This is a Love Letter

wedding reworked

This morning I dreamed of someone I haven’t seen in over thirty years: Pete Doyle.

In my dream, Pete was all mixed up with the actor Henry Cavill, who is a whole ‘nother story, but I knew it was Pete. He was in another bedroom in my old house, down near my dad’s bedroom, but upstairs, in the attic. He was going to buy the house once we had moved all of our things out of it, but as usual, I was behind in my laundry….

I met Pete one spring (I think) at South Street Seaport in the late ’70s. He was part of the pier crew; I was a volunteer docent for the museum, and still in high school. Sometimes our paths would cross, sometimes not, one time I got to go see the inside of the apartment he shared with a couple of pier crew guys. Pete was always a gentleman, and never made a pass at me.

The last time I saw Pete, he was getting ready for a date (not with me), his dark brown curls still damp from the shower, black jeans on, shirt almost buttoned. Pete had green-brown eyes, and a dusting of freckles across the bridge of his nose.

He smelled of fresh shower and Paco Rabanne. No one has been able to or been allowed to wear Paco Rabanne since.

I was lamenting about some late-teenage/early twenties angst. Time, of course, has erased that drama from my memory: It amazes me how many earth-shattering crises are faded out or completely erased by time. But Pete said to me that family life is real life and the working life is our illusion. I’ve carried that with me close to forever now.

I knew Pete was from Massachusetts, around Martha’s Vineyard. I knew he was an aspiring writer. I knew he had worked on something with Chuck Burris — yes, “The Gong Show” Chuck Burris. Pete Doyle, however, is a fairly common name, and I’m not a highly skilled Googlegirl to do more than a couple of search terms at a time.

I miss Pete.

I’d like to know what’s become of him, and if life treated him kindly. I’d like him to know just how much of an impact he made on this one human being, so many years ago. If you had a Pete in your life, let them know they impacted you. If you know my Pete, you’re blessed, and tell him to drop me a line.

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Prepping for my Life

My mind has been in a state of large curd cottage cheese.

I’ve been more concerned with politics than I want to be. The US government is in turmoil, people are being forced to work with the promise of pay sometime in the future, and I’m looking for a new job.

Sometimes it’s really, really, hard to stay upbeat and optimistic, but I stay busy, creating. Currently I’m creating one-of-a-kind blank greeting cards (see above) that are waiting to find new homes, as well as other collages and art items. And I have an idea for which I’m developing an actual business plan.

As always, my art is available for sale, and reproduction rights are also available. I have a large portfolio of photographs as well as the collage cards, and I recently did a custom book cover for “Duel Visions” which will be published in February.

My blog, “Just Visiting,” is up and running again and you’ll see new content with links to other websites — we’ll be seeing more art and crafts galleries, and interviewing the creators, as well as keeping an eye on the physical accessibility of these places. Even though I got my second hip replaced in June, I still have difficulty walking, and so I’m always on the lookout for ease of access.

Please let me know what you’d like to see! Comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Thank you, Mr. Serling

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I have a problem with time, and I blame it wholly on Rod Serling.

Like others, I grew up on The Twilight Zone in reruns, and as “primitive” as that early television was, its writing was top-notch, and it left its mark on me.

Mr. Serling was always playing with time, wishes, and consequences. Who could forget poor Mr. Bemiston (Burgess Merideth) in “Time Enough At Last”? Always trying to read, always being thwarted by his work or his wife, who regarded reading as a waste of time.

Being an artist, whether I’m immersed in photography or mixed media or assemblage, work definitely does get in my way, but grudgingly I admit, it does keep me in supplies.

Misha, however, does not regard creating as a waste of time. Being a writer himself, he understands the fire that burns inside, and he believes that all of us have in us the need to create — art, writing, gardening… so many, many things.

My problem with time is, like other people, there doesn’t seem to be enough of it. Work is x hours, commuting is y hours. Cleaning is w hours, sleeping is v hours. To see friends is that much less time that I have for painting.

So I make, or remake, clocks. Discarded clocks that no longer have homes come to me and find themselves with new faces, and maybe new homes. We’ll see.

 

Just Visiting: Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO

Life, and the Art of Accessibility

Part 1: The Grounds

I will admit it: the Missouri Botanical Garden (MoBot) is my gold standard — “the best, most reliable, or most prestigious thing of its type.”

It is the botanical garden I know most intimately, since it is only a few miles from my home. I have walked it (when I had functioning hips) countless mornings through every sort of St. Louis weather. I have taken thousands of photographs, some that I’ve published in Flickr, others I’ve exhibited. Now that my major exercise is via wheelchair, MoBot’s universal accessibility design is what I use, consciously and subconsciously, to contrast and compare other facilities.

As I said, MoBot is my standard. Only 75 acres within the city limits of St. Louis, this place was once Henry Shaw’s country estate. It is lovingly cared for by staff and volunteers, and hosts several festivals throughout the year.

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It features several themed and educational gardens, including the English Woodland Garden, the world-famous Japanese Garden, and the Kemper Center for Home Gardening.

 

This venue is fairly easy to maneuver — most grades are easy, with a couple that are challenging – such as the slope from the Japanese Garden to the George Washington Carver Garden, but if you take your time with them, you’ll have very little difficulty. I have not found one slope or ramp where I feared losing control of the wheelchair.

While it is not perfect, for the most part, some serious thinking went into the accessibility design for this garden.  — Except for the handicap stall in the Women’s Room in lower level of the Kemper Center: I’m not sure what they were thinking about when they slapped that one in….

In fairness, at this visit I did not try maneuvering through several of the buildings: The Linnean House, The Climatron, and The Temperate House. I was enjoying being outside in the sun and the brisk breeze, and by going into the buildings (especially The Climatron), my lens would have fogged up. In a month or two, when the temperature moderates, I’ll tackle those and review them.

I did, however use the handicap-accessible restroom at the Japanese Garden (a little difficult to get into, since the main entry door is not assisted), and I browsed the goodies in the Garden Gate Shop. The shop has plenty of room for browsing, and most items are within arms’ reach. Staff members were courteous and offered to help without sounding like they were being bothered, even though it was a very busy late morning (a plus in my book!).

 

 

 

 

What Three Years Can Do

My last blog post for Just Visiting was October 2013.

Since then I have been employed in a position that I enjoy, but is often as frustrating as it is challenging, and have developed some health and wellness problems which has resulted in re-examining how I treat myself and interact with the world around me.

I have some issues which I consider “minor,” –high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, and depression. By minor, I mean they have the potential for becoming dire and serious, but if I watch myself, they are controllable.

For me, the biggest and most life-impacting diagnosis I received last summer is that I have osteoarthritis in my right hip (and I suspect I’m developing it in my left hip as well). Every person’s hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint cushioned by cartilage. Essentially, I have no more cartilage in my hip where the ball rotates in the socket; I have bone grinding on bone.

It’s no fun, of course, but a cortisone injection makes it bearable. Ultimately, the joint needs repairing, but I neither have $6500 (my medical deductible per year), nor do I have six weeks to spare as recovery time. But life must go on, eh?

Enter “Life and the Art of Accessibility.”

As many people know, I love my road trips (and my photography). I can still drive but exploring new places once at the destination is now challenging. I cannot walk distances like I used to. I use a cane for stability for short distances, but exploration is bigger than that.

For the longest time, I resisted the very idea of using a wheelchair for assistance.

It felt like capitulation.

What changed my mind was going with Misha to VisionCon in Branson, Missouri. VisionCon recently changed its venue to the Branson Convention Center which adjoins a Hilton Hotel. We borrowed a wheelchair from the Hilton concierge, and I had a fabulous time! I discovered wheeling myself around was fun, kept me mobile, kept me busy, and gave me a workout that is helping my upper body and getting my heart rate moving. It makes a mess of my steps numbers in my Fitbit Flex, but life isn’t perfect, is it?

Since then, we purchased a used wheelchair which I keep in my car. I can pull it out and go wheeling for exercise in the morning if my joints hurt too much to walk at the Grand Basin.

I can take it out and go shopping (wicked evil grin).

Best of all, I can go places and shoot photos again.

Now, however, I have to make use of ramps and power doors and pavement. I have become aware of inclines and downhills. Can I negotiate the gift shop? – or am I going to trash half of the displays along the way?

Oh brave new world!

And with it will come reviews of places — some ordinary, some not-so-ordinary — from an accessibility point of view. It will be truthful, and so it might be biting, but the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, and independent access to places should, by now, be less the exception than the rule, especially to places such as museums and botanical gardens.

So while the accessibility aspect of the review may not impact you now, it might at some future time, or it might be important for someone else in your life, as parents and grandparents age.

Who knows. Let’s just go!

 

 

 

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

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There are a couple of things you need to know about me: I am not a political animal and I do not watch television.

I watch streaming, via Netflix or Amazon, but I do not watch broadcast television or cable TV. I’m usually a season or more behind in even knowing what’s out there.

Currently, I’m watching Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” which is copyright 1990.

On November 19th, 2013  — just next month — it will have been 150 years since the national cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated. 150 years since Abraham Lincoln gave us a two-minute address that continues to be relevant today.

In July, I visited Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, which is on grounds managed by the National Park Service. It’s strange visiting a place like that, knowing what would happen in the Lincolns’ future — that he would be elected President, that one of their sons would die in Washington, that the President himself would be assassinated there and never return to the only house he ever owned….

And behind all of that is the huge and bloody stage of the American Civil War.

In 1959, the last Civil War veteran died, and with him, I think, went our last connection to the domestic war that slaughtered 600,000 men– some of whom had gone to school together, or were relatives of each other. Without a Civil War veteran to remind us of the high price we paid for a continued union of States, we have fallen back to the shrill rhetoric and dearth of compromise that led up to secession and war. These days I see, and I hear, the similar passion and fervor that led this nation down that path.

We are a nation of related strangers. Our forefathers all came to this country from somewhere. This is what makes us fabulous.

My adopted grandfather’s family can be traced back to the 1700’s in what is now Germany; they fought in the Revolutionary War, and they fought in the Civil War (Pickett’s Charge, to be exact). What makes this nation work is its design — the three branches of government, and the checks and balances it’s supposed to have. Has the design evolved over the years? Of course it has. Is it perfect? Oh hell no.

But it is the best we have.

We still have the right to vote (yeah, let’s not get into that whole Electoral College thing right now); we can still call or write to our elected officials (yeah, let’s not get into that whole are-they-gonna-bother-to-listen-to-me thing right now).

We can still participate in the system; we can still influence and change the system, if we choose to, and even in choosing not to influence and participate, we have the freedom of choosing.

That’s pretty crazy cool, I think.