Sunday, May 20, 2018

Cripple Bonding Events



A lot of times, when crippledness invades a person’s life, that person will take something they loved doing before they were crippled and try to make it accessible for other cripples to do. Often they put together a non-profit organization and hustle up a bunch of volunteers and have a big bonding event where cripples get together and do that thing. It’s their way of coping. It’s part of their healing process. They focus on the positive side of being crippled and try to get others, especially young cripplets, to do the same.

Like for instance, if a bungee jumper becomes crippled, he/she might organize an extravaganza for wheelchair bungee jumpers. The volunteers tie bungee cords around the cripples’ ankles, push their wheelchairs up to the cliff and dump them out.

I’ve seen a lot of hunting lovers who organize bonding events for crippled hunters. Cripples roll around in these motorized hunting wheelchairs that have tank treads for tires. And the wheelchairs are painted camouflage. And cripples have hunting rifles mounted on the chairs. They look like some sort of crippled militia. Even if I liked hunting, I’d be afraid to take part in one of those cripple hunting trips. I’d be afraid that, just my luck, one of those Big Foot bounty hunters would see me rolling through the woods in one of those chairs with tank treads and he’d sneak up behind me, throw a net over me and then whoop and holler about finally catching the big prize!

These events don’t have nostalgic appeal to me because I was born crippled so I never went hunting or anything like that so I don’t miss it. But I try to focus on the positive side of my crippledness in a different way. I try to pause every now and then and remind myself how fortunate I am that there are some things I can’t do.

I’m especially grateful for those things I can't do that get me off the hook for doing shit I don’t want to do. Like when I was kid, being crippled gave me a good excuse not to go to church or Sunday school. My uncrippled peers were so damn envious. And later on, being crippled was a guarantee that I wouldn’t be drafted. And my uncrippled peers were even more envious.

Hell, even today, being crippled gives me any excuse for the saying fuck everything and collecting Social Security if I want to.

If I was going organize a cripple bonding event, I’d gather a bunch of cripples to not do something together. Like maybe while everybody else is in church, we’d all go hang out somewhere, anywhere, just so it’s not church.

It would remind us that inability, not ability, is what really matters.


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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Viva Greg Smith

Baseball reminds me of Greg Smith. In the 1990s, Greg created a cripple-themed, syndicated radio talk show called On a Roll. At its peak it was aired on 70 radio stations across the U.S.

In the early 2000s, I was his producer. We brainstormed about show topics and guests. Sometimes we went on the air together. It was big fun.

Greg was an enormous Chicago Cubs fan, even more so than me. One day we were talking about the hundreds of hours we’ve spent throughout our lives watching baseball on television. And Greg says, “When they show shots of the crowd, have you ever seen anybody in a wheelchair?” I didn’t have to think about that for long. The answer was no.

That was a keen observation on Greg’s part. I’m sure there are cripples at every major league ballgame. There have been others besides me at every game I’ve ever attended. So why did we never see them on television? The only explanation was that whoever decides which crowd shots make it on the air was consciously avoiding showing any cripples. What else could it be? I don’t think there was a memo from the baseball commissioner’s office stating, “Under no circumstances are you to show any cripples in your crowd shots.” No, it was more likely that there was a subconscious consensus among broadcasters that aesthetically-pleasing shots of fans having fun at the ballpark don’t include any cripples.

Greg wrote, “My parents have shared with me their reflection on a day when televisions were ‘black & white,’ but that phrase didn’t represent the people ‘inside’ the box. When the first black people came on television, it was a big deal!

“Families rushed to gather around the tiny, blurry picture in festive mode. It was a great thrill for them to see people who looked like them represented for the nation to see. Television became a major catalyst that paved the way to the explosion of African American culture’s current status as a vital part of pop culture.

“In order for people with disabilities to develop the social confidence to reach our full potential and put our spin on pop culture, we need to be seen on television. That’s a prerequisite first step.

“Are we not shown on TV because we’re too repulsive? Ugly? Deformed? Misshapen? Depressing to non-disabled viewers? Would we make people grab their remotes and turn the station?”

So Greg started an initiative called ADA Fan Cam. He asked crippled baseball fans to send him pictures of themselves at major league baseball games so he could use that to
pressure the brass at MLB headquarters to show crippled fans in the stands at games on July 26, 2015 and to have all broadcasters acknowledge that day as the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The good news is MLB acquiesced and on that day people watching games on television all over the country saw crippled fans in crowd shots and heard announcers honor the ADA.

Greg said, “This is a huge step. Now maybe it will be normal to see a fan with a disability once in a while during a ballgame.”

But the real bad news is that Greg died the following June, just a few months before the Cubs won the damn World Series! MLB broadcasts did not show crippled fans or commemorate the ADA on the next ADA anniversary day. And I’ve watched a lot of baseball games since then and haven’t seen a cripple in a crowd shot. Apparently the 2015 ADA celebration was all just tokenism.

So I guess in order to honor my buddy Greg’s legacy by being seen on television at a ballgame, I’m going to have to run out on the field naked. (Maybe I’ll wear the cap of the home team.) That seems like the only way to get the camera crews to stop ignoring me.

It won’t be easy. Any uncrippled mope only has to jump over the wall if they want to run out on the field. I can’t do that. So I’ll have to pretend like it’s a make-a-wish thing—my greatest fantasy is to circle the bases during the 7th inning stretch.

That way, security will escort me onto the field. I’ll need an accomplice—somebody to whip my clothes off me quick once I’m on the field. That person will probably be promptly arrested. Police often do that when I’m out protesting with other cripples. Instead of arresting us, they grab the closest vert (which is short for vertical, which is cripple slang for people who walk.)

But it’s all for a great cause. With his ADA Fan Cam Campaign, Greg got a lot of people thinking about cripples and who we are, even if just for a minute or two. Now it’s time to take it to a new level.



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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Desegregate the Special Olympics

I looked in a thesaurus in search of antonyms for the word special. The most humorous ones I found are humdrum, mediocre, ordinary, run of the mill, no great shakes, undistinctive, everyday, unexceptional and routine.

I did this because this year is the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics. Thus, I’m looking for a contrasting word to describe those other Olympics that come around every four years. Should I call them the humdrum Olympics? That’s funny but not accurate. It implies that those Olympics are boring compared to the Special Olympics. How about the mediocre Olympics? Inaccurate again. It suggests that those other Olympics are athletically inferior. That’s the problem with the word special when applied to cripples. Suddenly it takes on the opposite meaning. It becomes kind of an insult.

I guess I’ll call them the regular Olympics, for lack of a better word. It’s been a nice run for the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics has created a higher level of understanding, many people say. Maybe so, but now it’s time to create an even higher level of understanding by merging the Special Olympics with the regular Olympics.

Every regular Olympic competition ought to be required to include a Special Olympian. And I don’t mean Special Olympians wrestling each other. No way! I mean regular wrestling Special, mano a mano. And none of this condescending shit either, where the regular wrestler puts on a big heroic act and lets the Special guy pin him. I’m talking about full-out, testosterone-fueled, genuine wrestling. And if the Special guy gets thrown into the audience, well then we’ve created a higher level of understanding. That’s what it takes sometimes. Creating higher levels of understanding ain't easy. And if the regular guy gets thrown into the audience, even better!

Or we could require the regulars to engage the Specials on the Specials’ terms. Like let’s make all the basketball players get in wheelchairs. Then watch all those leaping superstar regulars like LeBron bumble all over the place while the real cripples zip around and make them dizzy. Who’s so fucking special now?

Or it could be a cooperative thing where a regular and a Special team up for the common good. Like luge could be done the same way some people do skydiving, where someone who has never jumped out of a plane is tied to a pro skydiver. The pro skydiver pulls the ripcord and does all the work and all the other person has to do is try not to shit their pants. Similarly, a Special Olympian can be tied to a regular Olympian on a luge and they can hurdle through the snowy channel together as one.

My point is there are a lot of ways to merge the Special Olympics and regular Olympics so let’s get on with it. Hey, this is 20-fucking-18! There’s no excuse for segregation.





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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Evil Spirits


If you see a single-family home that was built to be accessible for a wheelchair cripple, you know that either a) someone who lives there is a wheelchair cripple or b) someone who is important to someone who lives there is a wheelchair cripple.

I suppose it’s also slightly possible that whoever lives there is neither a wheelchair cripple nor gives a particular crap about anyone who is but they bought the house anyway because it was super cheap. And the reason it was super cheap is because it was built to be accessible for a wheelchair cripple. Making a house accessible for a wheelchair cripple lowers the value of that house and all the other houses around it, or at least that’s what a lot of people seem to think.

You'd think it would be the other way around. You'd think being wheelchair cripple accessible would be as much of a selling point for a house as an outdoor patio. When my Aunt Gerry bought a condo, she bought one that my sister and I could get into with our wheelchairs. And it turned out to be a damn good thing that she did because she ended up needing a wheelchair to get around eventually. The one thing she wanted more than anything else was to stay out of a fucking nursing home and she did. But if her condo hadn’t been wheelchair cripple accessible, she would’ve been screwed.

You’d think everybody would want to do sensible shit like that. Build houses where wheelchair cripple access is a standard feature, just in case. Why not? What does it hurt? But most people seem to think that when building or buying a house, the more wheelchair cripple inaccessible it is the better.

I think what’s going on here is an evil spirits type of thing. Sometimes people put grotesques or gargoyles or voodoo-looking scarecrow thingies on or around their houses to scare away evil spirits. It seems like a lot of people think that making wheelchair cripples feel unwelcome will make crippledness itself feel unwelcome and thus dissuade it from invading the household. I’m surprised they don't put tire-shredding spikes by the front door, as an extra line of defense.

But then, in spite of all that effort, someone in the household becomes crippled anyway and then they’re screwed. Because you can’t scare crippledness away. But you can outsmart it.





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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Mightiest



Back when I was a criplet attending cripple summer camp, there was an adult woman also attending summer camp who was so crippled that they rolled her around on a gurney. She was so crippled she couldn’t even sit up

I admit she freaked me out, even though she didn’t have fangs or anything. She seemed like a normal woman, except she rolled around on a gurney. She freaked me out because she was so crippled. I was glad I wasn’t that crippled.

But now there are days when I really wish I was that crippled. Those are the days when I’m protesting. On those days, if I was so crippled that I rolled around on a gurney, I’d feel so powerful.

Yep, if that was me I’d be marching through the streets with my gurney all done up like a float. And hanging on both sides of my gurney I'd have big banners saying stuff like FUCK REPUBLICANS.

And I'd be sure to always carry along a couple sets of shackles so that the people pushing my gurney could shackle me to the White House fence. That ought to make a few headlines, especially if I got arrested. Or my pushers could shackle me to the desk of some fascist lawmaker. Because there’s nothing every lawmaker dreads more than their secretary calling them and saying, “I’m sorry to bother you but there’s a man so crippled that he rolls around on a gurney shackled to your desk.”

And when I wasn’t protesting in the streets, I’d be trying to organize other people so crippled that they roll around on gurneys to come protest with me. Because the only thing that scares the shit out of a lawmaker more than the sight of a guy so crippled he rolls around on a gurney coming their way is the sight of a flotilla of people so crippled they roll around on gurneys coming their way.

When I protest, I’m very tempted fake like I’m so crippled I roll around on a gurney. I’d do it up big time, with a fake IV and all. But no doubt some right wing news outfit, threatened by my awesome power, will expose me as a fake. And that will be used to discredit all those who are legitimately so crippled they roll around on gurneys.

So for now I just have to accept the fact that I’m not yet so crippled I roll around on a gurney. I’ll just be patient and let nature take its course and maybe someday I’ll be that powerful.




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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Crippled Fools Throughout the Centuries




If I wasn’t crippled, I don’t know if I would be a smart ass. Probably not. I think the two go hand in hand.

It’s the result of thousands of years of cripple evolution. It’s natural selection. I believe that the cripples that have survived the best throughout time are the ones that have the fool gene

Because there have always been cripples like me. They didn’t just invent us in the 20th Century. I imagine that cripples way way back in the days of yore had a pretty rough time of it. No wheelchairs, no nothing. How would a cripple like me survive? I bet the only ones who had a fighting chance were the ones that played the fool.

They probably smothered cripples like me way back when or left us for dead. I mean, they still do that today in some places. But somewhere along the line, some cripple, in a desperate, last-ditch effort to stay alive, probably made a goofy face or gimped it up real good or told a fart joke and everybody laughed. And everybody realized that maybe this particular cripple might have a little bit of worth after all. Maybe we should keep this one around for a little while. Everybody needs a good laugh, eh?

Yeah, I imagine that for many centuries, fool was about the only job option open to cripples, except for beggar. But begging is a dead end job. There’s no upward mobility. Being a fool, on the other hand, could be a path to true economic freedom. A particularly gifted crippled fool might maybe even rise to level of court jester. And then he’d get to live in the castle, summoned only when the king has a craving for shtick. Being crippled might even be considered a selling point when applying for the job of court jester. The king could brag to the other kings that his fool is no ordinary fool. His fool has a gimmick.

Back in those days, playing the fool was a very high stakes job. If your material fell flat and you were fired, you were back to being just another worthless cripple. For me today, being able to play the fool is a bonus, more or less. It still comes in handy. Like for instance, sometimes I have to hire a new person to join my pit crew, which is the team of people who assist me in my home. It’s not the greatest job, but it’s not the worst job either. Ass wiping and crotch washing are essential job duties. But I tell people it’s got to be better than the working at the 7-11 downstairs. It pays a little more and you don’t have to put up with corporate bullshit.

I find that one of the main things that makes people decide to join my pit crew and stick around is that I can tell a decent fart joke. It gives me an edge on the competition.

That why whenever I post a want ad for a pit crew member, in order to find people on the right wavelength, I always say that applicants must “have an appreciation for fart jokes.”




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Monday, April 2, 2018

Yet Another Ask Smart Ass Cripple

Dear Smart Ass Cripple,
I must take vehement exception to one of your entries, in which you referred to our current American president as an “anal wart.” How dare you! This characterization is unfair, inaccurate and ill-informed. On behalf of all decent Americans, I demand a retraction!
Yours in fury,
The Spokesman for all Decent Americans


Dear Spokesman,
Your letter caused me to engage in a great deal of reflection, which brought me to the sobering realization that I did indeed call our chief executive an anal wart without having a full understanding of what an anal wart is. So you are correct in asserting that I was ill-informed.

After studying up on anal warts on the internet, I’ve learned that there are some striking similarities between anal warts and the president. For instance, one site described anal warts as “cauliflower-like” in appearance. And there is something vaguely cauliflower-like about our president.

And, much like our president, anal warts are irritating and unsightly and embarrassing and a pain in the ass. But there is a significant difference. For the most part, anal warts aren’t lethal. Sometimes they develop into cancer, but not as a rule. Our president, on the other hand, is a cultural cancer that is 100 percent lethal. Unless excised as soon as possible, we’re all doomed.

So I hereby offer this retraction. I should not have referred to POTUS 45 as an anal wart. It was unfair, inaccurate and ill-informed. I should have called him a malignant anal wart.


Dear Smart Ass Cripple,
Do you consider yourself to be an artist? If so, when did you feel you could call yourself that?
Sincerely,
Art N. Kraft


Dear Art,
I definitely do call myself an artist. I knew I was an artist ever since I was an adolescent living at a state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT).

I participated in an art contest. The creation of my masterpiece began when I rolled a paper drinking straw in a pool of Elmer's glue. Then I rolled the straw in red glitter and glued the glittery straw to a piece of green paper. And finally, I squirted streaks of Elmer's all over the green paper and sprinkled them over with more glitter.

I didn't give my sparkling abstract a title as I recall. I should have called it Nude on the Beach or Self Portrait. But it was displayed along with the work of all the other contestants on the windows of the nurse’s station and I won the grand prize, which was a whiffle football and kicking tee.

This is why I feel justified in calling myself an artist, though I no longer have the whiffle football to prove it.


Dear Smart Ass Cripple,
I’m sure you’ve heard the old admonition that masturbation will make you go blind. Is this true or is it just a wives tale? I figured you’d know.
Yours truly,
A Worried Catholic


Dear Worried Catholic,
All I can say is I’ve known many blind people in my life and every last one of them masturbated at some point. I’ve never asked any of them if they’ve ever masturbated. I just assume they all have and probably still do, seeing as they’re all human beings.





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