Thursday, November 21, 2019

Trapped by the elements

   I went out on my own late on Tuesday morning.  It was a quick outing, about an hour – I went by the credit union and a bakery and then sat for ten minutes or so in a park-like quadrangle at Pomona College – but I wanted to be sure to get out.
   It was bittersweet.  Mostly bitter.  I had other things I was doing that day, but, as I say, I wanted to get out on my own like this.  One more time. 
   Sure enough, as I was heading home, I could feel the cold coming on.  That night, it began raining for the first time this Fall, and, according to the weather forecast, it will pretty much stay in the 60’s in the next ten days. 
   As I have learned in the last two months or so, I can’t go out when it’s below 80 degrees, maybe a bit lower.  Given the neuropathy I now have, my arm (and other limbs) tighten up all the more when it’s cooler, and I can have difficulty driving my chair. Things only get worse when it’s windy or damp.
   To say the least, this isn’t good when I’m crossing streets and railroad tracks.  
   So, it looks like I’ll be relying on rides to go out for a few months.  This is really hard. 
   It’s hard, because it was only in the Spring when I began going out on my own, began enjoying the freedom that that gave me, after convalescing for two years after my spinal surgery. 
   It’s also hard, because Fall is my favorite season, and I always loved going out in my chair when it was chilly and cold and when Claremont is particularly lovely.
   I should be thankful that I don’t live in Vermont or Massachusetts or many other places where it gets cold for real and where snow isn’t just on the nearby mountains – a pretty postcard we live in here.  A friend swears it will be 80 degrees on New Year’s Day “like it always is for the Rose parade.” I’m not so sure about that, but if it is – good – I’ll go out for a celebratory spin around the block (I’ll also fear the more drought and fires to come).
   Also, I want to explore if there are different clothes that I can wear that won’t be too difficult to put on and take off – another issue I deal with now – and that are warm enough for me when going outside but not too warm when I’m inside.  Unfortunately, with the harness that now holds me up in my chair, it’s not possible to put sweaters, jackets or hoodies – I loved hoodies – on me when I go out.  I have a very nice, very warm felt poncho that a friend made for me, but not seeing my hand while I’m driving could be risky, at least when I’m on my own.  I recently tried putting on a flannel shirt again after thinking it was too difficult to put on and take off and found it to be noticeably warm, so maybe that, plus a beanie, will allow me to go out when it’s cooler, if not really, really cold.  I will experiment and try out other things (any suggestions?).
   It was bad enough when, before the surgery, I would let rain stop me from going out in my chair (I didn’t years ago). Later on Tuesday night, when it did get much colder and you could smell the rain coming, my overnight attendant, who has worked for me for about a year and maybe a half, commented that, from what she knows about me, which is limited, I’d be out and about as soon as the storm is over. 
   If only!  She has no idea. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

An unexpected venture

   I have a confession to make: last summer, while in the San Francisco Bay Area, I visited the Rosie the Riveter National Monument in Richmond. 
   For years, I saw the sign for it on the 580 Freeway, and I was always intrigued. I had a couple hours to kill one morning while in the area last summer, and it turned out to be a fascinating outing. 
   Why is this a confession?  Why do I feel sheepish, even a bit ashamed, about admitting to making this visit?  Because I’m a Quaker, and I’m not supposed to support or have anything to do with war or war-making.  I have a few friends, including one non-Quaker peace activist, who, I imagine, would probably chide me for wanting to go to a place that glorifies war and those involved in making war.
   But this national monument, curiously tucked away right next to the bay at the end of a guarded industrial and port area, turned out to be much more than a war memorial. Besides, it includes a very pleasant, if chilly and windy, walk along the water’s edge that appears to go on for some length – something to keep in mind for future visits. 
   Yes, the small museum appears to focus on war-making, but it also tells the story of Richmond, showing how World War II turned out to be a time of tremendous growth and transformation, a boon, for it and nearby towns.  Being a community with a major port during a major war definitely had its perks.  More than that – and here’s where things get fascinating – the museum shows how the war was also a time of tremendous transformation, a boon, for women, lading directly, one can easily argue, to the women’s movement.
   As the museum shows, during the war, women were set to work stateside, doing non-combat jobs, such as preparing weapons and ships (riveting, etc.) and providing air transport (flying planes)for troops and supplies. This was part of a nationwide war effort, not seen since, in which everyone sacrificed and gave (rationing, victory gardens, etc.), and women were asked to and given the opportunity to do things like never before. 
   This was a huge change that was no doubt unintentionally radical and radicalizing.  Before the war, women – at least those who were married – stayed home and cooked and cleaned and took care of the children.  It is said, half-jokingly, that of the women who did go to college, most “got their M.R.S,” dropping out to get married.  After the war, many of the women were not happy about going back to their pre-war housewife lives or found it no longer satisfying.  Thus, it could be said that this sparked the beginning of the women’s liberation movement.       
   The museum also features a small display dealing with gay men and lesbians during the war – even more fascinating.  These folks, who were pretty much closeted at the time, also found themselves deployed in new jobs in the war efforts.  This gave them new and more opportunities to find each other, network and gather.  It could again be argued that this set the scene for further the LGBTQ liberation efforts that transpired later.        
   As I said, this was a fascinating little excursion.  It was a reminder that sometimes interesting and even pleasant things are found in the most unexpected places. Just like some actions have unintended, for-the-better consequences.