Category Archives: Adventures

Freedom’s Engines

On May 26, I was driving from Colorado Springs back to Denver and noticed, as I neared the Air Force Academy, fighter jets flying in formation over my car.  After contemplating the pros and cons of trying to photograph them through the sunroof as I drove up I-25, I pulled into a restaurant parking lot to take photos and found that many other people had done the same.

Image: people congregate on a concrete patio area facing the mountains while two young girls draw in chalk on the concrete and a young boy strides toward them.

Turns out the Thunderbirds were practicing for an airshow. I had my camera and kit lens and managed to get a couple of OK shots. Memo to self:  if you’re going to drive around Colorado, bring the good lenses.

Image: six fighter jets flying in tight formation with contrails. Image: 6 fighter jets flying in close formation. Image: 4 fighter jets flying in formation seen from below with clouds as the background.

Image: zoomed in photo of underside of fighter jet.

It was breathtaking!  Back when I was a biglaw associate, our firm represented GE in some litigation or another, and a partner I worked with had a big poster of fighter jets on her wall, captioned “Freedom’s Engines.”  My first reaction was that that was sort of cloying — the aerospace engineering equivalent of a big-eye puppy photo — but when I thought more about it I thought, as I did last week watching these amazing pilots of these amazing machines do mind-blowing, stomach-churning maneuvers, I’m really glad these folks are on our side, protecting us.

ADA Defense Counsel Bingo

A hilarious Graduation Bingo card has been making the rounds of Facebook, with squares like “ethnic name is awkwardly pronounced” and “someone in your line of sight is wearing Canucks gear.”  Evidently, the graduation was in Vancouver.

This inspired me to compose ADA Defense Counsel Bingo.  (MS Word version here.)MS Word Version at  Some of these are more common than others; all of these are real.


A [completely fictional] fairy tale

Image: cartoon of Shrek (green ogre in leather vest) and donkey.Once upon a time, there was a young lawyer who was working with a slightly older and much cooler lawyer representing a plaintiff in a civil rights case. The young lawyer and the cool lawyer set out on a journey to a village to the south where the young lawyer and the cool lawyer defended the deposition of their client, taken by a man who was a Well Respected Member of the Bar. During the deposition, the Well Respected Member of the Bar threw a pencil at the cool lawyer.

Time passed and the young lawyer became an old lawyer. She still represented plaintiffs and even though she aged and acquired experience and gray hair, she remained a woman.

Recently, she came before an Elder of the village’s Judicial Tribunal. For the first time since she was a young lawyer, the other attorney was that same Well Respected Member of the Bar from the village to the south. He was older and grayer, and still a man. During the proceeding before the Judicial Tribunal, the Elder posed questions to the once-young-now-old lawyer about her case, using words that showed sympathy, ableism, sexism, and condescension.

After the preceding, the elder asked the Well Respected Member of the Bar about his golf game.

And the once-young-now-old lawyer thought to herself, “I wonder if the Elder of the Judicial Tribunal knows that Well Respected Member of the Bar once threw a pencil at my co-counsel during a deposition.”

The End.

The remodel begins (cue “Jaws” music).

Against all of the sage advice of my brother and sister-in-law, we are undertaking a remodel of our house.  We’ll get a new kitchen, I’ll get a new bathroom, the entire house will get new paint, and we may avoid dying a gory death at the hands of our basement.

We always knew that a previous owner had seriously overestimated his handyperson abilities, resulting in charming features like The Cardboard Wall and The Wood Paneling from Hell. These monstrosities lived in the basement, though, and since it’s inaccessible, we mainly interact with it when I do laundry or putter in the many boxes of documents I salvaged from my Dad’s house in 1997.  Very occasionally we have house guests who stay in the bedroom down there; understandably, not many have stayed twice.

Because we largely ignore our basement, it wasn’t until the remodel demo crew started taking apart the basement “walls” that we learned just how bad it was.

Instead of taking dramatic before

Image: cave entrance

and after

Image:  garish mansion

remodel photos, I thought I would take pictures of a couple of the more startling hacks.

Image:  close up of electrical casing attached by bent nails to hacked up 2x4

Image:  close up of several layers of pieces of wood nailed together - and splitting -- on the side of a wall.

Image:  several layers of pieces of wood nailed together - and splitting -- on the side of a wall.

The guy demo’ing the basement remarked, of one amateurishly framed wall, that we were lucky the ceiling had not fallen in.

As if on cue, the level of entropy here generally is going through the roof.  It’s like the house knows help is on the way, and is shedding its old skin.  The vent in my office is coming apart.

Image:  an old metal heating grate, taped to the wall with green duct tape, held open with a wire coat hanger.

The bricks next to the garage, slated for repointing,* collapsed just a little yesterday.

Image:  Close up of 5 or 6 bricks with mortar attached, on the ground next to a brick wall.

And in a piece of sympathetic entropy, our toaster died today. I think we’ll soon be huddled in the middle of the living room, cooking over a fire made from burning our furniture.


*Whatever that is.  Our contractor says it authoritatively when I ask for the bricks to look better, so I’m guessing it’s a procedure for making bricks look better.

Access success and fail in Helena, with random Helena photos

I spent part of last week in Helena, Montana on a new/old case in which CREEC is joining the ACLU National Prison Project and the ACLU of Montana as co-counsel on the case of Langford v. Bullock.  The Langford case was brought and settled in the early 1990s, but the implementation period is ongoing with respect to a claim under Title II of the ADA.  CREEC is lending its expertise in this area.

Image:  four people standing arm in arm.  From left:  a middle aged white man with red-blond hair and a gray goatee wearing a tan suit jacket and open collar shirt, an younger middle-eastern man with short hair wearing a button down shirt, a young white woman in a gray t-shirt and blue scarf, and a middle aged white woman in a yellow shirt and multi-colored scarf.

Jon Ellingson of the Montana ACLU, Ajmel Quereshi of the ACLU NPP, and CREECsters Sarah Morris and me.

Sarah and I flew into Missoula, met with Jon and Ajmel, and then all drove over to Helena.  The meeting went well, and left me a few hours of Wednesday afternoon for a leisurely stroll around Helena.  As I’ve mentioned — among other places, in my Ramps of Route 1 post — I love to observe the small ways that small town small businesses find to provide access.*

First up:  Taco del Sol on Last Chance Gulch Street.**  I love not only their tile ramp

Photo:  Sidewalk sign showing a big, wooden sun with attached smaller signs reading "Tacos Burritos Nachos Fish Tacos and more" and another reading "Beer and Wine."  Next to the sign, a door into a restaurant with a sloped tile ramp leading in.

but that, even as a small restaurant, they made Braille menus available.

Photo:  wooden box containing menus; a sign on the side reads "Braille menus are available for in-store use."

Also the carne asada burrito was fantastic!

Last Chance Gulch was a sort of pedestrian mall that did a great job ensuring the one or two steps of rise at most stores was ramped.  The giant plush bear added an extra touch at the Lasso the Moon toy store.

Photo:  front of a toy store with a large stuffed bear, accessible with a sloped entryway.

And accessible ice cream!


Helena had a couple of hilarious access fails, as well.  Flower pot access fail:

Photo of two-way ramp in front of the door to an office building with a giant flower pot at the top of the ramp.

Pink flamingo access fail:

Photo of store with level entry, which put a flower pot in the door, and in the flower pot, a large plastic pink flamingo which is pitching face first into the door width.

And major design brain fart fail:

Photo showing ramp down to lowered area of pedestrian mall; there is a single step up to the ramp, however.

The photos below were just randomness from my walk:

Photo of moorish style design in an arch at the Civic Center. Photo of detail from a painted outdoor wall showing an ashtry with a half-smoked cigarette. Photo of a brick wall and text painted on the adjacent wall reading, "Memory Wall:  The Historic Chinese Community of Helena." Photo of large red pickup truck with the license plate "BG JNSN."

And my photos could not capture the beauty of the mountains, but I tried:



*  As with the original post, I have to offer this disclaimer, because every now and again some defense-side attorney (hi, guys!) may read this:  I did not evaluate these ramps for compliance with the Standards.  I don’t know their dimensions or slope.  If you try to introduce this as evidence in one of my cases, I will file a Motion for Judicial Notice of Completely Missing the Point.

** Not kidding!

Photo:  traffic light and street sign reading "Last Chance Gulch."

Summer Camp 1973

When I saw Mighty Girl’s post on Rosie’s Girls summer camp, “a trades exploration day camp for school girls” where girls can learn welding, carpentry, auto repair, etc., I was moved to comment (on Facebook) that I wish this had been an option for me instead of figure skating camp. I thought I’d expound.

Yes, figure skating camp. But first, I got to spend a summer attending the Flint Hill Day Camp, where (IIRC) we spent up to six hours each day making plastic lanyards. I’m confident that there must have been other activities, but that’s the only one I recall. I loved it just as much as you would expect a nerdy introvert to love engaging in six hours a day of non-book-oriented activities with random unfamiliar kids.

By the time I was 12, I was launched on my figure skating career, which was ultimately as successful as you would expect for a klutzy nerdy introvert, but did provide good money-making opportunities in college, teaching private lessons to local kids. But back to skating camp. In 1973, there was no year-round ice rink in the DC area, and the Skating Club of Wilmington ran a summer program for skaters of a wide range of abilities, from Olympic trainees to klutzy kids from locations without year-round rinks.  So off I went.

Image:  The side of a building, painted white, with large letters spelling out "Skating Club of Wilmington."

Activities consisted of skating, hanging around the skating rink, and hanging around the dorm. When I think of the sort of enrichment and structure that my friends expect from their kids’ camps these days, I don’t think they envision the sort of enrichment and structure the Wilmington summer skating program dorm provided:

Image:  young white woman in a white halter top shirt is sitting on the top bunk of a bunk bed with a white man, 20-30 years old, wearing a Budweiser t-shirt and jeans, and drinking from a can of Budweiser beer.Image:  white man, 20-30 years old, wearing a Budweiser t-shirt and jeans, and holding a can of Budweiser beer shares a chair with a young white woman in a white halter top shirt.

The back of the photo reads, “Laurie and Dr. John.”  So, yes, one of my dorm-mates — already much older than me — had a much older, beer-drinking boyfriend who had dubbed himself “Dr. John.”

What’s amazing is that — at 12 — I wasn’t even the youngest kid living parentless in this enriching environment.

Image:  white woman in white halter top sitting on the floor of a dorm room eating watermelon and sharing it with four young white girls, apparently ranging in age from around 7 to perhaps 12.

More of my hall-mates.

Image:  group photo in a dorm hallway, including 7 white girls ranging in age from 12 to 20, a 20-30 year old man (Dr. John), and a black teen-ager.

The back of that photo reads, “Laurie, Jill Cosgrove, Carrie Applegate, Amy Keilly, Bruno, Patti Downst.”  Through the miracle of Google, I learn that Jill Cosgrove went on to have a successful career as a figure skater and choreographer.   Couldn’t find the others.

Since I was the photographer, there are — sadly — no photos of me.  Wait, what?  No.  That’s not me.  No way.  Seriously?

Image:  two approximtely 12-year-old white girls in pyjamas in a dorm room, one sitting on a bed, the other standing by a desk with a toothbrush.

I also found this one, of me with my coach, Uschi Keszler, whom I totally idolized and who turns out — who knew?* — to be minorly famous herself, complete with Wikipedia page.

Image:  white woman with short, frosted white-blond hair, perhaps 30 years old, wearing a tourquoise polyester suit jacket with a young white girl with brown hair holding a stuffed lobster plush toy.

Yes, I’m holding a toy lobster.  Deal with it.

I tend not to have very fond memories of the whole skating camp experience.  It was my choice — my parents were not stage parents, though God knows the skating world had plenty of those — but in retrospect I’ve come to believe that neither the program nor figure skating in general was a very healthy experience.   It was a world that encouraged kid vs. kid (generally girl vs. girl) competition, with no sense of teamwork.  We heard rumors of kids ruining each other’s skates or program tapes before big competitions.  And, at bottom, I just sucked at it.  So wish there had been a Photography and Reading for Introverted Klutzes camp.  My peeps!

But going back through the photos made me remember a couple of other cool things (besides the early introduction to wardrobe-coordinated beer drinking).  Wilmington, in 1973, had a number of blind skaters.  One, Stash Serafin, shown here in my 1973 photo,

Image:  Young white man in patterned shirt and red warm-up jacket poses in front of a sign-board listing dances by name ("waltz, tango, blues").


has (thanks again, Google!) gone on to have a successful skating career.



And finally, in 1973, you could get an entire basket of fries for 35 cents!

Image:  snack bar with white woman in apron behind the counter.  Sign reads French Fries 35 cents.



*Well, I suppose many Germans whom she represented in the Olympics knew, but I was stunningly unaware of who she was.  In retrospect, I can only imagine her thinking — watching me skate — “I left my homeland for THIS?”


We got to meet the President!

Image:  President Obama next to Tim Fox (white man in suit and tie sitting in wheelchair) and Amy Robertson (white woman in suit and scarf).

For all the griping I hear on the left and right, I remain a huge fan.  It was an amazing moment for me, so I’ll be enforcing a “Thumper Rule” for comments:  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Extra bonus Father’s Day waffle photo

Image:  older white man in a flowered shirt sitting at an outdoor restaurant table, smiling with his arms outstretched.  On the table in front of him is a plate of waffles and bacon, with ice cream on top.

My father-in-law Denver Fox celebrates Father’s Day by ordering*

Image: cropped photo of menu item: "Bananas Foster Waffle: Buttermilk Waffle, Banana Rum Caramel Sauce, Pecans, Pecanwood Bacon"

with a side of whiskey brickle ice cream.  Because Father’s Day!

Tim and I had an amazing omelet with a crawfish pepper sauce.

None of us ordered but all of us were entertained by

Image: cropped photo of menu item:  "Gator Benedict: Alligator Sausage, Johnny Cakes, Marinated Green Tomatoes, Poached Eggs, Hurricane Hollandaise, House Potatoes."

All at Fourteen Seventy-Two on South Pearl Street in Denver.


* I had to find a way to include the name of the dish, because I kept reading it “Bananas Foster Wallace.”  You too, right?

Yes, this was a business trip.

This post is a long-overdue recognition of the amazing work Kmart has done to make its stores more accessible.  But perhaps I was just waiting for the opportunity to include the words — and a photo — “crocodile statue.”*

Once upon a time … yes I feel like the roots of this post are sufficiently deep in the past that it justifies that opening.  Once upon a time, there was a chain of department stores, many of which were pretty inaccessible.

{Image:  A woman in a wheelchair wheeling away from the camera down a store aisle, the sides of which are clutered with boxes and a hand-truck.}

We sued them.  A class was certified.  The company declared bankruptcy.  The company emerged from bankruptcy.  No one, including the judge, could figure out the status of the litigation.  Many motions with creative titles were exchanged.  The company hired new lawyers, then more new lawyers.  And then, finally, in 2006, the case settled.

In the settlement, Kmart undertook to survey all of its then-1,500 stores over eight years and bring them largely into compliance with the DOJ Standards.  They also committed to make rack spacing more accessible and — this  was crucial — to maintain the stores so that people who use wheelchairs could get around them.

Kmart and its team threw themselves into the project with skill and enthusiasm.  It has been a privilege to work with Lori Miller, from the general counsel’s office, and Mark Conway, from the construction side.  Although we spent days during the settlement negotiation laboring over a dispute resolution process, there has not be a single dispute that required access to that process.

OK, I’m rambling without getting to the crocodile part of the blog.

As part of the settlement process, several times each year, Mark and Tim and I travel to a city and survey three or four Kmart stores, both for the accuracy of the physical fixes and the maintenance of the fixes and the accessibility of the stores in general.  We’ve traveled to such glamor spots as Riverside, CA, and Schaumberg, IL.  This time we tossed out the idea of surveying stores in the Florida Keys and, well, here we are!

We surveyed three stores, all remodeled pretty early in the process, and found them to be very accessible.  There were, as always, a couple of notes, but we were very impressed both by the number of fixes that were being maintained and the general accessibility of the stores.  That latter feature has been a consistent source of delight when we do these surveys and when I simply enter a Kmart store:  they have taken seriously the commitment to making the store more navigable in a wheelchair, one of the primary complaints motivating the litigation.  When we started the litigation, there were many aisles in many stores that looked like the one at the top of this post.  Now that scene is very rare.

But what made these surveys especially fun was the added Florida Keys flavoring.

{Image:  orange and blue plastic kayaks displayed in front of a Kmart store.}


{Image:  Coral Cactus, that is, a cactus plant that is wavy and looks like coral.}

I think I’m going to order the Crocodile Statue from  Hope it’s still on sale!

{Image: : Cardboard packing box with the words "crocodile statue" on the outside.}


{Image:  A garden-sized statue of a crocodile.}

Most Kmart stores have a Garden Center; the one in Marathon — uniquely — had a Fishing Center

{Image:  Exterior of a large brick building with red letters that read "Fishing Center."}

What would be the entire garden center area of an ordinary Kmart was given over to fishing gear and — given our lead plaintiff’s love for fishing — Carrie should be happy to know it was very accessible.

{Image:  on the right side of the photo, the display racks on one side of an aisle of a Kmart store, all showing fishing gear of various types.  The left side of the photo showing a clear path down the aisle.}


But my favorite feature of this store was the giant ocean mural on the front.



{Image:  close up of part of the mural showing a single teal-colored fish.}

{Image:  close up of part of the mural showing a five small teal-colored fish.}

This led to my unsolicited but genius design idea:  paint the floor of the main drive loop aisle around the store like a lazy river pool full of tropical fish!  Wouldn’t that make shopping more fun?  I did originally suggest sharks — hey, I’m a lawyer, what did you expect? — but the store manager pointed out that that might scare the kids.  Good point.  But what kid wouldn’t love to go shopping when they could walk on a stream full of tropical fish?  Imagine the fun this could be around the country:  ski slopes in Colorado; beaches in California; forest scenes in New England.  Maybe I have a future in store design!



* Edited to correct typos.  I originally had “crocodile statute.”  Once a law nerd; always a law nerd!  (Thanks, Terri!)