I loved Beth Finke’s memoir “Long Time, No See”. When we started corresponding through our blogs, she asked me to write a summary post on my tips as a blind NYC traveler. For those who want a brief synopsis of my trip, or who want to read the invigorating chat that resulted, check this out!
I enjoyed reading a series of posts by blogger Blindbeader about a recent visit to New York City so much that I asked her to write a guest post for us with her NYC recommendations. I’ve never met the author of the Blindbeader blog personally, but I’ve come to know her by reading her posts there — she works for a software developer on their computer helpdesk, and lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband, three cats and guide dog Jenny.
New York City — Goin’ in blind
Blogger Blindbeader and guide dog Jenny waiting for a water taxi in NYC.
I was 16 years old the first time anyone I knew had ever been to New York City, and since hearing my friends describe their trip (admittedly constrained by high school rules), I’ve dreamed about going myself. An opportunity presented itself last month, so my sighted husband and…
Every once in a while, certain hashtags or articles make the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes they drive me crazy because I saw them six months ago and someone has decided to revive them. While they come with the best of intentions – to educate the public about the needs/desires/opinions of people with disabilities or to vent frustrations about the public’s perceptions of the same – Hashtags such as #Stopableism2015 or articles such as “10 things Never to say/do to a deaf/blind person” appear to frequently do less educating and more griping about people who can hear, see, walk, etc., almost creating an overwhelmingly abrupt kneejerk reaction. If we want to be perceived as humans with needs, desires, and feelings, should we not treat those who may be over- or under-helpful as though they have feelings, too?
At the root of this trend, however, is a desire to be treated equally in work, recreation, and perception. I have been the recipient of both demeaning and preferential treatment, neither of which is what I wish. I am thrilled to have the drive, confidence, and luck to be gainfully employed, as well as enjoy a full social life with both blind and sighted friends. Do I get frustrated by perceptions that I am helpless? Of course! But I have found that the more I politely advocate for myself, the more reasonable I will appear, and the more likely I am to leave a positive impression. I am by no means perfect at this, or think one should accept every bit of well-meaning assistance that is thrust upon me; nor do I believe that I am advocating for every blind person out there. But I find that the more “human” I act, the more “human” I am perceived, and the less likely I am to flippantly use trendy hashtags to vent my frustration on a day when I am tired of answering invasive questions, explaining my access rights with a guide dog, or simply want to have someone ask “So what do you do?” without getting a surprised reaction when I tell them my occupation.
At the end of the day, an acquaintance on Twitter put this best:
People love those blog posts about how to treat a blind or deaf person. Just! Ask! Please! That's a far more universal rule than some blog.
Nothing beats being home. We thoroughly enjoyed the people, the sites, the activities, the food, and the whole experience of New York City, but there is no sleep that is better than the sleep in your own bed.
Thursday morning, we finished up our packing and headed down for our last breakfast – the fritata with mushrooms, onions and chicken sausage, a ton of coffee, and a quick farewell to Kipp, to whom we gave Smarties (they don’t have them in the USA) and an Edmonton Pipes and Drums pin to commemorate our stay.
We wanted to pick up a patch for Jenny – she is such a traveler now that we wanted to get a badge from all the cities she’s visited and sew it onto a new blanket. But the Firefighter Museum was closed because it was New Year’s Day, and the Police Museum was flooded during Hurricane Sandy and their temporary lease expired in October, so they were not open either. Instead, we took the train to the 9/11 Memorial. It was a surreal experience, being where two large towers once stood. You could smell some of the burnt material even now, all these years later, from a block away. It was not altogether unpleasant, but it was a sharp reminder of what took place on that site over 13 years ago.
Along one wall, there were bronzed carvings depicting the shapes of the towers burning and falling, as well as memorializing the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. Where the towers once stood, there are fountains that fill the craters left behind, and along the railings around the fountains, there are etched the names of all those who lost their lives. These names are three or four deep, and travel all around the fountains – the size of a building – and it felt very surreal. I knew where I was when I first heard the news of the towers collapsing, and on an intellectual level, I understood it, but actually being on the site was a moving experience I won’t soon forget.
From the memorial, we took the train to Christopher St, where Kipp recommended a little European-inspired restaurant where we could have lunch. On our way there, we found another souvenir store, where we actually DID complete our souvenir shopping – including Jenny’s badge (bright pink that says “I heart NY”). At the restaurant, one of the waitresses brought her kids with her to work, and explained to them that they couldn’t pet Jenny. She asked a lot of questions about guide dog training, and made a comment about how she thought that guide dogs are perfect little beings that don’t make mistakes (Ben nearly spit out his water laughing). The food was terrific, the ambiance was like a 60s style diner, and it was a fantastic place to spend our last meal in NYC.
We headed back to the B&B, grabbed our stuff, and caught our ride to the airport. Because Jenny’s harness sets off the alarm, they had to pat both me and her down. I told them that I would take the harness off and then they could go ahead, and they were OK with that. Jenny got a chance to do cute little circles before getting security checked, and she laid down calmly while I got searched. The whole process from checking in to finishing security took less than 10 minutes, and we made it to our gate in plenty of time to watch the first 2/3 of the Corner Gas movie on our portable DVD player.
Our flight to Chicago was delayed due to problems loading the luggage (including strollers). We made pretty good time, but the flight was noisy and bumpy, and Jenny was unimpressed with the whole process. Ben and I grabbed our GoPicnic lunches and snacked on them during the flight, and hoped and prayed that our flight to Edmonton would wait for us.
We landed at Chicago only 10 minutes later than scheduled, and were assisted through the WHOLE airport to get to our connecting flight to Edmonton. Chicago O’Hare is a huge airport, but Ben says it is a nice-looking airport, very wide hallways, shops, restaurants… just very big! Our flight took off nearly half an hour late because a cleaning crew had to clean up a mess involving potato chips and the landing of the previous flight. The crew offered to move us to the bulkhead seats, which we accepted gladly, and made our way to Edmonton. Our flight landed an hour later than scheduled, but the flight crew was courteous and professional, offering us warm wet towels at the end of the flight. The crew was so impressed by Jenny that they gave me a little pin with pilots’ wings to clip on to a blanket or jacket; I just have to decide where to put it!
Our friend picked us up at the airport, driving through an incoming snowstorm to come and get us. My worn-out shoes were no match for the piling-up snow, but we got into the van and made it home safely. Ben is a bit disconcerted about the empty streets here, a sharp contrast to the insane traffic we had experienced the past nine days. I told him that he should never ever ever complain about traffic again – and he said if he did, he would say that at least we weren’t in New York.
We hauled our duffel bag upstairs and nearly fell into bed, with Jenny squirming and wriggling to find a perfect position between us. We are now settling back in, snug in our house, as snow swirls and blows around us, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thanks to Kipp, Margo and Sarah-Doe at the Canal Park Inn for hosting us and feeding us, Roam Mobility for keeping us in touch with friends and family back home, The New York Pass for giving us access to tours and sites we might not have seen otherwise, the restaurants, tour guides, tourists, MTA workers, locals, flight crews, and all the others who made our trip so special and unforgetable. This one’s for you.
This morning we had a quick breakfast downstairs, then booked it down to the Subway where we were to take our final walking tour of the trip: The High Line, Chelsea and Meatpacking District. Unfortunately for me, I took us down the wrong route through the Subway, taking us several blocks out of our way, which resulted in us being slightly (2 minutes) late for the start of the tour. The guide asked if we were the Lang party (“Who are late!”) and I had to admit that yes, we were, and it was my fault. We did the walk of shame, got processed, and walked through Chelsea Market, a beautiful old building with many food stands.
A fire bell in Chelsea market
This was halfway in the market
We toured the High Line, which is a park built on the site of an elevated train, with views of the city, terrific hotels, and high buildings that you can actually walk beneath without feeling like you are beneath the buildings. We saw some awesome historic buildings in the area, and heard how the Chelsea neighborhood was transformed from a run-down beat-up area to one of the most happening neighborhoods in new York City – rent here can run you $5000 a month, and that’s for a little studio apartment!
The lounge chairs rested on old rail wheels on the old track
This pier was incredibly important when cruise ships ruled the water
Nature has reclaimed these tracks
Old brick roads in Chelsea
Jenny did most of the guide work on this tour as well, and did a fantastic job! She got lost once and tried to take me with the other tour group – our tour had taken a quick right turn that she didn’t see, so she did the only thing she could think of. Our tour guide, Linda, got to say hi to her after the tour, which made her smile – she has a dog as well who lives with her daughter in the country because NYC is a bit too much for him.
Linda says we had a beautiful tour!
By the end of the tour, we were very very cold, so we stepped into an old-style diner for terrific food – three-bean turkey chili for me, chicken fingers for Ben. We planned out our afternoon, then – sufficiently warm – we walked to the Subway, where we caught the E train to Lexington and 53 St, and took an 8-block walk to Dylan’s Candy Bar. This place was full of candy – like FULL! I think I read that it was three floors! We kept it pretty simple, and I got some Reese’s peanut butter cups, gummy fruit salad, and mint Hershey kisses. Jenny was a bit overwhelmed by all the smells, but did not scavenge or scrounge, even when our bag ripped and gummy fruit wound up on the floor.
From there, we left the sweet-smelling shop and took another 8-block walk to Carnegie Hall. Along the way, we heard an actual copy-cat of two car horns – one would honk twice, so would the other; one would make a long honk, the other would follow suit. This lasted for a full minute, and it made us smile as we walked the loooooong blocks to Carnegie Hall… where we found out they were closed until January 8! I was so disappointed – I had wanted to see Carnegie Hall so badly (if you have ever played an instrument, you know that Carnegie Hall is one of The places that you want to perform). I actually cried!
Dejected, we tried to do some shopping at Columbus Circle, but you couldn’t sneeze there without being charged $20 for the privilege. So we headed back to the B&B, relaxed, and got started packing…
We booked a reservation for a place called Uncle Boon’s, which had three important qualities for a New Years Eve spot: It was relatively inexpensive compared to other choices, they were still taking reservations, and (I thought) they were close-ish to our B&B. So we walked… and walked… and WALKED… a good 40-minute walk – not nearly as close as I thought. Ben was pretty irritated that we were walking that far in the cold, but once we sat down in the little Thai restaurant, with Thai remakes of 60s music playing in the background, and the food started to arrive, I think his irritation lessened considerably. We started off with lotus leaves wrapped around peanuts and sesame seeds, a coconut custard with lobster that packed a HUGE punch once it hit the back of your tongue, and tapioca dumplings… and there was MORE food…. and MORE food! Ben thinks his favorite was the oyster soup (even though I got to eat his oyster(, which tasted like a lemon ginger broth with onions and mushrooms; mine was probably the pork belly (it tastes like a pork chop, but slightly greasier)… and we both adored the bourbon ice cream with rice and Pomegranate seeds. The food was all terrific, though, and well worth the very long walk back, where we saw in the distance the Empire State Building all lit up in different colours.
It was 9:30 when we got back from Uncle Boon’s, so we stayed up late, relaxing, and watched the ball drop on TV. reportedly, a million people were crammed into Times Square that night, and even though we couldn’t see them, we could hear the fireworks from Times Square. it is a great place to be – NYC at New Year’s – but I do agree with those to stay away from Times Square to avoid the crowds.
Happy New Year! My next entry will be from my own home, which – as much as I love it here – is calling me back with my own bed, my cozy house, and three kitties who will probably shun me on arrival.