My Travels With Charley: Portland and Bust! Part 1

Andy and I went up to Portland because he had a speaking engagement on a panel at a Middle School with Arun Gandhi and to meet with members of the Oregon Educators Association interested in forming a state Peace and Justice Caucus.  Andy is the regional chair of the NEA Peace and Justice Caucus and co-chair of the CTA Peace and Justice Caucus.   Oregon Educators Association (OEA) was holding its annual Representative Assembly (RA) that weekend and are just starting to form an Oregon Educators Association Peace and Justice Caucus.
This was only the second time I’ve tried to travel in several years.  The trip to Boston last summer was for three weeks, which gave me time to recuperate from the flight before venturing out.  But a weekend trip doesn’t afford me rest time.  We traveled up on a Thursday and woke up early Friday to go to Canby where the  Peace Advocates, a group of students at Ackerman Middle School under the leadership of OEA member and Ackerman teacher, Tony Crawford had invited Arun Ghandi to plant a peace pole in their peace garden.  (I’ll be going into greater detail of the Canby visit on the Café Intifada blog, complete with photos  –amazing work!)
Unlike many of Los Angeles’ public schools, this school was very accessible.  I bopped around in my scooter with little effort.  I had assumed that the building had been built after 1990, after the passage of the ADA, but in fact, I was informed that it had been built in the fifties, and refurbished for greater access.  Many schools in Los Angeles, even those built after 1990, have stairs and other obstacles to universal access.  Student’s whose only disability is ambulatory, have to be educated in special education facilities away from the general public.  That is, in Los Angeles,  a student with no learning disability, who may only need minor adjustments for physical education is often not allowed to participate in the mainstreamed classroom at many public schools.
Back in Portland, Friday evening, we ate dinner at the restaurant in the Red Lion Inn at Jantzen Beach, where the teachers were meeting.  Unable to get a room at that hotel, we were staying at the Holiday Inn, less than a mile away.  Both hotels were very accessible and the staff was very supportive and helpful.  The Holiday Inn was cleaner than most, with new pillow top mattresses and three sheets with a white comforter between the top two, which is much cleaner than the quilted bedspreads one finds in many Holiday Inns, as well as other bargain hotels and motels.  I also took advantage of the pool and the jacuzzi. Friday night I went back to the hotel to rest while Andy met with Oregon educators.   I slept most of Saturday while Andy worked, leaving the hotel for lunch and dinner.   That evening we ate in downtown Portland with Andy’s brother, Michael who lives in Portland and was celebrating his 61st birthday.  Portland is a very accessible city.  Every store and restaurant in downtown Portland was accessible, even in the older buildings.  This takes planning and consciousness.  It also requires a lack of bigotry of those of “perfect body”  (the temporarily able bodied) who would prefer not to have to socialize with the less desirables.  Los Angeles is consumed with the body beautiful, coupled with what I call spiritual fascism; “If you are sick or your life isn’t going well it’s because you aren’t spiritual enough.”   My illness, according to this theory, and my lack of access that comes with it, in a society that bars my entry into so many public establishments, isn’t due to the natural course of disease, the immortality of the flesh.  It isn’t due to trauma or toxins, discrimination or stress,  differences of class, privilege, sexism or racism, but  to bad karma; to some essential personal shortcoming, spiritual or emotional, bad deeds in this or a past life.  Mix the cult of the beautiful with disability rights and what is already an intolerant society becomes a very discriminatory one with brutal obstacles to full inclusion in the greater society.
This becomes all the more luminous when I travel and find the derision, resentment and hostility so common to Los Angeles, relatively lacking in many other places.
Sunday, Michael had planned a birthday brunch with friends, especially people Andy and I would want to meet.  I had been in such pain at dinner and concerned with having enough strength for the flight back, decided to forgo the brunch and rest all morning. I didn’t get to see much of Portland, except for the ride to Canby and dinner on Saturday. But the clouds did clear enough on our last day for a spectacular view of Mount St. Helens from the plane window. It would have been wonderful to go to brunch, or to spend Saturday, while Andy worked, bopping around town in our rental car instead of sleeping in a hotel room overlooking a dumpster.  As it was, the flight back was very difficult and we did not get home until after 11 PM. The airline lost my scooter on the return flight and replaced it with insults and humiliation.  We did finally get it back.
But that’s another story……..

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