Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer


June 2012

Mr. Independent

They say that dogs become like their owners or owners like their dogs. I realize that my mom is Frankie’s “mom,” but since he spends most of his time with me, that’s really just a technicality. A recent trip to the dog park made it all too clear — Frankie and I are a bit too alike to do either of us much good.

We were invited to spend a recent Sunday afternoon at the Jacksonville Beach Dog Park. Since this is something my mom and I have always been nervous to try alone, I jumped at the opportunity to go with my neighbors, Trish and Pete and their dog, Chewy — seasoned dog park veterans. Besides, all parents are dying to watch their “kid” on the playground. To see how he acts with his friends.

I was disappointed. Frankie didn’t romp. Or play. Or chase balls. He didn’t even run fast. All the other dogs took off the minute their leashes were unclipped. Frankie just collapsed under the shade of a park bench and barely got up except to lap up the water that stained his chin or investigate the smells left behind by other dogs. Of course, he then raised his leg to mark the same fence post, garbage can or rock (any inanimate object, really.) He had to get the last word on the subject. In the dog world, it’s important to one-up the competition. To outsmell their smell.

He was the same way on a play date at a friend’s house. Boring. Frankie couldn’t have cared less about his three jolly playmates or their big backyard. He stayed inside in the AC, sprawled out on the cool tile.

It’s not like he’s the cool kid who can’t be bothered. He’s more like the grumpy old man who doesn’t want to join in the fun. Anti-social. This is where (I’m ashamed to confess) I see the similarities between us. Lord knows my mom has accused me of acting like her mother. And there’ve been plenty of times when I just can’t muster the will to go out. I’m a self-admitted homebody.

At the dog park, Frankie got up and moved whenever the other dogs started playing around him. And he growled whenever Chewy, a Shitzu-Yorkie mix (that’s right — a Shorkie,) got too rambunctious. Chewy can’t help it! He’s a youngster, still in the puppy phase. That annoying kid who just wants to be everyone’s friend. Frankie seems to have forgotten he was a puppy not too long ago. Apparently he skipped adulthood and went straight to senior citizen.

On our walks though, he seems to prefer dogs over people. Maybe, like me, he’s better one-on-one. But get a whole park full of them together and he opts out. As I watched my boy all by himself while the other dogs ran around in a pack, it was a good lesson for me. Sometimes being alone is just no fun. And okay, I’ll try harder not to growl internally when that family of four sits next to me at the movies.

The old man and the kid

Ode to a French Fry

I love food.

I love McDonald’s french fries, covered in salt and greasy, hot out of the bag before you can even get home. I love mussels from Carrabba’s swimming in sauce that drips down your chin, sopped up by warm, crusty bread. Chilled Chardonnay on the side, of course. And I never met a dessert I didn’t like. I prefer the ones with morbid names like Death by Chocolate or Raspberry Suicide. So, can you tell I’m on a diet?

Yup, the same one I was on after the holidays when I wrote my “Winter Weight” post. So, you see, it’s been going well. Six months later and I’ve decided to get serious.  Well, as serious as I get about diets which is not very. In fact, I don’t like to use the term “diet.” I prefer instead to say I’m “being good.” Then, I haven’t failed. I’m just “being bad” temporarily.

And no, I’m not doing it because bathing suit season is upon us. I couldn’t care less about bathing suit season. I can’t even swim. I long ago traded in my bikini for a tankini and I’m considering trading in my tankini for some men’s board shorts and an old t-shirt. No, I’m doing it because I can’t zip up my pants and I don’t want to spend money on new ones.

I have two friends (I’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. Hard Body) that are always “being good.” For them, it’s not a diet, it’s a way of life. And it shows. They look like Ken and Barbie, if Ken and Barbie lived in the gym instead of a dream house. Now, I love my friends, but they’re no fun. A day at the beach entails not the potato chips and cold beer that I crave, but a baggie full of chickpeas and some coconut water. You know, the kind of people that spend fifteen minutes questioning the waiter before ordering the special served dry and a salad with the dressing on the side, hold the croutons. My friends recently met up with another couple who (gasp!) chose a French restaurant for the foursome to eat at. A real problem for my friends. A dream come true for me.

In fact, going out to eat is probably my favorite thing to do. Sure, it’d be nice to wear a two-piece again. Or even a sleeveless top. To have toned arms and a flat stomach. But, I’ve decided it’s just not worth it. So, I’m embracing my rolls. And the garlic ones.

Another friend and I discovered a great Greek restaurant the other night. I had Shrimp Mykonos and she had the lamb (tender — like butter!) We saved room for dessert — cappuccinos, tiramisu and Baklava cheesecake. It’s nice spending time with someone who appreciates food as much as me. We’re both in wheelchairs, maybe that’s it. Life experience has taught us only too well — life’s too short to skip dessert.

I’m sorry, I realize this post isn’t going to inspire anyone to stick to their own healthy eating plan. I, myself, am not breaking any records for weight loss. I think I’m losing at the lightning speed of a pound a week. Maybe less. So if you need motivation, I’ll be happy to get you in touch with The Hard Body’s. But I’ll have to leave a message. I hear they’re out training for a marathon.

Live Forever!

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.” ~Ray Bradbury 

When something newsworthy happens in the writing world, I’m inclined to write about it. When that something is the death of one of the most legendary and prolific writers of our time, I have to write about it.

Author Ray Bradbury passed away after long illness on June 5th at the age of 91. In a career that spanned more than seven decades, he wrote hundreds of short stories, close to 50 books and numerous poems, essays and screenplays. But perhaps he is best known for his science fiction novel Farenheit 451 and other classics like The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Much of his work has been turned into film, television shows and radio plays.

My mother remembers him first from comic books. Many of his short stories appeared in science fiction digests and comics in the 1950s.

His incredible imagination and love of the fantastic was part of him even as a child. He liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of the performance, Mr. Electrico reached out his sword, touched the 12 year-old Bradbury on the forehead and commanded, “Live forever!” Bradbury says he decided that was the greatest idea he’d ever heard. He started writing every day and never stopped.

I am always touched by the passion with which he talked or wrote about writing. This video, taken at the age of 86, can move me to tears. I get that way in the presence of truly passionate people, particularly when their passion is writing. My writing teacher often reads passages from Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing and our group sits marveling at his prose.

It is fitting that the ending of Farenheit 451 reads:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.”

He’s everywhere.

More Kindness

I hope you’ll forgive the repeat of a previous post, “The Kindness of Strangers.” I didn’t have time to write a new one — I was out surfing. Body surfing to be exact. Life Rolls On hosted their sixth “They Will Surf Again” event this past Saturday in Jacksonville Beach. There were a record number of disabled surfers and all kinds of friends, caregivers and volunteers ready to help wherever needed. I hope you’ll enjoy the new pictures as much as I enjoyed the perfect weather, water and day!

From “The Kindness of Strangers”:

I saw the advantage of owning my own beach wheelchair right away, but other beach chairs were on hand at the lifeguard station to ferry people over the soft sand or into the water. Some folks braved the sand in their regular wheelchairs. My friend, Amy, pushed my chair down by the water to wait my turn at “surfing.”

I’d done this once before (this was Life Rolls On’s fifth year in Jacksonville,) but I was struck again at the large number of volunteers. There were 12 able-bodied volunteers for every disabled surfer. When it came my turn, I understood why. It took six or seven people just to get me out to where the waves were breaking, then shove me off in time to catch one. And volunteers were lined up all the way to the shore to grab me wherever I happened to fall off.

A subsidiary of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Life Rolls On originally started the “They Will Surf Again” program for people affected by spinal cord injury. The number of participating disabilities has grown to include brain injuries, amputees, varied birth defects and others.

After about my third ride to shore and face full of salt water, I remembered overhearing someone talk about surfing on their knees. Anxious to avoid the stinging spray from my position lying down on the board, I asked if I could try sitting up. This meant a volunteer would ride tandem. This video is the first of two rides I made like that. Now that I know it’s an option, I’m certain there will be many more. My own hooting and hollering was drowned out by that of the volunteers.

I was touched by the enthusiasm, positive attitude and smiling face of each person who assisted that day. I’m not sure who got more out of the experience, the surfers or all those willing to lend a helping hand.

If you’ve followed my blog you know I like to say “disability has its perks.” Here’s another one: being disabled allows me to see the good in people. I’m in the unique position of seeing people at their best. I am reminded of the generosity of the human spirit almost every day when someone holds open a door, untangles Frankie’s leash or waits for me to slowly cross the road  in my power chair. And it’s a good thing too, because with a little help, life does indeed, roll on.

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