Weird SF and a kids’ book binge

I did a lot of trying to say no to things and step down from things I wasn’t doing (well enough, or in some cases, at all) which was kind of my therapy homework and which was very difficult. Why is focusing so difficult? Why can’t we live 6 lives at once??? Why am I getting older and more tired? It just has to be.

More centrally (the therapy part I suppose) What if I didn’t feel like I was somehow failing all the time and disappointing people? I think last time I said this in semi-public a little group of my friends stared at me silently, looked around the table at each other and then one of them as spokesperson explained that when I said things like that with all the things I actually do manage to accomplish, I was insulting them. Like if I thought that harshly of myself, when I had a job, was in grad school, had a toddler, and was still also doing extra projects, then… how was I judging them? Years later I still think of this (thanks elaine) and how helpful it was at giving me a kick in the ass. (Not an instant fix obviously, but a useful insight)

Dealing lots with architects/contractors. There is some little thing every day and a bigger meeting once a week. Construction continues under our house. Someday, someday! we will live in that bit of house, it will all have wheelchair access, I will have a REAL BATH and soak and read in the tub, without the noise of power tools, and I will get to fix up the garden again to enjoy it.

Last week and this week, I’m focusing in on work for DIFxTech and on GOAT. I even got a little help from M. in discussing how to catalogue and tag some of the GOAT archive – how useful to have another librarian in the family! And both kids were here last week and are now back at school while Danny is in Europe till the end of the week.

Annoyingly I not only got a cold (not Covid thankfully) but also got my period for the 2nd time in the past year, resetting my menopause clock so I will still be officially “perimenopause” till at least next January. Mother of God, I was so fucking pissed, it was so great to have it over with, but no. Fuck!!

I took a sewing lesson in the Mission, making a striped velvet zippered throw pillow with fabric that reminded me of one of my grandmother’s couches that had similar colors and how I would lie on it and pet the velvet one way & then the other. Got my sewing machine out resolving to practice on it on some scraps but then realized the pedal was missing which led me to clean out the entire row of cabinets.

Will I actually learn to sew and finally complete the blue jean blanket of my dreams – modeled after that crazy quilt bed cover I slept under once in the 90s at Harry and Daffodil’s house, made of I think Daff’s former lover’s favorite jeans, with all the pockets and rips on top and the underneath soft with the texture of the inside-out frayed bits. It was comfy and comforting and so bittersweet to think of his love for this dead young man and all the ways the radical faerie & other community had come together & was grieving so hard. I have forgotten his name but not the love that whoever made the quilt had for him. I think he must have been an amazing person.

In reading this week and last:

Loved the Christopher Rowe books and short stories, tons of Weird Kentucky, the wonderful Navigating Fox, and I hope maybe there could be more about the detective dog. (Maybe a prequel so we also get the crow friend?)

I also loved Tuf Voyaging, which somehow I have never read. It’s a great read that comes off like light space opera, but which is actually kind of a complicated moral fable. The Portmaster was so interesting – like Martin trying to write in a super valid critique of his too powerful main character and what power does to him – I am always saying this so I warmed to it. It was like seeing him in dialogue with the ghostly hand of feminist science fiction, so I enjoyed that. Plus of course I warmed to the (too powerful) nerd hero and his cats and his (too powerful) spacecraft (as the youth say, he is “a bit acoustic” in a charming way.) Having the down to earth feministsf Portmaster tell him off repeatedly did not stop the OP MC one bit. But she wasn’t treated badly in the story, and she gets some kittens, and she had her own problematic behaviors; I liked how Martin treated her as a character.

Damiano by R.A. MacAvoy. Readble but not my favorite, a little too fetishy of a certain type of anguished christian man that just annoys me. I did like the witch Sara from Fennland for a moment, and then didn’t again (bad boyfriend, whinges too much about age) I also don’t think much of Damiano. Oops I accidentally slaughtered more people with my magic ™ waah waah oh my little doggie is so pure oh also my literal angel who i definitely don’t lust after, wahh wahh but also women are purty. Goth cosplay and a broken lute! The end. (Sorry everyone.)

Very, very, very annoyed by Rome of One’s Own, which I feared was going to annoy me. I had some hope it might be a nice overview, since “forgotten” women of history of basically anywhere and when is one of my very favorite things to read. Maybe I would learn something about women of ancient Rome. BUT NO. It’s so, so bad y’all. The most annoying kind of “history” book.

I want to just blast it with my scorn for a moment but let me set a background first. At best, the book is trying to explain that historical interpretation can change over time. But it fails to make that clear and usually ignores the historical context of it sources. Instead it messily conflates truth, what the authors of those sources (Livy, Ovid, or whoever) thought was true, what later generations thought, or may have thought, was true and how they interpreted a story about a particular woman, and then what the book’s author and apparently, her (British, women) readers will read into that story. Often kind of (and only kind of!) attributing agency, empowerment, or historical importance to the woman in the story.

If you want an example of this done incredibly well, I love how Margaret Reynolds approaches it in The Sappho Companion.

Rome of One’s Own did not do it well. It was like I was nonconsensually shunted into a wine o’clock mumsnet party who were all incoherently yelling “You go, girl!”

Please just go read some primary sources! OMFG!

There could have been a fine book here that clearly outlined, here’s some things that particular writers said about particular women who may or may not have been semi-mythical, and exactly when that was, and what else was going on, and then, what other people in England/Great Britain then said about those women in subsequent centuries and how they reinterpreted things in their own context! And then you could add your own Liberated Ladies perspective onto that but make it clear what you are DOING. you could write a popular audience history book that lays some coherent groundwork and is still readable!

And, only talking about what Livy and Ovid and like 3 other dudes said about some mythical women of Rome’s founding, does a huge disservice to all the cool history of regular people and women’s daily lives that we can look at from the past… century that puts it into actual context including with archeological sources!

Here is where I should recommend something better as an antidote and I do have examples but the first thing that comes to mind is Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s “Women’s Work” and of course Prehistoric Textiles. (Way too broad in scope, not actually Rome, but gives you actual information! that! is! organized!)

I then bounced hard off a detective thriller, Zero Day. It started OK promising a married pen testing duo and a competent hacker heroine and then went quickly to some places I did not want to go: a background of what sounds like violent/life threatening/maybe rapey abuse by her cop ex boyfriend, and her nice hacker husband murdered by chapter 2. I can’t read that shit while D. is out of town! Fuck no!

Not to mention, after the murder, she gets a mysterious email saying that there is a mysterious 1 million dollar life insurance policy and she CLICKS THE PDF IN THE EMAIL.

Nope nope nope! Must we?! NOT going to finish that one. If there is a less violent novel by Ruth Ware, with less dwelling on women’s fear, trauma, and fucking up, please let me know.

To clear my mind of all that, I went on a Project Gutenberg spree and downloaded a lot of dumb Angela Brazil books (The Jolliest Term on Record; Madcap of the School), an equally ridiculous Cherry Ames book, and Clematis by Bertha Browning Cobb which is a lovely book about a neglected orphan and her beloved kitten. And some things off the 19th century list of classic kids’ books. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_children%27s_classic_books that I haven’t read.

So in short, BRB, gonna play some jolly field hockey with my chums and then go back to my digs for tea and spiffing rock cake (wtf is that, i’m still not sure but it does not sound nice). Why is diggings, or digs, school slang for where you live? mining and miners? archaeology? something else?)

Happy 2024!

I didn’t do a year in review for 2023 and I hope I will do something like that. But it’s too much for this morning and I feel like just starting fresh with a diary of this first week.

On Sunday, NYE, I officiated a wedding in Golden Gate Park and that was really a lovely experience!! A first for me (and for the women getting married). My license was from American Marriage Ministries, which is non spiritual and non theist and which you can get free online in like, 5 minutes. We had several discussions about their feelings and what they wanted, I drafted a ceremony, gave them some sample vows to work from as a template, and we did the thing on about one weeks’ notice. Lovely group of friends, and the most biting and wearing of cat ears of any wedding I’ve ever officiated! On Jan 2 I went down to City Hall to turn in the license and got to enjoy the gorgeous building, and visit the statue of John F. Shelley, who is (probably) our house’s most famous former resident.

I hung out at home on Monday with Danny, then at Poesía Cafe to do some writing in the Castro and got a haircut and saw my sister & nephew. Allergy shots – More appointments – Cole Valley and Noe/24th – And today is Trans Nerd Brunch at Zeitgeist.

For reading: Foz Meadows Strange & Stubborn/ All the Hidden Paths (gay fantasy romance, angsty, good), Bookshops & Barbarians (not actually that good alas). A super cheesy kids’ series called The Historical House which is set in a particular made up house in London over 300 years, with a different 12 year old girl starring in each book. Each girl is incredibly bland but has some kind of ambition, and the stories connect. (Why do people dumb down books for middle grade! unnecessary! ) These actually sucked (SO BLAND, so bloodless) and yet I was drawn to read them all. I think because I just like the idea of thinking about the lives of all the people who have lived in a particular house.

I also SCORED majorly as I picked up an old paperback copy of The Unquiet Grave by “Palinurus” aka Cyril Connolly. I dipped in and out of it but haven’t read it through yet. He must have been fun at parties. (All that Benzedrine.) He may get invited to my secret End of Greatness club.

The best book I read this week was Wole Talabi’s Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon. This is just great, while it took a little bit for me to catch on to what was happening, about halfway through it built up to an amazing story of corporate gods and spirits and rebels, freelancer outlaws, power struggles between gods, a Nigerian and, I guess ancient near eastern (!) view of the world, a fantastic heist, a guest star spot by magician Aleistair Crowley & friend as well as his modern incarnation. The exotification of British magic was *chef’s kiss*.

It was so good also to have multiple times and locations within Africa, I don’t know how to express this in a way that isn’t clumsy, but, we get a sense of the greatness of history and huge diversity because of locations in Cairo, Tunisia (?), medieval Ghana, Axum/ ancient Ethiopia/Eritrea, and so on in addition to Nigeria past, present, and spirit-worldish.

This would make the BEST WEIRD MOVIE. Glitzy club scenes with terrifying rich people! Weird sex magic! Amazing historical panoramas! God wars! Spirit worlds! British Museum heist! Seriously.

As I read, I went on a zillionty Wikipedia and beyond spelunking expeditions, looking up people, places, myths, and so on. Any cultural reference I didn’t get, I looked up. I have to go back and make a list of the neat stuff I learned from my sidetrack habit while reading this book but one good starting point was the East African queen Gudit. And another neat one, the Eritrean Hawulti and other stelae!

Anyway, Talabi is another author I will follow with interest – I pre-ordered his next book, Convergence Problems!

And, if you haven’t read Africa Risen, it’s a very good anthology where I first encountered Talabi’s work, and I highly recommend it if you want to start getting into reading African science fiction authors!

Hip hop and a party

I took the 49 and the 30 buses across town to the Palace of Fine Arts for the International Hip Hop DanceFest – its 25th year! If you can, grab tickets and go tomorrow, it was an incredible trip.

The show was particularly great this year. I think my favorite peformance was the one led by Selasi Dogbatse from Brussels, “A Piece of Me” , which was incredibly emotional and dynamic – it seemed to go through a narrative of culture, family, artistic expression and a sort of artistic journey, but what often made it great was the relationships between the dancers as they really danced with each other in a communicative way that also felt like change happening between them. Ensemble work where everyone was individually going through artistic growth by their interactions in the actual performance! I don’t really know how to write about dance, but that was my impression!

colorful stage full of dancers

Wildly energetic and skilled dances from Flawless (London) who were acrobatic and stylish, House of Jit (Detroit), Wanted Posse (Paris) were total crowd pleasers, big ensembles. Wanted Posse acted out fantastic scenes from a 1920s speakeasy, House of Jit showed off Detroit style which I was not familiar with but which is FAST and complicated and looks super cool.

hiphop dancer on stage

There were two smaller acts, Snack Break Movement Arts from Philly, and Ben Donner who gave a heartfelt solo dedicated to his grandmother, as the opener to the show. Snack Break’s set was really beautiful as well and told a loose narrative of childhood friendships, games, rivalries and fun as the two friends compete and play – it had a nostalgic feel as they incorporated hopscotch and hand clapping in with their hip hop and swing moves.

Then there were the local ensembles, California representing! Str8jacket from San Mateo had a lot of young people and great choreographic talent. I thought of my son’s old group Community Street Jam and the choreo by Barb Miron and her crew who were often paying homage to Jabbawockeez, with fast and complex moves that never felt repetitive. I never know how they remember it all! Whew! They had great energy and I love the bay area waacking, popping, and whatever they were doing, I think I’d call it House. Then Versa-Style Dance Company from LA giving us a more matured west coast style infused with salsa that had the audience screaming and hooting! Along with a kind of similar feeling to Selasi Dogbatse’s group in that you could see different personalities and artistic journeys expressed and the joy and difficulty of creativity and collaboration. It feels wrong to pick favorites but they were also my favorite, they were just so perfect in every way and I could not even keep still in my chair! I had to go home and do some dancing around too!

The best thing about hip hop is the supportive culture that always shines through in Micaya’s shows, you can see the emotional strength of all the collaborations and of the (temporary) community around the show that she creates. Really a joy every year — I put it on my calendar for November just as soon as the “Save the Date” email arrives!

Micaya in a colorful dress with the mic in hand

I had a little interlude at Crissy Beach feeling the sand in my toes, admiring the pelicans, taking pics of the bridge and enjoying the late fall sun. Right near me a group of obviously queer parents of toddlers were dressed in spangles and sparkles for the birthday party of a little kid who has the same name as my son who I was thinking of all day long since we have always tried to go to this show together! It was funny to wish this tiny, silver sparkle loving Milo a happy birthday while I was thinking of my own grown up sparkle-loving Milo!

On the bus on the ride home I got lucky with entertaining bus driver action. It was rush hour crowded on the 49 but the driver kept us all amused in front of the bus with his friendly greetings and running commentary.

At one stop there was a lady with a giant cart with stuff strapped to it with bungies, a load higher than her head and probably about 2 and a half feet wide. Our driver pulled up and was like, “I am sympathetic to your situation but you got a lot goin’ on sister”. Very much standing room only at the front of the bus with me also wedged in there in my powerchair absolutely surrounded by close up butts and elbows. Cue an argument from Cart Lady. “But my dog needs these things and I have to protect my dog! When is the next bus!” (They come about every 5 minutes!) I assume there was a dog in the crate strapped at the bottom of the pile. No one likes to be passed up and I felt sympathetic but it was just impossible.

Then the kicker, she yelled, “BUT YOU LET WHEELCHAIRS ON THERE!! IT’S NOT FAIR” The entire front half of the bus groaned and rolled their eyes and me and the driver started laughing once he had pulled away.

“Look now, we’ve seen everything, if you have wheelchairs, you gotta also give equal rights to dogs!!”

“The thing is, I’m way more fun than a dog!”

Later on the ride the nice driver was telling stories of how he worked on all the Bay Area bridges in all weather and how cold it was but how beautiful.

I was also called “Sir” yesterday and “Buddy” “Pal” and “My man” today at random times so my nonbinary haircut must be doing its job.

Geek tour of the San Francisco Bay Area

People come to San Francisco, still, in pursuit of the technoutopian dream, but also they like to pay homage to an idea of “Silicon Valley”. Now that the Mozilla monument has gone to storage, there aren’t a lot of public monuments out there to visit. We really need enormous, beautiful public monumental art to celebrate Internet and computer history!!

But we don’t have that. So, where to go on your nerd pilgrimage? I have a list of recommendations for the computer nerds with a romantic soul!

The Computer History Museum heads the geek tour list of course! It is in Mountainview and the public transit options aren’t ideal, but are doable. You can take Caltrain to Mountainview and look for a city bus or a shuttle bus, or just take a cab/rideshare for the last leg of your trip.

The MADE – The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment – is a hands-on video game history museum where the retro games are all playable, often on incredible and well maintained old hardware! It’s in downtown Oakland, a few easily walkable blocks from the 12th Street BART station.

The Exploratorium, while a broad tech and science museum, is gorgeously hands on and participatory. There are actual experiments you can do (not like so many science museums where interactivity means pushing a button or watching a video). And the techy things are elevated to really beautiful art in many cases (look for the creations of Ned Kahn, for example!)

Noisebridge hacker and maker space is open daily in the afternoons and evenings, and it’s basically a long running, large, donation supported and volunteer run, workshop. It is free, but cash or online donations are very much appreciated and needed! It’s a bit like going into a giant, messy, anarchic, collaborative garage. People are generally friendly, you can show up any time, and someone will give you a tour. If you feel like soldering something, or using the 3D printers, or learning a new skill, or just want a co-working space for an afternoon, this is a great spot to meet new people and hang out. Check the meetup page for classes and workshops!

San Francisco Railway Museum – this is a tiny but fabulous museum near the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero in SF. It tends to appeal to computer geeks!

Historic Ships at Hyde Street Pier – Now, this has nothing to do with computers but if you are the sort of nerd who like me, enjoys transit and infrastructure and history, you might like this very quiet park on the waterfront at Aquatic Park (avoid the Fisherman’s Wharf maelstrom). Seriously you will be the only person on some of these ships. Giant pulleys and block and tackle arrangements! Lie down in an actual ship’s bunk! You can walk onto the sailing ship Balaclutha and onto a huge paddlewheel steamship and a couple more interesting ships. Notably — the Balaclutha is wheelchair accessible, with a (very steep) ramp onto the ship, and a scary-fun lift down into the cargo hold!!!

The US Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model in Sausalito. Nerd heaven if you like this sort of thing. It’s a giant relief map of the entire Bay Area with its waterways, the size of two football fields, and you can walk around it to learn geography and history. Sadly there is no longer water flowing in it because it is now cheaper to run computer simulations of the water flow in the Bay. You can take the ferry there and walk (a fairly long walk but doable) to the Model!

Google! If you’re walking along the Embarcadero in San Francisco, the Hills Brothers Building plaza is a nice place to sit, and you can take a picture with the Google sign if that appeals to you. Coming up soon in October 2023, the Google Visitor Center will be opening up in Mountainview – maybe good to combine with a visit to the Computer History Museum!

Apple Park Visitor Center in Cupertino is an hour or so away from San Francisco by car. If you’re already down there or in San Jose and you’re a huge Apple fan then maybe it’s worth going to see. I’ve never been to it, but I see people asking about it often in the bay area subreddits.

The Intel museum in Santa Clara! If you want to read some corporate stuff about how chips are made, this is for you, but I am not sure if I actually recommend it since I’ve never been there and it seems to be mostly for school kids.

Hiller Museum of Aviation in San Carlos. If you love planes, or you kind of like them and you’re already on the Peninsula south of SF, this is a fun and cool little museum. Also great for little kids as they can run around very freely, and there’s entire sections of planes they can go into and climb around in.

More transit! Historic aircraft! Moffett Field (ie, the Bay’s own little part of NASA!) offers tours led by a docent and they have a small visitor center.

If the Mare Island shipyard museum ever opens up again, i highly recommend it because it is HUGE and super old fashioned and sort of clearly beloved by the people who used to work there and created a lot of the exhibits. They used to build nuclear submarines ! There’s a little periscope in the cockpit of an old nuclear submarine (or whatever you call the spot in a sub where there’s a periscope) that you can look up into Vallejo from!

There must be more. And there should be more! Add suggestions to the comments and I’ll add them to the post!

My high school banned books article, banned

In high school in Texas the 80s (Cypress Creek) I wrote two articles for the school newspaper that were banned.

I was just thinking about this as I looked at the totally bonkers list of books banned recently from the Katy and Cy-Fair school districts on the outskirts of Houston. Wacky Wednesday??! Yes, the Dr. Seuss book! Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret at least has a long history of being banned, though it was pretty bland, mostly about getting your period, not even anything spicy. I’m trying to imagine why Wacky Wednesday would be banned as “inappropriate for children” and failing. (Secretly about drugs?)

My first banned school newspaper article was written from interviews with kids I knew about how what drugs people were doing and how they obtained them. It’s been a while, but my memory is that most kids stole them from their parents (coke from briefcases, or for the less rich kids, weed) and others hung out with older kids and did weed or X. (Which is what we called ecstasy before it was “molly” I guess. Why is it molly?)

Since at that time I was getting in-school suspension a lot, for being kind of fucked up but also just for dumb shit like — not even making this up — “satanic symbols on my folder” – which were anarchy signs and runes that said “Ph’nglui mglw’nfah Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn! or “Cthulu lies dreaming in the ancient city of R’lyeh”. ANYWAY. I was in the nice, peaceful, quiet in-school suspension room doing my homework packets, reading, and not being bullied, and at lunch the druggie kids would tell me how they bought weed, so I wrote about it.

I got an A on the assignment and it was set to go in the student newspaper. None of us realized that the student newspaper was read over by the administration. But I found out! The extremely nice teacher let me know that I could keep my good grade but the administration would not let it go in the paper. I was so pissed.

So I wrote another article about censorship. I called various school libraries in our district, Cypress-Fairbanks, and called the superintendent of schools office and found that there were lots of banned books. They usually were banned because of something called the Committee of Concerned Citizens, which I had never heard of!

In our school library I found a lot of examples of incredibly pornographic gross romance novels, which I knew about because my super conservative friend’s super Christian mom used to read them and my friend let me borrow them. So many rape and Civil War scenes y’all, I can’t even. The books they banned included James Joyce’s Ulysses, and Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Yes, 1908s Houston, I’m sure all of us were just raring to read Ulysses and DH Lawrence.

So I wrote my article, it got an A, and then it was not allowed in the paper.

So I made an underground newspaper with both of my dumb articles in them, and some other writing I don’t remember that might not have been from me, and some badly drawn cartoons, featuring, a dead rat dead from “cafeteria food” as the assistant principal peed in a filthy school bathroom, missing the urinal (why? i don’t know, but someone drew it and it seemed edgy). This girl I knew vaguely took it and made free copies at her dad’s office and we spread the paper around and a few days later were busted. I wonder who told!

We were both actually suspended for this, but I was allowed back because if I missed my final exams I woudl flunk. I remember a tense meeting with the principal, a counselor, and someone from the superintendent’s office, and them saying, “We just want you gone. We’re letting you back so you can graduate and get out.”

Thanks y’all! Fuck you very much!!

I don’t know what happened to Elise or what her last name was or whether she got to take her finals but I hope she did!

I also wish I had a copy of that newspaper but it is long gone.

Also, check out this kid Cameron Samuels’ great speech to the Senate! https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2023-09-12_-_testimony_-_samuels.pdf “It should not have been my responsibility as a 17-year-old to defend my rights and challenge bigotry. Protecting children requires empowering us students, not allowing one or two parents to dictate the policies of an entire community.” Fantastic!

There’s worse shit to be mad at Texas about including their extreme anti choice laws and anti trans laws and trying to take kids away from their parents and not allowing trans kids to use school bathrooms but I’m also still mad about the books and the censorship! It’s all part of the same damn thing!

Fuck you very much AGAIN, you edge of Houston, kicker scum, fat faced, child molesting, golf playing, homo-hating, hick-ass Jesus lickers! I’m sure your nonsense is no better today than it was then! And I hope Wacky Wednesday bites you right on the ass.

Who gets which words

I had to laugh yesterday at myself for being outraged, when someone maybe 15 years younger than me was shocked that a GenXer would say “chonker”. I can fucking say “chonker”!?

Is that not our word? I thought it was but maybe the millenials own it, kind of in the “smol snek” category of cute animal words invented on Tumblr.

Chonk, I’ll fight over. However, millenials can have “smol snek”, “danger noodle”, and also “adulting”, as I consider that to be a word meaning “chores”, used by people who never had to do normal-ass housework as children. Y’all can keep “adulting”.

What makes access amazing for you?

I was thinking about event accessibility today and events I’ve been to as a wheelchair user. There are bare minimums of accessibility that mean I can get in the door, and usually that’s what people mean when they tell me their space, or event, is wheelchair accessible. A level entrance, a lift or elevator, maybe some specially marked off seating area. But what makes it not just possible, but a good experience? A great, or amazing experience?

I can list some of those things that kick it up a notch!

Good information. Tell me about all the access needs you have considered, whether they come out accessible for me or not, or you were able to mitigate them or not! Just say it as part of the event announcement. It’s a great jumping off point for me to ask deeper questions.

Level entrance that doesn’t depend on a lift. This is about my feeling of security and confidence. Am I going to encounter one of those hellish, clanky lifts that is locked and no one knows where the key is? Is it going to be broken? Is it going to break while I’m in it and a restaurant full of people are staring at me?!

Spaciousness. There is room to move. I can go into a room, and then freely, without fuss or disruption, get out again! I can sit with my friends, whether they are wheelchair users or not. Tables are far apart. Aisles are wide and not blocked by audio visual equipment or people’s backpacks. More than one or two wheelchair users can be in this space and move around and feel FREE.

Bathroom access. This should be obvious but sadly isn’t. Can I get to a level entrance bathroom? Can I do it without going two buildings over and 9 floors up with a freight elevator in between? If not then I don’t even want to be at your event. Is the path to the bathroom clear or will I have to bulldoze my way down a twisting narrow hallway full of mop buckets?!

Community education and participation. The event organizers or hosts mention things like keeping aisles clear and the community understands the reasons for it!

Reachable food and drinks. It is a downer when there’s a gorgeous buffet for your event but it’s up on a weird little dais that has stairs, or it’s so high up I can’t see it from my wheelchair. Yes, people will help me and get my food but it just feels good to be able to independently browse and decide, at my own pace. I can deal with a bar counter height drink ordering experience, and that’s fine, but it’s always nice if there is a low area too and this becomes more important if you are inviting multiple wheelchair users to your event! Decrease the awkwardness by having some low height counter space.

Some seating for other people. It’s a good idea to have this anyway for walking people who get fatigued, but if you make sure there are at least some chairs, that are moveable, then it also means I can get into a space where I can talk to walkies without craning my neck for hours to look up at them.

Accessible presenter setup. Is there a stage? Am I a presenter? Might I be winning an award ? (I like to think so!) Then please make there be an accessible spot for a presenter, a podium or chair, a microphone, place for me to put a laptop and control slides, in a way that isn’t horrible or annoying. I have crawled on stages, I have been lifted onto stages, and I’ll do it but it’s not a great experience. Conference hotel wants to charge you 10K for ramp onto a stage? Maybe get creative with it and at least make there be a level, alternative presentation setup that doesn’t suck.

There’s probably more, but those are the top ones that come to mind!

A thought on current trends in transphobia

As I read Erin in the Morning today citing a lot of pearl clutching freakouts by Republicans about “sex change surgeries on children” (which, by the way, isn’t a thing) in order to drum up hatred and fear of trans people for their own political power grab, I was reminded of the Ashley Treatment.

In 2007 or so there was a public controversy over this procedure that I don’t think was limited to this one girl in Washington. In it, hormones and actual surgery were used on a disabled girl by her parents for a few reasons. They wanted to make sure she didn’t get appendicitis (which I think was probably reasonable); they felt that stopping / slowing her physical growth (via estrogen patches) would help them remain able to care for her in their home since they would be better able to lift and carry her; and, they got her a double mastectomy and hysterectomy because they argued it might make her less likely to be raped (and impregnated) by future caregivers. (Plus no painful cramps or annoying to your caregivers, menstruation.)

Hold up now!!!

That has so many things wrong with it I don’t even know where to start!! For one thing, as if young children don’t get raped or as if not having breasts made you less of a target. I mean you can not have a vagina at all and still get raped. But, anyway….

It has been on my mind today as I think about this ACTUAL surgery and hormone treatment on a very young girl, who had no choice or say in the matter, actually happened, with no giant freak out from the right wing.

Interesting isn’t it?

And, thanks to F.R.I.D.A. and other orgs like DREDF for fighting against the idea that it’s OK to so high handedly modify the bodies of disabled people without their consent.

Pet peeve about local tourist advice

When I am skimming through the various San Francisco related subreddits, there’s one kind of post guaranteed to get me commenting. It’s when someone asks for tips on where to bring their relatives who are elderly and frail and coming for a visit. The responses are almost uniformly ridiculous. Someone is wrong on the internet! I have to intervene!

The kind answers mean well but have no concept of what disability or frailty actually mean. Someone can even specify, my grandma is 95 and can only walk maybe 100 feet, and has a broken knee.

Inevitably there will be advice to take great-grandma on a day long trip around the entire Bay Area.

Sure, just drive 2 hours and then have a 1/4 mile walk at Henry Cowell park! Go the Palace of the Legion of Honor (not horrible advice, but just getting into the building even from the disabled parking spots (and there are only 2 spots) is way more than 100 feet. Blithe advice to rent a wheelchair or use the museum chairs!

I know people want their relative’s visit to be special and I totally respect that.

I guess there are a lot of assumptions to break down:

– An elderly and frail person who may be in some amount of pain, will enjoy a day long outing where they have to sit up in a car
– They even give a hoot about seeing the sights. They are probably there to see you. They have seen a bridge before! Maybe even they’ve seen a lot of oceans! Take them to tea and let them have a nap! Order take out! Jeez!!!
– They just flew here (difficult enough) to SF. Don’t then expect to drive them to Monterey or Pescadero or whatever. That is a lot of traveling time!
– An 85 year old with a limp and has a bunch of health problems is able to do the same things as a 25 year old who has their ankle in a cast for a month and zooms about with a knee scooter. No! Very unlikely!
– Taking the ferry. Always gets suggested since it sounds nice and sedentary and you see the sights. I adore the ferry, but it means a lot of walking and standing in line. It is not a short or trivial distance. I would not be able to do it at all without a power wheelchair. Kind of a bad idea depending on the location (ie, SF, no – bad idea. Richmond, actually, there is parking super close to the ferry terminal but it is still a hike from the car, then up and down those ramps onto the boat.)
– Wildly underestimating distances, because they are trivial to you and you don’t notice them
– Going somewhere loud, overwhelming, and crowded where you have to walk a lot and there is not anywhere to sit (for example, the ferry building – it’s great but be sure you know the walking capacity of your relative)
– Doing all of the above but also adding in some small children. Sure, do all that with some toddlers, sounds like a blast????? Think of the little kids as people with completely different access needs.

Now obviously there must be super energetic adventurous 90 year olds who are game to hop on the cable cars and hike around Muir Woods and so on. If you have one of those as your visiting relative you probably know it!


Fun outings for visitors with limited mobility

So what would I suggest in the cases where someone is visiting and has limited mobility, but no assistive device other than our friend, the automobile? I suggest the following, because these are things that I like to do, and can do, when I’m not walking well but also not using my wheelchair (usually because I don’t feel like loading a giant power chair in and out of the car trunk).

– Pick up or make nice picnic food. Drive somewhere close by, and scenic, where you can either sit in the car, or there is a park bench like 10 steps from the car. Then, and I cannot stress this enough, go home and chill out.

– Land’s End/Sutro baths overlook. You can get out of the car at the Sutro overlook parking lot and it is like, less than 10 steps to sit there on the wall or on a nice bench. Bring a thermos and some cups and have a little mini picnic. Take photos. Very scenic. Bring a bird identification guide (i like the small laminated ones with the most common birds) or a nice map.

– Drive through San Bruno mountain, end up in McLaren Park and have a picnic anywhere you spot a nice bench walkable from the car.

– Fort Funston if the idea of watching people hangglide is interesting to your visitor. The wooden overlook/boardwalk is actually a bit far of a walk for our 100-foot-limit person. Instead – you can either sit in the car right by where the hang gliders take off, or bring folding chairs and set up where you can see them. No need to really walk down there!

– Pacifica Pier Chit Chat cafe. It is tiny but kind of exciting if you like piers and fishing and all that.

– Pillar Point harbor, a little more of a drive but not too far. Barbara’s fish shack is my favorite, and has picnic tables and indoor seating but if there is a line just go to sam’s chowder house. Lovely harbor views, working fishing harbor.

– Consider cab directly to where you want to go if it is a restaurant and then don’t assume you are doing another thing. Do one thing! Then go home! Rest! Relax!

– If you are doing something where you plan to drop off your relative and pick them up think about whether there is anywhere for them to sit while they wait for you. Make sure there is and make the walking distance super minimal. Scout in advance if you don’t know. Also think about where the bathrooms are (like if you walk into a restaurant and it’s minimal distance, that still may be difficult, if they have to walk across the length of a giant building and down some stairs to get to the bathroom – and back!)

– Tea at Lovejoy’s is nice but I also think just going to your own neighborhood cafe or lunch spot if it’s close enough, is great.

– Wheelchairs you rent or borrow in a museum can be great, but make sure your relative is actually willing to sit in one! Will they have fun or will they feel helpless, self conscious, and have to confront all their fears and ableism? Is this the time for processing that?

Other ideas, for not going out:

Ask what shows they like and watch some of that with them.

Do some tech support for them on their phone or device. Like ask what they use it for and what are things that bug them. Fix that shit ! You can do it!

Look at photo albums and talk about the times they show and what you all were doing

Ask for help mending or fixing small stuff

Cook something together that they like to cook

Why does this bug me so much?

I think it bugs me so much because of the entire adult lifetime I have of people assuming I can do things, and them being optimistic, and my own ambitions and pride and enthusiasm on top, getting me into bad situations. “Oh yeah it’s really close” …. only to find that it absolutely isn’t.

As I get older as a wheelchair user and sometimes-short-distance-walker, I’m not even that old, but I certainly have a closer view, I now have more insight about how to slow down and enjoy things in a different way.

So, anyway, I jump into those threads, point out some of the too-ambitious things people have suggested, and mention some easier options.