“With the pride of the artist, you must blow against the walls of every power that exists the small trumpet of your defiance.” Norman Mailer
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Recently, I flew to Oakland, CA to visit my oldest son. He lives downtown near the 19th Street BART station. Five days out of every ten, he commutes via rapid transit to San Francisco. There, he works as an attorney with the Environmental Protection Agency.
I stayed for three nights and four days. My primary reason for the visit was to act as chauffeur as he underwent a routine surgical procedure at the Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto.
Anticipating the Bay Area traffic made me anxious. My son, who is paralyzed, has hand controls in his car. This added awkwardness to my timidity. Nonetheless, we made it home through the maze of aggressive drivers. I slept on his couch, ran a few errands, and badgered him with my usual 20 questions … each and every day.
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We drove to Ocean Beach for lunch at the Cliff House. It sits at the water’s edge on a perch above Seal Rocks. We caught up on family matters. Back at their house, a 1904 Victorian high on the slope of Stanyan Street, we continued our visit.
I left at dusk. BART travels underground the length of San Francisco’s Market Street. Then, it descends beneath the bay to Oakland. I arrived at my son’s apartment after dark. We watched Bill Maher and the final hour of the classic 1975 movie, Jaws.
My son is a night owl. I am an early bird. I stayed up late but arose at 6:00 am to walk the neighborhood streets. I wove between Broadway and Telegraph Avenue in search of coffee.
Wall murals transform dilapidated buildings and grimy parking lots. The defiant artwork roars with raucous color. Soon, this downtown character will be devoured by another kind of shark, eating machines such as Pandora, Uber, and Google.
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Afterwards, as I prepared to fly home, my daily 20 questions found answers, some vague, others clear. I am pleased with the successful life my son has carved out in Oakland and San Francisco. I love the gritty beauty of city life but find the hustle, the traffic, and the noise intimidating. Yet, he thrives.
Life in a wheelchair comes with unique challenges and the word inspiration falls easily from the lips of other people. But our family does not like it much. Resilience yes, and perhaps perseverance, are the more accurate accolades. He seems settled and I departed at peace.
My flight home encountered turbulence. I sat in an aisle seat in the final row. I read a book about a boy involved in a plane crash. We bounced high and often upon landing in Portland. The boy and I both survived.
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