Monday, July 17, 2017

And Then There Was That Time Winston Churchill Almost Got Punched Out in the Parking Lot of the Waffle House

Whenever I travel, I like to go to exotic places. That’s why I went to the Waffle House.

There aren’t any Waffle Houses in these parts. I don’t know why. I guess we’re just not part of the Waffle House’s key demographic up here.

But anyway, I was caravanning with some other guys to a cripple protest in Atlanta. There were four or five of us wheelchair cripples and a few verts (which is short for verticals, which is slang for people who can walk.) We spent the night somewhere in Tennessee. There was a Waffle House across the parking lot from our hotel. The lure was too much to resist, though I must admit that I felt some consternation about going there with a flock of cripples. I wasn’t sure how welcome cripples would be at the Waffle House. I didn’t think we were part of their key demographic.

But there was a ramp on the front entrance of the Waffle House, and a reasonable one at that. It wasn’t one of those steep and winding Evel Knievel ramps. Inside, the Waffle House was pretty much the Formica palace I expected it to be. And I survived the breakfast. I don’t remember what I ate, but I have a vague memory of it being greasy and fried.

So all in all it was undramatic, until we left and discovered that someone parked a pickup truck so that it was completely blocking the ramp. The truck was rusty and dusty and had an NRA bumper sticker. We were pissed. One of the wheelchair cripples rolled back inside. I shall refer to this cripple with an alias. Let’s call him Winston Churchill. So Winston Churchill rolled back inside and asked who the hell parked blocking the damn wheelchair ramp. This guy got up from a stool at the counter. He wore a cowboy hat and a Jack Daniels belt buckle. He walked outside and moved the truck away from the ramp. Winston Churchill and all the other cripples rolled down the ramp, except me. I stopped to look at the front page of a newspaper in a vending box by the front door.

And then the Jack Daniels guy put his truck right back where it was, blocking the ramp. Winston Churchill was really pissed now. When the Jack Daniels guy got out of his truck, Winston Churchill got all up in his face and said something like, “You’re still blocking the ramp, douche bag!”

The Jack Daniels guy was pissed now, too, and he said something back like, “Ain’t nobody who needs that ramp gonna be coming here before I’m finished eating!”

“What about him?” Winston Churchill said, pointing to me.

The Jack Daniels guy stomped back to his truck and backed it away from the ramp. I rolled down. When the Jack Daniels guy got back out of his truck, he slammed the door and got all up in Winston Churchill’s face. He said, “You know what, boy? Someday, with that mouth of yours, somebody’s gonna knock you out of that wheelchair. They ain’t gonna care if you’re handicapped!”

“Oh yeah?” said Winston Churchill. “Go ahead! Punch me!”

“It ain’t gonna be me! But someday!” said the Jack Daniels guy. His face was red. He shook a finger of warning at Winston Churchill and stomped back inside the Waffle House.

But at least his truck wasn’t blocking the ramp anymore.



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Friday, July 7, 2017

My Mother's Only Spa Vacation

My chair is tilted back into the full reclining position. Soft music plays. A young woman approaches me. Her smiling face hovers above. She asks if I’m comfortable. I say yes. She places sunglasses over my eyes. I close my eyes and try to relax. For the next half hour or so, I’m letting everything go. I’m not going to worry about how the governor is fucking cripples over. I’m not going to worry about Medicaid. For the next half hour, I can’t do anything about those things. I am going to treat myself to some sweet disengagement.

I’m settled in and comfy. I’m even getting drowsy. “Are you ready?” the young woman says. I say yes. “Open your mouth,” she says. I open my mouth. And then she starts scraping my teeth. This is the part I don’t like. A trip to the dental hygienist would be like a trip to the spa if I could skip the annoying dental hygiene part. I love the submissive recline position and the sunglasses. (That lamp that illuminates my face so the hygienist can see what she's doing sure is bright.) But I could do without her poking around in my mouth. I wish she was feeding me grapes instead. I wish the water she was squirting in my mouth was a pina colada in a ceramic pineapple.

And now I know how my mother felt. When I was about 10 years old, she sent my sister and me off to a neighbor’s house for a couple weeks while she went to a spa. She packed up her nightgowns, novels, crosswords puzzles. She told me how much she was looking forward to lying in bed and being pampered, not doing any cooking or housework, having meals brought to her room.

Except the spa was the hospital. She was going in for foot surgery. She was raising two crippled kids pretty much by herself and working as a waitress at the Kozy Korner diner. So not much time for herself. This was a good excuse to relax. Respite. Guilt-free detachment. Painkillers. Women like her didn’t get many opportunities to go to spas. They had to create their own. Too bad foot surgery was a mandatory part of the package.

My phone rings. The hygienist abruptly withdraws her fingers from my mouth and asks if I want to answer it. I look at her like she’s nuts. She resumes scraping my teeth. Is she serious? Do some people actually stop to answer their phone in the middle of getting their teeth cleaned? I feel sorry for those people. Don’t they ever relax?




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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Driving in Cripple Mode


Most people don’t naturally drive automobiles in cripple mode. It’s a very specialized thing. Whenever somebody drives me for the first time in my cripple van, I always instruct them thoroughly on how to drive in cripple mode. I tell them since I don’t have good trunk strength or balance, I can be a very floppy passenger. If they start or stop too hard or whip around on turns, I might flop around like a rag doll on a roller coaster. Therefore, until they get a good idea as to exactly what sort of g-forces my body can combat, they should drive as slow as an old lady on barbiturates. Don’t be intimidated by all the other impatient drivers blazing past us at the speed limit.

This is why all this talk about how someday soon there will be nothing but self-driven cars makes me ill. Once again, cripples like me will be left in the dust. It’s only within the last 10 years or so that cabs that are accessible for wheelchair cripples have been appearing with some frequency on the streets of some big cities. When a cripple cab arrives, the driver gets out and deploys a ramp. The cripple boards and then the driver secures the wheelchair to the floor with clamps and straps so that, in the event of an accident, the cripple isn’t catapulted through the windshield, wheelchair and all. And all the cab drivers are trained in the finer points of driving their cabs in cripple mode, though some appear to have resoundingly flunked.

But what happens when all the cripple cabs are self-driven? The invisible chauffeur with be just a warm and welcoming voice coming from the dashboard. It will have a warm and welcoming name such as Emmett. But who’s going to deploy the ramp and tie down the wheelchairs? Okay, maybe all that stuff will be automatic, too. But will I be able to say to my virtual chauffeur, “Emmett, please drive me in cripple mode?” Will it be programmed to do so? I really don’t think so. Emmett will probably go all 2001 on me. He’ll probably say, “I’m sorry, Mike, I'm afraid I can’t do that,” as the cab bolts away from the curb, tires squealing.

And there I’ll be, trapped in a self-driven cripple cab, flopping around like a rag doll on a roller coaster.




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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Thinking About Frankenstein

Whenever I see Barry, I think about Frankenstein. Because Barry walks like Frankenstein. I don’t know if he had a stroke or someone hit him in the head with a hammer or what. I don’t ask. It’s none of my business. But his gait is very heavy-footed, plodding. And when I see Barry struggling to walk down the sidewalk I think about how much happier Barry would be in the long run if he would just ditch the walking bit and get a motorized wheelchair In a motorized wheelchair, he’d be merrily zipping all over the place, his hair flying in the breeze.

And that’s the same thing I think when I think about Frankenstein. Because Frankenstein is crippled, whether he cares to admit it or not. Because the Americans with Disabilities Act says you’re crippled if society perceives you as crippled. And when someone walks like Frankenstein, society sure as hell perceives them as crippled. Therefore, if Frankenstein was alive today, he would be crippled, at least in the U.S.

And if Frankenstein was alive today, I picture him zipping around in a motorized wheelchair, just like I picture Barry, except Frankenstein is zipping around in motorized wheelchair naked. Because let’s face it, even though Frankenstein wasn’t born the same way the rest of us were born, he still must’ve been born naked like the rest of us. So where did that shabby suit come from? Did a tailor come in and fit him? I doubt it.

So that’s why I picture Frankenstein naked. And what sort of shlong would Frankenstein have, you say? Well, it depends on whom you ask. According to cherished stereotypes, some populations of men automatically have enormous schlongs while others automatically have tiny ones. And whereas I don’t believe enough of a consensus has been reached to establish an official stereotype of crippled men vis-à-vis our schlongs, I believe that when the average Joe or Jane secretly wonders about the genitalia of cripples, they picture us having no genitals at all. So that’s how I think most people would, by default, envision naked Frankenstein in a motorized wheelchair. But if you ask me, he has a sturdy, formidable, no-nonsense schlong, thank you very much.

I picture a pivotal moment in the life of Frankenstein where he’s forlornly plodding through the city, naked, and then he passes a store that sells motorized wheelchairs. A light bulb goes off in his head. He tries to open the door but it’s locked. It’s after business hours. So Frankenstein shatters the window with a nearby brick and enters the store. The alarm blares. Soon the front door flies open and naked Frankenstein exits the store riding a motorized wheelchair. He whoops and hollers, pops a wheelie and zips off into the sunset.

And he lives happily ever after.


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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Chopping up Cripples with a Chainsaw as a Metaphor

I don’t understand why everyone is so upset about the new horror movie where a crazed serial killer goes around randomly murdering cripples with a chainsaw and then gleefully feeding their severed body parts to packs of rabid jackals. Personally, I think the movie is a masterpiece of the horror genre

Critics are expressing outrage and protesters are picketing theaters. They howl that this movie is nothing more than a pointless display of gratuitous violence against cripples. They also worry that it will inspire copycats.

But I think they’re taking things far too literally, as critics and protesters often do. I think there’s way more too this movie than meets the eye, if you view it on the metaphorical level. That’s when it becomes truly horrifying. For example, I saw the crazed chainsaw murder as a metaphor for republicans and all the other austerity pigs. And I saw cripples as a metaphor for their easy prey. By their easy prey, I mean pretty much everybody that isn’t rich enough to own five houses. Cripples are the ultimate symbol of helplessness and vulnerability.

And when the delirious maniac chops cripples up into tiny pieces, I don’t think he’s chopping up cripples per se. The way I see it is he’s chopping up the programs that keep the vulnerable people that cripples symbolize alive, programs like Medicaid. That’s a far more diabolical way for the maniac to kill his prey than just whacking their heads off. It’s slow and painful, like torture.

And finally, I don’t take the packs of rabid jackals literally either. I see them a metaphor for those who are rich enough to own five houses or more. These jackals are constantly on the roam, searching for new profit centers on which to feast. And the homicidal maniacs sees it as his calling in life to feed these jackals. From this he derives great satisfaction. It’s like he’s making a human sacrifice to the please the Gods, so they won’t get angry and turn on him.

So when you look at the movie in that way, it’s way more scary and poignant than your basic chainsaw murdering spree flick. Like they say, truth is scarier than fiction.

But I do share the concern of the critics and protesters that this movie will inspire copycats. It terrifies me to think that watching this depraved psychopath might make some people decide to run for office.




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Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Lazy Person’s Guide for Raising Money for the Children’s Hospital



Every year I see this story on the news about this group of people who get together and raise money for the children’s hospital. And it really pisses me off.

Because what they do is they all run up the stairs to the top of the Hancock building, which is something like 95 flights. And they get people to sponsor them a dollar a flight or something and they give it all to the children's hospital.

What a bunch of elitist snobs they are! I mean, there’s a part of everybody that wants to raise money for the children’s hospital, right? It’s an easy and concrete way to feel good, to feel useful. But these people, with their stair-scaling ways, deprive cripples like me of that experience. And it’s not just cripples. What about lazy people? What about people who want to raise money for the children’s hospital without having to train for six months to be able to do it? Yeah sure, I suppose we could all just write a check to the children’s hospital or sponsor one of the stair-climbers, but it’s not the same. I’m sure it’s not nearly as satisfying as looking down on the city when you finally
make it to the top of the Hancock building and feeling like you’re atop Mt. Everest.

So the people that are hurt most by this fitness-oriented fundraiser are the children who go to the children’s hospital, because it excludes not just cripples but lazy people, which is the vast majority of humans.

That’s why I want to put together a fundraiser for the children’s hospital that doesn’t exclude anybody. It’s basically the same concept. Everybody would still go to the top of the Hancock building and get people to sponsor us to do it. Except we’d all use the elevator. There’s an observatory on top of the Hancock building where a lot of tourists go and there are elevators that take you right to it. So it works out perfect!

This would open up a teeming stream of new revenue for the children’s hospital because everybody can join in my fundraiser. Even a comatose person can ride up an elevator. There would be intensified peer pressure on everyone to get off their ass and raise money for the children’s hospital because I would make it so easy to do that anybody who didn’t take part would look and feel like a real jerk. Even a comatose person.

And we’d all get to experience that Mt. Everest feeling while exerting very little effort. Those show-offs that bound up the stairs every year will probably scorn us and say we’re cheating. But I would say to them, “Oh yeah? Tell that to those sick kids!”




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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Preparing Crippled Teens for the Future

I recently received a distinct honor. I was asked to make a presentation at Disabled Teen Mentoring Day.

DTMD is a very important annual event because it’s all about the future. Teenage criplets come from far and wide to learn from old farts like me how to make the most of opportunities and successfully plan for their futures. They hear speakers and attend workshops and do all kinds of networking.

So what would the title of my presentation be? I thought about it long and hard because I wanted to have a strong impact on these impressionable young minds. I wanted to equip them with the most essential tools they will need to navigate through America as crippled adults in the next decade.

My first idea was to do a presentation entitled, “How to Write a Winning Resume.” Because after all, the job market is tough enough when you’re not crippled. Cripples are at a competitive disadvantage so it’s extra important for their resumes to stand out from all the other applicants.

This sounded like a great idea to me so I set about putting my presentation together. I was really excited. But then I thought about all the slimy republicans that are in charge of so many things these days. Those guys really hate cripples. They won’t admit it to anyone, especially not to themselves, but they really do.

I realized that my resume writing idea was fatally flawed because it was based on the dubious premise that cripples will even be able to get jobs after these neo-dirtbags have had a few years devour up the economy even more.

So then I thought I’d serve these crippled teens better by preparing them for a life of living on Social Security in government-subsidized, low-income public housing. I thought maybe my presentation should be called, “How to Keep Your Sanity While Languishing on a 15-year Waiting List for Government-Subsidized, Low-Income Public Housing." Tip #1: Drink a lot of whiskey. Tip 2: Take up an extremely time-consuming hobby, such as building an exact replica of the Taj Mahal out of toothpicks, and before you know it 15 years will have gone by. Tip #3: Drink a lot of whiskey.

Or maybe I should share some frugal recipes for people using food stamps. Sautéed spam? Spam fricassee? Spam flambé? Blackened spam? Spam-- it's the poor man's meatloaf.

But then I thought about all the anal warts that are in charge of so many things these days. And I realized this idea was also fatally flawed because it was based on the dubious premise that there will be anything resembling Social Security, food stamps or government-subsidized, low-income public housing in the near future.

So now I’m thinking the title of my presentation will be, “Living Under a Bridge: How to Make it Accessible for You!”




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