Friday, September 20, 2019

Asshole Judges

Yeah yeah I know I know. Lawyers and lawsuits are important. Cripples have gotten a lot of good things out of suing for our rights. Hell, I’ve been involved in a few of those lawsuits myself.

But the big problem with suing is a lot of judges are assholes. Yeah yeah I know I know. It’s not just judges. There are assholes in every population and every human is, by nature, as asshole to some degree. Assholishness is like racism. We have to view it as a spectrum and recognize that we are all positioned on it somewhere. Nobody can honestly say they are never in any way an asshole. Assholishness is too ingrained in our culture for any of us to be unsullied by it. The best we can do is acknowledge our assholishness, humbly recognize and learn from those times when it manifests and try to adjust our behavior.

But judges seem to me to have a higher percentage of abject assholes among them. Maybe it’s all that “your honor” shit. When everybody has to call you your honor all the time, even if you’re pretty much an asshole, it’s gotta be hard not to get full of yourself.

Or maybe it’s just that asshole judges stand out more than your average Joe Six Pack asshole because they have so much power. There’s nothing worse than a powerful asshole.

Whatever it is, the problem with lawsuits is you can do everything right and still lose. You can hire the most brilliant lawyers and employ the most brilliant strategy. But if your case ends up in the lap of an asshole judge, you’re screwed. And it can easily happen. History is full of court decisions that are so monumentally boneheaded that the only conceivable explanation is the judge was a colossal asshole.

So when it comes to my rights, I’m not ready to settle for letting some asshole determine what they are. I’ll join in a lawsuit or legal action because why not? Sometimes they actually work. But I prefer street protests because I feel much more in control of the eventual outcome. In a street protest, you call an asshole an asshole. You mock, challenge and defang false authority rather than submit to it. That’s the way to wear the bastards down. You don’t have to call some asshole your honor.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Viva Marca Bristo!

Once in a very great while, there’s a disturbance in the force that’s so significant that it compels us here at Smart Ass Cripple to take a brief break from our incessant smart assery in order to pay homage to one of the greats. It then becomes our task to attempt to convey, in our own feeble way, the magnitude of this person’s greatness.

Such is the case with Marca Bristo. First, let’s get the resume' stuff out of the way. She founded and was President and CEO of Access Living, the center for independent living (CIL) in Chicago. Marca served as the chair of the National Council on Independent Living for many years after co-founding the organization in 1982. President Clinton appointed her as chair of the National Council on Disability. She was given the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States in 1992. Etc.

When she died September 8, her obit appeared in publications all over the world. Statements of condolence were issued by the mayor of Chicago, the governor of Illinois, both Illinois U.S. Senators, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and whole bunch of others. Barack Obama put out a statement that said,
"Marca had a remarkable way of bringing out the best within us. For me, she was a trusted voice and a persistent, buoyant spirit."

But what does all that mean for mopes like me? Well, let’s start with Access Living. It was one the first CILs in the U.S. when it opened in a cramped storefront in 1980. It was the kind of place cripples like us hadn’t seen before. Just like the first CIL, which was founded a few years earlier in Berkeley, California, it was operated by cripples and they set the agenda. They pushed for things like accessible public transportation. Holy shit! We were used to dealing with, or should I say trying to avoid dealing with, behemoth cripple charities like the Muscular Dystrophy Association that were practically useless. There were never any cripples anywhere near in charge of these charities. They never asked you what you needed and they would never do anything to rock the boat. If they decided to give you a fucking pony, you were expected to take it and be grateful.

Soon, some of us who hung around Access Living began doing wild shit like organizing actions where we blocked streets and city buses and disrupted meetings of the Chicago Transit Authority board with bullhorns and noisemakers to demand public transit access.

The point is, all of us who did this stuff found each other at Access Living. We realized we shared many of the same frustrations and a desire to do something about it. When cripples acted uppity like this, especially in the 1980s, it often put Access Living in a tenuous position. It sometimes pissed off elected officials and funders who could make life hard for Access Living if they wanted to. I’m sure Marca was tempted to forsake us, but she never did. She never joined in our street actions as far as I remember, but she always let us use Access Living’s office to gather and plot. We used the phones and copy machines to communicate. Access Living staff often joined in our actions. And in later years, some of us got jobs at Access Living and we were actually paid to organize! Holy shit again!

I can’t say I knew Marca well personally. We only hung out socially maybe four or five times, though I always thoroughly enjoyed it when we did. Our relationship was mostly business, but the nature of the business made it an intimate relationship to me. I guess you could say we were teammates. We spent nearly 40 years on the same team that started off as laughable underdogs but slugged it out with the big boys and won enough to be taken seriously. When you lose a teammate like that, it really hurts.

But the team plays on, largely because Marca introduced so many incredible people to this incredible team and signed them up to be a part of it. She was wise and humble enough to not make it all about her so the team could take on the complex and vibrant personality of the thousands of people that propel it. Because of that, the team can somehow survive her loss and be stronger than ever. That’s exactly what she wanted.

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

I'm a 99 Percenter!

They took my vital signs. They put that clip on my finger to measure the level of oxygen saturation in my blood. It came up 99 percent

I had no doubt that that would be the outcome, but for some weird reason I felt a strong sense of vindication. I felt arrogant and defiant. I felt like going outside and shouting out, to no one in particular, “I got 99 percent oxygen saturation so fuck you!”

It was sort of like I felt after I aced my latest colonoscopy. The doctor said I wouldn’t need another one for five years. And I said to myself, “There you go all y’all mofos! Look at me! I’m cleeeeeeeeeeeean as can be!” But that buzz didn’t last too long because then I said to myself, “Now you only have to worry about the other nine million types of cancer you could have.” I swear to God, sometimes I’m such a fucking party poop.

But my oxygen high lasted all day. The first thing I wanted to do was call all the doctors who said I’d be lucky to make it to age 30 and leave a message saying, “Guess what? I’m 63 years old and my oxygen saturation level is 99 percent! So suck it!” But, sadly, I couldn’t call any of those doctors because they’re all dead.

Later on I watched a baseball game and I said to myself, “You players think you’re so goddam superior to me because I’m crippled. I know how you guys are! You visit cripples at the local children’s hospital with camera crews following you. You give the cripples autographed balls and pat them on the head and when the cripples are out of earshot, you say stuff to the camera crews like, 'Geez, when I see what these kids are going through, I feel so lucky.’ Well let me ask you this, superstars. What might your oxygen saturation level happen to be? What’s that I hear you say? Somewhere around 99 percent? Hah! Who’s so superior now, bitcheeeeeeeees!”

I never found watching a baseball game to be more satisfying.

I ought to have my oxygen saturation level tested every day.

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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Madame Curie's Dirty Little Secret

Every veteran wheelchair cripple has been forced at some point to play a game I call, “Where’s the phantom person with the key?” You’re rolling along just minding your own business and you are confronted by steps. Ah but never fear. There’s one of those wheelchair lifts to take you up or down to the next level.

Now all you have to do is find the person who has the key to operate the damn thing. And that person is never anywhere to be found. They’re always on lunch break or in the bathroom or taking a six-month world cruise or whatever. And they always took the key with them.

A few years back one of my friends who’s a veteran wheelchair cripple moved into a building with one of those lifts on the entrance. So building management gave her a copy of the key. One day her husband was talking to a guy doing maintenance on the lift and the maintenance guy let him in on a dirty little secret. Before I reveal it I will give my friend a Smart Ass Cripple alias because I fear that now that she is blowing the whistle there could be a price on her head. So I’ll call her Madame Curie.

Anyway, the dirty little secret the maintenance guy revealed to Madame Curie's husband is that the lift key is universal. One size fits all!

Since then Madame Curie has used her key to operate several lifts she’s encountered while out and about and it’s worked every time! She’s no longer at the mercy of the phantom person with the key!

Not only that but Madame Curie is going around liberating other cripples by making copies of her key and giving them away to those who might need them. And every grateful recipient who’s reported back to her so far has said the key has worked every time.

I told another friend about Madame Curie’s magic keys. This guy used to work on road construction crews and he said he found out the same secret about Caterpillar construction vehicles. The same ignition key works on every one.

Oh shit! I’ve probably said way too much! If you don’t hear from me you’ll know what happened. I’ve gone into witness protection.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Cool Stuff I Got Because I Bitched, Volume II

Cripples have plenty to bitch about. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming. It makes you feel like going home and hiding under the bed to avoid the bombardment. You’re tired of bitching. You feel all bitched out.

That’s why every now and then I pause and take stock of all the cool stuff I got because I took the time to bitch. It reminds me that it pays to bitch.

Here’s some cool stuff I got because I bitched:

A free feast at Sears Tower with a panoramic view of Chicago
. Back in the 1980s, not a single public transit bus was wheelchair accessible. So a bunch of us cripples got together and bitched about it in an adult, civilized way. We sued the Chicago Transit Authority. Well for a couple years the CTA board of directors fought back hard, just to be pricks. They couldn’t help it. It was their instinct. Whenever CTA board members felt threatened, the acted like pricks. But after we won some court victories, even they were smart enough to realize that the tried-and-true prick strategy wasn’t working. So they did a complete 180 and invited us to a settlement conference. It was held in the conference room of some big shot law firm way up in Sears Tower. It had a panoramic view of the city and there was a ton of food all laid out fancy on a buffet with a white tablecloth. I remember whole salmon on silver platters, mounds of fresh fruit. As I ate like a pig for free, I said to myself, “Aren’t you glad you bitched?" And now all the buses are accessible.

Free tickets to four Bulls games. Also back in the 1980s, the Bulls played in the Chicago Stadium, which was built in the 1920s. So there wasn’t a single damn wheelchair seat in the whole place. So if a cripple showed up they’d sit us on what was the ice for hockey games. It was almost like having a courtside seat. So I‘d do what a lot of cripples did and purchase the cheapest ticket for Row Z of the upper balcony. And since the ushers couldn’t get me up there they’d just shrug and sit me on the ice and I’d get a courtside seat at a nose bleed price. Well one time an usher told me if I tried to pull that stunt again he’d make me buy a courtside ticket. So I filed a complaint. By the time that all played out a new stadium was built with lots of wheelchair seating. So part of my settlement was tickets to four games.

A $100 discount on a United Airlines flight ticket
. When I fly and the plane lands, first every other passenger gets off. Then I wait for the baggage people to bring up my wheelchair so I can get off. Well one time it took about an hour for my chair to arrive. I was so hoppin’ made that by the time I got into the terminal I was spitting sparks. I said I wanted to see a supervisor and when she arrived she immediately offered me a discount coupon for $100 off my next flight. So I took it. Maybe I could’ve held out for more. I don’t know. But I figured I‘d save up some bitching energy for the next time.

And so the moral of the story is, keep bitching, my friends.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

I'm Not Amused

When you’re as crippled as I am, who needs amusement parks? Life is just one big rollercoaster ride. And I don’t mean just emotionally so.

I hate amusement parks because the big features are the rollercoasters and I don’t find them at all amusing. My balance is so fucked up. The wind can knock me over. So putting me on a rollercoaster is like putting Raggedy Andy on a coked-up rodeo bull. I'm bound to end up with whiplash and brain injuries. Maybe that’s some people’s measure of whether or not they had a good time, but not mine.

And for me, going to the damn drug store can be like a rollercoaster ride. There I am maneuvering my wheelchair down a sidewalk and all of a sudden a big drop off threatens to pitch my torso forward. Or a sudden slant lurches me sideways. Or a big chunk of the pavement is all chopped up so driving over it is bumpy as hell and I’m hanging on tight, trying not to be pitched or lurched. Or if I really want to go for a kamikaze thrill ride guaranteed to upset my delicate equilibrium, all I have to do is drive over gravel or some evil shit like that.

It's me versus gravity. There’s nothing amusing about it.

I’m challenged by pretty much any surface that’s less smooth and even than a basketball court. And at least when I ‘m out and about in my chair I’m the guy operating the rollercoaster. So when I hit the rough patches I can slow way down to minimize the impact. That’s quite unlike those sadistic mofos who control amusement park rollercoasters. They go full throttle down the steepest inclines and barrel around the sharpest turns.

So when I’m aiming to have a good time, I want to get far away from all of that rollercoaster shit. I don’t know, maybe I’d go to an amusement park that wasn’t quite so amusing and didn’t have any rollercoasters. Is there such a thing? I guess it would be called a bemusement park.

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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Cripples as Billboards

Here’s a new thing that gets me all riled up! I’m seeing more and more people working as sign holders. They stand on the sidewalk brandishing a brightly-colored sign that says something like Going Out of Business Sale and there’s an arrow on the sign pointing in the direction of the sale.

Apparently some new market research must show that a human holding up a sign draws more attention to that sign than simply erecting it. This seems like a good way to put a lot of cripples to work. Hell, I could do that job easy. Just attach a sign to my chair and I can sit there for hours doing nothing. I’m good at that. And I’ve got a lot of experience carrying protest signs. I'm sure there are tons of cripples with the same unique qualifications

And I guarantee you more people will look at us than they’ll look at some everyday mope carrying the same sign. But that may the reason why I‘ve never been seen a crippled sign holder, even though it’s the cripple dream job. I bet that same market research says that the perfect sign holder looks nondescript, so as not to draw focus away from the sign. A lot of passersby will take note if I’m carrying a sign, but are they staring at me or the sign? What will be their takeaway?

I bet the people who hire sign holders are purposely freezing out cripples for that reason. They’re afraid we’re going to upstage their signs. That sucks. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission really ought to look into it.

It riles me up to the point of wanting to start my own business, just to show all those fuckers that they can’t treat cripples like that! I feel like writing on the back of my wheelchair Place Your Ad Here. I’ll be glad to roll around displaying a Budweiser logo, for the right price.

I bet soon I’d have a whole fleet of cripples renting out advertising space on their wheelchairs. Why not? We’ll be like cabs with signs on their roofs. Or how about what they do with city buses sometimes? The wrap a skin around the whole damn bus and turn it into a rolling billboard for the Lion King.

I can do that too! I’ll happily let my chair be wrapped in a skin and become a rolling Lion King billboard. I’d love to get in on some of that Disney cash! I can even do better than the city buses. I can wear a lion suit, thus making myself a three-dimensional billboard.

I’m not too proud! I’ll do anything, for the right price.

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