Posts Tagged ‘blindness’

Nash’s Dream Day

November 20, 2012

I think Saturday night had to be Nash’s dream day. We headed into the city for dinner with my parents and Aunt and Uncle. My parents are up for Thanksgiving, but will be staying out in New Jersey. Hey, no one wants to live in Queens or come out here. We had dinner in my old neighborhood on 49th street at City Lobster. We met early as my parents and Aunt and Uncle were going to Broadway shows. Yes, eating dinner at 530 for me felt like an early bird special. Do they even still have those, or have them in NYC? 530 however, is 30 minutes before the Nash eats dinner every night, so we took his dinner with us, and he got to eat at the restaurant. I was very impressed with City Lobster and how friendly they were to Nash and me. Yes, this kind of thing shouldn’t surprise me, but hey every time we go to a new place, I still have to wonder if Nash and I are going to get hassled, as it does happen more than it should. Nash was very excited to see everyone, and at the dinner table, kept popping his head up to see what was going on. He must have wanted to be included in the conversation, or at least let everyone know, hey, I’m down here.

After dinner we all walked over to 8th Ave and said our goodbyes. Even though we were a few blocks from my old apartment, I definitely think Nash knew it. We headed up towards my old building, and of course as soon as we crossed 52nd street, Nash made a bee line to the door of my old building. I told him sorry buddy, we don’t live here anymore. Not to worry though Nash, just because we don’t live here anymore doesn’t mean we still can’t go to your old bathroom spot! So we headed around the corner, and of course Nash didn’t head to the corner, he made the right turn onto 53rd street and headed directly to his old spot. Even though he went to the bathroom at dinner, he saved enough to do number one and two at his old spot. He was a very happy guy.

After saying hello to his old spot, we headed up to the old neighborhood hangout, Matt’s Grill. As soon as we walked through the door, we were greeted by our favorite bartender John. It’s so nice not to be forgotten. We sat down at the bar, and of course John came around to say hello to Nash. Wow, Nash you are getting to see everyone today. A little later, my buddy Damon showed up, and Nash was excited again to see an old friend. Nash was very happy to be back at Matt’s Grill, and there was still one surprise left for him. A little later, the woman who nicknamed Nash Fluffy Face stopped by to say hello. Nash had not seen her in awhile, but again, dogs must never forget, as the tail started wagging right away. With all these friendly faces, Nash must have thought it was his birthday. Since it wasn’t, it had to be Nash’s dream day!

The Calming of the Storm

November 3, 2012

I moved back to New York City from Florida in 2000 when my vision started to take a turn for the worse. After all, with NYC’s public transportation system, I like to say New York City is a blind man’s paradise. You can go where ever you want when ever you want, and don’t have to rely on other people to get there. I have lived in Los Angeles and dealt with earthquakes, Florida you get to deal with the hurricanes, and well, NYC you have to deal with the terrorists, but now NYC you get to deal with the hurricanes to. Not Fair. I thought I left Florida to get away from the hurricanes.

The storm blew in on Monday. We have all seen the damage it has done to NYC, Jersey, and the Northeast. Being a blind guy and living through a hurricane can be very scary. The wind is so strong and the noise it makes is quite chilling. You can’t tell how bad it is outside, and you have no clue if something can blow through your apartment.

Three years ago when I was at guide dog school, and I could still see fairly decently, I found it very funny when another totally blind student talked about her fear of tree branches. As sighted people, when you hear someone has a fear of tree branches, I’m sorry, but its funny. How in the world can someone be afraid of tree branches. Well, now I get it. I do not have a fear of tree branches, but lets just say I am not a fan of them. Hey, you try walking around with your eyes closed, and trust me after you take one tree branch to the head, you will get it. During Hurricane Sandy, my biggest fear was going outside having to walk Nash, and not knowing if something would be blowing down the street towards us. There are a lot of trees in our area, and last year when Hurricane Irene hit, a tree fell two apartments over and crushed a car. So yeah, walking Nash in Hurricane winds would not rank in my top ten favorite things to do. We did survive that bitch Hurricane Sandy without any incidents.

We all know that guide dogs are unbelievably trained to lead blind people around, but it is not Nash’s training that impressed me during the storm, it was his temperament. To Nash, Monday and Hurricane Sandy was just another day. We woke up, he ate breakfast, went for his walk. The winds got stronger during the afternoon, Nash began to get pushy at 4pm as he does every day. Yes, Nash’s dinner time is 6pm, and every day he starts to want to get fed at 4pm. On Monday, the news was reporting that the storm was going to be at its worst between 5 and 10pm, so Nash did get to eat early at 445pm. The storm picked up at 5pm, and Nash didn’t have a care in the world, and it was a typical evening for him. He spent part of the evening in my bedroom in my bed of course. He periodically came out in to the main room, spent time under my desk sitting on my feet. He wanted his belly rubbed and to play, and he wasn’t affected in the slightest by the howling winds outside. Nash was as calm as could be, almost a calming influence. That’s Nash.

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!

God Takes It Away, but Technology Gives It Back!

April 27, 2012

Now since I have been an adult, I have not been a real religious fellow. Maybe it is because for most of my adult life I have lived with a visual impairment and for the last few years pretty much total blindness. Of course being me, I have had to find someone or something to blame for my life situation. That blame has landed at the feet of the invisible man upstairs. If there is a heaven and hell, lets just say hopefully the good that I have done in my life will outweigh all the times I have taken God’s name in vain. To keep this a family oriented blog, lets just say I have called the man upstairs several four letter names. There has been a lot of anger directed at him. Don’t judge until you are in my position.

Maybe there is a better way to view this, but this is the way I view things. God has taken a lot of things away from me. He took my ability to play sports, my career in the movie business, my enjoyment of watching sports, my ability to watch and enjoy TV, my ability to read, my ability to read and see things on the computer, and my ability to watch and enjoy movies. That is just naming a few things off the top of my head.

Now I am not throwing my hat in to the ring here for the whole God versus science debate. That would be an endless blog. I am just touching on things that I personally view that God has taken away from me making me the way he did, and now the things that technology is given back to me. The whole spiritual versus science debate is something that goes way over my head, and I can see parts of both sides of that argument.

Last weekend, after listening to yet another amazing instructional podcast by David Woodbridge of Vision Australia, I was alerted to Samnet now being accessible to the mac. Samnet is an application built and maintained by blind people for blind people. I first became across Samnet about 8 months ago, but was disappointed at the time to learn that it was a windows based application. Samnet is an application that you can run on your computer and it has a screen reader functionality it also has several topics with links for blind people, some of the topics include News, Entertainment, Sports, Weather, Social Networking, Email, and many more. When I first heard about Samnet, it really peeked my interest, you could imagine my disappointment when I found out that at the time I could not access its content on the mac. Fast forward to a few months ago. Google who has really ignored the blind community as most google applications are quite inaccessible released googlevox, an extension that you could plug in to their web browser, google chrome. A few months ago, I played around a little with googlevox to my disappointment it wasn’t that easy to use on a mac. I went back to using my built in Voiceover on the mac, and didn’t give Googlevox a second thought.

Last week, after listening to David Woodbridge’s podcast where he walked me through using Googlevox with Samnet, my interest was peeked again. I went back to Googlevox, and was pleasantly surprised by the improvements Google had made in their latest update to GoogleVox. It took some time, but I took the tutorial and played around with GoogleVox learning a lot of the keyboard shortcuts. I then signed up for a free trial of Samnet. Samnet is pretty simple for use even for someone who is blind and not a computer whiz. You can easily navigate the entire site using the tab, shift, arrows, and enter keys. I of course have learned some quicker ways to navigate the site, as I am impatient and a much more advanced computer user.

My main interest in checking out Samnet was for one particular area, Descriptive Video Content. What is Descriptive Video Content DVC? DVC is very similar to close captioning for the hearing impaired, but for blind people. It is a track that is set to a movie or television show that describes all the action that is going on, making it possible for a blind person to follow along. I expected to go to Samnet’s DVC area and get what I usually get not a lot of movies to choose from, and a fairly old and outdated library. Well, quite the contrary. I was pleasantly surprised to see New Release section with the label of uploaded in the last 30 days. I then went to the comedy section and was amazed that there were over a thousand movies to choose from. The movies range from classics to the latest releases. WOW. I watched my first descriptive Video movie The Ides of March with George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling, and Paul Giamatti. It took some getting used to listening to a movie with DVC, but compared to the alternative of not watching movies at all, it is amazing.

I am now on to my third movie, the latest Mission Impossible movie. Another great thing about the site is you can bookmark any part of the movie, and come and pick up where you left off. Great for me, as I am always doing a million different things. So thank you David woodbridge, thank you Vision Australia, thank you Google, thank you mostly Samnet. Technology has now given me back something that God has taken away from me! my ability and enjoyment of watching movies!

Please make sure to follow the people I mentioned in this blog on twitter David woodbridge @dwoodbridge, @Googleaccess, Samnet @SeroTalk, @VisionAustralia, and of course Nash and me @blindgator, @NashtheGuideDog, and @LaughForSight

Laugh For Sight is Thrilled To Announce our Second L.A. Benefit with Jenna Elfman, Kevin Nealon, Pablo Francisco, Christopher Titus, and much more!!

January 20, 2012

Greetings all,

As we speed along in to the year 2012, Laugh For Sight is thrilled to announce our Second Los Angeles Benefit to be held on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at the Melrose Improv. The lineup is shaping up amazingly well with Jenna Elfman to be our Celebrity Host. Kevin Nealon and Christopher Titus are set to return for the second time, and we are very excited to announce Pablo Francisco for this year’s amazing lineup. Daryl Wright will also be returning to host this year’s star studded lineup.

After the smashing success of the first Laugh For Sight L.A. Benefit at the Melrose Improv with Sarah Silverman, Kevin Nealon, Kevin Pollak, Russell Peters, Christopher Titus, Adam Ferrara, Alonzo Bodden, Daryl Wright, and Nash and me. A lot of people asked how in the world would we ever live up to the amazing inaugural lineup? Well, by getting Jenna Elfman, Kevin Nealon, Pablo Francisco, Christopher Titus, Daryl Wright, Nash and me, and much much more to be announced very soon! Laugh For Sight is so thrilled that L.A. has welcomed us back, and we look forward to putting together the biggest night in comedy just like we do every year in New York City.

Laugh For Sight raises awareness and money for retinal degenerative eye disease research. We are very hopeful that this year’s benefit will bring diseases like macular degeneration, retinitis pigments, usher syndrome, and the whole spectrum of eye diseases much needed exposure. To learn more about Laugh For Sight, please follow us on Twitter @LaughForSight, visit our website at http://www.laughforsight.com, or contact us at info@laughforsight.com. Stay tuned here for more announcements, and we will keep them laughing.

Laugh For Sight NYC with Robert Klein, Steven Wright, Tom Papa, Judah Friedlander, and more A Recap!

October 9, 2011

Well, another year has gone by, and we just held our Sixth Annual Laugh For Sight New York City at the World Famous Gotham Comedy Club. The benefit was held this past Monday, October 6, 2011. This historic night of comedy featured Legendary Comedians Robert Klein and Steven Wright. They were joined by some of the biggest names in comedy including Judah Friedlander from 30 Rock, Tom Papa from The Marriage Ref, Eddie Brill the Audience Warm Up at The Late Show with David Letterman, Jessica Kirson from Comedy Central Present, Dan Naturman from Last Comic Standing, and of course me, Brian Fischler and Nash from Top Gear USA.

The evening started out with a silent auction that began at 7pm. The Silent Auction was Presented by Patron Spirits. For those of you who have been to Gotham Comedy Club. The Silent Auction was held in the down stairs portion of the club where Gotham has a smaller show room. Of course, this room filled up quickly as sighted and blind people came together to support Laugh For Sight and help raise money for retinal degenerative eye disease research and awareness. The great thing about Laugh For Sight is we are now getting a lot of visually impaired people coming out to enjoy the evening. People with several different kinds of eye diseases were in attendance. The Silent Auction was hosted by Radio Personality and Motivational Speaker, Mark Farrell. Mark of course was in rare formed as he roasted Nash and me during the silent auction. A very special thanks to all of our donors at the Silent Auction. A Very Special Extra Thanks to Comedy Central, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, The Jimmy Fallon Show, Jobson Medical Information, the NY Yankees, Eli Manning, Charlize Theron, Top Gear USA, Susan Michel Limited, Exhale Spa, Kramer Portraits, Felix Rey, Rock of Ages, Second Stage, and if I am forgetting somebody, I am so sorry, and hit me up and I will make sure to thank you.

The Silent Auction ran from 7pm to 830pm. Mark Farrell did a great job encouraging people to get those last minute bids in. Thanks so much to Patron Spirits and Diageo for all of their donations to the silent auction.

As the auction ended, and people were seated in the main show room upstairs at Gotham Comedy Club, we got ready to start the show. As usual, I had my moment of panic as none of the comedians had arrived yet. It passed quickly, as our host for the evening, Dan Naturman came up to me. Soon after our second performer of the evening arrived. For those of you who do not know, all of the amazing comedians who perform at Laugh For Sight, donate their time. This benefit would not happen without their generosity and amazing talent.

We were quite thrilled as the show room was completely packed, and the Yankees were even playing tonight. Dan Naturman took the stage, and another Laugh For Sight was under way. I am normally a nervous wreck as there are so many things going on behind the scenes that we need to make sure run smoothly. My counterpart at Laugh For Sight, and Co-Founder, Scott Wartham did a tremendous job with the silent auction, and helping make sure everything ran smoothly. The staff at Gotham Comedy Club is so amazing, everyone from the owner Chris Mazzilli, to the events Manager Laura, Cyrus at the door, the Managers Sean and Ed, and all the wait staff are fantastic. If all comedy clubs were run the way Gotham is, it was be a much nicer business to work in.

While Dan was on stage getting the audience going, Ed the manager, got me ready to take the stage. I like to go early to get things out of the way, that way I can attend to things going on behind the scene, and not be concerned with my set. After Dan did a wonderful job opening the show, Nash and I took the stage. I was very happy with my set, as I was working on some new material. Nash did a good job not walking around to much on stage. I heard he was staring at a lot of peoples food.

After Nash and I rocked the house, Jessica Kirson took the stage. Wow, I would kill to have her energy. She is a true sweetheart, and one of the hardest working people in stand up comedy today. The crowd really loves her, and her energy kept the crowd in a roar. While Jessica was on stage, a lot of other comedians showed up. Unfortunately, I did not get to see a lot of her set, as I had to be in the lobby to greet our performer’s and see if there was anything they needed. The amazing thing to me about comedians, is they are a laid back bunch, and very low maintenance.

After Jessica, it was Tom Papa. Tom is a fantastic guy. I just got to do a guest spot for him in Florida the week before, so it was great to see him again. Tom had performed at the very first Laugh For Sight, so it was a real pleasure to have him back.

After Tom, Eddie Brill was on stage. Eddie has been a huge supporter of Laugh For Sight, and this was his fifth time performing at Laugh For Sight. We are always so thrilled to have him.

Mext up it was Judah Friedlander. Funny thing, as I first spoke to Judah about Laugh For Sight after our very first benefit. Judah and I were in L.A. at the Melrose Improv, and he told me he would love to be involved in the future, but it all depends if this pilot he just filmed gets picked up. A little show called 30 Rock. Well, we were thrilled that Judah’s shooting schedule finally worked out with Laugh For Sight, and he was able to do the benefit. A man of his word. What a fantastic guy.

Next up was Steven Wright. What a treat, and a great guy. Steven was very helpful promoting this year’s benefit, as he did a Twitter Chat with us a few days earlier where he tweeted via @LaughForSight on Twitter. Please go to our page to check out the chat. Steven was tremendous, as were all of the comedians.

Last up, was our biggest back, Robert Klein. I don’t think Laugh For Sight would still exist if it wasn’t for Robert’s support all these years. He was once again tremendous.

A very special thanks to Dan Naturman, Jessica Kirson, Tom Papa, Eddie Brill, Judah Friedlander, Steven Wright, and Robert Klein. You were all tremendous and the feedback from the audience has been incredible. A lot of people are still laughing.

Additionally, I would like to thank Erica Greenhouse, our photographer at the benefit. You can check our Facebook and Laugh For Sight pages for the great pictures of this year’s benefit. They will be up on our website soon at http://www.laughforsight.com. Our Facebook and Twitter pages can be found under Laugh For Sight.

Overall, it was a very successful evening. We have a lot of possibilities of where we move forward with Laugh For Sight, and I will keep you all informed.