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By Paul Bendix

Where the Sidewalk Bends

Uploaded: Mar 3, 2014

Having a close-up, wheelchair view of Menlo Park's sidewalks and arid borders I can report firsthand – the poppies are coming. California's state flower, more than drought tolerant, actually seems drought-enthusiastic. Last week it only took a quarter inch of rain to send the blue-green foliage exploding. It's everywhere now, bursting into botanical song, orange blooms already apparent along Live Oak Ave.

As are the cracks. Six decades ago, early in my ambulatory youth, stepping on a sidewalk crack...would break your grandmother's back. I recall putting this adage to an empirical test. Both grandmothers, then living, suffered no orthopedic ill effects. But sidewalk cracks still capture my full attention.

To an absent-minded, generally preoccupied wheelchair driver, they can be perilous. On one section along Roble Avenue, sidewalk sections tilt so steeply that they pose a collision threat. Is it tree roots? Mysterious seismic forces? Was it something I said?

No matter, this is one place for wheelchairs to slow down. Which, unfortunately, I am not in the habit of doing. Fortunately, I have fitted my wheelchair with LED marine work lights. What are these? Actually, I have no idea. I found them on the web. A high-tech engineer neighbor installed them. And now at night I see Menlo Park's downtown sidewalks under merciless illumination.

Better, or worse, people now see me. My wife can spot my wheelchair a block away. Me, I can see everything...perhaps even the future...under the ethereal blue glare of my LED lamps. And at night, the burgeoning poppies at the sidewalk edge take on a ghostly photo-negative quality. I see or I don't see them. What people make of me, I can only imagine. The advance of my wheelchair probably resembles a Caltrans night crew on the move. Still, there are poppies, my grandmother's back remains unbroken...and I am on a roll.