Thursday, September 13, 2012

Isaac's tale

The Sunday before the hurricane was when I realized that it would probably hit us. My biggest and most pressing worry was for Bristol as she is almost 15 years old and would not do well in our home without power to cool the place down. I was also worried about her ability to toilet independently in a hurricane. My backyard is sheltered, but I needed her to be able to move quickly and I was worried that she'd not see where she was going. Because of these worries, I called a local friend who usually watches her if I'm out of town. She had just brought her back to me when I returned from New York. And she very kindly drove back over and picked her up. Her, her family, Bristol, and Gracy who is now her pet dog, and who was my retired guide, drove to Arkansas to ride out the storm.

Now it was me, Mill'E-Max, and Laveau. My first order of business was to get my supplies ready. I filled every container I could find which could be completely closed with water, and stuck it in my freezer. I bought things like crackers and peanut butter and some fruits or veggies which did not need refrigeration. I took all of my chairs and table off of my porch, and I charged up all of my electronics.

My power went out for the first time around 6 that Tuesday night. I was frustrated because I had just put my last frozen pizza in to bake. However it came right back on and lasted until around 10 that night.

The rain really started to pour, and the wind picked up. I could feel my house vibrating. I walked through my house, making sure everything was ok, when I felt a drop of water on my head. I thought I was imagining it, so I stood in the same place, and a few seconds later felt another drop of water. I then said a whole bunch of very bad words and went to find a large pot to catch the water from the leak in my roof.

Since I really couldn't do anything else, I mean, I can't really see or hear the hurricane, and I surely do not want a tactile hurricane experience! I curled up with my book (it was "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamond and will officially be known in my head as "the Hurricane Isaac book."), and went to sleep. Yes, I'm so deaf that I can sleep through a hurricane.

Mill'E-Max curled up to my back, and Laveau lay on my legs. Eventually I fell asleep, but was awakened by the dogs alerting me to a sound. They lead me to it and it was part of my ceiling in the room with the leaky roof. It had now become part of my floor, and there was soggy sheetrock, dust, and paint chips everywhere. I said some more bad words, and drug a chair to block that area off, so the dogs couldn't get into that mess.

I then huddled up with the dogs and used my iPhone and braille display to talk to my parents, to friends, and to check the alerts. My connection with the world narrowed down to a phone, and the fragile pins which make up my display. These things alone made it possible for me to know what was happening beyond my shaking house.

And that is basically the way things went for a day or so. This storm was like that unwanted houseguest... it just! would! not! go! away!
When I went to take the girls out, I felt more water hit my face. I was worried that there was yet another leak in my roof, but it was only the wind, driving the rain in sideways through the gap between door, and jam.

I got out a 30 ft. leash, tied one end to my fridge, which was the strongest thing I could think of, and clipped the other end to Mill'E-Max's collar. I was worried how'd she'd manage out there and was ready to help her if she needed it. Both she and Laveau were troopers, though and went out, took care of their business and came back in. Laveau was patient and waited her turn until Mill'E was done. After that, I gave them some pig tails to chew on, and did some more texting/checking of weather reports.
It was a very long 24 hours. But we made it through and I went on my first post-hurricane walk on Thursday morning.

A neighbor said that there were no down power lines in this area, so I felt safe in taking the girls and hitting the streets. Laveau gets a gold star for guiding me around all of the debris on the sidewalks. There was a man working on removing a tree which had fallen across his yard, and so many people out, looking around and assessing the damage.

The first two days or so were not too bad, temperature-wise. But Thursday afternoon, things got pretty nasty, and by Friday, I had made up my mind to go to a hotel after having a very vivid dream in which my dogs died of heatstroke.

Before I left, I cleaned all of the freezers and my fridge, as well as picked up all of the large chunks of drywall from my ceiling. My parents found me a hotel in the central business district and Laveau, Mill'E-Max and I were off on Friday afternoon.

Let me tell you, that air conditioning felt sooooo good! I took a shower and got ready for a nap, when Mill'E-Max told me she needed to use the bathroom. The CBD doesn't have much grass, so we wandered around for a while until we found some. By then, I was very confused as to where I was. I didn't wear my hearing aid and I had forgotten to bring my iPhone so I couldn't ask for directions back to the hotel. Yes, I'm aware that this was not one of my brightest moments, but my brain was pretty well fried by that point.

Thankfully, Mill'E-Max remembered where to go, and we arrived at our hotel room in no time. I touched the braille to make sure, and the sign said room 323. I said yet more bad words and stomped off to the elevator. The whole time Mill'E-Max protesting that the room was right. I looked at the little braille placard on the outside of the elevator and it said floor 2.... I was confused. Mill'E-Max guided me back to the same room and nudged the door handle with her nose. I looked at the braille again, and it still! said room 323. I then felt a little higher, and noticed that there were raised print numbers. I read them by touch and it said room 215 which was my correct room. So the dog was right and I should have listened to her. If she were human, she'd have never let me live this down!

I talked to the lady at the front desk about this issue, a few days later, and she said "Well just read the print, it's right..." I made a bad face at her and explained, using small words, about braille. Then I explained to another worker just because I wanted to be sure the hotel got the message and I did not trust the first lady to deliver the message.

I enjoyed my time at the hotel. I basically slept for the first day I was there, only waking up to take dogs out, to drink water, and eat a bit. I came home on Labor day, and some friends helped me vacuum the rest of the sheetrock dust and paint flakes.

Now pretty much everything is back to normal and Bristol came home, so we are together once again!
I'm crossing my fingers for a hurricane-free rest of the season.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New York, New York!

After some crazy hurricane-related delays, I'm here with the rest of my New York story. Then the hurricane story! I'd best get writing!

We arrived in New York around noon. I did not wear my hearing aid, and so the ways I experienced the city are different from many people. I noticed first of all that the steps going to and from the subway are super steep. Immediately I wondered how people who use wheelchairs, scooters or walkers use the subway. Do they just not ride it?

We stopped quick for some Star Bucks and then started walking toward the theater. A Deaf man saw my SSP and me signing to each other and came up to say "hi." I thought that was really neat. We took another subway and arrived at the theater district. The aromas of the nearby hotdog stand encouraged me to buy my first New York hotdog. It was delicious, with ketchup and mustard. Once we were done eating, we went into the Majestic Theater for Phantom of the Opera. We had to climb a bunch of narrow, twisting steps to get to our private box. The handrails were made of carved iron, and the whole place seemed very old and full of history. I arrived at our box to find cushy chairs and a pillow atop a table upon which we rested our arms during the performance.

When the play was over, we went to Times Square. The first store was Toys R Us. The store has giant models of the buildings which make up the New York skyline, and they are all made of legos. When I walked into the store, I was amazed at the size. I could feel the excitement of everyone brushing against my skin, and nobody needed to tell me that this place would be really loud, if I could hear. I touched several building models and enjoyed the many different styles of architecture. Sometimes I forget that buildings do not look all the same. Frequently, the different styles of architecture are lost on me. By touching the different buildings, I got a better sense of what things looked like. And the whole time, I felt it, on my skin, the bustling, loud excitement of the place.

We eft Toys R Us and walked through Times Square. I could smell meat cooking, onions, people all around, and cars. All of that formed a sort of mix of smells. My SSP described the many different things going on. There were people dressed up as different characters. There were Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Elmo from Sesame Street, Sponge Bob, and Shrek, the green ogre. There were so many people. It was like Mardi Gras, and Super Bowl Sunday in the French Quarter when the Saints played all rolled together. Laveau did a great job at following and keeping me on the right path.

We got on yet another subway to go to Central park. This train had something sticky spilled all over the floor and I remember being worried that Laveau would get her coat all nasty. We got out, and walked to Central park. The smells were different here-- of grass, and dirt, and horses. My SSP described to me all of the people and dogs going about different activities. Some were walking, others playing frisbee, or just sitting on the grass, enjoying the afternoon. We sat on the grass for a while and enjoyed the beautiful day. We eventually got up and bought some water from a vender on the street. I was so thirsty that I drank my bottle all down in one go.

Next, we were off to China Town for dinner. More subways, and this time we emerged upon a world which smelled of spices, and fish. We walked around and eventually found a place to eat. I had wonderful steamed veggies in a delicious sauce. I also had some hot tea. The food was amazing. I would love to go back there again.

Once we had finished eating, we got on another subway and went back to Times Square. By this time, it was dark, outside. All of the buildings were lit up. Because I can see contrast, I could sort of see the buildings. It reminded me of Christmas, with all of the many-colored lights. I couldn't see the buildings the same way a sighted person could-- with all of the detail. I mostly saw tall colorful blobs.
By that point, we were super tired. I needed to run into a Walgreens and find some canned tuna or something for Laveau to eat. Times Square has to have the biggest WalGreens ever. It was three levels and is just huge. I thought we'd never find our way out of there. But eventually we did, and it was more subway riding, and then connecting to the Long Island Railroad to go back to HKNC!

I really loved my time in New York City, but I feel like I hadn't even scratched its surface, and am eager to spend more time there!