A Long Weekend in London

Dropping Jane at Regent's University London.With our daughter heading to school in London, my wife and I decided we should be there to drop her off at school, just like we have since she started preschool 17 years ago. The only problem? My wife is a preschool teacher and taking too much time away from her classroom at the beginning of the school year is not a recipe for a successful year. But, is a long weekend enough? Yes!

Our weekend started at 2.00am on Friday morning with final preparations before our shuttle driver arrived at 4.00am for the two-plus hour drive to JFK. In planning this trip, we went back and forth with a morning flight versus the typical overnight flight. We opted for the morning flight even though it would make it a long travel day, we’d have some sleep in a bed in London, ready to start the day exploring the city. We landed just before midnight, cleared immigration, and hopped the train into central London. Our ten-minute cab ride from Victoria Station to our hotel turned out to be a history lesson from our driver, Jim. A history lesson on US Presidents! We checked into our hotel, the Thistle Hotel Trafalgar Square, very quickly, as there are no queues, sorry, lines, in the wee hours of the morning.

After a full continental breakfast at the hotel, we were out the door. The top priority was a new SIM card for my daughter’s phone. With some helpful advice from one of her friends who studied in London last year, we purchased the card from Three. We chose Three over Vodafone, because the data plan on Three works throughout Me and Eliz at Big BenEurope, while Vodafone’s only works in the UK. Since my daughter is planning to travel during her time at school, it just made more sense. Within minutes, she was up and running with her new data plan and we were off to Covent Garden. The area was bustling this Saturday morning with shoppers, street performers, and folks enjoying a hot cuppa at the various cafes. One of the street performers that we watched was a man in a space-age suit that appeared to be floating above the ground. He seemed to enjoy poking fun at people who didn’t stop to watch him rather than interacting with those that did. Our next stop was one on my list, Ladurée. The luxury bakery was founded in 19th century Paris and now has scores of shops around the world. They are famous for their macarons. After enjoying a couple of these little treats, we were off for more school necessities. None of which had to do with learning or schoolwork, but was all about beauty and fashion.

Now that all of the important stuff was out of the way, we were free to see the sights. We started at one of my favorite places in London: Trafalgar Square. Since the last time I was here, another monument has been added. It is Really Good. Seriously, that is what it is called. It looks like an 18 foot tall Facebook “Like” button. And I do like it. There is always plenty of things going on in the square, from pavement artists drawing in chalk on the north side, to various musicians playing instruments and singing, to little ones chasing the pigeons, it is a great place to people watch and enjoy the day. We wandered down to the Thames and crossed it to get to the London Eye, and then back across to Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abby. We continued on our walk to the Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace. Then, it was back down The Mall to the National Gallery. After a short rest at our hotel, our day concluded with dinner at a popular Soho restaurant. We covered over nine miles on foot and were able to soak up the atmosphere of the city.

Sunday was the day my wife was waiting for, a trip to the Tower of London. She loves the monarchy and the history. It was amazing to walk through the castle grounds just as monarchs and traitors had centuries before, climb the narrow spiral stairs with the stone so worn they haven’t been level for generations, or stand on tall castle walls just as soldiers had in the past. We only spent a couple of hours there, but easily could have spent the day. After a light lunch, it was time to take our daughter to school. We spent a couple of hours touring the campus in Regent’s Park and exploring the area along Marylebone Road past Madame Tussauds to Baker Street. We said our goodbyes and headed back down to Leicester Square for dinner.

Monday was our last day in London, but our flight wasn’t scheduled until 5.05pm, giving us plenty of time in the morning to make a few stops we had put off or to revisit a certain luxury bakery for some treats to bring home with us. All in all, we spent 65 hours on the ground in London and we were busy for most of them. Would we have liked to have another few days, of course, but isn’t that usually the case? I would love to go to the British Museum and Tate Modern, but we’ll do that when we visit our daughter later in the term.

Me at the Victoria MemorialHere are a few recommendations to consider. The morning flight over did make for a long travel day, but we were fresh when we woke up the first morning in London, not groggy from only getting off and on sleep on an overnight flight. There is the added expense of an additional night at the hotel, but we truly believe it is worth it. The later flight home was also nice, too. We flew Norwegian, by the way. Another tip: If you have a disability, ask about discounted admission fees. My daughter made fun of my wife, because she had to pay full admission to Tower of London while she got a student discount and I got a disability discount. When we arrived to pick up our tickets we had purchased online, the customer service rep said she was confused as to why we purchased three tickets. She explained that I was able to bring an aide to assist me (and given the unevenness of the floors and steps, I did need that help.) She then refunded the purchase price of my wife’s ticket, giving her the last laugh on our daughter. I also received a discounted fare for the train to the airport. Lastly, our hotel was outstanding. The Thistle Hotel Trafalgar Square is in a great location and within close walking distance to Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, West End theatres, and, obviously, Trafalgar Square. It also had the greatest shower ever.

 

 

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Five Years

joshua goldstein footstone in ohev shalom cemetery in brookhavenJune has many special dates in it for me. Most are happy dates, like 10 June, our wedding anniversary (27 years, this year,) the kids high school graduations, and several others. There is one sad one, though. On 11 June 2012, my father died. Five years. When I was a kid, I didn’t know how I would get along without my dad. Since I was a around 10 years old, my dad would say, “one day, I’m just going to wind up in Brookhaven.” Every time he would say it, my mom would get mad at him. He and I would laugh.

My dad was use to going to the cemetery there. His mother died when he was four years old and he started visiting her grave with his sisters and brothers before he was seven. As he liked to point out, he was going there so long, Brookhaven Road was just a dirt road. I guess I’ve been going there for a long time, too. I was probably eight or 10 when I would go with my dad sometimes to visit my uncle Herman’s  grave. My dad also showed me where his mother was buried, and his brother Abe. And the twins, Morris and Pauline, who died in infancy a year or two before my dad was born.

goldstein tombstone in ohev shalom cemetery in brookhavenGoing there now is completely different, though. When I was a kid, I didn’t know many of the people buried there and I would come and go with my dad. Now, there are many people there that I knew. The biggest difference is it is now the only place I can go to be with my dad. It does make me smile, though, when I think of all of our conversations about the cemetery.

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I Joined the NFB!

Me and my friend Warren.I joined NFB (National Federation of the Blind) this past weekend. My friend Warren invited me to the Keystone Chapter of the NFB last month, but it snowed that day, so I didn’t feel comfortable going. It’s not  that I hate snow, it is just the walk to the train station after the meeting that concerned me. I’ve never really gone out and about in the snow using my cane. For this month’s meeting, the weather cooperated.

In the days and weeks before the meeting, Warren and I talked and texted about it. He also told me about his time at the Colorado Center for the Blind. What an amazing place that sounds like. It seems he really learned how to manage every aspect of his life with very limited vision.

Back to the reason for this post, joining the NFB. Most people I know, including many friends and family, know that I can’t see, but they don’t realize how it affects almost every aspect of my life. They don’t get that moving something from its regular place on one shelf in the fridge to another shelf makes it almost impossible for me to find. Everyone at the NFB understands that and lives that. Just like when I had some training at CBVI in Chester, it is nice to be around people who have similar interests and issues and to learn from each other.

There is also that feeling of being independent. Since Eliz had plans, I felt confident enough to walk from 15th and Walnut to Suburban Station, find my way to the ticket counter and buy a ticket, then go to the right platform and get on the right train, then walk home from the Swarthmore station — about a mile. I did it all with very little trouble. I was surprised. My biggest issue was finding the ticket counter at Suburban Station. Once I had my ticket, the clerk walked me to the steps to the platform and I was good to go. Several passengers also offered assistance once the train arrived and warned me about the gap between the train and the platform.

While it doesn’t seem like that big a deal to most people, it was to me. To share stories and tips with people who are similar is very gratifying. To make it back home on my own seems almost miraculous.

 

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Shaving

I like to say I shave once a week whether I need to or not. Of course, I should probably shave more often, but that is another topic completely. In the winter months, I grow a beard. It helps keep me warm and makes up a little for the lack of hair on the top of my head. Shaving has never been easy for me, between my lack of sight and psoriasis flare ups. It is tougher when you are trying to keep a beard intact.

Today, for the first time in a long, long time, I shaved with a manual razor. The Gillette Fusion ProShield, to be exact. My Braun Series 3 Cordless Electric Razor hit the tile floor last week and that was the end of that. I had a look around Amazon.com a few times during the week, but never had enough time to really look for a replacement. I figured I would just give a manual razor a try and picked the Fusion Proshield up when we took my mom to Target.

Once I went into the bathroom to shave, I started asking myself how I was going to do it. With an electric razor, I just keep shaving an area then feel for stubble. With a manual razor, I could shave an area, but with all the shaving cream on my face, how am I going to feel the stubble? More importantly, how was I going to get close to my beard without accidently shaving bits of it off? The answer: very carefully. As I lathered my neck up with the shaving cream, I remembered how much I didn’t like shaving with a manual razor. I shaved my lower neck area first, then got close to my jaw line. Once I finished, Eliz came in and checked it (which she does when I use an electric razor, too — I can only imagine missing a clump of hair and looking ridiculous.) She touched up a few places, as she also does when I shave with an electric razor. For the most part, though, it surprisingly went well.

I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d still have a beard when I finished shaving. I thought I would have taken too much of the beard off and then be forced to shave the entire beard off. I was surprised. That being said, I’ll be purchasing a new Braun electric razor in the next day or two.

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Happy New Year!

1st selfie of 2016! Not bad for a guy that can't see very well.Happy New Year! I hope that 2016 is a great one for you! I am prepared for a year of transition, but hopefully ready for the challenge. 2015 ended on a positive note, as I completed computer training at the Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Chester. You can follow them on twitter @CBVIChester. Just as important as learning to use a computer with JAWS from Freedom Scientific was the social aspect of attending class at the Center as part of a group, rather than one-on-one at home. While my classmates and I may come from different backgrounds, we all have one thing in common, and that is a lack of eyesight.

Some of us have more sight than the others, but we all have stories to tell about how we get through life that people with sight just wouldn’t comprehend. We learned from one another and laughed with one another. I am so glad that I opted to do the training at the Center, even though it meant getting up hours earlier than usual. The friendships that I made with my classmates and the instructors will last a lifetime.

Speaking of friends… My friend and former CBVI classmate, Warren, emailed me a couple of days ago about the KNFB Reader app. This is an app that has received great reviews and one that I have wanted for over a year. His email mentioned that the app was 25% off until 4 January. While some say $75 for an iPhone app is expensive, if it works as-advertised, it is priceless for someone that is blind or has low vision like me. I have downloaded the app and am amazed at what it can do, so far. I’ll post a review in the coming weeks. Don’t miss the deal on the KNFB Reader!

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Complete Frustration

Ask anyone with low vision or no vision about the time it takes to do simple tasks and you’ll hear stories. Tasks that take the sighted person only a couple of minutes, take low or no sight people 10 to 15 minutes. That was me today. I should add that some of the delay today was my computer, but the bulk of my frustration came when a simple task — scan and crop eight pictures for my daughter to use on her yearbook page — took over an hour! My six year old iMac has issues, but there is no way it should take that long to scan, crop, and save the images (and Jane was the one putting the images on the scanner.)

My biggest problem was the cropping. Trying to get the crop exactly at the edge of the image was tough. Even though I use the reverse color screen so that black is white and white is black, there was stil so much glare from the images that it gave me a headache. Another problem was clicking the correct icon or checkbox when saving the pic in Photoshop. I am like one of those placekickers in the NFL that end up playing for multiple teams in one season: wide left, wide right, too low…

Up until today, I hadn’t used Photoshop in a few months. I’ve been wanting/needing to make a few banners to use in twitter and facebook, but I keep waiting for a “good-sight” day. They don’t happen too often anymore and when they do, it seems there are more important tasks I MUST do (like create invoices so we can get paid.) I guess that is what is so frustrating, I miss creating in Photoshop or Illustrator.
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Have you seen the newest iMac? I’d love to get one of these:
Apple iMac with Retina 5K display

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Cabin Fever

This Winter has been cold and very snowy. We’ve had about 60 inches (152 cm) so far and a little more predicted this week. All over the news, people are complaining about cabin fever. It makes me laugh. Cabin fever is defined by Merriam-Webster as “extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.” For me, and people like me, it doesn’t have to 25° out and snowing. It could be sunny and 75° and I may be “stuck” at home.

I can’t go anywhere on my own. Not that I want to do stuff by myself, but it would be awesome to go grab a Starbucks, pick up some groceries, or visit my mom without needing Eliz (or Jane or Margaret.) It sure would be great to meet a friend for lunch. It has been over a year since I socialized with a friend without Eliz.

We joined a gym five months ago, in part, to get me out of the house during the week. Otherwise, I would go days without leaving the house. On those days, my farthest trek was to our mailbox at the curb.

Soon Spring will arrive and most will feel freed from the mountains of snow that kept them home. I will enjoy my journey to the mailbox more, but I’ll still be at home.

This post is sponsored by Husqvarna 1827EXLT 27-Inch 414cc SnowKing Gas Powered Two Stage Snow Thrower With Electric Start, Power Steering & Trac Hydro Drive. It will help you dig out your car and make your your walkways snow-free.


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It’s Been Awhile…

It’s been about 18 months since I’ve posted anything here. I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions, but this year I do have one. It is to post more frequently here. Considering today in 9 January, I’m not off to a good start. My goal is to write on more topics than my visual impairment. Of course, most posts will have something to do with my poor vision, simply because it affects just about everything I do.

I will still whine and complain here, hopefully so I do it less to Eliz and the kids. I was told by an acquaintance that I should be thankful for what I have once when I was complaining about my sight. This person didn’t realize that I cannot pick up a book, a letter, a magazine and read it, or drive, use the washing machine, or a boatload of other tasks. This person just thought my vision was a little fuzzy. Believe me, I am thankful for what I have, so I can do without the “what for” when I’m complaining about not being able to do something that most everyone else can do. If you don’t want to hear me bitch and moan, you probably don’t want to read my blog, my tweets, or be friends with me on facebook.

I’m sure that many people don’t understand what folks who are blind or visually impaired deal with. There was a good article in the New York Times on Sunday called Why Do We Fear the Blind? Among other things, the article talks about the misconceptions that people with low vision or no vision have better hearing or sense of smell. As a kid, I was told that my hearing was better because I couldn’t see. As the article states, my hearing isn’t any better, I just have to rely on it more than someone with good vision.

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, that you click on one of my links as I get a small commission for any product you purchase at Amazon.com, even if it isn’t the specific product that is displayed.



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Joshua Goldstein, 7 January 1918 – 11 June 2012

My dad died today. He was 94. What an amazing man he was. He was the youngest of eight kids born to Russian immigrants. His mother died when he was just four years old. Before he turned 10 he was selling the Chester Times newspaper. A year or two later, he began working at the Edgmont Beef Company, a supermarket in Chester, PA.

He started working full time after dropping out of school after completing the eighth grade. He also did some boxing around the time he was 15, but was forced to stop by his sister Jane after a hard fought victory left him pretty bloody and bruised. He continued to work at the Edgmont Beef Co. until he was drafted into the service in the early 1940s.

He was trained in aviation ordnance and subsequently trained others. He grew tired of being a teacher and wanted to fight. He got his wish and became a tail gunner. He flew 24 missions and was credited with several kills. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. On his 24th mission, his plane was shot down over Quedlinburg, Germany. He was a Prisoner of War for 13 months in camps in Germany and Poland.

Once home after the war, he returned to the Edgmont Beef Co. until his brother died in July, 1970. He left his position at the Edgmont Beef to help my aunt run the small supermarket at 52nd and Market Streets in Philadelphia. He then bought his own market in West Philadelphia, on his way to buying 15 stores during his career. Early on, he bought underperforming stores that Acme and A&P no longer wanted, in areas they no longer wanted to be in.

Along the way, he taught me about life, sports, and business. He let me do things that kids with visual impairments probably shouldn’t do. I could also get him to do things he probably shouldn’t have done. “Dad, do you think this station wagon could do 85?” I asked on a trip to Pittsfield, MA. It could. My mom was nervous when me and my dad would test each other like that. I never got hurt too badly and he never got a speeding ticket while I was with him.

I am going to miss my dad. We spoke on the phone almost daily for years, talking about business, the stock market, the Phillies, and Jacob and Jane. He also would joke about ending up in Brookhaven. Thursday at 2.00pm, it won’t be a joke anymore. I just hope he doesn’t need any permits from the borough.

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Low Vision Awareness

Wow, am I happy to say so long to February. You see, February is Low Vision Awareness month (as Jane likes to say, see what I did there — I combined you see, with low vision…) I kept getting emails and reading posts on FaceBook about Low Vision Awareness Month. Believe me, I’m aware of low vision. I live it every day.

When people ask me what low vision is, I like to say, I can’t effing see and it can’t be fixed. It affects just about everything I do, from watching television to putting toothpaste on my toothbrush. It can be somewhat painful at times. Not pains in the eye, though I do have that on occasion, pains in my finger tips because I’ve hit the edge of a shelf while reaching for something. Pains in my hand, arm, or shoulder from walking into a protruding wall. Sometimes, it can be painful to others when I walk into them.

I’ve bitched and moaned enough here that all seven of my readers know that low vision is a very frustrating thing. I feel cheated by not being able to enjoy things like watching Jane’s softball games or one of Jake’s school plays. I go to support them and cheer for them. I would just love to be able get in the car and go to the store, visit a friend, or drop in on my parents without needing to plan ahead or having to wait for someone to take me.

So lets welcome March and celebrate National Frozen Food Month, National Peanut Month, National Craft Month, National Women’s History Month, and Red Cross Month to name only a few. You can wait until next February for Low Vision Awareness to return. Or, you can come spend some time with me and I’ll make you plenty aware of low vision.

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