Emma’s meat manifesto:

1. i think people need to have access to food that is good for them, their history, culture and biological needs.
2. i think food needs to be raised, cultivated, etc. in ways that are safe, humane, environmental for animals and people.
3. comparing animal raising to slavery or other human systems of torture, genocide, concentration camps, etc. is offensive to those who have endured those systems and diminishes and desensitizes people to those systems.
4. manure, a mainstay of organic farming is as much an animal product as meat, milk, eggs and leather. i don’t know how anyone can think she can step out of that reality. (and in an organic garden/farm, the carnivores are the good guys, because the herbivore “pests”– that’s what they’re called, eat the crops. farming is cruel to plant eating insects, snails and other absconders.)
5. condemning eating dogs or horses while having no problem with killing cows, ducks, chickens, sheep and goats is cultural bigotry and self righteousness.
6. there’s a circle of life and it includes for many species eating meat– either as carnivores or omnivores.
7. there are some medicines that come from animal products and discussing the morality of eating meat without considering that, is outright ableist, and in trajectory, genocide.
8. industrialized society, specifically settler colonialist entities are disconnected from the trajectory of most of our actions. food is no exception.
9. i have raised and slaughtered my own food. i am aware of the process.
10. whenever we save money on something it means a person is probably only making 2$ a day on that product. that outrages me.
11. people going about their lives as if other people weren’t in prison unjustly and inhumanely or being bombed by the empire, that outrages me.
12. the conditions that workers endure to put food on our table, that outrages me.
13. i really see no moral difference in outcome, all things relative, if someone knows where meat comes from and if they don’t. dead is dead. though i do think more awareness would bring about greater food justice to people and animals.
14. i have no idea how animal rights activists “check” themselves. it’s not like bessie the cow can say to you “hey, i know your intentions are good, and you’re really up there with that human savior syndrome, but you don’t really represent my interests. you see, i’ve been historically selectively bred specific to a particular human need for thousands of years, and if they stopped breeding me, i would cease to exist, my species would cease to exist. so unless you’re expecting to have a herd of cattle as pets, or are demanding huge public spaces for us to roam freely, i really don’t see how all your efforts don’t simply result in genocide for me and my cow peeps.”
15. would that food police, food fascists and animal “rights” activists focus their outrage in responding to environmental racism, food deserts, equitable access to food, food choice and healthy food options.
16. i support species rights– the rights of species to endure. i support environmental policies that protect people and animals.
17. the dismissing of the eating of meat as “simply cultural” is another example of cultural imperialism and racism. let us instead support traditional food production, which is often much more consistent with humane treatment and environmental safety and stewardship. we must respect historic and traditional hunting grounds, animal domestication, agriculture, family and communal farms and permaculture.
18.live and let live– i don’t see meat eaters going around demanding everyone eat meat, as part of an essential political mandate. (though the bullying of vegans and vegetarians to eat meat,  by meat eaters they know is also unacceptable behavior.)
19. animal rights movements that don’t address the issues of dis-ability access to society, including to autonomous food choices and body autonomy and don’t denounce peter singer and peta are not allies in any struggle for social justice. so just don’t even talk to me. you weren’t talking to me anyway. i wasn’t really human– or animal, for that matter.

(in numbering these points i am not suggesting a hierarchy of importance. i’m simply counting.)

um meat, i love you let me count the ways.

_____________________________________

some source material that inspires me to fight on, even when i’ve been raided and interrogated by the food police:
1.  http://meloukhia.net/2010/03/before_you_criticize_the_food_choices_of_others/
“Food policing is an area in which all sorts of assumptions are made about class and ability status. It goes hand in hand with the idea that people have an obligation to be healthy, that all bodies are the same so there’s only one way to be healthy, and that there is virtue in eating “right” as dictated by current authorities in the food world. Like, say, Michael Pollan, who is editorialized fawningly in numerous publications all over the planet for his “simple” and “helpful” food rules.2.

Unspeakable Conversations (Should I have been killed at birth? The case for my life.)

He insists he doesn’t want to kill me. He simply thinks it would have been better, all things considered, to have given my parents the option of killing the baby I once was, and to let other parents kill similar babies as they come along and thereby avoid the suffering that comes with lives like min…

3.

No Room at the Inn.

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two scooters loaded into our van.

well, i’m on vacation, the first vacation in years. it’s piggybacked onto a conference my partner, andy griggs has in oakland.  so we planned to drive up the coast, stay near san luis obispo, drive to emeryville, near oakland, stay for a few days, head back, stay in santa cruz, and come home.

tonight we get to our hotel on avila beach,  which we were able to get at a great rate, through a special program. it’s a very nice place.  i checked the web page and called in advance, before booking the room, where  a high degree of wheelchair access was indicated; even a lift to allow for pool and spa access (which neither of us needs, but it’s an indication that we would be welcome and accommodated, unlike those places where they go out of their way to keep us out. — more on this later.) when i spoke to hotel staff,  i very carefully explained that we didn’t need a wheelchair adapted room (lower cabinets, walk in shower, etc.) but that we needed to be able to get to the room without obstacles (stairs, for example) and be able to get our scooters in the room.  i even asked how many elevators there were and was told that there were two. (because i’ve had the experience of no access because the only elevator is broken and i just couldn’t get to my room.)

we get to the hotel and ALL the accessible parking spaces are taken. the other spaces are down a steep hill, and past rows of cars, which is really dangerous for wheelchair users because cars can’t see us and we can be backed into.  it’s 9:30 PM.  after considerable negotiations a very kind clerk and a very rude security guard “let” us park in the blue striped space which risks a hefty ticket and towing fee.  no other option was given to us and our offer to have the security guard park our car for us is rejected. initially we were told we would have to park down the hill. i explained that we couldn’t do that, that i wasn’t even sure the scooter could get up the hill.  i was exhausted and explained that i was now in a an impossible situation, that they were basically telling me to do something i cannot do.  AND I CALLED BEFORE BOOKING THE RESERVATION.  we we’re told that they have met their legally required number of spaces. like that makes the fact that i can’t leave and can’t stay, any better.  i check and see that neither of the cars on either side of the blue striped space, is a van, which would mean our car would be blocking side door van lift access to their car.

the clerk was embarrassed by the behavior of the security guard who showed absolutely no empathy, and had made sure to repeatedly tell me what he could not do and how the legal responsibility of the hotel had been met. (except that I HAD CALLED BEFORE MAKING THE RESERVATION, AND THEY SHOULD HAVE LET ME KNOW THAT PARKING MIGHT MIGHT MIGHT BE A PROBLEM.) “he’s usually a very nice guy, she said.

“well, dis-ability brings out sociopathy in normally empathic people.” i explain. we’ve seen this before, a lot. many of my fb buddies have seen this on online discussions, and my real world friends have seen this in situations like the one described here, when we go out in public, where absolute cruelty without consequence is demonstrated unabashedly.

we park the car, and head off to the pool and i relax in the hot tub, to the extent that one can relax while paying to be discriminated against. we get up to our room. it’s now 11:00 and we’ve had a long day and we have NO SPOONS* left, and i notice a message light on the phone and call the front desk to find out that while the hotel won’t be towing us for parking illegally in the blue striped space, if another guest calls the cops, we could end up away from home without a car and have to spend some serious time and money to get our car back.

so far no one has offered us anything other than NO-pologies, like “i’m sorry you’re upset”, we’ve not been offered any comps or real options.

what they do offer us, is to allow us to re-park our car at the base of the hill and access the hotel via the employee entrance. had they offered this when we were in the lobby, we would have been fine with this. but it’s 11 PM and we can barely move.  this means scooting down to the lobby, loading the scooter into the van, driving the van down the hill, parking, unloading the scooter  and scooting back up to the room, which is about 2 blocks of corridors from where they are now suggesting we park the car.

andy decides to take them up on this offer, because risking getting a huge ticket or having our car towed is just NOT an option.

earlier in the day we saw a restaurant in santa barbara, and i wish i had pictures, but my digital camera was in the car, and my iphone was out of electricity. it was a restaurant that could have been accessible, it was even ramped, but the management had carefully placed signs and plants and tables in such a way that access was impossible.

this is why so few pwds go on vacation.

now, before some bar hopping, “slunting” pedantic activists from yale, or USC,  privilege bait me (you know who you are!)  for having the nerve to complain that i can’t access a luxury vacation (it’s not like low end travel is even remotely an access option!), please tell me, are there any other demographics to whom hotels and restaurants would acceptably bar access; would refuse to provide equal service for the same payment?

the day was otherwise pleasant, beautiful coast, photography, talking in ways we haven’t before, or at least so long ago,  i can’t remember,  and much needed time together, but right now, i don’t really want to be here, and yet i also am just not able to leave, either. i do hope tomorrow is better.

and returned to the room, and tells me the charger to my scooter isn’t working. we have one charger between us, for two scooters. hoping we don’t lose that one too.

relax relax relax.  ohhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmm.

*http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

letter to a friend who suggests i am sick because i want to be

your ideas aren’t new to me. i don’t talk about my illness nor am i sick in order to get attention or because this is what i actually want. i have enough talented and intelligent, that if i weren’t this sick, could get a whole lot of attention doing a whole lot of things. as it is, i could get more attention pretending my illness didn’t impact my life the way it does. i could get a whole lot of attention pretending to be positive and happy, when i’m really not. i think there is a greater truth to be told, and a cost to that truth, but i also appreciate that my ability to articulate my experience is of benefit to those who also endure what i endure, but don’t have that capacity. —they tell me this! hearing from people who are validated by my words is priceless and makes my efforts valuable, to me, and apparently to others.

i think we live in a very compassionless society that blames people for their misfortunes and loves stories about people who “made it”. it’s a lot easier than actually taking care of each other. it’s easier than compassion, and it’s a politic that supports a brutal ruling class– that the rich got where they were, because they THINK better, that healthy, beautiful people are somehow more spiritual, superior.

it’s a politic that i embraced at one point in my life, and it rejected me. it doesn’t work. at a certain point all it does is create huge areas of denial –denial of pain, denial of people from the margins.

i do make healthy choices– eat healthy foods, do yoga, meditate, take vitamins, etc. i’ve tried many expensive modalities for treatment. i’ve thought good thoughts, etc. i’m sick. it’s just the way it is. (actually there are things i can do to get better, but some of them are too expensive right now. i simply don’t have the money.) thing is, when i get sick like this, speaking the truth about my condition, and resting resting resting is what helps. i’ve had this condition for 15 years. i know what it takes to manage it.

friends who want to help can offer to do so. they can ask my partner what they can do to ease his responsibility. they can give me rides to drs offices, bring over food, help out around the house, bring groceries, help raise funds for the care i can’t afford, support my work, or even, just visit. just sit and bear witness to what i real, what the present challenge is. — the things people used to do for each other, what they still do in compassionate communities.

life isn’t changed because we think good thoughts. nice idea, but it just doesn’t work that way. i’ve know a lot of people who were really silenced and marginalized with this thinking– people who have survived cancer, but not because they thought better than the people who didn’t. i lost friends to cancer who tried to be positive, ate all the right foods, did all the right things. i think it added to their stress, when what they really needed was to say exactly how frustrated, scared, alone they felt.

we tell people they create their own condition because it excuses a whole lot of injustice and marginalization, and because it makes us comfortable. it’s not easy listening to people in pain. it’s not easy listening to people who complain. it’s a lot easier to silence that in a spirituality of complicity and obedience. it’s certainly a lot easier than actually fixing this mess the world is in, and creating a society that meets human needs.

i also am not a fan of madonna. (the friend who this is to, used her as an example of positive actualization and insight).  she’s a very mean and narcissistic person who has left a lot of bodies in her wake. the way she treats people who work for her, in her own words, is hardly positive, kind or healing. she’s no one i look up to. she has masterfully marketed her extreme talent into meaningless pop drivel and sexual objectification. as for her attachment to kaballah– it’s an ancient tradition, not a passing fad. it is very complex, not something that can be simplified for mass production. cultural appropriation is never attractive.

i haven’t come to these ideas casually, nor have your suggestions failed to make their mark on my life, nor have i rejected them capriciously.

i think greater healing though is had through telling the truth, no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable. i know i am at odds with the culture around me, but nothing changes without complaints and non-conformity. i would rather find myself a small counterculture of resistance than find ways to please and appease an intolerant and compassionless society that blames people for their conditions, instead of insisting on ways to meet human necessity and asking people what they need.

i don’t want to have this conversation more than once, because i find it very hurtful and isolating. there is something more negative than the negativity sick or otherwise marginalized people are often accused of. it is the negativity of negating the full range of human experience and existence. it is the negativity of telling people what they have to say, who they are as they are, has no place in the larger society and is their own fault, if they only thought better or adopted some magic protocol.

there is a difference between curing an illness, and healing. healing is a much deeper process that requires deep truth telling, process and transformation. it is often quite wrenching, lonely and painful. (it is why so many cultures have initiation rituals that involve pain).

(at this point in time, there are no cures for my condition, though there are ways of managing it.)

i am not interested in maintaining the world the way it is, on either a small or large scale. i am interested in the deeper transformation, the deeper healing, and we won’t get there by insisting we need to think positively. we will only get there when we can clean up the muck that keeps us apart, that separates, that exploits and that poisons us. we certainly won’t get there by telling people in difficult circumstances, that their reality exists because they want to live that way.

(anyone who really knows me, knows i have a tenacity and a spirit that is hardly complacent or stagnant.)

my illness is caused by trauma and environmental toxins. without going into the details here (storytelling doesn’t mean some things aren’t private), the trauma i endured most people don’t survive. the trauma i endured is rooted deep in the power relationships of a brutal body politic, that i am determined to fight, on every level.

i tell the truth. i don’t just lie in this bed, sick, meditating, waiting, eating well, etc. i share my journey and i express my journey as a political one, among the larger issues of the day, imperialism, health care, education, oil spills, domestic violence, genocide, racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, etc. and i challenge those systems that allow these negative realities to go unchallenged under a cloud of enforced positivity and false blame.

Sickbed ennui in the land of banana leaf hope

  1. Another twitter storify: http://storify.com/emma_rosenthal/sickbed-ennui-in-the-land-of-banana-leaf-hope
  2. Share
    i wish i had more energy to do more with my life.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 15:58:43
  3. Share
    this constant fatigue provides little strength fortasks i feel give meaning, purpose and healing to this broken crying world.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 15:58:48
  4. Share
    strong winds blow in the southland of the angels. making stop motion blur on silver film.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 15:59:56
  5. Share
    i want the wind to carry me, lift me up, take me somewhere else away.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:00:26
  6. Share
    away from this sick bed ennui. the tedium of cellular efforts. the hard work of waiting waiting waiting for strength.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:00:51
  7. Share
    i want to fly on a banana leaf, to some other place, where sick gurl dreams become something more than fear and loss.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:01:25
  8. Share
    there is so much to do to heal this wounded crying world. i have so much shuffled away in other world plans.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:02:13
  9. Share
    plans, wishes dreams, stored in boxes, cabinets, bell jars and the corridors of my mind.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:02:48
  10. Share
    i wander empty spaces of time. days that are marked only by disappearing cups of tea
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:03:24
  11. Share
    and the march of the shadows of banana leaves on neighbor’s walls as this corner of earth spins to and from rays of our local star.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:04:14
  12. Share
    hope is dangerous territory. my most feared neighborhood,
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:05:00
  13. Share
    where ideas are washed away faster than the fleeting work of stealth artists on alley walls.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:05:05
  14. Share
    i am writing again, without fear or hope of publication. wordpress and storify are my hogarth press. i have a room of my own.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:07:11
  15. Share
    the world moves around me. i am more like the sun than earth. it only looks like time revolves around me, from my perch overlooking hills
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:09:02
  16. Share
    i feel like it all spins without me, in this box in the center of the storm. waiting waiting waiting. unlike the sun i am nothing immobile
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:11:02
  17. Share
    lists to do scatter like dust, pollen and bird feathers from broken winds. i want my banana leaf wings.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:15:44
  18. Share
    i want this wind to take me somewhere where my dreams can fly.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 16:15:51
  19. Share
    but tomorrow the walls will still be peach against a purple trim. banana leaves will flutter against the green garden walls
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 23:17:51
  20. Share
    and i will still be plastered to flannel sheets. wind provides the illusion that change is sweeping thru,
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 23:18:39
  21. Share
    that stagnant air makes way for new possibilities. that opportunity is there to be grasped.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 23:20:10
  22. Share
    that i could fly away on a banana leaf and not look back.
    Sun, Apr 01 2012 23:20:15

Dreaming of a hot breakfast

  1. Share
    still not out of bed after several days of total bed rest. hoping to do something productive today.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:20:37
  2. Share
    dreaming of a hot breakfast– bagel creamcheese, w egg, maybe. and bitter green jasmine tea, but i can’t get to the kitchen.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:21:13
  3. Share
    i’ll make breakfast when the hunger exceeds my fatigue. until then i’ll wait in bed hungry. this is amerikkkan health care.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:21:43
  4. Share
    and i have health care coverage. it’s even what they call cadillac care. but it doesn’t cover in home support when i can’t get up.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:22:15
  5. Share
    my health care doesn’t cover much of what helps me manage my illness. it pays for lots of tests test test. but no actual care.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:22:47
  6. Share
    i need regular massage, chiropractic, reiki or acupuncture, but none of that is covered. what’s covered? medication– which helps some.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:23:26
  7. Share
    what else is covered– tests and more tests. dr.s appts. treatments that don’t help. treatments for other conditions some other people have
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:24:35
  8. Share
    therapy is covered, because if i talk abt it enough the illness will go away and i’ll fly to the kitchen on my self actualized wings.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:24:56
  9. Share
    @emma_rosenthal and that just made me laugh so hard I peed a little. Omg
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:36:53
  10. Share
    .@AureliaCotta they tell me i keep my sense of humor thru the worst trials. i try. i’ll be performing here all week!
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:39:51
  11. Share
    not that therapy doesn’t help. but how much good can come from talking about something that can’t be changed?
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:25:48
  12. Share
    getting hungrier. the sun is out. i saw it hitting the banana leaves. but no shadows yet, it has to pass over the house to the back yard.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:26:33
  13. Share
    i’m so hungry. trying to get up. really trying. this is so fucking frustrating.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:42:39
  14. Share
    tho now,just getting out of bed & to the kitchen is overwhelming. i just can’t command my body to do what it needs to do to make that happen
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:46:10
  15. Share
    of course,once i get to the kitchen i’ll have to remember how to toast a bagel and make tea. sometimes i can’t think things that complicated
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:43:13
  16. Share
    and if something is out of place, one aspect of the routine that takes additional thought, i’m lost. this is fibromyalgia brain fog
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:43:47
  17. Share
    like if there isn’t a clean tea pot. then i go nuts. the idea of having to clean the tea pot, that can be too much sometimes.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:44:25
  18. Share
    i do however have the capacity to get a tweet from -40 characters down to 120. ha ha ha . go figure.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:46:54
  19. Share
    i’m hungry. i’m very very hungry.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:47:20
  20. Share
    anyone who says “we don’t realize how easy we have it in amerika” doesn’t have a clue abt what most ppl in amerika deal with.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:47:50
  21. Share
    .@Farese9190 @TodayHIRING no fucking way! i tweet abt how sick i am and i get spam telling me to get a fucking job?? see– amerikkka!!!!
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:49:04
  22. Share
    .@Farese9190 @TodayHIRING i would get a job if i could. right now i can’t fucking get out of bed.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:49:37
  23. Share
    got damn fucking spam bot, thinks this is an appropriate rsponse to chronic illness! typical @Farese9190 @TodayHIRING
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:50:06
  24. Share
    i really hate this level of helplessness. all i want is a fucking bagel and some hot tea.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 12:53:03
  25. Share
    okay, i got breakfast. hope i didn’ t leave the stove on. ugh. back in bed, with a tray of wonderfulness.
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 13:14:43
  26. Share
    i just fell. i was in bed and i fell. no i didn’t fall OUT of bed i fell in bed. how does someone fall in bed?
    Mon, Mar 26 2012 13:25:58
  27. Share
    okay, i’ve been sitting up long enough. this has been a lot of work. can’t type lying down. so, i’ll be back later. time to rest.

in the company of banana leaves: anatomy of chronic illness

  1. tShare
    people tweet their play by play of many experiences. chronic illness is a part of the human narrative. i tweet my life. this is it.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 17:18:34
  2. Share
    anatomy of my illness. a day in bed. a week in bed. a lifetime that feels at time wasted. ideas ideas. no vehicle to transport those ideas
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:07:27
  3. Share
    in my former home, i kept company with a pomegranate tree. today the tree outside my window is a banana tree.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:07:59
  4. Share
    banana trees have long big leaves, 8 feet long at times. they dance in the breeze, cast shadows on my neighbor’s wall.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:08:46
  5. Share
    the younger leaves are long ad solid with one stem down the middle. the older leaves are wind torn into strips on either side of that stem
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:09:24
  6. Share
    the banana leaf shadows flutter against the green walls of the neighboring building, but only in the afternoon.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:10:08
  7. Share
    the morning light doesn’t cast a shadow onto the wall. it takes a later sun to make my neighbor’s wall dance.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:10:40
  8. Share
    banana leaf shadows get longer later in the day. deep inside my gut i dance with these leaves and they lift me up a little bit. just a bit.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:11:21
  9. Share
    chronic illness is very heavy long & deep it requires much waiting. timeless except that marked by shadows of leaves on stucco walls
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:12:32
  10. Share
    there are other quiet markers– the coming and going of other people, my cat jumps on the bed acknowledges me and the sleeps at the foot
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:13:37
  11. Share
    otherwise, a second in time lasts for days. it is morning all day until it is too dark in my room, curtains must be drawn and lights go on.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:14:33
  12. Share
    i drift in and out of sleeping and wakefulness. i often confuse my dreams for what has truly happened, until i am confronted with reality
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:16:07
  13. Share
    in all that time i never left the house, and few stopped by. what i think has happened could never have come to pass.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:16:40
  14. Share
    through wavy antique glass on the old windows of my home i can hear the banana leaves blowing in the wind and the birds singing.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:17:31
  15. Share
    i may make my way to the front porch, for a bit. and then return back to bed to rest some more.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:17:59
  16. Share
    when i am strong enough i sit up and tweet or chat on fb, but soon gravity becomes too heavy and i have to lie down again.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 19:18:58
  17. Share
    isolation plays tricks on me, my mind conspires with hidden demons telling me of my inherent worthlessness. in dark quiet moments i agree.
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 20:25:31
  18. Share
    by end of day the wall is full of banana leaf shadows, rattling together, applauding with great fanfare, these tiny accomplishments
    Sat, Mar 24 2012 21:05:35

A is for Zebra– wheelchair accessible if you can pick a lock or use the stairs.

This is why I don’t go out much. This sort of thing happens pretty much every time I try to access my community. It isn’t so much the lack of access, but the absolute hostile indifference to my attempts.  I don’t take it personally, because it’s obviously common policy and has nothing to do with me. It has to do with dis-ability and common attitudes against inclusion. But it does upset me and it does wear me down.

I wanted to go to the LACMA exhibit, A is for Zebra, http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/zebra , because I’m working with art and text, and that’s what THIS exhibit is about. (Actually, it’s a great example of how NOT to use text with art, but I’m not writing THAT article. I’m writing how a structurally accessible venue locks out –as in, with a key– people with dis-abilities.)  I found out about the event on LACMA’s web page.  http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/zebra . This exhibit  is in at an off site LACMA gallery,  in an elementary school. The information on the web site clearly says: “The gallery is open to the public weekdays 2:30–6 pm. The gallery is closed December 19, 2011–January 9, 2012, January 16, and February 20.”

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Then I went to :  http://www.lacma.org/visit/plan-your-visit to check out dis-ability access, where it explicitly states:

“Visitors with Disabilities LACMA offers wheelchairs and assisted-listening devices for use during your visit. There is no additional charge; photo identification is required. Guests requiring assistance should plan to arrive curbside along Wilshire Boulevard in front of Urban Light, at the intersection of Ogden Drive and Wilshire, or at the intersection of Spaulding Avenue and Wilshire. Proceed to the Welcome Centers for assistance. For wheelchair access to the plaza and galleries at the eastern half of the museum’s campus, elevators are located to the right, immediately inside the entrance at Spaulding Avenue and Wilshire.”

Well, OBVIOUSLY, that’s about the actual museum, and not the off site exhibit, but nowhere on the LACMA page does it say the off site event  is NOT accessible. and it clearly says it’s open to the public.

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

BUT just in case, I called the school. I didn’t get the name of the person I spoke with, but she was very friendly and informative with an authoritative voice that gave me confidence in the information she relayed to me: yes, the gallery IS accessible, and there is parking off of Corondolet, around the corner from the actual address of the school. (that parking could be validated).  I asked again, if it was accessible and she assured me that it was. No other instructions.

GUESS WHAT!!!! (it’s not accessible.)

After walking past the unstaffed (but wide open) school office, and through a playground with both supervised and unsupervised students, through a maze of ramps and steps, having asked directions from a variety of children (there was no staff at all within our range of conversation), we arrived at a staircase and an elevator. The staircase descended onto a patio, around a corner to the gallery. The elevator would have provided access, except it was LOCKED. There was no signage, no instructions, no buttons, no bells,  no personnel within sight or voice range (even if I had yelled!)  –See photos below.  Luckily I wasn’t alone, and luckily I had  my walker and not my scooter, which is considerably heavier,  so my friend, another artist/photographer, and I managed to get me and my walker down the stairs to the gallery doorway, which was totally blocked to wheelchairs and walkers, by student book bags that were piled in front of the door way. (In case access isn’t an issue, a fire hazard maybe?)

At this point  I should mention that the gallery is located on the corner of Parkview and Wilshire, and there’s actually a ramped entrance RIGHT THERE, but it’s LOCKED. To access the gallery, the public HAS to go around the block, and go through the school and 2 playground areas. — so despite two means of structural access— the elevator and the gate, the gallery was NOT accessible because both structural means of access were LOCKED, preventing dis-ability access. (It should also be noted, that a direct entrance to the exhibit makes much more sense in regard to student security, than an entrance through the school and the playground, where any adult can simply walk in and have total access to the students, who,  after school have very minimal supervision.)

TO CLARIFY– THIS IS NOT AN EXAMPLE OF AN INACCESSIBLE VENUE ATTEMPTING TO, OR FAILING TO PROVIDE ACCESS. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF A STRUCTURALLY ACCESSIBLE VENUE THAT DENIES ACCESS BY NOT ALLOWING ACCESS VIA THOSE BUILT IN STRUCTURES.

A man came out and asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was taking pictures in accordance with LACMA’s photography policy (no flash or tripods. There were no children within the range of my camera, either, by the way!).  He insisted the exhibit was closed to the public, and informed me that he worked for the district and was evaluating the after school program. (At no point did he tell me to leave, not to take pictures nor did he ever call security!) I informed him that the exhibit was in fact open to the public, was on the LACMA web page,  and was supposed to be wheelchair accessible, and that I had also called the school office which had confirmed all of that information.  In his lack of information he continued to insist it was not open to the public. At that point he ran to get a LACMA employee, a young woman, wearing a LACMA apron, who approached me and told me she provided customer service. She went on to tell me that a person needing wheelchair access was supposed to go to the main office, and that the custodian had a key. (So a person in a wheelchair or a walker, is supposed to make their way around the school, know to ask for a key, know if they get to the locked elevator, to get a custodian, who could be anywhere on campus.)  This young woman explained that they rent the space from the school and access isn’t LACMA’S responsibility.  She also added that the street entrance was locked at the insistence of the school. She seemed very sure of herself that LACMA bore no responsibility for access to the exhibit, and especially empowered to make sure I knew that. At no point did she offer to help me nor did she show any concern for the issue in general, the lack of information or my particular experience. Then she told me she wasn’t the person I was supposed to speak with. I then asked her why she had approached me. A young man joined in with the same trope. He then told me to stop “bickering” with him in front of the children. (There was no concern about what would happen if a child in a wheelchair attempted to access the exhibit and had been subjected to the same obstacles and the same hostile indifference. This is, after all, a public school and an exhibit open to the public. A point I did make!)  I told him again, that HE had approached ME, and if he didn’t want to talk to me,  to stop talking to me. He continued to talk at me, explaining how it wasn’t LACMA’s responsibility to make the exhibit accessible. I told him if he didn’t want to talk to me, he should stop talking to me.

I attempted to call LACMA while the man who was upset with me for talking to him, continued to talk at me and about me, in front of the children.  No one answered at LACMA, and I attempted to enjoy the exhibit, but I was upset and distraught at the frustration and indignity, as well as the repeated abuse of my personal space by personnel who engaged me, while insisting that they weren’t the people I should be speaking with.

Finally, I asked the young man if he could contact his employer, that I had been unable to reach anyone at LACMA. He handed me a leaflet that had a phone number on it, but he wouldn’t actually help me contact anyone. I asked him repeatedly for help and he repeatedly refused to help me.

Everyone who spoke with me was more upset with me for raising the issue of lack of access than they were with the fact that I had attempted to attend a public event hosted by a public museum, at a public school, and couldn’t without difficulty and assistance, because both means of accessing the event, were locked.

I called the number the man gave me and got the voice message for a Sarah Jesse, which explained that she would be out of the office until March 5.  (Almost 10 days ago. All this happened on  March 14). I left a detailed message. I hope she gets back to me. I’ll follow up if she does. Don’t hold your breath. I’ll also call the school in the morning, since the one district personnel I encountered knew nothing about the school’s responsibility, and the LACMA personnel put all the responsibility on the school. I’ll also send them the link to this blog post. One would hope they would address the issues of access and school security. (Again, don’t hold your breath!)

Aside from simply not existing, I’m not sure what the people who approached ME expected of me. THEY asked ME what was wrong, I told them.  My observation didn’t seem to upset them as much as the fact that I was articulating it. Or perhaps, they just expected me to accept their excuses and stop scowling? Say something to make them feel better? Or maybe they simply wanted to convince me that my exclusion was an obvious and acceptable consequence of the conditions and excuses they were hurling at me.

If this story shocks you, you don’t know jack about dis-ability discrimination. Just another day. Just one more reason why I don’t go out much. Something like this happens pretty much everywhere I attempt to go.

To increase size of pictures for greater detail, double click the image.

keypad for elevator-- needs key, for entry

Elevator, with keyed entry, and a flight of stairs to a lobby.