My Travels With Charley: Boston or Bust Part VI

August 14 2006 (14:44:00) US/Pacific

My Travels With Charley: Boston or Bust Part VI
The ride back to Boston: Amherst, Belchertown, Cambridge
We packed our bags the next day for the flight home and headed back to Boston, via Amherst and Belchertown. I wanted to see a little bit more of where I had been, a bit of closure, completion. We spent less than an hour and a half driving through Hampshire College, getting coffee and tea in Amherst in Rao’s Café, which was in the building the Yellow Sun Food Coop had previously inhabited. We tried to find the places I had live in, but only found one building still standing. (One horrid apartment building had graciously given way to time!) The other house, I simply couldn’t find. We drove past U Mass, much smaller than Cornell and stopped in a small shop: the Mercantile, which had been there when I was a student. It sells incense, Indian print bed spreads and natural fabric clothes, as it has for over thirty years. I found a shirt I liked and a few stickers.
Niether Amherst nor Northhampton had changed much.

Where the Yellow Sun Coop used to be ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
One of the homes I lived in. My door was the in the white wing, on the left. A modest two bedroom apartment. ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Amherst, Mass. ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
Somehow Brattleboro, Ithaca, Amherst and Northhampton have managed to keep the large chain stores out of their downtown areas. An occasional Starbucks or Subway, but no Gap, Victoria Secrets, etc. as one finds in Old Town Pasadena or on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, where trendiness places rents out of reach of smaller, more original shops. Hadley, the town between Amherst and Northhampton is more built up, with more shops, and some of the chains. It now has a Whole Foods and a Trader Joes.

The Connecticut River, on the bridge on Route 9, Between Northhampton and Amherst. _©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
We took back roads up to the 2 Turnpike.

The ride back ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Self portrait ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
graffiti, Revere, Mass ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Arrest, Revere, Mass ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
We arrived at The Roadway Inn in Revere, to find that none of the rooms were remotely handicapped accessible. At one entrance, the door to the hotel is at ground level, but opens up to a stairway with the first floor, half a floor below street level and the second floor half a level above. The other entrance had a flight of stairs to the door of the hotel that leads to the stairway. There was no handicapped parking I don’t know how this is remotely legal. A simple renovation of the back entrance could have allowed access to the basement first floor. Or by putting the office on the first floor, and eliminating one room on that floor, making the office (on the second floor) into a room, the entire first floor would have been accessible with at most the loss of one hotel room. We had a 6:45 am flight. It was 7 pm. We needed to finalized repacking, buy a few things for the trip home, eat dinner, sleep a few hours, return the rental car and be at the airport 2 hours before our flight. Andy checked us in and asked about accessibility. We weren’t offered any help or any satisfactory response to the question. Andy brought all of the packages downstairs and I wheeled them into the room. _We were exhausted and had to get up at 3:30 to return the rental car and catch a 6:45 flight. We had our only real fight of the whole trip that night. It lasted about 5 minutes and blew over like a New England summer thunder storm. It took a bit longer for us to regroup from it and for all wounds to heal but otherwise we were so cohesive and connected throughout the trip. We both have a silly and weird, uninhibited sense of humor; we’re very playful together. We made decisions together well, shared resources. After two years together, this was the most time we had spent together. It was strange coming back to our separate homes, divided by 32 miles of some of Los Angeles’ slowest freeway traffic. This is a real challenge. It will probably be another year before either or both of us can move so that we can live our daily lives together beyond the reach of cell phone and email.

Dinner in Cambridge. Photo by Andy Griggs ©2006 All Rights Reserved

In the airport in Boston Photo by Andy Griggs ©2006 All Rights Reserved
The flight back was a bit distressing. When going though security, wheelchair passengers are separated from their carry on baggage while they and their chairs are examined. Andy watched my things, but as I was given no other option, I don’t know how I would have been accommodated as I had to leave computer, purse, wheel chair charger, film, camera, keys, etc. to go through the conveyor belt, while I delivered my chair to a separate examination area.
While on the East Coast I experienced almost none of the humiliations and indignities that are part of daily life in Los Angeles. Whether I was shopping in high end stores or local mom and pop establishments, accessing restaurants or hotel lobbies, everyone was very supportive and helpful. On the few occasions where I needed to assert my rights, I wasn’t given a condescending lecture on manners. Instead my needs were addressed.
One of the few exceptions to this experience occurred on the flight home. When we got to the ticket counter one of stewardesses took one look at my scooter and gave the haughtiest look. I wouldn’t say that she gave me the look, as she never looked me in the face the entire flight. She gave Charley “the look.” The airline would not let me have my scooter on the plane with me, a decision of the captain who didn’t even look at the wheelchair. They claimed it wasn’t a wheelchair, We explained that it was. They claimed that the on flight regulations were for folding wheelchairs. We explained that the scooter was a folding wheelchair. They claimed that the regulations only pertained to manual wheelchairs. We showed them where policy clearly allowed for electric wheelchairs. Finally they claimed it weighed too much. We explained that it hadn’t weighed too much on the flight into Boston. (It’s not like Charley gained weight!!!) We insisted on talking to the “Complaint Resolutions Officer.” I took down everyone’s name and wrote down every comment they made. They spent quite a bit of time addressing the issues we presented. In the end, Charley had to go into the hold, but the CRO oversaw the process, contacted Los Angeles and gave Charley extra attention. They all but violating the DOT regulations for air travel rights of disabled passengers, but accommodating me enough to protect themselves from future litigation. While airlines want you to check your chair in baggage claim and submit to being wheeled around in a manual chair, pushed by an airline employee, if they insist on putting the chair in cargo, you still have the right to use your own chair to board, then they have to take the chair and put in in cargo and they have to return it to you at your destination. If there’s a stop over, they also have to bring you the chair between flights. But they really don’t like to do this. When we arrived in Los Angeles they told me I had to walk from the plane to the ticket counter to get my chair. Which I refused to do. They offered to have me pushed by one of their employees in one of their manual wheelchairs. I again refused and demanded that they bring me own chair, as was my undeniable right. And reluctantly they did comply.
We came home to one sick cat, (Andy’s,) an overgrown and abundant garden, a welcoming teenager (Leon), a pile of mail and all the work we had put aside while driving through the back country of New England and New York.
Charley is an amazing addition to my life. Saturday I was able to particpate in a demonstration, and even go on the march!!!! I hadn’t done that in quite some time. John Parker, the event organizer asked both Andy and me to speak at the rally. So much I miss when stuck in bed or restricted to the limits of my own body. This chair has legs!
A week after we returned from our trip, Andy left for a teaching program in Williamsburg. I am resting, writing, raising a child into a man and tending to my garden and my health. Andy’s cat, Mao, is staying with me while I force feed her antibiotics. Her introduction to my cat (Manchitas—I didn’t name her!) and dog, Sally, were relatively uneventful. Sally likes to play, Manchitas is a bit apprehensive about ceding her primadonna status, and occasionally emits a primal distress sound. Mao just ignores everyone or hisses from time to time.
Last Monday I went into Pasadena for acupuncture, a chiropractic treatment, therapy and then tea with Sonali. Saturday I went to the demonstration with Leon and Charley (more on that in another post!) I have been writing more. One can live a life or document living a life. It can be very hard to find time for both. Andy is gone at a teaching conference for ten days. I have much writing to do, work to look for, life to organize. We then go to La Quinta for the UTLA Leadership Conference. I am very apprehensive about this gathering because of problems within the Committee (more on that as well!) I called the hotel to find out about accessibility. I am so tired of surprises! After La Quinta, I will be staying on in Palm Springs to spend a few days alone; writing and meditating. Andy will stay with Leon and get his classroom ready for the next school year.

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