Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Injury (Part Four)

British Columbia is beautiful. And Canada is filled with a lovely and vibrant people. I like to call them, Canadians. Despite the crutches, Cortes Island is a magical, beautiful place. Hell, the crutches really just added to the enjoyment. Everyone at the site knew my name, probably at first as "Howard? Oh, the guy on crutches. Right, that Howard." But soon it just became "Howard."

Sure it was challenging to hike down to the lodge from my room every morning and then crutch around from room to room, cabin to cabin throughout the day only to have to crutch all the way back to my room late at night to rest up for another day. (I know, I sound like such a whiney bastard. But I sweat alot, and crutching around is hard work. It's like being President. And getting to breakfast, meetings, lunch, meeting, dinner, party, and bed drenched in sweat gets old and pretty smelly after awhile. Especially considering the fact that I didn't shower the entire time. Shut up...you wouldn't have showered much either if you had to hop on one fucking foot the entire time. Be realistic, you fucks.)

The land is amazing. The view from the lodge (above) every morning, noon and night. The flower and vegetable garden, the organic farm where all the vegetarian meals came from, the unlimited fair trade organic coffee and toast bar (that's right, a TOAST BAR - from which Mad made me the ultimate toasty snack. The Triple Threat - toast with butter, peanutbutter and then honey. Delicious). The little huts where we had our meetings sprawled out on the floor. Enjoying the beach one evening while having an oyster bbq. My first ever oyster experience, raw and barbequed. The smoking temple. Oh, the smoking temple.

It was a really great experience and I'm glad the crutches didn't keep me from enjoying every moment. I met some amazing people, made some new friends, even met somebody with possibility. And all on crutches!

But the world is definitely a whole different place when 'disabled'. It's been a very humbling experience. Not so much on the island, where everyone was genuinely helpful, getting me meals, coffee, toast, and anything else I might need. Driving me around in golf carts and cars. Helping me up, contributing to my pillow monopoly, all the while making me forget about my ankle and confinement to crutches. But outside of the island, the world is a dark place full of stairs, rugs, curbs and holes.

From the time I arrived at the Vancouver Airport--crutching all the way from check-in through security and to my gate (the furthest one away, naturally), the hallway lined with electric carts, empty electric carts all charging, going nowhere, mocking me as I crutched by them--to the time I got back to Boston--after a red-eye back on the most inhospitable airline I've ever been a guest of, Air Canada, and a three hour layover in Montreal, a city actually more rude than Boston--I was an angry, pathetic, frustrated handicapped person scowling at every person who looked my direction. It wasn't pretty.

But I got home. Roomette picked me up from the airport, brought me home, where we were met by Roomalina. We got high, hung out, watched a movie during the afternoon and took a nap on the couch.

'Welcome home, Howard.'

'Thank you.'

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Injury (Part Three)

The next day, I was met by a van ready to take me to the next stop on my one-legged journey: 8 hours and 3 ferrys away to beautiful Cortes Island off the shores of British Columbia to get to this conference discussing technology and social change or how to use the web to propel social movements (basically a conference for socially minded geeks). My chauffer, GP, was meeting up with some other fellow conference goers at a nearby hotel, our first stop.

Now, I had never met any of these people before and yet I had to rely on them for nearly all of my basic needs. Food, transportation, etc. This was especially hard for me to take as I am the last person to ask for directions, food, or anything really. It's the only ultimately 'male' thing about me...I just won't ask for help when it comes to personal assistance. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and move on. In my case, this sometimes would be lasting for an entire week.

We arrived at the hotel a few minutes later, wondering where the rest of our party would be waiting. We didn't have to wait long. On the corner, a group of four or five guys were clustered around something, intimately gathered and obviously all very interested in one thing...a laptop. That's right, there they were, the social change geeks on the sidewalk with their laptops out and it wasn't even 7 in the morning yet. I was beginning to doubt everything about this conference. Soon we all got into the two cars and began our long caravan commute to Cortes.

Once on the road, the geekiness just got worse. At one ferry stop, these web geeks actually used one laptop from one car to transmit music to the other laptop in the other car. That's right, for fun we created a network between two computers to transmit music from one car to another. For fun. It was at that moment that I knew I was with complete geeks...and I was already beginning to really like them.

The road trip lasted about 8 hours total. The scenery was beautiful, the company and conversation was equally swell, and at one point I totally forgot that I was on crutches. It was a nice break, for I knew that I still had a week on the road before I'd be crutching in the comfort of my own city and my own home.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Injury (Part Two)

I've never been on crutches before. In fact, I had never broken a bone before. I really believed that I would go through my life having never broken a bone. But, as I made my way back to the car, on crutches for the first time in my life, reality set in: I'm old, my bones are brittle, and I should start taking calcium supplements immediately. I did, along with some soft-serve ice cream and a healthy dose of laughter.

I was well taken care of in Seattle, with friends and co-workers making sure I had everything I needed. However, my time of relaxation and recuperation was quickly ticking away, as my flight to Vancouver was rapidly approaching and I would then be alone, on my own in a strange land for the next week on crutches and basically immobile relying on the kindness of strangers for everything. I considered cancelling the trip altogether and either staying in Seattle to let those that were used to waiting on me continue to build their skill set, or return to Boston and let my roommates carry the burden. But neither of these options seemed viable. I had worked too hard to get to the conference and had invested too much time and energy to make sure it happened. I was going to have to suck it up and just fucking do it.

I'm not good at asking for help. And when you are stuck on crutches, you often have no choice but to just ask for help. Or at least accept help when it is offered to you (and everyone wants to help a poor gimp on crutches--if you don't then you are a heartless bastard). I'm also not good at accepting help when it is offered to me. I didn't realize this about myself until I was at the airport, checking in, exhausted from just crutching my way to the counter (a good 100 feet or so). It occured to me at this point, that I was just going to have to let people help me out, like it or not.

If you have never gone through the airport process in a wheelchair, don't. It fucking sucks. I hate the process when I have two good legs. It's even worse on wheels. Security was a nightmare. I had to go to the special line. The attendant wheeling me got in a fight with security. Instead of going through the metal detector I had to be frisked by a nervous male who kept saying "Sensitive area with the back of my hand, back of my hand" every time he would go near my ass or crotch, drawing even more attention to the embarrassing situation. The ride to the actual plane (a small puddle jumper in the middle of the tarmack that maybe seated 25 people) was quite interesting. I was wheeled down sketchy looking corridors and ushered onto secretive elevators, brushed through airline equipment and orange cones before arriving at the foot of the plane where my crutches had to be checked as they were too big to go on board with me (that is how small this plane was).

The flight was beautiful. It was evening on the west coast. The sun was just beginning to set as we reached our cruising altitude (which wasn't very high as the plane was powered by two propellers--one at the front of each wing) casting a beautiful soft light over the small droplets of islands scattered throughout the sea. It was barely light when the 45 minute flight came to an end and I was greeted by a very lovely Canadian woman positioned behind yet another wheelchair, ready to escort me through customs (up to this point I had forgotten that Canada is, in fact, a foreign country). As she wheeled me across the Vancouver airport and helped me get into a cab, I thanked her profusely, trying to make up for the incovnvenience that was myself. As it turned out, her husband had broken his ankle just a few weeks ago, and she was well practiced at the service and equally as happy to perform it for me.

She ushered me through customs, to the currency exchange (to get some pretty colourful Canadian money in exchange for my boring US bills), and to the cab stand where I was easily transported in a huge yellow van, to the apartment in the West End of Vancouver. Safe and sound I was able to shower for the first time since the accident, delicately standing on one foot the entire time.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Injury (Part One)

It happened in San Francisco. I was in Oakland for a conference and decided to spend the weekend in San Fran to do some sightseeing, sushi eating, and a little drinking. It was late on Saturday night. Fuck Face and I had spent the day enjoying the city--eating a late brunch, watching the Giants v. Dodgers game at SBC park, heading to the Castro for some beers with the gays, and finding a small quaint spot for some fresh west coast sushi.

Dinner was wonderful. After dinner...ehh, not so great. I ended up tripping down a couple of stairs and falling down. Fuck face was quick to help me up and we continued on our way. Deciding it was time to head back to Oakland, back to the place we were staying for the weekend. My ankle hurt, but I could walk on it. I drove us home, put some ice on the ankle, and fell asleep thinking 'tomorrow it will feel just fine'.

Tomorrow came, and it did feel fine, but it looked like a severly bloated version of my other ankle. The swelling was intense and I could barely walk on it. But I could walk on it, so I figured I was fine. We had a flight up to Seattle that morning, where I would spend a couple of days working before heading to another conference on a remote island in British Columbia, Canada for the next week. Sure that my ankle was just sprained and would be fine after a couple of days rest, I continued as planned to the airport, hobbling the entire way.

After landing in Seattle, it was clear that although the ankle was probably only sprained, I should head to the hospital just to be sure. We drove directly there from the airport. I spent the majority of the afternoon in a wheelchair, getting xrays, and eventually getting fitted for a temporary cast to secure my broken ankle. Yep, I had travelled from Oakland, CA to Seattle, WA on a broken ankle. But the guy who made my cast was so cute, it seemed almost worth it at the time...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Hurricane

I've been pretty angry about the devastation and lack of effective recovery operations around the Hurricane Katrina disaster. It was mainly white rich people with cars who were able to escape New Orleans, leaving mostly poor minorities to be stranded in their homes (if they have one) and hope for a miracle. Tourists and residents lucky enough to get to the Superdome now take priority over the many who walked or took other desperate action to get to the Houston Astro-dome, leaving those who got there first to wait in the parking lot while others are bused in right next to them. The looters have been marginalized--not as communities struggling to survive in a city where there is no potable water, no electricity, where it is 93 degrees, and under up to 20 feet of water--but as black criminals who take advantage of a crisis and hurt the profits of corporate giants like Wal-Mart?!?! This disaster has truly brought out the classist, racist and capitalistic behavior of America.

However, I have found a glimmer of hope. MoveOn.org has just launched a hurricane housing campaign to join people who need a place to live with generous people who have a room, bed, or couch to offer them. And there actually are some generous people out there. Here are a few postings from the campaigns website,

"My name is BB, and I live with my husband and two daughters (4.5 years and 14 months) in rural northeast Georgia (about 90 minutes NE of Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport). We have two rooms with a private bath that we would like to open up to host a family in need due to the hurricane while they wait to be able to get back to their own homes. It's an ideal set up for a family that has small children. One of the rooms has two twin beds (that can be pushed together). The other has a crib if it's needed, and can accommodate our queen-sized air mattress, and/or quite a few sleeping bags (it's the baby's room, but she doesn't sleep there yet). And of course, we've got lots of toys and fun stuff to accommodate kids and hopefully lessen their trauma during this stressful time. We live on 13 wooded acres and have a LARGE fenced area for our dog that could accommodate other dogs, as well. We cannot accommodate cats, though, because of allergies."

"We can house people as long as needed. we (2 people) live in a 3 bedroom house w/ a mother-in-law suite. we have a huge fenced yard for dogs . we will take anybody, and any animal please call we are here to help. "

'We Have Very Nice with 2 extra bedrooms we are a Gay Couple here in Birmingham Alabama, so we Kinda wanted someone Gay friendly or other Gay Men or women is Ok 2..we Might can Help with Work too... '

'I live in a small apartment in mid-town Mobile. We are one of the only homes with power and would like to do whatever we can. I will give up my bed for one person. It is all we have room for. I hope we can help.'

'We have a 4br/4ba townhouse. We have children of our own, but we have room for 2 adults and 3 children for sure. We could move things around to accomodate more if necessary. We also have toys, clothes supplies, etc. And, we are willing to open our home for as long as necessary for someone to put their life back together. There is no time limit on the offer. We are near good schools, and there are jobs available in the area. We are even willing to provide for food and needs for someone needing to stay here, including trying to help with transportation to get here if necessary.'