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!

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Outside, Looking In

…Another in a series of accessibility-related blogs….

I’m back in my soon-to-be-replaced-hip boat, waiting for my June 6th surgery.

Meanwhile, I move around outside my house by wheelchair; indoors I use a four-wheeled “walker.” I’m in constant pain, and everyday, I carefully and dutifully catalog the new aches and pains as the crop up: Currently, I have a strained left wrist, and a right ring finger “trigger finger,” and occasional numbness and tingling in my left thigh.

Exciting times, this.

I try to stay active and get out on weekends.

This past Saturday, I ventured out of my comfort zone to attend an “event” in the first block downtown/old town Belleville, Illinois, and frankly I was beyond disappointed: I was angry that over an hour of my life had been needlessly thrown away.

First I circled the block and consecutive blocks looking for ADA parking, and found none on E. Main Street. I found no signage directing me to any public parking lots that might have some ADA parking. When I found a parking spot on the block I needed, one of the shop owners had parked over the marked white line, giving me very little room to get my wheelchair out of the car trunk and onto the sidewalk. Another shop owner said there was handicap parking on the east side of the street, but when I wheeled myself to that side, I found he was mistaken.

Belleville advertises many, many activities though the year — Christmas, art festivals, etc., but frankly, for those of us who are mobility-challenged and try to remain as independent as possible, it’s a waste of time.

Just Visiting: Old Town Albuquerque

I had my right side Total Hip Replacement surgery on August 30, 2016. It’s amazing, this absence of pain. It, the pain, becomes such an integral part of existance that when you wake up from anesthesia and it’s gone, you’re momentarily confused.

Nevertheless, it’s awesome.

Except for the restrictions.

No bending. No bending while standing, no bending while sitting, so bending past 90 degrees. That means you use a three foot shoe horn to put on your shoes, and get someone else to tie them if there are laces, or you work out something else. You use a special contraption to put on your socks. You do not bend over to wash your feet and legs when you’ve been given permission to shower. No sleeping on your surgery side, and if you sleep on the other side, put a pillow between your legs.

And no driving.

Anyone who knows me, knows “no driving” and “MzSusanB” are mutually exclusive terms but I followed doctor’s orders.

Dr. Surgeon cleared me to drive again three weeks after surgery, on a Tuesday. The next morning I was on the road. First I wanted to see my mother in Atlanta, then I wanted to go to Myrtle Beach. Then, on the road to Myrtle Beach, I turned around and headed for Sedona, and ended up in Albuquerque.

No longer tied to my wheelchair, I was using a two wheeled walker to get around, so accessibility was still needed. Old Town ABQ is not for the faint of heart, as the sidewalks are brick, so the going is bumpy. The old buildings that make up the square often have narrow doorways, and the shops themselves are difficult to negotiate because they’re small and have steps in awkward places.

If you use a manual or motorized wheelchair or scooter, use caution.

But the air is clear and the colors vivid and I fell in love with the area.

 

 

 

Just Visiting: The Art Institute of Chicago (Van Gogh’s Bedroom)

The Art of Accessibility visits Chicago’s famed Art Institute to be immersed in Vincent Van Gogh’s sketches and paintings (as well as other works of art). ChiArtInstitute1312

The Art Institute is breath-taking.  While fairly sprawling, its collections are cohesive and comprehensive, but from a wheelchair accessibility point-of-view, the Institute seems to  lack understanding of the spirit of “accessible”.

IMG_7239Entry into the Van Gogh exhibition was on the second level. As shown above, there were two ques to enter at the pillars, with the introductory verbiage on the left wall and enlargement details on the right. As you went in on the right, you begin to see Van Gogh’s journey to Arles. There was no set path to follow; consequently, there were often bottlenecks as people viewed and backed up to view again, various works.

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But works are art are often hung at “eye-level,” and eye level seems to mean the viewer should be roughly the same height as the curator who hung the exhibition.

Even without the wheelchair, I’m 5’2″ tall, but in the chair, any work under glass such as this painting, had to be viewed at a severe angle to avoid glare.

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Then there was the opportunity to see works body blocked by those in front of you, which, I guess, is the price to be paid for infirmity.

The worst part of the whole thing occurred in the gallery which housed the three bedroom paintings. There are subtle differences among them, and I had managed to work my way to the front of the crowd, with the intention to just slowly move along with the crowd to view them.

However, a uniformed attendant (guard?) decided that I was actually trying to get out of the gallery and moved me even further in front of the crowd and moved them back so I had a clear path out of the gallery. He then continued to clear paths until I was out of the exhibition completely. I could have, should have, spoken up, but I think I was too dumbfounded to utter a protest.

The exhibition, of course, emptied into a gift shop, but there was hardly room for me to see what was available (sorry, Liz!), and the gift shop exit led you back to entry, on the side of the introduction, where everyone exiting decided they suddenly needed to read the what they missed.

Can you say “log jam”?

IMG_7252The rest of the Institute is fairly easily accessible, with a few tricky places.

As I said, my chief difficulty has to do with the eye level  of art and the accompanying signage. This seems to be a universal problem, which could be easily remedied if the curator(s) borrowed a wheelchair from the concierge desk and travel the exhibition or galleries before deciding final placements.

Look at it from a different point of view and make art truly accessible to all.

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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!

 

 

 

Just Visiting: St. Louis Gateway Arch

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Yesterday, I spent ninety minutes on the phone catching up with an old high school friend. He’s traveled to every continent on this planet except Antarctica, and will likely do that at some point, I’m sure. He links to travel blogs and challenged me to take a shot of the Arch  that hadn’t been done before.

Since “Just Visiting” is getting back on track as an actual road-trip blog, it’s only fitting and I accepted.

Now, I have pictures that my dad took of me at the Arch in 1968, when it had barely been open a year. I was about five. When I moved to St. Louis in 1988 or 1989, I didn’t drive and didn’t know anyone with a car. I got to know the Arch grounds and the surrounding downtown neighborhood  intimately. I’ve walked it. I’ve explored it. I’ve gotten drunk on the Landing and played slots when the Admiral was a casino.

I am here to tell you that I don’t believe there is a shot of the Arch that hasn’t been taken before. Just Google-image-search “St. Louis Gateway Arch.” Your return will get a gazillion images, including the architect’s drawings and crayon drawings. Do the same search on Flickr, and you’ll find more.

Also, there is a dearth of public observation decks in this town, unless you’re connected or can rent a riverfront hotel room for a couple of hours. In going through older photos I’ve taken of the Arch, I noticed that our urban planners didn’t give us any lovely, unobstructed views of the national monument, thereby ratcheting the need for creative camera angles even higher. (In St. Louis, “planners” is a very loosely defined word.)

But it’s all good.

You learn to work with it.

The thing about the Arch is that, obstructed or unobstructed, morning or night, winter or summer, it’s a gorgeous piece of engineering.

Its stainless steel exterior plays with light – no two mornings are ever alike, nor evenings, because of the changing nature of sunrises and sunsets. I’ve seen foggy mornings where half of the structure is lost in mist, and at 630 feet tall, that’s pretty impressive. If you watch sporting events originating from St. Louis, like baseball or football, you’ve likely seen local “beauty shots” incorporating it. Standing beneath it and staring straight up to its apex can almost as exhilarating as riding up the capsule-like elevator to the top, and feeling the whole structure sway slightly in the wind as you look out of the windows at the top.

It’s perfectly safe, though, and the view is spectacular. Don’t forget to ask the docent how they change the red airplane warning light outside on top!

For more information about the Arch, hours, admission charge to the top, link here.  The Arch, its grounds, and the Jefferson Expansion Memorial (which includes the History Museum in Forest Park), are administered and curated by the National Park Service.

(All photos by me, except the Feb 15 1968 set, which were taken by my dad.)

Just Visiting: Paducah, KY

Incorporated in 1830, Paducah is found at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, and is halfway between St. Louis to the west and Nashville to the east (about a 2 1/2 hour drive from St. Louis via I-64 east to I-57 south to I-24 east). A town with a strong river heritage, Paducah has decorated its flood walls with murals by artist Herb Roe (http://www.chromesun.com/).

 IMG_9972  Flood wall mural, Paducah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not far from the downtown river area is Lower Town, an artists’ enclave started in 2000, which offered incentives to artists to relocate to Paducah. The idea was to have artists purchase many of the old, Victorian-era homes and turn them into gallery-residences.

One of these galleries is Stornoway House Gallery/The Pottery Place, owned by Carolyn and Wil MacKay. Mr. MacKay will cheerfully greet you as you walk in and introduce himself as “The Curmudgeon of Paducah,” but in actually, he’s a wealth of experience and information and an excellent painter. Mrs. MacKay is the potter, and her work is exquisite.  Addtionally, the Gallery has studio art glass, handcrafted wooden jewelry boxes and many other objets d’art. (Stornoway House Gallery, 513 North 6th Street, Paducah KY 42001)

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