Okay, guys. I’m finally doin’ it. I’m living like Theo R. Since writing that post, I discovered living independently as a deaf dude can be rather disappointing and scary: people can be incredibly rude/mean about my poor communication skills, crossing streets without being able to hear cars is dangerous, and ordering things from cafes/restaurants can be facepalmingly frustrating. But with new lungs comes new confidence. Sometimes I have to remind myself that if I can handle getting cut open, then I can handle glares, rolled eyes, and getting hit by cars (ok, maybe not the last part).
*I’m mostly writing the following for my own benefit — so I can read it on days I feel discouraged about being adventurous.*
Wednesday was beautiful. I woke up packed with so much energy, my leg muscles were twitching and my smile wouldn’t leave my face. The towns near my house that I usually frequent were too small for my energy that day, so I took the bus to downtown San Jose by myself for the first time (I know, I sound like a little kid being proud of myself for visiting the big city on my own).
I started things off with a cold brew coffee from the delicious cafe, B2, as if I needed the extra energy. The barista saw my famous “Deaf, but friendly” pin on my shirt and was super kind, pointing to cream and sugar rather than trying to get me to rely on lip reading like most baristas do. People who go out of their way to help like that really make a difference in my day. I hope my hefty tips make a difference in theirs. They deserve it! (If you work in a service industry, feel free to ask me how you can help deaf people with accessibility.)
Caffeine pulsing through my veins, I set off to check out the MLK Jr. Library a few blocks away. This huge library is run cooperatively by the city and San Jose State University. It had a Civil Rights Movement exhibit that was pretty intriguing: loads of California newspaper clippings provide a west coast perspective on the movement I hadn’t considered before (having mostly studied it in the South). The library also had the biggest collection of indie graphic novels I’ve ever seen. I’m mad at myself for not bringing a bag with me so I could check some out.
I toured the San Jose State University campus, weaving my way around students studying for final exams on the lawn and thinking how crazy it is that it’s been about a year since I graduated. Probably my most eventful year yet — and simultaneously the best and worst year, as confusing as that is.
I took a stroll around the historic area of downtown and learned plenty about the city’s history thanks to placards posted along the streets. The sweltering 93-degree weather forced me to duck into the nearest area I could find with free indoor public seating. I found myself in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, just me and a lady in this massive sanctuary. I’m not Catholic, and I usually frown upon the idea of cathedrals for various reasons, but it was a moving experience to sit there and pray to God, thanking Him that I have the privilege to walk freely and happily. I also reflected on my favorite short story, “Cathedral,” by Raymond Carver. In the story, a blind man teaches a disillusioned man that “looking” is not all there is to “seeing” — the blind man’s disability has given him a different perspective on life than most. For all the trouble it’s caused me, deafness has done the same for me.
A park in the center of the city was my last stop. I saw this dude in a Superman shirt buying what looked like heroin, and I felt this sadness come over me. The guy was so young and healthy-looking, I couldn’t help thinking he was wasting it all. I sat down on a bench and five minutes later, the drug dealer was in handcuffs just feet away from me and the Superman shirt guy was patting him down, shirt now tucked behind a police badge on his belt. Then a couple more dealers in handcuffs and undercover narcs came to join the party. That was a pretty interesting way to cap off my day.
By the end of all this, I had walked about four miles. Just several days ago, two or so miles was my max (mostly due to some extreme shoulder aches I’ve been having when I stand too long), and remember it was about 93 degrees on Wednesday. Looks like my pulmonary/physical rehab has been paying off! More on that topic later. All-in-all, it was one of my best days yet. I only got flipped off once by a lady riding a bike (I didn’t hear her coming behind me, so didn’t step aside), and only almost got hit by a car once! Totally worth it for a day of independent adventure.
I wrote all this in a cafe at Campbell (had another nice barista!) today. Time to explore the area before the caffeine wears off!
P.S. Found a lovely ‘joy quote’ today: “Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in be lifeboats.” – Voltaire.