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!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NoThing Like NoLibs

Mile Marker 588:

Early Sunday morning, my brother Mark shoots me a text:  2nd Street festival in NoLibs today if you're interested.  

And although there's no telling how my breakfast'll digest, I jump at the chance.

Mark lives in a neighborhood that defies description.  Even its nickname – “NoLibs” – brings to mind those MadLibs that filled me with fill-in-the-blank fun back in elementary school!

Here's one:
On this particular Sunday, the streets are full of ____________  people, ___________  businesses, and ___________  food.

(Choose your own adjectives:  eclectic, bustling, far-out, wild, quirky, tasty, fried, sweaty, colorful, crafty.... not necessarily in that order!)

As we walk the street fair, my eyes grow huge.  “Kick-boxing with a heart?!” “Blind dog rescue?!” “Meatballs on a stick?!”

Mark ambles along beside me, ever calm and casual.  “Where’ve you been the last year and a half?” he says.  “In a box?”

Well, sort of.


NoLibs is Philly lingo for Northern Liberties, an area about 6 blocks by 6 blocks, due north of Old City.




It's a reconstructed mix of broken-down factories, vacant lots, and old rowhouses that's transformed itself into a cool collage of gardens, murals, and funny-looking dogs.

This festival turns the street into a carnival.   

But things are always a bit off the charts here.  The pedestrian walkways are filled with tapas food, art studios, and cupcakes.  The bike racks reach the sky.

On Tuesday nights, I used to cruise through with the skate club, speeding down dark, narrow alleys into the “The Piazza," a huge, open-air courtyard of bars, shops, and restaurants.  Hot and sweaty, we’d catch an inning of the Phillies game on the Piazza's big screen T.V.  We’d duck into the Pink Dolphin market for fancy bottles of water.  Or buy $1 hot dogs from the guy who always set up a portable grill.  Then we’d zip off again into the humid night.

But now, I’m on foot.  Well, “feet” if you count the Genium.  Mark and I circle the street fair twice.

And as long as we keep moving I’m ok.  But as soon as we pause at a booth or store window, my socket loosens. 

“I just lost suction,” I tell Mark as I limp out of the crowd.

I try to untwist the valve cap, but it's challenging on this hot, sunny day.  The cap is sweaty, my fingers are sweaty, and -- when I finally get it open -- sweat drips out of the socket itself.  I reach in, maneuvering my leg to squeeze out the air.  Then I replace the cap.  Easier said than done, actually.  Everything expands in the heat, including the valve seal.  On two separate occasions, Mark has to squat down and use his leverage to twist it back on.  Strange sight we are, I'm sure!


During my first foggy days in the hospital, the doctors gave me a red heart-shaped pillow.  (I think it was to promote coughing and lung capacity.)  Family and friends signed it with black Sharpie marker, and it now sits on my bed -- a souvenir of those early days of recovery.

Every day, my eyes take in the messages on that pillow.   One of the most memorable is Mark's:  I'm here for you the whole way back.  Keep fighting!

Even now 21 months later, he hasn't reneged on his promise.  Barely a week goes by without a text or phone call to see if I need something from the supermarket.  If I want to split a pizza or take a walk.

Today he tempts me with funnel cake and sno-cones.  But more than that, he gets me out of the house on a Sunday morning, while my old crew is skating.  (Help with the valve cap is just a bonus!)


“What’s that, Daddy?” I hear from behind us.  A little girl is pointing to my leg.  Her dad looks at me sheepishly, so I jump in quickly with my "robot leg" explanation.  I distract her with my red toenails.  The dad breathes a sigh of relief.

But to tell you the truth, most folks at this festival are NOT looking at my leg.  

Their vision is filled with sock monkeys and marshmallow shooters.  Their mouths are stuffed with cheese curds (ewww!).  The music beats loud in their ears.

Cool photo by Mark!
It’s nice to take a break from reality.

And no better place to do it than NoLibs!

8 comments:

  1. I love this post! Its so happy..what a great Sunday morning adventure you and Mark had! As Nemo would say: "just keep swimming, just keep swimming!" Thats just what your doing!! Here is a fishy face kiss! xxoxoxo Keep it up!!!

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    Replies
    1. I love this comment!! "Just keep swimming!" will be my newest mantra! Thanks Tray :) :) :)

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  2. If you've never had a cheese curd...don't knock them! Very tasty!

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    Replies
    1. Ok, you've peaked my curiosity! As soon as I get my digestive system in order, cheese curds will be on my list... maybe...

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  3. Sweet post. Mark has been remarkable and so are you.
    We'll have to catch up soon. Thinking of you always and miss you. My parents leave on Friday and school starts next week.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it's truly been a group effort. My family is amazing! Good luck with the new school!

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