYC police officers to find him. Which they did, they than drove Henry around New York City to sober him up, than stuck him back on a plane to L.A. Knowing what I know now, who knows if any of this was true, but does make for a interesting story.

I believe it was around this time that Henry ended up back in rehab. A few months later, Henry came back to New York. I was out at some friends watching the Yankees game when I received a call that Henry was in New York and would love to get together for drinks. I wasn’t sure if this was a good idea, but a girlfriend of mine and I went anyway. We sat down for drinks, and Henry told us some stories about his escapades. One of the stories he told us, and again who knows if this is true, but when he was in rehab he was in there with Robert Downey, Jr. Henry claimed he had arranged for someone to get drugs in to rehab for him and Robert. I also learned at this meeting never to take a woman to meet Henry again, as his vocabulary was quite colorful, and his stories were primarily of an obscene kind. Still it was a fun night and it was definitely interesting.

A few months later I got a call that Henry was again going to be in New York this time for a book signing party. The party was to be held at a restaurant only a block or two from Sparks Steak House. What? Sparks was where John gotti had Paul Castellano rubbed out. I said to myself, isn’t this a little to high profile of an area to hold a book signing party for someone the Mafia wants dead? This is when I began to realize that Henry wasn’t really a marked man. I began to learn that a lot of Henry’s stories were just that stories. I ended up taking a Vice-President from JetBlue to the book signing party with me. As it was a business related decision and this colleague was obsessed with the Mafia culture. So meeting Henry Hill would be a big thrill for him, and for me could help me get some business. We were at the party awaiting Henry’s arrival. No surprise as Henry was late. The party was pretty crowded and we were standing out back. When Henry arrived, he made a bee line through the party and came right up to me. I have to admit, it did make me feel a little special. We were talking and I asked Henry, “so where you living now?” My colleague said, “are you kidding, he can’t tell you that.” Henry immediately responded with, “Palm Springs.” I don’t know anything about what might have been true about Henry’s time in the witness protection program, or when he left it, but again it did feel special that Henry trusted me.

The last time I saw Henry was at the 20 Year Anniversary of Goodfellas. The screening and party was held at the Museum of the American Gangster, not even sure if that place was around for more than a week. The museum was a little whole in the wall, and no one that was affiliated with the movie Goodfellas was even at the 20 Year Anniversary except for Henry. Henry had been trying over the years to get several Goodfellas related and follow up projects off the ground, none of which seem to be very successful. At least he will always have one of the most classic movies ever made out there about his life. It was after the screening and the party that the night turned in to something special, as a few select guests proceeded to go out to a nice Italian restaurant. At the restaurant Henry sent the chef out of the kitchen and he took over cooking for everyone. He made some of the best pizza I ever tasted. I sat in the kitchen for a little and spoke to him. He seemed content with where his life was. He seemed at peace with where his life was. It was actually a nice night out, and if you didn’t know who this guy was, it would have seemed like you were out with someone’s Grandpa.

I have no idea of how much of the stories that Henry told me are true or not. I even question how much of the movie Goodfellas is actually true. I went from at the time I was originally introduced to Henry as someone who was in awe of him to the time of his death as someone who found his life kind of sad, and fortunate that I did not have to live that kind of a lifestyle. Thinking back about my time with Henry, I would like to think that he is in a better place, but something tells me that is not possible, and that Henry Hill was not a Goodfella.

You Can Take the Dog Out of the City, but You Can’t Take the City Out of the Dog

June 11, 2012

Living out in purgatory, I mean Queens, Nash and I do not get in to the city as much as we used to. It is a little bit of a hassle, and it is depressing not living in New York City anymore. Anyone who says they prefer Queens over Manhattan is either lying, or has never spent a good amount of time in NYC. I’m sure there are nice parts of Queens to live in, but I don’t live there, so for now we will just have to enjoy our trips in to the city.

On Friday, Nash and I headed in to the city for a meeting. We hadn’t been in to Manhattan in about a month. As soon as we got through the tunnel, who knew there was a tunnel to leave Purgatory? As soon as we got through the tunnel and in to Manhattan, Nash jumped up in the van we were in. He was so excited, and started looking out the window. I had told him the night before that we had a fun day planned, but I am not sure he believed me. Even though we got stuck in a lot of Friday traffic on the way to our meeting, Nash really enjoyed it, as he kept looking out the window. We got to our meeting location, and Nash was so excited to get out of the van. Since we were a little early, Nash and I stood out on 23rd Street, and Nash took in all the smells of the city and I am sure the sights. We then headed in to our meeting, and since it was at Gotham Comedy Club where everyone knows and loves Nash, they were so kind to quickly insist on getting Nash some water. Nash was so happy to be at a familiar place in Gotham, and of course he loved all the attention. He licked up his water, and then laid down during our meeting. I am excited to announce and more will be coming on this in the coming weeks, that I will be launching a podcast from Gotham Comedy Club. You will be able to download Gotham Comedy Radio on iTunes, and you can follow us on Twitter for all the latest announcements at GothamComedyRad. Again, more will be coming out about this in the coming weeks. Gotham Comedy Radio will give you a behind the scenes and up close and personal look in to everything and everyone in comedy. We will be bringing you exclusive interviews with the biggest names in comedy from Gotham Comedy Club. So stay tuned!

After our meeting with Gotham, we ran a few errands and walked around the city for a bit. Nash was walking at a great pace, as I think he was just so excited to be back in the city. We got on the subway and headed up to the old neighborhood. Nash recognized the old neighborhood immediately. We headed to one of his old bathroom spots, the one on 52nd Street, and he did his business. We then popped in to my old diner for an early dinner. They to were so excited to see Nash, and even asked if it would be ok to give him some ham. Unfortunately I told them that Nash is on a very special diet, as I don’t want Nash to get in to a habit of wanting human food. Not to worry though, as I had brought Nash’s lamb and rice with me, so he did get a meal at the diner. Of course they did give Nash some water, so after our dinner, we headed for his old prime bathroom spot. Before we could get there, Nash tried to take a detour to the old building as we were passing it. I had to tell Nash, sorry buddy, we don’t live here anymore. We then headed on to his old bathroom spot. Even though we don’t live on 8th Avenue anymore, Nash can still do his business anytime we are by the Late Show with David Letterman, at least for old time sake. So Nash did his thing, than we headed up to the old neighborhood bar, Matt’s Grill, where everyone knows your name, and Nash’s too!

As soon as we got in to Matt’s, Nash was quick to say hello to all the faces he recognized. Nash is kind of like a local celebrity at Matt’s Grill, or at least the most popular guy in the bar. I had planned our day in the city almost perfectly, and my buddy Damon came over to meet us for drinks. We hung out at Matt’s where of course, they insisted on giving Nash some water. I was told that Nash was smiling at Matt’s Grill, of course he was because you can take the dog out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the dog!

When Guide Dogs Turn In To Guard Dogs!

June 6, 2012

I am constantly asked whether or not Nash would attack someone if I was in danger. Luckily for the past three years, I have not had to find out the answer to this question. No one likes to feel they are in danger let alone the blind guy.

Late last night, I was in bed cuddling with Nash, hey he is very cuttable and loving, and I feel that I need Nash love several times throughout the day, and he loves the attention. so I was in my bed with him, which of course he believes is his bed, and I was giving him a tummy rub, and all of the sudden, he popped up, and started barking. This really caught me off guard as Nash has only barked twice in the three years we have been together. For those of you who are worst at math than me, that is less than one bark per year. Nash started growling, he let out another bark, and I just happened to notice that his tail was sticking straight up in to the air. It seemed to me like he was in a pounce and attack mode. This really freaked me out. I wasn’t freaked that Nash was going to hurt me, I was freaked that someone was trying to get in to my apartment.

I jumped out of bed, and rushed over to the phone. Fortunately the place that I am living in has security, and I am quite friendly with the security guards, as they help me with a lot of things. I was smart enough to commit security’s number to heart in case something like this ever happened. I dialed the number, and in the split second it took for security to pick up, I heard a phone ring outside. The security guard said hello, and I said, could you come over here, I think someone is trying to get in to my apartment. Then I asked where he was, and he said.

right outside your front door.

I had mentioned to the security guard earlier in the day that the shrubs outside my front door keep hitting me in the face every time I leave the apartment, and asked if he knew when the landscapers might be coming. He didn’t know, and it ends up he asked someone else who lives here if he could borrow their hedge clippers, and it ends up what Nash was barking at was a man outside my apartment with a very sharp object in his hand, hedge clippers. It was so unbelievably thoughtful and nice for the security guard to cut the hedges for me, and to help me get the question answered do you think Nash would attack someone if I was in danger? The answer is, YES!