The other day the Shane ‘s Inspiration folks (the nice people responsible for building universally accessible parks all over California) call and ask if we ‘ll attend a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting regarding an accessible baseball field. Evidently there was a big brouhaha among the residents about building it at this particular park. I went online the night before and it seems all the older folks who walk around the big lake at Beilensen Park (formerly Lake Balboa) don ‘t want yet another addition to their “passive park”. (Translation: all the “low-income” residents are now crowding their space with barbeques and Mariachi music and pinatas and old cars and making them feel marginalized. I get that. Sometimes it’s hard to live all together.) I read their complaints (while fantasizing I was Judge Wopner; I do that a lot.) I also read through the exhaustive Army Corps of Engineers report that refuted all of their arguments (it won ‘t block the view of the lake, it won ‘t scare the birds in the sanctuary, a blind person won ‘t fall in the lake because it ‘s 50 feet away from the field, etc.) I show up to this extravaganza armed only with my wheelchair-bound son, his service dog and my well-worn tennis shoes. (If I ‘d known it was going to be such a formal affair I would have brushed my teeth. Heck, I would have brushed the dog’s teeth.) As I sign in at the table, a woman asks if I ‘m there for the baseball park. When I answer in the affirmative she says crisply, “You ‘re against it, right?” No, I say, thinking this should be fairly obvious given the company I keep. “But it ‘s so peaceful here!” she pleads. “Why?” With a simple hand gesture (not that one, but I did think of it) I indicate my wheelchair-bound child. She launches into her well-I-worked-with-special-needs-kids-for-years and I-have-friend-that ‘s-disabled and I ‘m-for-the-park-I-just-don ‘t-think-it-should-be-here speech with great fervor. I listen politely, then say, “I agree with you. It probably be should be someplace else. But everyone else said “no”. She stopped dead. She puddled up and scurried off. After we were seated, she came back, sat down next to me and told me she was changing her speech to a “yes.” One down, 99 to go. We go through the whole long, boring meeting (I tried to make it a civics lesson for my son Cole) which included people retiring and getting plaques and other city-related agenda items. When our hot button topic finally came up, it was revealed that there were 25 members of the public waiting to speak. 21 of them were opposed. We were all given one minute. I was called third. What on earth could I say to these people, clad in my sensible mom t-shirt and plus-size denim skirt? They clearly did not want us there and I tell you: fuming seniors are not to be trifled with. So I figured my best bet was to say “please.” I rolled Cole up to the podium, his beloved assistance dog Ilia faithfully trotting alongside. I thanked them all for the opportunity to speak. I told them I had read their complaints online (I felt it best to leave out the Wopner part) and that I understood why they were so upset. I told them that I knew they were in no way against an accessible baseball park, they just didn ‘t want it there. The problem, I said, was that everyone says that. Everyone says, “not in my backyard.” And as a result, Los Angeles is nearly 160 years old with a population of over 10 million people (thanks, Wikipedia) and has not one accessible baseball park because EVERYONE says, “yes, but not here.” My son, who will soon be 12, has never played baseball. I have paid taxes on baseball parks for years that he cannot use. I took a deep breath and tried to speak with all the kindness in my heart. And so, I said, I ‘m here today to say: may we please share your beautiful lake. May we please share your lovely birds. May we please share this wonderful park. Silence. Feeling deflated, I wheeled Cole back to our seats, Ilia padding along side. I listened as angry citizen after angry citizen said “Put it across the street!” “Put it at the north end of the park!” “Put it on the friggin’ moon!” (not really, but you could just tell they wanted to say it SO BADLY.) Finally, the last person spoke. And then the room (at least 200 people) went dead silent. After a moment, the Commissioner said, “I move to pass the motion.” A sub-commissioner said, “I second.” And so, The Dodger Dream Field, totally donated by the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be completed at Anthony Bielensen Park by 2011. It will be Los Angeles ‘ first and only wheelchair accessible baseball park. A little milagro, no? August 15, 2009