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Transforming Blogs into Public Radio Essays

March 27, 20082 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, radio, Uncategorized, writing

Chicago Public Radio logoThis month two of my essays aired on WBEZ-FM. If you missed hearing them on the radio, both are available online – one is about the new governor in New York, and the other is about cab drivers refusing to pick me up with my Seeing Eye dog.

Both of these essays were inspired by blog posts I wrote, and for that I must thank friends from my Chicago writers group. I was very skeptical about starting this blog last year – I thought blogs were self-indulgent wastes of time. Au contraire, said my fellow writers. A blog can encourage a writer to keep at her craft, they told me. “Kinda like a journal, but since it’s out there in public, there’s a chance people might read it,” they explained. “So you work at it a bit harder.” Who knows, my writer friends said, maybe some blog posts could become story ideas.

I may never have written a word about the NY governor or those cab drivers if I wasn’t keeping a blog. So my writer’s group pals were right: keeping a blog isn’t necessarily a waste of time. I’m convinced I’m right about my other claim, though: It’s pretty dang self-indulgent!

Tattoos

March 24, 20089 CommentsPosted in blindness, Hanni, Seeing Eye dogs, travel, Uncategorized

I really am hip!  What do you think of this new eardo?

Hanni is hip. You all know that. But did you know she is so hip that she has a tattoo on her right ear? That’s how she rolls, dude.

Hanni the hip dog and I just spent three nights in New Orleans. Any of you who have spent three wild nights in New Orleans might assume that she got her tattoo while we were there.

Wrong.

And if you think her tattoo is a heart with the letters b-e-t-h inscribed inside, you’re wrong again. Hanni already had the tattoo — a series of letters and numbers – when I met her. The Seeing Eye uses tattoos to keep track of their dogs. The tattoos prove useful, too, in identifying Seeing Eye dogs who get separated from their blind companions.

Separated from Hanni? Yikes. That’s too awful to even consider. Let’s think about happier things. Like…New Orleans!

Our trip was colorful right from the start. After a two-hour delay at O’Hare – ugh! — we finally got seated. In the bulkhead. Between two guys flying home to Louisiana. From Africa! “Were you there with a church group or something?” I asked.

They both laughed. “We’re not missionaries,” the guy on my right –his name was Chris – said. “We’re mercenaries!”

They were mechanics. Caterpillar had sent them to Nairobi for a month to build boat engines. “We built ten engines in four weeks,” Timmy, the guy on my left, said. “That’s a lot — they’re BIG engines.”

After the usual array of questions about Hanni, they told me about their time in Africa, how hard it was to be away from their families, how cramped the living conditions had been. But it sure beat working on oil rigs at home, they said. That’s what they’d been doing before they got the job with Caterpillar. Chris had escaped the oil rig life relatively unscathed. Timmy hadn’t been as lucky. Two back surgeries, three knee surgeries and one operation on his elbow. Pain management classes had helped him survive, he said. Martial arts helped, too. Part of the reason he had accepted the Africa job? He was able to do more supervisory work there, it wasn’t as physical. “Plus it pays $500 a day,” he said. His voice sounded sheepish, admitting such a large sum. “I have two sons; I need to make as much money as I can. You know, while I am still able to work.”

Timmy took care of Hanni when I left to go to the bathroom – she can’t fit into that small space with me. Chris jumped up to take my backpack from the overhead bin any time I needed something from it. They both told me stories of duck hunting in Louisiana, their families back home, surviving the hurricanes.

Our flight to New Orleans, well, it flew by. When we landed, Chris jumped up to get my backpack. “You go ahead,” he said. “It’s been a long flight for Hanni.”

I urged them to go first. They’d left Nairobi 36 hours ago. They weren’t home yet – they still had a three hour drive – but they were done with airplanes now, they should get off.

They wouldn’t have it. So Hanni and I said our goodbyes, headed for the exit. As we passed through first class, a passenger took me aside and asked if I was okay.

Yeah,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. I asked him what he meant.

“Well, those men they sat you with,” he said. “They looked very rough.”

I’d look rough, too, if I’d just flown from Nairobi to London, London to Chicago, and Chicago to New Orleans. I hadn’t really thought much about what Timmy and Chris looked like, though. I was too busy listening. “Did they have tattoos?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” the first class man said. “All over. Are you sure you’re okay.”

The benefits of blindness are few, but they’re powerful. “I’m sure,” I assured him, a smile spreading across my face. I gave Hanni’s right ear a scratch before picking up her harness and heading to the jetway. “Hanni, forward!”

Say it Loud — I'm Blind and I'm Proud

March 18, 20085 CommentsPosted in blindness, radio, Uncategorized

Governor Paterson giving his first speech! Woohoo!Governor David Paterson swearing in… 

If you didn’t hear David Paterson give his first speech as governor of New York yesterday, the full text is available online. But really, rather than reading the text, it’s better to hear the new governor saying the words himself. This link does not include the five minutes of introductions — he introduced at least 25 people. My favorite part of the intros was when he wasn’t sure if one of the people he wanted to introduce was there. I forget the guy’s name, but Paterson simply asked, “Is so-and-so out there?” No one answered, so he went on introducing others. The fact that he couldn’t see if the guy was out there, and he had to ask, was no big deal.

I. Love. It.

Mike and I watched Governor Paterson’s speech on C-SPAN last night. Both of us were literally brought to tears, not only by what Governor Paterson said, but by how he said it: without using notes.

You read it here first: this guy is going to be president someday.

Later on Mike and I were brought to tears again – tears of laughter this time – watching the Daily Show. Special Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore warned those of us who are blind to back off, quit claiming Paterson as our own special victory. Paterson is 100% Black, he reminded us. He’s only 90% Blind.

I am loving all of this. Today I went to Chicago Public Radio to record an essay about Governor Paterson — the essay was loosely based on my “Blind on Long Island” blog post from last week. I’ll post the link to that radio essay once it airs – either tomorrow or Thursday morning.

Blind on Long Island

March 12, 20087 CommentsPosted in blindness, book tour, Uncategorized, visiting schools

I met with hundreds of kids ON Long Island.They had lots of good questions!Hanni gave lots of demonstrations for the kids.Lots of demonstrations…Okay, she worked her little tail off!Hanni was exhausted from visiting so many places!But she still had time to eat……and drink……and play!Notice she’s not wearing her harness as she laps up her playtime.Even the teachers couldn’t resist!    

Before I get started on this post, let me apologize to the people of Long Island. In my previous blogs (and in email messages) I’ve been saying that I’m doing book events IN Long Island. The schoolkids I visited today set me straight.

I’m ON Long Island, not IN Long Island.

In addition to discussing prepositions, we discussed politics.
Elliott Spitzer stepped down as New York governor today. Lieutenant Governor David Paterson was named his successor. The kids today wanted to know what it meant to be “legally blind.”

Here’s the deal. David Paterson lost sight in his left eye and much of the sight in his right eye after an infection when he was a baby.

When Paterson takes office on Monday, he will become only the third African-American governor in the nation since Reconstruction. He will not be the first New York governor with a disability, though — Franklin Delano Roosevelt governed from 1928 to 1932.

Paterson will, however, be the first blind governor — at least as far as the National Federation of the Blind is aware.

From an AP story today:

“Refusal to bow to his handicap came early.
When New York City schools refused to let him attend mainstream classes, his parents established residency on Long Island, where they found a school that
would let him go to regular classes.”

The kids on Long Island feel proud. Or let me put it this way: they feel proud ON Long Island.

Blogging from Bohemia?

March 10, 2008CommentsPosted in book tour, travel, Uncategorized

Greetings from da island, mon!We had to fight the crowds off with a stick!Everyone in the exotic land of Bohemia was great!

Hanni and I are off to Long Island tomorrow – we’re visiting schools and doing book events in towns with exotic names like Patchogue, Wantagh and…Bohemia!

More details on our Long Island stops are available at the “upcoming events” link on my website. I’ll be bringing my talking laptop on the trip. In order to blog, though, I’ll have to figure out how to hook up to the wireless connection in our room at the Holiday Inn.
Confession: I’ve never used a wireless connection on my own before, someone else has always helped me connect that way.

In other words, if I were you I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a blog from Bohemia.