Animated GIF. William Shatner as Captain Kirk screaming CANE in place of KHAN.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

They're Happy Tears

As I've mentioned before on this blog, the song Grey Street by Dave Matthews Band is incredibly important to me. I think the description I put on the video is succinct enough to explain what this video is, then. I'd try to write more, but I'm tired and a bit overwhelmed from the unabashed sob I had after recording it.

Trying to play Grey Street for the first time in over a decade.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, which left me hemiplegic for a while. After about a year I'd regained a lot of the use of and feeling in my left side, though not all by any stretch. I tried to play my guitar as a desperate form of self-inflicted physical therapy, since I'd previously been quite good, but I my hand had too little use for me to do what I wanted and I hid it away in my parents' house for over a decade.

Recently I decided to bring it home with me after visiting my folks, and tonight I decided to try playing Grey Street. It's one of the easiest songs that I could remember (though I had help of my old easy fake book), and for personal reasons is a very meaningful song for me.

What you see here... It's choppy. It's slow. It's awkward. It's hesitant. And it made me so happy I started crying about five minutes later.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Review – The Independent Brewing Company, Pittsburgh, PA

Disclaimer: When I review the accessibility of any business or venue, I do so only on the basis of my own experience with my walker and cane. I don’t know enough about the experiences of other populations with specific needs such as people who are blind or deaf to comment on how accessible a place is for them, but I welcome people who do know to leave comments about their own experiences with the same location.

Last night my friend who’s a gigantic beer geek was in my area and he dragged me out to The Independent Brewing Company, on Shady & Forbes Aves in Squirrel Hill. In proper Pittsburgh fashion I’ll describe a location by what used to be there and say that it’s in the place where Fanattics <sic> used to be. You remember Fanattics, right? Gross sticky smelly smoky dirty dive bar where they still allowed smoking and didn’t believe in mopping? Yeah, that place. I’m sure you’ll understand, given my dislike of the previous establishment, why I haven’t been in there to check out the remodel under new ownership.

Fortunately I was very pleasantly surprised by the new space. The Independent Brewing Company has a very comfortable atmosphere, lived-in but clean, loud but friendly. The space is a bit cramped, though one of the owners (who happens to be my friend’s cousin) said that they are in the process of converting the adjacent business (formerly a real estate office) into a sister business featuring all of their cocktails, allowing The Independent Brewing Company to focus on its beer and hopefully spreading the crowd out a bit. I can’t speak for the food because we’d already eaten, although the menu looked delicious, but my friend vouched for their beer selection’s being pretty awesome and I loved my Arsenal cider.

From the perspective of my own mobility impairments, I think The Independent Brewing Company did a fabulous job with their space. Outside the bar is a set of outdoor tables, most of which are at bar height with stools, but there is a low-level table there for people using wheelchairs or who otherwise cannot sit at a bar. It’s not often that I’ve seen that level of consideration given to people with mobility needs and I was very excited when the owner was telling us about it.

When I got up to use the lav, I saw a step down from the front part of the bar to the indoor dining area and, behind that, the restrooms. Disappointed, I edged around the bar while pondering how best to approach the owners about the idea of putting in a ramp. I got to the second doorframe heading down to the dining area… And there was a ramp! Oh frabjous day! I was super excited to see that the owners had put some thought into making their restrooms accessible as there are far too many businesses that claim to be accessible because people with disabilities can get in who do not have bathrooms that all of their patrons can use. I cannot speak to whether the width of the door into the bathroom was ADA compliant, but I would definitely have been able to bring my walker in and have plenty of room to turn it around and maneuver.

The two negative things I can directly say about The Independent Brewing Company are that it’s a rather cramped space so making it through the crowd to get to the ramp down to the dining area and bathrooms would be difficult for someone using a larger wheelchair, and the main bar inside is entirely at a standard bar height. I didn’t think to ask if they had a braille menu, so I would recommend that anyone needing one call ahead to ask.

Overall, I would recommend The Independent Brewing Company albeit with some small bit of caution for people with disabilities. I’ll certainly be going back there in the future!