Stephen has the smarts, looks and talent! He is working hard as he recently returned to school for his doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Ryokan College. Stephen has been part of the SCI community for over 30 years and has contributed his SCI wisdom so others living with SCI could benefit. Right on!
And of course, if you haven’t seen this video- YOU MUST- because it is obvious Stephen is very musically talented and influenced by some of the good ones! Get to know Stephen below:
Injury Level: T4 complete, paralyzed from an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in 1983.
Children: 17 year old son. Sweetest kid ever!
Hometown: Great Neck, New York
Current residence: Los Angeles
Education/Degrees: BA Biology (Hunter College CUNY); MSEd Counseling (Fordham University)
You recently went back to school? How is that going? Enjoying it greatly and looking forward to getting my hands dirty (but not too dirty).
Do you have a mentor? Who? Why? I never had an SCI mentor, though I could certainly have used one, or two, or a hundred. Mentors (and even books on life with an SCI) were like hen’s teeth back when I became injured. I mostly had to figure it all out on my own. I was fortunate, however, to have worked with a great physical therapist, Thomas Schmitz, who was then a professor at Columbia University and a co-author a textbook which become a PT bible. He was informed and encouraging, though it’s not nearly the same as connecting with someone who can relate directly from the lived experience of life with paralysis. I have been a mentor to more than a few SCIs over the years and was at one time a frequent presence on CareCure.org sharing whatever tidbits of wisdom and advice that I’ve accrued over 3+ decades of living with SCI.
You are into music and talented- who do you look up to? Favorite band/musician? My musical tastes are quite varied but my favorite musicians are from the classic rock era of the 60s and 70s. Heavy on the Beatles and Eric Clapton. The guitar strum pattern of “Laurie” is very reminiscent of George Harrison’s from “My Sweet Lord,” a childhood favorite.
Tell me about the song Laurie. I wrote this song all the way back in 1982 for my girlfriend at the time Laura (“Laurie” for the song). We had just moved to St. Paul, MN where I was attending chiropractic school. She went back home to New York near Poughkeepsie for a visit and wasn’t sure she wanted to come back. I picked up my guitar and started strumming some chords and the words “Laurie come away with me, Ain’t no Stevies in Poughkeepsie” came out — the song practically wrote itself. It was meant to be funny but I got hooked on the melody. Every few years I rediscover the song and make subtle refinements to it. It’s a fun tune for me to sing and though the lyrics are admittedly trite, I like the song’s energy, compactness and sentiment. I haven’t seen Laura in decades though she found me on Facebook earlier this year after discovering another recording of mine on YouTube. I told her, “Someday I’ll get around to recording “Laurie.” She responded, “Oh my goodness, Stevie, I’m sad to say I can’t remember it.” No wonder we broke up.
Favorite films? Old Woody Allen and Neil Simon films are cinematic comfort food for me.
Favorite book? Most of my reading these days – and I do a lot of it – centers around psychology (for school), which covers a very broad range of interests. While I don’t have much time these days to read fiction, I am a big fan of Philip Roth. Regardless of the genre, I appreciate strong, challenging writing. Writing that compels me to read slowly is writing that triggers introspection and new self-discovery.
Do you drive? If so, what’s your setup? Mazda5 (a “mini mini-van”) with the driver’s side middle row seat removed so that I can pull in my chair fully assembled. I use Guido Simplex hand controls purchased from Better Life Mobility in Los Angeles.
Where did you go on your last vacation? I’m just back from a week’s visit to NYC to visit family and friends where I lived my entire adult paralyzed life before relocating to California 2 years ago. Year-round summer agrees with me. Snow sucks.
Do you have a pet? What? No, but I entertain the possibility of getting a service dog, that is unless I meet someone equally willing to lick my face.
Do you go out much? Where? I’m a happy homebody, but by no means a shut-in. Restaurants, the gym, and the movies the typical getaways.
What’s your dream job? Just prior to moving to Los Angeles I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Apparently my body grew bored of having a mere spinal cord injury and needed to expand its portfolio. Fortunately, though, I have absolutely no symptoms of CLL and my condition is presently stable. It’s entirely possible that I may get lucky and my disease will remain “indolent” and never require treatment. Fingers crossed. Regardless, I recently started facilitating a support group sponsored by the CLL Society in Los Angeles and I’m looking to explore the field of psycho-oncology, a subspecialty of health psychology which addresses the issues unique to cancer patients and their families. Heavy-duty stuff.
Do you work out or play any sports? I was once something of a gym rat, but have gotten a bit derailed of late. It’s my intention to “re-rail” myself and get back into better shape. I have used an FES bike for a bunch of years and can attest to its positive benefits. I never got deeply involved in adaptive sports. For a few years I was handcycling, mostly in Central Park, and competed in a few marathons, including 2 NYC Marathons.
Activities/Hobbies? Playing guitar and admiring the handiwork of independent luthiers (guitar builders).
Hidden talents? Yes, many, and they’re hidden for a reason.
What irritates you? Hmm, people who’ve scammed their way into acquiring or otherwise misusing handicap parking placards seems to work its way into my conscious thoughts (and into our designated parking spots) way more frequently than I like. This has obviously become more of an issue for me now that I’m no longer living in NYC and using mass transit more or less exclusively.
What do you consider awesome? Genuine human kindness and compassion.
Where would you love to live? There’s a whole lot of California that I’ve yet to discover. If I leave Los Angeles it will most likely be to go somewhere else in the Golden State.
What takes up the majority of your time? Coursework for my degree, which will soon also include writing a dissertation and starting clinical work.
What do you do in your free time? I’ve had a recent flirtation with wheelchair dancing classes through a local non-profit called InfliniteFlowDance.org. While dance is not a passion for me, I’ve been fortunate to meet some really wonderful people through this experience.
Dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you ask them? It’s often said that it’s best not to meet your heroes. Let’s say, for example, I had dinner with Paul McCartney and discovered that he’s an open mouth chewer. AWK-ward!
I did have a near God – I mean Eric Clapton – experience a few years ago in NYC. We were at a street corner waiting for the light to change. I was right next to one of my greatest heroes and didn’t know what to do. I should have deliberately fallen out my chair so that he would have had to rescue me. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Eric has, however, made countless cameo appearances in my dreams over the years and we’re very close friends. He’ll usually cite me as an important musical influence, which is very gracious of him. You’re welcome, Eric! Love you!
Another hero would be the person who created Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almonds with Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar. If a Nobel prize was granted for humanitarian achievement in fine snacks, that person would be a lock for the award. Those things are absolutely fucking delicious.
During your child hood what was your favorite cartoon? Bugs Bunny, duh!
Describe your sixth grade school picture. Me with my all-time favorite elementary school teacher Mrs. (Raquel) Welch. She was very nurturing and I was at the perfect height to appreciate her generous hugs (if you catch my drift).
Your default karaoke song? “Laurie,” of course.
A short term goal: To not die too young.
A Long term goal: To not die too old.
A quote you like: “It is what it is, which ain’t what it was.” My take on the Buddha’s essential message.