Just Sightseeing

One reoccurring thing Mom said when she took us girls out shopping to a new place and made a wrong turn was, “Kids, we’re not lost. We’re just sightseeing.” Now, the first time Mom used that line, I fell for it since I was the youngest while my two older sisters helped her navigate. Back then GPS stood for “girl-perceived sightings” as my sisters looked for familiar landmarks or read the names of streets. Counter to most people’s approach to driving while lost, Mom never slowed down. If anything, she drove a little faster.  After several sightseeing trips, Mom’s conclusion morphed into, “We may be lost, be we’re making great time!”

And that’s pretty much how I’d describe the journey our country is taking: we’re lost, we’re sightseeing, we’re speeding through and we definitely need more girl-perceived sightings to navigate us to a desirable destination.

Hold up, this isn’t Freedom. I believe you just passed Accountability back there. Wait, I think we made a wrong turn on Ethics. Hey, shouldn’t we be on Constitution instead of Constitution Bypass? Ok just make a left onto American Way. No, your other left.

Wait, why are we at the military-industrial complex again? We’ve already spent a tremendous amount of money here. We can’t get everything on our agenda by spending most of our money here. We need infrastructure, education, healthcare, the environment…

What? Why of course I’d love to take a drive by the river. Which one? Really. The Rio Grande. Let me warn you: if you even say the word “wall,” I will beat your ass. Just keep that word outta your mouth. We could spend less money by helping those countries build their economies than by building that useless fucking wall. Increased trade creates more sustainable jobs here. But you know what? Don’t take my word for it. Why don’t you talk to the Chinese president again? He explained the complexity of North Korea to you in ten minutes. I’m sure he can explain how useful a big wall is for preventing unwanted immigration.

I’m not torturing you. It’s called enhanced interrogation. Well what do you expect? You got me back on this military-industrial complex again.

Yeah, I can eat. Oh, but don’t you take me back to Mar-A-Lago! I wanna go somewhere local. What do you mean you don’t know where else to go? You know what. Move over. I’ll drive.

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How Not to Be Smug

In an effort to reach across the aisle, I’m working on my smugness. But it’s hard. I read a lot and from a wide variety. Not just to be a know-it-all, but because I’m a writer. I like researching to broaden my understanding of things, even to the point of watching The Hannity Show after watching The Rachel Maddow Show. I progress through my ever-growing booklist, especially for materials that concern the third book I’m writing.

I’ve always loved learning, which is why being a teacher was such a logical choice for me. Although I’m no longer in the classroom, I still have a need to educate people and love that I can now do it through narrative and spoken word. Yet, I must work harder at not sounding so preachy or condescending toward those who initially seem allergic to facts or receptive to alternative facts.

The most empathetic way to interpret this phenomenon is, when people are desperate, they are more susceptible to fall for the machinations of con artists. Once they go down that path, they’re committed to the journey because they want the promised result come true. And the more religious the person, the more that person is prone to put their faith in the con artist or toxic leader. That’s what my research has told me so far. For those who’d care to fact check, please read The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians–and How We Can Survive Them by Jean Lipman-Blumen and The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It…Every Time by Maria Konnikova.

I read those two books over two years ago, long before Trump rode the escalator down into the Republican presidential candidacy. (How prophetic it was the DOWN escalator!) I’d taken notes on these books because one of the characters in my upcoming novel is a charismatic, power-hungry con artist or psychopath who uses people by charming them and saying what they want to hear, but only serving himself in the end.

To be clear, I write fiction. However, living through this election cycle and new presidency has given me the best examples of how to write the fictional character I have in mind. I have learned that no dialogue or action is too outrageous for my character to say or do as long as the other characters, who are his followers, believe.

No matter whether you’re a firm believer in real facts or alternative facts, everyone loves a good story. Here’s one I’d like to call my prediction of what will happen in the near future if the One Percenters get their way.

In the near future, the only people who’ll have the freedom to choose their own doctors are the rich since other people who cannot afford insurance, won’t have any. Instead of society paying for poor people to have health, including mental health and chemical dependency coverage, we’ll pay for the penal system to incarcerate them instead. There will be a rise in suicides, including death by police.

The One Percenters will continue to hoard both the wealth and natural resources to purchase politicians who will pass legislation to accelerate the concentration of both wealth and natural resources to the small number of superpredatory rich families who control the planet.

Simultaneously, technology will advance to make the colonization of other planets possible. At the same time, technology will continue replacing unskilled labor with machines, requiring fewer people to run society, especially to serve the needs of the superpredatory families. When those families leave planet Earth, they will only take the educated civil servants necessary to maintain their own status and comfort. Whatever life left on this mostly barren planet will give rise to the hardiest species since the toxicity of the atmosphere, water and soil will have reached levels not seen since the planet’s creation.

Over thousands of years, the Earth recovers. Doomsday religious texts will have been rewritten. Instead of fearing the second coming of a messiah to end the world, they predict the return of the One Percenters. The revelation is: humans never needed god or the devil. We had both inside us the entire time.


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Black Hair Products

Are you a white person with thick, curly or unruly hair? If so, now’s the perfect time to try mixed race and black hair products. Shampoos, conditioners, various hair dressings and oils marketed to black people may be just the thing your uncontrollable hair is screaming for. Just imagine being able to control the frizzies. Comb or brush your hair more effortlessly. And the best part is, since “race” is a social construct and not a genetic one, you may still identify yourself as “white.” Only now, you can do it with much better-looking hair. So, go ahead, experiment with either black or mixed raced hair products today! For people who identify as “white” who have hair that clearly does not.

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Lloyd’s Survey

Below is the text portion of the survey that I filled out for Congressman Lloyd Doggett. 

Dear Congressman Doggett,

I am currently a health insurance agent and I wish I could play some of the heartbreaking recorded conversations that I have with sick and/or poor individuals who cannot receive affordable healthcare coverage due to preexisting conditions or prohibitive premiums. Healthcare insurance isn’t a luxury item, like a cell phone or even a car, but an essential part of the infrastructure of our country. It is absolutely dishonest for any politician to suggest that Americans will have their choice of healthcare coverage when the cost is prohibitive to access that coverage. When people cannot afford health coverage, especially people with mental disorders and chemical dependencies, then society will pay for it via the penal system rather than the healthcare system.

Secondly, I was very disappointed that Betsy DeVos became the Secretary of Education. There is an anti-education movement that has taken hold of education by entrepreneurial-minded people who want nothing more than to profit off education through for-profit charter schools. Not only do they divert funds that should go to public schools, they advocate for vouchers as well to pay for their for-profit educational businesses that are in the guise of schools. If taxpayer money goes to any educational institution, then the student body should reflect the demographics of the immediate surrounding neighborhoods.

Lastly, although I accept that Trump is currently the president of the United States, I do not accept the free reign he has been given thus far. The American people did not elect a dictator, but Trump has thus far monetized the White House for both himself and his family, fired experts and replaced them with his incompetent cronies, and the controlling political party, the GOP, are allowing these things to happen just so Trump will continue signing what they want to pass before Trump is unseated. If Democratic leaders are too cautious to pursue impeachment, can they at least encourage Trump to resign? He’s already confessed that the job has been much harder than he expected and that he misses his old life. I think Democrat leaders should circulate a memo with easy-to-understand steps about how a sitting president can resign. You can even throw him a bone of giving him  the biggest farewell party the country has ever seen, using the leftover money that he raised during the inauguration.



Here’s his response, well-written form letters:

May 19, 2017

Dear Teresa:

Thank you for answering my survey and expressing our shared strong opposition to the disastrous Trumpcare bill. I voted against this bill, which would destroy protections for people with pre-existing conditions, bring back lifetime and annual caps on care, allow states to remove essential health benefits, like maternity and mental health care, and take almost a trillion dollars out of Medicaid. You can watch my remarks on the House floor here or read them below. I also spoke at a rally against Trumpcare at the U.S. Capitol, which you can watch here. Sadly, the Pied Piper of Trump Tower is playing a tune and Republicans believed they must dance.

Nearly every healthcare professional group has come out to condemn this travesty. Trumpcare is still just a scam—a trillion dollar tax cut for the superrich and some big corporations cloaked as health care reform.  I stand with the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, and families around our Nation in opposition to this terrible bill. As the AARP knows, Americans too young for Medicare by a few years will get socked with unaffordable premiums, as this bill allows insurers to charge them an “age tax” and raise their premiums to five times or more than that of a young American.

While Trumpcare takes away your coverage, it provides over $28 billion to drug manufacturers, with no strings attached—even as the price of prescription drugs skyrockets. It provides hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the wealthiest few and to large corporations.

If you think you are safe because you are covered by a large employer, watch out, these changes will hit you too in the policy’s fine print. Not only does this bill remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions—more than 4.5 million people under 65 in Texas—in the individual market, it also takes away protections for people with employer plans. This Republican bill brings us back to that sorry state of affairs before the Affordable Care Act, because if even one state chooses to cut essential health benefits like prescription drug coverage, mental health care, or maternity care, a large group employer could impose lifetime or annual caps on coverage once again.

Let’s pull together to resist yet another backward step upon which Trump is insisting. I also hope that you will take this opportunity to visit my Facebook pagefollow me on Twitter, or send me an e-mail at Lloyd.Doggett@mail.house.gov.

Please keep me advised of any federal matters with which I may be of assistance.
Lloyd Doggett

Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Rally Against Trumpcare

May 4, 2017

“Thank you, American patriots, for being here today. I’m Lloyd Doggett, from deep in the heart of Texas.  And way down there on the other side of the Red River, you can hear today the great Pied Piper of Trump Tower playing a tune. When these Republicans hear that Pied Piper, they think it’s time to dance. Well, it is a dangerous dance of indifference to the needs of families all across our great country. These Republicans, they talk about a “high-risk pool.” The real high-risk pool is the one they are voting for us to dive into. And when they swim with sharks, they’ll no longer be serving in this Congress.

These Republicans have been unable to hear the advice of almost every major group of healthcare professionals, physicians, nurses, and hospitals across this land. They’ve been unable to listen to those who represent people with disabilities like the March of Dimes, or diseases like American Heart Association or American Cancer Society. They can’t hear them. They can’t hear AARP, who is concerned about all those younger people who are not quite old enough to be eligible for Medicare, and who will face an astronomical increase in their premiums. But you know, they hear some people. They hear the price gougers from the pharmaceutical lobby, who have been on a rampant spree of price gouging pharmaceuticals across the board—and what do drug makers get out of this bill? A $28 billion windfall in their taxes, with no strings attached, just like the no strings attached to the superrich, who get a windfall from this bill as well.

We know it’s wrong, and what we can do in response is what we’ve been doing, and that is to resist President Trump, in every day, in every nonviolent way. To never give up, never give in, keep hope alive, and defeat this travesty.”

House Floor

“The harsh indifference of these Republicans to the well-being of so many Americans is startling. Trump may temporarily bury the lie central to this plan with a tweet storm, with fake news, but these Republicans who follow him, they will not be able to find an excuse, as one family after another suffers.

Today’s surprise attack on American health care has been widely condemned by health care professionals across the country and those who represent the disabled and sick like the American Cancer Society and March of Dimes.

Jimmy Kimmel – know that your baby was fortunate, but others born with a disability will face the barrier of pre-existing conditions. And they didn’t listen to the AARP, which knows those Americans too young for Medicare by a few years will get socked with unaffordable premiums.

They don’t know what this monstrosity of a bill costs to the taxpayers, they don’t know how many families will lose coverage, how many jobs will be lost; they don’t really know what’s in this bill.  They know only that the Pied Piper of Trump Tower is playing a tune today and they must dance. There is much talk about high risk pools—the real high risk pool is the one that everyone who votes for this outrageous proposal is about to plunge into.”

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Free Movie Passes

Although Cinco de Mayo merely reflects the Mexican state of Puebla’s defeat of their French invaders, the American food/beverage business industry has elevated it nearly to the level of a St. Patrick’s Day libation party. This year, Cinco de Mayo landed on a Friday. Another piece of evidence that I’m middle aged is that what I normally like to do on Fridays is exercise, then sip wine with dinner and chill since I survived another week of corporate America.

Yet, due to the Cinco de Mayo celebration, my apartment complex had a free taco bar and margaritas. Perfect timing for someone who’d just worked out. I met a few of my neighbors and spoke with the ladies in the office as I ate. Even in the presence of other people, I still finished my food in the same amount of time as I would have in my apartment, watching TV.

Last month, I’d received a pair of free movie tickets to see a biopic about Emily Dickerson. The friend who I invited to join me originally wanted to go at a 9 PM showing since he wanted to clean his house after work. Then he was invited to a margarita birthday party, which we went to prior to the movie.

The spacious house with hardwood floors brimmed with children playing and adults drinking. In the corner of the room, yet another taco bar awaited. Not the least bit hungry, I made a small sampler plate, starting with fried rice. The real treasure lie in the crock pot. A childhood favorite: spicy cheese dip with stewed tomatoes. Mom always put ground beef in hers, but the meat was in a separate dish.

Then I dove into the margarita bar. I followed the recipe of the night: 1 oz orange liqueur, 1 oz fresh lime juice, 1 oz tequila, splash of water. Seemed more like a tequila shot than anything else. I added a splash of ruby red grapefruit juice for sweetness. I began to feel my alcohol, thanks to the second margarita of the evening.

The birthday girl had turned 40 a few days ago. I welcomed her to the club. I’d never met anyone there before, but many had met one another playing kickball.

After eating, I ventured outside. If I’d thought the inside of the house was child-friendly, the the back yard was paradise. Most of the children were jumping around inside the enclosed trampoline, but there was also a homemade swimming pool, a homemade seesaw, but my personal favorite were the goats.

I forget the kids’ names, but they were both males, had budding horns and occasionally the black one kept mounting the white one. One partygoer made the observation that they had no upper teeth, only bottom teeth, which were very straight and long. I happily explained that some animals who groom themselves had what was called a “tooth comb.” My friend observed that the kids cleaned themselves like cats. Yet cats use their rough tongue and not a tooth comb.

Closer to the time we needed to leave for the movie, I took out the pass I’d printed out. For the first time, I noticed the disclaimer. We could only use it Monday-Thursday. I called the theatre, explained the situation and he told me that it was OK. After hanging up, I told my friend the good news, but admitted I felt that a 16 year-old had given me the green light.

I was right.

The situation turned out to be a little more complicated in person. The teenager working the ticket/concession stand didn’t know how to process the pass.  She showed it to another teenager with more seniority who had to get the guy who was around my age to approve it. Originally, he tried to give us shit, pointing out the obvious disclaimer. My friend and I both calmly explained that I’d called ahead to see if it would still be honored and had been told that it would.

The guy told us he’d honor it that one time and walked away. (So, on an extremely slow Friday night, we were probably interrupting his secret porn watching.) We got our drinks and walked into the vastly empty movie theatre. After all, how many people are going to clamor to watch a movie based on Emily Dickerson at 9:10 PM on Cinco de Mayo?

We were two of about twelve people there. The B-movie had some funny, interesting parts. I’d known that Dickerson had never married, but I didn’t realize that she died of “Bright’s disease,” a kidney disorder, which caused her to have back pain and seizures.

What amazed me was even though she had the resources of a rich family, she seemed very leery of marrying since she didn’t want a future husband to take away her writing. Amazing how, after all this time, that’s still a very real sentiment among women, artist or not.

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Community Art Sunday

I love spending gorgeous days outside. Although this Community Art Sunday centered around kids, I nourished my inner child as soon as I walked in by blowing bubbles.  At least I started off by blowing them. After a few seconds, I just held up the stick and let the strong wind do most of the work. Next stop was designing my own art advocacy postcard. My heartfelt message was far better than my so-called design: Only cool thing about that card was the juxtaposition of my finger shadows. Nonetheless, I’ve learned from experience that I can seldom go: 1, 2, 3, DRAW!  I’m much better at writing on the spot than drawing on the spot. I normally start off overly ambitious. So I drew very simply, which wasn’t at all interesting to look at, but at least I didn’t spend a lot of time drawing a hideous mess.  Of course, I had to photograph the homemade mermaid costume. Still not sure what her cause was, but I liked the effort.  Here’s another mom of the year, “holding” her son’s pet lizard while he was off playing.  Great day to hang out in the sun.  This display made my day since I’d previously thought all bees lived in hives. I’d never heard of solitary bees that made nests.  I participated in a short field trip to visit the Sustainable Food Center’s sponsored community gardens. Now, if only I had the life-giving touch to grow food or any plant for that matter. I thought I’d be more successful with a nearly indestructible plant, but it lasted about 18 months and its dead potted stem has sat on my balcony for much longer than that.

Those raised beds were for people who wanted to garden without bending over.
I discovered a few years ago that I wasn’t, in fact, allergic to bees; so, I left the tour group to go closer to the aviary. Although the glass walls may have given the bees a sense of being enclosed, there wasn’t a ceiling.  This flowered bench was my favorite and actually made me wish I could grow plants. Perhaps when I retire–if that fine day ever comes–I’ll make a sincere gardening effort. I probably would have left after the garden tour, except I’d heard a designer cake was on its way. These two cake decorators have their own TV show on Food Network. I’d love to catch a glimpse of myself in this episode, which will air some time in July. At first, I thought they had a parachuting wombat on the cake, which made no sense at all since there aren’t any calico wombats and clearly it was a parachuting cat.  I knew since the whole afternoon was dedicated to kids, I’d have to wait until they and their parents received cake first. People swarmed the table worse than bees. After a while, I noticed that people who had cake remained milling around the table. One of the women in charge of the event also realized that phenomenon and gently shooed them away. That’s when I made my move. I’d only seen one episode of their show, but the cake designers oozed passion and joy as they sliced and served their creation. I had to slow my roll just to take a picture of what I had left of my piece of cake.I asked a friend who happened to stroll by to take our picture.
Next thing I know, the TV cameras swarmed him. I would have loved it if he had broken out with one of his memorized poetry slam pieces right there on the spot. Instead, he enjoyed both the cake and frosting-covered rice Krispy while answering questions.

After dancing forro with a friend, I called it an afternoon well spent and went home to do some art on my own.

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Earth Day Celebration: Great Hills Hike 2

The first time I hiked this area with my Meetup group, we had a pretty relaxed time although the temperature was much hotter. This time around, some people actually bailed for fear of rain. The forecast was “cloudy,” which I pointed out, but not “rain.” Nonetheless, those of us who still met enjoyed the temporary cold front that brought us 68-degree weather and cool breezes. I was the only one in the group who knew it was Earth Day. Spending time in nature is a fantastic way to destress and celebrate the planet.  We crisscrossed those water crossings three times. The first two times because we ended up at the end of the trail in someone’s back yard. The third because, despite three GPSs, we managed to get lost. Each time we crossed, I made sure of my footing, especially my permanently injured left foot, which slid uncontrollably one time. At least I didn’t fall, but it hurt. At one point, our organizer suggested we take the “urban” trail, which was code for walking along the streets in the residential and commercial areas. Along the urban trail, we finally saw some wildlife. The woman who spotted the deer was a little too loud and animated when she saw them. I whipped out my camera just to capture them fleeing.

We ended up walking five miles instead of the original three miles we’d set out to do. For the first time ever, I had a copper sleeve on my left knee and ankle. Those things made the post hike recovery much more enjoyable, especially when three of us ended up at one of my favorite barbecue restaurants. The two guys wolfed down all of their food, but I had ordered enough to take some home.  I don’t usually go out to eat nor take home any leftovers; so I made the visit count and got three more meals out of it. Delicious brisket tacos!

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Haiku Death Match

As part of the 25th Austin International Poetry Festival, I hosted my first ever haiku death match. In the beginning, I was only supposed to host my own spoken word and poetry show, The Austin Writers Roulette.  Then, I accepted the offer to host and perform for as an opener for Bucolics Anonymous. Later, I agreed to host this event.

I’d half paid attention to the one haiku death match I watched over a year ago. Like a dutiful Virgo, I looked up the rules, typed them into my phone and then left my phone at home, rushing out the door to arrive at the venue early.

I had two different plans in mind just in case I had a slew of participants or if I hardly had any participants. For the former case, I’d have two poets read one haiku each and have the judges vote one of the pair off the stage in a sudden elimination round. Then when I got to the next round, with hopefully no more than 4 poets, I’d allow them to read more than one in the round to allow the judges to award 1st through 3rd place.  The only female participant, Ailana Larson, signed up first. Followed by Marsh Muirhead, then the host from the previous AIPF event, Chip Ross. Just when I thought the judges, who were not associated with the festival, had to merely distinguish places among the three poets, a fourth poet threw his monkey wrench into the ring. Steve Kocen wrote all five of his haikus moments before the competition.

In the meantime, I rounded up four chairs and put them on stage. Once both Chip and Steve had finished their poems, I invited the poets to be seated on stage. First, I introduced them. Then I explained the rules: read one haiku per round for five rounds; then, I’d gather the judges and we’d discuss the order of the winners. One thing I failed to mention, because I hadn’t read it in any of the rules, was that each poet would read his/her haiku twice. I guess that’s common sense, but not for me! I’m more of a limerick and free verse kind of poet.After five rounds…our fourth place winner was Steve Kocen. Now, I’d just so happen to have brought with me some Peace Corps posters, bookmarks and stickers.  As a matter of fact, I’d given both Ailana and Marsh stickers for being prepared and the judges bookmarks and stickers for participating as judges. So, it was only fitting that I gave Steve a poster. Our third place winner was Ailana Larson. She received her medal, certificate and trophy. Our second place winner received his bling and even gifted me one of his books of haiku. Then, an amazed Chip Ross received his first place bling.

Now that I have successfully hosted my first haiku death match, I suspect I’ll be asked to do that again unless someone else has a burning desire to do so!

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Capitalism Trumps the Handicapped

At the end of a shitty week, all I looked forward to was happy hour with a good friend at one of our favorite local Mexican restaurants. Cars had already filled the tiny parking lot. As I drove up to the handicapped parking spaces, my bad mood worsened.

A long plastic table occupied a handicapped space. I caught the eye of a woman who had set up a similar looking table across from the table that illegally blocked the handicapped space. I pointed to my handicap placard and pointed at the table as if that nonverbal communication would convey to her to move the damn table out of my way. Her attention returned to her wares.

I sat there fuming and brainstorming several scenarios, including getting out of my car to push the table out of my way when a couple, who were parked two spaces down from the violated space, left. Although my immediate situation had been remedied, the battle had not been won.

As I approached the restaurant, I whipped out my phone and took several pictures. When the hostess greeted me, I told her that I needed to see a manager about the vendor table in the handicapped parking space. She looked confused. Fortunately for the both of us, my friend had already arrived at the restaurant and intervened. I breathed deeply, actually proud of myself for not yelling. The hostess attempted again to engage me into the conversation of how big our party was. I turned my back to her while my friend answered.

We ended up on the patio, in the shade, where, if I’d just turned my head 90 degrees to the left, I could see the capitalist fucking over every handicapped person who may have wanted that parking space. So, I chose not to do that.

One thing I realize about myself is that I have to work on being more empathetic. At the very least, I didn’t want to sabotage our happy hour. So, I stewed in my own angry juices while asking my friend how she’d been since I’d last seen her. I calmed down by focusing on her. And truly she was a good friend, since she’d texted me before I’d arrived, a warning about the handicapped space. I just hadn’t read it in time.

After a few sips of the creamiest coconut margarita ever, I articulated the bias society has against those of us who are “permanently handicapped” and ambulatory. No one can see the metal pins in my left ankle. Or how I sit with my left foot propped up most of the time when I’m at home. Or how I wear copper sleeves on my left knee and ankle while I sleep. Or make a batch of turmeric pills periodically so I can take two every morning. Or go to yoga four times a week to work on my uneven, tight hips, creaky knee and metal-enhanced ankle. Or how I’ll never again walk up or down a flight of stairs without holding onto the railing even if I also need to carry things. I’d much rather make two trips than suffer another serious fall as I have in the past.

Instead of dwelling on the things I have to do not to appear permanently handicapped, I pursue happiness with as little limping as possible. So, I slowly walked away, minding my own business one day while some random guy in the parking lot kept yelling at me, “You ain’t handicapped! You ain’t handicapped!”

And I guess I should be happy that he couldn’t detect that I was. That I am.

What I try to project is strength because that matches my personality. Yet I respect my physical limitations even though I attempt to shift those boundaries just like any other thing that’s not governed by an immutable law of physics.

My friend and I enjoyed our dinner, talking each other off the ledge, venting about our jobs. Another friend joined us an hour later, bringing her own wonderful energy. At the end of dinner, I asked for the check and the manager.

With a civil tone, I told the manager that his restaurant was one of my favorites and I had been going there since 2004. Then I pointed out my car, the one with the handicap placard. Next, I pointed 90 degrees to my left. I explained to him that the woman who’d set up in the handicapped parking space to sell things was committing a crime. Also, I wanted to give him a heads up since I’d taken pictures and would report the incident. He said he hadn’t realized the situation, but would talk to the restaurant owner.

Now, I’m not going to stake out the restaurant, but I’ve researched and reported the incident, via email, to 311 complete with pictures. I hope that’s all it takes. My intention isn’t to shut down the restaurant or sue, but to ensure that other handicapped patrons of that restaurant have access to those designated spaces. It’s not enough to have handicapped parking if there’s no access.

Besides, it’s my civic duty to speak up, just like voting and paying for my financial obligations. Many handicapped people have fought to be treated as first class citizens just like black people and women. They all fought so people like me can be autonomous. I’m not going to suffer in silence nor shirk my responsibility. I’ll police those rights.

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Greenbelt Hike

Originally I’d planned to join other hikers/walkers from a Meetup group at the tail end of the Green belt.  Then, out of nowhere, a filmmaker friend came along with the SXSW swell.  Just so happen that the only mutual free time we had was the hours before my planned hike. Of course, I invited him along.

Since I didn’t want to be late for the hike, I messaged my out-of-town friend that I’d pick him up at 3 PM. Then I texted him that I was on my way. So, when I arrived and he announced, “Oh, I forgot you were coming,” in a hazy, post inebriation fog, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. I parked myself on his friend’s sofa as he got himself together, which required showering away the partying- until-6-AM funk.

Miraculously, he didn’t take as long as I thought and traffic wasn’t as heavy as I’d suspected. Even after stopping so he could get two bottles of water for the hike, we were still an hour early for the group hike. I made the executive decision to send a message to the organizer that I’d started an hour early with a friend. Then we descended into the Greenbelt.

Gravity pulled us down the loose gravel and jutting rock trail. After about 15 minutes, we heard the ambient sound of rushing water even though we couldn’t see a body of water yet. Once the sound became louder, we veered off to the right on a side path  and came upon a small waterfall.
With my hiking Meetup group, we would’ve continued for two miles and trekked back two miles.  Instead, I posed for a few pictures and we parked ourselves on a rock and just enjoyed nature and caught up for a while until I was ready for dinner. As I suspected, the walk back took twice as long although it’s always safer to walk uphill than downhill.

We came across the Meetup group who hadn’t descended yet and I greeted the organizer. He hadn’t read my message yet, but at least I was accounted for. We dashed down the street to my car and off to eat brisket and creamed corn.

Since barbecue varies with every region, even within Texas, my friend thoroughly enjoyed the brisket. For a change of pace, I’d also ordered spicy chopped barbecue since I’d never tried it in all the time I’d gone to that restaurant. That turned out to be his favorite.

Definitely time well spent since I hung out with him, hiked in a beautiful park, ate delicious barbecue and took home the leftovers!

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