Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Right Here


Mile Marker 363:

So I didn't go to Florida.

I stayed close to home -- stuck with places and routines I know well.  Old City, dress shopping, school, Starbucks.

These "usuals" have changed, though.   They've become part of a movie set where I live my new life.  One where my old reality plays only a small part and there are new surprises where I least expect them.

The week's also been punctuated by trips to Prosthetic Innovations.  Every other day -- literally.  This new “total suction” socket is challenging my skin.   But Tim's got a whole bag of tricks, so I return again and again.

The funny thing is, PI isn't an old haunt.  But in many ways, it feels more comfortable and familiar than my old places.

There is no history there.  I am the NEW me.

I know where I stand.

Everywhere else, I keep wondering, Where am I?


Seven years ago, I lived in a tiny Old City apartment that overlooked a dance club called “The Five Spot.”   Each night, that hard bass beat rattled my bedframe.  Once around 2 a.m., I woke up to a ruckus outside my window and watched in my pajamas as clubbers were held hostage on the roof at gunpoint!  (Really, it's true!)

But on the whole, my life there was uneventful.  To get to work each morning, I hopped on the EL.

On Sundays, I skated down Market Street to meet my Landskater pals at the Art Museum.

On holidays, we walked to Penns Landing for fireworks.


Last Saturday, my friend Bosco and I strolled the same streets.   Up and down those crumbling curbs and uneven bricks.  

Every home needs one, right?






 In and out of little boutiques where the least expensive item costs almost one day’s pay. 

We reminisced about the days when we were regulars in that neighborhood.   How all my stuff fit into an apartment the size of a walk-in closet.  How on Saturday nights in our sweaty skate clothes, we'd plow our way through streets packed with mini-skirts and tube tops.

We laughed at how simple and fun it all was.

While we talked, I felt the dig of my new socket.

We estimated whether I could make it to the next block.

We calculated how long we could stretch our parking time with the handicapped placard.

Old City was new again.  Where am I?


On Sunday, a shopping adventure gripped me the same way.  

My mom and I used to be Mall Mavens!   Armed with coupons, we'd comb the racks for hours, dragging along our combined weight in shopping bags.

This Sunday was different.  We drove to the Promenade in New Jersey because you can park outside each store.  It’s built like a shopping center -- an ideal set-up for a new amputee who can't trek half a mile through long mall corridors.

Same stores, different location.  It was just shopping after all.  Or was it?

Normally, I'd jump at the opportunity to get 30% off... but not when it applies to MY LEG!

No sooner had I lifted my prosthesis to slide on a pair of pants, when I heard it.   

“Pssst.”  The tell-tale sign of air in the socket. 

Turns out TOTAL SUCTION is not quite total.

It happened twice.  Is that 60% off?

Where am I?


Mile Marker 367: 

Yesterday morning landed me in another familiar spot.  A well-loved classroom that took me back to my first school in Philly.

I spent 5 years there as a beginning teacher.  During the summer session, my middle school students used every excuse to convince me to take them for ice cream on Chestnut Street.  The parlor, Scoop De Ville, had thousands of flavors, toppings, and syrups, and the kids challenged each other to order the craziest concoctions.  The "chocolate/peanut butter/coffee milkshake" became a regular staple in our summer school class.

But yesterday it was “Friends Day,” a day when community members are invited in to tell their stories.  The students – 5th through 8th graders – welcomed me eagerly!

And we had fun...  
We taught each other how to walk – step by step.  (It’s much harder than it sounds!)  

We dropped eggs to figure out which material would best protect your head in a bicycle accident.  (It’s FOAM!)   

We  examined my Genium in action.

And we entertained lots of good questions.  (Especially in light of this week.)

“If the socket’s tight, does it ever hurt your leg?”

“Yes!” I wanted to shout.  “Yes!  Yes!  All the time!!!!”

Instead I explained about socket rubs and the intricate adjustments needed to get the prosthetic fit just right.  This was, after all, a learning experience :)

Then we headed out into the city sunshine.   To walk!  


Mile 367 buzzed with energy.

Enveloped in the rhythm of their bouncing steps, their constant chatter, I couldn't imagine anywhere I'd rather be.

Still lost, perhaps.   But COMFORTABLY LOST -- in their crowd. 


When I think back to those summer ice cream trips, what I remember best is the moment the shop's doorbell jingled.  Our class sauntered in from the heat, inhaling the fresh blast of air conditioning and that sweet anticipatory aroma of treats to come.  

The owner of the shop, a woman in her 50’s (who seemed very old to me at the time!), greeted us from behind the counter.

“Now, where’s the TEACHER??” she always asked with a smile.

We laughed, too.


Where am I?

Yesterday in Mile 367, the kids showed me the answer.  At least for now.

Walking step by step with that curious, enthusiastic bunch of students who still towered over me.

She’s right here.  I wanted to tell the ice cream lady.
Right here.

9 comments:

  1. Hey, Rick! I've been reading every entry of your blog, but I tend to read them as soon as I get the notification on my phone -- I love updates and don't like to delay gratification! But, unfortunately my eagerness means that I don't come here to the actual website to comment like I should, don't let you know that I'm reading and thinking about you and sharing your blog with others. So ... I'm here today to tell you just that -- that I've been reading and loving your blog all along. It makes me smile often, makes me sad sometimes, but it's wonderful to be able to keep up with you this way. Miss you, and hope to see you soon!

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  2. Oh, and I NEVER notice any typos or errors in your writing -- you are a GREAT proofreader -- but I did notice one this week and it's only because of Emma's instrument choice: when talking about your old apartment and the dance club, I think you meant "hard BASS beat" ... though now that I think about it, base works, but just in a different way. :-)

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    1. Wend, you're absolutely right!! Thanks to Emma for choosing to play that BASS :)

      Great to hear from you. We writers have to stick together. Thanks for the comments AND the careful reading...

      Apologies to all the musicians out there. Consider it corrected!!

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  3. You are changing the lives of many. I know my kid's attitude toward people with disabilities is different because of you. Your abilty to relate to young people is amazing and it makes something different a lot less scary. Keep up the great work.

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  4. I was wondering if the ice cream shop has "birthday cake" flavor. If not we can go to George's in Ocean City. The weather is looking good for a boardwalk stroll.

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  5. Hey, Rick ... what was the name of that Frozen Yogurt place you took Emma and I to when we visited -- the one with all the toppings and they ring you up by the weight of your dish? We found a place here called YUMZ that is just like it! Or maybe it's the same chain, I have no idea. But it reminds Emma and I of our trip to Philly whenever we go there. :-)

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    1. Oh yeah... The one here is Phileo Yogurt! No town should be without a place where you can build a dessert that costs more than your dinner :)

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  6. We took Jimmy to Yumz for the first time last week and then proceeded to give him (the guy who doesn't really have a sweet tooth but who LOVES ice cream) a hard time about his overflowing bowl. Walnuts were falling on the floor because he couldn't fit any more stuff in there. He said he was sold on the place because they had blackberries. BLACKBERRIES??? I was sold because they have every kind of candy bar under the sun, but he was impressed by blackberries. To each his own, I guess. :-)

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    1. Definitely! I see your point! I wouldn't touch a coffee-peanut butter-chocolate milkshake, but my 8th graders used to LOVE them! By the way, last winter when I was on all liquids, I discovered a coffee-maple milkshake at Friendly's. Just add bacon and you've got a balanced breakfast :)

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