Guest Post: Universal Studios: Truly Universal (And Accessible)


Universal Studios, 2015

Universal Studios, Summer 2015

Many thanks to my sister-in-law, Deb Briggs, who shared her 2015 summer vacation experience at Universal, in FL, with a focus on accessibility.  She makes a good argument for going in the summer (gasp, says even I, who dislikes temps over 85 degrees):

A family vacation and a desire to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter brought us to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, this summer. Many would question the rationale of visiting Orlando in the summer, when the temperature and humidity often top out in the high nineties, but here are our reasons:


-It’s off-season, so there are fewer people in the park.
-We were able to take advantage of off-season rates.
-My daughter is a school teacher, and my son is a college student, so there is no better time to go.
-We are a family of Harry Potter fans.
-And best of all, why not?

Everything in Florida is air-conditioned. They have cooling down to a science.

As one of Marianne’s many loving aunts, I look for places that are accessible to people with disabilities. Universal Studios gets high marks.

We bought a package deal that allowed us to stay on the grounds of Universal Studios at Loews Royal Pacific Hotel, a beautiful, family-friendly resort that featured a lagoon-style pool with a tiki bar, towel service, billiards, and even a DJ. The rooms were large, and the bathroom, including the shower, was wheelchair accessible. I don’t know if all rooms are accessible or if we just lucked out. If you are in need of an accessible room, it would be best to request one. The resort has a tropical theme, which isn’t much of a stretch considering the hot Florida climate. Fortunately, the hotel also provides chilled towels on the pool deck for those feeling a bit parched.  It’s is also on the perimeter of the grounds, and it’s about a 10-minute walk on paved trails to get to the entrance of the parks. (There are actually two parks: (1) The Islands of Adventure, and (2) Universal Studios.) Alternatively, you can ride the water taxi, which is also wheelchair accessible. If you’re lucky, the captain will regale you with bad jokes all the way to the park.

The parks, including the restaurants and gift shops, are clean, level, and theoretically wheelchair accessible. The greatest barrier to complete access is the crowds. Many of the rides bring you directly through attraction-themed gift shops, which can get crowded. I didn’t ask, but I would bet that there are other methods of egress for those who need them. We saw many people using wheelchairs and scooters enjoying the parks.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is truly a magical place. Diagon Alley has been replicated so successfully, you feel that you’re part of the attraction. In fact, you are! The crowds actually enhance the experience of Diagon Alley.

Muggles line up to buy butter beer (non-alcoholic), which is too delicious to exist outside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Visitors also shop for wands, robes, Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, and chocolate frogs. The alley is teeming with atmosphere. Harry Potter-themed music at just the right volume wafts over the alley, and immediately transports you to this magical world. There is even a fire-breathing dragon that perches atop Gringotts Bank and blasts his hot flames over the crowds every 10 minutes.
The Harry Potter rides are intense, and may not be appropriate for some people. The rides are thrilling (scary), and may cause some to panic. In fact, many of the rides throughout both parks are not for the faint of heart. The trend is going toward more realistic, 3-D experiences. Every ride includes a set of warnings that will help you decide whether it’s a good fit. There is something for everyone, however. There are tamer rides and some shows, including an adorable trained animal show that features dogs, cats, birds, ducks, and a pig. Yes, it is apparently possible to train a cat.

The parks do a good job of keeping visitors relatively cool in spite of the hot temperatures. Many of the snaking lines are indoors, which means that a good portion of the wait is spent in an air-conditioned environment. I believe that there are separate methods of access for people using wheelchairs, which shorten waiting times, and reduce the effects of the heat. The staff were very welcoming and helpful to all visitors, and especially those needing accommodations.

One of the perks of staying inside the park, as we did, was that the resort provides an Express Pass, which allows you to go through the lines more quickly. The Express Passes are also available for purchase in the park, but they are pretty expensive.
Another perk of staying inside the park is that you can retreat to the hotel in the middle of the day, rest up a bit, and then return to the park later.

Universal Studios is definitely a splurge, but if you are looking for a fun place to go that will appeal to, welcome, and accommodate all, it’s a good destination. It truly is Universal.Universal Studios, Summer 2015

Celebrate With Us In Boston This Wednesday: 25 years of the Americans With Disabilities Act

“My hope is that every place will be wheelchair-accessible” (Marianne Mahoney’s quote on the paper link she created for the Easter Seals paper chain project, Spring 2015.)

There’s nothing that Marianne likes more than family get togethers, and fortunately for her, we’ve got a large, and mostly local, extended family.  Last spring, we all planned to meet in a Boston-neighborhood restaurant that is completely wheelchair-accessible, with designated accessible street parking, curb cuts, and a ramp.  There are wide doors and a wheelchair-accessible bathroom.  There is clear access through the restaurant…. oh, wait.

Because on that day, there wasn’t.    Restaurant management had put a dinner table right in front of the handicap-accessible entrance, and our route to our family – seated in the next room – meant that we had to uproot an entire table of people.  As we stood there, an awkward pause ensued, during which I inwardly fumed that yet again, Marianne’s way was barred when it needn’t have been.   Graciously, the group of six noticed us, stood up, smiled, and made way for Marianne, and the hostess rolled her eyes at me and said, “I keep telling ‘them’ (management) that you can’t put a table here!”

So, okay, the people who were sitting there moved and were nice about it.  The hostess validated our issue.  But really, should Marianne/we have been made to feel grateful or to say, “sorry, excuse me”?   Should we have felt that we importuned an entire table?   Or felt the attention of all those seated nearby?  No.  It’s Marianne’s right to roll into a public restaurant and garner no more attention than me, or the guy behind me, or the kid behind him, and get to her reserved table with no more thought than someone who is able to walk without assistance.

Easter Seals Youth Leaders have coordinated groups throughout the state to create paper links like Marianne’s (with a statement of how the ADA has changed their lives or a wish for something that would make a difference still in the life of someone differently-abled).  These paper links will be joined together this week to commemorate the strides – and the work yet to be done – in the area of disability rights.

On Wednesday, July 22, from 11 am to 3 pm, you can be part of this civil rights movement by celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) on Boston Common. Hosted by the New England ADA Center, the day will include a parade, speakers and family-friendly events.

“Accommodating a person with a disability is no longer a matter of charity but instead a basic issue of civil rights.” (from The History of the Americans with Disabilities Act, by Arlene Mayerson, 1992)

Yes to that.

To Marianne, and to all who recognize this as a civil rights challenge:  keep on keeping on. We can all play a part to further the rights of those whose civil liberties have yet to be fully realized.




Armenia Without The Plane Trip

Maybe you knew that sumac is an edible spice.  I only learned this recently, and I just ate some.  (Disclaimer: I bet you can’t go and pick the sumac off the tree in your backyard and roast it.  But then again, maybe you can….my friend Lauren cooks with grape leaves she picks from a parking lot near her house.)IMG_4177


Seta’s Cafe, Belmont

Seta’s Cafe opened in 2013 on Belmont Avenue in Belmont (right on the border of Watertown), and although I’ve only had one dining experience there, I’m already planning my return trip. Lunch today was Luleh Khorovats, which is ground lamb and beef, grilled with onion and spices (yes, sumac), served on homemade lavash bread.  Seta serves brunch, lunch and dinner, and caters.  This is an accessible place: parking lot behind the restaurant, ramped door, space between tables, room to place your order, and an accessible bathroom.  I must return soon for brunch, because I cannot resist the allure of Foul Mudamas.  (Isn’t language a beautiful thing?)IMG_4169

To round out your dining experience, you could visit the nearby Armenian Library and Museum of America (review coming next week).   Tickets are on sale now for “Women of Ararat,” at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown on March 28th and March 29th.  “Woman of Ararat” is a love story of a young couple, William and Julie, which also tells the story of Julie’s family, four generations of Armenian women living in Watertown.  Later this spring is a centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide:   on April 23rd, Trinity Church hosts a memorial service and on April 24th, there will be a procession leaving from the Massachusetts State House to Armenian Heritage Park.


The Labyrinth, Armenian Heritage Park, Boston, MA

Side note: I had no idea where the Armenian Heritage Park is, but I found out and look forward to going.  With Marianne.  Just as soon as the ice and snow melt.   It’s on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (the website claims the Greenway is fully accessible), near Faneuil Hall Marketplace and Christopher Columbus Park.  World Labyrinth Day on May 2 might be a good time to visit, as the labyrinth looks beautiful and accessible.

In “About Us” on her website, Seta says “My baba (my father)…..would hand me a piece of the dough and say ” This is what the dough should feel like once it’s done” and so I learned to bake bread my grandfather made at his bakery in the Armenian Quarters in Jerusalem.”

I’d say she learned well.   Dining at Seta’s cafe is an inviting, and accessible, first step into Armenian culture.

Maine Adaptive Sports: Where Skiing Can Be Fun (Even For The Slightly Terrified)

Wheelchair battery? Check. Medical supplies (and lots of them)? Check.  Medications? Check. Go Pro? Check.  Ski gear and warm clothes? Check.  The dog bed, dog food, and the dog? Check!

It took me an entire day to get the gear together for five of us to head north, and we set off with no small amount of trepidation, given that extreme cold temperatures were forecast for Maine on a recent February weekend.

photoWas it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

Check out her video here (thanks Go Pro!).

IMG_1445Marianne has skied for years with Maine Adaptive Sports at Sunday River, in Bethel, Maine.  So have others who are veterans, paraplegics, amputees, and the blind.  She has skied with many of the same volunteers, year after year, who welcome her (and us) back like long-lost friends.  Maine Adaptive Sports is fortunate enough to have a dedicated lodge, slope-side, with plenty of parking.  All the equipment Marianne needs is right here – including helmet, goggles, hand warmers even!  They make it downright EASY for you to get on the slopes.

IMG_1429Like a well-oiled machine, Maine Adaptive volunteers get their skiers on the slopes by 9 am, and they keep them going until lunch time.  Skiers can sign up in advance for a half-day of skiing or a full-day (see the website for on-line forms).  Sunday River management has some restrictions on the program;  for example, the handicap program runs only on Sunday (not Saturday) on a regular weekend, and there are some limits during school vacation weeks.  However, skiers and their volunteers ski for free on the day of their lesson (no small thing given the price of single-day lift tickets).

IMG_4140Our first ski experience with Marianne, many moons ago, was at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.  I found the mountain slightly crazed, packed with careening skiers heading pell mell down the main run, while music blared from unseen speakers.  The handicap ski program was in the main lodge (that may have changed by now), and you had to get in line with everyone else to use the only-somewhat-accessible bathroom.  Same story with parking – you’re in the mosh pit with everyone else.  Having to compete with the teeming (although happy) masses for bathrooms, parking, and yes, even air space, means added maneuvering for wheelchair users.  And extra work. And compounded stress.

IMG_1442Sunday River can be a bit of a drive if you live near Boston.  But it is so worth it to get to this big (lots of runs and they stay on top of snow-making), family-friendly (yet challenging for those like their thrills!) resort, especially because of Maine Adaptive’s beautiful launching space for skiers who use wheelchairs.

We’re lucky enough to stay with our extended family (who put a ramp in their condo for Marianne to support her skiing endeavors!) but Maine Adaptive Sports also maintains a list of lodging in the area:  Sunday River Lodging Directory.

IMG_4148Marianne was hesitant, really scared even, at first.  But now she is a skier, thanks to the hard-working staff and volunteers at Maine Adaptive.  She steers herself.  She’s been known to do a half-pipe or two. She’s wiped out with the best of them.  She skis with cousins Brendan and Rachel, Uncle Bob and Aunt Marcia, her brother, sister, dad.  Apres-ski? She definitely enjoys that hot chocolate and sense of personal satisfaction at the end of a long hard day of skiing.

Thanks to Maine Adaptive Sports – and Sunday River – for equalizing the world, one run, one day, at a time.



Comfort Food

Bigger-than-me snow piles, single-digit temperatures, impassable sidewalks, a beleaguered MBTA, and forget parking a car anywhere….we’re all a little stuck in the Boston area. Looking for a way to pass the long hours at home?  There’s reading, and then there’s cooking.  And then there’s combining your reading AND cooking (ideas here at The Art of Eating Books).

Chelsea Market, New York City

Chelsea Market, New York City

From Jerusalem: A Cookbook, a cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, I give you a recipe for Mejadra, my new, most comforting winter meal.   Mejadra, also called Mujadara in other parts of the Arab world, is a very old Middle Eastern staple, good served hot or at room temperature, as a stand-alone or as accompaniment.   Bonus: the recipe features turmeric, which is good for aging brains.  I use brown basmati rice (which you need to cook longer than the amount of time specified in the recipe).  Add the lentils, fried onions and fresh Greek yogurt, and you’ve got a satisfying, healthy comfort food.  Frying the onions is probably the most labor-intensive part of this recipe, but don’t skip it – the salty, crunchy onions make the dish!



Armchair Travels With Books I Have Loved

Winter Weather

Edgar Allen Poe Statue, Boston, MA January 27, 2015

It’s Tuesday night, January 27, 2015, and it’s still snowing in the Boston area.

There’s a traffic ban in many Massachusetts counties.  The South Shore and the Cape have been slammed – homes knocked off their foundation, frozen raging sea water flooding streets, massive power outages.  There are 700+ plows out in Boston, removing  23.3″ (and counting) of white matter. And there’s more coming at the end of the week, apparently.

Some will escape the harsh vicissitudes of our New England winter by plane, but some of us will journey in our imaginations only, aided by a good book.



Seamus at Newtonville Books, Newton Centre

I wish Marianne liked to read more.  I’m not sure why she doesn’t, although I know that it is hard for her to get a “just right” book at her reading level.  There’s also the issue of concentration and short-term memory white-outs.

Reading is, however, one of MY favorite (and least-expensive) escapes. It’s one that is taken from the comfort of my coziest chair (the blue one) with a cup of just-the-way-I-like-it tea and my trusty dog Seamus curled up as close to me as he can get.  By book, I can travel far for one hour, and I can go home without a backwards glance if I have a change of mind.

I also like lists.  So here’s one of the books I’ve read recently that I most highly recommend for the purposes of teleportation.  I only include books I’ve read within the last year (in parentheses, I list the setting so you can choose where you travel).  If you want to see my reviews, you can check out my Shelfari bookshelf (see Joanne M).


-Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood (pre-WW2 Berlin)

-Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Iceland)

-Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (Norway)

-Two Old Women by Velma Wallis (Alaska)

-The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O’Brien (Dublin, Ireland)

-Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Iowa)

-The Romantics by Pankaj Mishra (Benares, India)

-Wild by Cheryl Strayed (Pacific Crest Trail, CA)

-An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine (Beirut, Lebanon)


-Following Atticus by Tom Ryan (the White Mountains of New Hampshire)


-The Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore (Boston, MA, in the Revolutionary-War era)

-Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson (England)

-The City of Djinns by William Dalrymple (Delhi, India)

IMG_2975I am the queen of the inter-library loan system (books, movies, audio- and e-books), but I also like to support my local bookstore. For me, that means a trip to Newtonville Books. Wheelchair-accessible; friendly, knowledgeable staff; stimulating author events; great paperback selection for adults, teens and middle schoolers. And they keep dog biscuits for my dog Seamus (open door policy for on-leash hounds). What’s not to love here?

Looking for more ideas to create your own reading lists?  Sites like The GuardianIndie Bound (for new books), and NPR’s Best Books of 2014 can provide good ideas.

Do you have some titles that evoke a particular place for you?  If you send them to me, I can create a shared reading list for those stationary travel times.  And if you live in New England, I hope you weather this storm in safety and comfort, with a good book in hand.


Love Is All You Need

IMG_0426RoseMary is slipping away from us now. Dementia has taken sharp little bites of her, piece by piece, over the past five years.  In the last few weeks, her dignity has been mauled by this monster.  Oh, but she was a proud, proud woman. I see echoes of that again, now that the morphine has softened the raw, red edges of panic and confusion. She looks like she is asleep, deeply.

I fear dementia, like I fear cancer or terrorists. It creeps on stealthy feet. Sometimes there is a reprieve, and we think we have conquered “it” with some magic bullet of drugs or surgical strikes.  But dementia bides its time and exacts its due. Lurking. Robbing. Defacing.

IMG_0427For some time now, RoseMary could barely put a full sentence together….but she could still say her prayers. The Rosary was her solace, and the words to the Hail Mary came effortlessly.  As of last week, she could say only  “we” and “the kids” and “Marianne” and she could smile. Yesterday, her mouth moved but only jumbles and sighs came out.

Yesterday was December 15th.   RoseMary and I sat close together at a table in a hot, crowded room full of old, old people, most slumped in wheelchairs, all with bibs on, some talking to someone who wasn’t there and others comatose. One of our table-mates mumbled “agua” over and over, while the other stared vacantly into space, his body arched in stiff strictures. RoseMary’s once-coiffed hair is now pure white and stick straight. Her hands moved and twisted aimlessly, reaching, shifting.  I stroked her head, and we listened to a tinny rendition of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” on the radio, while the Christmas tree lights on the small, plastic tree blinked off and on. The aide sat at the next table and checked her smartphone. I held RoseMary’s hand and whispered in her ear what she has told me all my life: you are very special to me, and I love you very much.

IMG_0430And then I told her that I thought people were waiting for her to come to them now: her husband Leo, her brother Bob, her sister MaryAnna, her Mother and Dad. That she had received her last sacraments and that I knew, if there was a God in heaven, that she would be welcomed there. She, who had been unfocused and agitated, turned her piercing blue eyes on me and nodded, once, slowly. I swear there was a ghost of a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

At home yesterday, I sat at my sunny kitchen table, paying bills and waiting for kids to return from school – and I received a call from RoseMary’s nurse.  At about 3 pm, RoseMary began to struggle with labored breathing.  Morphine and oxygen were administered.

RoseMary’s body is no battlefield, and there are no more monsters lurking under the bed. One by one, her family and friends have come to hold her hand and to whisper in her ear, “you are loved.”  She is whole again.  Love is all she has ever needed, and all she needs now.IMG_0423

The (New And Improved) Harvard Art Museums

Harvard Art Museums, courtesy of their website

Harvard Art Museums, courtesy of their website

The new museums on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, MA, are beautifully accessible in many ways.

IMG_3403Formerly in three separate museums, Harvard’s works of art are now collected in one recently renovated space called the Harvard Art Museums.  My subway trip took me an hour (just as the MBTA trip planner said it would).  The Harvard Square stop on the Red Line is accessible, as is the path through Harvard’s campus to get to the new museum.    Were you to drive in, beware that parking is costly.

For Cambridge residents, entrance to the museum is free.  It is free on Saturdays for Massachusetts residents from 10 am to noon.  An adult pays  $15 to get into the museum.

IMG_3450There is a small (um, rather expensive) cafe, Jenny’s Cafe, in the lobby with accessible seating in the courtyard.

IMG_3426I spent about two hours looking, perhaps, at the architecture as much as the works of art.  Three separate, historic, museums (the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Sackler) have now been united with glass, steel and cedar.  The museums do have a wonderfully presented collection of early American portraits (my favorite is Joseph-Siffred Duplessis’ Benjamin Franklin, with his gorgeous, basset-hound eyes;  a close second being John Singleton Copley’s dignified old Yankee, Sarah Morecock Boylston).  The Busch-Reissner Museum (originally the “Germanic museum”) has a significant collection of German expressionism and materials related to the Bauhaus.  Don’t miss the lightbox gallery on the top floor, which has a digital play on the museum’s holdings.

Having poured over many and many a website looking for accessibility info, I have to give the Harvard Art Museums a giant shout-out for a truly “accessible” statement on accessibility on their website.  In general, I find their website masterful in that it is easy to navigate and it has succinct information.  You can also access the  on-line directory of the museum’s complete collections from the comfort of your own home, which might tide you over until you can get there in person.IMG_3389

NYC: Focus On Chelsea For Accessibility And Less Stress


The High Line Hotel, NYC

Central Park, the Top of the Rock, Times Square, Museum Mile, a Broadway show, St. Patrick’s Cathedral:  a quintessential New York City trip to some.   I offer you here an itinerary for a slightly less touristy – but no less iconic – NYC experience that is much friendlier to the slow walker or wheelchair user.

Consider booking a room at The High Line Hotel;  a fairly new hotel built on the site of the former dormitory for the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea, New York City.  The developers retained the feel of the Gothic Revival structure and to me, it’s just beautiful. The price can be right too, from the low $300’s per night (up to mid $500’s).



Intelligentsia runs a fantastic espresso bar in the lobby of the hotel with really, really nice baristas, and there’s plenty of indoor and outdoor seating (if you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with a preponderance of small dogs). The good news is that you too can bring your dog (even if it’s not a service dog) for a sleepover if you so desire. There are a few downsides:

– There is only one ADA room, and the back outside courtyard (which beckons invitingly, were it warm outside) is not accessible. (There is another courtyard with cafe tables in the front of the building, and this one is accessible.)

-The bed in our room was tucked into an alcove in the room, and there isn’t enough room for a transfer. I didn’t see the ADA room, but you’d want to make sure there is clearance around the bed.IMG_3617

– The lighting in the room is too dim, especially in the bathroom. The manager responded to my trip advisor review saying that the lights are on dimmers;  I knew that and still think the lighting is poor.  The bathroom sink area has very little counter space;  I’d check to find out what the ADA bathroom looks like.


Chelsea, NYC


The Morgan Library and Museum, NYC

Something I love about the Chelsea neighborhood:  the sidewalks in this part of midtown are wide, great for walkers and wheelchairs.  I walked for hours both in this neighborhood and then uptown to The Morgan Library and Museum (an accessible museum) on Madison Avenue, and every street I hit had clear curb cuts and pedestrian walk lights.  You could theoretically walk or roll as far as the theater district from here (but probably not much further unless you had many hours and good weather).

Need some other ideas to while away your weekend?  Let’s start with food:  Across the street from The High Line Hotel  is a great breakfast (and more) place, the Tenth Avenue Cookshop, which is nicely accessible from the street.  Wide aisles and good spacing between some tables, as well as an ADA bathroom.


Chelsea Market, NYC

Nearby is the Chelsea Market, a restored factory, chock-a-block with accessible stores and eateries. The biggest problem here is that some of the stores (the bookstore) and diners (Friedman’s) have squeezed too much into their space.  It’s also all a little precious, but I can be convinced to overlook that for a small price (like those free samples the Fat Witch Bakery doles out).   Droobing (a 3D photo booth) alone would be a reason to go to the Chelsea Market (and the Droob stall is accessible!) – that and some people-watching from tables scattered through the main area. It’s all indoors and there is a big public bathroom area (with an ADA stall).


Clement Clark Moore Park, NYC

And then you could walk or roll around for hours to work up your next appetite.  Right next door to our hotel, The High Line Hotel, is an accessible park, the Clement Clark Moore Park (he of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” fame);  the grounds of the seminary and the hotel once belonged to the Moore apple orchard estate.  Photos show a big swath of land and a grand country house;  hard to imagine that here, now, in the midst of the all the concrete, storefronts and traffic.  I hear that there is a reading of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” in the park on the last Sunday of Advent each year.


View from the High Line, NYC

The Hudson River Park is a great outdoor destination, with about 500 acres of space along the west side of Manhattan.  The piers in the Chelsea neighborhoods are all accessible according to this site.  Another place for views is along the High Line, a converted freight line that now serves as public space, runs overhead. See this map for accessible entrances to the High Line.  The park is 1.45 miles long and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street.

The Hotel Chelsea, on West 23rd Street, is being renovated and will open in 2015.  Built around 1883, it’s a landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Dylan Thomas died here, Sid Vicious’ girlfriend was found stabbed to death here, and it’s been home to Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Brendan Behan, Mark Twain and others.  This iconic hotel is worth a sidewalk viewing, at least it’s open to the public.

Since the mid 1990’s, many art galleries have re-located to Chelsea (many from Soho).  There are several performance venues (Irish Repertory Theater, Joyce Theater and The Kitchen), although, interestingly, none of these performance venues listed any kind of information for the wheelchair-user.  The Irish Repertory Theater is accessible but needs advance notice (call the box office) to put out a ramp at the front door.  The Kitchen is completely accessible. The Joyce Theater is also accessible.


Greenwich, NYC

History lovers take note: Chelsea features prominently in the Manhattan Project and WWII.  “In the early 1940s, tons of uranium for the Manhattan Project were stored in the Baker & Williams Warehouse at 513-519 West 20th St.  The uranium was removed and decontaminated only in the late 1980s or early 1990s…” (Wikipedia).  For more info on the development of the atomic bomb and uranium stored in Manhattan, see this New York Times article.

And do check out a copy from the library of Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell, that veteran New Yorker, if you plan on staying midtown and venturing downtown.  Mitchell wrote for The New Yorker from 1938 to 1996, and his book chronicles (mainly eccentric) people in a place (on the margins) that is rapidly vanishing to gentrification.  His characters and the streets they frequent will inform your downtown trip for sure.


Downtown Manhattan

For Knitters (Or Friends Who Might Knit For You)

IMG_0240There’s a great yarn store in Soho, New York City.

IMG_0238Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to access if you use a wheelchair.  (Keep reading for the GOOD news.)  I find the sidewalks in this part of the city crowded (all those shoppers maybe?), more narrow than midtown, dabbled with cobblestones, and sporting stingy curb cuts. Purl Soho is one of the many stores in Soho that are in old buildings and have one or two entrance steps.  They do, however, have a ramp, and if you call in advance, the very-obliging salespeople will put it out for you. Beware though: the aisles are tight for a wheelchair, and I don’t honestly think a wheelchair could make it back to the (quite alluring) fabric section of the store.

city-cape-600-23-554x441The good news is that you don’t have to physically go to the store to get some of their great (free! downloadable!) patterns.  Check out this free poncho pattern I picked up there that I’m going to make for Marianne.  Ponchos work better for Marianne than down coats – just as warm, far less bulky, and easier to put on/take off alone.

garter-stitch-cardigan-vest-600-3For the same reason, Marianne loves vests (as opposed to sweaters).  They conserve body temperature very nicely without a lot of fuss.  Loved this pattern from Purl Soho;  you can download it for free.






I like this one, too.  (Although I think I might be afraid of the zipper….)zipvestflat

Important note, though.  If you are a knitter, search for patterns on The Purl Bee (a site operated by Purl Soho), because it is dedicated to the yarn-and-crochet sort of fiber arts folk.  Both sites are treasure troves of ideas, patterns, and materials.

Happy knitting….or dreaming of knitting.