We’re all the same wherever we go

On with the show

A small note: The picture below is a group shot in Austria. Yes, I could easily move there.

Crowd 2

 

Could Paris be just like us???? Gasp!!!

So there I was, hanging out in Paris. The city of love. The place of magic. A city full of stories told through the centuries.

We were strolling through an open mall checking out some of the shops. It was a nice summer day. Not a cloud in the sky. In that moment I actually felt I was a side character in an Audrey Hepburn movie.

I remember riding passed a group of boys practicing their skateboarding skills. I smiled as they stopped and stared as a pretty girl walked by.

We ventured south to the busy part of town. The cars were thick, the crowd growing but through it all a little boy caught my eye,

His mother was busy with his two little sisters. I watched as he passed the time by covering his head with his shirt. I feared he would ventured into traffic but thankfully he moved to the right instead.

 

My Own Backyard

But the right contained a tall concrete block lying directly in his path. The boy and the block met head on in a comical sort of way causing him to cry and blame the dastardly thing for such a cruel mess.

All of these experiences could have happened in my own back yard. It’s so easy to forget how small our world really is. When one thinks of Paris a sort of magic can occur but one forgets it is full of people like you and me.

 

A feel good moment

As we made our way back to the hotel we came across a basketball court. But there were no baskets. This was soccer in the fastest of forms. The court was surrounded by fans. The scene reminded me of a summer game found throughout my town.

The cheering was just as loud and contagious. The joy of victory and the agony of defeat just as real. It’s easy to get lost in our own little world until we travel to the other side a half a world away.

When you do and if you’re like me, you’ll realize we’ll all the same no matter where we are and that makes me smile. 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!!

Matius

 

The Life and Times of My Gloves

During my first day in Europe when I first tried out the wheelchair thing I forgot one important item: My gloves.

Gloves 2

By the end of the day my hands were a bit raw and by that I mean they were full of blisters, peeling of the skin and of course my favorite part of the show: A little bloody.

This all happened on the day I was lost in Vienna. I made the rookie mistake of leaving my gloves in my carry on which just so happened to be sitting on the bus.

My bad.

 

We Became Fast Friends

From day two up until my last day in London the gloves were a part of my daily life. Like anything we hold near and dear they were far from perfect. They made it challenging when I was holding the camera or taking videos and if I had to fetch my wallet or a coin, forget about it.

By they allowed me to grip the wheels minus the blisters and blood. They were a curiosity to little kids, not to mention the man with the black balloon.

They were as common as putting on socks in the morning. Without them everything seemed a little off.

 

A Rather Smelly Event

Gloves Picture

My gloves were given a breather now and then but for the most part they stayed glued to my fingers. The only drawback was the smell. Think gym socks and that will give you a good idea. 

We tried washing them a few times but discovered they quickly broke down. Realizing I needed them until the end, I decided to deal with the pesky oder until the end.

If I ever do this again I’ll look for a washable wear but looking back I must say, my gloves had a great ride.  

The Stranger and the Black Balloon

One of our final days in Germany was at the Cologne Cathedral. The crowd was especially heavy that day. A mixture, I guess, of locals and tourists. On the other hand the locals might have stayed home leaving us tourists to fend for ourselves.

I was circling around trying to find the perfect video or picture. I’m pretty sure I spent most of my time attempting such perfection. Yes, a full blown tourist here.

I was looking for a different angle, a certain light, in other words a certain something. 

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That’s when I spotted him

It was a hot day forcing most of us to wear light colors but in the back of the crowd near the edge of the cobblestones stood a stranger dressed in black waving a black balloon.

He stood alone, tall and thin. His focus was on the Cathedral. A single black balloon waved back and forth in one hand. The balloon tied to a long stick, raised high above his head.

He wore a black shirt, his black pants looked thin and stopped near his ankles. I noticed black socks and black shoes. The only thing white were the shoelaces. He wore reflected sunglasses, his hair short and his gloves black like mine.

 

A mysterious connection

Unlike the boy in Vienna this one noticed me. Maybe I stood out from the crowd or maybe we were the only ones wearing black gloves. Whatever it was, I watched as his focus shifted from the Catedral to me.

He laid his black balloon to the ground, his face expressionless as he slowly walked towards me. I sat motionless but full of curiosity. Something told me he had no interest in conversation.

My normal talkative self lay silent as I extended my hand to his. He immediately accepted as our gloved hands clenched in a grip. 

 

A serious handshake

I was curious to see who would let go first as our grips clenched tighter and tighter. His grin widened and so did mine, my only regret was not seeing his eyes.

I gently loosened my grip. He immediately did the same. I was curious who would let go first.

As if on cue both of us slowly pulled our hands away. I kept my eyes on him as I nodded my head goodbye. 

 

A lone regret

He stood and watched as I wheeled away. Something told me his eyes stayed on me until I was out of view.

I never saw him again. Who was he? What was the meaning behind the black balloon? Why was he dressed in black? But most of all, what connection did he see in me?

My only regret was leaving. What would have happened had I stayed? What stories would I have heard had the stranger with the black balloon spoke? 

Black Balloon

The Magic of the Louvre

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered the Louvre. We visited lots of museums and saw lots of beautiful paintings. But this was the Louvre.

I was curious to find out.

But I didn’t run over anyone, officer, I swear!!!

If I had to pick one word to describe the Louvre it would probably be lots and lots of people.

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Yes, that was more than one but you must give me a break on this one.

We arrived on a Sunday and to our pleasant surprise admittance was free. That was the good news. The bad news – Everyone in town was in on the secret resulting in the longest line I ever saw. Yes, that includes Disneyland.

Being in a wheelchair can have it’s advantages and on this particular busy day the advantage included bypassing the long line and getting right in. I was a tad embarrassed as I rolled past the waiting crowd but I have to admit, once I entered the lovely air conditioned building my mind was put to ease. 

 

I adore her but she must wait her turn

I fought the urge to race towards the Mona Lisa. She was lovely but she would have to wait. I would not be a typical tourist with one thing on his mind. I would branch out and seek other talent.

I was surprised by my emotions. These particular emotions of mine created questions that I knew would require answers. What were the painters thinking, I asked, as their work came to life. Was a painter like a writer? Do their characters take over? Does each stroke of their brush hold a secret held only by the creator?

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Did the painters miss their characters when their work was complete? Did they dream of their work at night wishing they could have had them to themselves just a little longer?

 

She was lovely but mysterious 

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As I stood in line to see The Mona Lisa I was curious to all the secrets she held. Could she read the minds of those who crossed her path? If so did she promise not to tell? 

Does that explain her smile?

At the end of our visit I had a strange feeling the paintings were saying goodbye. They knew we came from far away and were happy to share their stories with us. They were a polite bunch and open to interpretation. Not at all fussy or rude like some people worried they would be. 

I hope to see them again and when I do I’ll delve a little deeper into the magic of their creations and if that happens I’ll push a little hard for answers to my questions. 

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Fozzie on the Deck

Fozzie would like to apologize for the delay. He normally posts on Sunday nights so you can wake up to him on your Monday mornings. For you outside the United States, never mind. 

My computer crashed last week. For the next week I am living the life on a borrowed laptop. Thank you, wife. 

For your Monday afternoon/evening or your early Tuesday morning, Fozzie says hello on the deck of his Austrian hotel. Yes, the view was fabulous. 

Fozzie wishes all of you a happy and computer-crash free week.

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I’m really good at this wheelchair thing

 

Before I start

I have been extremely poor with visiting your blogs. There is no excuse for this. You are just as busy, or more, than me. I am picking up my game in the time manage area and by doing so I will become a familiar face in your blogging world. I miss your world and I thank you for being a part of mine. As you can see, this has been bugging me. 

 

On with the show

Below is me hanging on for dear life on a London Subway. Oh the fun!!!!

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I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I agreed to this trip but I knew I would have had major regrets had I stayed home. I had never traveled in a wheelchair before but sometimes you have to roll the dice and take a chance.

I knew I had made the right decision when I challenged a fellow tour member to a race. Never mind the fact that he had two strong legs, was a P.E. teacher and loved track. It was a downhill slope and I knew I had a shot.

Unfortunately for me my victory was short lived. He left me in the dust yards away from the finish line. True, I finished last, but I like to call it a solid second place. 

 

Cobblestones, Cobblestone, why do you torture me? 

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I have a huge list of favorite towns in Europe. Unfortunately all of them are covered in some part with cobblestones.They were beautiful to the eyes and brutile to my chair, not to mention my back. But somehow I managed my way through even though I feared my chair and back would meet their doom.

Little kids were always a challenge. The last thing I wanted was to run over a foot or a toe, but the real challenge were the adults. Not the ones I traveled with but the strangers who passed me by.

Some of them wouldn’t move when I tried passing by in crowded areas while others stopped and stared as if I were an object instead of the real thing. Their stares would end once I smiled and said hello. It seemed that’s all it took to remind them I was real. 

Sidewalks were an unexpected challenge. An even street was clear sailing. Speed records shattered but give me an uneven one it was no telling where my chair would go. Hello streetlight!!!

 

Sometimes you just have to walk

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Many of the towns did their best for people like me but in every town there was always a street that posed a challenge or a place where the only alternative was to walk. 

I have no doubt in the coming years these challenges will be erased. Store fronts will have ramps, restaurants will have elevators and Europeans who have to live in a wheelchair everyday will live a little easier. They are getting there.

For the most part my chair did a great job. Most of the people I met were helpful and kind. There is good in the world and trust me, I saw it. Sadly, as I look at my chair it is in dire need of a wash. I’m thinking pressure hose, but if I ever have to use it again I know it’ll be up for the challenge.

Can we say, Europe Part 2?

Wheelchair