Hacking class for kids

My son’s school had a day this week called “Festival of Numbers”, a day where they invited the geeky parents and anyone else to come teach fun hands-on classes about science, math, engineering, or computer concepts. There were GPS treasure hunts along with classes on origami and code-breaking, probabilities in poker, bubble blowing, calculus, and gravity. The kids from grades 3-8 could sign up for whatever classes they liked throughout the day. It was an amazing event!

I proposed teaching “Computer Hacking 101” which would be a hands-on tour of Unix (in this case Mac OS X) with a little bit of Python thrown in at the end. The school officials reacted with mild dismay to the word “hacking” and I think the issue was kicked up to the district level. I hadn’t realized that popular opinion, even in Silicon Valley, equates hacking with criminals. So, they changed the class’s title to Command Line Secrets along with a kind of silly description about “robo cops and techno spies”. This made me laugh in that it was a weird endorsement of state violence (spies, cops) while rejecting individual power to learn skills and wield knowledge. Well, of course I went ahead and taught the same things I had been planning to teach.

tara's kid

The class was about 30 middle school students. A core of them seemed to be there because they heard from my 6th grade Python student that I was a decent teacher. We opened the class with the IT guy from the district logging them all in from a central computer under the same temporary login that let them access Terminal. As he did this, I read out the points of the Hacker Ethic and explained why I think it’s important for us to be able to tinker with the guts of the computer and of the Internet and the servers where we keep our information.

1. Access to computers—and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works—should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-on Imperative!
2. All information should be free.
3. Mistrust authority—promote decentralization.
4. Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race or position.
5. You can create art and beauty on a computer.
6. Computers can change your life for the better.

Of course it’s the Festival of Numbers not the Festival of Subversion, but cultural background is important!

I explained that knowing how to mess around with Unix or Linux was useful because tons of Internet servers use it. We went through a few basic commands like ls, pwd, and cd to understand the idea of moving around in directories and knowing “where you are”. Most of the kids didn’t catch on to this too well, but they managed. It’s really best to teach this kind of class with an extra helper for every 5-10 students, to get them all on the same page.

Then I asked who would like to see the super secret master password file for the computer. There were some actual screams of delight and disbelief. EVERYONE WOULD! What a surprise. We cd-ed into /etc and typed “more passwd”. I didn’t dwell on this too much, but told them to google it to understand all the bits of /etc/passwd, and said that the passwords won’t actually show, even if you have root, but you might be able to see the encrypted passwords in another file. A tall girl raised her hand. “So… um… how do you understand that encryption? How do you know how to encrypt things?”

We didn’t go into that. Instead I moved on to some more commands like touch and mkdir to make a file and a directory. Then they were getting a bit restless. Many people had moved ahead on the handout and there were more shrieks from around the room as people had typed ps -x or top and were stuck with lines of green text scrolling by in a Matrix-like way! There was another bit on the handout that explained to try control-C, control-D, q, quit, escape, and so on to get unstuck, but it was information I repeated many times over the next two hours!

At that point I was peppered with questions and some kids demonstrated to others that in Mac OS X you can type “say I like farts” and the Mac computer synthesized voice will say it out loud. Hilarity ensued. I let that go for a few minutes (laughing) and then the “say” chorus mostly stopped. Another kid in the back of the room raised his hand. “Ms. Henry how could I see someone’s IP address?” Other kids wanted to know what an IP address was so I gave an extremely condensed explanation that it was a number that shows at what point you’re connecting to the net. We moved on to the “Nifty Network Tools” bit of my handout, and tried: whoami, who, hostname, whois, ping, dig, ifconfig, and traceroute. It was impossible to keep the whole class together and still move as fast as I wanted to. But I did show whoever was paying attention how to do an nslookup on baidu.com, then traceroute to it, which is fun because you can see that it goes to China and that the time lag keeps increasing.

A couple of kids asked how they could get to Terminal to experiment with all these things when the computer lab at school locks them out of it. I recommended they ask teachers with computers in the classroom if they can experiment there, since those computers aren’t under central control. When they asked further if there was some way they could hypothetically get around the lockout in the computer lab I asked the IT guy if they had Terminal and a browser on a USB drive and ran it from there, if that would work. He wasn’t sure!

At some point in response to all their “how to get around school policy” questions I recommended they propose what they wanted to the school and see how they could get it, maybe through a computer club, or a promise of good behavior and to report any serious security holes immediately to a teacher or to the IT staff. And also, that they agree with their friends to try and hack each others’ accounts, then do harmless pranks — not anything malicious or mean. For “password cracking” questions I steered the conversation towards the importance of picking good passwords, but I did mention dictionary attacks, keylogging, and man in the middle attacks as well as simple social engineering or shoulder surfing.

julia with laptop

It was a fascinating experience, I loved the kinds of questions they asked, and really wonder what they’ll do with the information! It seems to me too that I should teach an identical class for their teachers and parents, to demystify the subject and let them know the landscape.

What would you teach to middle school kids in a Hacking 101 class?

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Holding a vicious iguana by the tail

I just finished reading Galápagos: World’s End by William Beebe, written in 1924 about his expedition as a naturalist to the Galapagos islands. Bits of it were so boring I used the book to fall asleep every night for a week. Then something awesome would crop up. Some chapters of the book was written by “the Historian of the Expedition”, Ruth — and I suspect she had her hand in elsewhere too. She was diving into shark infested lagoons, freaking out over weird moonfish, swimming with sea lion pups, and cutting her feet up over sharp lava as she caught and collected and dissected damn near every animal on the island. When I hit this photo of Ruth Rose I finally had to go look her up, feeling that her story or diaries must be entertaining all the way through. She was the expedition historian so I figure much of the notes and writing is really hers, though the book wasn’t hers. She did a ton of the labor of hunting and collecting. And she fell in love with the cinematographer. I’d like that story!

A Giant Land Iguana Captured by the Historian of the Expedition
A Giant Land Iguana Captured by the Historian of the Expedition

I like her bathing suit too!

Ruth Rose (Jan. 16, 1896 – June 8, 1978) was the daughter of Edward E. Rose. In 1926 she meet (and later married) cinematographer Ernest Schoedsack when they were both working on a New York Geological Society expedition to the Galapagos Islands. Together with partner and fellow producer director, Meriam C. Cooper, and animator Willis O’Brien, they made “King Kong”, released in 1933. Rose shared in many of Schoedsack’s and Cooper’s wildness film productions, and worked as a writer or script doctor on King Kong, Son of Kong, She, The Last Days of Pompeii and Mighty Joe Young.

The people marooned on the Galapagos have the best hardships. Raw seal, blue-footed booby blood, turtle fat and meat and the 2 gallons of water that come out of a turtle’s crop. Sealskin moccasins 6 layers thick that are still cut to ribbons in one day of walking across the lava. And in the story told by the taxi-cab driver near the end of the book, while Beebe has returned to New York, was brilliant – his crew went three months without cooked food, until the assistant cook took off one of his filthy shirts and a squashed box of matches fell out of the undershirt’s pocket.

Front View of Head of One of the Vicious Giant Land Iguanas
Front View of Head of One of the Vicious Giant Land Iguanas

Most of the bits written by Beebe switch ghoulishly from admiring the pretty and rare animals to butchering them. He’ll watch a hawk and her young all day long, romanticizing away and blaming the buccaneers for eating all the giant turtles to extinction, and then 2 minutes later he’s dissecting the nest of hawks and gnawing some roast iguana tail while loading up the cargo hold with 400 lbs of turtles, finishing off the despoiling of the islands in the name of imperialist science.

William Dampier and Raveneau de Lussan both sound interesting to look up later!

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The Mississippi and the Atchafalaya

Looks like the Army Corps of Engineers is planning to open the Morganza Spillway this weekend. Here’s a map of the areas projected to flood in Louisiana if the Morganza is opened completely:

I just read John McPhee’s Control of Nature which has a long section about the levees and dams on the Mississippi including the Old River Control Structure. I remember around 1981 I had this book called Dark Gator: Villain of the Atchafalaya that I got from a friend in junior high in Houston. It had this amateurish home-grown quality to it that I loved and I went off to look up “Atchafalaya” in the encyclopedia because I liked the way the word sounded. It blew my mind that there was a whole other giant river that was sort of but not quite part of the Mississippi. I think at the time my dad also explained about Cajuns and Acadians which he had read about in Francis Parkman, because of the book and because I had another friend who liked to boast about being a “Cajun coonass”.


I always think of her and of the Dark Gator comic book when I read about the floods – and I get the song Tupelo by John Lee Hooker stuck in my head.

The levee was already breached near New Madrid, flooding a huge area of farmland to save the town of Cairo and drop the crest levels further down river.

The Mississippi may change course to run primarily into the Atchafalaya basin rather than through New Orleans, and they’re opening the Morganza Spillway to try and prevent the Old River Control Structure from blowing out, which sounds like the highest risk of the river being captured by a new drainage area.

I get fascinated with the technical details of riverways and dams, and the infrastructure necessary to keep everything as it is. It’s haunting me to think of all the people displaced right now and others who may not have evacuated from the flood plains at risk.

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Diane di Prima reading for DivaFest

Diane di Prima does one long solo reading per year in San Francisco and for the last 7 years that’s been at DivaFest at the Exit Theater. The little theater was packed with wistful and wild-eyed poets and hardcore di Prima fans as Diane led off just talking about stuff and asking us all for any spare kleenexes before she started out reading. She talked a bit about being the poet laureate of San Francisco saying that she loves the poetry folks of this town and it honors them and it honors poetry. But the parts that are political or B.S. and that it doesn’t have very much money to support her going in to teach poetry writing to kids and so on, that part isn’t so great. It’s nice but the greatest honor she has ever received was knowing someone typed out her first book on carbon paper to pass it around Leavenworth prison.

Diane then said that she is thinking of what’s new, poems as news, poets as antennae and is reading a bunch of unpublished work and the new things that may go into Loba or the next Revolutionary Letters. “A lot of things that are news are very old. They’re new and old at the same time.” I really love poet talk and Diane can’t even help doing it and at the same time is just plain not full of shit. (Reminding me of my friend Greg who died… should be on his grave stone, “He wasn’t full of shit.”) I respect the ability some people have to just talk and then to read their writing in a way that isn’t bullshitty or different than their usual self. Just write it! And then when you’re talking, saying something! That’s so good.

I kept imagining wishfully that Diane would come to WisCon where she would be strangely happy among fantastic strong writer matriarchs in lavender quilted vests and iron grey hair and wild imaginations that range through all time and space!

Diane di Prima reading at DIVAfest.jpg

Notes on the poems!

The first poem was “My Andalusia” which was written as an exploration of writing about things as you imagined them when you were younger. What you thought about Egypt or New York when you were 6. Diane’s Anadalusia was an alternate history coming up to the present and future where sufi and kabalah and christian and scientific communities flourished uninterrupted by war. “to make light brighter, distance more vast.” Maybe it was “vastness more vast.” “And About Obama” “and if you were living in the enemy’s house wife and kids there too guarded by assassins … for what *were* after all dreams …” I slipped in and out of knowing what she was talking about and then felt quite unsure that other people in the room knew either though they “Hmmmmmmmm!”ed as if they did. “At least the Bay Bridge snapped… somebody had to say something”. And then some old news – “a deer and her young hesitate” which I think then had some radioactive waste. It worked even past my reservations. LOTS of hmmmm-ing on that one which reaction made me wince. (Though, I love people who love poetry so should not criticize. )

“Don’t turn away” (with brief explanation of Kurosawa biography and earthquake story and his brother saying, “Don’t turn away – You want to make films, don’t look away – LOOK!” If you are working on something, don’t turn away. Hyena -vulture – guardians – the race of forbidden – where we keep the dead – warm mud – Look, tears magnify what you can see – Don’t look it up don’t study it’s all before your eyes. (Well and yes I suppose Earth is a mass grave, really. ) Diane read this long prose poem so well and powerfully, forceful, the words building up and poem tumbling over itself. Well done and never maudlin / self righteous / guilt ridden-yet-self-absolving which is the trap so many middle class poets fall into automatically.

“The daughter” – couldn’t wait till she died, pulling weeds, “didn’t I think it looked a whole lot better.” Oh my.

Poem for Sheppard, healer & beloved. Treebark rule (an herb tea he makes her) Touch the crown of their heads as they have not been touched since newborn / they are worth all care / they are gold of gold ” Now here I cried at the poem a bit not knowing Shep but knowing he is sick and that she is not perhaps in the pink of health either and knowing what it means to be in pain and cared for (vs. not cared for) and the other way round And that it is one of the best things. Mia Mingus said it very well in Access Intimacy

Access intimacy is also the intimacy I feel with many other disabled and sick people who have an automatic understanding of access needs out of our shared similar lived experience of the many different ways ableism manifests in our lives. Together, we share a kind of access intimacy that is ground-level, with no need for explanations. Instantly, we can hold the weight, emotion, logistics, isolation, trauma, fear, anxiety and pain of access. I don’t have to justify and we are able to start from a place of steel vulnerability.

Interdependence is worth fighting for and certainly good to write about. I liked the poem.

Then a long poem for a benefit for Haiti for which the organizers kept adding on new countries so it is called Haiti Chile Tibet. I cheered mightily at the bit at the end with the list of Just a Few Suggestions. 1) All hands on deck means just that. It’s a really small boat. 2. Anyone bringing help is welcome – OBVIOUSLY. Don’t ask where they’re from. (HHAHAAH so true – thinking bitterly of the red cross during katrina! lord!) 3) All borders disappear in catastrophe. They are stupid and irrelevant anyway. 4) There is no such thing as looting in a disaster. 5 on the police 6) on guests 7) Give up confusing your property with your life. This will save a lot of problems! I like a poem that describes the world with a little lyrical perspective and humility and then ends with practical wisdom!

“Homeland Security to T’ang Dynasty Princess” – short & sweet. take off your dew covered slippers, step away from the window. Funny then not then funny again, indeed

Lot’s wife doesn’t have a name Who was she how did he greet her when she came in from the field?

“Why money makes me feel bad.” I feel bad when I get some . Then feeling bad when not having any. Yup.

War haiku – July 2006. Lebanon. Even an hour of this / would be too long /White phosophorus. Great lords of the sea /it is Tyre they are burning. Don’t ask if I have bad dreams…

Millenium poem. Revolutionary letters # 83. In the wink of an eye. If Iliad Odyssey… harmony.. and Blake says Fuck all this! & Baudelaire & Rimbaud comes back from outer space he’d rather die a sleazebutt human! American cats et in on it (Melville) They don’t know from order! (laughter uncontrollable there!) Brightness fell from the air. magical will…

I like that poem and want to read it on the page! It was tremendous!

June 3 1966 To the unnamed Buddhist Nun who burned herself to death (she called the NY Times and then called the reporter who told her that buddhist nuns don’t have names.) (not) O monk is it hot in there? (koan about it being a stupid question)

Diane noted that part of her wants to apologize for being so dark. She has this bit of Loba *(unpublished) about the painter who painted Mary out of elephant dung (Chris Ofili) (Turmoil!) And thinking all the other things people might not realize are also sacred. Litany – Our lady of the elephants. Our lady of the armadillos. Our lady of subways… Lady of largest heart. (Yes- Inanna reference!!!!! Right on)

Freaking awesome poem called Fire sale – everything must go. I long to publish this one.
Well, we can’t build the new society from the shell of the old” “I love those old Wobbly songs” Let’s stop looking over our shoulders! Let’s stop copying Scandinavian socialism, it’s too sad! You all talk too much!” Oh, man, I love it.

We then had some questions and conversation. Conversation hard though in Authority/Audience format (alas) I asked what Diane is reading and she said lots of Ursula Le Guin (YEAH…. instantly I go back to my WisCon imaginings and pictured them both at the Mad Scientist Otaku Tea Party Cafe laughing over tea with robots and mad scientists serving little cakes) And all of Shakespeare in little Arden editions because you can hold one at a time and they don’t hurt your hands to hold them up. someone asked about plays and Diane said she has some plays one called Whale Hunting about the death of Shelley just before he drowns with Mary Byron and Shelley. Oh man! I’d like to see that play. And another one which I did’t hear about because I was imagining the Shelley one. A very dear woman stood up in the back and said her name is Grace HArwood and she has been witness to Diane’s aweseomness since 1970 and is so happy she is poet laureate and it’s about fucking time! (cheers and applause) Another question , what do you think is possible? Are you writing more memoir? (Yes but slowly and don’t tell anyone, she does not want her agent to know so there is no pressure) It has a lot about the shape of life and the demands of old age and is around 200 pages now. Diane asked us what we are writing and doing and where we published and after what was perhaps not a long enough pause I said I am making tiny books and held up my Burn This Press stuff. (Then wished I hadn’t and that i had explained my whole earth catalogue poem and my difficulties with it ) Another guy talked about a small press cooperative he is in up near Yosemite with 35 authors, Poetic Matric Press and he named a poet who does something interesting with Damascus I think (then I was remembering the excellent Damashq story from the Lesbian Steampunk book.) Someone up in the back asked about Denise Levertov and whether they knew each other. Diane said they were at readings together and she was very proper and without meaning to or knowing it she often upset Denise just by having some 4 letter words in a poem. also “she could have gone further”. I got excited and wondered what she meant there b/c I am fond of Levertov but get very frustrated by her and want to give her a shove and go “okay… now go further”. She wraps it up too fast and doesn’t get out of a certain comfort zone (though that is arrogant of me to say) What poetry would she recommend for kids? What poetry would be NOT for kids? (maybe Kaddish… i dunno…. lol) They’re just people! Just give them poetry! They come with all the equipment. (I agree) She said when she was little people read her shakespeare quite young and she read all the robert louis stevenson and poe things that kids usually read.

Best question from audience especially since asked by very young dude, or best response I guess, Do you ever get embarrassed by things you wrote when you were younger, you wrote it 40 years ago? “No. That’s who I was. I love those who-I-wases. (swoooon) I worked on it till I was pleased with it. It still stands. (reads a poem). I liked that person. She thought she was a lot tougher than she was, but she got along somehow. Take your own side. That’s the hardest job of a writer. ”

“Things are different because, I’m not sure about the because. There were very few of us writing. in 61… the newsletter me and Leroi Jones put out had 114 names across the country, poets, painters, dancers, choreographers. Lots of indie bookstores and they all wanted 5 copies. Libraries doing special collections of American Lit. Now it’s harder. Why? I don’t understand the use of cyberspace as a publishing medium. I don’t get the shape of it and how the poem is with it. You have a book, that’s the poem in space. You have a reading, that’s the poem in time. I don’t understand what shape I am working with when I’m in there and in what shape things are cut. ”

Afterwards I gave some books away and Diane was so mobbed it was hard to talk with her but I will write her a letter. I did hang about to say thank you and to give her a tiny blank book (made from scraps of Burn This Press books). A guy came up and told me about Exit Press and someone else told me about the Brown U. bookstore and who to write to to send books for their small press section. Someone else invited me to the Lunada readings at Galeria de la Raza, which sound great… All the Divafest plays and shows look fantastic – it is a celebration of women writers. There is a pirate play and one about Eleanor of Acquitaine and it’s going on all this month – take a look. Also Diane runs weekend workshops periodically – I went to one in around 2002 and heartily recommend it – “hanging out and writing” was exactly what we did.

I unfolded my bike and rode the 5 blocks back to my car which was down 6th across Market – legs shaking and my right foot unable to really do its thing correctly and my hip aching fit to bust – But feeling very free and scared in the good way & as if I were cloaked in secrets.Taking my overcaffeinated self and sinus infection back to bed now for utter collapse as the sudafed wears off.

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Blogging Against Disablism Day: How I bought a bike

This weekend I bought a folding bike. I’m still using my wheelchair sometimes, and cane or crutches most of the time. When I tried Danny’s bike, I found out that as long as my knee behaves, riding a bike is easier than walking, and certainly hurts less. So it seems like time to step up my rehab efforts — from walking around the warm pool to biking! Plus, folding bikes are just cool. For Blogging Against Disablism Day I want to write about buying the bike, and how it feels to be getting stronger physically, but being in between.

I went to Warm Planet near the Caltrain station in San Francisco where they seemed to have a big selection of folding bikes. They got out some Dahon bikes for me to try. I really appreciated that they didn’t act weird that I came into the store on crutches and went out on two wheels. “Go right, then two blocks down and you’ll come to the bridge across the creek”. I was only going to circle around the little plaza but the guys in the shop encouraged me to go further. No one acted funny about my crutches.

I rode off feeling completely terrified despite my bravado. I didn’t take my backpack with folding canes in it. Off into the city — alone! Away from my car, and my wheelchair, and crutches. Only my phone to help me somehow if I got stuck. Well, it’s been years. I got off the bike and adjusted the seat, then wobbled off down the sidewalk. As I rounded the corner and looked ahead, paused and waited for the light to change, I started crying like crazy. I realized how incredibly and beautifully invisible I was.

The road looks different

I love my wheelchair! It’s lightweight, it’s elegant and lovely, I have great joy in moments of going downhill or around corners and spinning, and best of all it gets me around. I keep the raggedy old gate tags from airplane flights on the chair frame where I can look down and see them any time, to remind me that the chair helps give me freedom and independence to go anywhere. Well, anywhere that laws attempt to force airlines to let me and my painful unreliable limping legs and my wheelchair on the airplane and anywhere my massive privilege and credit card pay for me to go.

It seems very unfair that a bike – just another metal device with wheels and tires – should mean something so different than a wheelchair. They’re on a sort of continuum! Or a graph with cars and couches and rolly office chairs! They’re just things that we use with our bodies! Why is everything so screwed up? Why are people such jerks? Why did Ruben Gallego spend ages in a Soviet nursing home and his friends die there when they should have been flying down the street, seeing everything and going everywhere, when people literally fly across the sky, and force others to be imprisoned by the structures we build and the ones we don’t build! Why is my friend Nick stuck without reliable home care barely able to go out at all (and “lucky” to have fought like hell to get out of being institutionalized) mired down in so many levels of bureaucracy it takes a whole team of people to dig out from under it? What will happen to my friends and family and to us all because of this ignorance and bigotry?

As I cried while flying down the street on this folding bike, I fell in love with it. I felt embarrassed for how I felt and hoped no one could tell, that the dudes in the store couldn’t tell and wouldn’t be thinking that I was having a sentimental or intense experience; I certainly wanted to hide that out of some mixture of anger at how other people let me know what they think I experience. Part of what I felt was really complicated sadness and anger and relief at realizing how *marked* I am when I’m visibly disabled, because I suddenly didn’t feel it any more, though I felt exactly the same in mind and body. That was unexpected. Part of it was like a little betrayal. I was *too glad*. I misplaced a bit of armor that I still need.

The road looked different. Distances shortened. I constructed a new map of here to there. Got out my phone, turned on My Tracks, and recorded where I was going.

I looked at a gravelly path and it wasn’t a barrier, all of a sudden. I could go down it, and wouldn’t be just stuck in the gravel. Crossing the street wasn’t a painful exhausting process of wheeling over cracks and bumps and gutters, bad curb cuts and the difficult crown in the middle. The roads all opened up. Completely surreal. Time and space folded. If you’ve experienced this shift of distance and effort, you should think of it as actual hyperspace. Your doors of perception get another doorway added on to the Winchester Mystery House of your brain and body.

Bike

At this point I was getting to be afraid again, not sure how far I could go. My bad knee hurt, and my not-so-bad knee hurt too. My calf and foot were basically freaking out and spasming so that I wanted to punch myself in the leg to make it stop. I got off the bike and sat on the bar that goes across from seat to handlebars, balancing and trying to rest and massage around my knee, staring at the 3rd street houseboats. Would I even be able to walk the half block to my car once I got back? What if I misjudged it all terribly? I turned around.

Rehab is difficult and slow. I’ve done it before. It took me from 1996 to 2000 to stop using a cane to walk and even then, I still ended up on crutches a couple of times a year. Seems like I should already know how to handle it emotionally, but it turns out not to be that easy. I swear I’m not complaining! I appreciate my good luck in this. I’m just saying it messes with my head.

I was waking up in a cold sweat lately wondering about my parking placard, which said “Expires June 2011” on it. I pictured going back to the DMV, and my doctor, and the DMV again to renew it. What if my doctor wouldn’t renew it? If she wouldn’t, then that was going to limit where I could go and what plans I could make for a long time to come. But would she think I was “disabled enough” or should be better faster? How would I explain? I cried when the renewed placard came automatically in the mail.

I’m on this cusp where, my hands and one arm are messsed up now too, and I can’t push myself very well in the wheelchair for long distances and am like, okay, I’m at this point where easily I could go for a powerchair just to get around, if my knees don’t get better. I’m not sure if my walking more is actually improving anything or just damaging myself more. I get through a day walking, but end up crying and desperate for painkillers.

Screen shot 2011-05-02 at 6.19.12 PM

At this point, I think I’m on my way to having more time walking, maybe walking without a cane. For a little while. I’m not sure of it. I can’t picture that it would last. I’d like to walk around San Francisco again and have that secret feeling where I go up a flight of stairs without visible effort and think “HA! My legs just did this THING! And no one KNOWS!” I remember classes at San Francisco State as being continual astonishment like I was whirling around in a sort of Escher drawing of stairs and endless corridors that miraculously, I could handle.

As I rode back to the shop I realized that now I could park further away. I could plan on going to a friend’s house in the city, and park blocks away and ride my folding bike to their door. What else? How far could I go? How far would I dare try to go? Can I even *think* that without making myself want to puke, as if caught in some horrible “inspirational” story!? I refuse to be in one, because I’m in pain and I’m politically conscious and I’m fucking pissed off!

Back at the bike shop. I pulled myself together and hoped it wasn’t obvious I had cried all over. I felt completely drained of energy. The bike shop dudes chatted and asked me questions and adjusted the bike for me. I bought it. I said how I had expected them to throw an attitude about the crutches and explained that I still use my wheelchair.

They then told me all sorts of stories of people using bikes for mobility devices, getting them certified, going on caltrain riding the lift because of not being able to carry it up the steps. One guy said he was unable to straighten his knee to walk well, but could ride his bike fine since it didn’t have to straighten. They began talking in a kind of visionary way about how more people who walk with difficulty could and should use bikes. I complimented them on their integration of the social model of disability. Maybe it was because of bicyclists’ radical politics? Are bike people not like general sports people? They’re like sports people who went through special consciousness raising? Why is it, really, that bike shops will fix a wheelchair, tighten my spokes, check alignment, give advice, without a lot of mystery and mystification, while wheelchair stores automatically act to take away disabled people’s power and act like the sleaziest sort of car sales con-men?

The Warm Planet guy shrugged. “We fit these machines to work with people’s bodies. And everybody’s body is different, that’s all.”

That seems very wise!

I’m going to have some more rehab time, I’ll screw up, exhaust myself, re-injure myself, lose some independence and gain it back, embarrass myself, not be able to live up to other people’s expectations, be an inconvenience, need to be rescued, cry on staircases, get stronger or sicker, but seems likely I get some more walking years out of this body. Things will get easier and easier. Obstacles will start to melt away for me, but they’ll still be there, I’ll still see them. I won’t lose my map of the world. I’ll keep my dual or multiple consciousness. It was hard to get. A lot harder than making my zombie leg move forward over and over. Everybody’s body is different and our bodies change over time in all sorts of ways, cyclically or not. We’ll fit the machines of the world to our bodies… that’s all…

Bike

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