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On a Roll

By Paul Bendix

About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Where the Sidewalk Bends

Uploaded: Mar 3, 2014
Having a close-up, wheelchair view of Menlo Park's sidewalks and arid borders I can report firsthand – the poppies are coming. California's state flower, more than drought tolerant, actually seems drought-enthusiastic. Last week it only took a quarter inch of rain to send the blue-green foliage exploding. It's everywhere now, bursting into botanical song, orange blooms already apparent along Live Oak Ave.

As are the cracks. Six decades ago, early in my ambulatory youth, stepping on a sidewalk crack...would break your grandmother's back. I recall putting this adage to an empirical test. Both grandmothers, then living, suffered no orthopedic ill effects. But sidewalk cracks still capture my full attention.

To an absent-minded, generally preoccupied wheelchair driver, they can be perilous. On one section along Roble Avenue, sidewalk sections tilt so steeply that they pose a collision threat. Is it tree roots? Mysterious seismic forces? Was it something I said?

No matter, this is one place for wheelchairs to slow down. Which, unfortunately, I am not in the habit of doing. Fortunately, I have fitted my wheelchair with LED marine work lights. What are these? Actually, I have no idea. I found them on the web. A high-tech engineer neighbor installed them. And now at night I see Menlo Park's downtown sidewalks under merciless illumination.

Better, or worse, people now see me. My wife can spot my wheelchair a block away. Me, I can see everything...perhaps even the future...under the ethereal blue glare of my LED lamps. And at night, the burgeoning poppies at the sidewalk edge take on a ghostly photo-negative quality. I see or I don't see them. What people make of me, I can only imagine. The advance of my wheelchair probably resembles a Caltrans night crew on the move. Still, there are poppies, my grandmother's back remains unbroken...and I am on a roll.
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Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Mar 3, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Paul -- Another excellent blog! I love the phrase "bursting into botanical song". So creative and so apt. And your saying you resemble a "Caltrans night crew" with your wonderfully bright LEDs on your wheelchair-- very clever! LOL! Speaking as a driver invisible pedestrians and bicyclists at night are the bane of my driving existence. Far too many people go out at night without carrying a bright light to see by and to be seen by drivers. Those people have NO idea how HARD they are to see at night -- and even in the early evening, when there is still light in the sky.

I am VERY grateful that you are "lit up like a Christmas tree" at night!

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