Excerpt for Across Two Novembers: A Year in the Life of a Blind Bibliophile by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

From the very beginning of Faucheux’s book, with its touching dedication to the author’s guide dog, Nader, who once “helped chase away some of life’s aloneness,” to the very end of this one−year journal, readers will find their emotions stretched and eyes opened to what life is like for a person without sight. Superbly written, Faucheux’s account details the daily ups and downs he faces as a blind man with honesty, insight—and oftentimes, a delightful dose of humor.

I felt his frustration waiting for the Paratransit van to arrive, understood his fear of being stranded, and empathized with the instances where he found himself alone or disoriented. All is not grim, however—not by a long shot. Faucheux loves getting together with his family and friends, enjoys lectures like the ones on Henry VIII at the library, and is always game to try a new hobby or craft that can occupy his hands while listening to a book or podcast.

Throughout his journal, Faucheux also delights readers with a stream of trivia and colorful commentary on his favorite meals, often those from a popular local Thai restaurant, or the Cajun dishes, like cracker custard and pralines, made by his grandmother, or those cooked by a blind neighbor, including her cabbage casserole and corn maque choux, which Faucheux instructs is pronounced “mock shoe.”

Despite enormous challenges, Faucheux has conquered technology on many fronts, and his many book reviews, included in the book, are full of brightly written and insightful comments. The quotes he sprinkles throughout his journal are stellar, including this one from Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives, by Dan Millman: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Thank you, David Faucheux, for your spirit and tenacity, your lovely writing, and this inspiring journal.

Priscilla Cummings, author of 23 children’s books, including the young adult novels Blindsided, A Face First, and the Red Kayak series.



I love reading memoirs and journals because through them I get to enter the worlds of interesting people. David Faucheux's Across Two Novembers is no exception. He calls himself a blind bibliophile, to which I'd add foodie and local lore aficionado. Because of his disabilities, his life might seem circumscribed to some. He has chosen to go deep, read widely, and bloom where he's planted. If I had to pick an interesting conversationalist to be stranded on a desert island with, I'd pick David because of his breadth of knowledge. But just skip the desert island and settle in to read Across Two Novembers.

Katherine Schneider, Ph.D., author of Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities, and Daily Life (2013)


Across Two Novembers takes the reader on an incredible journey, exploring the superhighways of such topics as education of the blind and politics, and along the pathways of such things as friendships and good food. The author discusses his blindness with candor and a lack of self−pity. He presents his daily life with its triumphs and frustrations, liberally mixed with his observations of things going on in the world beyond the one in which he lives.

Each chapter can be read and enjoyed on its own, thus relieving the boredom that often creeps in when one undertakes to read a lengthy work of nonfiction. It is the kind of book that can be placed on the bedside table to be picked up, digested by sections, and put down again, leaving the reader satisfied, knowing that next time, he or she will find something different on the next day of the author's life.

This is a book well worth reading and giving as a gift to the book lovers in your life. Do we dare hope we'll see more from this author?

Phyllis Staton−Campbell, author of Who Will Hear Them Cry (2012) and Where Sheep May Safely Graze (forthcoming, late 2017)


This book is proof that the most mundane events are not boring when they are filtered through an engaging mind and told by an expert storyteller. David Faucheux has an encyclopedic knowledge of the world, and his intellect shines through each sentence. His storytelling gets across that even waiting for buses, cabs, and transit services can turn into potentially earth−shattering events for a blind person. I highly recommend Across Two Novembers to anyone who wants to understand how intellect and determination, and a good sense of humor, can overcome anything.

Anthony J. Fonseca, Ph.D., author of Proactive Marketing for the New and Experienced Library Director: Going Beyond the Gate Count and Hooked on Horror: A Guide to Reading Interests in Horror Fiction



ACROSS TWO NOVEMBERS

A Year in the Life
of a Blind Bibliophile

David L. Faucheux



Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2017 by David L. Faucheux

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re–sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy.





www.dldbooks.com




Everything you say should be true,
but not everything true should be said.

—Voltaire (François−Marie Arouet),
French Enlightenment writer and philosopher (1694–1778)


Dedication

To my guide dog, Nader: January 27, 1988 to February 23, 1998

We explored most of the 1990s together. I would never have attempted library school without him; he helped chase away some of life’s aloneness.

And to bibliophiles everywhere.



Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank my mother for her ongoing support.

I’d also like to thank the editors, Leonore and David Dvorkin (DLD Books), in Denver, Colorado, for working with me on this lengthy and rather complicated book project. They also designed the cover.

Lastly, this journal has been greatly enriched by the many authors whose works, fiction and nonfiction, are mentioned and/or reviewed in the chapters that follow, and the narrators (as well as their production and support staffs) who brought these works to life. I owe each one of you a heartfelt thank you.

In several instances, the names of persons mentioned have been changed to insure privacy.

Table of Contents

Dedication

Acknowledgements

Introduction

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

Epilogue

A Biblioholic Defined

About the Author

About David and Leonore Dvorkin (DLD Books)

Notes

Bibliography

Details of Books Reviewed for Library Journal

Webliography (Arachniography)

Introduction

More than at any other time, when I hold a beloved book in my hand, my limitations fall from me, my spirit is free.

—Helen Keller (1880–1968)

I have long wanted to write and publish something, be it an historic novel, a young adult novel, or nonfiction. When, in November 2013, Dr. Katherine Schneider asked me to read and review her just–published Occupying Aging, I conquered my usual reservations: Would I be a good reviewer? Would I be able to write something interesting and help her book sales? I dove in and came up with this review, which appeared on www.goodreads.com:

This book, with its mixture of the quotidian and sublime, stands as an interesting glimpse into the life of one early 21st–century woman. Schneider, a retired psychologist, recounts a year of thoughts and events in this journal. Her ruminations on death, spirituality, dogs, and navigating the landscape of the sighted as a totally blind inhabitant of her Wisconsin college town are enlightening. Touches of humor involving Fran, her Seeing Eye® dog, add a sense of fun.

As someone who is acquainted with Dr. Schneider (we have exchanged emails), I could wish I occupied my 40s quite as well as she does her 60s. The proactive attempts to educate about disability issues, the volunteering, and the public speaking are outstanding. Maybe some of her enthusiasm for life will rub off on all her readers.—An excellent vade mecum, a handbook, for handling the uncertainties of retirement.

While reading her book and formulating my review, I thought, Oh! I just might be able to write something in this journal–type format. So I jumped in right then, not waiting to begin on the more traditional January 1. I thought that to wait was to postpone indefinitely and fail; to start could mean a chance at a successful resolution. Who says a journal has to run from January 1 to December 31 to be of interest?

So, everyone, here goes nothing!

Author’s Note

Details concerning the numerous book reviews that I did for Library Journal appear toward the end of this book, between the Bibliography and the Webliography.

Editor’s Note

Throughout this book, the word braille is capitalized only when it refers to Louis Braille, is the first word in a sentence, is part of a title, or refers to the name of a product. This is in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the Braille Authority of North America in November 2006. For more details, see

http://www.brailleauthority.org/capitalization/capitalization.pdf



November 2013

Dare your genius to walk the wildest unknown ways.

—Bryce Courtenay, novelist (1933–2012)

Saturday, November 16, 2013
“Spoon Theory”

I had my massage today. I hope it helps. I have tried so many things to handle Fibromyalgia Syndrome, or FMS. What a bizarre name, “Fibromyalgia.” I didn’t think guys got that. I had thought it was a woman’s disease, and believe me, women are more than welcome to it. I have been trying to deal with it for nearly a decade and feel I’m getting nowhere.

Sometimes, recalling a piece I read that relates the management of chronic illness to spoons helps me feel less alone. I don’t think I’m as exhausted as this woman is, but I like the idea of quantifying energy reserves. The essay is often referred to as “Spoon Theory.”

Christine Miserandino, a Lupus sufferer, successfully applies something tangible (spoons) as “payment” for physical activities that often compound intangible effects, such as pain and fatigue. A person begins each day with a certain number of spoons. This number is not fixed, but is determined by the activities and subsequent consequences of the previous day, as well as the quality of sleep the night before. Each time a task is completed, or even attempted, one or more spoons are subtracted as “payment.” Getting dressed, cooking breakfast, and leaving for work may take several spoons. As the day progresses, tradeoffs are made and compromises are attempted in order to perform a kind of triage. Spoons must be budgeted with regard to things yet to be accomplished today, like cooking dinner and cleaning up afterwards. Spoons may also need to be budgeted for tomorrow’s activities; you may have to do a presentation at work or go grocery shopping after work.

In many ways, “Spoon Theory” describes many of my days and how living with FMS works. I am so often achy and unbelievably tired. Knowing I am not alone in having to live this way is comforting. My batteries take much longer to recharge than most people’s do. I hope I live long enough to experience a cure. I think it’s the crazy sleep cycle that might be the worst part of this; being blind, I can’t afford a crazy sleep cycle. I depend on help to do certain activities, including shopping. If I’m tired and feel like skipping a shopping outing, I have a problem. My help can’t always come at the last minute. Stores aren’t open at midnight. Lafayette, Louisiana isn’t New York City!

Sunday, November 17, 2013
Blue Sunday

It’s Sunday, one of those long Sundays when I wish I had someone to call. I’d love to go for a ride or a walk today: a ride in a convertible, a tandem bike ride, or a walk in a nearby park. I tried calling my Baton Rouge friend, Mary, but she didn’t answer. I left a message and know she’ll get back later.

I suspect that going to a residential blind school and traveling there every Sunday colored Sundays for me. The Louisiana School for the Blind/Visually Impaired, or LSVI, was not a prestigious boarding school. No one was remotely interested in making it become one. It was where many blind Louisianans were swept at that time. Later, I learned that not all blind students in the state went there. Some who lived in New Orleans attended public schools that had resource teachers. I learned of several brothers who attended a public high school in Shreveport in the 1960s. I also heard of a student who attended a public high school only during his senior year, so that his diploma would not indicate by school that he had a disability. He had taken the tricky courses—such as geometry, chemistry, and biology—at LSVI, and at the public high school, he only had courses that required that he read material, such as American history or civics. Now, no one thinks twice about blind students being mainstreamed. However, it was unusual several decades ago.

I was mainstreamed while at LSVI. I was sent to three different public schools during three of my four high school years to take several classes. It was never an entire day, and I never felt free of LSVI’s leading strings and criticisms. I had two groups of fiddlers to dance to: the public school teachers and LSVI’s staff. Why the administration of LSVI felt it necessary to constantly uproot me is beyond my powers of comprehension. During the summer after my junior year, I lobbied hard to return to the LSU (Louisiana State University) Lab School. I even enlisted the help of the LSVI school psychologist in writing a letter to the LSVI administration. The psychologist later called me in a panic, because they had threatened her job if she persisted in helping me. Needless to say, I did not return to the Lab School. I had begun to enjoy it, where I had placed first at the State Literary Rally in American history. I had begun to make friends and to find a niche. I felt respected for having done well at the Literary Rally. It was an opportunity I would never have had at LSVI, because prior to my being placed at the LSU Lab School, no LSVI students had participated in this event.

I was so pleased to have mainstreamed at the LSU Lab School, because I got the chance to compete in something academic. LSVI really did not seem to be concerned about academics at that time, but more about socialization. I felt like a square peg in a round hole. It was not fun. It is why it hurt when I was not allowed to mainstream there in my senior year.

I still recall the disappointment of our mainstreaming coordinator. He had wanted me to take geometry at the Lab School with the sighted students! Luckily for me, the teacher there, a professor who had written his own textbook, flatly refused. I would have flopped spectacularly attempting such a visual subject at a public school. I struggled with it during my senior year at LSVI. I have never been so bored by a subject. Give me the predicate calculus I took in college any day. I loved that, and even probability theory. A student should be allowed to substitute a more useful mathematical subject for geometry. My brain is simply not arranged with that kind of spatial awareness. I did have several totally blind friends who enjoyed geometry. Needless to say, they also have a phenomenal sense of direction. Mine? Ha, ha, ha!

My friends from New Orleans who mainstreamed back in the day told me they did not take math classes with their sighted peers; instead, they worked with a resource teacher. The LSVI coordinator, who died in 2010, was rather unpredictable. He was a partially sighted person who could possibly have found employment in the sighted world but chose to return to the familiarity of LSVI. I never observed him using a white cane. I never really understood him; he was complicated. It was a different time. He did have an incredible work ethic. I would like to have been better acquainted with him. He was very well–rounded and had a knowledge of the music from the 1920s and 1930s that seemed encyclopedic. Talk about suggestive lyrics at a time when perhaps you’d think that songs were tame!

This afternoon, I attended an online talk, at www.accessibleworld.org, about the Internet and how it is changing our way of thinking and learning, but not really changing it for the better. Featured was the book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas G. Carr. In it, Carr expands upon his 2008 article in The Atlantic Monthly, entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” Citing neurology research, he argues that we humans are losing our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection as advancing technology changes our neural pathways. Carr was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2010.

Could this be me? I get really annoyed when websites, as they so often do, add a Read More button after the opening sentences of a story. I have to click that and wait for the page to load, then do a “find” on a word near where the article broke off. It seriously chops up the flow and pacing.

Monday, November 18, 2013
Occupying Aging

I’m reading a book by a friend, Katherine Schneider. It’s called Occupying Aging. (I mentioned her and her book in the Introduction.) She must have been very driven as a college student and professor. She still is. She represents the positive, proactive side of the Boomer ethos, an ethos rooted in changing things for the better, supporting the disabled, and helping the less fortunate. I don’t feel that ethos in the way she does. I understand that my generation, Gen X, has a different mentality. We are a smaller generation, and we have been called slackers. We were not coddled (for lack of a better word), as Millennials seem to be. Our parents did not feel that they had been put here to entertain us 24/7, and complaining about boredom could get you tasked with activities such as mowing the lawn, washing dishes, folding clothes, or mopping the floor. With only a handful of channels, TV was not always the drug it can be today. Long–distance phone rates were astronomical, so we did not hang out on the phone talking to out–of–town friends for hours and hours. Long–distance calls were kept to a couple of minutes. You stated your business, asked about the family, and concluded things.

Choosing a college was not the agonizing, expensive, and complicated set of rituals it has become. We did not take and retake our SAT and ACT tests, trying to cherry–pick the best scores for each section and build these into a killer package. If tutoring existed, I was not aware of it. I don’t recall students developing summer research projects or developing volunteer projects to add spice to already great entrance packages. In all honesty, I would have liked some direction from the LSVI guidance counselor concerning test prep, out–of–state colleges, and funding packages. I have to wonder, and sometimes I guiltily play “what if.” What if I had gone back to the LSU Lab School as a senior and talked to one of the college reps they had visit the school? They had people from Brown, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and other top schools. I did not even know what Brown was, and I had barely realized the importance of Harvard. I suspect I would not have shot quite so high, but perhaps I would have at least gone and talked to a rep from somewhere out of state, someone from a small liberal arts school that would have been willing to work with me. One that comes to mind is William and Mary, in Virginia. Today it’s considered a public ivy–league school.

Today’s visit to the dentist cost $220! I emailed the receipt to my SNAP worker. (SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as “food stamps.”) I hope to get an adjustment on my next month’s allowance. They just cut back on SNAP, and we have never gotten the $120 a month ($4 a day) that Cory Booker, the junior senator from New Jersey, thought a minimum amount to live on. I think the most I ever got was $90 a month, except for a couple of times when I submitted medical expenses. I wonder if we have a program run by www.wholesomewave.org that doubles the value of SNAP benefits when they’re used in a local farmers’ market.

While grateful for the assistance, I find the process mind–numbing. I am amazed that SNAP beneficiaries want to sell their food stamps! I just want to be off all the government leading strings and on to a better support system based on a creative job, one with flextime and excellent benefits. My benefit package is rather complicated, and I’ve experienced difficulty in finding a bureaucrat or lawyer who can help me untangle the interlocking insurance and financial assistance strands of SSDI/SSI and Medicare/Medicaid.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Shopping and Volunteers

I went grocery shopping today with my volunteer. He is the second volunteer I’ve had. Love, Inc. is a philanthropic organization that helps people by providing volunteers who can assist with shopping and other needs. I have enjoyed both my volunteers. They are quite different from one another. My first volunteer was very chatty and loved to eat out while we ran errands; my newer volunteer is a bit quiet, but his wife has sent homemade cookies, and I have sent them banana bread made from sorghum flour. It’s all about the food with me, it seems. What can I say? I’m from Louisiana. Lafayette is said to have a higher per capita number of restaurants than even New York City. They have us beat on variety, I’ll grant you, but we do love to eat.

This afternoon, I visited a neighbor, Mrs. Joan, and shared some of the Meyer lemons my shopping volunteer gave me. I hope she makes some of her good lemonade and puts some aside for me. She is nearly totally blind, now, from RP, retinitis pigmentosa. She once owned a daycare business. She does acceptance and patience at an almost saint–like level. I enjoy visiting her and hope that some of these qualities rub off on me.

Her lemonade is excellent. She insists that the secret is to make it only in glass, not plastic or metal. Water is brought to the boil, whole lemons are soaked in it for about 15 minutes, the lemons are removed and squeezed into the water, and then sugar is added.

In addition to writing a review for Dr. Schneider, I volunteered to read over part of a rough draft written by Patty L. Fletcher, an online acquaintance. She emailed me several chapters of this rough draft, which is going to be a book about her guide dog, Campbell. I read over them. It’s interesting. Her writing contains what is perhaps a healthy dose of rough honesty. But it can be challenging to explain and quantify a literary style.

Author’s Note

Patty finished her book, and it was published in 2014. The title is Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life.

Her website, with full details about the book, is http://www.dvorkin.com/pattyfletcher/

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Of Doctors and Quaggas

Had a doctor’s appointment today. I am not sure if going helps. My primary care physician is nice, which is something I can’t say about several specialists I have encountered; two actually fired me by registered letter. Guess they are not avuncular Dr. Oz types.

I wish the medicine of today could be like that seen on the original Star Trek. Well, any Star Trek. I told my primary care doctor that if he heard hoofbeats when reviewing my symptomatology, he should skip thinking horses and zebras and think quagga. Doctors are told to think horses, not zebras, because you go from the most likely disease to the more unusual ones. But my genome might not know that! I’d be the one to have a very strange disease, if anyone would. The quagga, a zebra subspecies that had a striped front and plain brown hindquarters, is thought to be extinct. Leave it to me to get a disease that strange.

My Paratransit ride came early to take me home. I was glad. I had been standing outside in front of the doctor’s office, enjoying the beautiful fall weather while listening to a book by Simon Winchester that I am to review for Library Journal. I had ripped it to MP3 format using CDex and downloaded it to my old Zen Stone MP3 player—which, although six years old, still plays. Don’t know what I’ll do when the battery dies, as there is, or seems to be, no way to change the battery. I’m not sure the company still services this model.

In this journal, you will encounter bits about the weather. I am sensitive to weather changes and dislike prolonged cold. Wish we could live in a climate that has an average temperature range from 60 to 80 with 70% humidity and lots of sun, say 325 days of sunshine per year.

Thursday, November 21, 2013
FMS Meetup Group at Anne’s Table

I lunched with my FMS (Fibromyalgia Syndrome) Meetup group today. One of the two ladies, Yvette, attended. The other, Deborah, was unable to. I enjoyed the food. Anne’s Table always has healthy choices. I had black quinoa, grilled chicken breast, and red cabbage with apple and bacon. I took home a wine–drenched fig salad and added some red lettuce I had from Tuesday’s shopping trip to make a meal in the evening. Yvette and I discussed her Army background and strategies we use to cope with FMS. I hope this group grows and continues.

A friend had sung the praises of Meetup.org, and I began researching various local groups. I tried earlier this year to contact a raw food Meetup group. Phone calls and emails went unanswered. I chose not to attend, as I had no way of knowing what my reception would be. I don’t make it a habit to zip into a strange group unprepared. As nearly as I could tell, it was at someone’s home. Not responding to emails and telephone messages seemed highly unprofessional to me. I kept thinking of a drop spindle spinners’ group in Acadiana, and no matter how I tried, I could not locate a ride. This group met in parts of the parish where our Paratransit van did not go. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses.

I listened to Jeopardy with my friend Suzie, as I often do, but totally missed the Final Jeopardy clue about the presidents. The clue was: “The second man to become president who was never elected to the job; he twice ran for the position unsuccessfully.” The correct response was, “Who was Millard Fillmore? He was our last Whig president.” I haven’t done well with the Final Jeopardy questions for this Teachers’ Tournament, although the regular Jeopardy rounds in this tournament have good questions. Perhaps if I were still a braille teacher, I might try to be in this Jeopardy tournament. I remembered the part about the last Whig president; I had a question on an American history rally test about Fillmore. I made it to the state level and got first place in my division. An Ed Clark, from Ruston, got first place overall. I wonder how he turned out.

The Whig Party was a political party active from the 1830s to the 1850s in American politics. According to Wikipedia, it “favored rule of law, written and unchanging constitutions, and protections for minority interests against majority tyranny. Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the Presidency and favored a program of modernization, banking, and economic protectionism to stimulate manufacturing. The party appealed to entrepreneurs and planters, but had few subsistence farmers or unskilled workers. It included many active Protestants, and voiced a moralistic opposition to the Jacksonian Indian removal policies.”

Tonight I attended a book club that is run as a telephone conference. The topic of discussion was the novel 11/22/63. This book club is run by Rebecca and has a “three strikes you’re out” rule. Since we attend via telephone, I have a hard time being heard. I may be too tentative. I’m never sure if someone has finished talking. The novel is a speculative account of how the time–traveling protagonist tries to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy and why he must let it happen.

Author’s Notes

The restaurant Anne’s Table closed in 2015.

I was unable to attend the next three book club meetings after November 21, 2013, so I was replaced. Perhaps, as it is still ongoing, I may try to get reinstated. I found the nearly two years that I participated in this book club to be interesting. I read several books that I would not have read otherwise, and have had the chance to revisit some old friends I read in the past.

Friday, November 22, 2013
Kennedy and Yoga

NPR’s Morning Edition explained how Dallas has changed demographically since 1963, when their elite hated Kennedy for being so pro–African–American. I suspect that the following quote of his, which I liked, rankled in Dallas: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

I was not around in 1963. My earliest memories of politics would probably be a vague awareness of President Nixon and President Ford. I really started becoming aware in 1976, our nation’s Bicentennial and the year of the Carter–Ford presidential race. I liked Carter. I think most of the South liked Carter. He’s still going strong. I need to read something by him. He’s probably worth a nice chunk of change, too. I wonder if he really had clothes in those suitcases he was shown carrying during the 1976 presidential campaign.

I attended a yoga class today. I don’t go very often; it’s hard to schedule the Paratransit van exactly right. I spent 45 minutes riding the van before arriving at class. I must cultivate patience and detachment, as the Buddhists do. I arrived late to yoga class and had to knock to be let in. I felt somewhat unwelcome and even disruptive. The hard wooden floors of yoga studios kill my back. Yoga mats are so thin and afford little protection against the hard floors, but they help me stay oriented, so I don’t drift across the studio.

While waiting after class in front of a nearby health food store, where I had grabbed a bit of lunch, I was asked by a man if I needed a ride. Perhaps I should have said yes. I tend to be cautious, and getting into a car with a stranger feels particularly unsafe. Had I been with a friend, I might have accepted the offer.

I always try to go to this health food store after yoga. Getting something to eat is my reward. Today it was feta and artichoke quiche, mushroom couscous, and coleslaw. An hour later, I was starving. How do vegetarians eat this way and not collapse? I have not yet eaten my chai chocolate bar. It’s made by chocolatebar.com, which puts pictures of endangered animals on the wrappers and donates a percentage of sales to wildlife preservation. I can feel morally and healthily virtuous in a tiny way for buying the bar. They make a “Panther” bar that is 80% cacao. I suspect it’s bitter! Even their milk chocolate tastes to me like a rich dark chocolate bar, not a Hershey bar.

I was going to listen to a webcast of a talk by retired ECUSA (Episcopal Church of the United States of America) Bishop John Shelby Spong, but my brother called about 6:00 p.m. and invited me to go eat out. I am always ready to go out for a meal, so I went. I’ll catch the second part of the talk Saturday. I like the sandwich place near my house that we often go to. Fried shrimp po–boys are so good, if horribly fattening. That is my big problem. I can do healthy things, but I still love the fried seafood featured so prominently in Cajun cuisine.

Saturday, November 23, 2013
Pork Belly Sliders or Not

I was unable to make the website work for the Bishop Spong talk. I was quite discommoded. The Internet is tricky for me to use. He was speaking at All Saints Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas. I know the rector there. He was the assistant rector at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Lafayette, which I attended regularly in the 1990s. I wanted a chance to explore alternatives to the Roman Catholicism of my youth and thought the ECUSA would be better. It is and it is not. The National Church is at a different place than are some of the local diocesan churches, and it can be a challenge to be (and to feel included as) a blind visitor. Getting rides has been difficult.

Today, Suzie and I went to a restaurant called the Social Southern Table and Bar. The weather was chilly and misty. Our Paratransit van was a bit late, but I decided to practice detachment. I had enough cab money, should I be so detached that I would miss my return pickup. I was worried we would not have enough time to eat. Scheduling the Paratransit van involves a bit of educated guesswork. First, you try to guess how long it might take to get to your destination. Then, you have to guess how long it will take to eat. Finally, you have to allow for Paratransit’s 15–minute window on either side of your pickup time. They can also pick up or drop off another person en route to your destination.

The food was good, especially the sour cherry tart. I was outdone because I did not figure out that there was some orange zest in the filling; Suzie did. Well, maybe the Canebrake beer I had, one I had wanted to try because it’s local and made with sugarcane juice, confused my taste buds. Or maybe the smoked, fried chicken sizzled them. I passed on the pork belly sliders.

I still think about that MFA in Gastronomy offered by Boston University. What a book that would make! It would be along the lines of Snapshots from Hell, released in the early 1990s, about obtaining a Stanford MBA, or that book One L , by Scott Turow, that describes his first year of Harvard Law School.

Sunday, November 24, 2013
Red Beans & Ricely Yours

My parents and I had lunch at my brother’s house. My mother brought red beans and coleslaw. I like slaw, because it combines the right amount of sweet and sour. I can never make it right. I cannot seem to get the cabbage balanced with the hints of raisins and apples, and my dressing never turns out like my mother’s. I have hesitated to relocate to a bigger city with more opportunities for blind people because of health concerns and a fear that I’ll miss so much family interaction. I worry I won’t develop a social network quickly enough to allow for any unexpected health glitches. I have had several that were horrendous, causing me to spend more than two months in several hospitals.

Sitting on my brother’s smushy sofa hurts my insides. Whoever heard of such craziness? My insides. I need new insides. But really, sitting on that squishy sofa, or on any squishy furniture, mashes up my insides somehow. Crazy FMS; who ever heard of a killer sofa? My parents have furniture that has a similar effect on me.

This evening, I spoke to my friend Dave in New York City. He is so au courant on real estate and news. He told me that the old St. Vincent’s Hospital is in the process of being turned into condos that will start at $10 million apiece. More gentrification, turning NYC into a one percenters’ Xanadu! He spends hours listening to the NFB–NEWSLINE® service. This service was developed in the late 1980s and has grown, and now includes telephone access to over 300 newspapers and 40 magazines presented via synthetic computer speech that works from the electronic files of each publication.

“Red Beans & Ricely Yours” was how musician and New Orleans icon Louis Armstrong often signed his letters. It was his favorite dish. Right on, Louie!

Monday, November 25, 2013
Christmas Songs, Funerals, and Kairos

I heard a Christmas song at 8:45 this morning on 99.9 KTDY. It was Mariah Carey’s remake of “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” It’s all coming earlier and earlier every year. I think that anything Christmas–related should not be allowed until the Friday after Thanksgiving.

I also attended a funeral. A friend I had met through a Kairos Prison Ministry retreat in 2006 died last Tuesday. Bill was a retired Methodist minister, and prior to that worked at a radio station. I was told he did lots of other things, too. One person at the funeral said that Bill could sell anyone anything. I wish I had asked Bill for tips on salesmanship. I enjoyed emailing him, but in recent years, the number of our emails had decreased. I suspect that his poor health was making him tired; he had COPD. I saw several people I had not seen in years, including Kathy, a former LSVI art teacher. I never took art, because the panjandrums governing LSVI thought that art was not a suitable subject for high school students in the graded program (the standard high school curriculum). It was offered to those students who could not function in a traditional academic setting; they were put in something called the “ungraded” curriculum. Luckily, Kathy was able to make lemonade out of this situation.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Food

In his weekly email newsletter, Lew’s News, Lew Carter closed with an aside I thought apropos for the holiday. I first became aware of Lew when I started listening to WRKF, the Baton Rouge NPR affiliate, over a decade ago. He has done a Sunday morning Baroque show for what seems like forever. I enjoy learning about the music. My advice to anyone wanting to learn more about what is often mistakenly called “classical” music is to start listening to Baroque. The term Classical usually refers to music composed from 1750 to 1820. You get a longer run with the Baroque. It’s roughly from 1600 to 1750. The many concertos, sinfonias, and shorter works help one get a handle on orchestral music. A former classmate of mine, George, once told me of a chorus teacher who let them listen to the nine symphonies of Beethoven. While this is laudable, I’d never start at the deep end of the music swimming pool. It’s quite an audible mouthful.

Back to Lew’s food quote:

“The Bible according to Weight Watchers... And God brought forth the potato, a highly nutritious vegetable naturally low in fat. And Satan peeled off the beautiful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep–fat fried them. And he created sour cream dip also…. And man clutched his remote control and ate the chips, swaddled in cholesterol. And Satan said, ‘It is good.’ And man went into cardiac arrest. And Satan saw and said it was good. And God created quadruple bypass surgery. And Satan created HMOs.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Haircut

My mother came to do a bit of shopping in Lafayette, and I returned with her to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday. My parents live in a small town an hour away. This afternoon, I had a haircut with a stylist that my mother also uses. This is a bit challenging, because I can’t always get there in a timely manner. I need to find someone in Lafayette. I used to have someone here, but she moved far across town and has also gotten expensive.

Hair confuses me. I’m never sure if what I am feeling is the same as what sighted people are seeing. I like my hair a bit less flat than others in my family think it should be, and they tell me that I can look a bit fly–away or even mad professor–like. Naturally occurring platinum highlights remind me of the onward rush of time. I am fond of the metallic element, but not so much its appearance on my head.

I’m glad I still have family to visit during holidays. For me, a big dread is being stuck in a vast metroplex, alone for holidays. I am told I would make friends easily, but I worry that by the time I made any, I would be in a bad place psychologically.

Thursday, November 28, 2013
Thanksgiving or Thanksgivukkah

Or Gray Thursday: the new pre–Black Friday.

I made a list of things to be thankful for:

  • Family

  • A decent place to live

  • No major debts

  • Several nice friends

  • The ability to enjoy a variety of books and magazines

  • I’m often able to laugh and find the humor in things—well, sometimes not until after the crisis.

  • I’m not required to shop on Gray Thursday, Black Friday, or even Cyber Monday!

  • I’m able to enjoy a variety of food across a range of cuisines—perhaps too much.

Matthew Henry, Welsh minister (1662–1714), sums it up nicely:ThanksGiving is good but ThanksLiving is better.” It’s just not always easy to do.

It intrigued me that Hanukkah converged with Thanksgiving today. Today is the first day and second night of Hanukkah. According to Wikipedia, the term Thanksgivukkah is a portmanteau neologism. This mouthful simply means that the word is derived from other words and that it is not yet fully accepted into mainstream language. We won’t see a convergence similar to this again until 2070, when Hanukkah starts on the evening of Thanksgiving. Remember, Jewish days do not start at midnight, but on the sunset before the day in question. I bet I’d like the many variations of sufganiyot, or Israeli jelly–filled donuts.

Friday, November 29, 2013
Black Friday

Black Friday scares me! People crazily running from shop to shop and consuming as if doing so were a sacrament.

Kathie Schneider sent me an email that included the website www.ncdj.org (National Center on Disability and Journalism). She has worked with this site to develop an award, which is named for her family and honors young adult books with a proactive disability theme.

I completed the book review for Occupying Aging, mentioned in the introduction to this journal. Schneider’s book is the inspiration for my journal attempts. I recommend that anyone reading this journal purchase a copy of her book; it’s a unique, proactive read.

I also emailed a review of the Simon Winchester book mentioned previously to Library Journal. Below is my submission.

Winchester, Simon. The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible. HarperAudio, 2013

Winchester (author of Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, 2010), both writes and narrates this chronicle of American exploration and discovery and the inventions that have connected the country. He attempts through popular history and personal travelogue to explain how such a vast country as America was united into a whole. He attempts to frame this account through the lens of the classical five elements of Chinese philosophy: fire, earth, water, wood, and metal. For instance, he explains how metal telegraph and telephone wires united the country. Resources at the end of the print edition were not recorded. The author’s excellent narration adds nuance to this recording. Recommended for travel and history buffs.

Saturday, November 30, 2013
El Potrillo

Massage, 10:00 a.m. Hope this helps my muscle tone and FMS.

I had lunch with David, my former shopping volunteer, and his wife. I have tried to remain in touch. They have sold their house and live in an RV, now, and travel around the country. They enjoy New Mexico. How grand! That must be fascinating. We had fajitas at El Potrillo (The Colt), near my apartment. I gave them the Simon Winchester book. I figured that since the book was about travel, they would like it.

I joined Suzie for 4:00 p.m. Mass at St. Leo’s, the Catholic church near my apartment complex; getting there across the busy parking lot was rather interesting. I dislike attending church solo. I feel adrift—rather like a bobbing cork alone in a vast ocean. I also worry that I’ll become momentarily distracted and lose my place in the Mass and stand when I should be sitting. I can’t simply look around and take my cue from people in nearby pews. I also find that the smells of perfume, hair spray, and incense overwhelm my nose. It could be that I’m allergic. I usually try to attend the shorter, less crowded weekday services. I also try to attend the ECUSA services when I can. This potential ambiguity does not bother me, as the theology is similar where it counts.

Author’s Note

In 2015, I became badly disoriented attempting to go to early morning Mass. I was told there would be a 6:30 Mass on Thanksgiving and went. The side door was locked. I turned, attempted to return to the apartment complex, and somehow ended up across Alexander Street near the fire station. Only the sound of nearby wind chimes finally oriented me. It was ghastly. It’s the sense of helplessness, the sense of stupidity to be lost so close to home, and the feelings of inadequacy, because I know others who simply do not have this severe a travel problem. I’m almost glad that none of the cars speeding by stopped and offered to help. Surely, any occupant of a nearby vehicle would have wondered why I was out alone with my white cane so early on a holiday morning. I don’t always want “someone” to go with me when I don’t think the travel is unsafe. I like the freedom to go or not go, with no explanations. Rides are nice in their place—for example, to a function at another church across town—but this church is practically in our driveway.

I played Sounds of Music on www.for–the–people.com and knew that “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” was from the movie Mannequin (1987), and no one else did! I was pleased, because some of the blind people who play this game could medal in a music Olympics.

From My Monthly Bookbag

Knowing you have something good to read before bed is among the most pleasurable of sensations.

—Vladimir Nabokov, novelist (1899–1977)

Author’s Note

This feature will mention books of particular interest that I have read over the month in question. As I often average 8 to 15 books per month, only a few can be singled out here.

Rebecca Stead, When You Reach Me (2010)

The chronological settings of this Newbery–winning young adult novel are fall 1978 and spring 1979. I found the time–travel paradoxes terribly confusing; temporal engineering is not my forte. I’m not entirely sure the novel’s ending is logical, but it doesn’t matter. Twelve–year–old Miranda receives strange notes warning of impending disaster and tries to figure out why her friend Sal has stopped speaking to her. She learns that the notes are coming from the future. I was near Miranda’s age during the time span of this novel. I liked the mention of The $20,000 Pyramid with Dick Clark. I recall it was during the late ’70s that several blind contestants appeared on this game show.

I should Google Rebecca Stead. I think she’s close to my age. If I were successful in contacting her, I’d ask her what happened to Miranda as she navigated life as a teen and adult in New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. I also liked the mention of A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. L’Engle could write across several genres and even nonfiction. Wonder what L’Engle’s estate is worth now?

Speaking of time travel novels, I was impressed with what I have read about Harry Turtledove’s Crosstime Traffic novels. They are explained this way in The Disunited States of America (Crosstime Traffic, #4): “Time travel doesn’t work. You can’t go backward or forward; you’re stuck at ‘now’. What you can do is travel sideways, to the same “now” in another timeline where history turned out differently. Thus far, only our home timeline has figured out how to do that. We use it to conduct discreet trading operations in less advanced timelines, selling goods just a little bit better than the locals can make. It’s profitable, but families who work as Time Traders have to be careful to fit in, lest the locals become suspicious.” Guess a Ph.D. in Byzantine Studies, which Turtledove has, is excellent for fueling the imagination. An examination of time travel methods in adult and young adult fiction might make for an interesting term paper or thesis. One of my earliest memories of such a book was Red Hart Magic, by Andre Norton (1912–2005). A model of an old inn transports two siblings from 1970s America several centuries back to an England torn by religious strife.

December 2013

I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.

—J. D. Salinger (1919–2010), author of The Catcher in the Rye

Sunday, December 1, 2013
Sunshine and Hamburgers

I walked to Shoney’s with friends Carolyn, her daughter, and Rhonda.

Glorious weather, high of 70. Just being out in the sunny weather was superb. Temperate, sunny weather is why I enjoy Louisiana’s mild winters so much and tolerate the steamy summers. I am assured by a friend who works as an aesthetician that steam is good for the complexion; it removes wrinkles. Am I a cotton shirt?

While walking to Shoney’s, we met the former assistant manager of our apartment complex, raking leaves in her front yard. She lives only a couple of blocks away from our complex. I had never realized before, in the decade and more that I have lived here, how near her house was. She could have walked to work, but I’m not sure she did. She was always pleasant, a happy person, very Cajun. She liked to ask me about the tours my parents and their friends booked with a local travel agency, as she also enjoys travel.

The Shoney’s hamburger and iced tea were rather good. I’m not a big fan of chain restaurants, but if I’m invited, I’ll go, and the burger and tea are not bad—not healthy, but not bad.

Carolyn was several years behind me at LSVI, and I only got to know her well when I moved to Moss Gardens in December of 1998. She teaches braille to deaf–blind clients. I met her friend Rhonda a few years after I moved in.

60 Minutes had a segment about the Capitol building. I need to read Guy Gugliotta’s book Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War (2012). I enjoy learning more about historic buildings throughout the world. Skyscrapers, too.

I hope I can get to Mr. Gugliotta’s book. With books so easily available through the BARD website, sponsored by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, it is now easy to download and download and never finish anything. Add to this choice the Bookshare website and the Learning Ally site. I can’t help but think of the times when I was a young child, wanting to try so many kinds of food when the family would go out to eat at a popular local cafeteria–style restaurant. I was always warned about having eyes bigger than my stomach. I definitely have ears that are too big for my stomach. As former library school classmates often told me, “Too many books, too little time.” I am also reminded of summers when my book supply ran out, and I’d call the NLS regional library in Baton Rouge and ask them to please mail something. I’d then wait and count the days till books came in the mail. Yes, our books were mailed to us. I usually read cassette books, but also enjoyed braille young adult fiction. Now there is no such thing as being out of books. They are only a click away. I must have several thousand on my hard drive. I’ll never read them all!

I finished my coursera.org course on rock music from 1970 to 1990. I had wanted to try one of these MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offerings, but had not found the right one until recently. I found trying to network with classmates nearly impossible. I simply did not understand the format of the forum where everyone mingled. I think this is an interesting approach to education. I would have liked using this approach to take a few courses during my college breaks, but back then, correspondence courses were the only possibility, and I did take several during two summers. Could any of these MOOC offerings replace regular credit courses? They might mainly be used to supplement traditional offerings or be extra credit possibilities. I can see how some of the courses could easily count as one credit hour.

Monday, December 2, 2013
Computer

My computer capriciously shut down while I was playing an online trivia game tonight. I spent over 25 minutes trying to get it back up. I turned it off, waited, turned it on, waited… Finally, I remembered control−alt−delete. It worked. The feeling of loss and helplessness when the speech is gone makes me wish I could face the steep learning curve for one of the Apple line of iDevices. In these products, the speech is built in.

Maybe the computer knew it was Cyber Monday and that I had not shopped online! Or perhaps it does not like my Dvorak keyboard. The Dvorak layout rearranges the QWERTY pattern in a way that is supposed to increase typing speed and cause less wear on the hands. For instance, the home row is not a s d f g h j k l (etc.), but rather a o e u i d h t n s –, which is supposed to cause many fewer reaches for words. Of course, everyone I have mentioned this to thought I was an idiot to learn it in August 1999. I was told that as a blind person, one can’t be too adventurous, especially as we depend on this unpredictable, ever–changing technology. My speech software may dislike it as well.

I need a new keyboard, because the one I own now is over 15 years old and the backspace key is sticky and jams. New models are overly technical and run on software that makes them problematical with my text–to–speech software program. I’ll have to find another one or unlearn Dvorak and stumble back to QWERTY, which was originally designed to slow fast typists down. I thought Dvorak’s easier layout and less stress on my hands and fingers might help me avoid further wrist pain. Who needs carpal tunnel syndrome? I think it has helped some.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Giving Tuesday

I have been considering these three points today:

  1. How to give back? Money? Volunteering?

  2. Where to give? A local church, a nursing home?

  3. How to decide, with limited funds and health challenges, what amount of either money or time to give, and what volunteer agency or program might want or need my skills?

I will budget $25 to Radio Talking Book in memory of Rita. I usually donate that on August 5, which is the anniversary of her sudden death last year. She enjoyed the limited version of LA–AIRS that we set up. (I explain that below.) She was very bohemian. She mentioned how she’d often hitchhike in the 1970s from her small college town to spend weekends in New Orleans. She told me how, in the 1980s, she moved to Houston and then shared a ride with a stranger to Berkeley. She had simply advertised on a bulletin board where she worked, and he appeared. She had no place to live in Berkeley, so went to a women’s shelter and stayed until she was able to get an apartment. She was a free spirit who just missed the hippie movement, which she would have loved.

She always said her worst mistake was returning to Louisiana. She suffered vision problems as her RP advanced. Retinitis pigmentosa is a progressive disease of the retina. People here thought she was rather eccentric because of her many cats, thrift store clothes, poetry writing, tarot card reading, and reiki work. I never did get her to read my tarot cards. She was into the New Thought or New Age movement. She really felt energy during reiki—or swore that she did. I trusted her, too. I don’t think she would have lied to a fellow blind person. I have to wonder what her brother, a retired professor, and her sister, a government sociologist, both with much less severe eye conditions, thought of her; but then, I also wonder if she ever felt sad that she had not had the career successes they have enjoyed. She seemed content with her life and enjoyed the freedom to be at home and read or listen to various NPR programs.

LA–AIRS, Louisiana Audio Information and Reading Service, was to have been a radio reading service affiliated with the International Association of Audio Information Services (www.iaais.org), but it never really soared. Rita may have been our one faithful listener. I had gotten the idea to start such a service here in Lafayette after returning in December 2003 from Macomb, Illinois. There, I did a library internship at Western Illinois University, where a library school classmate had ended up. I enjoyed the town’s radio reading service. It was part of their university National Public Radio affiliate. Several friends and I tried to set up a similar model here. We spoke to local newspapers, appeared on several television morning shows, put on a Renaissance fair, fund–raised, reached out to the local university NPR affiliate, and established a board of directors.

Reading services provide broadcasts of local interest materials to blind and print–challenged persons using radio subcarrier frequencies. It’s a way to fill a niche market to provide special, rapidly changing information. Yes, I am aware that there is the Internet, the World Wide Web, and that younger blind people use these and other tools to access information, but not everyone in Louisiana who might have benefited from the reading service is in this fortunate category. In addition, the reading service in Illinois was a clearinghouse for volunteers who would read to blind people needing assistance with mail. Reading services seem to be in an era of major redefinition. New Orleans is the only city in Louisiana that has a reading service, www.wrbh.org, which has been around since the early 1980s.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Food Addiction (or Half a Dozen Cookies)

Members of the Acadiana Area Council of the Blind (AACB) ate out at Cheddars, and I received the fudge and cookies I had ordered from our treasurer. I knew I was going to eat all of that within days. I do believe that chocolate has some kind of morphine in it to cause addiction. The fudge was very good; our treasurer could make money teaching fudge–making. I’d pay.


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