Support a Local Detroit Poet!

Poetry lovers in Detroit and the metro area, here’s a heads-up for you!

A friend of mine, Alicia, got accepted to go to a writers’ seminar in Prague this summer. She has a partial scholarship and has been working hard to save up and gather the rest of the money she needs to make the trip a reality. So, she will be doing a poetry reading in Detroit’s very own Spanish tapas restaurant, La Feria, on June 25th.

It's next week Wednesday!

It’s next week Wednesday! (I made this poster, but the drawing is (c) A.L. Castañeda)

If you can’t make it out to the event, but would still like to support this local talent, you can make a donation online here:

http://www.gofundme.com/pragueorbust

You can donate anonymously and any amount helps, even if it’s just as much as it costs to get a tall latté at Starbucks.

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Up in the Sky

I’m flyin’ coach class, up in the sky

Sippin’ cola, livin’ the life

^o^

In a few hours, I will be getting on a plane to start this latest journey, working in Japan. It may be a while before I get internet access, so don’t expect much here until September. In the meantime, there’s plenty of amusing things in the old posts, (especially in the post right before this one, rraowww!) so enjoy!

Take care of Detroit while I’m away! Please don’t litter or pee in the new Rosa Parks Transit Center! Or anywhere else!!!

<–(((^_^)))–>

Gateway Project at 90%!

Whew! I-75 opened back up about one month ago, the new freeway ramp is up, the pedestrian bridge is nearly complete, the Vernor overpass has nearly complete parapets up on both sides, as well as nice red squares on the sidewalk. Though I’ve been tracking this project’s progress on this blog, I ironically will not see it immediately when it’s finished since I’ll be in Japan. Maybe some nice person can send me a pic.
PedBridge from SE

Taken from the corner of Vernor and (what was) the Northbound I-75 Service Drive.

Viewed from the Bagley & Southbound I-75 Service Drive

Viewed from Bagley & Southbound I-75 Service Drive

The new, wider I-75.  More lanes = more air pollution per minute! : )

The new, wider I-75. More lanes = more air pollution per minute! : )

19 Days Left in the D

19 Days Left in the D (or, “On the Way to a Bittersweet Smile”)

Virtual Cookies to whoever gets the joke! Anyway…

It’s hard to believe:  I’ve only got 19 days left in Detroit.  A careful reader of the Broken Ankle Log would know that I got a job overseas, but that’s all to the left (technically to the right but, we don’t say that do we?) and who really reads that? Anyway, it all began over 5 years ago…*ripply flashback music*

A presenter from the Consul General of Japan in Detroit came to my Japanese class to talk about the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET).  In JET, you go work in Japan for a year, generally as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) for English in middle and high schools, but there are other positions.  I asked if one had to be an American citizen to join, and was informed that one had to be a citizen of a participating country.  I was still an Honduran citizen at the time, and of course, poor little Honduras is not a participating country.

In 2004 I vowed to become an American citizen if John Kerry won.  I did not want to naturalize during Dubya’s presidency.  When Bush won reelection, I kicked myself for not naturalizing precisely to help vote him out of office.  Oh well.  Instead, I spent nearly a year looking for a job, got a part time job, and then joined City Year.  During my second year in City Year, I started the naturalization process, and became an American in July 2008.  I could finally VOTE!

With the scholarship I earned in City Year, I went back to college to finish the second degree I unwittingly started years before. I planned to graduate again in two semesters, earning a second Bachelor’s in Asian Studies concentrating in Japanese.  (It ended up taking 3 semesters, but close enough.) In December 2008, finally able to, I submitted my application to the JET Program and crossed my fingers.

In late January I was overjoyed to see that I’d made it to the interview stage of the application process. I would have my interview on the 18th of February.  I could think of little else.  Then, a mere 9 days before the interview, I had that fateful encounter with a patch of black ice.  I went to my interview, the one I had been waiting on for so long, on crutches, hopped up on Vicodin, without much preparation.

Luckily, when it was “game time,” I was able to focus on the task at hand.  It’s like on America’s Next Top Model: they’ll put the girls in crazy costumes that they have to “model beyond.” I felt I had to interview beyond my temporary disability, and certainly, beyond the side effects of the Vicodin, which at the time I still had to take in relatively large doses.  In mid-April or so, I received an email saying I’d made it to the short list, meaning my place in the JET Program was almost secured.  I was happy, but physical therapy was the first thing on my mind.  I later learned I would be going to Fukuoka Prefecture.  A little later still, I heard from my predecessor (Hi, if you’re reading this!) and learned that I would be at a high school in Dazaifu, the second largest city in the prefecture.  I was so happy!

When I first had the accident, the second thing I asked the orthopedist was “will I be able to travel overseas in August?” He said yes and I was greatly relieved.  But, he said that some of the screws I would be getting should be removed within a year.  I worried about having surgery in Japan.  I’d read that even in the United States, some surgeons might use different tools for the same procedure.  What if I went to a surgeon that didn’t have the right tools to remove my hardware?  I brought it up again at my May checkup, and my orthopedist said that if my ankle’s lateral motion was still severely limited in June, he could take some of my screws out in July; that would greatly help me regain motion, plus, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting it done in Japan.  He said it could be done outpatient in the office, as it only involved making a small cut above the screw head and unscrewing it out.

Unfortunately, at the June checkup, the x-rays revealed one of the screws had broken.  This is normal according to the orthopedist (though my physical trainer and therapist were thoroughly surprised: “those things are made out of titanium!”).  Since the broken part would have to be dug out, it had to be done in the operating room.  More all-out surgery. Oh Dear Diety.  Now, it wasn’t urgent to take them out.  But the orthopedist reassured me that it would not cost nearly as much as the first surgery, that the extraction would only take 15 minutes.  I got an estimate from the hospital: 10 grand, “more or less.”  That’s a lot, but if it was just 10K or a little more, I could set up a payment plan and live with it.

A few days after the surgery, I went to view my hospital account…and saw that the surgery plus recovery time had been over $17,000.  I couldn’t even be angry. Maybe it’s just me, but while technically the phrase “ten thousand more or less” can mean anything from a penny to a million, since it was an estimate, I figured the upper limit would be some 15 grand, but given the quickness of this procedure, I didn’t think it would go up that high.  Ha!

So here I am, back in the present.  What should have been a really happy time is bittersweet.  Now, I will go on JET not just to fulfill a dream, but to pay off a debt (unless Detroit Receiving Hospital has some more mercy on my soul). Nearly all the money I had saved up to pay for my move overseas went to paying for physical therapy.

As I walk about Detroit, and now notice how many people are walking with limps, I don’t mind the $1500 I still owe the Rehabilitation Institute; without therapy, I would doubtless still be “walking all crazy.”  Before my second surgery I met a woman who was about to have the same first surgery I did, just that on her left foot.  She had recently lost her job at an auto parts supplier so she had no insurance.  She frowned when I told her the discounted price of physical therapy for those paying out of pocket, saying even that was too much for her.  I wonder, will she be one of those walking around with limps for not being able to afford even to take on the debt of therapy? Likewise, that $17K surgery, well, I can’t say I don’t feel better without those two screws, because I most certainly do.  It’s a noticeable difference.  My ankle used to be terribly stiff in the morning, but now, the first step on it is enough to get the stiffness out.  And I feel better knowing there aren’t broken pieces of metal inside me.

So, that’s how it is.  I’m happy about JET, but too worried about the debts incurred to heal this injury to be freaked out about moving to another country for a year, as a sane person should be.  Perhaps it’s a good thing that way.

Well, I made a blog that will be just for my JET experience.  There isn’t much there now, but I’ll put it in the Blogroll.  If anyone is interested, it’s Lucky Hill.  I named it that because that’s what Fukuoka (福岡) literally means. I don’t plan on abandonning Scales of Libra, it will continue to be what it is now: a place where I blog about the Two Sides of Life, erratically as usual, for the amusement and/or edification of whoever wanders by. ^_^

Gateway Project at 75-80%!

I think when I got to catch a glimpse of the progress board on-site it said 80%, but MDOT’s site says the Project is 75% complete. I’m still not walking long distances, but luckily the light turned red so I was able to snap a couple pics from the car.

The Bagley Pedestrian Bridge, viewed from the Vernor overpass.

The Bagley Pedestrian Bridge, viewed from the Vernor overpass.

View from the corner of W. Vernor & Southbound 75 service drive

View from the corner of W. Vernor & Southbound 75 service drive

Final Fantasy Concerts Return to Detroit!

Yes! My hope came true! “Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy,” the latest FF concert, will come to Detroit on June 18th! I didn’t think they’d come through the D since they performed in Grand Rapids (and Uematsu was even at that one), but at the same time, I thought, they can’t diss the Detroit Symphony Orchestra by not coming here!

The DSO’s event page for this concert is found here.

For the Detroit page of the Distant Worlds site, click here.

I’m so excited! Waaa! ^___^

Get your tickets before Seph buys them all to scalp them!

Get your tickets before Seph buys them all to scalp them!

Don’t Bash Detroit, Help It!

Get the defibrillators out because I’m about to say something that might stop some hearts!

Not everyone in Detroit gets killed!

Are you still alive?  Maybe this one will do ya in:

Detroit has buildings that are still standing!  What’s more, some of them have people inside!!

*Gasp!*

As the NCAA gets set to come to Michigan, I’m already starting to see more Detroit-bashing on the blogosphere.  Sure, some of it is done without thinking, some bloggers probably think making fun of Detroit is “good clean fun” and they don’t mean anything by it.  But the fact that it is so pervasive shows that people really have these views of Detroit.  What’s more, that someone doesn’t intend for something to come across a certain way, doesn’t mean that it won’t come across in a bad way.

It bothers me when people make jokes about Detroit by citing crime statistics.  Why is it funny to say things like “you better lock your doors in Detroit because the murder rate is so high!”  We’re talking about human lives being taken! Wouldn’t it be much more productive to sit down and say, “why is something so horrible happening? What can I do about it?” And if it’s too much to ask that people be productive and a part of the solution, why can’t they at least not be part of the problem?  Words absolutely have power.  If you keep telling someone they’re dumb and ugly, and many other people join in on that harassment, the harassed person will probably start believing it, and what follows will probably not be good (for example, a self-destructive lack of self-worth or a homicidal rage against the abusers).  Likewise, the bad press Detroit gets does not help Detroiters see themselves in a good light.  I have unfortunately met and seen Detroiters who do not care about their city.  You can see it in how they litter, vandalize property, and generally, carry on as if other people don’t exist.  Such douchy behavior would not be as common if the social expectation that people care about Detroit was more widely spread.  In general, you put on nicer clothes to go to places you expect to be “high class.”  If you expect somewhere to be of little consequence, you are more likely to act in an inconsiderate manner once you get there.

Please, if you feel inclined to engage in Detroit-bashing, please think about your actions.  Such actions make you a part of the problem, not the solution.  Jokes about Detroit are cheap shots;  it’s kicking us when we’re down.  I’m not asking anyone to pretend Detroit is paradise.  I just want them to quit their bashing or their bitching if they’re not going to do anything to help turn it into as close to a paradise as humanly possible.  And that goes for all cities across the US, and across the world, that are in Detroit’s situation.

You may say, what can I do to help change something as serious as a high murder rate?  Well, there’s plenty!  And it starts with having goodwill in your actions.  It can be something as simple as not littering.  Then, take it to the next level: pick up litter, especially litter that has freshly been dropped by some thoughtless person.  Statistically, the cleaner the neighborhood, the less crime it will have.  You may go so far as to volunteer to be a mentor to a young person.  Maybe some young person in your own family is on the road to becoming a jerk.  Be the one who sets them straight!  Don’t be ashamed to proclaim that you care.

I think it’s obvious from the beginning of this post that I was writing in anger. But I calmed down because I believe I don’t help Detroit by merely being angry (again, the complaining without taking action thing).  So I will end this with links to 4 organizations that I think (because I have personal experience with them) are doing a good job of helping Detroit.  I hope this inspires someone out there to do something about the problems we face, rather than just complain about them or worse, make mean-spirited jokes.

The Greening of Detroit Dedicated to adding trees and other greenery to the concrete jungle since 1989.

RecycleHere Bringing recycling within city limits.

Detroit RiverFront Conservancy Responsible for the new River Walk.  Once the Dequindre Cut is completed, the Conservancy will also be involved in its maintenance.

City Year Detroit Part of AmeriCorps, this is a full-time volunteer commitment.  There are City Year sites in 18 other US cities (as well as one in South Africa, but Americans can’t join that one).  I was a Corps Member in CYD for two years, and even though my second year was, to be brutally honest, one of the most stressful and exasperating of my life, I still recommend it to people that are truly dedicated to serving their communities.  Even if I think, “I went through Hell,” I also know, “I did my best to turn the flames into something positive, and in many instances, succeeded in doing so.”