Guest post: Falling in love with Itzhak Perlman

January 9, 2016 • Posted in careers/jobs for people who are blind, guest blog, memoir writing, Uncategorized by

Our regular blog readers will remember the You read that out loud in class?” guest post Regan Burke wrote for us about the value of honesty in memoir-writing. Regan is a civil rights activist,and she’s enrolled in the memoir-writing class I lead at Grace Place in Chicago. When I discovered she’d been at that same Itzhak Perlman presentation I attended Wednesday, I asked if she’d write about it from her point of, ahem, view. Here she is:


That’s Regan, today’s guest blogger, peaking out of her hood at a Chicago bus stop.

I stepped off the bus thanking the bus driver for lowering the step (as I always do) and in the silence of the moment paid homage to whoever it was who included my old knees in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It was a sunny climb up the Randolph Street sidewalk toward the Harris Theater just before noon on Wednesday, January 6. My friend Marca Bristo — President and CEO of Access Living — was about to interview Itzhak Perlman marking the end of a year-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I wondered how she got to be so lucky.

Accessibility to the floor seats at the Harris Theater is via an elevator at the end of a long hallway. My elevator mates were three: one mink-draped, Channel-No.5-soaked human statue; a cheery diminutive, bow-tied middle-age man with leg braces; and a talkative cherub of a woman whom I pegged as having one of those not-so-silent “silent” disabilities.

We were escorted to our seats. No stairs. The Harris is a dark place even with the lights up, but this day the half-full theater was lit with happy chatter.

I thought, this is our guy and he is here to talk to us. Itzhak Perlman. Mr. Violin. Talking to us. Us! What a deal.

Marca Bristo rolled to center stage in an exuberant flash. She calmed herself to introduce the maestro and we erupted in joy and gratitude. He sped on the stage in his chic motorized scooter, dressed in an Italian black blazer, navy trousers, light blue shirt, no tie. That black curly hair we first saw on Ed Sullivan when he was a kid has turned foxy grey. We gasped at the sight of his beauty.

Thank you Maestro. Thank you for who you are, what you’ve accomplished, how you’ve helped us with your music, your joy, your love. We love you.

True to her grassroots advocacy, Marca posed the first question of the interview from an Access Living FaceBook follower.”This is our time with you, Itzhak. We have a few questions,” she said, starting with the first on her list. “Did you take a lot of selfies at the White House with Barbara Streisand and Stephen Spielberg?”

Marca added that Perlman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in November with Streisand, Spielberg, and others. Dear Itzhak bypassed the question and told us what a privilege it was to be with fellow honoree Willie Mays.

Oh how we loved that. Our maestro is a baseball fan.

He told us implementation of the ADA needs constant vigilance, that “steps were the curse of the world” for him. He never thought of himself as disabled until the media described him walking on stage with crutches early in his career. As a child he “filled the air with notes” to make his parents happy that he was practicing his violin. And for our brief time together his orchestral voice filled the air with words that made us happy, too.

Bravo Maestro.


cheryl On January 9, 2016 at 5:41 pm

I look forward to absorbing your stories every week… are right on with “talkative cherub” and “foxy grey”. I’m glad you were able to experience Itshak from another perspective.

bethfinke On January 9, 2016 at 5:52 pm

Yes, and I especially appreciated her description of the “human statue” in the elevator.

Sent from my iPhone, aren’t you impressed?


Regan Burke On January 9, 2016 at 7:03 pm

thanks, Beth. I think of you in writing descriptors.

bethfinke On January 10, 2016 at 11:39 am

Oh, and I should explain to new blog readers that Cheryl is another writer in the class Regan attends, that’s why she mentions she gets to hear Regan’s stories every week.

Regan Burke On January 9, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Cheryl: were tis there? Foxy.

Thom Fehrmann On January 9, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Beth, Your guest blogger, Regan, is a delight to read. I loved her descriptions of folks in elevator, and the life and high spirit she gave the event and Perlman. Thom Fehrmann

Regan Burke On January 9, 2016 at 7:02 pm

thank you, Thom. I’m head over hells as you can tell.

bethfinke On January 10, 2016 at 11:44 am

Ha! Maybe Regan is using the same dictation software I used in my “It sucked/Itzack” post?!?? !

bethfinke On January 10, 2016 at 11:47 am

That said, I kind of like the illusion of being head over hells, too.

Mel Theobald On January 9, 2016 at 11:22 pm

Regan, I hope you don’t mind my saying so, but the more I read your guest blogs, the more I admire your wit and insight. I agree with the above responders, the elevator sequence is so real, I feel like I was riding with you. As for Perlman, that’s another story…not dissimilar from falling love with Regan Burke.

bethfinke On January 10, 2016 at 11:48 am


Lauren On January 10, 2016 at 10:17 am

Lovely. Sharing on FB:-)

bethfinke On January 10, 2016 at 12:20 pm

thanks for sharing it on Facebook, Lauren. I would like as many people as possible to read Regan’s writing. I think it’s terrific so jaunty and lively.

Sent from my iPhone, aren’t you impressed?


Benita Black On January 10, 2016 at 12:25 pm

Ms. Burke ought to know that Itzhak has a FB page and would likely be delighted if she were to share this piece with him.

bethfinke On January 10, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Great idea! Regan, I hope you’ll do this….


Linda Miller On January 10, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Adding my applause! Nicely written, Regan.

bethfinke On January 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm

She is a geh?

Sent from my iPhone, aren’t you impressed?


Regan Burke On January 11, 2016 at 10:34 am

David Bowie and Itzhak Perlman are the same age. As me.

bethfinke On January 11, 2016 at 11:54 am

You know, when I heard David Bowie was only 69, I immediately thought “that is way too young.” All the more reason to carpe the DM which you certainly do Regan.

Sent from my iPhone, aren’t you impressed?


John On July 18, 2016 at 11:28 am

Regan, How right you are about the the remarkable impact of the ADA in increasing accessibility to public places. Also liked the way you show how changes brought about by the ADA have benefited both disabled community and the general public. Terrific when the bus driver lowers the step.

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