Cheap-ish Dates in New York City for the Wheelchair Traveler

 

But Maybe She Wheel NYC

There’s nothing like sightseeing in the Big Apple. The tourist crowds, the smell of roasting nuts from the vendors on the street, and the never-ending stream of taxis and traffic make New York City a truly amazing experience. But when the starry eyed traveler tries to see all the sights, the high cost of living in New York can quickly drain the budget. Here’s a quick way to have your New York experience, but pay the lowest possible cost.

Note for the wheeling travelers; New York City, while a tourist destination, is VERY inaccessible. There are no elevators in the subways above 51st St, so the only chances of taking the subway will be in Lower Manhattan. All the buses are accessible and both the driver and riders are accommodating. However, as the bus stops every other street, this is the slowest way to travel. Here are some of the other options available to the rolling traveler-

The easiest way to navigate the city in a chair is by an accessible taxi, which can be found here. They even have their own app to have a taxi arrive in just minutes!

6 1/2 Ave and Lunch Paley Park

On the many secrets of Manhattan is a pedestrian walkway below Central Park from Le Parker Méridien at 118 West 57th street to the AXA Building at 787 Seventh Avenue, between 51st and 52nd streets. As a way to escape the bustling traffic, a person can walk through the streets without needing to wait for the lights to change (not that many “real” New Yorkers will wait, anyway). An perk to this secret walkway, as well, is the fully accessible sidewalks free of curbs or cobblestones. At the end of the stroll up the walkway and after turning down one block is the perfect spot for you and your hunny to have lunch; the secret garden waterfall along an entire wall called Paley Park. Business professionals in suits and students in sweats alike seek lunchtime refuge in this quiet corner, the sounds of the waterfall cascades reducing the NYC traffic to a dull buzz. So slow down, take a stroll up the secret avenue and then relax at the waterfall while sharing a croissant and coffee with your love.

But Maybe She Wheel NYC
Paley Park, NYC

 

Cocktails at the Times Square Lookout

When we first started dating, my now-husband and I took our young and dumb selves to Times Square to see the ball drop for New Years. Barely 18 and 20, we were awestruck by the crowds and enjoyed the adventure of being frisked, jostled, and corralled into the pens that control the New Years crowd at Times Square. We met a great group of students from Kentucky, Dusty played in a hacky sack competition, and together we danced to keep from freezing as we waited the 18 hours until New Years Eve. No bathrooms being available, we sparingly shared a single Diet Coke and went in with the Kentucky group to order pizza that was delivered across the pens. Finally, when midnight struck, we danced to Auld Lang Syne as confetti rained down. It was magical, incredible and an experience I would never, ever do again.

 

Thankfully, I learned of another way to see Times Square without having to endure the crowds and craziness. The Renaissance Hotel, on 48th and 7th, has a quietly kept secret of the R Lounge, a cocktail bar with giant windows overlooking Times Square. The lounge faces the New Years Eve ball (which is actually tiny and anticlimactic) and the view encompasses each corner of the triangle Square. You have to order to be seated (reservations are requested rather than walk in seating), but the price of a $10 cocktail and splitting a delicious $7 appetizer makes the experience of watching Times Square come alive after the sun sets less than $30 for two people. This is MORE than worth the price, even with the 20% tip that should be left for the waiter.

But Maybe She Wheel NYC
Times Square, NYC

 

 

The Secret to Broadway

A trip to New York is not complete without a Broadway show, in my opinion. But at upwards of $80 a ticket, the cost is too high for our modest budget. With a little flexibility, there is a way to cut that price in half. Every day of the week in Broadway there’s a show playing and the goal is to have a full house each night. To do this, TKTS Broadway will sell the rest of the unsold tickets the day of a show at half price! These half-priced tickets can be bought at 10am by calling TKTS Broadway or visiting the ticket booth. **WHEN BUYING TICKETS BE SURE TO ASK FOR WHEELCHAIR SEATING** as this is a different ticket than the ones otherwise sold. The night before you can scroll through the website to see what’s playing and see if tickets are available the next day. You possibly may not get to see some of the great headliner shows and that’s where a little flexibility is needed. We got the chance to see Cirque de Solei Paramour this way, which was an incredible show and well worth the $30 ticket/person.

 

Before enjoying the show, we had our cocktails overlooking Times Square and then strolled the two blocks over for a night at the theatre!

But Maybe She Wheel NYC
The greatest view of NYC can be found at the World Trades Center Building and Memorial. Take some time to read the names of the victims of 9/11 in the looking ponds before venturing up the tallest building the America

 

Grade-A Comedy at a Cheapskate Price

If Broadway is not your thing, visiting a comedy club is also a great way to enjoy the vibrant theatre community of New York. One of my favorite comedians, Amy Poehler, helped to start a comedy club school in New York called the Upright Citizens Brigade. Performers from the UCB Theatre have gone on to host and write for shows including Saturday Night Live, Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Daily Show, Veep, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Inside Amy Schumer, and more . The Club has grown and has locations in the East Village and Chelsea. Schedules are posted each week with little blurbs about the skit and performers. Tickets are RIDICOUSLY cheap, as is the beer served for each show. A nice perk is the wheelchair seating is right in the front row!

 

We happened to be visiting New York during the first presidential debate. The night of the debate we went to see the Upright Citizens Brigade perform a satire “mock” debate, which was spot-on and hilarious, and then all the performers joined the audience as we watched the real debate screened on the stage. Watching this debate with a crowd of New Yorkers was a singularly enlightening and humorous experience. When the “Stop and Frisk” law was mentioned, the New Yorkers behind us booed and hissed at the screen. When Trump and HRC spat at each other in their remarks, the audience cheered when HRC spoke and laughed at Trump. But the audience in Long Island physically sitting at the debate cheered at Trump’s remarks precisely when the audience behind me booed. One of the comedy writers for The Jon Oliver Show spoke at the “Round Table” the Club held after the debate, where all the performers and two comedy writers discussed and evaluated the candidates. She spoke on how eerie it felt to hear proof of how vastly different two groups of Americans feel at this election, the boos coming from one side while cheering was heard on the other. “How are we going to come together after this election,” the other comedy writer asked. “How are we going to be able to accept and love the “other side” when this election is done?”. How indeed.

 

Finding the Benches in Central Park

 

Central Park is a different scene with each changing of the seasons. The bright colors of fall fade into the white landscape of a snowy winter, changing then again to the bursts of colors of spring and summer. But the walkways, horse and carriages, and happy parade of dog walkers are the ever constant heartbeat of the park. A trip to the park is not complete without first seeing the Apple Store at the 5th Ave  entrance and then slowly meandering past Belvedere Castle. For an insider’s experience in Central Park, make sure to take note of the benches lining the sidewalks. Each bench has a unique engraving, a message from friend long gone or a memory of a loved one past. Some of the messages are very dear, while others smirk with the sarcastic wit of the messenger. These benches mark the history of the park, as well as encapsulate the spirit of the New Yorkers past and present.

 

But Maybe She Wheel NYC
Don’t forget to check out the always accessible Central Park!

 

Discounts for Disabilities in NYC

But Maybe She Wheel NYC
Chinatown, NYC

 

 

But Maybe She Wheel NYC

 

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you WHAT?! Arguing In Our Marriage

Marriage is an adventure, like going to WAR 

– Gilbert K. Chesterton

I love to raise my voice. Take things personal. Leave the room. Bring things up two years later. Yell at Dusty in my head all day after he forgets to take out the trash. All the terrible, awful habits of hurtful arguing, I love to do.

There’s a reason there’s good and bad arguing in relationships. The “bad” arguing are the tendencies we have to want to be RIGHT, no matter the cost, to be HEARD without trying to listen and to be LOVED regardless of whether we love in return. I’m guilty of doing all three and more when Dusty and I get into arguments. Some of the mistakes I make include:

  • saying “you ALWAYS…” I’m pretty sure there’s never anything that Dusty ALWAYS does, so it’s not fair for me to accuse him
  • holding grudges “Well, when you did this two years ago…” Holding on to a grudge is toxic to any relationship
  • not speaking up when something bothers me by saying “Fine. Go ahead.” Those three words are Dusty’s signal to run and duck for cover.

Moving to Europe is stressful. Moving and traveling in Europe with a disability as a couple is very stressful. Sure, it’s also incredibly rewarding and once in a life-time experience, blah blah blah. We frequently argue when we travel, because it’s no easy feat to navigate an ancient city with modern medical equipment. We were in Brussels for the first time (our second trip was worlds better) and I was being thrown left and right in my chair from the crazy, bad cobblestones. These walkways shouldn’t even be called cobblestoned, but instead “designated walking areas similar to walking over rubble from a stone quarry”. I had had enough and wanted to stop, Dusty wanted to keep going and was trying to carry a rucksack full of all our things and help push me. Our conversation went a little like this:

“Dusty, can I grab your arm instead of you pushing me? I think that will work better.”
“Sure, but watch out for that grate! Baby, be careful!”
“Stop! I am being careful! What does your phone say our next turn is?”
“Oh shoot, I wasn’t looking…”
“Stop watching me and navigate us! You ALWAYS watch me and it’s not helpful. Please just pay attention to where we’re supposed to go next”
“Alright, alright, I got it. Ok, we missed a turn but now we’ve got 3 blocks until we take a left and then I think there’s a train involved… is that going to be ok?”
“Fine.”

Waterways of Bruges outside of Brussels, Belgium
Waterways of Bruges outside of Brussels, Belgium

Not the best way to communicate but we learned a lot about our own limitations that trip, how much sightseeing I’m comfortable doing in one day and how to walk together in a way that doesn’t make Dusty nervous for me yet I’m still able to be independent. While it’s not the only way to grow, there is tremendous growth that comes from conflict when resolution is found. And we did grow from this conflict, enough so that the second time we went to Brussels we had one of the best trips we’ve had in Europe (click for itinerary). View more pics here!

There’s a bad stigma about arguing and marriage. There’s an idea that a good marriage is one without arguments or conflict and people count the days between arguments to mark progress. I used to buy into this; I wouldn’t admit to anyone that Dusty and I fought. I didn’t want them to think that I had anything less than a wonderful marriage and that meant they couldn’t know we just had a spat over whether to use the self-checkout at Target. I am by no means an expert, but when did knowing that growth comes out of conflict get forgotten? Dusty and I began going to pre-marital counseling when we were engaged, as a requirement to get married in my church. And we loved it. We’re two young kids in love, nothing more. We’re not marriage geniuses full of wisdom or even truly experienced in being in relationships, so how in the world are we supposed to know what to do? There’s plenty of marriage wisdom online, but the truthful answer is that Dusty and I don’t know what we’re doing so we ask for help. We kept going to counseling after we got married and five years later, we haven’t stopped.

The lessons we’ve learned in counseling helped us to navigate some of the awful things that have happened in the five years of our marriage, like my accident. We saw divorce papers flying at the rehab hospital where patients and spouses were learning how to live as paraplegics and many couples justifiably fell apart. And we loved, cried, laughed and argued our way through it.

We argue still today. Because when there’s something wrong, we speak up about it and make time to fix it. But we’re not perfect; I’m better at speaking up, but I’ve got a temper and little tolerance. Dusty’s quieter and works on speaking up, but he’s the insightful and calm one in an argument to keep us rational and on point. We didn’t come into our relationship knowing our strength and weaknesses, we were counseled. And I’d recommend that to anyone in any relationship, but being in a relationship with someone with a disability takes some real relationship tools. We’re a blessed couple in that we’ve learned about these tools and God’s given us the ability to communicate well enough to use the tools. We’re 5 years married now, but I’d gladly go through 100 years of love and arguing to spend 105 years married to him.

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When It’s NOT Limit-less

The theme of the first months after my accident was to approach everything with an attitude of “why not?”. Why not go back to college? Why not go on road trips? Why not go swimming? I wore a can-do attitude on my face like it was my job. Dusty, the hubs, is an engineer by trade and by character; if there was something that I wanted to do, he designed or created the gear for me to be able to do it. From his creative heart, he’s outfitted my chair with military style belay clips to hold my keys, secret pouches for my catheters and an emergency blanket under my cushion to protect my legs when it rains.

But with that can-do attitude comes the nearly-always painful experience of having my limits stretched. Stretching the energy limit has been a constant part of traveling here in Europe. Many paraplegics like myself have a system of energy conservation; my spinal cord injury causes me to burn through my energy faster than most. About halfway through a day of traveling will burn me out, even if we haven’t been wandering the streets the whole time. In college, I learned how to take power naps in empty classrooms before trekking it across campus for my next class. That skill has been tremendously helpful when riding the trains/buses/planes/cars we take for traveling here in Europe, but more often than not I’m still beat by 3p.m.

Eating well, staying away from overly processed food and eating a travel diet of lots of fruit, drinking an addicting amount of coffee and pounding water help me to keep my energy up. What I had to learn, however, was to let go of the main reason I was continuing to push myself to some unhealthy limits; I was afraid that by not having the energy to keep going that I was going to be a disappointment. To my husband, to myself, to the whole disabled community, it didn’t matter. I was afraid that if I stopped, I would be letting someone down.

Well, that’s just downright silly. But most of our innate secret motivations for how we do what we do are generally silly. What I was doing, pushing myself to exhaustion just so we could see that next infamous tourist attraction from some ancient times, was dangerous and foolish. I was already letting myself, and my husband, down by thinking that my own well-being is something to gamble.

A few months ago, we were taking a spur-of-the-moment train ride to Berlin. We didn’t have plans for the weekend and Berlin was a place we wanted to cross of our list. I didn’t have FreeWheel yet, the piece of adaptive equipment that lets me go over cobblestones smoother, and we were still hostel-hopping in the dorm rooms. The train ride turned out to be much longer and much more crowded than we were expecting. Getting off and on some of the trains isn’t impossible, but it’s bit hard and we had to transfer twice. By the time we got to Berlin, my head was pounding and we still had to find I had booked last minute. Later that night we’re finally in a crowded dorm room of messy suitcases everywhere and spooning in one of our tiny twin beds when I wake up to someone vomiting. Our dorm mates, the owners of all the clothes strewn everywhere, are British girls on holiday and one of whom was sounding like a beached seal dying in the bathroom. Another was drunkenly repeating herself apologizing over and over again to the also-awake Dusty. The third, fourth and fifth were continuing to drink and laugh uproariously girl #1 puking. Thankfully, we were able to change rooms but it cost a few hours of sleep to do so. The next day, we tried again and perked up our smiles to the drizzling grey skies of Berlin and opened our rented guidebook. We saw sights, some were stunning, some were representative of World War II and were sad, but all were impacting enough to make us glad we had made the trip. I began to fade, my limited amount of energy already waning from the loss of sleep the night before. We got lost once and then twice and then became so turned around we made one giant circle throughout the center of Berlin. I had been having trouble with my wheelchair all day; one of the caster wheels would stick and it would jerk my chair in one direction. Somewhere around seeing Albert Einstein’s statue at the university in Berlin, my chair jerked me so violently that I toppled onto the wet cement. And that’s when I learned that I’m not invincible and I should maybe listen to my limits.

We came home early from Berlin. Actually, I’m pretty sure I remember the conversation going, “Julia, are you okay? I’ve got you, come on,” “No, I’m not okay! I hate this city! The history is sad and they have dumb tourists who puke everywhere and it never stops raining! I can’t do this anymore, let’s just go home”. Now, it retrospect, if I had slowed down, if we had gotten a hotel room, if we took an hour at a coffee shop for me to get a quick nap, if we had done any of those we wouldn’t have just jumped on the next train home. But everyone learns some way and Berlin taught me that when I don’t listen to my limits, I can’t enjoy anything I’m doing. See the full album here

Brandenburger Tor, Berlin Germany
Brandenburger Tor, Berlin Germany
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