Well The Weather Outside Is Frightful

And the snice is piled a mile high, And since I can’t go nowhere, (I don’t care about grammar, because in my head I sound like Louis Armstrong) Let me read, let me read, let me read!

Ah, it’s already been way too long since I last darkened these pages with virtual ink. I suppose that’s mostly because I just haven’t been able to think of anything worth printing. I know though that I need to maintain some kind of presence here, so that you, dear reader, will not forget me. Plus, I’m about to get got for about 150 bones in order to continue using blindtravel.net. For that price, I should try and make it worth it, right? So bear with me as I try and write myself out of this latest block.

And on blocks, Old Man Winter decided to show up and throw a bunch of ’em at us last week. Whatever that stuff was, snow? ice? I call it “snice” confined me to the inside of my beautiful, well insulation-missing, electrical heating can barely keep up, 500-sqft apartment from Monday when I got off of work at 1 PM till Friday when I was finally able to return to said work at 6:15 AM. And o man, that was some of the coldest cold I’ve ever known, as we hovered around 5 degrees F with sub-zero windchills. And slide slide slippedy slide! All the way to the building.

During that prolonged in-between time, I had mainly books for company. I completed Kindred, by Octavia Butler. Often cited as the first work of science fiction by an African American woman, it revolves around someone who keeps getting snatched from her comfortable life in 1976 to varying times during the 1800s, whenever her White ancestor needs saving. These journeys back are frought with danger, as this black woman ends up on a plantation and has to basically become a slave in practice. While much of it is kind of sad, there are also interspersed some bits of comic relief. I enjoyed it overall.

I also read another Science Fiction, well ok maybe this one was more Fantasy, whatever it is that distinguishes those categories from one another, called Don’t Fear The Reaper, by Michelle Muto. Another of my indie Twitter authors, she writes a novel about a young woman, well a teen-ager really, who decides to take her own life because she can no longer stand being without her twin sister, who had also lost her life due to horrible circumstances that we find out about later in the book. When she “comes to,” she initially thinks that either she had been stopped before completing the attempt or she hadn’t gone through with it at all, but this turns out to be incorrect. She has instead entered another plane of existence, inhabited by “earthbounds,” those stuck in purgatory here on this planet, angels and demons, and reapers, the individuals who are charged with liberating souls from the dying body. Reapers also have scythes, literally hellish weapons with which they can whack demons and villainous earthbounds and vanquish their souls, in a puff of smoke and unspeakable pain, to the hotter environs below. This book also provides comic relief, in that the ghosts hitch rides with people in order to reach their destinations by simply sliding through doors and taking a seat inside of the vehicle. And the next time your engine sputters to a stop on the road, well maybe they are just trying to get out. This was an interesting, speculative read on the nature of suffering, why some of us take that final action, and whether this in fact relieves us of our pain. Of course it’s fiction, but it does stimulate the thought process.

Of the eight books I’ve completed this year, half have been Sci-Fi. I don’t expect that percentage to hold, but one thing I do enjoy about the genre is the ability of those stories to make you examine and ponder your surroundings in a new way.

And I guess that’s all for now. Y’all, when is Spring coming! Hopefully soon, hopefully soon.

The Real Deal 1: A Near-botched Arrival

I intend to title my whole series about this fun, fantastic trip to Las Vegas Nevada The Real Deal, since it was the theme adopted by the organization who put it on. And what is that organization? Well of course, the American Council of the Blind (ACB. This year marked their 53rd annual convention, and was my third convention in 6 years. I seem to have adopted an odd pattern of attending every three years, as I had in 2008 and 2011 before.

I am fortunate that I was able to depart on Saturday, for reasons you shall soon learn. First though, I shuck my bags and bounce down to the local Dunkin Donuts for reading and enjoyment of my coffee. While here, I decide that I’m going to save money and take the bus all the way to the airport.

This actually goes well. I first hop the 400/700 all the way to the Regional Transit Center, then I have only to wait a few minutes before the 100 bus comes to take me to Raleigh/Durham International Airport (RDU). The bus stops only a few feet from the terminal, and a traffic officer offers to help me inside.

“I’d recommend you take the curbside check-in,” he says: “as there’s no line out here and inside of the building it’s really long.

“May I see your identification?” the counter agent asks.

Someday, like now, I’ll learn to put my ID in a separate pocket. Because I have not so done, we spend the better part of 2 minutes combing through a thicket of plastic that would be sufficient to drown the world’s oceans. Once it is finally found, more bad news follows.

“Um sir,” he says: “this thing is expired. It has been for a while. If a year or less, you could probably get away with it. But any longer, and they’re gonna have a problem with this (up at security).”

Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous for me to have allowed my card to so aggregiously have expired. However, I rarely need the thing and when I do, no one points out this discrepancy. I had even flown a few times during its expiration period and not been flagged at all.

After waiting another 30 bone-jarring minutes for an assistant to lead me through the incredibly packed airport, we arrive at the security desk. I think the woman there actually consults the no-fly list, verifies that I am not on it, then just orders an enhanced screening. Not having realized that this second layer of screening has been put into place, I attempt to retrieve my items after sliding through the scanner as I normally would.

“No, don’t do that yet sir!”

After asking preliminary questions about medical or other equipment that might be implanted, possible sore spots and the like, I am asked to hold my hands out, palms up. I am then thoroughly patted from my neckbone all the way down to my toes. Finally I am cleared, but remain rattled for most of the rest of that day.

I try to calm myself while sitting in the boarding area by reading, but am unable to get into the book so give up. At this time it is just after 6. I drift and doze till my flight is called at 7:30, then make my way to my usual, favorite, right-side window seat.

This flight is strange to me, as about midway I notice that we seem to descend to a lower altitude and hold there for its remainder. Nothing is said about why this has occurred, so I feel nervous on top of everything else. In fact, it seemed nothing was really said by anyone after takeoff, making me feel I’d suddenly been sucked into a Stephen King novel. Needless to say, I was more than a little relieved when it was wheels-down in Las Vegas.

Another hour waiting for checked bags? *sigh* I am absolutely famished, since I haven’t had enough sense to eat some food with that coffee, and am just wondering what on earth is taking so long. Not to mention that it’s already pushing 1 AM Eastern, 10 Pacific.

Out to the Super Shuttle, the same folks I’d used when arriving in Tampa this December. We stop at 3 hotels before arriving at mine, the Riviera Hotel and Casino, and by the time I get up to my room and shuck my bags, it’s 11:35 Pacific. So? I’m going to get something to eat! This is Vegas, I’d guess second only to New York City in its unwillingness to sleep.

Using the hotel orientation that ACB has attempted to provide via Email, I make my way gingerly towards the food court. My room is in the Monaco Tower, 1 of five such towers, and so I have to take the elevators down, locate an exit that leads out to and past the pool, and try to remain on a fairly long sidewalk before re-entering the hotel at another door. The food court could also be reached through the casino, but obviously this isn’t the best idea for a blind person who wants to hold onto a little bit of sanity.

After even a sighted person and I get a bit more turned around, we eventually make our way inside. I choose a restaurant called Big Burger. And it is a BIG BURGER. While I certainly love the burger, I am most enamored with the fries. Just the right amount of seasoning, no need for ketchup. I also order sweet tea, and laugh as it doesn’t taste like Southern sweet tea. It really just tastes like some kind of juice. Hits the spot though, as I am dried out and thirstier than a camel.

It takes another 30 minutes of standing on sidewalks, just inside of buildings, and being passed from person to person, but I finally! make it to my room. I then slide very much contentedly into my bed and am out before I can even finish the thought about being too tired to read.

End of Saturday. Still to come, Sunday’s tour, tweet-up, and surprise dinner; Monday’s surprisingly expanded breakfast, deafblindness workshop, Vanda Reception, and Crazy Braille study; Tuesday’s basically just hanging with friends, and surprisingly large hot dog! Lot of surprises, huh? Stay tuned!

A Crazy Workday’s End

This post is kind of an extension of what I’ve already put in my Facebook status. Monday fun day? It had been a pretty good one until…

It’s about 2:25. I’m keeping myself awake with the many thoughts buzzing through my head regarding preparation for my coming trip, plans once I get out of there today, and the like. And keeping myself awake is an effort, as I’ve managed only about two hours of sleep the night before. I still get wound up like a kid when pondering travel!

Eventually, maybe five minutes later, I start to smell something. Because of my 2007 experience with a fairly significant fire, it takes no time at all for my nose to identify it as the first toxic whiffs of something burning.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the fire alarm starts chirping shortly,” I think to myself. If only I’d had the good sense to sling my bag onto my shoulders and place cane in lap while I continued working, which I could have done.

Sure enough, “deet, deet, deet”.

Naturally, one’s first instinct in that situation, even if one thinks it is a drill, is to just jump out of the chair and make a beeline for the nearest exit. This gut reaction is tripled when there is already an acrid smell in the air. Part of my mind, the asleep part, says don’t worry about taking a half second to grab your stuff. It’ll probably just be a drill anyway.

It wasn’t.

I grab an arm as it hurtles by, and we shoot a good ways across the factory floor, into another vestibule, and finally outside. This is why they suggest that totally blind individuals get assistance in a fire situation, because we don’t use the routes we’re used to. Given that, I left not only my trusty, much-needed cane, but also my bag behind.

Out into the blazing sun, where everyone milled about chattering and awaiting that eventual all-clear that usually comes. 2:45, 2:53, 3:00, and 3:15 pass. Quitting time is 3:20.

“Ok,” one of the supervisors pipes up as we draw near to that time, “they’re not letting us back in because the smoke is too thick. Anyone who can still leave, please consult with a supervisor to get a ride to the other side of the plant where all buses will gather. If your stuff is inside, you’ll have to wait. I’m in the same position, as I’ve left my keys in there!”

I and a couple others groaned, knowing we would miss the 3:30 departure of the 700 bus to Durham Station. It was even worse for the individuals who needed to meet paratransit. I think the supervisors agreed to take them home.

Fortunately, I suppose, not much else happens. I guess the fire folks just gathered up all of the items we wanted and brought them out to be reclaimed by about 4. They inform us that the smoke is so thick we may not be able to go in tomorrow either, and so I’ll have to check that before attempting to catch the bus. The biggest issue while waiting is the intense sunshine, causing every part of me to go bone dry.

All things considered though, it could have been a lot worse. I don’t know what may have caused the fire, and wonder also why it took a good 5-8 minutes after I smelled it for the alarms to kick in. Perhaps we’re gonna need to speed that time up a bit. And despite the inconvenience caused by doing it, I still believed I made the correct decision to skidaddle rather than gathering my things, especially as I hadn’t done so when I first noticed something amiss. I can replace those, but I can’t replace me!

Definitely not the plan I had for today, but that’s how life works sometimes. Now I’ll suck down this pizza and not feel guilty about it, and then it’s outside to read. I guess I can say never take a moment, a thought, a breath, for granted. For things can change before you even know it.