Monday, July 26, 2010

A couple lights still left on

I have broken a vow. Two times. But one time was an accident. Really! And - what’s more - I don’t know if I can say that I’m really sorry.

Last weekend, I went to Grass Valley, quite a ways up north, to camp out at the California Worldfest music festival, and I spent a night on the way up and a night on the way down at two different Motel 6's. After saying that I would never again stay at Motel 6.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was quite happy staying at Motel 6 and paying its low prices, making travel somewhat affordable to me, until a few years ago, until it began having only one bed in its wheelchair-accessible rooms. This forced me to pay for another room for my attendant, which I felt was unfair, discriminatory and immoral (making money off the disabled). (I considered suing, but it turns out each Motel 6 is separate.) Then there was the time when two rooms were reserved for the wrong night, and I was charged for them anyway. This was the last straw, and I swore off Motel 6.

Two or three months before this recent trip, I was telling a friend who uses a wheelchair that I had made a reservation at a Super 8 Motel for the drive home but that, unlike with other Super 8 motels I have stayed at in recent years (they, along with Days Inn, have wheelchair-accessible rooms with two beds and are inexpensive and nicer than Motel 6), this motel’s wheelchair-accessible room had not been so wheelchair-accessible when I stayed there two years ago. When I told him it was in Bishop (I wanted to drive down the spectacularly picaresque Highway 395, after having a picnic lunch at Lake Tahoe, again), my friend suggested I stay at the Motel 6 there. I was surprised, but he said that its wheelchair-accessible room has two beds and is adequate and that he often stays in it.

I called the Super 8 Motel in Bishop the next morning and cancelled my reservation. Then I called the Motel 6 and reserved its wheelchair-accessible room. (You can’t do this on-line or by calling the 1-800 number - a lesson I learned the hard way years ago.) I happily imagined I had found the only two-bed Motel 6 room left that is wheelchair-accessible.

Meanwhile, I had also made a reservation at the Super 8 Motel near Santa Nella on Highway 5, which I had been pleased with a couple years ago, for on the way up to Grass Valley. Imagine my surprise when my attendant and I pulled up late at night and found that it is now a Motel 6. I was a bit alarmed but discovered the exact same, nice, two-bed, wheelchair-accessible room.

Perhaps the light is not completely off at Motel 6 for us wheelchair-using travelers with attendants. Who knew? This recent trip was a big success thanks partly - and surprisingly - to Motel 6.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A few thoughts on what can't be discussed

Late last month, I watched a documentary film on P.B.S called "Ask Not," dealing with the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy which bars gay men and lesbians from being out while serving in the U.S military. I wasn’t sure if I had seen the film before, and I had, but it was worth seeing again, especially now that President Obama is trying to repeal this wishy-washy and ultimately corrosive law that, as the film makes clear, President Clinton endorsed in a moment of caving in. It is definitely provocative and certainly brings up a lot.

It is shocking - and damning - to see, as the film shows... people being turned away and even arrested when they try to sign up at recruiting stations d mention that they are gay.
...the large number of people who have been kicked out of the military for being gay.
...that some of these people who can’t sign up or have been kicked out due to their sexuality have language skills that would be most helpful in the Middle East and could have even detected and prevented the 9/11 plot.
...that the military, struggling to get enough people to sign up, has been accepting some convicted criminals - but not queers.
...the staggering list of countries that let gay men and lesbians serve openly in the military.

As a pacifist Quaker, I have wondered if I should stand against this policy, and, indeed, I have heard it argued that queers should be grateful that they are excluded from the opportunity to fight in a war. This not only misses the point - it is foolish. This is not about war and whether one should fight or not; it is about equality. It is like gay marriage, where I know gay guys who enjoy being single and have no desire to marry. And as someone points out in the documentary, how can we credibly demand other rights if we don’t demand the equal opportunity to serve in this way if so lead?

Finally, it is evident in the film that "don’t ask, don’t tell" is all about homophobia. There is amphibians footage of enlisted men, generals and politicians saying essentially that they just don’t feel comfortable being near gay men. Meanwhile, there is also brief footage of some soldiers having fun at a swimming pool. It occurred to me that, if they didn’t have their trunks on, it would look for all the world like some pool parties I attend. Mmm...

(I can’t help thinking of when I was working out recently at the local rehabilitation hospital. A young man, a patient at the hospital, was being raised to a standing position and said, "Wait, I’m not straight—I mean, I am, but my legs aren’t." Okay - you’re not gay - thanks for the heads-up, dude! Was he so insecure about his sexuality that he felt he had to make a point of clarifying it? Then again, he was no doubt wrestling with his new identity as a disabled man.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Party pooping

It’s all fun and games, all peace and love, until someone dies. Which is exactly what happened.

Last weekend in Los Angeles, the Electric Daisy Festival, called the biggest electronic music event and featuring five stages and carnival rides, took place over two days at the Memorial Coliseum and Exposition Park, with 185,000 people attending. A 15-year-old girl attended on her own, although no one under 16 was supposed to get in without an accompanying adult, overdosed on drugs and was pronounced dead a few days later. Now these sorts of these events have been "temporarily banned from the venue, which is owned by the city, county and state.

I have many questions right there - Why wasn’t the girl’s I.D checked? How did she get the drugs, or was it an accident (a laced drink, perhaps)? Did her parents know where she was? Would it have been any better if she was 16 or even 17? - but it gets more complicated, much more complicated.

Something like 125 people were arrest for using or dealing drugs. What’s more, thousands were injured when some barricades were stormed.

And - get this - right before this fourteenth annual festival, hospitals in the area went into crisis mode, like they do when there’s a train crash or earthquake. They knew what was coming.

Something is wrong, terribly wrong, with this picture.

With hospitals literally getting ready for a disaster, with doctors pleading for an end to these raves, I have to say that I support the ban. At least until the folks to put on these events figure out how to make them safer and saner.

I don’t like saying this. I am all for having fun, and I really believe in the power of music to bring many different people together in peace. I also hear those who say that the vast, vast majority, thousands and thousands, of people had a good, safe time and shouldn’t be punished because of the foolish, thoughtless actions of a relatively few. Perhaps I’m not over the anger in my last post about another celebration turning into a melee, but, with the notable violence and death at this event (and other similar ones recently), I feel irked that the talk of peace and harmony, of groovy, global love, especially by the promoters and even music critics, not only rings hollow but sounds flat-out irresponsible.

Am I the party pooper here? Or is it those who act recklessly and those who insist on intoxicating substances being in the mix? Or is it those who put on and profit from these events and then pretend not to know what will happen?