Maggie Rogers at the Armory: Accessibility Check

Ok, that question that everyone is asking about: how accessible was the Armory and how was the music?

First part of the question is definitely what I want to talk about, but starting with the music – amazing. NowNow was the opening band. I’ve been listening to their music and interviews so was familiar with their music and story. They were awesome and hope to see them more in the Twin Cities since they’re a Minnesota band.

Maggie Rogers was everything I expected. She has an amazing voice, lyrics that were bringing people around me to tears, and the dancing!  There was so much energy in the room.

For the accessibility portion, well, the Armory was absolutely nothing like the Varsity or Palace. I think they can do better and here’s how:

  • Have dedicated ADA seating closer to the stage. Paying the same price for a ticket and having the dedicated seating in the back of the balcony sucks. This seating is a half a block away from the stage. Why not have some reserved ADA seating closer to the stage in the balcony and also closer to the stage on the main floor? I did decide I wanted to be on the main floor and of course, the tallest guy stood right in front of me. My chair does raise up, but I’m not able to move around for a better view on a packed floor. I liked being on the main floor but it would be nice to have a little bit of a protected area for people with mobility needs. The images below show what I would have seen from a distance in the ADA seating in the balcony, my driving to the main floor and my view of the concert stage from closer up on the main floor.
    • Tip for concert goers who use wheelchairs: Get there as soon as the doors open to try to get standing room places closer to the stage in the balcony or on the floor.
  • Train your staff better. I’ve been so impressed with staff at the Palace and Varsity because all of them go out of their way to make sure you find the ADA seating and that you have what you need to have a great experience. The Armory was good at noticing us in line and leading us over to the elevators where they checked our bags and tickets. That was good. The difficult part was that each person leading us led us to another person who would then lead us to another person. We got on the elevator and the elevator guy saw we didn’t have wristbands. So, had to go back down so we could get wristbands. Waited for the elevator again, and rode up to the balcony and the elevator guy said ADA seating was right there at the back and told the other people there’s a chair on the side, which there wasn’t. He did eventually bring a chair back up, but it was confusing and no one was there to help the other group or us. We tried to walk closer to the stage to see if there was any room that would work to see better, but it was already pretty packed on the stage end of the balcony.
    • I repeat – Tip for concert goers who use wheelchairs: Get there as soon as the doors open to try to get standing room places closer to the stage in the balcony or on the floor.
  • Elevator wait times were excessive. At the end of the concert, we waited in a line for the elevator and the elevator didn’t seem to be coming. After probably about 10 minutes, we gave up and went to see if there was another elevator. There was another elevator on the other side which came more quickly. Made us think about what would have happened during an emergency or fire. No one is going to pick up my 300-pound wheelchair and carry it down the stairs… You have to use the elevator to get on the main floor or balcony levels from the street level.
    • Justin and man waiting for elevatorTip for wheelchair users: There is a 2nd set of elevators at the back left facing away from the stage. They seemed to faster than the ones on the right, which is where they’ll take you for the ADA seating in the balcony and also go to the parking.
    • Tip for people who don’t need to take elevators and take them anyway: Take the stairs if you are able to take stairs. When you don’t, that means we get to wait even longer. I shouldn’t need to say it, but think!

I will go to future concerts at the Armory because I love going to concerts, but I know that accessibility isn’t the greatest for me here. I will plan on getting there earlier and carve out some space on the main floor knowing that I’ll be stuck there until the end of the concert because there won’t be a way to get out. That’s probably not terribly safe, may damage my wheelchair, but, I’m paying for an experience and don’t want to be relegated to the back of the room.

Justin dancing with othersJustin and his dad in the crowd

My Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a short story about a 19th century woman who probably has depression due to having a baby. She is forbidden from socializing, writing, pretty much doing anything by her “psychiatrist” husband who prescribed a “rest” cure. Mental health treatment in the 19th century sucked! So she is forced to stare at the yellow wallpaper and finds herself becoming even more despondent. The yellow wallpaper becomes her symbol of the woman and the many women at that time being trapped in society’s expectations.

This story and John Green’s Crash Course episode about The Yellow Wallpaper, got me thinking about what my yellow wallpaper was. For me, it was Transition Plus. After high school graduation, many students with disabilities go to transition programs until they’re 21 and I’m sure many students and parents find them to be a valuable option to continue working on educational goals.

I was 18 years old and found myself going every day to a single room located in a building in a business park a couple miles outside of town. That was where our Transition Plus program was located. At the time, it seemed like a good way to get ready for college. But, I found the classes were remedial, didn’t seem very interesting to me, and I was bored.  I sometimes felt like I was looking on the outside of myself in there. I despised that feeling where I was so despondent and felt trapped even though my para and teachers were trying to make it work for me. Part of the reason was because I was in this segregated building and I wanted to be included with the outside world. This isn’t what I thought I’d be doing. My friends were going off to college and I was in a place I didn’t want to be.

I’m not taking anything away from people who find these programs helpful in transitioning to life after high school. And, the staff were great and trying to do everything they could to help me like Transition Plus. But the first time I wheeled into that building, I felt anxious and depressed. I wanted to get the heck out of there and never look back. I couldn’t get past feeling trapped in a place and life that I didn’t want to be in. I did get everything in place to start taking classes at Century College that spring, but still had to go to that single room in that building outside of town until I said “no more.” I quit Transition Plus that spring and never looked back.

My yellow wallpaper is exclusion. What is your yellow wallpaper?

My ideas for improving my Transition experience

Why not have transition programs that are located in our public college and universities? I just needed a para to help me during my college classes while at the college. That would have been my least-restrictive environment to continue working on my individual education program (IEP) goals.

Next up

MAGGIE ROGERS at the Armory! Can’t wait to hear this favorite in person!

Light on video

Would you hear me out

If I told you I was terrified for days

Thought I was gonna break…

Oh I am finding out

There’s just no other way

And I’m still dancing

At the end of the day

If you leave the light on

Then I’ll leave the light on

“Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road”

Green Day has this quote from the song, Good Riddance (Time of your Life), that I keep listening to over and over and over. I am at a turning point in my writing career, with my first book I wrote and I just can’t decide whether or not to throw it away. It’s hundreds of hours of working on this novel and let’s be straight, it is terrible. I didn’t expect that I would write a “good” first draft. Not sure if anyone is capable of writing a good first draft?

I’m having more fun writing my new book giving voice to a young woman with athetoid cerebral palsy (CP) who uses a communication device. As a young man with CP, I haven’t found many main characters who look or sound or experience life like I do. We need more main characters who speak with communication devices or use wheelchairs or whatever. I need to be able to see me or someone I can relate to in the books I want to read.

I’m also at a turning point in college. As some of you may recall from previous posts, I tried to take an online class. It didn’t go exactly well and I dropped the class. And I am at a loss as how I want to keep learning or what I want to learn about. In college, I can get CART captioning that I need during a lecture or class. If I’m taking a class at a private or community Art or Literary Center, I’m not sure that they’d have to provide CART captions. I have some research to do to figure this out.

Lastly, you know about the toes, probably. My big toes are STRAIGHT. It still is a pain in the butt, but it’s less than before. No casts, check. No pins, double check. I have PT on Monday so can start working on transfers and building my strength again so I can get back to one person helping me with transfers instead of two. Here’s a picture of my dad adjusting my foot rests to work with my cast-free feet.Dad working on wheelchair footrests with Justin's feet strapped in

Speaking of the road, we did have an overnight road trip to see my grandma and grandpa for the 4th of July. My mom wanted to spend her birthday with her parents in Pipestone. Happy birthday mom! My first road trip in a long time and it was fun hanging out with my family! My parents and I are making plans now for a big road trip next spring to D.C. and Philadelphia. I want to go to the Disability Policy Seminar in D.C. in March 2020.

This is the video of the Green Day song I mentioned from YouTube.

Also, here’s a White Bear Pioneer Press photo of the Manitou Bears that Shine and a link to the Manitou Days Facebook post about my being recognized as a Bear that Shines. That was really nice and I’m honored to be recognized!

And here are a couple pictures from our Pipestone road trip.

Grandma, Dad, Mom, Justin and Grandpa sitting around table with birthday cheesecakeJustin with his grandpa

 

Quick update from ME

Hey there, I’m BACK! Stopped taking the heavy-duty pain meds so have been able to get up to my computer again.

What did I miss most?

Writing. I love to crank the music and write. I’m working on a new novel now about a young woman who has cerebral palsy and her friend who is a boy, not a boyfriend. It’s still early, so working on the characters.

What do I remember?

First week – NOTHING. It was a blur. My parents told me I threw up a bunch in the hospital. No memory of it. I remember the drive home and that it was painful! I don’t remember that it was so painful that mom ended up calling the triage nurse several times.

It’s a thing with me and my CP – I get into what I think of it as my pain loop – I have pain. Then my muscles go into high tone and tighten up. This causes more pain. Which causes more high tone tight muscles. Which causes more pain. Which causes even more high tone tight muscles. And repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

At the end of the week, I went to the doctor. My incisions were looking good but then they ended up having to put the cast back around my entire foot. Ever have a cast? Remember the itching?

Second week – Pain has been decreasing this week and I’ve been able to sit up at my computer longer. Yay! I just take naproxen and acetaminophen now. And medical marijuana at night.

Highlight of this past week – I took my mom to see Avengers: Endgame for Mother’s Day. It was amazing! So, is my mom. Pictures are from our family’s trips to Wyoming and California in 2013.

Justin with his mom and brother with mountains behind

Tearing at the seams

Perfect paradise, tearing at the seams.

– Imagine Dragons

One of my favorite bands, Imagine Dragons, has this line in Bad Liar. When the song came out, I was in a place of pain and this helped me forget. This was actually last fall and the pain has been at a steady 6 with jumps to 9 out of 10 for so long. Just to recap –have seen multiple specialists over the past 5 months figuring out what to do.

My surgery is now two weeks away on April 26th. I’ll have two months of pins in both of my big toes and recovery with lots of lying around in bed, watching Netflix, Amazon Prime and On Demand. For the next couple weeks, I’ll be putting together my playlist for the hospital – the music that makes me feel strong!

I am going to have my mom post as soon as she can after my surgery to let everyone know how I’m doing. Justin smiling with concert crowd behind

So look me in the eyes
Tell me what you see
Perfect paradise
Tearing at the seams
I wish I could escape it
I don’t want to fake it
I wish I could erase it
Make your heart believe

-Bad Liar by Imagine Dragons

 Bad Liar on YouTube How awesome that it’s captioned!

Previous posts about toe-mageddon

The Interrupters up close

Amazing concert on Wednesday at the Varsity Theater! Can’t even describe how awesome this concert was! The pictures say it all – this band is energizing and exciting. Justin and dad in front of theater marquis for sold out Interrupters April 3After the last song, the band threw t-shirts, drumsticks, guitar picks, and sheet music out to the crowd. The lead singer, Aimee, saw me and brought me a hat! And I got a hug – after she asked if it was okay to give me a hug! It’s always good to ask!

You’ll never believe this – the manager noticed us and asked if we’d like passes to meet the band after the concert. I still can’t believe it!

We hung out while the crowd left. And then got to meet the band – who by the way are incredibly nice and cool! They didn’t know it, but it’s going to be a rough several months for me after my foot surgery in 3 weeks. This concert and meeting them, is going to make it easier to go through the rough times. Thanks Aimee, Kevin, Justin and Jesse! Never underestimate the impact you have on people who are going through hard times.

Fight like a title holder 
Stand like a champion
Live like a warrior
And never let ’em break you down

Title Holder YouTube video

Finally, the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis was very accessible for me. After getting our tickets sorted out, we went to the reserved spot that was right up front to the left of the stage. We didn’t check out the accessible bathroom so can’t report on that. My chair elevates so I raised it up to standing height and it was amazing to be so close to the stage. The security guys were awesome – gave us water and earplugs and were really nice.

Interrupters on stage

Can’t wait to see the Interrupters again. Maybe Duluth in July??? Hopefully am recovered from surgery by then!

Find out more about the Interrupters and their concert tour on the Interrupters website.

Justin and Kris in concert crowd