Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Report on the Ponderings of the Distinguished Fellows of the Smart Ass Cripple Institute

Recently I convened the first official meeting of the distinguished fellows who are members of my think tank, the Smart Ass Cripple Institute. My distinguished fellows are all distinguished, but they certainly are not all fellows. What fun would that be?

My fellows and I did what think tank thinkers do. We thought about stuff. But first, in order to get our minds in the right mode, we passed around a bong.

And soon we wondered if anybody ever stuffed young Helen Keller into a steamer trunk and dragged it out to the barn. Because in the movie The Miracle Worker, Helen Keller sure was an enormous brat. She threw flailing tantrums that could set off a tsunami. Now maybe that tantrum stuff was “literary license." That’s what they call it when writers make shit up about the lives of famous people to make them more interesting. Maybe Helen Keller was an angel. But probably not. Chances are a kid who’s deaf and blind will throw a few tantrums. And everybody wants to cut a kid like that some slack but you can only take so much. Surely somebody was tempted to stuff her into a steamer trunk and drag it out to the barn. But did anybody actually do it?

Being the distinguished fellows that we are, we researched this question. We googled up Helen+Keller+brat+steamer+trunk. Our search yielded no definitive answer. So one of the distinguished fellows made a motion that we think about something else. It passed unanimously.

And then we found ourselves thinking about think tanks and how they don’t mean anything unless there are “do” tanks. Thinking about stuff is all well and good, but what’s the point unless somebody does something about it? Maybe the way things are supposed to work is those of the thinking class think and don’t do and those of the doing class do and don’t think.

But that line of inquiry was getting way too heavy, so we switched to the topic of how illiterates must get sick and tired of eating hamburgers all the time. We acknowledged that it’s probably no longer acceptable to refer to people who can’t read as illiterates. But we also acknowledged that it’s hard to know what to call them because they haven’t organized as a political force with strict new etiquette rules to follow when speaking to or about them. But if they did, we surmised that maybe they’d call themselves something like nonreading Americans or, for the sake of journalistic brevity, nonreaders. Whatever you call them, when they go to restaurants they must order hamburgers all the time because they don’t want to let on that they can’t read the menu. But then one of the distinguished fellows offered a solution: when nonreaders go to restaurants, they should carry white canes and fake like they’re blind. If you can’t read a menu because you’re blind, there’s no shame in that. You have a good excuse. It’s okay to ask the server or someone to read it for you. You can be forgiven.

We also thought about a whole bunch of other stuff that was really interesting at the time but I can’t remember any of it anymore. And then we ordered pizza.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Joy of Trespassing

Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction and purpose that comes from being someplace you’re not supposed to be, doing something you’re not supposed to be doing. In other words, trespassing.

If you don’t know what I mean, try rounding up a few friends and going to the office of your representative in Congress. Issue a demand at the office and say you refuse to leave until that demand is met. It doesn’t matter what the demand is. You can demand free pizza if you want. And if they try to ignore you, make some noise. You can chant or sing or blast a boom box or whatever. I’m sure, like me, you’ll find this exercise to be very invigorating. It’s like breathing in fresh mountain air. And the beautiful thing about is, anybody can do it. Not everybody has the time or means to take a trip to the mountains. But everybody has a Congressional rep. And sitting in their office and being obnoxious costs nothing. It’s extra fun if you’re fortunate enough to have a rep that’s a sniveling little weasel, like Paul Ryan. Who wouldn’t enjoy slapping that guy around? But even if your rep is a decent human, it’s good to get in their face sometimes just to remind them who’s the boss. If everybody did this, imagine what a wonderful world it would be.

I am blessed to have reached the point in my life where I am somewhere I am not supposed to be every day. I’m not supposed to be alive. Or at least not according to pretty much every cripple doctor my mother took me to see as a kid. Their prognoses about my lifespan were so gloomy, it’s a wonder my mother didn’t put me in hospice.

I am perpetual trespasser. But I’m not unique. Oh Lordy no. I’d wager a lot that there’s not one crippled adult who was crippled as a child who wasn’t told the same thing. During one of my stays in a rehab hospital when I was a kid, there was a boy there who didn’t appear to be crippled at all. But according to the whispers of the other crippled kids on the ward, this boy was about to have surgery to remove an extra toe from each foot. I don’t know whatever happened to that kid. I imagine he went on to live happily ever after with the normal number of toes. But I bet even that kid's parents were told that because he had 12 toes he wouldn’t live too long.

But I'm okay with all this. I’m not bitter at all. As a matter of fact, I’m grateful. If need to feel the joy of trespassing, I don’t have to exert any energy or even spend a dime. All I have to do is wake up.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hope on Wheels

The Wounded Warriors Amputee football team is composed of amputee war veterans and they go around playing against fully-limbed former athletes and other celebrities. And guess what? The amputees always win!

Yep, the Wounded Warriors are undefeated, which for me poses two questions:

1). Did other oppressed populations have to do it this way?
Is this really a necessary step on the long, arduous road to liberation and emancipation? For instance, when women were fighting to win the right to vote, did some employ the strategy of forming a goodwill barnstorming basketball team and challenging men to games? And did the men chivalrously reciprocate by rolling over and letting the women win every time? And if so, did that somehow get across the message that women are full and equal humans worthy of suffrage? And what about gay people? Did some of their activists challenge straight people to friendly wrestling matches? Did the straight people flop and get pinned every time? And did that eventually lead to marriage equality? Maybe so. I don’t know. I’ll have to look it up.

2) Does Las Vegas take bets on this kind of stuff?
Because if so, I want in on the action right now! Because there is no more of a sure bet than wagering the mortgage and little Billy’s college fund on the Wounded Warriors winning their next game. The opposition doesn't stand a chance because it’s a double whammy. Imagine if the other team played for real and whupped the crap out of the Wounded Warriors. How awful would that look? It’s bad enough to stomp ordinary cripples, let alone cripples who became crippled defending the precious freedoms we all take for granted.

So if Vegas takes bets, I’m going to start my own feel-good cripple barnstorming basketball team. And I’ll call it something like Hope on Wheels. And I’ll make sure my players are the most godawful basketballing cripples that ever breathed air, like me. Because the more inept and pathetic we are, the more pressure the opposition will be under to purposely lose to us, which greatly increases the odds of us going undefeated. And once we’ve got the odds up to about a zillion to one I’ll quietly place a bet against Hope on Wheels and we’ll lose that game at the very last second. And I’ll cash in big! How will we accomplish the impossible feat of losing, you ask? It's simple. I’ll have one cripple on the team who can actually shoot a basketball. But I won’t bring him/her into the game until the very end. And as time expires my sharpshooter sinks the only basket of the game--- in the wrong basket!

Hope on Wheels loses! Hope on Wheels loses! Break out the champagne!

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ward of the State

This happened back in the days when I still used the cripple dial-a-ride bus service, which seems like it was in the in the mid to late Pleistocene, give or take an epoch or two. Yep, I decided a long time ago that one of my top goals in life was to never ever again ride that goddam miserable cripple dial-a-ride bus service and so far I’ve managed to live that dream. But that’s a long and harrowing story for another day.

On this particular day, it was sunny and warm. I had a lunch date downtown with a friend. I boarded the dial-a-ride bus. Another guy in a wheelchair was already on board. He was a black guy about my age. He was bundled in a black hoodie, his hands stuck down deep in the pockets. He said hello and he called me by my name. I must have looked startled or bewildered or something to that effect because he said, “Don’t you remember me?” I had to make a split-second decision. Do I pretend I remember him and hope for a clue to emerge that would help me really remember? Or do I just fess up?

I fessed. So he told me his name. I will give him a Smart Ass Cripple alias to protect the innocent. “I’m Archbishop Desmond Tutu,” he said.

Wow! I remembered Archbishop Desmond Tutu very well. Long ago, we were both inmates at the state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). But I never would’ve guessed it was him because he didn’t look anything like he did back then. I didn’t hang out with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at SHIT. He one of those ward of the state kids. They were of a caste that was mysterious and unsettling to me. They never went home on weekends or holidays or anything. They never had visitors. I knew not what sort of solemn ritual kids were put though to officially make them wards of the state, but I pictured it to be a dead man walking sort of procession culminating in the kid being branded on the chest with the letter W. Some of the other inmates called these kids "awards" of the state. That seemed like it involved an even stranger ritual, where the kid is handed over to the state with great fanfare, like the grand prize on a bizarre game show. I wondered what would become of wards of the state once they were too old to be wards. I figured they were probably whisked off to a home for old wards, never to be heard from again.

But here we were years later, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and I. We exchanged pleasantries. He asked what I was up to. Not much, I said. Writing. I asked what he was up to. Not much, he said. Living on the south side. Hanging out, looking for a job.

We arrived at my destination. I exited the cripple bus. I bade Archbishop Desmond Tutu Godspeed. He bade me Godspeed back.

I had lunch with my friend. And a fine lunch it was. And then I took time to just take in the day. I rolled leisurely up Dearborn Street toward Madison. About 20 yards ahead, I saw a crippled panhandler on the corner. Holy shit! It was Archbishop Desmond Tutu! I froze in my tracks. My first instinct was to quickly run hide behind the nearest pillar before he saw me. What should I do? Roll right past him and pretend I didn’t see him? No! That’s rude! Roll right up to him and offer to put him in touch with resources that can help him get off the street? Oh hell no! That’s even ruder! He’s not a fucking heroin addict! Give him money? No, he might be insulted! Don’t give him money? No, he might be insulted! I was so torn and confused!

So I retreated. I went back to Monroe Street, crossed Dearborn there and proceeded toward Madison on the opposite side of the street from where Archbishop Desmond Tutu was panhandling. I managed to successfully avoid him, just like back at the cripple school.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Fountain of Stupidity

I’m about to turn 60 and here’s what I’m wondering: At what age does the average human no longer look back at where they were 10 or so years earlier and say, “Boy, was I a dumbass.” Do people who are 90 say, “When I was 80, boy, was I a dumbass?” Do people who are 120 say, “When I was 110, boy, was I a dumbass?”

Because I’m still doing that. I look back ten or so years and I’m in awe of what a dumbass I was. And that’s my beef with the fountain of youth. Everybody automatically assumes that if there was such a thing we’d all just jump in the water and splash around and everything would turn out jolly. We’d all be 18 on the outside but remain wise, enlightened elders on the inside. That’s how it’s romanticized in movies. But I don’t know. It seems to me that it would have to be a package deal. You can’t revert to being 18 again physically without reverting to being 18 again in every other way. So you jump into the water and splash around and your body becomes young and supple but you also turn into a dumbass. It's a pact with the devil. The same goes for balms and ointments and stuff that promises to make you young again. If those things really worked, they’d have to have a label that says, Warning: Using this product will turn you into a dumbass.

And I have a similar beef with miracle cripple cures. Amazingly, people still run off to places like Lourdes or to faith healers or shamans or whatever in search of cripple cures. And they think if they get cured everything will be happily ever after. But suppose I drank the water at Lourdes and poof—suddenly I became a strapping young lumberjack. Would I also miraculously acquire a Harvard education? It seems only fair. Because if I wasn’t crippled I might have ended up with a Harvard education. Who knows? But it was guaranteed that I would never end up with a Harvard education the day they shipped me off to a state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). The SHIT curriculum was as challenging and rigorous as playing tic-tac-toe. To this day, I still have to look up how to spell the word curriculum.

No, if I took a bath a Lourdes, at best I would emerge as a strapping young lumberjack with my same old shitty segregated cripple school education. I’d be far from cured. It takes a whole lot more than holy water to wash away the ravages of crippledom.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

To Lobster Boy from Drunken Frankenstein

Dear Lobster Boy,

I hope you don’t mind me calling you that. I mean it as a term of endearment.

I happened across an internet video of you. You were on a stage somewhere. You sat in a wheelchair. In front of you was a walker on wheels. And across the stage was husky man, an emcee-type wearing a tuxedo. It looked like a charity fundraising event. And the audience was packed full. Not an empty seat in the house.

You must’ve been in Latin America somewhere because the emcee spoke Spanish. As he addressed the spellbound audience, he leaned in toward them for dramatic emphasis. And then he presented you with a great swooping wave of his arm, as if you were about to perform a heroic feat. And then you slowly stood. And with the aid of the rolling walker you walked across the stage. You received a standing ovation. Some people cried tears of joy. Not a dry seat in the house.

And as I watched I said to myself I wish I had been there for you. Because I would have nobly ruined the whole spectacle, like the kid in The Emperor‘s New Clothes. I would have yelled out, “Hey kid, you walk like a lobster!” I wouldn’t have been able to hold back. And I hope you wouldn’t have taken it as an insult because the intention is quite the opposite. The intention is for it to be like a secret handshake of cripple brotherhood and solidarity.

You walked on your tiptoes, teetering to hold your balance like a tightrope walker. You walked like a lobster walks if a human holds it up under its armpits and forces it to walk upright. But here’s the thing. It’s become increasingly frowned upon to anthropomorphize other beings for the gratification of humans. It once was perfectly acceptable to dress a chimp in a business suit or train a chicken to ride a unicycle. But now we’ve come to acknowledge that such stunts are inconsiderate of the feeling of the anthropomorphized entities. Why force a lobster to walk upright? A lobster’s natural form of locomotion is to crawl. It may look pathetic and undignified to humans, but it works just fine for lobsters. They’ve been doing it that way for centuries. Just let lobsters be lobsters.

And just let you be you. Your natural form of locomotion is pushing a wheelchair and it works fine. You just ain’t built for walking upright, lobster boy. No shame in that. You walk like a lobster but you roll with grace. I know how it is, lobster boy. When I was your age, I walked like drunken Frankenstein. In the physical therapy gym, propped up perilously by leg braces and parallel bars, I heaved one leg forward and then I heaved the next. Therapists cheered me on but when I look back I wish one of them had enough respect for me to be honest and say, “You know what kid, you walk like drunken Frankenstein.” What a relief it would have been to have my awkwardness validated, to have the ridiculousness I felt surrounding me at that moment acknowledged. Maybe we all could have relaxed and quit pretending.

That was at a different time in a different country, lobster boy. But it’s the same old stuff.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


It’s one of those dreadful realities of life that happens to everyone sooner or later. You wake up in the morning and find out you’ve been taken over by Disney.

I guess I always just naively assumed it would never happen to me but it has! I got a notice from the Disney lawyers informing me of the hostile takeover. Somehow Disney bought out Smart Ass Cripple and they intend to turn it into a site for crippled children called DisNEYabled. They intend to stream videos designed to “shape the character” of crippled children and to sell t-shirts and buttons and such that say “I’m DisNEYabled.”

But do not fear, oh dear readers. I vow to resist this hostile takeover with all of my might! I’ve hired the best lawyers fifty bucks can buy. Because I know how those Disney people are! Every move they make is part of their long-term plan to establish international hegemony, to create a global Disnocracy, if you will. And they know the best way to achieve that goal is to indoctrinate children and turn them into little Disney zombies. They know their brainwashing propaganda is most effective when delivered by a talking rabbit or a princess.

The anatomy of Disney’s new world order is so twisted and intricate that it’s beyond my comprehension. All I know is that it must be evil. And I don’t know what the DisNEYabled stuff is all about but it must be evil too. Because the historic evidence clearly shows that a necessary step in creating a Disnocracy is to first create a bunch of placid cripples. Like for instance, take the movie Dumbo. That movie really pisses me off! The crippled protagonist, Dumbo, not only has a congenital birth defect of the ears but he’s also mute. Either that or the screenwriters thought since Dumbo is crippled he doesn’t have anything important to say.

Everybody at the circus treats Dumbo like shit. I mean, they call him Dumbo for fuck’s sake! Everybody makes fun of his ears and when his mother fights back the circus boss throws her in solitary confinement. And after that Dumbo just lies in a corner moping until this mouse gently motivates him to get up off his ass. That mouse is supposed to symbolize the uncrippled bleeding-heart professional, like a therapist or social worker, who inspires the downtrodden cripple to realize his/her full potential. What a worn out cliché that is!

But anyway, the mouse helps Dumbo discover he can fly and then all of a sudden everybody just fucking loves Dumbo and his mother gets a luxury VIP car on the circus train and Dumbo is the star of the circus. The end.

What the fuck is that? Dumbo finds out he has a zillion-dollar talent and what does he do? He goes right back to work for the same circus boss that imprisoned his mom! Everybody treats Dumbo like shit and he just lets bygones be bygones? Fuck all that!

If the Disney people really wanted to send the right message to crippled children, in the triumphant scene where Dumbo soars around the circus tent he would take a huge dump all over everybody below! You know how freaked out people get when they get hit by a little bird shit. Imagine how they’d panic getting bombed by elephant shit! And then Dumbo finally speaks! He tells the circus boss to take this job and shove it! “I’m starting my own circus,” Dumbo says, “so your circus is toast! Who’s the fucking Dumbo now, huh?”

Dumbo is a load of assimilationist crap. So I must fight back against Disney’s fiendish plot. Someone has to save the children.

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