Monthly Archives: August 2006

Ableism in the Human Rights Committee- Part I

 Three Stories

Prelude to an Exposition

(a study in group intolerance and identification with power and dominance.)
I wasn’t an easy child to have in a classroom. I had a creative mind and was easily bored with the tedium which most of the other students seemed to find comfortable.  Much of the curriculum seemed obvious to me.  My divergent mind and active spirit always wanted to take the teacher’s ideas and, instead of following them exactly, change them, just a litte, take  inspiration, create something a bit different than what she had in mind.  It was the 1960’s and resistance and rebellion were reestablishing themselves as part of the social fabric, but in the elementary schools, girls still had to wear dresses and female teachers were identified by marital status.  “No” still meant “maybe” and it was generally accepted that “boys will be boys” and girls must be ladies.  The women’s movement was still several years away.  All this, coupled with unaddressed emotional issues, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, the stresses of the U.S. educational system, and the difficult working conditions imposed on teachers, along with the prevailing hegemony and dominant paradigm put me at odds with the social structures of the classroom.
When I was in fourth grade, my teacher sat me at a cluster of desks with five other girls who tormented me constantly. The leaders of this clique were “Carley Silverstein” and “Audry Hellman”.   On the playground they played coutie tag, and I was their appointed coutie. One girl would hit me, then touch her friend and scream, “you have couties!”  That girl would touch another friend, screaming the same insult, and so on, and so on, until they had played that out, and then they would start all over again.  I suppose the main difference between these girls and me, was economic class and the education levels of our parents. Their homes had money.  My home had brains.   They had better clothes, larger homes, their parents drove showier cars, their moms all stayed at home. Their dads were businessmen.  My parents were educated workers;  my mother,  a bio-chemist, research scientist, my father,  a computer engineer.  My parents were older than these girls’ parents.  While other women my mother’s age were making babies, my mom was getting her M.S. from Bryn Mawr and her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.  My father got his PhD later, when I was twelve.   Everyday I would be teased for my Sears catalog wardrobe, while my classmates paraded around in clothes from Lord and Taylor.  But when the book orders came in, while most students bought one or two books, I had purchased every book on the form.  My mom didn’t see any reason to spend money on showy cars, vacations in Florida or expensive clothes, but there was always money for books, and while we had a strict bedtime, we were allowed (in what was one of the most brilliant of my mother’s insights) to read as late as we wanted.  So, while I suffered the tedium of Sally, Dick and Jane and never did understand what a schwa was, I learned to read by flashlight under a tent of sheets, while floating on a bunk bed boat on a carpet sea.
But school was hell.  “Carley” , “Audrey” and their friends would steal my things, destroy my work, get me in trouble and set me up.  One day, while a group of us were at the teacher’s desk waiting to get help on our work, “Audrey” began to kick me subversively, hidden by the desk, in front of but out of sight of the teacher.  After one very painful kick in the shins, I screamed in pain, raised my knee, and bringing down my foot, slammed her instep.  “Audrey” grabbed her foot and hopping with exaggeration like a cartoon character on Saturday mornings, screamed.  The teacher called a parent conference and explained the situation as she understood it.  As my mother relayed the story to me, “Miss Plotkins” exclaimed; “You should have seen the look on that girl’s face.  Emma seems very unhappy and is very disruptive and I don’t understand why.  I put her with the nicest girls in the class.”
Two years later, in sixth grade, “Stanley Hoffman”, one of the few boys who was actually bigger than the girls his same age, began the day  by punching me in the arm.  He continued this behavior all day, until finally, at the end of the day, from the back of a silent classroom,  I screamed “Stanley, stop it!”
The teacher, “Miss Smyth” began to admonish me my protestation, but I insisted! “No!”  I said to her, and then, screaming from the back row,  told her that he had been hitting me all day.
Unlike “Miss Plotkins,” “Miss Smyth” heard me and “Stanley” was busted.  He stayed after school and I was able to walk home safely.
Four years later I was at summer camp.  We were swimming in a murky lake, that only the year before had taken the life of a young boy.  While I didn’t know the boy, the impact of his death was very heavy upon me.  This year while we were swimming, someone grabbed my leg under water.  I  couldn’t see who it was, but as I was being pulled under, I kicked, apparently hitting my attacker in the groin.  Out of the water emerged a wounded boy nicknamed “Bear, ”  because of his height and girth.  He told the counselor I had kicked him, who beached me for defending myself, adding the admonition, “”No matter what, you never kick a guy there.”  No matter what!!??  This trite answer always seems to be accompanied with such brilliant insights as “He only does that because he likes you.” “What did you do to bring this down upon yourself?”  “What did you expect?” or “You over reacted.”
It’s been a repeated theme in my life, unusual is the “Stanley Hoffman” story, where the perpetrator is held accountable for his or her actions.  I still get in trouble for standing up for my rights and defending myself, or for defending the rights of others.  I think the initial attention is brought on by my outspokenness and my ability to articulate ideas well, which seems to be threatening to people, unaccustomed, even in the 21st century, to women who speak their mind.   And truth be told, sometimes I can be abrupt, distracted and dismissive, which puts people off, though hardly raises an eyebrow when similar behavior is exhibited by men.  I think situations escalate because I stay longer than most.  While many people might just leave quietly after the first affront, I tend to hold my ground, leaving me open to accusations of being divisive or self-centered.  But I do believe that process is an important product of any group and that the internal politics are as important as the external impositions.  If we can’t be the change we wish to create, then who are we to raise these issues of justice in the first place?
Often the response is summed up in the expression and the expectation that “boys will be boy,” where men assert their authority and hegemony and women act as the enforcers of the status quo, insisting on ladylike behavior under the most adverse situations. I don’t know what it is, the breaking of the illusion of peace, the fear of a new paradigm, the identification with power that encourages otherwise reasonable people to observe and ignore the violent behavior of the perpetrator and blame the victim for bringing the attack upon herself, but it seems much work must be done to deconstruct the dominant paradigm that allows for this identification of the perpetrator to go on, subconsciously and to such dangerous detriment.
This year at the UTLA Human Rights Committee’s annual retreat, one of the members of the Committee, who is also a member of the UTLA Board of Directors, took it upon himself to marginalize, ridicule and humiliate me and my disability.
I had tried to appeal to his good will, attempted to gain support from the Committee members present,  left the room twice to cool down, only to have him follow me out of the room, taunting me and ridiculing me, and I lost it and before storming away, yelled vulgarities that would have offended a truck driver.
Andy left the retreat with me, but no one, except Andy,  tried to intervene at any point in the conflict, nor did anyone contact either of us in the days after the retreat.  As a final blow, to add insult to injury, one member of the committee submitted to the Committee list serve, a proposed recruiting poster, featuring, as the poster boy for Human Rights, the man who had so offensively attacked me and my rights.
I can accept that we were all caught by surprise, that no one knew what to do, but why continue the campaign after that? Why support the perpetrator in his abuse while ostracizing me for my protest.  Clearly none of us handled the moment well, but in attempting to address the issues since then, the response has been disastrously illuminating.
It isn’t just me.  This is typical of groups in which a lone woman takes on a group patriarch, and her response to him is seen as an attack while he gets cast as the victim,  after she, in an outburst of emotion, after weathering silently a litany of abuse, explodes.  Her behavior is seen as the problem.  The illusion of peace, shattered by her exposure of the underlying patterns, abuses and assumptions of privilege.
Even among seasoned activists, the decision to take pity on the perpetrator and to ostracize the victim for her avenues of self defense, came as second nature to a small but cohesive group of activists within the Committee, who have continued to carry out this campaign against me even to the detriment of the human rights work I know they are dedicated to.
This matter may in fact tear this Committee apart and has deep repercussions throughout the Union.  I don’t know how it will play out, but I offer it up as one more example of the outrageous fear and widespread tolerance of bigotry directed at disabled people as well as women.
I offer these exchanges as documentation of the widespread animosity towards disabled people, that I started this blog, among other reasons, to document.  Like the situation in Target, demonstrated in an earlier post, prior to becoming disabled, I have never been subjected to the daily indignities that apparently come with disability.  That people, seeing the wheelchair, or in response to my request for accommodations, feel justified in ridiculing and marginalizing me, hasn’t yet become normal to me, though these indignities happen faster than I can write about them.
I am on personal retreat right now, at a resort, to write, study and meditate.  As I was checking into the resort, seeing a long cue, I went to the front desk and let the clerk know that I couldn’t stand in line, but that I would be waiting my turn in a seat in the lobby.  A woman, who I assumed was another guest checking in,  glared disapprovingly at me.  When my turn came up and I was called to the desk by one of the clerks, this same woman signaled to me to come to the desk, by bending her index finger towards herself.  Ignoring her, I suggested to the clerk that someone come and help me where I was seated, that I had trouble standing.  The same woman told me that they couldn’t come to me, that I had to come up to the counter. She seemed surprised and offended that I didn’t adhere to her authority.   I asked her, “do you work here?”  She said she did not but that she did work with the handicapped.  Amazing!
The hotel took care of me appropriately, and I am now comfortably writing at 4 am in my room. But I wonder; What gave her the sense of authority to tell me what to do?  Why did she feel that it was appropriate for her to intervene in this situation?  Where did she get off treating me like an insolent child? And that’s the rub, the assumption that the disabled are children, and need to be treated as such.  That we aren’t to speak up or speak out, that we need to learn to paint with our toes, ski on one leg, rise up from adversity and never impose our needs on society no matter how much we contribute, because the prevailing assumption is that we don’t contribute at all, and even in the light of massive evidence to the contrary, our work will be dismissed and disparaged, much as mine has by a few members of my beloved Committee.
While I have, except when indicated, changed the names of those involved, I want to stress that some of the people quoted here are among some of the most well respected activists in Los Angeles.    It is important to add that no one I am close to within this Committee saw this coming.  There was no overt indication that anyone had any problem with my work or contributions to this Committee, which included chairing the conference subcommittee for the last two years, establishing and maintaining the list serve and setting up our webpage.  One member of the Committee, close to those members whose messages I will be posting, but who has remained silent on this entire discussion has been clearly uncomfortable with me, moving the agenda in the middle of a presentation, refusing to provide vital information so that we could implement the portion of the Conference she herself had proposed, waiting until any one other than I requested the information from her.  Aside from that, there was no indication that there was any undercurrent of hostility or dissatisfaction, leading me to believe that ether gossip and character assassination has been going on for some time, silently, or that my outburst at the retreat was so offensive as to eradicate anything I had done for or with the Committee, that members of the Committee would turn against me so cohesively in their outrage, referred to by one member when she said, in reference to my blow up that there was “no excuse for that.”
“No excuse for that” resonates with the camp counselor’s admonition that I never was to kick a boy in the groin “No matter what!”
no matter what, we should fight for people’s rights, all rights, all the time.
If we don’t, well, then, there’s ‘no excuse for that”.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Special thanks to committee members, Andy Griggs, Chair, Steve Seal, Michael Novick and Linda Baughn for their support and clarity, and for their permission to post their emails to this blog with full attribution.

Photos of the march!!!!!

Last Saturday the streets of Los Angeles were full of empassioned demonstrators.  I was there with Charley (my scooter) and Leon (my son) and my camera.  I have posted some of the photos to the Cafe Intifada blog.  Each day I will post a few more, for approximately four days.
http://cafeintifada.blogsource.com/

Travels with Charley: hiking trails

I used to hike a lot.  If  you were lost on one of the trails  on the South  face of the San Gabriel Mountains and you  met me on the trail, you we’re  home safe.  I went through new brakes on my car several times a year just getting up the road to Chantry Flats.  I hiked six to ten miles a week, often taking in a three mile butt cruncher after a full day’s work.  After i became ill I would walk in my neighborhood and at the park with my dog, Sally.  I would walk three to six miles a week on flat, easy paths, or occasionally took in the easy hike in Monrovia Canyon that take you to a gentle waterfall.  I saw a deer on that trail only a few years ago.  It walked right past me.  For the past year and a half, especially since my car accident last Spring, but also due to all of the stressors in my life last year, I haven’t been able to walk much at all.  Just getting through a store without a scooter is physically overwhelming.
Enter Charley!!!!!
Today I googled hiking + “wheelchair” + “Southern California” and found the following link.  I can’t wait to hit the trails!!!!!__http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/6295/hike.htm

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
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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
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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.

My Travels with Charley: Boston or Bust Part V

My Travels with Charley: Boston or Bust Part V
Delhi, Bovina and Woodstock
The nearest town to Bovina, is Delhi, N.Y. which we found easily and then Bovina Center, both rather pristine and relatively unmalled.  (Delhi has a Rite Aid and a McDonalds outside the main part of town, and a new supermarket in town, but aside from that, it looked very much the same as it had 40 (40!!!) years ago.  There was a sushi restaurant and a pagan new age crystal store which were new, The five and dime where we bought penny candy and balsa wood, rubber band toy airplanes was gone.  The hardware store was still there.

A rainy day in Delhi, my sister, my brother and me, circa 1965_photo by Al Loeb @ 2006 All Rights Reserved
Bovina Center was untouched, including Russell’s general store, which I used to ride my bike to.  It was about three miles from the farm, and I tried to remember my way back, but couldn’t.

Russells General Store Circa 1968 Photo by Al Loeb_©2006 all rights reserved

Emma in front of Russels General Store 2006. Photo by Andy Griggs @2006 All rights reserved

Russells through the window ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
The resort, known as Red Pine Farm, was also a dairy farm.  It was essentially a bed and breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Families would rent out one or two rooms for a week or two and spend time, up from the city, resting, swimming, hiking, collecting berries, catching tadpoles, frogs and salamanders in the pond, building dams in the stream with the slate rocks that cover the region (glacial debris) tagging monarch butterflies, going on hay rides, visiting Cooperstown’s Farm Museum or the Baseball Hall of Fame, visiting maple sugar farms or watching the cows get milked.  It was an amazing place, not a corporate vacation, but a small family business with soul and heart. The first year we went, several families were there from New York.  They had children the same ages as my siblings and me, and my parents are still friends with them to this day.  We vacationed with them every summer.  Down the road from the farm was a small. one room school house, no longer in use, always locked, but well maintained, and a small creek that was the very beginning of the Delaware River.  It wasn’t until I realized that we would be near enough to visit and perhaps find this farm that I understood how important it had been to me; more important than visiting college haunts, maybe even more important that the home I grew up in.
We had gone to the farm every August, driving for five hours from Philadelphia, our bikes strapped to the roof of the car,  until the Linggs, who owned it, sold it in the late sixties, to of all people; Bob Denver (aka Gilligan of Gilligan’s Island.)  My parents stayed in touch with the Lingg daughter, Joanie for many years.
We spent about an hour trying to find the farm, but I had forgotten the way and didn’t have an address.  I almost gave up, and Andy, with hours of driving ahead of us, was so patient.  Finally we asked a local farmer if she knew where the farm was, that it had been the Lingg farm also known as Red Pine Farm and then Bob Denver’s farm.  She gave us directions, and ten minutes later I was standing on the road in front of the large farm house.  It was now the Shuman farm; still had dairy cows.  I pointed to the room we had stayed in, the garage we had practiced plays in, the pool, the pond and the building where the dining hall had been.

Red Pine Farm circa 1967 Photo by Al Loeb ©2006 All Rights Reserved (The view from up on the mountain, taken during a hike, collecting berries.)

Shuman Farm 2006 Taken from the road.  ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Shuman Farm 2006   ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The road to the milking barn circa 1967.  Photo by Al Loeb ©2006 All Rights Reserved_My sister, my mother, me and by brother

The road to the milking barn ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The Barn 2006 (As seen from the house.) ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
I took pictures, then we went down the road and found the school house, still locked, still maintained. the little Delaware and the barn full of cows.

The Old School House ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The Old School House ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The Old School House ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

…..
         
The Little Delaware ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
Two roles of film later, we left to get back on the road.  We had dinner in Woodstock and arrived in Chicopee late, crashing in a Motel 6 outside of a truck stop and a fifties diner.

My Travels with Charley: Boston or Bust Part IV

Albany and Ithaca
We had planned, having missed one day in Amherst so that I could go to the doctor in Brattleboro, to buzz Amherst on the way to Ithaca, via Albany, but I was pretty wiped out from the day before and we decided to rest all day, pack and drive through Burlington into New York.  We took route 9 through miles of Vermont farmland and small towns; towns without Starbucks, the Gap, Walmart, McDonalds.  We did pass a lot of CVS, Rite Aids and Walgreens, but for the most part, Vermont, Upper State New York and rural Massachusetts are much more pristine than the West Coast.  Huge stretches of forest and farmland remain relatively untouched by large corporations and chain stores.  (Actually even East Boston was surprisingly unmalled.)   We traveled from Marlboro to Albany and had dinner with activist Naomi Jaffe (The Weather Underground)  who I also have worked with on line.  Her wisdom and clarity as an activist is so refreshing and inspiring.  Her understanding of political complexities, resounding.  It was wonderful to finally sit with her.  I had seen her interview on the film and had communicated with her on line, so meeting her brought with it a real sense of familiarity.   We talked about the “lesson of the sixties.” I was sitting with two veterans of SDS, after all.  (Born in 1959, I was still a child through those years.) Naomi identified the lesson of the sixties “That you can win!”  “That the Vietcong won!  They defeated the United States, the largest Imperialist force in the World.”  We also talked about disability rights,  and the reluctance of many human rights groups to see this issue as integral to the overall issues of social justice and what it takes to get this issue front and center.  We also discussed teaching methodology; the difference between knowing a subject and teaching one, and the praxis of radical pedagogy as we ushered in the ghost of Paolo Freire.  While I have written to Naomi for years and have read her input on important issues,  and watched her interview in the film The Weather Underground, it was even more clear in talking to her, how well read,  well versed and dedicated she is in political struggle, theory and application.

Naomi Jaffe  ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
The next day we traveled to Ithaca, driving slowly though miles of countryside of upper state New York. We had decided to stay at a Bed and Breakfast in Ithaca so that I would have a nice place to rest if I wasn’t feeling well, while Andy met with old friends.   I was terribly disappointed in my weakened state, my disability and the fact that I had not been able to enjoy Amherst/Northhampton the way I had hoped.  Nonetheless, most of the day I felt pretty good.  As we entered New York we passed Cherry Valley, where my family had gone camping when I was a child and where we found fossils in slate formations, remnants of when what is now the East Coast was ocean before being thrust thousands of miles skyward to form the mountains that parallel the Atlantic Ocean; an event that took place over 200 million years ago.  As we were going through Cooperstown I realized that I had vacationed at a farm about 40 miles away, every summer during my childhood.  We decided not to look for the farm on this stretch of the trip, to try to find it on the way back to Boston.  It was pouring rain, and getting late.  As it was, we didn’t arrive in Ithaca until early evening and barely made it to a restaurant in time for dinner.  (Everything closes at 9 pm there. It’s worse than Los Angeles!) We drove around town, and the University, which is huge. We drove past the gorges that run dramatically right though the campus.  We hoped to spend some time the next day walking around.  Campus would have been difficult on a scooter, as many places are very steep.  Downtown Ithaca is in a valley and would have been much easier to navigate.  We ate dinner at the renowned Moosewood Restaurant. The food was wonderful, but the handicapped entrance was around the back, Access to the patio was through the front.  To sit on the patio would have made the bathrooms inaccessible to anyone in a wheelchair, unless one wheeled all the way around the block.
I had been pretty strong when I got out of the car, but as we were leaving the restaurant, the legs that brought me in the front door, let me know that getting back to the car and from the car to the bed would not be as easy as the previous 300 miles had been.
The next day I would have liked to have walked around Ithaca and visited with the people from Andy’s college days, but I was just too sick.  We had traveled the entire day before and I needed to spend much of the day sleeping.  We ate a wonderful breakfast of blueberries, muffins and fritatta provided by the B and B (Bullfrog Pong in Newfield N.Y, just out of Ithaca)  and I ate a lunch of feta cheese and blue berries I had carried in a cooler, along with the leftovers from the night before.  Andy brought me a Vietnamese noodle dish for dinner before heading out again to have dinner with friends.
Though perfect for me, because I am ambulatory, The Bullfrog Pond B and B is not ADA accessible, a small lip to the front door would make passage with most wheelchairs difficult and help would be required, and the furniture in the bedroom as well as the positioning of the bathroom would be difficult, though not impossible.  The spacing of furniture within the house itself; the living room and dining area were, on the other hand, very accommodating.
   
Bullfrog Pond B and B  Newfield, N.Y. (just outside of Ithaca.) _ ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
We left Ithaca the next day after viewing the amazing gorges that cut right though the University, and visiting Buttermilk Falls, in one of the nearby state parks.  Andy showed me from the car, key places on campus, where he lived, the different academic buildings and sixties Cornell history. Then we headed out to find the farm that was somewhere in Bovina, New York.
  
Newfield Covered Bridge, Newfield N.Y. ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

Buttermilk Falls ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

One of the gorges on the campus of Cornell University  ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

My Travels with Charley: Boston or Bust Part III

New England: Vermont and Massachusetts
Andy and I had an amazing trip.  This was the first vacation I had taken in a very long time and my first trip back East in over a quarter century.  Boston was amazing. Getting around on Charley made such a difference.   I had dinner with an old friend (Rachel) from college who was now living and working in Boston.  We were in Boston while Andy attended the AFT Convention as a delegate.  I did attend the forum on Palestine and Lebanon as well as Jonathan Kozol’s speech, both sponsored by the newly formed Peace and Justice caucus which Andy co-chairs with Nancy Romer. The event on Palestine was organized by Stanley Heller who I have known from Palestine support work, on line.  It was good to finally match a face to a name, and attend an event he produced. After Boston we stayed with Nancy and her husband Lou (of the Killer Coke campaign) and their rather enthusiastic dog, Abby, in Marlboro Vermont for a few days, a stop in Albany, a bed and breakfast in Ithaca, New York and then returned to Boston via Chicopee, Massachusetts.
   
-Jonathan Kozol at the AFT Convention.  ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All rights reserved.
  
Andy Griggs (right) with Jonathan Kozol.  Stanley Heller  ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
Our first day in Vermont, we rested and did laundry.  We went into Brattleboro and had dinner with Lou and Nancy on the terrace of a restaurant, overlooking the Connecticut River, a quick visit to the Brattleboro Food Coop for staples and the ride back to Marlboro, through the woods of Vermont. The second day in Vermont I woke up with a bad cold, probably from a dirty swimming pool at the hotel in Boston, We had planned to go to Amhert/Northhampton for the day, but opting instead to go into Brattleboro for cough syrup, echinacea a free clinic, acupuncture and to rest.   I started everyday with reiki meditation and yoga on a deck facing the Green Mountains, overlooking a beaver dam.  Brattleboro was pretty inaccessible as most of the stores have one step from the street into the shops, making use of a scooter rather difficult.  Such a small adjustment could have allowed full participation and autonomy to disabled members of the community.  So, between my lack of health and lack of access, we limited our tour of downtown Brattleboro.
 
Nancy and Lou’s home in Marboro ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All rights reserved.

Andy with Abby  ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All rights reserved.
In Vermont we did stop in the Spiral Shop; which is on Route 9 between Brattleboro and Nancy and Lou’s home.  Every time we passed it we asked each other: “What’s a Spiral Shop?”  Despite my meager strength, on one trip from town to  home, we pulled over to explore.  I’m so glad we did.  The Spiral Shop is an amazing combination of a stained glass and ornaments shop surrounded by creative gardens, woods and pond, with innovative and unique sculptures. Nothing goes unused.  Old bicycles and medicine cabinets (with mirrors) hang from trees.  Old tools, bottles, broken items of all types are spaced incongruously.  It shouldn’t work, but it does: magically.  It is the creative labor of love of artist Harold Makepiece whose failing health may bring about the closure of this amazing space.

The Spiral Shop ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The Spiral Shop ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The Spiral Shop ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The Spiral Shop ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

The Spiral Shop ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved


The Spiral Shop ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

<> We had decided to visit our college towns together.  I had gone to school in Amherst (Hampshire College and U Mass) and Andy had attended  Cornell. Initially our plans included going to Northhanpton and Amherst (I had lived in both towns) on two days during our stay in Vermont.  Marlboro is only 40 miles north of central Massachusetts. We did go to Northhampton, with a brief stop in Amherst one day.  Many of the shops in Northhampton were not accessible, requiring one step to enter.  I would have had to leave my scooter outside or walk.  I had fashioned a lock out of two bicycle cable locks, but to actually use it to shop casually would have been difficult.  We did a bit of shopping in the more accessible stores, but we had forgotten to recharge the battery the night before and it ran out of electricity so we needed to put it in the car and continue the rest of the day on foot.    We spent some time in the Smith College Library, my favorite of the five college libraries in the area, ate lunch at Paul and Elizabeth’s (a wonderful healthy restaurant,) in addition to the shopping.   We picked up some groceries in Hadley and had dinner in Amherst.  The shops in Amherst were generally more accessible, but without the use of my scooter I was limited in my mobility.  While Andy participated in a conference call, I went over to Food for Thought, the leftist bookstore that I had shopped in many times when I had lived in the area.
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Images of Northhampton, Massachusetts.  Top left: the view of the town from Smith College._Top right: Smith College Library. Middle Left: Smith College Library.  Middle Right and bottom: My residence in NorthHampton.  ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved.
I was exhausted and my cold was getting worse so the next day we rested before heading out that afternoon for Albany and Ithaca.  From then on, most of my sight seeing was from the seat of the car.  Between my cold and the fibromyalgia, I wasn’t strong enough to ride Charley or battle the heat.

<> The view from the car.  Wilmington VT. ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved

My Travels With Charley: Boston or Bust II

<>We’re home, and over the next few days I’ll be posting on the various legs (wheels?) of our trip! Here are some photos to pass the time, that accompany the previous post.
As always, all images are ©2006 Emma Rosenthal All Rights Reserved
East Boston:

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

East Boston 2006 ©2006 Emma Rosenthal all rights reserved

 Downtown Boston

©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved
Boston Public Garden


©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved

©2006 All rights reserved