Monday, November 23, 2015

A Public Apology to the Great and Powerful Oz

This is my public apology to this guy I know whom I shall refer to as the Great and Powerful Oz (Smart Ass Cripple alias}. The Great and Powerful Oz has demanded no such apology. He probably doesn’t even know I owe him one. But I feel the need to unburden.

A few years back I was planning to have a party. The Great and Powerful Oz caught wind of this and when I ran into him he said, “Hey, can I come to your party?” I said of course he could come. I wasn’t going to say no and look like an elitist asshole, especially since he asked me in front of other people. But I was worried because I’d heard tales of his ability to consume massive quantities of beer. And sure enough, the Great and Powerful Oz came to my party and plopped down on my couch and downed what seemed to be 99 bottles of beer. It was probably only about 5 or 6. But finally when he held up an empty bottle and asked for another, I slipped him a bottle of nonalcoholic beer. And he happily downed it and 2 or 3 more without knowing the difference because The Great and Powerful Oz is blind.

I know that was a shitty thing to do to pull a fast one on a blind person. And I must also confess that my sneaky action was very premeditated. When I went to the liquor store to buy beer for my party, I picked up some nonalcoholic beer in anticipation of that very scenario. Why the hell else would I buy nonalcoholic beer?

I’m not proud of what I did. Well, actually, I am a little proud. But I’m definitely not proud of the fact that I’m not completely not proud. Being a little proud of my action makes me feel even more ashamed of it. That much I can say for sure! I took the easy way out and in so doing I undermined a fellow cripple’s hard-earned independence, autonomy, sense of dignity and right to self-determination. But I am a weak person. I am a hypocrite. I should have treated the Great and Powerful Oz the way I would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. I should have said to him, “I know that you have as much right as anyone to make your own decisions and to plot the course of your own life. As your crippled comrade, I will always honor and respect that. And so I say unto you that I believe you’ve had too much to drink and you should switch to nonalcoholic beer.” But I don’t think the Great and Powerful Oz would have passively gone along with that recommendation and that could well have altered the course of the evening. This was supposed to be a party, not a damn intervention. It was a lot easier to just slip him nonalcoholic beer.

So I hope the Great and Powerful Oz reads this public apology. Actually, I really hope he doesn’t read it because then the next time I see him he’ll say, “Hey, you slipped me nonalcoholic beer, asshole!” And for the sake of again avoiding confrontation, I’ll vehemently deny that he is the subject of this piece. I’ll lie and assert that this is purely a work of fiction and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is a coincidence.

I’m such a weak person.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

For Those Who Can't

I don’t know how to feel about those events where people raise money for a certain genre of cripples by getting together and doing something those particular cripples really suck at doing.

I’m talking about events with names like The Third Annual Walk for Those Who Can’t. People walk a mile or so and collect pledges and give the money to an organization serving cripples who can’t walk. If they do the walk on a Saturday, which is a slow news day, it might get a 15-second spot on the local news.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association sponsors events called Muscle Walks. Their online store is called the Muscle Shop and there you can buy stuff like backpacks, t-shirts and coffee mugs that say Make a Muscle on them. People with muscular dystrophy, like me, come in all shapes and sizes. You’ll find us in all walks of life, in every socioeconomic stratum. But the one thing we all suck at is making a muscle.

So I’m not sure how those of us on the receiving end of this goodwill are expected to react. I think the goal is to help us feel better about ourselves and our situation. Maybe we’re supposed to feel relief. “Don’t worry, pal. I know you can’t walk but I got you covered. You just relax.” But it might have the opposite effect. When people dwell upon that at which you so thoroughly suck at doing, it can make you self-conscious and ornery.

Do people organize these types of events for other cripples, like blind people? The Third Annual Cross a Busy City Street Without Getting Hit by a Bus for Those Who Can’t. What about medical problems, like infertility? The Third Annual Get Pregnant and Give Birth to a Beautiful Healthy Child for Those Who Can’t. What about for political issues? The Third Annual Get a Job that Pays a Woman the Same Thing a Man Gets Paid for Doing the Same Damn Job for Those Who Can’t.

But maybe I’m just a big fat whiner. These people mean well. I should just shut the hell up and get with the spirit. I may not be able to walk, but there are plenty of things I can do well and I should use whatever abilities I have to help those who aren’t as fortunate. So I’m going to raise money for men with erectile dysfunction. The First Annual Get it Up for Those Who Can’t. I’ll gather a bunch of my most virile friends and we’ll sit in a circle. I’m not sure exactly how it will work from there. I don’t know how the pledge part will work either. And I don’t think the local news will cover it.

But I’ll figure it all out. I just want to help men with erectile dysfunction feel better about themselves and their situation.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The $5 Cardboard Donut ($20 When Adjusted for Inflation)

When I was a wee criplet, my mother paid $5 for a donut. And it wasn’t even edible because it was made of cardboard. The donut said Thank You on it and it hung by a string from the rearview mirror of our rust-riddled station wagon.

I was baffled. That was a helluva lot of money to pay for a donut you couldn’t even eat, especially for a family that drove around in a rust-riddled station wagon. That would be about $20 today. My mother explained to me that she didn’t get just a donut for her $5. She got much more. This was no ordinary donut. The $5, you see, went to support the people who lived at a village for the retarded, which is the word they used back then to describe the people who live in those villages run by nuns and such.

I still didn’t get it. Why would anyone pay that much for a donut? If it was edible and filled with delicious jelly, maybe. But cardboard? What was the point of a donut that you couldn't eat? That was like non-alcoholic beer.

It wasn’t until I became an adult trying to keep up with the hectic pace of life that I fully understood. When the people with the slotted cans who collected money for the village approached the driver’s window of my mother’s car as she waited for the light to change, what they were selling was peace of mind. Because we all have so much to worry about, so many people and things demanding our attention. It’s all so overwhelming. Everyone wants to be a sensitive person who takes the suffering of others to heart. But if you take the suffering of EVERYONE to heart, you’ll drive yourself nuts. You won’t have time or energy left for anything else. But when you purchase a $5 cardboard donut to help the people who live in those villages, you’ll experience the unique joy that comes from knowing you can cross them off your worry list. The nuns will take care of it.

This was a valuable lesson to learn and it will come in handy if I ever have to resort to begging. And hell, the way things are going with Social Security, you never know. I know one thing for sure. I won’t be one of those penny-ante beggars, selling chewed up pencils for whatever nickels and dimes passersby flip me. My chewed-up pencils will sell for $20 each. No haggling. Most people will scoff I’m sure. But many will see the true value of what I’m selling and they’ll consider $20 to be a bargain.

Maybe I’ll build a begging infrastructure as vast as the one assembled by the nuns, with any army of volunteer surrogate beggars doing my begging for me. And maybe I’ll make enough cash to buy myself my own little piece of a hedge fund somewhere. My only regret will be that I didn’t take up this begging business a lot sooner. Foolish pride.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Way back when, I knew this cripple named General Douglas MacArthur (Smart Ass Cripple alias). I give him an alias because he carries around a dark secret and I don’t want to out him.

I didn’t know General Douglas MacArthur all that well. I last saw him 25 years or so ago when he was a big shot at a state agency. Then he went on to become a big shot professor or something. He’s helped Senators develop legislation and he’s won awards from U.S. Presidents.

But I’ve always wondered what General Douglas MacArthur says when somebody asks him how he became crippled. Because according to reliable sources I also knew way back when, General Douglas MacArthur injured his spinal cord in a very kinky manner. They say that he was at a drunken outdoor barbecue and he met a woman and soon they went around to the other side of a hill so they could make out in privacy. Meanwhile, another partier left the drunken barbecue and drove his truck over the hill. He didn’t know anyone was on the other side and he ran over General Douglas MacArthur while the woman was in the midst of performing oral sex on him.

And that, they say, is how General Douglas MacArthur became crippled. It’s probably true. There are many stories of people who became crippled because they did some kinky sex thing which accidentally resulted in them losing or ruining a body part, breaking their necks or sustaining a brain injury due to oxygen deprivation or blunt force trauma.

And surely people have asked General Douglas MacArthur how he became crippled. There isn’t a cripple alive who hasn’t had someone come up to them and say, “So, what happened to you?” Does General Douglas MacArthur just mumble something standard like “car accident” and quickly change the subject? Does he make it into something all dramatic, like, “Well I was walking down the street when I saw a toddler about to be mauled by a bear so I immediately--!” If General Douglas MacArthur tells the truth, it would jeopardize his big shot status. Even Christopher Reeve couldn’t fully transcend something like that. Imagine if Christopher Reeve, instead of doing something heroic like falling off a horse, became crippled when he was run over by a truck while receiving oral sex from a stranger. That screws up his whole post-injury gig. There’s no way he goes on to become a courageous warrior for us all to emulate. In deference to his artistic accomplishments and celebrity status, some people might nevertheless still attempt to heap awards and praise upon him. Everybody would applaud and politely play along, but we’d all be secretly snickering on the inside.

I wonder if General Douglas MacArthur’s dark secret curtails his ambition. Maybe he dreams of running for Congress but he’s terrified that his opponent will catch wind of how he really became crippled and smear him in an attack ad. Or maybe the woman who was with him on the other side of the hill will surface and he’ll have to pay her hush money.

If the truth comes out, General Douglas MacArthur may well end up a broken man, a big shot in exile. His only shot at redemption will be to become a public speaker, lecturing high school students. “Don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t attend drunken barbecues and go around the hill for oral sex. It’s not worth it.”

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

After the Revolution

I was watching a movie that was set in New York in the 1940s. And you know how sometimes you’re watching a movie and you spot a blatant historical inaccuracy that ruins the whole illusion? Well in this movie the protagonist crossed the street and the curbs on both sides of the intersection were nicely ramped to accommodate wheelchair cripples. “Oops,” I said to myself. “Somebody didn’t do their research. Don’t they know that in the 1940s there was no such thing? In the name of authenticity, somebody should have made concrete-colored ramp fillers out of Styrofoam and stuffed them in those gaps to eliminate those ramps and more accurately reflect the inhospitable nature of the times.”

And then I had one of those moments where I think about some of the shit previous generations of cripples put up with and I shake my head in disbelief. I said to myself," I can’t believe there was a time when there was nothing but big-ass curbs everywhere. That would make me erupt. Life must’ve really sucked back then.”

And then I had one of those moments that I always have after I have one of those moments where I think about some of the shit previous generations of cripples put up with. And I told myself not to be so damn superior. Every generation of cripples puts up with shit we ought not to put up with, including mine. When I fly on the airlines they haul my ass to my seat and take away my wheelchair and throw it in the baggage hole, which means I’m screwed in the event of an emergency. I’m also screwed if I have to go to the bathroom, although I’d still be screwed in that regard even if I had my chair because those airliner bathrooms are so tiny you can’t sit on the crapper without your knees pressing up against the back of the door. So you sure as hell can’t fit a wheelchair in there. I feel like erupting in outrage about all this but I don’t. Erupting probably wouldn't yield any immediate results anyway. If I demanded an accommodation from the airlines in the event that I have to pee in flight, they’d probably issue me a clothespin to clamp onto the end of my pecker. So instead of erupting, I quietly dehydrate myself. This greatly reduces the odds of my needing the bathroom during the flight or of peeing my pants in the event of an emergency.

And then I had one of those moments that I always have after I have one of those moments where I remind myself about the kind of shit my generation of cripples puts up with. And I wondered what future generations of cripples will say to themselves when they look back on us hapless cripples of today and shake their heads in disbelief. Here’s what I hope they’ll say: ”I can’t believe there was a time when every cripple didn’t have their own free, custom-made, accessible private jet. That was before the revolution, when cripples seized control of the government and immediately passed the Free Custom-made Accessible Private Jet for All Americans with Disabilities Act (FCAPJADA). Life must’ve really sucked back then.”

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Zombies of Color

I saw an ad that really made me curious. It said, Wanted: Zombies of Color.

So I called to find out what it was all about. And the recorded message said, “Thank you for calling Zombie Finders. If you want to sign up for the zombies of color audition, press 9.” So I pressed 9 and the recorded message told me to show up Thursday at noon.

And then I did some research and I learned that Zombie Finders is a talent agency that specializes in casting ordinary folks in the roles of zombies in movies and TV shows. There’s a huge demand because the zombie apocalypse has become a hot artistic topic in recent years and nobody ever casts just one zombie. Zombies are always cast by the shitload. That’s where Zombie Finders comes in.

More research revealed that last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged Zombie Finders with employment discrimination. An investigation by the agency found that nearly all those who passed Zombie Finder auditions were white, which is why the shitloads of Zombies we see in movies and TV shows do not, in the agency’s words, “reflect the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of America.”

I never thought about that but it’s true. I know whenever I think about zombies I picture white males. That’s how we’ve been conditioned by our mass media

So the zombies of color audition was part of Zombie Finders settlement agreement with EEOC. I was super excited to try out because if zombie diversity was what they were after, I could deliver that big time. In no zombie movie or TV show have I ever seen a zombie in a motorized wheelchair or even a dwarf zombie for that matter. Zombies are pretty goddam homogeneous. And whereas I am not technically “of color,” I feel like being crippled in some ways makes me an honorary member of that club. And I was also super excited to try out because being cast as a zombie would be the realization of a lifelong vocational ambition. As a kid I pictured myself as everything from a boxer to an astronaut. But never in my wildest dreams did I dare imagine that some sweet day I would be paid to act like a zombie.

So I showed up Thursday at noon and got in line. I had a soliloquy from Hamlet all memorized and ready to go. But then a large man with curly red hair and a clipboard asked me to come with him. He escorted me off to a corner. “I’m sorry sir but the audition is only for zombies of color,” he said.

I explained to him that any truly inclusive shitload of zombies would contain at least a smattering of cripples. “And besides,” I said, “a zombie in motorized wheelchair would wow the pants off of the EEOC!”

“A zombie in motorized wheelchair?” scoffed the fair-skinned linebacker of a man. “Impossible. First of all, what happens when your batteries run out of juice? Do you expect people to believe that a zombie has the wherewithal to periodically stop and recharge its wheelchair batteries?”

“Well I don’t know!” I protested. “May I’m freshly zombified and I’m still running on the juice I had before I was undead!”

But the man wasn’t buying it. I continued pleading my case until he threatened to call security.

So I left. But I’m still pissed. I have half a mind to gather up some crippled brothers and picket Zombie Finders. But I don’t think it would do much good. The zombies probably won’t honor my picket line because they don’t have much job security. They can be easily replaced by scab zombies.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cripples on the Titanic

I don’t know for sure, but I bet there weren’t any cripples like me on the Titanic. But if there were any, I wonder what happened to them?

Rescue etiquette in a civilized society dictates that women and children be saved first. The whole basis for this is to save those who are allegedly the weakest and most vulnerable. So it follows that cripples would be included in that grouping, being that we are a popular symbol of the ultimate in weakness and vulnerability. Cripples might even be at the top of the rescue list.

But my guess is that even if that’s how things were on paper, any cripples like me on the Titanic probably went down with the ship involuntarily. Or at least I’m sure that’s how it would be if the Titanic went down today. Because the humane plan for orderly exit that moves the weakest and most vulnerable to the front leaves rich white guys at the end of the line. And I can’t imagine rich white guys of today sitting back and letting that happen.

Altruistic notions really get put to the test when the holders of such notions suddenly find their own asses on the line. So if cripples were at the top of the rescue list and the ship hit an iceberg, the rich white guys on board would face two courses of action. A: They could pretend to be crippled. Suddenly they all start limping or bumping into walls like they’re blind. Or they mug cripples like me, throw us out of our wheelchairs and hijack them. Some, no doubt, would elect to go that route. Or, B: They could resort to the power of rationalization. In other words, sway public opinion by cranking the old propaganda machine up to full blast. The libertarians would lead the way, standing on the soapbox and arguing that whereas saving the weakest and most vulnerable is a commendable idea, it is too simplistic of a worldview. It ignores the most immutable fact of human nature, which is that those who have acquired the most have necessarily worked the hardest. These are the humans to which we are all most beholden. But if we force rich white men to the back of the rescue line we are punishing success and that’s un-American! What’s next, sharia law? Our rescue priority must be job creators first!

Where I live, the doorperson in the lobby has a list of the seven or eight cripples living my building so if a big fire breaks out the firefighters know where to go to rescue us. I just hope the firefighter assigned to rescue me isn’t a libertarian.

(Smart Ass Cripple is completely reader supported. Contributing to the tip jar, purchasing books and subscribing through Amazon Kindle keeps us going. Please help if you can.)