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!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Moving On

Mile Marker 715:

It was 8:30 on a Tuesday night when my 24-year-old ears heard gunfire. 

In a single movement, I bounced off the couch and over to the sliding glass door.  

Who’s setting off firecrackers on Spring Garden Street??  I thought, stepping out onto the balcony.  (In retrospect, probably not the smartest move.) 

The firecrackers had ceased, replaced by a scream of sirens.

Streaks of red and blue lit up Spring Garden as a dozen police cars came to a screeching halt below me.  My neighbors and I shouted back and forth on our balconies, piecing together what was going on down there.

Inside, my phone rang, and I rushed to answer it.  Remember, this was 1993 B.C.P. -- Before Cell Phones.

My brother Mark’s voice echoed excitedly over the landline.  “Yo!  Can you see anything?!”  Mark lived a few buildings over, apparently in the obstructed view seats.

I carried the cordless out on the balcony to give him the play-by-play.

Turns out, it actually was gunfire.  A shootout that erupted over a botched hold-up at the corner ATM.  Two armed robbers were surprised by off-duty police officers.  One officer and one suspect were shot.  The other suspect got away.  I wondered how I would ever sleep again. 

Such was my thrilling life in Apartment 715.

As this year's apartment search shifts into high-gear, I pass Mile Marker 715.  The number seems appropriate somehow.  I’ve had lots of apartments, but 715 was arguably the best – barring a certain gunfire incident, of course.

In 1993, Apartment 715 marked a fresh start.  I’d just moved from Chicago to Philly.  I was excited to be near family again.  And I couldn’t wait to start my new job as a Learning Specialist and 9th grade English teacher.

715 was a 1-bedroom apartment in a high-rise on the border of Fairmount.  The lobby had a video store, deli, and fitness center with a hot tub.  The doormen -- Kareem and Melvin -- collected our packages, arranged our repairs, and awarded funny nicknames to our most frequent guests. 

I had friends in the apartments above and below me.  We swapped vacuum cleaners and ordered Chinese food.  We went sledding down the Art Museum steps.  We shared cabs to Old City bars at 11 p.m.  (Ah, to be 24 again!)

Nearly every night, I’d prepare my dinner plate and carry it up 4 flights of stairs to eat with my best friend Marla in Apartment 1115.  Or she’d bring her plate down.

My apartment was small, but mighty.  It hosted rest-stops for all-night skates.  It was even the birthplace for the now famous B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) party!

Now at Mile 715, I’m searching for another perfect place to live.   Gone are the days when I treasured my view from the 7th floor.  When I dashed up the stairs with a piping hot dinner plate in my hands.

Times have changed.  I've changed.  My needs are more complex now -- even though they sound simple on the surface.

This is what I say when I call a leasing office: “I’m looking for a low floor apartment with indoor parking.”

But when I visit each building, this is what I do:  I check the distance from the elevator to the apartment door.  From the apartment door to the fire stairs.   I count the steps I'd descend on my crutches in an emergency.  I look at the parking layout.  Will I be able to get to and from my car without walking in the snow?  I look for no-slip rugs in the lobby.  Check the bathrooms for easily accessible showers and tubs.  Check the kitchens for cabinet height.  (I’m not as good a climber as I used to be!)  

I have to be choosy.  Thinking NARROWLY now might open up a world of FREEDOM later.

And that's the whole point, right?  To find a place I can navigate with or without my prosthesis.  Where I can come and go even when the weather's frightful.  Where life will be just a tad easier and more comfortable.

This weekend as I'm wrapping up another round of apartment hunting, Mark stops by with his trusty dog, Jack.  I like to think Jack and I are kindred spirits.  He lost one eye as a puppy, but he doesn't let it cramp his style.

As the three of us walk around the block together, Mark and I talk apartments.

When we circle back around, Jack hops onto my front step.  Mark and I laugh.  He's recognized my house on his own!

"We're not going in, Jack!" Mark says.  "The car's over there."

Jack turns to look at us but doesn't budge, his front paws on the step.

"Come on,"  Mark says.  "We're goin' home."  He pulls the leash toward the car.

Jack stands still, watching me as I unlock the door.

I step inside, and Mark leads him away.  With his one eye, Jack peers back at my house again and again.

As if he knows just how I feel about leaving.  

It's time to move on.  I remind myself that Apartment 715 and Mile Marker 715 were both hopeful places.  

I think the new apartment (number to be determined) will be, too.

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