#ADA25 Blind Learning

A quarter century. Always a big milestone when achieved, but especially when referencing a document who’s reach extends farter even than its original creators had intended. Happy 25 to the Americans With Disabilities Act!

RELATED: Twenty Years of the ADA

I thought it would be interesting if this time, I examine a bit of how education for and of blind folks has changed over the years, particularly by looking at the unique system of schools for the blind that have persisted since the 1800s or so.

Actually, according to a document outlining the history of Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts, the empatus for creating American schools for the blind began when a medical student named Dr. John Fisher traveled to France to see their school for the blind in the 1820’s. The idea really took off, thanks in large part to such successes as the deafblind Laura Bridgman, who’s fictionalized story I’ve recently noted, and Helen Keller.

Now, most states have at least one location that serves blind individuals, and much more the case these days, those with multiple disabilities. Here in North Carolina, we have the Governor Moorehead School for the Blind, which was established in 1845 as the eighth such institution, and the first to serve African American blind and deaf students.

Many of the older blind individuals I know attended such schools pretty much throughout their education, rooming in dorms and going home only once or twice a semester. They’ve told me that this experience had its good and bad sides.

Certainly a positive is the degree to which they could fully participate in extra-curricular activities. It was then and probably still is now easier for blind individuals to get involved in student council, play sports, and conduct other character-building in a more specialized setting than at a public school. Therefore, many of the people I know who have had such experiences are a little more socially developed than those of us who have not.

However, until recently at least, the academics in such places were not always on the same level as those one gets in a county school system. I think this has been remedied in a number of ways though, and particularly by allowing individuals who attended the school for the blind to take some classes at a nearby public school, as my cousins did. This meant that my cousins were able to attend a university once they graduated, because they had achieved all of the necessary academic standards.

Nowadays, thanks in large part to documents like the ADA, most blind children are mainstreamed. When I was a kid, there was still a need to largely centralize us so that we could all more easily access resources. This meant that if you lived closer to the city’s edge, as we did, your bus ride would be long. I find it hard to believe, but am fairly certain that it would take us 2 hours and 25 minutes to make the journey from our house to the school we attended near uptown (downtown) Charlotte. I’m not sure I would have the patience to do that these days, even in the era of smartphones that would allow for endless entertainment. I guess in those days, we would just entertain each other with jokes and actions that very likely drove the drivers nuts, if we were not in fact sleeping.

I think now that students can attend schools that are at least closer to their actual districts, which is a very good thing. The proliferation of laptops, iPads and the like have brought accessible learning to nearly every corner of a given city, but from what I hear the quality of instruction is perhaps not keeping up. I hope that going forward we continue to make a commitment to teach our blind and low vision students the techniques and give them the tools they need for success. I think this will require finding instructors who are truly passionate for the job, and also for those older blind folks who have gone through the system to be willing to go back and help our younger peers (yes, I’m talking mostly to myself here!) But as I sharpen my skills, I do plan to find some substantive way to give back.

Because I believe that someday we’ll see blind folk powering innovation, heading companies like Apple and Google, and perhaps running for President of the United States. We must continue to dream big, and hope that the ADA at 50 will have far surpassed anything we could imagine.

Today’s Tidbit

Well ok, it’s more like yesterday’s, but it relates to the ADA. The strip of restaurants we have over near my apartment complex seem to have been built specifically to comply with the ADA, I guess because they’re located so close to Duke University. This is a great thing, but it makes life, well, interesting for a blind person. All of the doors have long handles that are mounted in a straight up and down position. They also have a bit of carpeting just inside of the door, and seem to exhibit exactly the same acoustic characteristics.

This means inevitably, I must ask “Where am I?” when I manage to get someone’s attention. And in many cases, I have not entered my intended restaurant. This isn’t a problem really, as the cashier or some such individual will just tell me how many more doors to go down, but it does amuse me.

Actually though, I wonder what a person in a wheelchair makes of those restaurants? Yeah I suppose the doors are a bit easier to open, but most of the registers are located way towards the back. I know for me, this means a confusing navigation through tables and people, especially when the place is crowded. I think they just show the degree of challenge involved in creating a building that can successfully meet everyone’s needs. But this is definitely no reason to not keep trying!

#FridayReads #50Book50Author Challenge, 1st 25

For prudence’s sake, I have decided to break my book list of 2015 into two halves. So, I will first present the 25 I had completed by the end of June, then assuming I make the target, I’ll post my second half in January. Perhaps you’ll find something in this group that you like. Enjoy.

An alphabetical listing of my first 25 books read of 2015
Title/Author Genre/Rating App/file format My 20-Word Summary
The Escape, David Baldacci (Puller Series Crime Fiction, 3.5/5 BARD Audio John’s brother Robert breaks out of federal custody to avoid killer, then must outrun more feds in crosscountry adventure.
Buccaneer, Maycay Beeler True Crime, 4.5/5 iBooks PDF Adventure, ride with pilot as he smuggles drugs from Caribbean to US and is finally caught by the Law
Kindred, Octavia Butler Sci-Fi/Fantasy, 5/5 Audible Audio Black woman snatched inexplicably from 1970s, made to live as slave and help ancestor
The Girl In The Road, Monica Byrne Sci-fi/Fantasy, 5/5 Kindle Text Great work by local author: Futuristic, 2 women travel different continents but are deeply connected
Black Moon, Kenneth Calhoun Sci-fi/Fantasy, 4.5/5 BARD Braille Scary, seemingly possible tale about sleep disappearing from society, and its unhinging effects
Ticket To Die (Southern Ghost Series II), Elaine Calloway Sci-fi/Fantasy, 4/5 Kindle Text Ghosts stuck in amusement park till “gifted” human convinced to help free them. Great characters and coaster/carousel descriptions
Tracks, by Robyn Davidson Nonfiction/Memoir, 4/5 Audible Audio Author admits story a bit raw, nevertheless a fascinating recounting of journey through Aussie outback with dogs and camels
All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr War Fiction, 4/5 Kindle Text WWII: blind French girl ultimately helped by German to escape, found by radio. Decent blind character
Still Alice, Lisa Genova Medical Fiction, 5/5 iBooks Text Harvard prof with increasing Altzheimer’s, touches on family relationships and heart-wrenching lapses in her classroom. Powerful.
Gravity, Tess Gerritsen Sci-fi/Fantasy, 4.5/5 BARD Audio Space station and shuttle contaminated with what appears to be unusual, deadly virus, tough decisions about returning to earth
Long March to Freedom, Thomas Hargrove Nonfiction/Memoir, 4/5 Audible Audio Man kidnapped by FARC in Colombia, interesting but repetitive tale of near starvation and brutal treatment
The Girl on The Train, Paula Hawkins Crime Fiction, 4/5 Audible Audio Woman routinely takes London train, observes couple, then female of couple disappears, setting off a “who-done-it” style chase.
The Survivor, Gregg Hurwitz War/Crime Fiction, 4/5 BARD Audio Man joins military after 9/11, has hard time returning to Civilian life till forced to save daughter from Ukranian hitmen.
The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd Historical Fiction, 4.5/5 Audible Audio Fictionalized life of Sarah Grimke in Charleston, during time of planned slave revolts. Education, travel, women’s rights.
Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King Crime Fiction, 4/5 Audible Audio Man mows down job fair attendees in car and conducts other actions largely due to difficulty dealing with childhood slights
Dead Wake, Erik Larson War Nonfiction, 5/5 Audible Audio Recounts sinking of Lusitania, from perspective of land, ship, and German U-Boat that carried out the action
The Road, Cormac McCarthy Sci-fi/Fantasy, 3/5 Audible Audio Man and boy wander near some fictional city on a largely destroyed earth. Some good spots, but mostly dry
A Conflict of Interest, Adam Mitzner Crime Fiction, 4/5 Audible Audio The lives of rich lawyers become entangled in marrital discord, death investigations, and office takedowns
Don’t Fear the Reaper, Michelle Muto Sci-fi/Fantasy, 4.5/5 Kindle Text On sisterly love that transcends death, and the challenges of breaking free of earthly realm with unsettled business left
Twelve Years A Slave, Solomon Northup Nonfiction/memoir, 5/5 BARD Braille Black man in 1840s kidnapped from DC and sold into slavery, must fight to survive and escape Louisiana plantations
Natural Causes, Michael Palmer Medical Fiction, 4.5/5 BARD Audio Man founds weight loss clinic that dispenses drugs that actually end up killing lots of women
Blue Labyrinth, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Pendergast Series) Crime Fiction, 4/4 BARD Braille Man discovers Pendergast’s ancestor created dangerous alexir, becomes angry, and tries to take out Pandergast. Travel, museums.
Deadline, John Sandford (Vergil Flowers Series) Crime Fiction, 4.5/5 BARD Braille School board conducts illegal financial activity, literally burns tracks to try and throw cops off. Also dognappers.
Mission to Mahjundar, Veronica Scott (Sectors Series III) Sci-fi/Fantasy, 4.5/5 Kindle Text Man travels to far-flung world to save blind princess. Always interesting flaura, fauna, and character names in her stories.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot Nonfiction/Memoir, 5/5 Audible Audio Amazing story of cancer cell theft that likely led to a lot of important research, and the people behind it


So many books! I feel like for the first time in my life, I can just read all the time. Let’s check out some of the trends.

< p>First, I’m surprised that I’ve read so many science Fiction/Fantasy novels. Nine so far. I hadn’t generally thought of myself as all that into this particular genre, unless I can find a bit of realism in it. I have to feel that it connects to me somehow. Many of the authors in this category were located via Twitter. I especially like Veronica Scott, who features a blind character in her latest full work. This character, Sharira, isn’t as independent as we might think she should be, but it is also important to look at the society in which she resides. Scott writes a series of Science Fiction Romance titles that are generally grouped into The Sectors, a conglomeration of worlds that in many ways resemble Earth’s countries and cultures.

Speaking of blind folks, though, there have been a proliferation of us in literature lately. I’ve of course already talked about Anthony Doerr’s character Marie Laure, who did turn out to be a lot more functional and able to navigate society. Yeah the counting steps thing happened, but I guess some of us do use that method sometimes. I liked that she had a great career though, and just seemed competent overall.

I’ve made a deliberate effort to read as many books by women as by men, and I pretty much succeeded: 13 men and 12 women. Yay. I’m not as certain about minority representation, but I definitely consumed some books by African American authors.

Many have also examined slavery and all of its wrongs. Sue Monk Kidd’s, The Invention of Wings might seem especially relevant after the unfortunate mass shooting in Charleston, since she profiles that very church and Mr. Vessey’s attempts to start it.

And finally, the biggest boon to my ability to read so many books during one year has been the introduction of my Braille display. Even so, I’ve read 14 in audio and 11 in Braille. I guess it’s easier to take in the recorded medium in the workday. I think that imbalance will be corrected with time, though.

< p>So that’s the first half. I felt that I was getting off to a bad start for the second, but as long as I complete my current two titles I’ll be good for the month of July. We’ll see how things hold up as the summer travel season intensifies. Happy reading!

Blindisms and Alarms!

I wrote this sort of entry in my now-defunct Hearing Change, Seeing Promise blog, and it seemed to be quite popular. Also, I have many new readers and some who are asking about this very topic. So, let’s see if I can resurrect that same type of explanation to a degree that most find at least passable.

< p>“Blindisms” refer, at least colloquially, to a set of behaviors that are commonly seen in and expressed by blind folks, and especially children. Yes, the stereotypical ones: rocking back and forth in a chair that doesn’t actually rock, jumping and flapping arms, hands, and legs, and I guess to some extent not holding one’s head in the upright position. I think I may have had one that was peculiar only to me: a sort of interlocking of both sets of thumbs and forefingers that indicate extreme excitement.

Why do these occur? Well that’s just it; usually we are unable to get rid of that pinned-up energy in any other way, or at least in so far as we see it. Vision, a sense that, when present, takes up to 90% of perception, thus naturally helps individuals consume a good amount of energy. Not all, certainly, as adults who have been charged with wrangling sighted children can attest. They’ll still sometimes feel the need to run around, fuss at each other and said adults, and generally engage in annoying behaviors.

The difference is that in blind kids, we pretty much feel like bouncing all the time. We are also not privy to the social norms that would allow us to know that most kids are not, in fact, banging their knees together or spinning in circles.

I can still vividly remember my parents’ first attempts to rid me of this unseemly activity.

“Stop acting silly!” my biological father would often say, with little or no explanation of what “silly” meant. And, I’m gonna use a word that is now generally considered offensive, but it was acceptable then and thus part of my story. “You know what those white folk (a generic term used to refer to any sort of professionals) say. You supposed to be retarded. You ain’t retarded, so don’t act like it!”

This was and still is very hurtful, especially with no context to know what I was even doing to be so perceived. I can’t say that I really began to conceptualize what was meant, and to understand the extent to which I am observed by others on a regular basis, till near adulthood.

It therefore thrills me to have parents and teachers who regularly interact with such children working to ascertain what our experiences were like, and attempting to do better for the upcoming generation. So, I hope it is of some help for me to give some of my thoughts.

First, I think most of us will never entirely rid ourselves of these quirks. And neither should we have to! Sometimes, it just feels good to let things out in this odd way. Hopefully though, the child can eventually come to understand that it is usually wisest to wait until he or she is in a private setting, then ah to be let free to find whatever energetic center is desired. Hey, everyone has oddities, whether they can be outwardly observed or not.

Secondly, if you are going to try and correct a behavior, fine. But, try to ensure that the child understands the actions at which you are targeting your intervention. For instance, it might be helpful to say “John, remember what I told you about flapping your hands?”

Of course, to make these changes stick, it is best to incentivize alteration of, or redirect behaviors. I’m not an actual psychologist/counselor, though I did spend years of my life trying to become one. I think that what I learned during that foray suggests that the best way to possibly channel that energy is through sensory stimulation. This could be done simply by giving the child a toy to play with, probably one that engages many of the senses simultaneously. The individual with whom I spoke about this told me about a site called Wonder Baby which seems designed especially to help parents of blind children in this way. Cool stuff.

This is why I’m so glad to have the Internet in existence nowadays. It’s of course a lot easier to find relevant information, and thus just more likely that parents and others can make better choices regarding how to interact with the child. A thing I will give my parents, and one that probably explains their shortcomings, is that it’s an even greater challenge to intervene in a more positive way when you have five other screaming kids to take care of. I thought of this when in discussion with someone else. Not only did they have to contend with managing a large household, but also that of being among a lower socioeconomic status. So yeah, these things never happen in a vacuum. And even with all that, I didn’t turn out too badly in the end. So there’s hope!

Today’s Tidbit

I’m sitting at my reading spot, my patio table at Dunkin Donuts. Isn’t that where everything happens? I’ve wrapped up what was probably the best, if saddest, chapter of the book on Laura Bridgman’s life. Wow, her story definitely reads like fiction!

Anyway, I like to turn everything off and just take in my surroundings for approximately 15 minutes before packing everything up and going home. Technology is a beautiful thing, true, but I can agree that we’ve often let it saturate our lives with so much “noise” that we never fully relax and unwind.

As soon as the phone and Braille display have been stowed, I hear “Deet, deet, deet”. It seems that a few fire alarms of the businesses that flank that patio have gone off simultaneously. People begin to stream out, not panicking but just milling around and chattering. I know what’s about to happen though, sirens! Then likely a more difficult crossing, so I grudgingly begin my journey home right away. I do not know what actually happened down there, but hope that no building sustained significant damage.

Wanna Be a Travelin’ Man

Summer does something to the soul. It uncaps that need, that primal desire to get oneself out there and into nature! Full-time workers who must stay on for 12 months (Yes, I’m envious of you school teachers who only work 10) thus find it hard not to use all of their tiny allotment of days off.

What’s a man to do in order to tackle wanderlust while not risking termination due to absence? Well, to dream. To talk about all of the fun ways in which I can and do travel: by air, water, rail, and hard asphalt. So indulge me while I wax semi-poetic on journeys past and those hopefully to come.


Ah, there’s something so freeing about rising above the earth’s surface, feeling that tug deep in your stomach as gravity says NO, but lift says YES! Up, up, to 39,000 feet. Ears lightly popping, while teeth work furiously to rebalance pressure before head explodes.

I remember my first trip up in a bird, across country from Charlotte to Los Angeles. I couldn’t fathom that we were actually moving at nearly 600 miles per hour, and yet for the most part I felt nothing. Amazing.

That kind of flight is great, and I still do and always will enjoy it. But in many respects one feels more connected to air and machine on a small Cessna, as I discovered during a fun summer camp session. Granted, I’m not sure I’d like going too entirely far in those things, because they tend to be notably more accident-prone than jets. Perhaps they are still less risky than driving, but I don’t know.


While I’ve never experienced it and am not sure to what degree you can, some of the first airplanes actually took off from the surface of the water. This was before long runways, and so it was the best way for them to have enough space to gather speed and rise. An awesome book to read if you’d like to know a bit of what that was like is Ken Follett’s Night Over Water.

Meanwhile, my knowledge of water travel largely consists of trips on speed boats, also at a summer camp. Bump bump over the craft’s self-generated waves. Whack of the loose life jacket strap in my face. And the craziest, a sky opening up that caused the counselors to insist that all of us screaming kids cram under what little shelter there was aboard so we wouldn’t drive her crazy as she tried to steer us back to docks. Fun times!

With regards to bigger boats, I’ve discovered that I may be a bit seasick when being tossed to and fro. I guess given the balance issues that my disorder can present, this shouldn’t be too surprising. The boat I rode just outside of North Carolina’s Inter-coastal Waterway was relatively small though, for an oceangoing vessel, and also I found that when below decks I could walk around without problems. This gives me hope of possibly being able to enjoy a cruise someday, but who knows. I think my first voyage will be a fairly short one, just to get a taste.


And on the subject of short, but sometimes painfully slow voyages, I have, until perhaps now, regularly rumbled down the tracks as documented here. I think the connection between North Carolina’s two largest cities, Raleigh and Charlotte, is one of Amtrak’s best. Yet, especially the evening train coming down from New York is as far as I can tell, always at least 1 and a half hours late. It is no doubt slowed by the constant freight trains that intersect and bisect its route. I guess little can be done about this without disrupting commerce, though.

I often look at countries in Europe and Asia and wish our system could be as highly developed as theirs are. High-speed trains that give airplanes a run for their money, especially when security and weather considerations come into play. But I know that those countries are in many cases smaller or controlled by governments that have a lot more say about what gets built. I think though that there is a slow change in our own public that will soon allow for vast improvements in rail, and all kinds of public transportation.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting a taste of what trains were like before the modern era, at a historic depot located somewhere near Kanapolis North Carolina, if I’m remembering correctly called Spencer Shops? We rode an old, rickety train with no onboard venelation on a really cold day. I think they also have a pretty cool museum at the depot. It was a fascinating experience.


And finally, there’s the good ole, open road. Always a legend in America’s car-centric culture, though as I’ve just pointed out this is starting to alter with the younger of us.

I guess the biggest plus this mode of travel holds for most, though of course a lot less so for those of us without working eyes, is its high degree of freedom and control. No timetables or long lines to worry about.

But then that’s not entirely true, is it. Yeah, try driving somewhere before one of the major holidays, and see what kind of traffic you get entangled in. Not to mention the things you can’t control, like drunk drivers who sadly so often take others’ lives while being spared themselves. (NOTE: I mean to say not that I wish they, drunk drivers, die, but that no one would!)

p>I think this, especially generally featureless Interstate highway travel, is my least favorite. My longest journey of this kind was aboard a chartered bus to New York City: 14 hours of jolly rancher-induced sleep-wake that found me still somewhat functional on arrival in White Plains (A NYC suburb), but toasted by nightfall. Ah, that was some trip.


So, now that I’m thinking about travel, I want you to as well. What are your favorite modes of transportation? Any crazy experiences, other than what I know probably occur regularly in city driving. Do you like flying or fear it? Ever been on a cruise? A long train trip, as Katie Aune has, a traveler I follow on Twitter? I would like to do that one day. Talk to me.

Today’s Tidbit

I’ve been temporarily relocated to another section at my job. Yesterday, I got hopelessly lost as I wandered the rails, searching for the door out. Those rails are in fact like a highway, because they extend the length of the building, and have little “exits” that lead to different halls. All of the exits on I-Twenty-Blind as I call it (get it? 20 is the first number you often see on charts referring to someone’s sight levels) feel the same. Well only one has different texture, the one leading towards the main aisle. I wonder if anyone thought of that? I mean, imagine trying to figure out where to get off without proper guidance from the signs? A good Samaritan did finally save me from the side of the “road” just in the nick of time, for I stepped onto the bus just as the stairs were lifted and it pulled off. Just a little jobs humor for ya. More next time!

On Independence

Happy Fourth of July to all of my US readers! And folks outside of this country are certainly welcome to celebrate with us as well, if you wish. Little to no excuse is needed for a party, right?

By its very nature, this day always makes me think of and assess my own state of dependence/independence. Interdependence is truly what it is, for no man or woman functions entirely separate from all others. I think this has already been a banner year for me in that regard, though.

I so often feel fortunate to live in the era that I do. I’m reading a fictionalized account of the esteemed Laura Bridgman, called What is Visible, by Kimberly Elkins. Bridgman attended Perkins School for the Blind (then it was known as Institute) in the mid 1800’s. As you probably know, she was both deaf and blind, as well as lacking a sense of smell and taste.

The story paints a rather harrowing picture of her life, from the degree to which her destiny was controlled by others to the longing and loneliness she often felt. I hope for her sake that much of the events that were portrayed were a bit overdramatized, but who knows.

She and her blind cohorts rarely had chance to leave that facility, spending much of their time attending exhibitions to be shown off to other dignitaries, and receiving what little education was available to them. Braille was just coming onto the scene in Europe, but instructors at the Perkins Institute, most notably its director Samuel Gridley Howe, known as “Doctor” to most, did not accept this as a learning tool. Rather, they had to read things produced in raised print, which I suppose is doable but probably quite cumbersome.

As stated though, the thing I would have found the most challenging would be not being able to move around much on my own. As I discovered when writing for White Cane day, blind folks didn’t even start to gain this ability till the early 30’s. And even then, I doubt they were doing a whole lot of wandering.

Me? I’m kind of crazy! Especially with the advent of GPS and ability to key in an address and learn tons about it before attempting to venture out, I’m likely to just take off and go to somewhere even unfamiliar. The main questions I have to cope with are: what does the bus stop look like? Will I have to cross any busy streets? How likely is the weather to hold up for me? The street crossing issue is still and will likely always be my biggest impediment, but I’m hoping that tech will soon at least mitigate that someday. I wouldn’t put myself among the most savvy blind navigators, but maybe I’m a bit above average, at least. My underperforming hearing will continue to present its own challenges.

With regards to the connectedness/loneliness thing, I think this is the biggest reason I am glad to be among “normal” society. Even dragging myself to and from this job helps me to remain part of my community and not just sit in this apartment passing time. Additionally, I think I spend so much time getting coffee at Dunkin Donuts that I may have caused them to lower the price of that beverage during “Happy Hour,” which I’d guess is from 4-7. Finally, I am happy to have someone who enjoys walking this road with me, who helps me and whom I try to help.

So, those are just some of my disjointed thoughts on this day in which this country celebrates its often not lived up to ideals. I suppose it’s always an effort though, and one worth continuing; to strive for the betterment of self, neighbors, and humanity in general. Now enjoy the fireworks, safely! And apologize to your poor doggies, as they no doubt dread this day.

Today’s Tidbit

Why can’t someone enact a law against leaving loud truck engines idle in excess of five minutes! This happened while I was out today, and after standing there for nearly 15, I finally had to chance it and cross. Luckily, things weren’t too terribly busy. It does annoy me, though.

Whatever The Weather: or, why I don’t like rain!

Whether the weather is cold
or whether the weather is hot
The weather the weather whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.

Did you ever sing that silly song? We used to warm up with it in my high school chorus. That and one that went “Scotland’s burning Scotland’s burning, look out look out, fire! fire! fire! fire, Pour in water pour in water.”

Once, as we belted that out, the school’s alarm happened to go off. So as we made for the door, we started saying “Pinecrest burning Pinecrest burning…” It was amusing only because of course we were just having a drill.

Anyway, onto the substance of my post: our finicky summer weather. I think maybe this week our prognosticating forecasters may have gotten it more wrong than I can recall seeing. If you’d checked on Monday, they were saying the 4th of July period was to feature temperatures in the upper 90s. Now? We’re barely breaking 80. I guess I can’t take too much issue with that though, as it certainly makes sitting outdoors more tenable.

I think it’s part law of averages. After something like 16 days of 90s, a stretch not recorded since the early 50s, it had to cool down some.

But the other side of it is the return of moisture. Ah, rain! Yes I know we need it, otherwise we’d shrivel up like grass in Winter. And it feeds me and gives me drink and yadda yadda yadda.

Trying to maneuver through it, or plan around it, puts me in knots though! It keeps sneaking up this summer and ruining my fun.

Most notably, last weekend. My girlfriend and I hung out with my cousin and his wife in Charlotte on a sort of double date weekend, our second such get-together. First, I suppose I should just be glad I didn’t come down with another yucky cold, as had happened on the first go-round.

On Saturday, after having already survived a wet Friday night return from retrieving me at the train station “Maybe it’s getting all that stuff out of the system now!” we initially went clothes shopping at Concord Mills Mall, just outside of the Queen City. Oddly, it is, or at least was, the number 1 tourist attraction in North Carolina. I guess people like to shop, though certainly the Internet is taking a bite out of the brick and mortar infrastructure. This happened early in the afternoon, and with her help, I managed to get a couple of nice looking outfits for this upcoming conference without breaking the bank.

4:00, we got back on the road and decided to give Carowinds, the area’s amusement park, a shot. It’s all the way across town, straddling the line between North and South Carolina, and as we approached the weather steadily turned worse.

“Do we get a discount?” Yes, all four of us, totaling about $16 a head. Nice.

Also, they’ve implemented a system wherein we, I guess people with disabilities though I don’t know how wide-ranging a group is covered, don’t have to physically stand in line for a ride, but we must still board in such time that we have basically waited. You have to approach the boarding area and sign up for the first available time, which could be hours away. Our first choice required a two-hour wait. This was ok though, because it could still allow us to maximize our time there by making it so we could just jump onto rides with shorter lines while awaiting our go on the more peopled ones.

“Now you know what’s gonna happen as soon as we get in here,” I leaned in and whispered to her. “It’s gonna pour down!”

Hey, I didn’t do anything! It was pretty obviously going to occur. Our hope was that maybe we could wait it out. So my cousin and I went into a souvenir shop and got panchos that were little more than glorified plastic bags. They did have all-important hoods to keep our hearing aids dry.

In line for the intimidator, the ride named for NASCAR’s Dale Earnheart, already fairly close to the stairs going up to the ride actually. DRIP. “I’ma wipe that away real quick because it was actually just my imagination!” I thought to myself. DRIP DRIP. No no NO NO NO! Then, out came the plug from the sky.

A mad scramble through the bag where she’d placed it, and a quick dance to wrangle the pancho over my head, first through the buttoned sleeves then more correctly with the hood oriented as it needed to be. And all who were left squeezed into the small amount of shelter along the rails and hoped.

“Ah ok, the sky is clearing,” she said. “And, now it’s slowing down.”

To the top of the stairs, we were then stymied by the operator’s inability to re-open the ride until he’d received the proper clearance. C’mon come! on! I wanna at least ride one coaster! iPhone out to check likely conditions “Severe Thunderstorms, chance of rain 66%. *sigh*

And sure enough, an impenetrable wall of grey soon began approaching and the skies recommenced their works. This drove most everyone, including us, to the exits. WAH! Ah well, we gave it the ole try. And I guess that dough at least bought me a crazy story.

So yeah rain, leave me alone! I’ve actually been remarkably fortunate most times though, somehow just missing dangerous thunderstorms. But needless to say that even one spout can make life challenging when trying to cross the street and the like. I guess it comes with the territory in our summers, so I’ll just have to suck it up, and try to stay dry.

Hitting It Hard

Yeah yeah, I know what you’re gonna say.

You said you were gonna do this last time!”

And you’d be right, except this time I’m taking concrete steps to begin designing my path out of sheltered employment and into that as a writer/social media person/advocate/doer of good. I’m going to make one of the strongest declarative statements I ever have, and say that it’s now my time! If you know me, you know how hard it is to not write words like “hope,” “think,” “try,” and other such modifiers. But right now, I just don’t have a choice.

So what does that mean in practical terms? Well for one, it should mean I will no longer be blowing the dust off of these computer keys, as I literally am now. Goodness, I’m surprised this system is still working.

And, as I’ve said before, it probably means that not every work will be worthy of publication in the New Yorker or magazines of its ilk. Well ok let’s be honest, most won’t be on that level. But I will never even approximate such ability without rigorous practice and the willingness to come up a bit short sometimes.

This week has been speckled with inspiration that I have gleaned largely from previous connections I made during my time at UNC’s grad school. These meetings have both occurred after the long work hours had concluded, which made them hard to go through with, but I feel I need to get that momentum going and keep with it, even if I suffer temporary sleep deprivation as a result.

Yesterday, I spoke with Dr. Daniel Wallace in a large academic building on the UNC campus. This chat had been facilitated by another professor who works mostly in the hospital, but who has decided that she wants to help me succeed in any way she can. I can sense how serious she is about that, and that drive is rubbing off on me.

Anyway, Wallace, a well-known writer, told me that the most important thing I can do for myself is to sit down and do what I am now; cordon off at least 15 minutes to whack out some words. I can’t promise that I will write every every day, because well, life is crazy. But I am gonna get a heck of a lot closer. I guess I have to just try to draw topics from my day and its inherent chaos.

He and the med professor suggested that one of the things I might most likely be able to do is to work with a hospital to educate others about my particular experience with disability and rare disease. So I took their ideas to today’s meeting with the good folks at the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF). I’ve talked about this organization before, as they were instrumental in helping me both to move out of my place in Carrboro and into my current apartment here in Durham. I have a lot of respect for the people who work primarily for homeless individuals in this org, but really for the good of the community at large, as they are mostly no doubt busy college students. Maybe if I’d shown that level of ingenuity while in undergrad, my lot now would have been better. I know though that I can’t change the past, can only work to improve likely future outcomes.

The young Duke student with whom I worked today helped me to find the links I needed to both Duke and UNC Hospitals, and I am thus tasked to dig through that info and locate the individuals who might be best able to provide me with ways to move forward from here. We shall see.

Today’s Tidbit

An idea I just came up with is I can end most entries with some new discovery/occurrence of each day that I do in fact write about. Probably not too surprisingly, given that I’m as much a sheep as everyone else, I’ve been playing around with the new Apple Music. I was enjoying tracks in the “New” section, and on the “Radio” stations, especially Beats One. But I finally worked out that the real fun is in searching for artists. I’m currently listening to Alicia Keys’ whole album “Elements of Freedom”. If you’ve known me for a long time, you know she used to be my wife! But alas, she’s chosen some other guy and laid down her own family. It’s all good though!

Looks like they don’t have her very first album, the one I really wanna hear, but they have most of the other stuff. This already beats Pandora, and if I could go ahead and pay I would. Yes, I know that musicians do still need to get some dough for what they do. Maybe they could take their cue from insurance, and charge a higher “premium” to those who listen to more albums. Ha.

I’m not sure what tomorrow will serve up for me to gorge on, but I guess that’ll be the fun of this process. Till then.