Archive for July, 2011

Cripz Goes to the Movies: Captain America

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Captain America

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With the recent release of blockbuster Captain America: The First Avenger, it seemed only fitting to take a swipe at it. We think the movie would have been much better if this is how the experiment had turned out…

It’s a shame there weren’t any disabled characters in the movie. Why don’t they ever have disabled super heroes, I wonder?

Oh wait, this is might be why…
httpv://youtu.be/sEaTFKG4IHs

Captain America

With the recent release of blockbuster Captain America: The First Avenger, it seemed only fitting to take a swipe at it. We think the movie would have been much better if this is how the experiment had turned out… It’s a shame there weren’t any disabled characters in the movie. Why don’t they ever have […]

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World Tissues

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World Issues

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I think perhaps the only thing more beautiful than the rebel motorcycle guy is the forgiving parents who allow their daughter this one bit of “rebellion” with the expectation that she’ll “settle down” eventually.

World Issues

I think perhaps the only thing more beautiful than the rebel motorcycle guy is the forgiving parents who allow their daughter this one bit of “rebellion” with the expectation that she’ll “settle down” eventually.

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Washington Trip – Day 12 – The Final Countdown

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Today is our last full day in Washington and the plan was to take it relatively easy as we have a solid +14h drive home to Port Elgin tomorrow. The plan was to get up and hit Georgetown University to check out the bookstore and then a quick hop back to the mall to finish up any and all museums we might have missed.

Things started out smooth enough, getting up early and making the walk over to campus. Once again, we were totally floored by the beauty of Georgetown and the Georgetown University campus. It kind of made us wish we’d headed down south for our undergrad…that is until we discovered it was essentially a living monument to staircases. In fact, we even found a sign for the Services for Disabled Students Office which was, we kid you not, at the bottom of a 40-odd step flight of stairs. Lost and alone, we finally decided to ask a security guard for directions, but instead of answering he pretended Jeff was a ghost and kept walking, as though a small but loud boy in a wheelchair hadn’t just spoken to him. It was uncanny, his ability to act as though nothing had happened. Just as Jeff was about to turn away and verify that he hadn’t in fact died without noticing and turned spectral, the guard muttered “follow me” and put us back on track. The bookstore was pretty great although we didn’t manage to find much we were looking for…but Jeff did discover he got a brand new copy of the Disability Studies Reader for about $10 more than they are selling it here used. Score.

After lunch, we got our first real taste of a good ol’ American thunderstorm and were unfortunately storm stayed for much of the afternoon. Luckily we’d already hit a lot of our big targets and so, despite not going to dinner with Obama, we feel pretty satisfied with what we managed to do despite having one day stuck indoors.

When the storm finally passed, we headed out for an early dinner and wandered Georgetown a little more. At dinner, we ran into a delightful chap who once again left us a bit star struck, as it turned out he was the Assistant Producer of the first two Superman movies. He also went on to explain how he loved Canada, especially British Columbia, and how lucky we were to live in such a beautiful country. That is actually a theme of this trip that popped up without us really noticing–Americans love British Columbia. Looks like that whole hockey riot stuff didn’t get a lot of play down here.

Full of dinner and amazing desserts from Georgetown’s life-changing Baked & Wired cupcake/coffee shop, we decided to retreat to the hotel for an early bedtime. We’re planning to head out early tomorrow morning to beat the rush and, hopefully, get back to Canada before the sun sets. Google is claiming the drive will take 13 hours if we swing through Detroit, but we’ll see what the GPS has to say in the morning.

For now, all that’s left is sleep and get ready for a long day on the road. Jeff hopes to put together some final reflections on the trip sometime this weekend, but in short this trip was pretty illuminating. First and foremost, Americans aren’t all crazy…although they are kinda fat and lazy. What was perhaps most enlightening was the vast diversity of this country–for a place that focuses on the “melting pot” there is just an amazing swath of people, personalities and backgrounds cobbled together to make this country. Although they face some tremendous challenges going forward, we feel this isn’t necessarily an empire in decline, but rather, a nation in flux, awaiting to emerge. What comes out the other side of this tumultuous cocoon is anyone’s guess, but we think they’ll probably be okay.

Travel Log - Washington

Today is our last full day in Washington and the plan was to take it relatively easy as we have a solid +14h drive home to Port Elgin tomorrow. The plan was to get up and hit Georgetown University to check out the bookstore and then a quick hop back to the mall to finish […]

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Summer School

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Summer School

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Jeff never went to summer school, but secretly he always thought it would be fun. Sure, he liked being out in the sun, playing like all the other kids, but inevitably summer got boring and he missed the cool, calculated routine of school.

But you didn’t hear that from me…

Summer School

Jeff never went to summer school, but secretly he always thought it would be fun. Sure, he liked being out in the sun, playing like all the other kids, but inevitably summer got boring and he missed the cool, calculated routine of school. But you didn’t hear that from me…

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Washington – Day 11 – Wicked

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Jeff woke up this morning in a bit of a funk–his allergies had finally gotten the best of him. What he’s allergic to, we may never know, so let’s just assume it’s “freedom.” After popping some Claritin we were off to enjoy a day of artistic discovery at the National Art Gallery.

Note, we finally found the Canadian embassy and, lo and behold, it’s right across the street from the National Gallery. Curious, because it’s across from the National Gallery in Britain as well. And is part of Barcelona’s party-central at the Catalunya Plaza…man, Canada gets the best embassy locales.

Lobby and fountain at the National Art Gallery

It was so hot today it took all of Clara's strength to keep Jeff from jumping in this fountain

Anyway, the National Gallery was pretty impressive. It just goes to show you what a country with a ton of power can do…which is basically fill a huge building with every famous artist you can imagine. They had Monet, Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, JMW Turner, Chuck Close, Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, etc. There were some truly staggering pieces to behold and the staff was so friendly and helpful. We think they might have just been happy to have visitors.

A man walking in front of a black and white striped painting

They're not paying you to act like a human bar-code scanner, Mr Security Man. Get back to work.

Ok, that’s not fair, but admittedly the Gallery was near-barren compared to the crowds we’ve seen elsewhere during this trip. As a result, this was one of the most fulfilling experiences for Jeff because he could actually see the paintings without fighting through a million people butting in front of him. The elevators were also extremely quick and easy to use, as they weren’t being occupied by lazy walkies who just didn’t want to use the stairs. For accessibility and “cool” factor alone, both the West and East National Art Gallery are worth checking out if you’re in DC.

After dinner, we decided to team up with Ali and see a live performance of “Wicked” at the JFK Arts Center. Interestingly, this arts center is MASSIVE, so much so that it was both showing Wicked and hosting a  huge hip hop festival. This lead some interesting cultural blending, as we stood in line with musical goers while being serenaded by some local hip hop artists performing on a crowded stage right beside the box office. Speaking of hilariously divergent crowds, the way people dressed to go see Wicked was a true spectacle. Some people were in full gowns with pearls and heels while others opted for sweat pants, socks and flip flops. It was pretty awesome.

Also, there is a SLIGHT chance we witnessed this show with President Obama. Now, we didn’t actually see him but when Ali was entering the theatre she saw a huge swarm of security locking down the front of the theatre, talking about a ‘special guest’ who was arriving moments before the show and who would be watching the performance from the Presidential Suite. Also, she’s pretty sure she heard someone answer a phone and say they were from the Office of the President. While we didn’t get a chance to see Obama, or verify if he really was in attendance, we did see someone who looked a bit like Condoleezza Rice. Is there a chance Condi is actually Obama? Maybe we really DO need to see that birth certificate…

The performance of Wicked was a real crowd pleasure, with Ali and Clara agreeing it was one of the best performances of this show they had ever seen. The two main singers were unbelievably talented and it was a pretty entertaining experience all-in-all. Jeff absolutely hated the show and called it “ableist tripe” but that’s for another blog post. Let’s just say this play’s representation of disability is worst than the worst episode of Glee ever created. Jeff found it so infuriating and offensive he spent most of the 2nd half contemplating storming out in protest. One of the main songs in the show quips that no one mourns the death of someone wicked and Jeff whole-heartedly agrees–he wouldn’t be upset if Wicked died.

Our eve ended with a heated debate about disability, perception and culture as we walked back to the hotel along the edge of Potamec, washed in moonlight, and it was, for lack of a better term, magical.

Tomorrow is our last day in Washington. No regrets, this has been an amazing trip.

Travel Log - Washington

Jeff woke up this morning in a bit of a funk–his allergies had finally gotten the best of him. What he’s allergic to, we may never know, so let’s just assume it’s “freedom.” After popping some Claritin we were off to enjoy a day of artistic discovery at the National Art Gallery. Note, we finally […]

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Washington Trip – Day 10 – Star Gazing

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In previous trips Jeff has embarked upon, he oft finds the days begin to follow thematic lines, whether intentional or not. Today was exactly that type of day–from the first moment we should have known we were in for a good one.

Why is that? Well, as we pull out of the parking garage we were greeted by a tall man in black suit with curly white ear piece who forced us to stop in the middle of the road. Ali quips that someone important must be coming and, as if on cue, two black government vehicles roar up in front of us and more secret service begin pouring out of the SUVs. At this point, the security man takes a look at our license plate and begins to wave us through, probably assuming us Canadians are no real threat. As we begin to pull past the caravan, we assume it’s likely some politican we’ve never heard of when none other than Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, steps out of the SUV and walks into the building beside our hotel. Our encounter was brief, but magical. Nancy was surprisingly short but dressed in full regalia, looking exactly how she does on TV despite the fact there were no cameras around and she was clearly going to a relatively unimportant meeting. Still, it’s cool to say that we almost ran over Nancy Pelosi. Now we just gotta find that Obama guy.

Pulling away, slightly star struck and regretting we didn’t roll down the window and beg for a picture (or a job…), we headed off to the U Street Corridor for some fancy hipster shopping and antique gazing. Unfortunately, hipsters do not wake up before noon on Monday, apparently, and basically everything was closed (or inaccessible). With our morning agenda cut short, we decided to head directly to the African American Civil War Museum to kill time before dinner. Although it appeared to be a very cool exhibit, much of it was under construction and not open to the public. Arg. We did have our second moment of “basking in stardom” though when we realized the man working the door was an extra in the movie Glory. They even had his costume on display in the museum. We shoulda got his autograph…

Walking back to the car, we were feeling a bit peckish and decided to grab a bite to eat before heading back to the hotel to pick up our things for this afternoon. Finding a small diner offering cheap cheeseburgers, we figured we found the perfect place to eat fast before running back to the National Mall for our 2pm appointment with the Holocaust Museum. Little did we know that moments before entering said establishment, the lone waitress had just begun an epic screaming match with her boyfriend, who just happens to also be the lone cook of this fine eatery. While this might not seem like such a big deal, we’re sure they are nothing but professionals, moments after ordering our food the cook decided to storm out, leaving the waitress with a diner full of people and no one to cook them food. To compound the problem, the waitress didn’t have the heart to tell us she was flying solo, meaning we didn’t learn all of this until about an hour later when our food finally arrived–apparently she was cooking the food herself in between taking orders. Suffice to say, lunch was a bit of an unmitigated disaster, as we were in the diner for over an hour and a half and Ali never did get her food. It was definitely something to behold though, with this nice little domestic dispute unfolding before us. It was like having an extremely intimate soap opera to watch while eating our food.

With lunch behind us and camera in hand we set off for the Holocaust Museum. Now we want to preface this next little bit with a brief statement that, on the whole, it was an interesting experience and potentially valuable experience. Having said that, given the amount of hype going into the experience, being told things like how this exhibit would rattle us to the bone and leave us sobbing and reborn from the ashes of 1940s Germany, it’s of little surprise that it didn’t exactly live up to expectations. So, here are but two young Canadians opinions on why the Holocaust Museum leaves much to be desired…

First: accessibility. Yes, the museum was fully wheelchair accessible, with lots of ramps and elevators, the physical design of the exhibit involved a lot of extremely narrow corridors where people inevitably got bottle-necked looking at display cases. The result was that Jeff was often left stuck between rooms as people pushed and shoved their way ahead of him, leaving no room for his wheelchair to get through. Granted, he could have just ran them all down with his 400lbs of intolerance crushing machinery, but that just seems to contradict the spirit of the museum. Further, people constantly said “Oh excuse me” and then stood directly in front of Jeff, leaving him unable to see over 80% of the exhibit. We appreciate that it’s not the museums fault that people are jerks, but they seriously should have thought the space out a bit better to filter people from display case to display case that doesn’t provide the opportunity for people to constantly be jumping ahead/standing in front of you. Maybe this was just a bad day with a set of people who felt particularly self important, but we’re pretty sure this is a common occurrence. For the sheer frustration of it all, and the fact the museum probably took us 2 hours longer than everyone else because of this, we would recommend people in wheelchairs give this site a pass.

Beyond accessibility, though, we had other theoretical/academic concerns with the exhibit. First and foremost, the museum attempts to stand as a monument to not just the Holocaust, but genocide in general, yet is extremely focused on the Jewish experience in the Holocaust and extremely selective when discussing other genocide in the world. For example, there is only 1 display case dedicated to the extermination of people with disabilities by the Nazis, despite the fact it was the killing of PWDs that was a crucial stepping stone to selling the idea that some deserve to live and some don’t. Further, political dissidents, homosexuals and Roma were also killed in the Nazi concentration camps, yet most of these groups received by the briefest of mention. Another curious exclusion from the exhibit was the fact that America did little to stop the genocide from occurring, refusing to allow Jewish refugees into the country as they fled the Nazis and only getting involved in WW2 after they were attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbour. Again, to be fair to the museum, they did mention that America sat idly by as things went to hell, and yes America knew it was happening before soldiers discovered the camps, these were facts often glossed over or minimized. Equally disturbing was the number of youth wearing “Youth Zionist Club” gear wandering around an exhibit with mention of Rwanda and Darfur but not a peep on Palestine.

Are we trying to say what is happening in Palestine at the hands of Israel is the same as what happened to the Jews in the holocaust? No, but you cannot deny the parallels of how Israel has treated those living in Palestine. Hell, they even had a quote from a Holocaust survivor saying how this should never happen again, while this same survivor recently made an innuendo that perhaps the Palestinian people should be exterminated. Apologies for glossing over things or saying things that have already been said, but maybe if the people of Palestine and Israel actually talked to each other, heard each other, and realized they were marching down an all too familiar path once again they would be willing to start moving forward together…

Insert John Lennon quote here.

Strangely, one of the best parts of the exhibit was a section entitled “Daniel’s Story,” which was basically geared toward teaching kids about the Holocaust. What made this so effective is that it actually told a story, following the personal experience of a fictional boy who lived through the Holocaust, circa Anne Frank’s diary. Although simplified and sanitized for youth, it had a much stronger impact because you actually felt yourself pulled into the history rather than being propaganda’d at. We should note though, at the end of Daniel’s story they let kids write notes that were posted about their thoughts on the exhibit and, although we don’t have photos to stand witness, we suspect some of the kids didn’t quite get the point of the exhibit. Our two favourites were “Good job surviving Daniel” and “If you could see the world today, Daniel, you’d really like it.”

Kids say the darndest things.

Don’t want to beat this into the dirt, but to clarify, we don’t want to come off as anti-Semetic here or like some wacko Holocaust deniers or something, it was just frustrating to see this type of simplicity in a Monument that attempts to be the source on atrocity in our world. Our suggestion? Research the Holocaust (and genocide generally) the old fashion way–read some books on your own and see the horror in the facts. And horror is perhaps the only way to describe what happened.

 

Exhibit of an astronaut climbing down the shuttle ladder with an American flag in the background

On the moon, all trees grow American Flag leaves

After the frustration that was the Holocaust Museum, we decided to head off in a different direction and take in the fluff of the Air and Space Museum to round out the day. It was nice looking at all the old planes and snap some photos of the space ships. Despite being nearly as busy as the Holocaust Museum, it was manageable to get around and see stuff, despite being about two feet below everyone sitting in an electric wheelchair. One of the most enjoyable moments was where we least expected it–a tiny exhibit in the back corner focused on NASA-themed art.

Strange art piece that appears to be critical of NASA

NASA: pretty good at putting crap into space, questionable at art interpretation.

Note, this exhibit was funded and put on by NASA. Yes. Art about NASA, paid for and selected by NASA. You can probably imagine where this is going. If you’re not humming the “America, F*** Yeah” song, you’re doing it wrong. Trust us on this one, this is not to be missed. It’s (unintentionally) hilarious.

 

With that, Jeff’s batteries were grinding down and Clara’s feet were pretty sore so we decided to call it an early night. Back to the hotel to bum around and eat some absurdly over-sized junk food, we spent the rest of the eve plotting our last two days in Washington.

Also, parting note for tonight–everything in this damn country is super-sized. We know that sounds cliche and we always hear it in Canada that everything is bigger, greasier and fattier here, but it really is true. Not only are things bigger, it’s impossible to get smaller portions without ordering off the kids menu. People wonder why obesity is a problem in America? Really? It’s because you can buy a jug of coke cheaper than water, chocolate bars are bigger than your face, and the idea of walking across the street without the assistance of a car or bus is absolutely preposterous. If America wants to know why they’re obese, they need to look only at the absurd quantity of crappy food they eat and their allergy to physical activity.

There we said it…

Travel Log - Washington

In previous trips Jeff has embarked upon, he oft finds the days begin to follow thematic lines, whether intentional or not. Today was exactly that type of day–from the first moment we should have known we were in for a good one. Why is that? Well, as we pull out of the parking garage we […]

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Washington Trip – Day 6, 7, 8, 9 – Family Reunion

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When originally planning this trip south, the whole idea was to spend some time in South Carolina so Jeff could see his relatives, who had organized a family reunion of sorts. It had been several years since Jeff had seen some of his aunts, uncles and cousins and he was excited to hang out on the shores of Lake Hartwell where he had spent so much of his childhood vacationing at his Grandpa and Grandma Emmons.

With conflicting arrive times from Google Maps and the GPS, we decided to leave early and get out of DC shortly after rush hour, expecting to arrive at the Hilton Garden Inn any time between 6:30 and 10:00pm. Yes, the arrival times were that variant. The drive from DC to SC turned out to be a little over eight hours and featured some spectacular late-afternoon thunderstorms as we were crossing the North Carolina/South Carolina border. As we slowly moved further and further south, the speech got slower and the twang got thicker. Interestingly, we haven’t had significant difficulty understanding the Southerners, rather, they’ve been having trouble understanding us. We suppose it’s because we’ve seen lots of representations of the South on TV—in fact, it’s probably one of the most common “accents” you hear, second only to some variation of British—while on the other hand, these kind and laid back people haven’t heard too much of us fast-talking Canadian folk. As a result, they often raise an eyebrow while stumbling through what we’re saying, but are quick to assure us our accents are just so darn cute. We also ran into the alleged President of the Brotherhood of the Moose, who just got back from Chatham-Kent a week or so ago, in line at a Dollar Store. Yep, the Brotherhood of the Moose—we’re so star struck.

We’ll spare you the details of Jeff’s reunion, only to say that we had a great time relaxing by the water with his family and Clara even managed to acquire a massive bruise in a water tubing accident with Jeff’s sister, Trish. Although we have no video or photo of the wipe-out, we assure you it was totally epic and YouTube-worthy. Aside from that, the only other real Internet-noteworthy moment was the “Hibachi Chinese Food Buffet” which we passed with a snicker every day on our way to see Jeff’s family. We’re so mature.

But more generally, we wanted to extend a warmhearted thank you to all of Jeff’s relatives for taking us in the past few days and tolerating our nerdiness. It was great seeing everyone and it’s times like those where you realize just how important family really is in this crazy world—no matter how long you go without seeing each other, you’re still just as close and feel just as loved. So from all of us, thank you for everything, love you all, and we promise to make sure our paths crossed a lot sooner than last time.

With some quality rest and a ton of good food behind us, we’re feeling recharged and refreshed to face DC: The Sequel, which is good because our agenda is pretty tight. Basically, we’re going to be doing the city up big and hitting every major museum and art gallery we can find. It promises to be an interesting and exhausting few days. We’re certain to have some bizarre and hilarious stories and promise to keep track of any and all important accessibility tidbits along the way.

See you in a few hours, Mr. Obama,

– Jeff and Clara

Travel Log - Washington

When originally planning this trip south, the whole idea was to spend some time in South Carolina so Jeff could see his relatives, who had organized a family reunion of sorts. It had been several years since Jeff had seen some of his aunts, uncles and cousins and he was excited to hang out on […]

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Washington Trip – Day 5 – American History X

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Another day in misty Washington DC. After the roaring sun yesterday, the cool, misty morning was a welcome change. Unfortunately, with this cooler weather came the rain. As such, we kept pretty close to the hotel this morning, hitting some of the boutiques Clara had her eye on.

A bronzing that looks just like Jack Layton

Jack Layton: either a time traveler from the 1800s or a highlander. Either way, he must be stopped!

After lunch, we set off for again for a long day of touristing at the National Mall. First on our hit list was a small art gallery called Corcoran Gallery. Part art exhibit, part school, Corcoran gave us our first taste of American art (both famous and not so famous) with works from around the birth of America all the way through to modern exhibits. Although a bit tricky for Jeff to get around, as the only elevator required a staff from the gallery to accompany and operate it, this is definitely worth taking the time to see. Some of the work here is absolutely staggering, both in scale and detail. While some of the modern art was a bit goofy (see Jeff’s concerns on modern art in Barcelona last year…), it was an enjoyable experience that took us a solid hour and a half to take the time to adequately see the whole exhibit. Note the bizarre bronzing we found from the 1800s of a man who looks identical to Jack Layton. Weird.

Anyway, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful and we discovered there is meter parking right next door which is free for 4 hours if you have a handicapped parking pass. Definitely something to remember in the future.

A sketch of one man seductively ontop of another man, sewing his mouth shut

We call this piece: "You told me there'd be naked mole-rats you JERK!"

By the time we left the Corcoran Gallery, the clouds had parted and the warm sun was once again shining. As such, we decided to walk across the top of the National Mall and visit the American History Museum. We had been warned that this museum wasn’t exactly…traditional…and was more of a pop-culture romp than a serious depiction and analysis of past events. This is probably the best way to describe the experience, but that doesn’t mean it was unenjoyable. Despite some truly cringe worthy “God Bless America” moments, especially during the exhibit on the creation of the atomic bomb, there was an absolutely astonishing exhibit about media and the civil rights movement. This exhibit brought a much more critical look at race and class in America. It was strange to compare this type of criticism and analysis with the exhibit on military history a few rooms over which claimed that America single-handedly won World War II in a matter of days and that the US Army had to invade Afghanistan because the Taliban was hiding Osama bin Laden. Admittedly, conclusive evidence that bin Laden wasn’t in Afghanistan didn’t come out until just recently, but we feel the museum kind of glossed over this whole section of history. Speaking of glossed over, there were TONS of mentions of Americans who have died (like the 5 people who died in the Boston MASSACRE or the thousands who died on 9/11) while the 200,000 or so Japanese who died nuclear deaths was but a short end note with half a wall dedicated to the horrors of atomic war. We both kind of wondered if average Americans would find this as jarring as we did.

Photo of the monument to Vietnam War nurses

We think this was the monument to overacting in "Platoon."

After seeing the sights and snapping some photos, we decided to end the day with a leisurely walk through the National Mall to check out the Washington Monument, the World War II memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. It was pretty cool walking through the park, especially because pretty much every square inch of grass was being used for co-ed baseball and kickball leagues. The only downside of our walk was the discovery that the reflective pool between the Washington Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial has been reduced to a non-reflective mud patch–apparently it’s under construction? Only America could find a way to do construction on water.

One parting note Jeff wanted to make, that has been brewing in his head all trip, was on the accessibility here. Pretty much everywhere we have gone has had an elevator–and we’re not just talking tourist attractions or government buildings. Stores, restaurants, even the Lincoln Memorial. The transit is universally accessible, as far as we’ve seen so far, and being in a wheelchair hasn’t been much of a problem so far, all in all. What’s really disheartening is looking at the progress that has been made here and looking back to Canada. We always talk about our national healthcare and how we take care of people in Canada…but do we really? Admittedly, accessibility is better in Toronto than it is in London, but my entire life has been spent arguing with people to become accessible and the answer is always the same–it’s just too expensive.

A shirt promoting the ADA, saying "America wins with the ADA"

The American History Museum even had this piece celebrating the ADA right in the front lobby beside C3P0. We've never seen disability mentioned in a Canadian museum if it wasn't a "special exhibit."

Meanwhile, Americans have somehow managed to put elevators damn near everywhere. Can you imagine how expensive it probably was to put an elevator into the Lincoln Memorial? Think of how functionally pointless it is to put an elevator in so someone in a wheelchair can go see a giant statue of Lincoln chillin’ on a huge chair…yet they did. Because they get it. Maybe they only get it because it’s been legislated and litigated through the Americans with Disabilities Act, but people really do think about accessibility a bit differently here and it’s both refreshing and saddening.

Will we ever have something like the ADA in Canada? Probably not, because the provinces demand control over how they operate, leaving us with a patch-work of accessibility standards and protocols, none of which have the legislative or litigious teeth of the ADA.

In Ontario, people in wheelchairs can’t get to work because the transit system isn’t accessible. In America, you can go see a statute of Lincoln, even if you’re in a wheelchair.

Just let that sink in…

Travel Log - Washington

Another day in misty Washington DC. After the roaring sun yesterday, the cool, misty morning was a welcome change. Unfortunately, with this cooler weather came the rain. As such, we kept pretty close to the hotel this morning, hitting some of the boutiques Clara had her eye on. After lunch, we set off for again […]

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Washington Trip – Day 4 – 500 miles

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It’s hard to believe we’ve already been in the US for half a week. Quarter of the trip gone.

With that lingering thought, Clara and Jeff set off on one of the most epic days ever attempted while on vacation, which would be too much for both Clara’s feet and Jeff’s wheelchair. Yes, this blog will contain some graphic descriptions of wheelchair carnage. Consider yourself warned.

Morning was a bit of a groaner to get up–we have possibly the loudest air conditioner that does very little “conditioning” and Clara found it difficult to sleep with the sound of a jet engine roaring in our bedroom all night. Despite all this, we staggered down to get breakfast and, after drinking some orange juice that did not taste like orange juice, we set off to complete our ambitious agenda. On the docket was a morning hop to a small art gallery about 20 minutes away, followed by a light lunch, a trip to the national zoo, some pub grub for dinner and a stroll through the national mall at dusk. We got through about half that plan. Give or take.

A boarded up mansion

Even the rich get crappy interest rates sometimes...

Leaving the hotel we began heading off to the art gallery when we discovered it was much further than anticipated and instead decided to just hang out on Wisconsin Ave and check out the really, really sweet boutiques and antique shops. Our stroll was extremely relaxing, checking out all the period homes and waxing philosophic on the American way of life. As it turns out, even in this upper class wonderland, there were signs of the housing crisis that gripped the nation. Yep, even people who own mansions get kicked out of their homes sometimes. Having said that, these boarded up home was but a speck of dust on an otherwise pristine set of houses worth more than the collective wealth of both our families. After strolling around for about two hours we headed back to the hotel for food.

A picture of a cute little merkcat

This photo represents the ONLY second this little guy wasn't running around plotting his escape.

After lunch, it was time to zoo it up. Heading to the zoo would be our first major dive into the transit world of Washington, as it was simply too far away to walk. All in all, the trip took about an hour to get there between walking to the correct bus stop and then riding the bus half way across the city (or so it felt). Once again, accessibility was no problem and the bus driver was happy to load Jeff up and let us know when our stop came up. We had an amazing time at the zoo, despite missing out on some of the big ticket animals. We didn’t get to see any elephants or pandas, but we did see a ton of other cool animals and have lots of beautiful photos to prove it. The zoo also provided a lot of entertainment for two 20-somethings with dirty minds, as you can probably tell from the photos included in this blog post. We spent an astonishing 3 hours wandering around the park which is, we might add, quite large geographically speaking. The journey was complicated by the fact that it was also extremely hot today, but luckily the park is designed with “shade” in mind, meaning we spent much of it being fairly comfortable despite the cloudless sky.

Sign reading "Naked Mole-Rats...Outside, ... Behind the Building."

Bow chicka bow wow

We’re pretty sure Jeff didn’t even get a sun burn, which is a great accomplishment. Some of our favourite animals include the ant eaters, the komodo dragon, and the “Amazonia” exhibit which was almost completely empty of human families (unlike every other exhibit). There were times when it was extremely hard for Jeff to see as bars, fences, and huge crowds of people were constantly in the way. Some of the indoor exhibits were particularly difficult in a wheelchair because they were so congested. Jeff actually came extremely close to crushing a child to death who tried to dart between Jeff’s chair and the wall, while Jeff was moving, and would have been crunched between the wall and the chair if his father didn’t yank him back and begin screaming. If you’re in a wheelchair and like being climbed over and being surrounded by sweaty people who you can’t see through, then these exhibits might be for you. The really unfortunate part is these indoor exhibits are crucial at the zoo because, frankly, you might not see a live animal if you don’t check them out inside these enclosed spaces. Something to consider.

Man wearing absurd "Troop 774" shirt with a bald eagle flexing his muscles.

There was a whole gaggle of people wearing these shirts at the zoo. God bless America.

After trucking it around the zoo for the afternoon, we were in desperate need of a drink (that didn’t cost +$5…money grubbin’ zoologists) and were feeling a bit peckish. Just as we were about to set off for home, Jeff happened to look down and notice his controller flashing. Yep, he was running out of battery. This is astonishing because we charged the chair fully last night, meaning at that point we had walked approximately 20km (or back and forth from UWO campus to Dundas about 4 times). Suddenly it made sense why Clara’s feet were so sore.

A mustached man standing under a sign reading "Predator Alcove"

This is from the new Chris Hansen exhibit (click to see punchline)

This would launch the great exodus from downtown as we fought our way back to the hotel, desperate to arrive before killing that last 5km of battery life left. Our journey would take us through the metro, where we got off at the wrong stop and once again got locked out by going through an accessible gate that lead to a flight of stairs. We want to point out that every time we’ve screwed up the Metro staff has always had no problem letting us in for free and directed us to the correct exit. These people are about 150% more reasonable, friendly, and helpful than most LTC employees. Gold star to the Washington Metro folks.

Anyway, jumping around from busses and subways and doing a substantial amount of walking, including a walk past the White House, we finally found a bus that would get us within a block of our hotel and we made it home with about 2 red bars of battery left in Jeff’s chair. Definitely cut it a bit close. For future reference, we’re going to try and avoid going on 2h walks in  the morning and will be using public transit a bit more, just to save battery life and foot life, in Clara’s case.

While we did very little of our original itinerary, today was an absolute blast–definitely the type of day we’ll never forget.

Travel Log - Washington

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been in the US for half a week. Quarter of the trip gone. With that lingering thought, Clara and Jeff set off on one of the most epic days ever attempted while on vacation, which would be too much for both Clara’s feet and Jeff’s wheelchair. Yes, this blog […]

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Strange Neighbours

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Strange Neighbours

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Yep, even though we’re on vacation we still put together a new comic for you guys–is that love or what? Jeff flew solo on this one–did you catch the satire? Clara didn’t…read it again. Think…..history…..

Speaking of which, have you ever noticed how Americans are all “DO IT OR I’LL SHOOT YOU” and Canadians are all “Meh, you’ll change your mind eventually…I’ll wait.”?

Strange Neighbours

Yep, even though we’re on vacation we still put together a new comic for you guys–is that love or what? Jeff flew solo on this one–did you catch the satire? Clara didn’t…read it again. Think…..history….. Speaking of which, have you ever noticed how Americans are all “DO IT OR I’LL SHOOT YOU” and Canadians are […]

Read More