Thursday, June 30, 2011

And now introducing myself as....Knight Rider?!

Hello everyone,

If you're a movie buff, this is the best time of the year. This is the season when Hollywood unveils the big guns, the blockbusters, which they will hope will fill their coffers with money spent by the fans to ask up the best experience that their twenty dollars will buy-a plush seat on a Saturday night, a slam-bang two hours worth of loud explosions with pulse-pounding scenes that can make your jaw drop, all presented in IMAX glory. Yet for some reason, I'm not into that at all. But the one thing about the summer movies for me is the stories they present. I've always been attracted to the "lone hero"-the avenger who finds himself pursuing a calling out of some personal reason-loss, pain, angst, so much to the point that he/she actually finds himself becoming an anti-hero: questioning all they ever believed in, wondering what their future holds. I guess that's why I have always been attracted to reruns of "Knight Rider."

Although I was not born in the 1980s (officially 1978), I like to think of myself as forever trapped in the decade in terms of culture. I still listen to eighties music, and can recite the most popular lines from "Top Gun" and "The Breakfast Club." ("There are no points for second best."). And when I used to come home from my part-time job at the Milleridge Village at 5 p.m., as soon as my car pulled up at the house, I'd dart through the door, and turn on Channel 9, WWOR-TV. And as soon as I'd hear the words, "A shadowly flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist," I knew I was in my element. The voiceover, which was done by Richard Basehart, would go "Michael Knight. A young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless. In a world of criminals who operate above the law." The show was deemed, by creator Glen Larson, as "The Lone Ranger with a car, the soul of a western." It was also the show that launched David Hasselhoff's career. The main story was that Michael Long was an undercover detective in Las Vegas who was nearly fatally injured. A reclusive billionaire named Wilton Knight rescues him and gave him a new identity, Michael Knight, and he was working for the Foundation for Law & Government with a souped-up special car, that possessed technology way ahead of its time. And every week, Knight would came to the aid of a person trying to do good but facing enemies who did not want that person to succeed.

But despite the fact at the end of the episode that everything worked out, you always knew there was a sense of something missing from Knight's past. A feeling that no matter what happened, or how many times the show aired, he would never have what he really wanted. In the episode "White Bird," the theme rang true. Michael came to the rescue of an ex-fiancee whom he was scheduled to wed, but he became Michael Knight and never saw her again, until he realized she was about testify in a court case. All those romantic feelings came back, and he had to make a painful choice: one that most of us in that situation could never fathom.
For many years of my life, I was what you might see as a "Knight Rider." Traveling from table to table in the high school and college cafeterias, searching the Internet for message boards and web sites that I could post my thoughts about stuttering on, to no avail. But now, that has all changed. Ever since I got involved with the National Stuttering Association, I found my drive and my commitment. Maybe I'll never drive a car like KITT was. Or fly a helicopter like Airwolf.

But if they ever made my life story into a "Knight Rider" episode, maybe the voiceover will sound a little something like this:

"Steven Kaufman. An outspoken advocate and leader on a crusade to enlighten the world about stuttering awareness. Operating in a world where most people misunderstand, bringing the shining beacon of light through the darkness."

Just maybe, you can be your own version of "Knight Rider" too.

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Letters to my dad for Father's Day....

Dear Dad,

I realize that Father's Day has passed as of the midnight hour, and you may have been wondering why I did not get a card from you. The honest truth is that what I want to say really can't all be written down in a card. And then again, nor do I want it to be either. After a while giving the same old greeting card becomes blasé and all played out. And I figured it was time for a new approach, one that hit me when we were at the Mets game yesterday. It's funny how inspiration can come at you from the most oddest of places.

These past few years my feelings toward you have been festering for so long. Although I am 33 now, in many ways I barely know you anymore. Most of our conversations now take place at hockey games, and those are limited too. It's the same thing when I walk through the door, or when you come home from your job fairs. It just consists of "Hi, how are you?" and barely anything more than that. They say tomorrow is promised to no one, and while we often dismiss that with a roll of the eyes, the sad thing is that it actually is true. I do not know how much time you have left, hopefully a great deal. But the first thing I wanted to say in this letter is that I forgive you for many things that have taken place over these past few years.

I forgive you first of all for causing my intense fear of rain and thunderstorms. I know that you do get immense pleasure of watching me run into the television viewing room when the meteorologist talk about severe thunderstorms taking aim at our viewing area. I discussed this with Larry and stated that ever since you hit me with a shoe when I was thirteen because I cursed you out to your face, you have been responsible for the association of my feelings toward severe weather and that is why I feel I have to stay up all night with the radio to "ride the storm out" until it is safe for me to sleep. I know you think it is hysterically funny to poke fun at my views and desire to live in an area where it doesn't rain all that often where I can finally be happy. I've spent too many years of my life running, and while I have gotten good at it, I do not want to do it anymore. I know your emotions probably got the better of you, and while you wish you could take it back, you cannot to do so. But I want you to know it is OK now. You were a different person back then. Parents are infallible too, much as they like to think they may know it all.

The second thing that I want to let you know is that while I am your son, in many ways while you may think I am hotheaded and stubborn, we are more alike as well. I know sometimes I am very outspoken and that has gotten me in trouble. But I am at a place now where I am learning to balance myself and ask whether what I will say is going to be correct and appropriate. In many ways, having a leadership role at the National Stuttering Association was probably the best thing that ever could happen to me, because it forced me to be aware of what it means to be an adult and know that people are looking at you to be a role model.

I know that you have often felt like I should have turned out more like Philip in terms of being productive and more responsible with my life. I am not proud of a lot of things I have done, and in many things, I could be a lot further along with achieving my goals than where I am now. I know it's kind of hard to not compare yourself to others, but I know now that life is not a race, and he who dies with the most toys necessarily doesn't win.

I would really like the chance to formulate some relationship with you because I don't want to end up as another person wishing they had the chance to turn the clock back when things are too late. I always used to feel so much hatred toward you in terms of my speech that my attitude was "God forgives, I don't." But now I see there are shades of gray in everything and it doesn't always have to be "either it's right, or it's wrong." I even blamed you and Mom for my stuttering because in some way, maybe you feel guilty about it. But it's no one's fault. This is the hand I have to play. And I like to think so far, I've played it very well, and continue to do so.

It took a lot for me to want to write this letter and get all my thoughts out to you. I hope maybe someday you and Mom will want to visit a future NSA conference and see what the greatest thing in my life is all about. If you don't, I will respect your decision. But it's safe to say because of the NSA, your son has made huge quantum leaps in his life.

To my dad, Happy Father's Day.