Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Busch Gardens

Ah ba-humbug. My initial idea had been to accompany this post with photos, but as you might figure it is difficult for me to keep reams of them straight. I will learn to do this someday! But first I have to come up with some kind of labeling scheme so that I can be certain of what I am posting. In the meantime though, I guess I’ll stick with what I know and write, write, write. So enjoy a (relatively) quick summary of our entertaining and educational trip to Williamsburg Virginia.

We set sail for (ah ok drove to, although that might be an apt metaphor given the amount of rain we encountered on the way) this historic Virginia town on Wednesday at 12 PM, a couple hours later than intended but after some much-needed sleep. Mostly things were sunny, but when we did enter those two or three downpours I stayed quiet so that she could concentrate on keeping us whole. We popped out of the other end of the tube around 3:30, arriving at the fairly decent Courtyard by Marriott, Busch Gardens Area located at 470 McLaws Circle and within a mile of that iconic theme park. You’ll notice that of late I’ve been staying in Marriott properties, because I’m trying to stack up rewards points. They say I’m only 9 nights away from Silver status, but if I understand correctly you only get one night for every three.

Bags down and a little more rested, we schlepped off through the horse-poop-filled streets of colonial Williamsburg. Unfortunately by this time, all of the houses and such were closed, but just smelling the smells was enough to conjure up a feeling of what life might have been like there. And I got firsthand experience of what life could have been like if I were to be punished for being bad, as she good-naturedly placed my head inside of a stockade, (guillotine?) and took a hilarious photo. This device forces you to sit on your knees and makes the head nearly immobile. It’s brutality, made real. That bit of silliness done, we strolled by houses noticing a prominent name of Bruton (this guy had a Parrish church and a house apparently).

That trip out was relatively short, though we still logged at least two miles of walking. This added to the three miles or so we’d traversed the previous day leaving and returning to the car for the fireworks display (which was also fun as we snagged good seats that gave me an unusual sound experience). Anyhow, needless to say we got our exercise in this week.

Off to Cracker Barrel for dinner, where our inexperienced server neglected to provide the biscuits we had requested. I was ok though, as I greedily consumed my meatloaf, Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, real lemonade, and later, a piece of delicious chocolate cake.

After that kind of start, it was surprising that we actually rose earlier than expected for the trip to Jamestown Settlement, a fascinating replica of the first established colony there. Afraid of both the rain and crowds, we arrived as it opened at 9. I think this contributed significantly to my great time learning there.

As we left the cool of the visitor center for the nearly dripping moisture beyond, I immediately felt a separation from modernity. The first thing we did was enter what the Tap Tap See app says is a Tiki tent? I hadn’t known what they were called, but the huts where the Powahatan Indians would have lived. I really couldn’t help wondering how one lives like that, but at the same time that sort of spartan existence kind of appeals to me. The natives did little inside of those huts but sleep and stay warm, even preparing food outside at private fire pits. Even so, they were so tiny that I, and most people I would imagine, had to duck to enter and exit, and could barely stand up inside.

But then there was the most interesting part, where we were able to board replicas of the ships that sailed from England. Constantine, the largest of the three, would have had 71 persons onboard, which I find mind-boggling! After walking around two of the decks of that and the other two vessels, I know that if I were to try and survive the four-month crossing from England to the colonies I would probably be half dead on arrival. I mean what did they eat? I am reading a book set in Jamestown now, a fictional tale called Dark Enough To See The Stars of a Jamestown Sky by Connie Lapallo, wherein the author states that it is based on the true story of her ancestors’ arrival there. So I anticipate getting a sense of just those sorts of questions.

After making our stumbling way up from those depths, we sauntered over to a table full of what would then have been classed as medical supplies, but actually resembled a toolbox). The woman at that exhibit showed me the crude splint, forceps, and other what would now be considered dangerous items used to operate on people, and especially soldiers, during that time. It was quite interesting.

And after a tour of the mostly inaccessible indoor gallery, she and I had a random stranger snap us standing in front of a fountain as some kid inadvertently intervened. The sound of rushing water was pleasant, if not enticing in those temperatures.

The rest of our day in town mainly consisted of a respite in the hotel from 1 to 3 after enjoying burgers from Sonic, as we did on our Charleston trip. Then off we went to Busch Garden.

Happily for us, the suggested rain showers did not come at all. But the humidity was such that, as previously noted, we still sweat buckets anyway. We also rode in a bucket of a ride that flung us around a bit, one that reminded me of the Wild Bull at Carowinds as it rocked us back and forth aggressively, a giant swing, and the one roller coaster I could get her on. Our final ride was the mach Tower, analogous to Carowinds’ Dropzone, where we rise way up and are flung to the ground. We then retreated into a German restaurant where some sort of live band was playing for the few patrons inside. Then after a boat ride called Cruising the Rhine, she said she needed to go ahead and call it a day. This was clear as we ambled about, trying to find a way out of that monstrosity but getting turned around a time or two. It is an amazing place, divided into countries such as Italy, France and Germany where those cultures are highlighted. I hope to visit again someday.

And that about sums up Williamsburg, in probably the longest entry I have ever written. We had pondered eating in a local spot called The Whaling Company, but a quick look at the prices changed that. They did have some pretty good sounding seafood though. So it was back to our trusty Cracker Barrel, where this time I had Chicken-fried Chicken with the same sides. Hey, you can never go wrong with that! Back with the good stuff whenever the next adventure happens.

My Life, Chapter XI

(Because adding Roman numerals gives it a certain gravitas).


I: Being A Baby In Brook Hill. II: The Florence Avenue Blues. III: Birch Crest Family House. IV: The Town Home Down Home Experience. V: Livin’ Large on Hyde Park. VI: Off To The Pines. VII: Over The Bluff. VIII: Getting “Royal” on Beatties Ford. IX: The Estes Park Avalanche. X: Duke-in’ in Dern Durham. XI: Back to the QC, A Cozy Spot. XII: Marrying and “Cary-ing.

Ha! I really could use that as a template for my life memoir, at least as it has gone. Each of those titles represents a relocation for me, to all of my non-university residences held for at least six months. I had to specify those criteria, because if not then things become confusing and difficult to sort.

So, the last two chapters have yet to be written, of course, but they have begun. Chapter ten was brought to a rather abrupt end as the truck bearing my furniture, nearly popping a tire, eased onto the freeway and slight sloshes of rain blew in as if off of an ocean. The hour was 12:30 AM, and both I and the driver, my always hard-working uncle, were famished

“Ok, let’s stop here,” he said as we scrambled out and walked hopefully up to a small-town Wendy’s in a truck stop-type area. But, it was a no-go.

Then, as tired as he was, he said “ok we’re gonna try one more fast-food joint, then it’s the Waffle House. They’re always open!”

And with that, he reluctantly eased into the McDonald’s drive-through line, where I acquired my first Big Mac in many years. I agreed with his assessment that their burgers just don’t hold a candle to really any other establishment, despite the fact that their fries are actually superior.

A hair-raising cruise into the Queen City, with the last miles being seen through a fog of daydreams according to my uncle, found me, by 3:30 in the morning back at the Hyde Park residence of Chapter Five. Because he basically maintains a bachelor pad in there, the room was warm and the covers a bit dusty. But by that point, nothing else mattered but sweet sweet sleep. While I wouldn’t say I had done nearly the amount of work he had hoisting all of my (former) furniture and cleaning all of the detritus of years spent in a place by someone more concentrated on other things than, well ok keeping spotless?, I had taken out tons of trash and helped the morning mover with my tables. So numbness spread mercifully across me, and I sank into hilarious dreams with contents I of course can not recall in any great detail.

And so here we go. With that cliff-hanger ending, I plunge into the area unknown with little idea of what to expect next. Right now though, I am sitting in (Chapter Eleven), at a desk with the kind of writing chair I had during (Chapter Eight) and feeling the inspiration flow through me again. Thus far I have eaten at the delicious House of Prayer cafeteria, a church located on Beatties Ford that is the only restaurant I know serving what I call “REAL” baked macaroni and cheese. I have also enjoyed chatting with my cousin for only the second time all year, and luxuriating in the expansiveness of this place. I am definitely feeling the love, and comfort as I have a nice room to myself as well.

So do enjoy as my story continues to unfold with unforeseen plot twists, and probably the climax. (Wait, maybe not yet on that last, because the end usually follows that in rapid succession). But, you get my drift. More pages and chapters coming soon!

On Furry Friends

As my transition enters its final phases, I’ve sat out on this little thing we call a porch and pondered the meaning of life, often while reading a good book or otherwise occupied. As I’ve done so, someone apparently decided he (or she, who really knows?) would like to meet me and I guess maybe feel a bit less alone.

I think you can see my new companion here, blind folks, it’s a cat apparently with his head missing (this is why they will never hire me as a photographer)

Anyhow, this has been happening all week. At first, he would saunter up to me and just brush against my legs, then bounce off to other parts of the porch. Then, he began stopping and sometimes sitting at either of my feet. In the last couple of days, he has attempted to put his paws on my legs, as if asking to be helped into my lap. But then I get the sense he knows he is probably not clean enough to do this, so he will retract the paws and likely sadly slink away.

I can’t help wondering if he was also a victim of this apartment complex’s rapid rent increase, in that maybe someone threw him out? Maybe they, as am I, moved in with some other family member who wouldn’t allow pets and had to make a wrenching choice. I say this, because I would find it surprising to be so rapidly addressed, and apparently trusted, by a stray with little experience dealing with humanity. That cat acted as if it were quite close to someone, in fact. Something of a reminder that these kinds of policy shifts can effect other lifeforms as well.

If I were staying here though, I might actually consider keeping him, knowing that I would have to take him to the vet and have all of that stuff checked and get him cleaned up real good. As it is, I hope maybe someone does find him soon and take care of him.

I don’t know what’s in their minds, of course, but I have always felt like animals have a deep connection to me that forms as soon as I am seen. They have played some role in nearly every major era of my life, as I would guess is the case for most.

Because we were the poor kids we were, our first four kitties came from a cat that had been stolen from my grandma’s neighborhood and transported clear across town. Named Tiger because she looked a lot like one, she gave birth to Ginger, Salt, Pepper, and Cheetah. The first three were seasonings, and the last was just fast! Ginger was the only one to survive that rough and tumble existence for any length of time, living with us until we left that house and began our next chapter in a town home around my teen-age years.

We’d had a dog then named Shannon, but because she hadn’t really been trained and lived out back, I didn’t get to develop any kind of relationship with her. I was afraid of dogs actually, until 2004 when I ventured to Spain and met a shaggy Old English Sheepdog whose only desire was to lick one to death and try to knock them over with his bulk. Then in 05, my cousin acquired a terrier to whom I became very close, cementing my belief that I was far more a dog person than a cat person. I mean dogs understand so much more, it seems. My sister’s little dog got close to me during my brief time in PineBluff in 2012, and now my fiance’s dog enjoys having me around. She seems to know the rule that she should only stop by to say hi when the lady has gotten up to do something else, m which amuses me.

But I am sometimes reminded that cats, aloofness for which they are known and all, can be just as intelligent and friendly. I guess really their personalities can vary as much as any person’s, right? This is what we humans can forget, that these animals do have feelings and probably even realize when they have been neglected. If my story above is true and that one was tossed out by someone, I wish they could have managed to at least turn it in to some sort of agency. I know there are shelters that are set up to handle such things. I also know, of course, that if someone is under stress about all other elements of their life, like where they will eat or stay, this just might not occur to them.

So that’s just a bit of the strangeness that represents the beginning of my summer. I actually hope it’s not a bad omen, as I’ve heard before that cats can be drawn to people when they have some kind of serious condition of which they may not even be aware. But in the end, its presence has had a calming effect during a tumultuous time of my life. In any event, he gives me something other than grad school to write about.

A Farewell to Dern Durham

That’s a phrase jokingly applied to this area by some, because of the way it sounds when you actually pronounce the city’s name. I’ve heard some foreigners call it “Dur-ham” stressing each part of the word. When I was a kid, I thought it was Durm, because that’s how we all said it. I’ve seen the Bull City’s image improve, having recently become known nationally for its foodie culture but still sadly seeing more violence than one might like. But then again, that’s probably the case for any fast-growing urban area, right?

1540 (plus or minus, don’t break out the calculator on me! Haha). Buy the time I depart this apartment on June 24 in the year of our Lord 2017, that will be nearly the number of days I will have resided herein. Outside of my time in Charlotte, I probably have not remained for so long in one place; not even Southern Pines as I lived there prior to college for only just over three years. So naturally this wonderful local community, in which I found a place to be a regular (granted it’s a chain but still,) met neighbors who always took care of me, and even found ways to be entertained while going to work has come to feel like home.

Of course, life does and will continue to change, and I very much welcome this as it forces me to grow. The coming change will represent a middle transition, as I’ve taken to calling it, between the last vestiges of bachelorhood and marital bliss, the latter now set to begin in January/February. During this period, I will reside with my cousin and his wife back in the Queen City, relocating there for the first time in almost eight years. I am actually excited about this, primarily because I am attending Queens University of Charlotte online anyway and being closer to that facility will help me as I conduct research for the Capstone, their term for the Master’s project. What that research will be has yet to be determined, but I have some ideas.

That excitement is tinged a bit though by the fact that I am essentially being forced into this move, due to the apartment issues I have chronicled in two previous entries. I am fortunate enough to have somewhere to go at least, but I know some who are going to really be struggling. So one of my new advocacy challenges will be trying to learn about affordable housing, how it can be saved (yeah right in this society) or at least kept remotely in check. I won’t forget about y’all!

The cumulative stress of this pending life shift is causing sleep to be near nonexistent, as I have been since Sunday operating on fumes. I had already decided a couple of weeks ago that this would be the last week with my current employer.
RELATED Job Days No. 5
Which I am now glad about as I can use that in-between time to recover a bit from this horrible insomnia and to try and make progress on the practice research project we are now doing in my current class. I also plan to start making inquiries about ways to generate income once I relocate, mainly by visiting the university’s career center. Hey, I’m paying for that service so why not!

And, not much else. The typical thing is happening as I get ready to leave the community; I am meeting all sorts of fascinating individuals whom I would have enjoyed talking to if they had dared to speak earlier. But this is ok I guess, it is paradoxically a sign that the time to move on has very definitely come. I guess only time will tell what awaits around the bend.

I know I hadn’t posted as often as I would like (the goal is once a week), but not surprisingly as classes gear up the posts fall off. But I know I already have a couple of fun pieces that should be coming up, including a trip to a new destination that I will tell you about after it occurs. More later.

Rare On The Road with the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases

I think I’m in this group pic? With my T on

There are few events in one’s life that can be called “Life-changing,” and often the use of this term is overblown at best. Probably those that I could say qualify are high school graduation, completion of undergraduate study, and the attending of the 2009 conference of the Norrie Disease Association. Not excluding especially personal markers of course, such as my relationship and coming marriage, but I think I’m speaking more of professional encounters here.

In my role as president of the Norrie Disease Association, I have always been on the outlook for possible opportunities to expand our reach. These days, such chances are most often found via social media networks like Twitter. In that forum, I discovered the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, which works to change public policy to enhance outcomes for persons with rare diseases through political and other advocacy. They tend to have more of a focus on research/medical issues than the NDA does, the latter being primarily a support group, but as I discovered in attending their first Rare On The Road meeting, much of the information they supply can be of good use.

So first the backstory. As soon as I saw that this conference would take place in Atlanta, I scrambled onto my apps, found great air and hotel deals, and decided I would go. I guess I am one who looks for signs of the “rightness” of a thing, and the fact that I got low prices to travel and lodge at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, along with a $5 coupon from Lyft to use them for airport service like a day before I needed it were good omens indeed.

Not surprisingly, once I arrived at that mammoth hotel Friday night, I began to wonder about the sanity of staying there. I hustled up to my 27th-floor room, unpacked, and… got lost in the hall for perhaps 15 minutes trying to find the elevator! But y’all, it ain’t a blind folks party till something like that happens. And a blind folks party don’t stop. It all ended well though, because I quickly discovered on return how I could more easily navigate that labyrinth with a giant rail that almost looks like its purpose is to guide, even though it may not be. I had gone down to the restaurant for a slightly overpriced but pretty good burger, fries, lemonade, and chocolate cake, consumed as people whooped to the NBA playoff game on the TV.

Once I had retreated to my room, I snatched a little time to enjoy the luxurious surroundings before putting myself down. I awoke that Saturday morning, checked out, and made my way to the Loudermilk Conference Center about a half mile away where the event was to be hosted.

Always with these things, I wonder how the hosts will treat me. Immediately on entering, the registrant greeted me and served me a breakfast of blueberry muffin, mixed fruit, and coffee. Then I pretty much remained at that table all day, speaking largely with a woman named Lisa Raman, who introduced all of the speakers as well as leading off with a nice speech about her own journey to this sort of work through engaging with her son who has a rare syndrome. She was really nice, being willing to help me empty my bladder when that coffee, some water and juice poured right through me.

Of course a primary function of most conferences is networking. And while I do not yet know exactly how my newfound connections will play out, let’s just say there’s some real potential there. I got to talk wit two people who are now working with me to make some things happen with social media and in expanding our knowledge on rare disease issues.

As for the conference itself, probably the most helpful thing to me was talking with other organizational leaders and discovering that our challenges are quite similar. These include sustaining membership, finding ways to keep people motivated within the organization, and increasing fund-raising/awareness.

As is common with such events the entirety of it is difficult to capture. But here are my key takeaways. First, story construction for persons or organizations is important. They noted that stories have three main elements, especially as relates to advocating for funding or other action from politicians and the like: an issue/problem, proposed solution, and call to action. We were then told to create elevator pitches that address these areas, a bigger challenge than one might think. SIDENOTE: It was cool to have my Braille display in that situation, as I could type my response into the iPhone and read it back. The other attendees thought this was neat.

The second main takeaway is that we should contact our senators and representatives and let them know of our personal issue. They spoke a lot about the coming healthcare changes, and of course I acknowledge that you have your own views on these, but I agree that whatever our side, we need to be aware of what’s going on and how it might affect us. I know in many NDA member’s case, loss of certain supports would make it harder to get the early intervention and therapies that can improve quality of life for children with Norrie. So I will indeed reach out to my senator(s) for what it’s worth.

This was the essence of what was covered in the conference, but the fun wasn’t over! My second networking contact occurred because she had overheard me saying I had stayed in the Marriott, and allowed me to share an Uber car with her to retrieve my bag. So one never knows when these things might happen. I got the business card and successfully scanned it with the KNFB Reader app on my phone. (This was a trip definitely made more possible by that little device, for sure). Bag gotten, I survived another harried ride to the airport with a driver who said he had glaucoma but could still see well enough (um…,) booked it to the gate through the gargantuan Atlanta airport after another needed potty break, and came on home. It was quite a fun day and weekend, with results yet to be fully realized.

On Rites of Passage: 20 Years Since High School and Apartment Follow-up

I was listening to a recent episode of the Spark CBC podcast in which someone noted the importance of nature, especially when one finds oneself at a major life juncture. Go for a walk in the forest, find a nice, calming trail, or my favorite, visit the ocean. Ironically after the apartment thing met its conclusion, which I will get to later in the post, I was already due to head to the beach with the fiancé. The story claimed that, along with just feeling less stressed, blood pressure and other physiological indicators moderate as well. I can truly believe it, as the sound and feel of those unusually warm waves put my frazzled mind at ease.

Even as I stand at a new, very big precipice, probably the most important in my entire life, I find myself reflecting on a prior time. It amazes me that 20 years ago this month, I was about to celebrate the completion of a long, fun high school career. The thrill of singing in the chorus, as one of three seniors we also got to perform Rent’s Seasons of Love, so that one will always hold a place in my heart. The wonderful friend who helped me secure a 97 keychains that I still regularly finger whenever I need something to ground me; wrote me a Braille birthday card with her car keys (how cool is that); and ensured that I was able to enjoy senior picnic by offering to take me paddle boat riding on the lake we were visiting. (Ugh, that lake was so full of trash, but that’s beside the point).

And then the proud moment of graduation, May 22?, 23?, how do I not exactly know. I still remember the honor’s rope hanging from my neck, and not even knowing what it meant till right before going to the ceremony as my Aunt told me. The junior martial who escorted me across the stage, saying she was getting teary-eyed thinking of her own approaching graduation. And the too-warm, packed auditorium.

Ah, the memories. I know I know, I lie too aggressively in the past most of the time. In my present though, I have taken another step toward completing my current Master’s degree, having finished a class on Computer-mediated Communication. We did a podcast for that class as well, of which I am a little less proud but also understand that it all is a learning process. It was still fun to create.

And now to the news you’ve all been waiting for. Regarding the apartment outcome, I have been told that I must move on, as they are going to renovate starting June 24th and rents will rise. After thinking about it, I feel that this might not be such a bad move for me as I kind of need to get beyond this neighborhood anyway. But for folks like one of my neighbors, without going too deeply into her personal business, it will cause her significant difficulties as she needs to stay over here and will need family to help her absorb the increased costs. I just want to point this out, because I hope someone continues to see the need for affordable housing, and especially as it applies to older individuals, and those with disabilities who mostly live on fixed income. *sigh* sometimes that part of things truly feels like a losing battle.

Wrapping around to the beginning, I am certain that if I had not immediately schlepped off to the water, I would have felt a lot more panicked about the required changes I must make. That time away allowed me to categorize, prioritize, (are they’re anymore “ize”s?) It’s such an obvious thing, but we city slickers should remember to keep ourselves connected to surroundings. While I am not always afforded the luxury of the ocean, yet, I do usually take a walk or at least sit on my porch and listen to the real tweeters, the birds! Find that something for yourself.

Some pretty exciting stuff coming in future entries, so stay tuned. Till then, breathe deep and revel in pleasant memories.

#FridayReads Someone Knows My Name, by Lawrence Hill

If you were to read the summary presented on the NLS site, you would get the sense that this was all the book was about. By itself, I figured “hmmm, it could be worth the read”. But that description hardly does it justice.

As the story starts, we see the main character (I suppose her name is spelled Aminata Dialo, but that’s where audio can get me in trouble), in London toward the end of her struggle, working with the British to have slavery abolished. But then we almost immediately flash back to her residing in an African village, I think somewhere around present-day Mali, where she and her family practice Islam and farm the land. It takes on a Roots-like feel, as she is snatched, placed aboard a slave ship for the vivid ride over, and taken into a property on St. Helena Island off of the South Carolina coast.

The story continues in this vein, flashing forward to London at the beginning of each major section then back to the time that had been left off, spanning from approximately 1754-1793. She doesn’t experience the outright cruelty that is often seen in such tales, but the psychological trauma along with people’s constant betrayal of her trust are just as bad in the long run. And of course, she continues to dream of returning to Africa, which eventually happens but doesn’t turn out to be all she had hoped either.

Aminata, (called Nina by people in what would become the United States), tells the story in first person, with the amazing rhythm that comes from her initial culture, and even some snippets of the language she spoke. Interestingly, Colleen Delany the NLS narrator who reads this, reads the entire thing in an African accent. I must admit she does pretty good with this, as well as an American could be expected I suppose. Probably her American slave accents were not as good, but one really does not have issues when listening, as the power of the story itself takes you away.

I think the thing that interests me most about this piece is its presentation of a little-known portion of the history of slavery in the US, how Britain and their soon-to-be-Canadian colonists treated these individuals after they had aided in the fight against the American colonies, and even many Africans’ unwillingness to truly assist them. The latter happened in many respects because those coastal folks were being sweetened by the resources provided by their European colonizers.

I don’t know who this Lawrence Hill guy is, but I want to see if he has anymore work. Because this book, 18+ hours of audio, has me so captivated I can hardly put it down, even when I grudgingly have to at work. This woman’s life was amazing, and it does us all well to expand our views of how people lived under and rebelled against that awful institution.

Booking It With Libro, Supporting The Locals

As a blind person, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to exist in this era, where for the first time in history I can partake in printed, or recorded, words as they are revealed to the public. Books, maybe not necessarily the opiate of the masses, but the opiate of me. The only thing that makes it possible for me to slink along through this crazy life and the work needed to thrive in it.

I remember when I was first able to consume books on my own, be they in Braille or on tape. The specialized programs in our school subscribed us to our North Carolina branch of the National Library Service for the Blind (NLS), and we would receive a well-used copy of some hopefully interesting title that we needed to send back after consumption. Discovery was kind of fun though as often we had no idea what they might push to us, but in many cases we didn’t enjoy it either. And we didn’t have a whole lot of choice, aside from giant Book catalogs that would be distributed on a bimonthly basis and from which you could order, assuming your library’s branch even had it on hand.

The Braille books were bulky and often stretched across several volumes. The tapes, recorded for play in a “long-play cassette player especially designed to allow them to be slowed (or sped up, I’m not the only blind person who had tons of fun turning everyone into chipmunks) would often get lost or meet a bad end being “eaten” by the player. It was fine though, the library would usually take it on good faith if you reported a lost or destroyed item and allow you to continue . receiving new titles.

Even with that generous system, most of the time the best we could hope for was to be reading a book nearly a year after the hype had died down. But more commonly, we only had access to at most 5% of readable material, and that was better for us here in the US than in much of the world, a difference I hope is going away but which I fear still persists to some extent.

Anyhow, imagine my, our, joy when the Internet came into existence. Of course the NLS has digitized its collection, and really nowadays they get a lot of support from commercial outfits as well, which is nice because it definitely grants us more access than we’ve ever had. Then in the textual arena, there are services like Bookshare, which even further broaden our ability to grab great titles and take them in via Braille display.

On the larger stage, in the instances when commercial titles are not available via NLS, I had often purchased them from Audible. I suppose I like Audible well enough, but A it has become an Amazon company (something of a “big guy” in town, and B, I had often wondered how I might support independent booksellers. I believe these community stores do just that, enhance and keep our communities thriving. I met Rachel Simon, the wonderful author of Story of Beautiful Girl and Riding The Bus With My Sister, at Charlotte’s Parkroad books, for instance.

So, I grasped at the first opportunity I saw to merge both of those worlds, a site called Libro.FM which has Audible-like functionality (they’ve just introduced a $14.99 membership credits model), but they allow the Indies to take a cut from each purchase. You the consumer are allowed to decide which store you wish to support, and so I chose Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books because we also have a thriving writing scene in this area. Simon pegged her earlier titles while residing in the region, and my current favorite, Carla Buckley, is still putting out the good stuff while residing here as well. I want both my writer friends and the stores that in many respects support the work they do to continue to survive, even as the world turns into one big chain.

And on top of that, Libro has great customer service. Via Twitter, I pointed out, when downloading the iPhone app and taking in my first title, a few unlabeled buttons when using VoiceOver. They began working on it, and emailed me recently asking me to go back and take a look. I hadn’t had a problem with it even then, but it is still great when developers care enough to take the time to look into and fix an issue.

So I suppose that, for the time being at least, I am going to move away from the larger entity and stick with these folks for a while. If you would like a way to help the locals out in this digital age, I would invite you to do the same.

When Gentrification Arrives At Your Door

Or renovation. Rapid re-creation of a whole neighborhood. Call it what you want, the effects are the same.

We’ve all read the stories. Person, hard working, toward the lower end of the economic ladder, suddenly finds him or herself homeless. As we read this, we sit back and wonder to ourselves how this could have happened so quickly. Well I would venture to say that our current rental structure can contribute.

I have resided in my current large community here just northwest of downtown Durham for over four years. Each year, the costs have increased by about 20 to 30 dollars. Not too bad, right?

Except this year, they’re gonna hit me with the haymaker! They have been engaged in a steady process to re-design all of these older units to make them trendier, and probably more amenable to modern appliances. And let’s call it what it is, more expensive.

I get it. Located close to two medical facilities, Duke Hospital and the VA Medical Center, as well as that major university within easy walking distance, there is lots of money to be made in this area. And as guardians of the community (however all that internal stuff works), they have a responsibility to get that money flowing into their coffers if at all possible.

But what are those of us who are barely hanging on supposed to do? It’s a question I probably ask at least once a year, and every year it becomes demonstrably worse. Affordable housing is simply disappearing, and especially from places that need it the most for instance near said medical facilities and along transit lines. An example of this need? I have (had? well I think she’s still here somehow) a neighbor who moved into her apartment and lived there for 25 years so that she could have easy access to Duke Hospital in the event of somewhat regular heart emergencies. My guess is she has some kind of special dispensation that will allow her to remain there for as long as she pleases.

Certainly other than that though, I have noticed that this place has become a lot quieter. Most folks started packing up and moving out a good while ago, and my guess is it will be a while before the upper incomers start trickling in, once all of the reconstruction work has been completed.

As for me, this is not a tremendous deal. This is because I would have been moving on by January anyway, so that I can begin life as a married man. To transfer for the six or seven-month gap between now and then (I must depart by June 24th,) I have to pay these fine folks an additional $330 a month. That is a sixty (60!) percent increase, and would mean I would be living a lot closer to significant disaster due to any unexpected occurrence than I wish to experience. It seems silly though to relocate to some entirely unfamiliar venue for such a short period, and even if I decide to do that I am not sure where that would be as most of Durham, the Bull City’s prices have crept in that general direction. In any event, I have a couple of weeks to figure this out, on top of possible needs for other employment, grad school, and other general living interests. Chaotic, to say the least. But, it’ll all work out somehow because it has to. Wish me well.

Continued Community Integration: I’m in a @GoTriangle Video

If we, people with disabilities, wish to have our voices heard, then we must first make an effort to be part of the conversation. I have often done this with GoTriangle, our local transit system. I fairly regularly leave feedback, good and sometimes less happy, to their Twitter feed, and I usually receive a prompt response when one is called for.

Last month, I asked their social media person Samantha Allen to participate in an interview for the podcast I posted from the prior class. (I got a 97 on that by the way, which makes me very happy). I was pleased with all of the assistance I got in putting that together, and so I jumped at an opportunity to do my part by adding comments regarding GoTriangle’s push to create a light rail line that runs through Durham and Orange counties. I was indeed featured in the video which you can see buy clicking that link. My clip is about 30 seconds in, and lasts for approximately ten seconds.

I am impressed that they managed to distill something useful from that hour-long conversation, because it was difficult to think straight after a long workday that had left my brain in a fog. Beyond what was played, I discussed how blind people make use of automated announcements (which seem to have been modified slightly already,) the need to ensure that any such system would be accessible to all, including persons in wheelchairs, and the potential viability it could add to the community. I do think my thoughts were heard and considered, which I appreciate.

I saw on the video that a commenter already made the point that “disruptive technology” (think, Uber) is changing the equation when it comes to public transit. Well I don’t entirely agree with that. I think these two systems can work in concert with each other, especially as ride-hailing costs considerably more. It is good to have in a pinch and can grant me access to other areas that are not as easily reached by public transit, but for an affordable way to and from work as well as better crowd-moving during sporting events and the like large-scale mass transit still can’t be beat. Not to mention that it actually does contribute to the life of the community, resulting in real connections that change things.

So I am looking forward to the creation of this system, assuming I will remain in the area long enough to see it come to fruition. Frequent, widely available transit will increase my choices for where to live and work, and I believe that we all deserve as broad a level of access to those dimensions as we can get.

Thanks again to the folks at GoTriangle, who in my op[inion are in fact making an effort to get input from every aspect of their communities before going forward with this project. I will continue to generate comments as they come up during my commute.