Thank you, Guiding Eyes

Back in 1998 a book reviewer at The Boston Globe suggested that I am a shill for the guide dog schools. What he meant is that my first book of nonfiction is richly devoted to sharing the experience of training with my first guide dog “Corky”—a life changing event for me and the glue that holds together my book.
I didn’t mind being called a shill. I’ve been called worse.

Today as I was walking in the Iowa snow with my third dog from Guiding Eyes I remembered that old Steve Martin joke where he says to his audience “I want to thank each and every one of you” Then he proceeds to say over and over: “Thank you thank you thank you thank you” etc.

Occupied in this way it dawned on me that Guiding Eyes for the Blind is worthy of every thank you I could pronounce. Guide dogs are expensive creatures to breed, raise, train, and then pair with a blind person. Despite the fact that each dog and person team costs well over 40,000 dollars to create, Guiding Eyes absorbs all the costs through its non-profit program of charitable donations.

I am a comparatively lucky blind person. I have a good job and a wonderful wife and family. Yet I can assure you that if I had to pony up 40K for my street mobility would be very hard pressed indeed. This in turn gets me to my point. Some will doubtless think of me as being too sentimental. Thanking those who have helped you is perhaps, in the minds of some “too old fashioned” or “too caught up in the charity model of disability”.

I believe that as I walk safely and in most cases euphorically that I have a big team behind me. Donors, puppy raisers, puppy breeders, veterinarians, fund raisers, construction and buildings and grounds personnel, volunteers, guide dog trainers, orientation and mobility specialists, dietitians, nurses, folks who work in the kennels, and the blind men and women who have trained alongside me with their new dogs.

Today, walking in the snow I heard in memory the voice of Steve Martin thanking everybody.

S.K.

My Dynamic Duo

Here they are, Steve and "Nira" –  stepping lively.

Once they’re home, I’ll be jogging behind just to keep up!   ~ Connie

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P.S.  Thanks to Graham Buck, of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, for the photos.

Photo description: yellow Labrador, Nira, is in harness and guiding Steve down the sidewalk.

Blind Date

Here she is.  "Nira".  Steve’s ultimate blind date.

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Photo description: Nira, a yellow Labrador, is in a down position.  She and Steve are doing obedience.  Although we can’t see Steve, we can see the leash he’s holding attached to Nira’s collar.  She is looking up in his direction.  It’s a great head shot, compliments of Graham Buck of Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Superfest International Disability Film Festival

Guess whose book was made into a film that won an award?!  Yep!  Keep reading! 

Thank you to Day Al-Mohamed at Day in Washington for bringing this to our attention.  Congratulations to Sven Werner of Luxemberg for winning the Pamela K. Walker Award.  Our congratulations to ALL actually…

The following is taken from the Superfest 2007 Awards page:

SUPERFEST XXVII WINNERS 

Congratulations to this year’s award winners!
   
The following contains a list and descriptions of the
    award-winners for SUPERFEST XXVII (2007).
To browse through photos from the award-winning films, click here.

Superfest XXVII Award Winners’ List 
   

Best of Festival   

  • The Epidemic [51 min.] Producer: Niels Frandsen, Denmark

Excellence Awards   

  • No Bigger Than a Minute [52:30 min.] Producer: Steven Delano, U.S.
  • Outsider: The Life and Art of Judith Scott[26 min.] Producer: Betsy Bayha, U.S. 

Achievement Awards
   

  • Headstrong: Inside the Hidden World of Dyslexia and ADHD [26:41 min.]                         Producers: Chloe Sladden, Ben Foss, Steve Schecter, U.S.
  • Stroke [58 min.] Producer: Katarina Peters, Germany
  • The Rest of My Life: Stories of Trauma Survivors [25 min.]                                            Producer: Gabriel Ledger, M.D., U.S.   

Merit Awards   

  • Carmela [30 min.] Producer: Guillermo Lopez Perez, Mexico
  • Darius Goes West: The Roll of His Life[92 min.] Producer: Roll With Me Productions, U.S.
  • Mercury Stole My Fire [12:12 min.] Producer: Anitra Nelson, Australia
  • Seeing Is Believing [13 min.] Producer: Tofik Shakhverdiev, Russia
  • Symphony of Silence [22 min.] Producer: Yves J. Ma, Canada

Spirit Award

  • No Bigger Than a Minute [50:15 min.] Producer: Steven Delano, U.S.
       

Pamela K. Walker Award   

  • Planet of the Blind [20 min.] Producer: Sven Werner, Luxemburg

Emerging Artist Award   

  • Let Us Spell It Out for You [2:36 min.]  Producer: Joseph Santini, US.

Makin' Whoopee on the Planet of the Blind

Do people do that on the Planet of the Blind?  You know – have sex?

Zephyr, the Arthritic Young Thing is hosting the next Disability Blog Carnival (July 26th) and she has chosen "let’s talk about sex, babee" as her theme. 

Steve is currently in seclusion (working on a novel) in our little cabin on Rattlesnake Island in Lake Winnipesaukee, NH.  His ability to e-mail is severely limited and so the best I can do for now is submit the following excerpt from his first memoir Planet of the Blind

Years ago, as a college student in Geneva, NY, Steve looses his virginity to Bettina…(and no, I am not Bettina.  This was before my time.)  Be advised, this will undoubtedly change the PG rating this blog was recently given!

~ Connie

An excerpt from Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto (Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 1998)….

Continue reading “Makin' Whoopee on the Planet of the Blind”

Celebrating July 4th

We celebrated July 4th at Picnic with the Pops this year where Steve was asked to speak on behalf of Mayor Michael B. Coleman’s Advisory Committee on Disabilities. 

Dscn2053_4Photo:  Silver trailer with large flat screen on top.  Screen is so crowds can later watch orchestra members playing in detail.  Sign says
Columbus Symphony
Junichi Hirokami, Music Director
ColumbusSymphony.com
PicnicWithThePops.com

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Photo:  Steve on stage talking into a microphone.  Band shell behind him.  His yellow Labrador, Vidal, is standing to his left.

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Picnic with the Pops draws huge crowds.  Photo:  looking out into the crowd from just in front of the stage Steve is standing on.  Folks are seated at round tables up front enjoying a picnic dinner.   Behind them, most people are "roughing it" on blankets and lawn chairs.

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This photo reveals what a beautiful evening it was.  I caught this photo just as the sun was setting.  The blues, purples, pinks and oranges are stunning.  In the foreground folks are finishing their meals or wandering from table to table.

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Photo on the right shows the concert has begun.  Night has fallen, the stage is lit with bright lights and the orchestra is "doing it’s thing" while a huge American Flag hangs in the background.

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I’m impressed my little Nikon camera was able to capture this photo of a firework as it exploded. 

I think a lovely evening was had by all…

Happy 4th of July!

May our troops have a safe one.  And may they come home soon.

~ Connie and Steve

Dog Dream

I was riding home on a city bus two nights ago when a blind man with a cane clambered aboard and the driver shouted "watch out for the dog!" as though the man might have a miraculous recovery right there in the aisle of the old number 2, and the man managed to get himself situated opposite me and we were off again heading north on state route 23.

The man with the cane asked me if "the dog" was a "blind dog" and I resisted the opportunity to make a joke and I said that he was a guide dog for the blind.  "Sometimes they’re called seeing-eye dogs, but the correct term is guide dog, or dog guide" I said.

Then a funny feeling came over me.  It was like the intuition you sometimes get at the racetrack–"bet on olde Doctor Boondoggle right now, don’t give it a second thought.  I asked the man if he’d like to "see" my dog.

Ordinarily you don’t let anyone interact with a guide dog, especially if you’re on a bus.

And so with Vidal’s head resting on the man’s knee and with his evident joy rising around us, I heard the story of how he lost his eyesight by gun shot, and how he has been learning to walk with his "Braille stick" as he called it.

He didn’t know that guide dogs for the blind are offered free of charge or that the training and the transportation are also free.  He didn’t know that the guide dog programs offer funding for veterinary care.

Pretty soon the bus driver was getting in on the conversation.  She was saying things like, "My God, that’s fantastic!"

Soon enough the man with the cane had arrived at his stop.  He repeated the name of the guide dog school that I had given him.  He climbed down the steps of the bus with a sense of uplift.  You can sometimes descend stairs while feeling that you’re going up.  Maybe that’s a "blind thing"?

I don’t know if he will ever get his dog.  I find that most days I live in hope.  On those days I don’t feel hope I take some Prozac and read a book by Mark Twain.

In the meantime, I hope that man calls Guiding Eyes for the Blind.  I hope his life opens before him.  He sure liked having my dog’s head on his knee.

S.K.

Field of Dreams

If you have seen the film "Field of Dreams" you probably know that Iowa is a beautiful place.  The farm house and field used in the film are near Iowa City where the University of Iowa is located and where the writer W. P. Kinsella  (author of Shoeless Joe on which the movie was based) studied at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

One of the signature phrases in that film is the line: "If you build it they will come."  Connie and I have been lured to Iowa City by the potentiality and substance of that phrase.  I will be joining the faculty of the University of Iowa’s graduate program in creative nonfiction next fall and I will also be working with the Carver Center for Macular Degeneration at the UI’s health clinic as their first ever "poet in residence" at the medical college.

Connie can speak for herself of course, but I can say that we both have made good friends in Ohio and we are not leaving Columbus and the land of the Buckeyes without sincere feelings of loss.  But we hope to carry with us some deep and lasting friendships from our 7 years in Ohio.

We can’t promise to wear Buckeye regalia in Iowa City.  That would probably be a monumental blunder.  The only thing worse would be to wear a Michigan shirt.

Our blog will of course continue without interruption and we look forward to attracting new friends to the Planet.

Steve

P.S.  Visit SawxBlog.com for this review of Shoeless Joe