Friday, July 25, 2014

Pimps

When the crippled beggar up there on Congress Street shakes his paper cup, the jingle jangle is rich and resonant. It sounds like his business is booming.

Or maybe it’s a front, like when your real estate agent pulls up in a BMW he/she can’t begin to afford, just so you’ll think he/she is super successful. Maybe the beggar’s cup is full of rocks and bottle caps just so he’ll sound like he's a super successful beggar. But then again, you would think that a crippled beggar trying to drum up business would put up the opposite front. I’m more inclined to feel obligated to fill a cup that sounds empty.

I have to admit that sometimes I’ve been tempted to take up crippled begging. It’s a quick and easy way to become an independent businessman. No start-up costs. No lining up of investors. No overhead. All you need is a paper cup and, if you really want to get fancy, a scrap of cardboard and a pencil. I can set my own hours. No office politics. Some folks say begging is demeaning, which I suppose is true. But so was a lot of other stuff I was hooked up with by the vocational rehab agencies that help cripples find jobs. One time way back when I was sent on a telemarketing interview for Time-Life books. The interviewer had me do a mock phone call. I read from a script announcing the exciting news about the new volume in our series of books entitled The Old West. This volume was The Gunfighters and it was “handsomely bound in genuine simulated leather.”

But anyway, the best indicator that the profit margins in cripple begging still aren’t that high is the fact that nobody appears to be shaking crippled beggars down. I haven’t seen or heard anything about mafia thugs approaching crippled beggars and demanding a cut of the take. And I haven’t heard reports of crippled beggars on corners being gunned down in drive-by shootings because they refused to play along.

If there was big money to be made in cripple begging, you know this would be going on. And there would be competing begging cartels, each headed by an uncrippled kingpin controlling his/her own batch of crippled beggars. Sort of like a pimp. And there would be bloody turf wars with the kingpins battling for control of lucrative begging corners.

Either that or crippled beggars would get shaken down in a more legal and civilized manner. Some shrewd entrepreneur, smelling an untapped profit center, would enter into an exclusive begging franchise agreement with the city council. And then crippled begging would become tightly regulated. Any crippled beggar (franchisee) would have to sign a contract with the shrewd entrepreneur (franchisor). The cripple agrees to pay all fees associated with acquiring a crippled beggar franchise plus a percentage of the monthly proceeds to the franchisor in exchange for the right to beg on a certain corner. Sort of like a pimp.

But so far you don't hear much about this stuff happening. So far crippled beggars are pretty much allowed to set up shop wherever they want and everybody leaves them alone, which makes it all the more tempting to become one.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

African History Dropout

I was about 14 or so and my mother was hoppin’ mad. She found the taboo adult literature I was hiding. I thought it was in a safe hiding place, buried way down deep in the underwear drawer of my nightstand in my room at the state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT).

My mother demanded to know how an adolescent cripple in a sheltered environment like SHIT could have acquired such adult reading material. It was not one but two books. One was On Contradiction by Mao Tse Tung. The other was Mao’s Little Red Book.

I cracked under the heat of interrogation and confessed that one of the houseparents, which is what they called the aides at SHIT, slipped the books to me on the sly. The houseparent was Brady, the guy with the big Afro haircut. Brady looked like the kind of guy the people in my snow white neighborhood referred to at the time as a “black militant.” (Note: The more worldly people in my neighborhood, such as my mother, acknowledged that not all black people were black militants. There were some blacks who had jobs, kept up their property and looked after their kids. These blacks were “the good ones.”)

My mother confiscated the books, lest I fall under the corrupting communist influence of the black militants. I didn’t tell her that it was too late. I dared not say so when I went back home to the neighborhood but I thought the black militants were super cool. And it didn’t have anything to do with the Mao books. I didn’t understand them. I just thought the way the black militants protested was so cool. I wasn’t even sure what they were protesting about but it was so cool.

In fact, I really wanted to BE a black militant. And it pained me greatly to know that I would never be able to achieve that revered status, just because I happened to be born the wrong color. So I did the next best thing. I took part in a student protest at SHIT demanding that an African history course be added to the curriculum. There were a lot of student protests in those days demanding African history courses so some SHIT students organized one too.

The SHIT principal responded very shrewdly by giving us exactly what we asked for. African history was added to the curriculum. I signed up right away. But the first indication that our great protest triumph would go terribly wrong came when Mr. Bodean, our regular history teacher, was assigned to teach the class. That wasn’t how it was supposed to work. African history was supposed to be taught by someone who looked like Cornel West or Frederick Douglass. But Bodean was white. He was way smart, too smart to be teaching at SHIT. He should have been teaching at Harvard or something but he was crippled. He had an enormous bald head and he walked funny. He’d be walking along just fine and all of a sudden his feet would skip a little. It was as if his feet were fucking with him just for a laugh. In those days, about the only place a guy who was crippled like Bodean could get a teaching job was at a place like SHIT.

And Bodean had a really screwy idea of what an African history course was supposed to be about. He thought it was supposed to be about the history of the continent of Africa. What a goofball! He never once talked about the protesting black militants. One day Bodean’s lecture was about indigenous crops of Rhodesia, or one of those 12 million African countries. At the top of the hour, he talked about millet and sorghum. I fell asleep. I work up at the end of the hour. He was still talking about millet and sorghum.

I dropped out of African history.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Cripple with a Care Plan

There are two kinds of cripples: 1) Those have a care plan and 2) those that don’t.

The ones that don’t have a care plan are the truly liberated cripples. Whenever I see one of those wheelchair athlete cripples with upper body muscles like a juiced-up lumberjack, I say to myself, “I bet she doesn’t have a stinkin’ care plan!” It’s the same with the rich cripples, who ride around in their chauffeured, air conditioned, amphibious, fabulous flying cripple vans. Nobody makes them have a care plan either.

Cripples who live in nursing homes, however, are the most unliberated cripples of all. And they have care plans up the ass. I have a friend in a nursing home and he asked me to come to the meeting where the nurses, therapists and social workers put together his care plan. Now the thing about care plans put together by nurses, therapist and social workers is that they always contain lots of goals, but it’s never about anything fun or interesting. It's never about anything that's good for the soul. Getting blotto drug and waking up in a tattoo parlor in Reno is never a goal on these care plans. Trying to get laid is never a goal on these care plans. But why not? If every adult human was required to submit a self-care plan to the state, trying to get laid would be a high-priority goal on pretty much every one. The care plan for my friend in the nursing home contained goals like getting up out of his wheelchair and walking 20 feet down the hall twice a week and socializing more with his neighbors and some such stuff I don’t even remember. All I know is that the goals of his nursing home care plan were way different than the goals of his personal self-care plan would be.

I’m one of those cripples with a care plan, which places me more among the unliberated cripples than not. I’ve been required to have a care plan pretty much my whole life. First it was because I was an inmate in a state-operated boarding school for cripples. Now it’s because the state pays the wages of my pit crew, which is what I call the guys who get me dressed, put me on the crapper, etc. Thus, I am required to have a care plan. Except in this case it’s called a service plan. My service plan allots me X number of hours per month for getting dressed and X number of hours per month for taking a leak and so on. It does not allot me any hours for getting blotto drug and waking up in a tattoo parlor in Reno or for trying to get laid.

The lumberjack cripples don’t need a pit crew and the rich cripples can afford to pay their own. I guess I’ll always be a cripple with a care plan unless I suddenly get either rich or cured. I know for sure one of those things is never ever going to happen. So I’ll just keep hoping I get cured.



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Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Have Naked Issues, Dammit!


There’s this annual event called the World Naked Bike Ride. Thousands of people all over the world ride their bikes en masse and in public, naked. It’s meant to be a political statement in rejection of pollution caused by vehicles and also of body shame.

Every year I think about joining my local ride. I think it could be therapeutic for me to merge into the pack riding along naked in my motorized wheelchair. I wish I could be free and easy with my naked body like that, but I can’t. I have naked issues, dammit!

But who could blame me? Remember, I’m a graduate of a state-operated boarding school for cripples, which I affectionately refer to as the Sam Houston Institute of Technology (SHIT). It’s pretty near impossible to escape a place like that without having naked issues.

I’m real particular about who gets to see me naked. I can be a real Nazi about it sometimes. It’s not a shame thing. I’m not ashamed of my body. Why should I be? My body hasn’t done anything wrong. It hasn’t committed any heinous crimes, unless I made it do so.

My naked issues are more of a political thing. As inmates at SHIT, anybody might see us naked at any time. Like one of the houseparents, which is what they called the aides, might be getting you dressed or undressed in your room and God knows who might prance on in. No knock no nothing. Maybe another houseparent or a nurse or a janitor emptying the trash can. Or sometimes they’d line us up naked in the bathtub room, waiting for our turn to be put in the tub.

And then there were the “clinical sessions” at SHIT. We didn’t have to get naked for those but I sure felt like I was naked, psychologically. We’d wait in the hall outside the physical therapy gym wearing only underwear and a robe. And then they’d call us into the gym one-by-one and have us do something like walk in the parallel bars while a bunch of observers looked on and took notes. The observers were doctors and therapists and nurses and houseparents and social workers and teachers and I swear I saw some food service people in there observing once. Probably not really, but that’s what it felt like.

I didn’t gain full control over who sees me naked until I got to college. (Ironically, during my college days, I soon discovered that not too many people wanted to see me naked anyway, but that’s another story.) To this day somebody on my pit crew sees me naked every day, either when they help me go to bed or help me get up. But at least I determine who those people are. Before someone gets to see me naked, they must go through a process (spoken or unspoken) which goes something like:

PERSON: Request permission to see you naked, sir!

ME: Permission granted.

Once permission is obtained it is blanket unless rescinded.

If I ever get up the balls to join the bike ride I won’t do it alone. Because bikes are much faster than motorized wheelchairs and after about a half a block I’d be left in the dust and there I’d be in the middle of the public plaza, alone and naked in my wheelchair. And that would surely whip up a whole new grizzly batch of naked issues for me.

What I need to do first is organize a simultaneous World Naked Wheelchair Ride in solidarity. That ought to turn some heads.


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Friday, June 27, 2014

Visionaries




I am not a visionary. It’s hard to admit but it's true. A visionary to me is the guy who invented urinal cakes. One day he was in a public bathroom just merrily pissing away when all of a sudden a light bulb lit up in his head. And then he was visionary enough to follow through, to assemble a team of scientists with the expertise to turn his urinal cake vision into reality, to build a urinal cake manufacturing facility and to press on despite the inevitable ridicule of the small-minded naysayers. And thus he became a urinal cake tycoon.

There are evil visionaries too, like Stalin and the guy who thought up the idea for Hooters. One day he was sitting around thinking, “If I only had the right gimmick, I could sell these crappy-ass chicken wings by the boatload.” And a diabolical light bulb lit up in his head.

Some people are visionary only about certain things. I guess they could be called visionary savants. Like I have a friend who loves to get stoned. He gets stoned pretty much every day. If he doesn’t have papers or a pipe handy, he can make a pipe out of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I saw him bore a couple of intersecting holes into an apple and convert it into a pipe. But he says he could do the same with a potato or most any hard vegetable like jicama, sweet potatoes, maybe even an eggplant or a very large radish. He could probably even turn a banana into a pipe if he was desperate enough. Probably not a grape.

Some cripples are visionary as all hell when it comes to solving their own cripple problems. They drop their keys on the floor and there's nobody around to pick them up so they say to themselves, “Hmmm. How can I solve this cripple problem and in so doing make life easier for my fellow cripples?” And then they invent something like a satellite-powered, voice-activated suction hose with which to pick up keys. Ralph Braun was one of those visionary cripples. When he became too crippled to push his wheelchair in the early 1960s, there were no motorized wheelchairs. So he invented a motorized wheelchair for himself. It looked like a humongous, car-battery-operated skateboard with a seat mounted on top. And a few years later, when he wanted to be able to drive a vehicle while sitting in his wheelchair, he bought an old mail truck and rigged it up with a homemade wheelchair lift to hoist him and his chair up and in. From there Ralph Braun went into the vehicle conversion business. That's why, whenever you see a wheelchair-accessible minivan on the road, you’ll probably see the name Braun on it somewhere. Ralph Braun died a wealthy, happy man.

I’m not visionary at all when it comes to solving my own cripple problems. When faced with a cripple problem, such as dropping my keys on the floor, I say to myself, “Fuck it. Have a beer.” And I have a beer while I wait for someone who can bend to come around and pick up my keys.

I’ll never invent anything useful for my fellow cripples because I don’t think I’ll ever transcend “Fuck it. Have a beer.” I’m permanently stuck in my unvisionary rut.


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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sex, Drugs, Money, Bodily Waste, Flatulence, Death and Cripples (to Name a Few)

Slang. Humans need slang. Humans would have a hard time coping with the vastness of life if there was no slang.

Humans need slang to defend ourselves. We turn to slang to help us deal with those phenomena in life that are just too real, those things that frighten us because they are overwhelmingly alluring or repulsive or, paradoxically, both. We can’t avoid or eliminate these dangerous things so we have to try to define them. Thus, we have to make them digestible. Slang is the enzyme that breaks them down. Slang demystifies. Slang ridicules and eviscerates. Slang sanitizes. Slang satirizes.

Some examples (to name a few):

Sex. Sex = fucking, humping, screwing, grinding, getting laid, doing the nasty, doing “it,” etc. Body parts associated with sex = dick, cock, wanger, pee pee, joystick, pussy, beaver (archaic), muff, love canal, tits, boobs, jugs, casaba melons, hooters, etc. Masturbation (male only) = jacking off, jerking off, tugging, pulling taffy. waxing the whale, spanking the monkey, etc.

Drugs. Drugs = crack, smack, meth, pot, weed, grass, percs, vikes, booze, brewskis, etc.

Money. Money = cash, bucks, bananas, bills, bones, Benjamins, clams, smackers, smackaroos, samolians, etc

Bodily waste. Bodily waste = shit, piss, pee pee, crap, turd, doo doo, dookie, poop, etc. The act of eliminating bodily waste = taking a dump, crap, leak, whiz, etc; going bowling, pinching a loaf, retiring to the library, making a boo boo, etc.

Flatulence: Flatulence = farting, passing gas, breaking wind, squeezing out an SBD, singing soprano, etc,

Death. To die is to pass, pass away, pass on, transcend, met your maker, expire, move to a better place, croak, kick the bucket, cash in your chips, etc.

Cripples. Cripples = disabled, cripples, gimps, handicapped, lame, differently-abled, handi-capable, physically challenged, mentally challenged, visually challenged, physically impaired, mentally impaired, visually impaired, the “r” word, invalids, etc.

What does all this say about cripples? I know it says something. Something big. Hell if I know what.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Autism Hat

I see where the Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning that there are a lot of fake products and therapies popping up that claim to treat or cure autism.

I never knew there was so much big money in curing autism. And now I feel like a real chump because I can see that I was suckered by one of these autism snake oil pitchmen. I should have known better. The commercial about the new miracle cure for autism that reeled me in came on during the Three Stooges. When researchers at Johns Hopkins University find a miracle cure for something, I don’t think the next thing they say is, “Now let’s announce this to the whole world by putting a commercial on the Three Stooges!”

It was a commercial for the amazing new autism hat. Just put it on and your autism is gone! The breathlessly excited announcer said, “Do you have autism? Are you embarrassed? Well your troubles are over thanks to the amazing autism hat!”

I must admit the autism hat looked rather dopey. It looked like a 10-gallon cowboy hat with two radio antennae protruding from the top. Wearing it in public would certainly make a person conspicuous. But I guess anything’s better than having autism, right?

And the testimonials on the commercial were compelling. There was a smiling man wearing an autism hat. He looked like a regular Joe. And then he said, “I have Asperger Syndrome. But when I wear my autism hat, I’m a normal person! Thank you autism hat!” A young woman wearing an autism hat said, “I have autism and I never left my house because people on the street would stare. But now that I have an autism hat, people won’t stare at me anymore! Thank you autism hat!”

The announcer said, “What would you pay for this miracle cure for autism? Five million dollars? Two million? One million? Well with this special TV offer the incredible autism hat can be yours for three convenient payment of just $19.99! But that’s not all! Call within the next 20 minutes and you’ll receive a second autism hat absolutely free! Call now! Operators are standing by!”

I was so excited I called right away! I couldn’t wait to own my very own autism hat! And I don’t even have autism! But you never know what life may hold, I thought. Wearing an autism hat might keep me from catching autism in the future. It could be like an autism prophylactic.

But now, thanks to the FDA, I can see I was duped. Now what the hell am I supposed to do with my autism hat? I guess the only way I’ll get my money’s worth out of it now is if I dress up on Halloween as a cowboy from Mars.