Broadway Bound

On Thursday, Adam Jingles, and I went to the Broadway play “You Can’t Take it with You,” starring James Earl Jones. The play is based off the old movie featuring Jimmy Stewart (I believe it came out in 1938), and was a special audio described showing, made possible through HAI’s Describe! Program.

It was a frigid day, so I had Jingles sporting her blue winter sweater as we traveled. We met Adam at Grand Central Terminal, on the subway train platform. This is an easy way to meet up with someone, as finding each other in the huge abyss of Grand Central can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Since I had my husband-man, I heeled Jingles alongside of me. This is nice to do sometimes because I can still hold Adam’s hand and talk with him while keeping my pup with us. As a side note, I have found that going sighted guide with Adam has had no ill effects on Jingles’ performance, save for us not learning whatever route we are taking that day. She switches right back to work mode the moment I pick up the harness handle.

The first stop on our journey was the Shake Shack in Grand Central. In my opinion, Shake Shack makes the best burgers in NYC. Adam managed to find us a seat, and I tried to get Jingles into a down position under the table. This proved somewhat difficult, as the chair I was sitting in was a high seat, much like a bar stool, and she was fascinated with every smell and crumb around her. Eventually I got her settled, for the most part, and we ate our chow. After dinner, our little crowd headed to the theatre. We had to transfer trains at a different station, so we took the shuttle to Times Square, which I would never recommend to any blind person, as the trains arrive on 4 different tracks, and are only open for less than a minute. Because of this, Adam, Jingles and I would rush to a platform, only to find the doors closing in our face, turn around and repeat the process to a different track, ultimately catching the third shuttle to arrive. Finally, we made it to the theatre, picked up our tickets and my audio receiver from the HAI staffer in front of the theatre, and headed to our seats.

Jingles on escalator
Caption: Jingles rides the escalator in Grand Central. She is wearing her blue sweater and a sign that says “don’t pet me, I’m working.”

It was an interesting ordeal getting the dog settled in at our designated seats. The area was cramped (like all Broadway theaters), and there were several other guide dogs present, which required strategic placement of the dogs so they didn’t try to interact with one another. I wasn’t sure what to do about Jingles’ harness. Since she is small, and I am tall, we have the long handle, so it’s hard to fit her into small places because the harness handle is as long as she is, preventing her from curling up. I was a bit nervous after Jingles’ last theater experience (a story best not mentioned), so I chose to leave the harness on and wedge her between the seat in front of me and my legs. We sat next to a nice couple, with the wife also blind with a guide dog and the husband also sighted. After a little finagling, we managed to get our dogs settled, and got to know each other a bit before the show and during the intermissions.

The play was awesome, and the description was great. There were three acts. Jingles stayed down during the first act, groaning to let me know that she was not pleased with the arrangement. During the first intermission, she jumped into a sit and refused to lay back down. So, Jingles literally sat through the entire second act. I wouldn’t have minded, but the space between the seat and my legs did not allow her to sit straight, so she kept shifting her legs to get back into a sit, which was inching her toward the man to my left. I kept my hand on her collar, fearing that she might randomly bolt, but she didn’t. I figured she was rather uncomfortable, so I unclipped her harness so it would be loose on her. She proceeded to get it wedged, so I removed it completely. About 2/3 through the second act, I reached down to find that Jingles had somehow managed to shimmy out of her winter sweater and it was stuck around her legs and back. Since I knew it was really tight, I tried to remove it completely without disturbing those around me. Finally, the second act ended and I had a naked, unharnessed dog. Once the third act began, Jingles laid down and slept like a rock.

In hindsight, I figure Jingles was extremely hot in her sweater, and uncomfortable because of the harness, which is why she refused to lay down during the second act. While trying to behave for me, Jingles apparently decided to take matters in her own hands. Silly dog. All in all, great play, great day, and I learned some tricks for next time.

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2014 in Review

To add to the trend that I’ve seen circulating around Facebook and in conversation with others, wow, I can hardly believe today is the final day of 2014! It seems like only yesterday, I was preparing to usher in this year, and here I turn around and the year is at its close. On this eve of the New Year, and since this blog was my somewhat belated resolution for 2014 (see my first post), I thought it only fitting to post a recap of sorts to my little space on the web.

2014 was a year of immense change in my life, most for the better, some for the worse. The year felt like a car accelerating, or a vortex forming, with many events taking place towards the second part of the year. As noted above, I began this year with a resolve to let others glimpse a day in the life of me – partly to inform and inspire, and partly to try to transform my embarrassment of my condition to some sort of acceptance that I am a blind person. In early 2014, I finally gained the courage to apply for a guide dog, and tried for the better part of the year to wrap my mind around the transformation that was to take place when I would be introduced to my “other half.” Over the course of the year, I feel I’ve lost an incredible amount of vision – or perhaps, I had so little to begin with that every change was insurmountable. Either way, I feel close to what must be classified as completely blind. I can no longer focus on any pictures, most of the world is a mix of origami shades of black, tan and gray, mixed with double vision, and I can’t remember the last time I saw my husband’s face.

As 2014 rolled on, I moved into a new apartment, which was a small change, yes, but was the beginning of an onslaught of newness. A few weeks later, I headed off to guide dog school and met Jingles, my new set of “eyes.” While I was gone, my family grew as my stepdaughter moved in with my husband and I to put her mark on the Big Apple. Upon my return, I set about adjusting to a new dog, a new apartment, and a new family life. Since then, I’ve been doing just that.

Now that the concrete has been reviewed, I’d like to reflect on a few abstracts. For one, I feel like I’ve grown much stronger over the course of the year, not physically (though there’s been a little of that too since training with Jingles), but inwardly. I’ve faced many situations that have scared me half to death, and have not only conquered them, but also found that they all have turned out better than I feared. My family is growing tighter as time passes; I’ve tackled situations in dealing with the public from work to embarrassing moments of blindness, and survived every one. I’m much more confident on my own – and I have Jingles to thank for that. I used to only leave the house alone out of necessity, now I do more for fun. I can now take my much enjoyed long walks solo, though not lately because it’s cold and cold and Bekah do not mix, and being blind in public isn’t so bad when I have my furry companion to look cute and get me around tricky situations. I can speed walk again, and amuse myself leaving folks in the dust on my way home from work. And, I am slowly, slowly becoming more adventurous…slowly.

As far as the whole blind thing goes…I do feel like I’m beginning to gradually come to terms with the fact that until there is some kind of cure, I am without sight. I am no longer embarrassed when someone may hear my voice over on my iPhone or catch a bit of my screen reader on my computer (though I still, and forever will, use an ear bud at work). I am more willing to ask for help when looking for something, and I no longer strain to see something I know I can’t. On the flipside though, the more blind I get, the more isolated from my beloved former life I feel. This isn’t to make people pity me, or start some kind of dialogue about how blind people can do whatever sighted people can do; it is simply a fact of my life. I have always been a very visual person, gaining my greatest enjoyment from small observations of the world around me. From photography, to videography, to graphic design and exchanging glances with my loved ones to watching the snow fall, those I care about grow and change, and spending hours alone browsing through shops just because, my greatest pleasures have been through my eyes. So, now that I have to experience the world differently, I feel a bit numb…jaded almost. Things make me happy, but I rarely feel the pure immense pleasure of what only visual images can bring. Those who care about me will describe things, and thank goodness for audio books and the ever growing accessibility of audio description, but it’s just not the same, and never will be for this girl.

BUT……….not to end this on a downer note. I AM BLESSED. So what, I have hardships. Who doesn’t? I have a wonderful husband, family, and extended family who I love dearly, the spunkiest and arguably cutest guide dog in history, a great job and colleagues who see beyond my blindness to my underlying potential, and a great apartment in the greatest city on earth! Really, what more could I ask for?

So, bring on 2015! I cannot wait to see what this New Year brings. I hope its new adventures, renewed independence and confidence, opportunities for growth, and the strengthening of my current relationships paired with the building of fabulous new ones!