Wednesday, January 18, 2023

My Inner Heckler

 

 

I have an inner heckler. It’s somewhere out there in the audience. I hear it all the time.

It started riding my ass when I was about 12 years old or so. Its wisecracks aren’t very wise. It says stuff like, “You suck” and, “Don’t quit your day job!”

I hear my inner heckler loudest in those quiet, meditative moments. But I’ve never seen its face because the audience is a black abyss. I’m blinded by all the bright lights shinning on me. That’s how hecklers like him operate. They’re brash and bold as long as they can remain in the dark. They’re anonymous bullies, like those faceless commenters on the internet.

And I don’t think I’m the only one who's being hounded by an inner heckler. I see people watching wrestling, spellbound. I see people wearing those virtual reality goggles and vigorously sword fighting nobody. I see people in churches, surrendering their souls to an invisible deity.

It seems to me that these people are all trying to drown out their inner hecklers. But it’s a futile game. You can’t win. If you pay any attention at all to the inner heckler, it wins because it just wants to distract you.

Please don’t get me wrong. I know heckling can be a good thing sometimes. It can be a constructive force, if done for the right reasons. It all depends on who’s heckling whom. Like for instance, heckling a fascist is always a good thing because then you’re distracting them from being a fascist, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

But other than that, the way to beat a heckler is to not pay any attention to them. So the best thing to do with your inner heckler is to try your best to ignore it and carry on, unless you’re a fascist.

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Sunday, January 8, 2023

A Danger to Ourselves and/or Others

Sometimes cripples achieve the dubious status of being considered a danger to ourselves and/or others just simply by being cripples.

People aren’t scared about us being around them for the same reason they are afraid of schizophrenic people or those kinds of cripples. They’re afraid schizophrenic people are going to attack them. They aren’t afraid people who are physically crippled like me are going to attack them. Or maybe they figure if we do attack them, it’ll be no big deal. It’s got to be easy to subdue somebody in a wheelchair if you have to. If a blind person takes a swing at you, all you have to do is back up a step or two and watch them flail away at the thin air.

No, what terrifies people most about cripples like me is their perception of our sheer incompetence and it’s potentially catastrophic  consequences. Any cripple who has ever been accused of being a fire hazard, which is every cripple, knows what I mean. When someone calls us a fire hazard, I guess they think that if a fire breaks out we’ll just sit there clogging up the escape routes and everybody will burn to death. For some reason, they don’t seem to think we’ll be trying to get the hell out of there fast just like everybody else. Or maybe they think we’re not capable of getting the hell out of there fast.

Of all the times I’ve been called a fire hazard, the time I remember most was when I was on a date with a woman many years ago. We were in a movie theater and there wasn’t a wheelchair seating area so I sat in the aisle. Naturally, I’m trying to impress this woman by being all suave and cool and then this punk-ass usher comes up to me and says, “Sir, you can’t sit in the aisle! You’re a fire hazard!” I wanted to kick him square in the balls!

Classifying cripples like me as a danger to ourselves and/or others has been used as an excuse to lock us all up, safely out of everyone’s way. A lot of cripples have ended up banished away in nursing homes and other asylums for everyone’s protection, especially our own. And then everyone else got to go to the movies feeling safe because they're confident that in case of fire, they’d be able to get the hell out of there fast.

But maybe things have gotten a little better because there aren’t as many cripples locked up anymore. And now movie theaters and places like that have wheelchair seating areas. So it’s been a while since anybody’s called me a fire hazard.

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Saturday, December 31, 2022

Only the Most Deserving

 There’s a big cardboard box right next to the exit of my local grocery store. On the side of the box is a sign urging everyone to support the Chicago Bears Coat Drive by depositing a coat into the box. The sign says the coats will be distributed to “deserving “people.

Deserving? I wonder who deserves to freeze to death and who doesn’t and what criteria is applied to determine who qualifies as deserving.

It seems that people who are physically crippled, like me, at least survive the first cut when it comes to being considered deserving. Or at least that’s the impression I get when I see those commercials soliciting donations for Disabled American Veterans or the Wounded Warrior Project. All the crippled vets in these commercials have physical disabilities that are immediately obvious. like they’re missing limbs or riding around in wheelchairs.

But there are tons of vets who are wounded in war in ways that aren’t physical or obvious. They have PTSD and stuff like that. Hell, I don’t see how anybody could fight in a war and not have PTSD.

These people are as crippled as I am. But I don’t see anyone like them in those commercials. It’s probably because when you’re begging for donations, you don’t want to take time to explain how some cripples don’t look crippled but they really are and thus they are just as deserving (or not) as those whose wounds are obvious. You just want to get straight to the point, so you stick with those whose wounds speak for themselves.

But even among physical cripples, some of us are considered to be more deserving than others. It matters how you became crippled. The most deserving are those who became crippled in some noble way, such as defending our freedom or foiling a bank robbery. That’s why crippled former soldiers and cops are seen as the most deserving of the deserving. Next come people who were born crippled, like me. People are more likely to forgive us for being crippled because we have a certain innocence. We got this way through no fault of our own. But if you became crippled doing something stupid or nefarious, like diving naked into a shallow river or in a botched bank robbery, you automatically join the ranks of the least palatable and sympathetic of cripples.

So, suppose the Chicago Bears only have one coat left and I show up to ask for it at the same time another guy who’s also in a wheelchair and looks just as crippled as I do also shows up to ask for it. If he’s a vet who was wounded on the battlefield, I imagine he’ll get the coat and I’ll get to freeze to death. But if the other person who shows up at the same time doesn’t look  crippled but says they have PTSD, then the last coat will probably go to me. Of course, if that person is also a vet, that might score them enough points toward becoming considered deserving to cancel out my natural advantage. In that case, whoever it is that decides who deserves the coat might have to rip it down the middle and give us each half.


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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Great Purge

 

In this city they recently passed one of those purge laws, just like in the movie.  As a result, all laws were suspended for one day and everybody could do anything they wanted with no consequences.

Many citizens feared a bloody rampage would break out, so they locked themselves in their homes for the duration. But I had more faith in my fellow humans than that, so I went out and about my business, just like it was any other day.

Boy was that a mistake. My day was booked solid. First, I stopped at my friendly neighborhood coffee shop as I often do. Because it’s in an old building there is a step on the front entrance, but I’ve always been able to get into the place because the proprietor always puts out a ramp. But the ramp wasn’t there.

So I knocked on the window until I got the proprietor’s attention. When she came outside, I said to her, “Where’s the ramp?”

She said, “Oh I’m not putting it out today. I have too many other things to do.”

“You can’t do that!” I said. “It’s against the law!”

“What law?” she said and went back inside,

At first, I was furious. But then I realized that on this day, I couldn’t do anything about it. So I swallowed my indignation and went to the bus stop so I could take public transit to my next appointment of the day.

But when the bus arrived the driver opened the door and said, “Sorry, no wheelchairs allowed on the bus today.”

“Why not?” I protested.

“Because I got a schedule to keep,” he said. “And if I stop to pick you up, I’ll be way behind. And besides, you’re a fire hazard. What if the bus starts on fire and everybody has to escape? You’ll clog things up!” He closed the door and drove off.

After that, I just turned around and went home and stayed there until the purge expired. I didn’t feel safe and protected in such a lawless world.


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Friday, December 9, 2022

Laughing Gas

Back when I was in college, about 45 years ago, my roommate told me he’d met a couple of guys who had a new and unique way of getting high and he invited them to come over so he could get high with them. He said I could join them if I wanted to.

A few days later, two guys who were about in their early 20s or so, like us, arrived toting something that looked like an oxygen tank. It turned out it was full of laughing gas.

I didn’t know there really was such a thing as laughing gas. I thought it was just some fictional device that mostly appeared in comic strips. But I guess it was a euphemistic name for an anesthetic used by dentists, at least at the time.

And I didn’t know how these guys managed to score a tank of laughing gas. Were there pushers in dark alleys who dealt such wares? Or maybe one of them had a parent or uncle or somebody in their life who was a dentist and they swiped a tank of laughing gas from their office.

Anyway, this opportunity was too unique to pass up so I sat in a circle in my living room with my roommate and those two other guys and the tank of laughing gas was in the center of the circle between us all.  And we took turns inhaling the laughing gas and every once in a while somebody would burst out laughing out of the blue.

I don’t remember laughing or even being moved to laugh. And I never did laughing gas again. That’s ironic because I’ve spent a lot of my life since then seeking out laughs. Except I use more natural and organic sources to make me laugh, like reading Mark Twain or watching stuff like the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, the Three Stooges or a Mel Brooks movie.

And speaking of the Stooges, there’s a particularly hilarious episode where they accidentally end up in the army and on the battlefield a bomb that says LAUGHING GAS on it explodes near them. They’re all laughing their asses of off as the Nazis take them prisoner and take them to their headquarters. And at the headquarters the Stooges keep laughing their asses off as they beat the shit out of the Nazis.

Wouldn’t it be great if we really could weaponize laughing gas like that? You fire one of those missiles at your enemies and they laugh their asses off. And nobody can fight because they’re laughing too hard. Make jokes not war.

The world sure would be a better place if that’s how we fought wars. Whoever invented a laughing gas bomb would surely win the Nobel Peace Prize.


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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Bingo is Something About us Without us

 

 There’s a saying some cripples use a lot: Nothing About Us Without Us. It means, “The person who decides what I need and want should be me, dammit!”

That saying resonates with cripples because we're used to uncrippled people, like doctors and social workers and the heads of giant-ass charities, deciding what we need and what we’ll get because they think it’s too dangerous for us to decide for ourselves.  And so we end up with a lot of useless stuff bestowed upon us in the name of helping us out. It’s a lot of something about us without us.

A good example of something about us without us is bingo. A lot of cripples end up in nursing homes. And when they do they end up playing a lot of bingo. That's because there are people whose job it is to plan and conduct activities for people who reside in nursing homes. And the people who decide what these activities will be are not the ones who are expected to take part in them. And if they don’t ask the people they are planning the activities for what they want to do, all they can do is guess, based on their notion of the kinds of things cripples want to do.

But I’ve never met a cripple who has playing bingo at the top of their agenda. I’m sure there are some, because there are bingo addicts in every population and the crippled population is no exception. But it’s probably not being crippled that has made them bingo addicts. They’d probably be bingo addicts whether they were crippled or not. That's how bingo addicts are.

The reason why nursing home activity planners don’t ask cripples what they really want to do is probably because they’re afraid of what the answer will be. They know it probably will involve stuff like vodka and/or sex and having that kind of fun is off limits in a nursing home. And by the time you rule out all the fun stuff that’s off limits in a nursing home, there’s not much left except bingo and maybe square dancing.

That’s why I hate bingo. I’ve got nothing against the game per se. I just hate what it represents. Bingo is a symbol of cripple oppression and our lack of self-determination. I have to admit that I’ve even sometimes had fun playing bingo. The most fun I had was when I played drag queen bingo. It was like regular bingo except the caller was a drag queen. And the drag queen was hilarious, which made playing the game campy fun.

If I’m ever stuck in a nursing home and all they have to offer me is bingo, I hope it will at least  be drag queen bingo. But having that kind of fun will probably be off limits.

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Monday, November 21, 2022

That Coveted Captive Cripple Demographic

 

I’ve never seen a television commercial for a nursing home. I’ve seen commercials for everything from kitchen gadgets to boner pills. And I’ve seen plenty of commercials for those retirement communities for old people. They make them seem like blissful stud pastures where all the residents do all day is eat gourmet food and dance. But you never see any cripples in commercials like that because they don’t send cripples to places like that. Cripples go to nursing homes, unless they have bottomless buckets full of money.

The only television commercials I’ve seen that mention nursing homes are for those lawyers who sue nursing homes for abuse and neglect. I’ve seen a lot of highway billboards for those guys too. But I’ve never seen a billboard advertising for a nursing home either.

 I’d sure hate to be an advertising executive charged with coming up with television commercials and/or billboards that make a certain nursing home look like a great place to live. That would be a thankless job, even for a seasoned bull shit artist like an advertising executive, because everybody knows nursing homes are dumping grounds. You don’t just check into one for fun like it’s a resort. You surrender yourself over to one because you have no choice.

That’s probably why nursing homes don’t bother advertising on broadcast media and billboards. They know it’s a waste of money. Fortunately for them, they don’t have to go to such lengths to recruit because they know the chute is greased enough to keep a steady flow of potential customers (a.k.a abandoned cripples with nowhere else to go) falling into their laps-. The nursing home marketers only reach out to those who have been defeated to the point of surrender. They save all their highly-polished bull shit for those colorful brochures they hand out that say, in essence, since you gotta go live in a nursing home, you might as well live in ours.

Maybe if I someday see a television commercial or a billboard for a nursing home it’ll be a good thing. Maybe it’ll mean they’re getting desperate.


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