Monday, December 26, 2011

Boring Scars

I’m very self-conscious about the cripple scars I have on my body. I don’t like talking about them because they’re so damn boring.

There’s one on the back of my left calf. It’s been there forever. I don’t remember how it got there. My mother said it’s from when doctors took a muscle biopsy when I was a baby so they could diagnose why I was crippled.

See what I mean? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. There’s no wild and crazy Purple Heart cripple story behind that scar. That’s the problem when you’re like me and the only thing you had to do to become crippled was get born. The only scar I have to show for that is my navel. Big deal. Everybody’s got one of those. And the story of how it got there is always the same. You’ve only got a crazy story if you don’t have one.

But when some cripples talk about how they got their most prominent scars, the audience is riveted, especially when everybody’s drunk. It’s often a story of great adventure. I knew a guy who claimed he became a quad because he wiped out on a luge while preparing for the Olympics. I heard another guy swear up and down that he was the “agony of defeat” skier they showed wiping out every week at the beginning of the TV show “Wide World of Sports.” That’s how he became crippled, he said. Sometimes the story behind a cripple scar has a comic twist. Like maybe somebody wiped out skiing, but it was cross-country skiing. They swerved to avoid a chipmunk or something like that. I know a guy who broke his neck diving into water. That’s a boring vanilla account, except he and others were celebrating the end of their college final exams by skinny dipping in a quarry. So when he was pulled out of the water, he and his rescuers were all in their birthday suits.

So when other cripples throw around war stories about their scars, I feel crushingly inadequate, like a 35-year-old virgin at a party where everyone’s drunk and bragging about their sexual exploits. My mind races to find a way to exit inconspicuously before they call on me.

The winning cripple scar story I’ve heard was about this paraplegic guy I knew back when. He didn’t have a scar per se. It was a tire track. As the story went, this guy was at a drunken kegger barbecue party in a big open field. He stated making out with a woman and things got hot and heavy so they went to the other side of a grassy hill so they could have oral sex in privacy. Shortly thereafter, another partier left the kegger and he drove his pickup truck over the grassy hill and when he got to the other side he made a startling discovery. And that, allegedly, is how the paraplegic guy became a paraplegic. He got run over while in the throes of ecstasy. And to this day he had a tire track embedded across his back to prove it. Allegedly.

I never heard this story from the man himself. Other cripples whispered about it. They said if you asked him about it he’d show you his tire track. But I never got up the nerve. I feared maybe these other smart ass cripples made it all up and then snickered and placed bets on how long it would take me to ask the guy if I could see his tire track. I wouldn’t put it past them to do that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mandatory Exoskeletons

I’m pretty fucking depressed these days. It seems like my nightmare, dystopian vision of the future for cripples is rapidly becoming reality. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

All over the world, evil, mad scientists are working with feverish, sadistic glee developing robotic exoskeletons. Check it out. Google up some exoskeletons and you’ll see what I mean. A lot of these scientists are pursuing this research in the name of using exoskeletons to enable cripples to move their limbs again. They’re making tremendous progress and it’s pretty damn scary. Because soon those super-charged exoskeletons like the one that guy flies around in in the movie “Iron Man” will be an everyday reality. And as soon as that happens, every cripple will be required by the state to have one.

When you look at it from a cold, bureaucratic bean-counter’s perspective, it makes perfect sense. Why should the public trough pay for cripples to have human assistants accompany them all day and help them do stuff when you can make those same cripples wear exoskeletons and suddenly they can move everything they couldn't move before and do stuff for themselves? The more crippled the person, the more of an exoskeleton they’ll need. Like a single amputee would just get a corresponding bionic arm or leg and they’re off to the races. But someone who’s really really crippled, like me or Christopher Reeve, if we’re supposed to do everything for ourselves we’ll have to be assigned a full-body exoskeleton like the “Iron Man” guy’s. And we'll need a voice-command operated exoskeleton, which is the part that scares the hell out of me most. Because you don’t have to be crippled to know how fucked up voice-command technology is. All you have to do is call any random customer service number and try to maneuver past the robot-voiced gatekeepers that stand between you and another human. I absolutely hate calling AMTRAK because you get this ebullient robot voice named Julie. And here’s how it goes:

“Hello, my name is Julie. What is your destination city?”

“Milwaukee.”

“Okay, Peoria.

“No.”

“I’m sorry. Let’s try again. What is your destination city?”

“Mil-wauuuu-keeeee!”

“Okay, Lubbock, Texas. And what is your departure date?

“NO! MIL-WAUUUU-KEEEEE!”

“Okay, Wednesday.

“ NO! MILWAUKEE! YOU DEAF BITCH!!!!

“I’m sorry. Did you say Memphis?”

And then I want to smash the phone into a billion pieces with a GODDAM SLEDGEHAMMER!

It won’t matter if voice-command technology still sucks in the future. They’ll make cripples use it to pilot our exoskeletons anyway, just like they make everybody use it now for customer service. My human assistant places me in my suit-of-armor exoskeleton in the morning, latches me in and boots it up. Then he leaves and my exoskeleton takes over.

“Good morning, sir,” says my ebullient exoskeleton. “Where would you like to go?”

“Let’s go to the bathroom. I have to piss.”

“Fly to the North Pole? Yes sir, right away!” And before I can say squat I’m skyrocketing through outer space, trapped in a runaway exoskeleton! We land on the North Pole. My exoskeleton says:

“Where to now, sir?”

“TAKE ME HOME YOU IDIOT!!”

But it’s fucking cold on the North Pole and my exoskeleton’s robotics freeze up so he collapses into a useless heap! And there I die of hypothermia.

In this dystopian future, crash–landed exoskeletons with dead cripples inside will be a common sight. When you look at it from a cold, bureaucratic bean-counter’s perspective, it makes perfect sense.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cool Enough for Robo

I spent five years as an inmate at the state operated boarding school for cripples and none of the other inmates ever invited me to one of their top secret Robo sessions.

I guess I wasn’t cool enough. I was, however, cool enough to hang out in the canteen. That’s where the coolest inmates hung, in the alcove with the vending machines and the microwave. That’s where they smoked. I even achieved enough coolness status to be allowed to sit at a table in the canteen with one of the inmates who had “smoking privileges.” Those were the coolest inmates of all. They were over 18 and they had their parents' or guardian’s permission to smoke. (They all smoked Kools.) The rest of us, if we got caught smoking by the staff, we might get busted. When you got busted you were banished to your room for a stretch of days. No visitors except your roommate. No going to the canteen. So the rest of us, to sneak a smoke, we had to sit at a table with an inmate who had smoking privileges. Take a quick puff and set the cigarette back down fast in the ashtray in front of the inmate with the smoking privileges in case a staff person pops up. Then you’ve got cover. The privileged one pretends the cigarette is theirs. The privileged ones had to think you were cool enough for them to front for you like that. So they were the ultimate arbiters of who was cool. You could never be the coolest of the cool if you didn’t have your smoking privileges.

But I was never formally invited to drink Robo. Robo— slang for Robitussin. Harvey, the polio kid with the slight Kentucky drawl, was the one who talked about getting high on Robo. Harvey talked a lot about getting high. He told me one morning he got high the night before just by staring at his hairbrush. I tried it that night with my hairbrush. All I did was fall asleep.

Harvey was cool, but he would never advance beyond mid-level cool because his parents wouldn’t sign for him to have smoking privileges. So I think he compensated by designating himself the arbiter of an ever higher level of cool —Robo cool. Robo was the top shelf stuff, Harvey said. Fuck Nyquil, that nasty rotgut shit!

So every now and then Harvey leaned toward me and said, “I’m gonna score some Robo,” in the same hushed tone the spies used in those spy movies he watched. Then Harvey raised a hopeful eyebrow, as if telling me to stand by for details. The whole Robo thing was top secret, he said, so I expected he’d eventually let me in on the location of a top secret hidden map (maybe inside a toilet tank?) that would lead me to the underground Robo den. Just like in those spy movies!

But no! No such scavenger hunt leads ever materialized. And then one day there’d be Harvey bragging in hushed spy tones about how he and some other cool guys (who shall remain nameless) got ripped on Robo last night.

Dammit! I wanted to ask some of the other inmates that I suspected were cool enough to be invited for Robo for top secret tips on what cool things I could to do to elevate my status to Robo cool. But nobody besides Harvey ever peeped a word about doing Robo, probably because it was top secret. So I never said a word either. I didn’t want to blow whatever chance I had for upward mobility. So I just worked hard on becoming cooler, hoping to someday be deemed Robo cool.

But I was never cool enough

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Leeches

How about those old-time FDR wheelchairs? All wicker and wood, rigid and perpendicular. As agile and nimble as a covered wagon. As comfortable as an X-ray table.

Whenever I see one of those FDR wheelchairs, I get a bad case of the willies. But it’s way worse than just the willies. It’s a cold, deep shudder.

What if I was a cripple back then? I didn’t miss by much. Just make me about 15 years older and there I am. Having an FDR wheelchair was the best cripples back then could hope for. That was our shining symbol of hope and liberation. Back then, I’d have been sooooooo screwed. I’d have been stranded if I had to get around by pushing an FDR wheelchair. Hell, even those linebacker cripples of today who do marathons in their wheelchairs would be stranded if all they had were FDR wheelchairs. That’s the equivalent of trying to run a marathon in a potato sack.

And what about way way way back, back before there were even any FDR wheelchairs? What was the symbol of hope and liberation for a cripple like me way back then? Leeches? The doctors cover me with leeches that can suck all the muscular dystrophy out of me? Then what? Way back then, cripples like me were thoroughly, comprehensively, inalterably screwed.

Do you ever go to historical re-enactments? Do you ever notice that there are no cripples in historical re-enactments? That’s because whatever the period in history, the cripples were screwed. The only cripples people ever saw were blind beggars, village idiots and Helen Keller.

Seeing an FDR wheelchair gives me the intense willies the same way I used to get the willies when I was a kid and the disabled veterans called our house selling light bulbs. My mother could’ve bought light bulbs anywhere, but she waited for the disabled vets to call so she could order light bulbs and help a good cause at the same time. But it gave me the hard-boiled willies. Is that what cripples do when they grow up, I wondered, sell light bulbs over the phone? Is that the best we can hope for? And these were disabled veterans, too. These were the guys who saved us from the Nazis and the Communists. If all a grateful nation had to offer them was a chance to sell light bulbs over the telephone, then an ordinary cripple like me was invariably, inevitably, inescapably screwed.

I see an FDR wheelchair, and what grabs me is beyond the willies. It’s more like survivor guilt. I just barely escaped. Make me 15 years older and I would’ve been screwed like the cripples of yore. The bullets that took them down whizzed right past my head.

Survivor guilt can make it hard to have fun, if you’re not careful. You can get caught up in feeling like you’re disrespecting those who didn’t make it if you’re not perpetually somber, like a black-veiled widow. But I feel better when I do the opposite and get out there and have fun on behalf of the cripples of yore. I make it my business to have all the fun they weren’t allowed to have. It makes having fun twice the fun because I feel like I’m getting even.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ask Smart Ass Cripple Yet Again?

Dear Mister Smart Ass Cripple,

I am wondering if you're familiar with the song "Get Up, Stand Up" originally written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. My question is- have you personally, ever taken offense to this song? Does any part of you feel that this song is anti-cripple in any way?

Sincerely,
Devoted Reader #721

Dear DR 721,

You wanna know what song I hate? I’ll tell you what song I hate! I HATE the song “Teddy Bear”, the super giant mega monster hit 1970s country song by Red Sovine!

“Teddy Bear” is barfsville from beginning to end! Sovine doesn’t sing, he talks out his wretched lyrics over a background of soft, plinky piano. It’s the story of a trucker who talks to a kid named Teddy Bear over the CB radio. The pitiful little Teddy Bear says:

"Now, I'm not supposed to bother you fellows out there
Mom says you're busy and for me to stay off the air.
But you see, I get lonely and it helps to talk
'Cause that's about all I can do, I'm crippled, and, I can't walk!"

I swear I’m not making this up! I wish with all my miserable being that it all was a sick joke and the song “Teddy Bear” never existed! Oh that we lived in such a benevolent universe!

And then Teddy Bear says his dad was a trucker who died in a wreck:

“Mom has to work now, to make ends meet
And I'm not much help, with my two crippled feet!"

The song deteriorates from there into a sucking cesspool of drivel. I’ll spare you the details. I fear I may have already exposed you to too much. You can look it up if you’re a fucking masochist.

I also hate any song sung by Barry Manilow. That guy sings like his nuts are crammed into a size two thong.


Dear Smart Ass Cripple,

What can I get you for Christmas?

Your smart ass fan,
Mrs. Santa

Dear Mrs. Santa,

You wanna know what you can get me for Christmas? I'll tell you what you can get me for Christmas! I need this machine that I don’t know the name of or if it even exists. But you put it in your closet and it humidifies or dehumidifies the air or whatever so your clothes don’t shrink. Because I just broke out my winter clothes and once again I found that they all shrank! Six month ago these clothes fit me just fine but now my shirts don’t button and my pants are too tight! This happens every damn year! So I figure there must be something unstable about the air in my closet that shrinks my clothes. Maybe the pH balance is all out of whack or something. What else could it be?

There must be a machine that can do something about that. Get me one and I’ll be your friend

Dear Smart Ass Cripple,

I’m so excited! Quadruple amputee Phillipe Croizon, who swam the English Channel in 2010, is at it again! In the spring, he plans to swim through a shark-infested, 12-mile crossing between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. He is the first quadruple amputee ever to attempt this feat!

Aren’t you excited?

Yours truly,
A Big Fan of Amputee Swimming

Dear Big Fan,

I hate to burst your bubble, but, technically, Phillipe Croizon is not the first quadruple amputee to swim these treacherous waters. A Belgian named Hugo van Sprout did it in 1996. Van Sprout had all his limbs when he jumped into the water in Papua New Guinea. But by the time the sharks got through with him, when he came ashore in Indonesia he was a quadruple amputee.

However, Phillipe Croizon may very well still make history for cripples. If the sharks are biting that day, he could be the first person to complete the swim as a quintuple amputee.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Blind Guys Driving

When some people become crippled, either suddenly or gradually, for a long time they work hard to convince themselves they’re not really crippled. It’s hard to blame them for wanting no part of being crippled. They know all the terrible, hurtful names people call us. Doctors call us the worst names of all, names like “osteogenesis imperfecta.” Imperfecta? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is everybody else osteogenesis perfecta?

Cripples who are in this state of denial will do painful physical and emotional contortions to perform a simple activity, just to prove to themselves and to the world that they can still do it. And it’s usually a tedious activity that they hated doing before they were crippled, like mopping the kitchen floor. They should just hire a Polish cleaning lady and move on, but instead they’ll spend six hours mopping the kitchen floor, even if they have to rig up the mop to a custom-made helmet so they can push it with their head. When the task is complete, their satisfaction is as deep as their exhaustion. If they were really that crippled, they couldn’t mop the floor independently like that anymore, could they?

The activity cripples have the hardest time giving up is driving. I’m not one of those cripples. I never drove in the first place. I don’t worry about it because I happened to be married to my ideal woman, who’s beautiful and intelligent and witty and wise and has a driver’s license. But my friend Scott had a helluva time giving up driving. He’s dead now. He had juvenile diabetes. (There’s another one of those names--- juvenile diabetes. If your condition improves, do they upgrade you to sophomoric diabetes?) Scott started going blind right around the time he became old enough to drive. But he loved the hell out of driving and it got to the point where Scott would sit in his car along the roadside, wait for a bright-colored car to come by and follow it.

Well obviously Scott had to give that up. But a few years later on Scott’s birthday he told a friend who owned a pickup truck that for his birthday gift he wanted to drive his friend’s truck. Scott was totally blind by then so he had his friend drive out to this open field. There Scott could drive around and around with no danger of hitting anything. Out in the field, Scott and his friend switched seats. But Scott drove the truck into mud and it got stuck. So Scott’s friend got out and pushed while Scott floored the gas pedal. Just then a cop happened along and saw a guy out in the field pushing the back of a truck, its spinning tires spewing waves of mud. As the cop approached the truck, Scott’s friend jumped back. The tires kept angrily churning up mud. The cop knocked on the driver’s window. Thinking it was his friend knocking, Scott rolled down the window and snarled, “Get back there and push, ass hole!”

Sooner or later, trying to pretend you’re not crippled will get you in trouble. It’s better to just sign up with the imperfectas and get it over with.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Mother the Smart Ass Enabler

One afternoon at the state-operated boarding school for cripples, aka the Sam Houston Institute of Technology or SHIT, I was summoned by a teacher in a sober manner that suggested I was going to be sent to the principal’s office. But instead I was told to report to the office of the director of recreation.

I was nervous and baffled. What could I have said or done to get in trouble with the director of recreation? Up until now, she barely acknowledged my existence. If we passed in the halls she hustled by uncomfortably without breaking stride, may flipping me a quick hello wave.

But this time in her office, she greeted me with a warm, appreciative smile. She moved a chair so I could pull up next to her desk. She said she needed my help. “I’m going to a costume party and I’m going as Poland!” she said. Her costume would be like a sandwich board shaped like Poland. And she figured she could win first prize if she covered the sandwich board with Polish jokes. She heard through the SHIT grapevine, she said, that I knew more Polish jokes than any living human. Could I share with her my favorites? She braced, pen in hand, ready to scribble down whatever I said on a yellow legal pad.

So I hit her with a bunch of Polish jokes. I felt proud, like some 14-year-old joke guru. It’s pathetic, I know. But that was 40 years ago, when Polish jokes were considered to be funny. I didn’t say they were funny. I said they were considered to be funny. And besides, I had a severe case of Mad magazine poisoning, the result of exposure to toxic levels of Mad magazine. I’d do or say anything for a laugh.

It’s my mother’s fault. She was a smart ass enabler. Perhaps she saw in me the smart ass she could have been had she persevered and not gotten sidetracked. But she married young and had babies and all and pretty soon her opportunity to fully explore and develop her smart assiness was gone. Through me she was reliving the dream.

Case in point: Mom took me to a trick shop when I was about 10. I was giddy drunk with possibilities for pulling hilarious gags. But the prop I found most enchanting was the fake plastic hot dog. So my mother bought it for me and she agreed not to tell my sister. She even went along with my evil plan for her to serve hot dogs for dinner and to hold back my sister’s real hot dog and bring her at first the plastic hot dog in a real bun and covered with real mustard. As my sister prepared to take a bite, I swelled with such a burst of brilliance I was ready to explode. But then my sister looked at the hot dog with deep suspicion, pulled it out of the bun, set it on the table and pronounced it a fake.

I was so deflated that I flung the hot dog to the floor in humiliation.
But then, under the table, a seismic commotion! It was Mickey, our crazy-ass beagle that ate everything. Mickey ate Jell-o, sawdust, soap. He didn’t care. Mickey scrambled and pounced! He chewed and gnawed and scratched the fake hot dog, all in vain. He finally gave up, dejected and defeated.

Well at least I outsmarted our crazy-ass beagle! Redemption!

It’s pathetic, I know.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feelin’ Like Hazmat Blues

When my train arrives at the station, an ambulance will be waiting for me. And I’m feeling like hazmat again. I haven’t felt like that this bad in a long time, not since back in the Medi-car days.

All I need, when my train arrives, is a ride from the station to the university campus for my speaking gig and back. The people on campus arranging my trip had to hire an ambulance company to haul me. With no accessible taxis or anything like that in town, that was the best solution they could find for local wheelchair accessible transportation.

I wonder if it will be like that time I took the train to Syracuse and there was a van waiting for me there. It wasn’t an ambulance. It was a plain red van. But emblazoned across the side in big white letters it said INVALID COACH. I complained to the driver, but he said there was nothing he could do. He said all operators of wheelchair accessible vehicles were required by state law to have INVALID COACH written on their vehicles.

Back in the Medi-car days, like about 30 years ago, suppose you were a wheelchair cripple and you wanted to go get a haircut or something. You couldn’t use buses or trains or cabs so your only option might be to call a private Medi-car company. They all had embarrassing names like HANDICAB or INVABUS. And they had embarrassing vehicles with bright ambulacesque paint jobs that made it unmistakably clear that this was medical transportation. It was like they were trying to reassure a jittery populace that even though this cripple was leaving the house, he was doing so under the strictest medical supervision.

A trained EMT accompanied you to get your haircut. They made a simple ride into such a fucking production; it was like they were hauling hazmat. And forget about asking anybody on a date if you depended on Medi-cars to get around: “Hey baby, my EMT and I will pick you up at six in my INVABUS.”

And when the lifts on the Medi-cars went up and down there was always this shrill, staccato beep, warning all within earshot, I guess, of the extreme danger posed by a cripple going up and down on a lift. I knew a guy who got a new wheelchair that gave off that same warning beep whenever he backed up. (CRIPPLE BACKING UP! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!) And the people who sold him the wheelchair refused to disconnect the beeper. Liability. I don’t know what happened to that guy. I guess he goes around annoying the hell out of people every time he backs up, whether it’s in church or at a funeral or wherever.

Cripples are familiar with all this cautious overkill. When I lived in government-subsidized housing for cripples, in every bedroom and bathroom there was an emergency switch that looked like a light switch with a string hanging from it and when you pulled it down an alarm blared throughout the building. The problem was, 99 percent of the time when the switch got pulled down it was because someone’s cat was playing with it. But the building management wouldn’t disconnect it. Liability.

My train arrives. Waiting at the curb is an African American man wearing a blue windbreaker with a patch that says Prompt Ambulance Services. He escorts me to a plain white van that doesn’t even say INVALID COACH. Inside the van, tucked along the wall, is a three-foot sign with the same Prompt Ambulance insignia as on the patch. The driver explains that the sign is magnetic. He slaps it on the outside of the van when it’s a medical ride and peels it off when it’s a regular ride like me.

This is what 30 years of activism has gotten us. Discretion. Porno in a brown paper mailer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Badass with a Bullhorn

Everyone knows I’m a badass. I’ve got the bullhorns to prove it—not one but two! I got a bullhorn under my bed, a bullhorn in the back of my car. And there are usually some stained and battered all-purpose protest signs in the back of my car, with timeless messages like STOP THE MADNESS and HELL NO WE WON’T GO! I always carry around bullhorns and protest signs for the same reason some guys always carry around condoms: You never know when an opportunity will arise so always be prepared.

I’m such a badass, I’ve eaten more than one jailhouse bologna sandwich in my day. You don’t get one of those unless you’re such a badass protester that the police keep you in custody long enough to where they have to feed you. It’s a single slice of bologna smashed between two pieces of doughy white bread, maybe with a smear of mayo. The only places they serve bologna sandwiches like that are in the lockup and in sheltered workshops.

I’ve been arrested for disrupting meetings, occupying politicians’ offices, blocking streets. Yep, I’ve always told myself that the fascists better thank their lucky fascist asses that I was only about 10 years old when the people took to the streets in the 1960s. Because if I’d have been old enough, I’d have been out there leading the way, because obviously I was born to be a badass, and the fascists would have turned tail and run and there’d be no fascists anymore. And I’ve always told myself that if the people ever take to the streets like that again I’ll jump right in and lock arms with my brothers and sisters and march on to victory no matter what the cost because that’s what badasses do. They give it all up for the revolution!

And now here they are taking to the streets again. The Occupiers are just a few blocks away from my home in downtown Chicago. And I plan to dash right out there and lock arms with them and run the fascists out of town, as soon as spring comes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big time badass, but not when it’s so damn cold. I’m a thousand times more crippled in the winter because the more layers I have on the less I can move my body and I can’t move my body all that much to begin with so protesting in winter is out for me. And I can’t protest in the rain either because if my wheelchair gets too wet it shorts out and stops moving and then I’m screwed. So I’m pretty much limited to being a badass on warm and sunny days. But the next time the Occupiers hold a march on a warm and sunny day, I’ll be right there front and center with my badass self! That is as long I have no family stuff or anything like that going on. I would have been right there in the middle of that march the Occupiers had on that warm and sunny day a few weeks back, but my bad ass had a previous commitment. My sister-in-law was getting married in Philly.

It makes me wonder how I ever managed to balance being an active citizen with commitments to my community, my work and my family with being such an awesome badass. It’s getting harder and harder to do. When my badass friends and I decide we’ve had it up to here with the brutality of the fascist oligarchy and we’re going to commit an act of blatant defiance, we all pull out our date books:

Smart Ass Cripple: All right, let’s commit an act of blatant defiance against the fascist oligarchy next Thursday at noon.

Badass friend #1: Can’t do it on Thursday. I’ve got a dentist appointment.

Badass friend #2: Well cancel it. Don’t you hate the fascist oligarchy?

Badass friend #1: Of course I do! But this is a root canal. I can commit an act of blatant defiance on Wednesday.

Badass friend #2: Wednesday’s out. Jewish holiday. How about the 25th?

Smart Ass Cripple: Not the 25th! That’s my birthday.

Did Che Guevara and Fidel Castro have this problem?

Fidel: We shall launch the Cuban revolution on Sunday!

Che: Oh man, Sunday’s real bad. It’s my niece’s first holy communion. My wife’ll kill me if I blow it off. Let’s launch the revolution on Tuesday.

Fidel: Tuesday is my yoga day.

Che: Yoga? Are you serious, Fidel?

Fidel: Hey, don’t I deserve a little “me” time?

Maybe I’m not such a badass anymore. But I’m not throwing away my bullhorns and signs. I can feel it coming soon, the day when the masses finally rise up and overthrow the oppressors! And when that glorious day finally arrives, I hope it’s not raining.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ringo the Pervert

(Smart Ass Cripple alias alert: The names of the people and guide dogs have been changed in this otherwise true story.)

Ringo (Smart Ass Cripple alias) moved to New York to live with his new love, Shirley Temple (Smart Ass Cripple alias). They rented a room in a three-story Victorian house in a suburb north of the Bronx. There they lived a warm and cozy life, along with Shirley Temple’s guide dog, Ayn Rand (Smart Ass Cripple dog alias).

Ringo worked the graveyard shift. And one morning after he got off work, he met Shirley Temple at Grand Central Station. He was unshowered, unshaven, unkempt, clad in his ragged work clothes. But in a few days, Shirley Temple was to begin a semester of classes on Long Island. Being blind, it was necessary for Shirley Temple to first take Ayn Rand on a dry run to campus and back on public transit so the dog could learn the route. Ringo’s job was to follow silently behind and be their eyes, only intervening if they were making a wrong turn or boarding a wrong train or doing something majorly screwy like that. Shirley Temple called this shadowing. Ringo had never shadowed for Shirley Temple before, but how hard could it be?

The problem was, when Shirley Temple tried to march Ayn Rand forward to the train, leaving Ringo a few yards behind, Ayn Rand halted. She was waiting for her buddy Ringo to come along too. Ayn Rand didn’t know any better. She was just a dumb animal. So Ringo turned and walked a few steps away, pretending to be leaving. When Ringo looked back and saw Ayn Rand leading Shirley Temple onto a subway car, he quickly ran back and jumped on the car behind, so as to remain undetected by the dog. He pushed through the packed car and up to the window so he could continue to keep an eye on Shirley Temple in the next car.

It just so happened that Ringo had boarded the only car with a conductor on board. The conductor was a bald and menacing man, built like a linebacker. He glowered at Ringo. Ringo suddenly realized what this must look like, a disheveled man staring through the window at a poor young blind woman in the next car, like some pervert. But there was no time to explain. Shirley Temple got off the train at the next stop. So Ringo ran off the train and he hid behind a post so Ayn Rand wouldn’t see him. But then, confused, Shirley Temple got back on the train! So Ringo ran back on! But Shirley Temple exited again! So Ringo ran off again! He hid behind a post!

The conductor stopped the train. “Why you following the girl?” he boomed, in a tone befitting a linebacker.

“Shhhh. I’m shadowing her,” Ringo said. And then he grimaced when he realized how that sounded.

“You stay right there!” the conductor bellowed. He waved his arm. Two NYPD came running. But the oblivious Shirley Temple was almost up the stairs. Ringo couldn’t let her get away! Ringo ran after her! But then from behind he heard “You in the red jacket! STOP!” So Ringo stopped. He didn’t want to be tasered, or shot in the back. Ringo called out to Shirley Temple. “Waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”

But an Asian woman grabbed Shirley Temple’s arm and dragged her and Ayn Rand toward the turnstile.

NYPD grabbed Ringo and wrestled him down. “Waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!”
Shirley Temple heard Ringo’s SOS. She broke free from the Asian woman. Shirley Temple came down the stairs. She straightened everything out with NYPD and they let Ringo go.

After that Ringo had to sit for a bit and catch his breath. Shirley Temple told him the moral of the story was to never ever piss her off. Because if he does, the next time this happens, she might just tell NYPD she doesn’t know him.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Crippled in the Eyes of the State

Every year around this time, the state of Illinois sends someone to my home to make sure I’m still crippled. The state pays the wages of the guys I hire to get me out of bed, put me on the crapper etc., so the state needs to know that I’m still crippled.

So the cripple inspector asks me a bunch of routine questions and I sign a bunch of papers and for another year I am deemed to be officially crippled in the eyes of the state. There is of course a much simpler test the inspectors could administer to determine if I’m still crippled and it saves a lot of time and money. They could just take my pulse. If I’m still alive, I’m still crippled. And the state can rest assured that if something ever happens to suddenly render me not crippled anyone, they will for sure hear about it. There’s no way in hell that if one day I wake up not crippled I’ll hush it all up and sit around the house pretending to still be crippled. I’ll cash in big time right away on my new uncrippled status. It’s a fucking goldmine. I’ll get an agent to book me on a world tour as the guy who spent more than 50 years crippled but now all of a sudden isn’t. I’ll land a zillion-dollar book deal!

The last time the inspector came, she snuck in a question that took me by surprise. She asked me to spell the word “world” backward. I hesitated because she came out of the blue with that one. But then I spelled world backward. She wrote something down and she moved on to the next question. But I couldn’t leave it at that. After I signed all the papers, I asked her why she asked me to spell world backward. She shrugged. She said it’s just something someone somewhere added to the requirements for meeting the burden of proof that we’re still crippled.

I must’ve passed the test because I haven’t received a letter from the state informing me that I’m not crippled. But I still couldn’t leave it at that. There was something deeply sinister about the innocence of that question. It seemed like a trap, like those Rorschach blots. They look like a butterfly or a clown, but they’re so intimidating because you feel like if you interpret them wrong and say the wrong thing, it will give the shrink an excuse to lock you up.

So why really was the state requiring me to spell world backward? Needing a source of infallible, irrefutable information, I turned to the Internet. I learned that spelling world backward is a cognitive function test. It allows the examiner to tap into your cortex, which is the area largely responsible for higher brain functions, such as reasoning, sensations and memory.

I felt violated. Why was the state snooping around in my cortex? That seems like the kind of thing a state ought not to be allowed to do without a warrant. It creeped me out to think that the state could now be privy to all my sensations. And what about my memories? Did they discover any of the stuff in my past that I’m not proud of and I don’t want anybody to know about, such as the time I got my mom’s French poodle stoned? My mom went away and I had a party and one of the stoners who came over said you can get a dog stoned by blowing smoke in its ear. I should have known better than to tell a stoner they’re full of shit when they claim something like that, because you know damn well they’ll try to prove it. So he lifted the poodle’s ear and blew smoke. And the dog got a paranoid look on its face and it wouldn’t leave my side. And then it slept for about 12 hours.

And what do the inspectors do with all they gather from having me spell world backward? I picture them all drunk on eggnog at the Department of Human Service office Christmas party, entertaining everyone with tales of the sick and twisted shit they discovered while ransacking my cortex.

Next time the inspector comes around, I might just refuse to spell world backward. I’ll slam the door to my cortex! But they might use that as an excuse to say I’m not crippled anymore and cut me off. And then I’d be screwed. This is the kind of stuff you have to submit to when you need someone to put you on the crapper.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Open Letter to those Meddlesome, Self-Righteous Busybodies at Human Rights Watch

Dear Meddlesome, Self-Righteous Busybodies at Human Rights Watch,

This open letter is written in response to your recently-released report accusing Smart Ass Cripple of violating so-called international child labor laws. I write this letter at the behest of my attorneys, who have advised me to publicly come clean and tell the truth. It’s apparent that my attorneys feel your advocacy must be taken seriously since they have never advised me to tell the truth before.

In your report you allege that for the last 10 months, the entries posted on Smart Ass Cripple have not been written by Smart Ass Cripple at all but by eight-year-old boys in an orphanage in Bulgaria. While I admit that this is true, whether or not this constitutes a violation of “international child labor laws” depends on one’s interpretation of the words “child” and “labor.” In a cushy, privileged society such as ours, it can be argued that an eight year old is still, technically, a child. But in a Bulgarian orphanage, children grow up fast. Only the tough survive. The boys that write my entries are already smoking, drinking and on probation for grand theft auto. They are the most grizzled eight year olds the orphanage has to offer.

As for the word “labor,” if you think writing entries for Smart Ass Cripple is hard, challenging work, then obviously you haven’t read any of them. In fact, my inspiration for outsourcing came from a brilliant observation in a thoughtful letter from an astute reader of Smart Ass Cripple. She wrote: “Hey Smart Ass Cripple! My eight-year-old nephew can write the kind of crap you write!” She was absolutely correct and her frankness forced me to ask myself an all-important question: Why the hell am I busting my ass when I can get an eight year old to write this nonsense for me and I can pay them in lollipops? So I set out in search of an eight year old with the gumption to pull himself up by his bootstraps. But I knew that any such lad in America would demand far too many lollipops. So like any good businessman, I looked for a “business-friendly climate” in which to set up shop. I soon learned that no place on God’s fertile earth offers a more “business-friendly climate” than a Bulgarian orphanage.

My attorneys have also advised me that as a result of your inquiry, I should immediately cease and desist all outsourcing and return to writing Smart Ass Cripple entries myself. It is with deep reluctance and resentment that I accept their advice. I hope you’re proud of yourselves. You have now put several of the world’s most impoverished eight year olds out of work. But that will have to be on your conscience. Also, be advised that you will face a firestorm of protest from Smart Ass Cripple readers when they soon realize that because eight-year-old boys are no longer writing my entries, the quality of the writing has gone way down. But at least my readers and the poor rejected orphans know exactly which Nosey Nellies are to blame.

La lucha continua!

Smart Ass Cripple

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Proud and the Domitable

The most annoying cripples of all are those that have an “indomitable spirit.” Jesus are those people irritating.

You know who they are. They’re the ones who enter marathons. I question whether those people can even be considered cripples. Have you seen them? They’ve got arms and torsos like lumberjacks, and those are the women. And their wheelchairs can only be called wheelchairs in the sense that they are chairs with wheels on them. But they’re more like drag racing cars than wheelchairs. The frame is triangular and it takes a parachute shooting out of the back of the chair to bring it to a stop.

The “indomitable” cripples are the ones who climb mountains too. When I see a mountain climbing cripple I want to gather up a posse of plain old rank and file cripples, jump the guy from behind, drag him into the bathroom, stick his head in the toilet and give him a swirly!

When a cripple climbs a mountain or runs in a marathon it isn’t a victimless crime. It makes life harder for the rest of us cripples. Because when they go around being so brazenly indomitable, everybody expects the rest of us cripples to be indomitable too. And that’s fucking exhausting. If you think being indomitable all day is so easy, you try it. You’ll be worn out by noon. These racing/climbing cripples are a threat to my precious, inalienable right to be domitable. There’s nothing I enjoy more than kicking back with a six pack and being domitable.

And these indomitable cripples also threaten my right to be a fuck up. They go out there and bust their asses training because they think they have to prove their excellence because if they don’t excel beyond excelling they’ll ruin it for the rest of the cripples. But they’d serve us better in the long run if they fucked up and did it with pride. It’s just like Jackie Robinson. There was no way he could fuck up playing baseball because if he did there was no way anybody who wasn’t white would be allowed to play major league baseball ever again. But if they banned white people from playing just because the first one to come along wasn’t a superstar, there would never have been any major league baseball in the first place. White ballplayers are allowed to fuck up all the time. Just watch the Cubs and you’ll see. Had Jackie fucked up, history may well have eventually regarded him as even more of a pioneer, a proud symbol of the right of all people of all races and creeds to attempt to do something they might fuck up. Now that’s equal rights.

So a fuck up like me can be a role model too. I can inspire other cripples to just relax and go assert their right to not succeed. But if those brown-nosing indomitable cripples have their way, soon the government will require the rest of us cripples to climb a mountain or run in a marathon every month to earn our Social Security checks. Most cripples are like me when it comes to marathons anyway. If there’s such a thing as a sitting marathon, I would excel at that. The referee fires the starting pistol and everybody sits and the medal goes to the last man sitting. I’d kick ass in a marathon like that because I’ve been training for it since I was a kid. I’ve built myself up to the point where I can outsit anyone! No one can sit on their ass for more consecutive hours than me. Walkies think that’s easy too, sitting on your ass all day. But I’ve heard how walkies whine and whine about sitting too long. After a pissy little two hour plane ride they moan “Oh I’m so sore from sitting so long. I’m so stiiiiiiiiiif.” It makes me laugh. What a bunch of creampuffs! Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to prove no one can outsit Smart Ass Cripple! And I can do it without steroids! My butt cheeks are like the calloused hands of a pipefitter. It comes from years and years of sitting around being domitable.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I am Navigimp

Every vehicle I’ve ever owned has been equipped with a feature known as Navigimp. It’s a sophisticated navigating system that tells the driver exactly where to go. Navigimp has a beard and wears plaid flannel shirts a lot. Navigimp sits in a wheelchair just like mine and it looks just like me.

Long before there was a GPS, there was Navigimp, the human GPS, with his commanding male voice (complete with Chicago accent) telling the person driving my vehicle “turn right, turn left, cut through that alley!”

Navigimp is not infallible. It is prone to succumb to sudden urges to improvise because it’s obsessed with finding new shortcuts. Navigimp can’t help it. That’s how he was raised. Finding a shortcut is like finding a discount. Saving time is like saving money. Discovering a route that gets you there two minutes faster is as gratifying as saving a quarter on a gallon of milk. But sometimes when Navigimp follows the scent of a shortcut, he leads the driver instead into a cul-de-sac or down a one way street in the wrong direction.

That’s probably why Rahnee, without warning, replaced Navigimp with a real GPS. She probably did it to avoid repetitive encounters that test the iron bonds of matrimony, such as the following:

RAHNEE: Turn left here?

NAVIGIMP: Right.

Rahnee turns right.

N: No, you were supposed to turn left!

R: You said right!

N: I meant right as in correct!

R: Well then say correct! Now you got us lost!

There are never such disputes with the sober, soulless, ever-professional GPS— your navigation slave.

The day Rahnee plugged in the GPS, Navigimp was plunged into turmoil. He questioned everything about the validity of his past, present and future. He could have seen the new GPS as a blissful gift, an opportunity to gracefully retire and hand over control to a greater power. No longer would he have to feel compelled to always know where he was going and the quickest way to get there. He could just sit back and enjoy the ride.

A mature, secure man would have reacted thusly. But the arrival of the GPS made Navigimp wonder if he was a pathetic control freak. He was insanely jealous of the GPS. Her nasal monotone grated on his raw nerves. He despised the calm precision with which she delivered them to their destination. She had such an air of superiority that Navigimp wanted to fake like he was deathly thirty so Rahnee would detour to a drive-thru and get him a 92-ounce Pepsi mega-gulp and then he could “accidentally” spill it all over the GPS and gum up her prissy little direction-finding guts!

But Navigimp took stock of himself. Why this raging insecurity? He determined it’s because he felt threatened that if this handy, affordable piece of technology could do what he could do and probably even better, then why would Rahnee need him anymore? She might as well dump his sorry ass. It’s the same reason why men are secretly, abjectly threatened by vibrators. Rahnee does all the driving. She loads Navigimp into the vehicle and secures down his wheelchair. All Navigimp does is tell her where to go. Rahnee is Simon and Navigimp is Garfunkel.

Since that day, Navigimp, to his vengeful delight, learned that the GPS is not the perfect princess everybody thinks she is! For instance, she has an irritating habit of not announcing upcoming exits until you’re right on top of them and it’s too late to cut across traffic. Navigimp would never screw up like that. So Navigimp must remain on guard and vigilant so as to spare everyone from the dire consequences of the GPS’s stupid rookie mistakes. But Navigimp knows that someday the GPS will be upgraded, debugged and sold as GPS version 2.0. On that day Navigimp will fake like he’s deathly thirsty.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Stump the Guru

If someone claims to be a guru and you want test them to find out if they really are a guru, play a little game of Stump the Guru. It’s easy to play. Just ask the guru question after question until the guru finally answers with “Hell if I know. “ That’s when you know this guru has passed the test and just might actually be a guru. Anyone wise enough to be a guru has to know that no one knows everything. When they can say “Hell if I know,” it shows that they are truly enlightened.

But that’s not the answer most people want to hear from a guru. When truth-seekers drag themselves all the way up to a mountaintop in Tibet to ask the guru and all they get is a “Hell if I know,” they’ll be pissed and demand their money back. But those people don’t know a great truth when it bites them in the butt. They insist that their gurus be like fortune cookies and have a saying to offer every time they’re cracked open.

That’s why Smart Ass Cripple has always been a crappy crippled guru/role model. When the little criplets and or their parents come unto me seeking guidance through the enchanted land of crippledom, they’re usually disappointed. Usually about the best I can offer up is a shrug and a “Hell if I know.” Even after more than a half century of living in crippledom, there’s only two bits of guidance I can offer:

1) Sooner or later, you’re going to piss off the guy who cleans up messes at the grocery store. Whenever I hear, “Clean up on aisle 12,” I cringe because I know that the frustrated guy rolling the mop bucket will shoot me a dirty look. They always assume that the cripple spazzed out and made the mess. Once I was in a grocery store and somebody knocked over an entire wine display. About a dozen bottles of red wine shattered on the floor. It looked like a fucking bloodbath! And oh man, that pissed off clean up guy shot me a scorcher of a dirty look. Whenever I hear, “Clean up on aisle 12,” I feel like knocking over the nearest jar of mayonnaise. I’ll get blamed anyway so I might as well get my money’s worth.

2) When coming out of an elevator, do the opposite of what any walking person instructs you to do. A weird thing about cripples is we come out of elevators backwards. Most elevators are either too small or too crowded to turn a wheelchair around so we roll straight in but we have to back out. Any walking person coming out of an elevator backwards looks like a moron but for cripples it’s normal. So when a bipedal human says, “When you come out the elevator, turn right,” remember for you that means turn left because everything’s all backwards. Once I really hand to pee so I went into this building and the security guard told me to go to the second floor and turn left to find the bathroom. So I went to the second floor and turned left and I got so lost that I practically ended up in Egypt before I realized how I screwed up.

Those are the only things about crippledom I know for sure.

Well okay, there is one more thing I know for sure.

3) Beware of long tablecloths. I’m talking about those tablecloths that hang down all the way to the floor. Long tablecloths and wheelchairs are mortal enemies because you pull under the table and the cloth gets all tangled in the wheel but you don’t know it so then you back away and it’s like that trick where the magician yanks the tablecloth away and everything stays on the table, except nothing stays on the table. Everything crashes to the floor. And they only have long tablecloths at fancy-ass dinners like testimonials. And it’s especially embarrassing if the testimonial dinner is for you and the emcee says what a fine example of human dignity you are and then you come up to accept your plaque and you bring the tablecloth and everything on the table with you.

Those are for sure the only things about crippledom I know for sure. Besides that, “Hell if I know.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Do it on the 3rd*

Even if you don’t know much about cripples, there’s something you’ve probably noticed about us. You’ve probably noticed, because it’s hard not to, that there’s a certain time of the month when we all seem to get giddy. It’s fleeting. It appears to last for only a day or so. You don’t see cripples out on the streets much any other time but then suddenly we’re all over the place. We’re out in swarms and we’re spending all our money and whooping it up and issuing our mating call. And then, just as suddenly, we all disappear and all’s quiet again. You wonder if it’s something like the 17-year cicadas or something. Cripples sure are hard to figure out.

Well you’re very astute to notice because cripples are indeed a spirited people, so spirited that every month we have a high holiday, a day of drunken revelry and feasting. We call this day the 3rd of the month. Some people call it the day when the eagle shits. Whatever you call it, it’s the day when most of our Social Security checks arrive. That’s the day when cripples are flush!

Exhibit A: Bachstein, my college roommate. He was the most broke ass man in the universe because not only did he have cerebral palsy but he was a poet too. He subsisted on canned spaghetti and Cocoa Puffs. When it came time to pay his share of the rent and utilities and groceries, our other roommate, Bill, and I always had to cover him until the 3rd. And then Bachstein came home with a big wad of cash and some whiskey and an extra large pizza. And he squared up with us. And then he was broke. And when it again came time to pay his share of the rent and utilities and groceries we had to cover him again until the 3rd. And then we squared up. And then he was broke.

And if you ever thought you might have noticed that cripples seem giddiest in February, you’re right again! February is our favorite month because it’s the shortest distance between two 3rds. There are only 28 days between February 3rd and March 3rd, so we spend fewer days in a state of broke ass. Cripples hate leap years.

So here’s an important tip: if you want to sell something to a cripple, be sure you do it on the 3rd. If you’re a business owner, you can attract a whole new base of customers by strategically marketing to cripples in this way. Have your Gigantic Blow Out Super Sale on the 3rd. The same applies for swindlers and con artist. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running a Ponzi scheme or posing as an emissary for a wealthy African prince in exile. If you’re looking to put the bite on some cripples, do it on the 3rd.

Whatever it is you’re trying to sell to cripples, the key to success is to remember those magic words: do it on the 3rd. Don’t wait until the 4th. By that time we’re all broke ass.

(*Before you nitpicky cripples write me and split hairs, I know some of you get paid on the 1st or alternating Wednesdays.)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Happy Conception Day

All right that’s it. The right-to-lifers have officially convinced me. I now believe that life begins not at birth but at conception.

So therefore I’m not celebrating my birthday anymore. Instead I’m celebrating my Conception Day and I’m determined to convince everyone else to do the same. Your Conception Day is the day that lucky, one-in-a-million tadpole of sperm sunk its teeth into that egg and refused to let go, like a bulldog with a pork chop. It’s the day your parents did it and it stuck.

As soon as you embrace the idea that life begins at conception, you instantly become nine months older. Because to calculate your Conception Day, you just count back nine months from your birthday, which in my case brings me to September 25, more or less. There’s no way for me to know for sure because my deceased parents were the only ones there at that decisive moment. I assume there are no eyewitness accounts since my parents never struck me as orgy types. And it still kind of creeps me out to even picture my parents being there.

That’s the one drawback with Conception Day. It’s all kind of fuzzy. It’s not as clear cut and irrefutable as your birthday. If you are more fortunate than I and either of your parents is still alive, perhaps they can aid your research. Just ask “Hey mom and (or) dad, what was the date when you did it and it stuck?”

And if we true believers can get Conception Day to catch on, it can provide a real shot in the arm for the economy. Because as any economist will tell you, one of the best ways to create new jobs is to create a new bullshit holiday, like Sweetest Day. This creates jobs for the most chronically unemployed deadbeats of all. Poets. Because Hallmark will release a new line of Happy Conception Day cards and someone will have to come up with the words to express these new sentiments, such as:

Rejoice the day your mother’s egg
Your father fertilized.
And Praise the Lord that in the womb
You were not murder-lized.

These can’t just be dime store poets either because they’ll have a tough job to do. They’ll have to think of a whole bunch of different things that rhyme with zygote. (Thigh bloat? Sly goat? I give up.)

It will take a massive propaganda campaign to enshrine the concept of Conception Day into our culture. (I’m getting a head start by always using upper case when I spell Conception Day.). And nobody can pull off a propaganda campaign better than Hallmark. It’s their entire reason for being. In addition to all the new cards, decorations and party favors, they’ll produce a very special television movie about a brave boy’s quest, against all odds, to determine his Conception Day. It will air after the Super Bowl.

This shift in mentality will lead to better recordkeeping as the children of the future demand to know their Conception Day. Maybe adults will be required by law to keep an official log documenting every time they do it and with whom and register it with the county government in case one of those times sticks.

Then we can call ourselves a civilized society.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Driver Dan and the Pinky Story

A few years back, at the wake of driver Dan, there was an open mic. All were welcome to come up and tell everyone a story about Dan. I looked at Rahnee and she looked at me. We both had the same thought. Should we tell the pinky story?

When our turn came we positioned ourselves in front of Dan’s open casket. I began the story by saying, “One morning I woke up and I said to my wife, ‘My pinky hurts.’” Rahnee took it from there. We went to a holiday party, she said, at the home of cripple comrades Kevin and Karen. Rahnee wanted to take a cab to the party so she wouldn’t have to worry about drinking and driving. So we called Dan.

Dan was the king of the drivers of the cripple cabs. The first Chicago cripple cabs hit the streets in the late 1990s. They’re minivan taxis with ramps and you can just roll right in and ride in your wheelchair. Dan was the first cripple cab driver. Cab driving was the perfect job for Dan because he loved to talk. And he could talk about anything. Strike up a conversation about ancient Egyptian pottery or baseball or organic gardening and Dan knew something about it. Dan should have hosted a radio talk show called Live from the Cripple Cab, interviewing guests and taking calls from listeners while driving.

So Dan drove us to the party. And at the party I drank three Cosmos. I’m at stout-hearted man who can easily handle three Cosmos. But Kevin was doing the mixing and just to be evil he probably made mine double Cosmos and mixed in some rocket fuel too. All I remember after the third Cosmo was seeing double and then rolling down two snowy sidewalks to where two Dans were waiting with their two cripple cabs to drive home me and both Rahnees. After that I remember watching some of “Smokey and the Bandit” on TV at home and then sitting on the crapper. And in the morning I had not a throbbing head but a throbbing pinky.

The part I didn’t remember, Rahnee told the mourners at Dan’s wake, was being so trashed that I couldn’t back my wheelchair out the elevator when we got home. So Rahnee tried to drive my chair. Maybe the joystick was more sensitive than she thought it would be or maybe she wasn’t in much better condition to drive a wheelchair than I was. But the chair bucked like a bronco when she pushed the joystick and she smashed my fingers against the closing elevator door. ”Oh my God!” she said to me. “Are your fingers okay?” I just shrugged and said, “I’m fine.” I could feel no pain!

I ended up with a fractured pinky, I told the mourners, but it could have been a whole lot worse had Dan not been there to get me home safe. And that was the moral of the story. Everyone wants to get home safe. And for us and hundreds of other Chicago cripples, we could always count on Dan to get us home safe.

After the wake, one of the mourners introduced himself to me as Dan’s cousin or some such relative. “That was a helluva story you told,” he said. “You scared me at first because I thought you said you woke up one morning and said to your wife ‘my PEE PEE hurts.’ And I’m wondering what the hell this story has to do with Dan and why are they’re telling it at his wake. And then your wife said she smashed your pee pee in the elevator door! Anyway, when you said you fractured it, it all got cleared up in the end.”

Well good, I said to myself. I’m sure glad I cleared that up.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Teena

I called my sister Teena. Her name was Christine but when I was a tot the word Christine fell out of my mouth as Nee-nee. And from there it evolved into Tee-nee and then into Teena. And the skewed spelling was appropriate because as my sister emerged into early adulthood in the hippie days, she asserted her autonomy by experimenting with brash spelling permutations of the name Chris. She wanted to spell Chris like no one ever had before. She first went with Kryss then Crys. She finally settled for Cris.

Here’s a childhood story that explains our relationship well: The catholic church down the street had several stairs on the front entrance. So when mom went to church, which she did sporadically, she sometimes required Teena and I to watch Mass for Shut-ins. Mass for Shut-ins was a mass broadcast live from a local television studio. Just the name Mass for Shut-ins gave Teena and me the willies. Who were these shut-ins, anyway? That sounds like people who never leave sickrooms that smell of Vicks VapoRub. They never even pull up the shades and let in sunlight. That certainly wasn’t’ Teena and me.

And the only thing more boring than going to mass was watching mass on a black and white TV. So eventually one of us said to the other, “I won’t tell if you won’t.” So while mom was at church we watched cartoons instead. And if mom quizzed us about what the priest said in his sermon, we’d say something like, “Oh you know, he said to be nice to people.” Mom was not easily fooled but what could she say? That’s the message every child our age took away from every sermon.

Fast forward 40 years or so and Teena and I are very opposite people. She’s a born-again Christian and tea party conservative. I’ll be prima ballerina for the Bolshoi before I’ll be either of those things. So what was left for us to have in common? History. We were each other’s only sibling, so there were experiences only we shared, like watching Mass for Shut-Ins. We survived the state-operated cripple boarding school together. And as our mother died in a hospital bed in 2004, I held mom’s left hand and Teena held her right hand.

That kind of history means a lot. It means a helluva lot more than political and religious views. You can’t undo history. Religious and political views are made to be undone.

And Teena and I always had each other’s backs, like when we agreed to keep our secret about Mass for Shut-ins. When my first wife Anna fell dead in the middle of a routine Saturday morning, when Teena was in the ICU numerous times with pneumonia, we always tried to hold the other one up. That means more than anything.

Who the hell cares about ideology? No ideology can cancel all that out. And so my sister and I stuck together until the end of her life last week. I find comfort and satisfaction in that I’ll never find in ideology.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Trying to go Straight

There comes a time early in everyone’s life where you face a crucial decision: Do you listen to your heart or do you listen to your vocational guidance counselor? I had a hard time taking my vocational guidance counselor seriously because I figured if he knew so much about building a successful career, why the hell did he become a vocational guidance counselor? Behind every vocational guidance counselor is a broken dream. When kids dress up and act like grown-ups, nobody pretends to be a vocational guidance counselor. There are no vocational guidance counselor action figures.

Following your heart doesn’t always lead to glamour and prosperity. Lord knows Smart Ass Cripple is solid, living proof of that. But when you follow you heart, whatever happens at least you know where you stand. If you decide to play it safe and sell shoes, you might become a highly-decorated shoe seller. But you’ll always wonder if you might have been a great cellist. But if you try to become a great cellist, win or lose, you won’t wonder if you might have been a great shoe seller.

My mother tried to get me to go straight. She wanted me to be an accountant. But I could think of hundreds of other activities that would be more enjoyable, such as hammering nails into my skull. When I was home for summer break my last year of college, I had a chance to meet the guy in charge of hiring cripples for Sears. My mother saw this as a golden opportunity for me. Sears had a great reputation for hiring cripples and if I impressed this guy, she thought, there might be a good job in it for me after I graduated, such as writing for the Sears catalogue. She selected just the right tie for me to wear to the interview, but I said there was no way I was wearing a tie. I said ties are the most blatant symbol of the superficiality of bourgeois commercial culture! If somebody judges me by appearances rather than by the substance of who I am, I don’t want to work for them! I refused to play a role in that grand farce!

So I put on a tie and I went to Sears Tower. I go to the office of the guy in charge of hiring cripples for Sears and guess what? The sonuvabitch was blind! I felt so cheated! I wore that goddam tie for nothing! I could’ve showed up for the interview naked!

But my mother tried to save me long before that. She really did. When I was about 10, she had me watch a movie about the Bible. But the only part that stuck with me was the story of John the Baptist. A hot woman did a belly dance for a king and she said as payment she wanted the severed head of John the Baptist. And in the next scene that poor slob John the Baptist was dragged to the guillotine. Well that Bible story jazzed me up and after that I asked my mom to put a banana in my lunchbox every day. I had a working man’s lunchbox, black and shaped like a barn. I peeled back the banana, opened the lunchbox and hung the end of the banana over the edge. Then I said to all the kids at my table, “Look everybody, it’s John the Baptist!” and I slammed down the lunchbox lid and chopped off the end of the banana.

This got back to my mom and she asked if it was true that I was going around entertaining kids by decapitating bananas. I admitted that it was. And she laughed. She tried not to laugh but she couldn’t help it. She told me not to do it anymore. Then she walked away, laughing.

I realize now that was a pivotal moment in my life. My mother could’ve sent me away to a religious boot camp where they waterboard all the smart ass out of you. But she didn’t. She just laughed. After that I was destined to never take a vocational guidance counselor seriously.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Med-alert Life Saver Ring

Since I spend a lot of time home alone, I got one of those Med-alert Life Saver rings. You’ve seen the commercials. An old man is sprawled on the floor at the foot of his empty wheelchair. But fortunately he’s wearing a Med-alert Life Saver ring. “Heeeeeeeelp!” he cries. “I can’t get up!” But a Med-alert Life Saver operator, wearing a headset, says, “Don’t worry. Help is on the way!"

Med-alert Life Saver rings are inconspicuous. They look like an ordinary piece of jewelry. They come in silver or gold with your choice of a wide selection of fake gem stones.

I ordered a silver Med-alert Life Saver ring with a fake ruby on top. The instructions said for me to come up with a “safe phrase” to program into my ring. The safe phrase activates the ring, hands free. The safe phrase works on the same principle as the “safe word” in BDSM sex. You say a word like "pomegranate" when you want your partner to stop. It should be a word you would never otherwise says during sex, like "pomegranate," so there’s no mistaking what you mean.

Same with the safe phrase. When you say your safe phrase, your Med-alert Life Saver ring activates and connects you to the operator. So in order to avoid triggering false alarms, your safe phrase needs to be a phrase you would never ever otherwise say. With that in mind, I chose as my safe phrase, “Boy, syndicated columnist George Will sure is brilliant.”

Well it wasn’t long before I had to put my Med-alert Life Saver ring to the test. I fell out of my wheelchair head first and landed on the bathroom floor on my knees with my head in the trash can. Stuck in that embarrassing, ostrich-like position, I shouted out, “Boy, syndicated columnist George Will sure is brilliant!” And it worked! The faux ruby flashed! And soon, coming from the tiny speaker on my Med-alert Life Saver ring I heard, “This is Misty, your Med-alert Life Saver operator. How can I help?

“I fell out of my wheelchair! Please send paramedics!”

“Yes sir right away. And what insurance do you have?”

“Insurance?”

“Yes sir. As soon as I know who’s going to pay for the ambulance, I’ll dispatch one with alacrity."

“I’m on Medicaid! Please hurry! My head is stuck in a trash can!”

“Ooh I’m sorry. It says here Medicaid won’t cover the cost of an ambulance, not when you’ve got your head stuck in a trash can. That falls under the category of frivolous.”

“What? That’s bullshit!”

“However you do have the right to an appeal. The Medicaid appeal department is open every third Wednesday from noon to 12:30 p.m. If your appeal is denied you can appeal the denial. And if they deny your denial appeal you can appeal the denial of your denial appeal. And if you denial appeal is not once again denied then I can dispatch an ambulance immediately!”

“But I need help now!”

“Do you have Medicaid supplement insurance?”

“Yes! I have a Medi-bridge policy from Fidelity Of New York!”

“I see, you have FONY insurance.” I heard Misty tap away at her keyboard. “It says here whatever amount Medicaid pays for an ambulance, your FONY plan will match that amount, which in this case is zero.”

“Well I still need paramedics, dammit!”

“Well I can dispatch an ambulance immediately, sir, if you pay for it out of pocket.

“How much does an ambulance cost?”

“If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

So I proceeded to tell Misty, loud and clear, exactly what I thought about Medicaid, FONY insurance and, most of all, my Med-alert Life Saver ring.

But then there was a knock on my door.

“It’s the police!” said a voice.

At last! Help finally arrived!

The police entered. “What’s going on in here? We got complaints from the neighbors that someone is shouting obscenities at the top of their lungs.”

Seeing me with my head in a trash can, the police put me back in my wheelchair, after first making me take a breathalyzer test.

If it wasn’t for my Med-alert Life Saver ring, I might never have been rescued.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Arts and Crafts

Pine cones depress me. They mock me. They remind me of how dense I am and how much better my life would be had I only paid attention in arts and crafts at cripple summer camp.

Pine cones are definitive proof that I am not what anyone could remotely refer to as a visionary. Martha Stewart is a visionary. When she saw a pine cone, her pupils turned to dollar signs. She could make anything out of pine cones—a soufflĂ©, a wedding dress, a fully-functional lunar landing module. And from that she built an empire and now she’s a bazillionaire and I’m still a loser.

But I never trusted pine cones because I never trusted arts and crafts. One of the ways you were required to have fun at cripple summer camp was to go to arts and crafts. At arts and crafts your materials were stuff like pine cones and Popsicle sticks and they’d try to get you to make something out of them. But I balked because arts and crafts felt too much like therapy and even as a pup I was suspicious of therapy because therapy, by its nature, has a hidden agenda. Whenever a therapist handed us pine cones or had us toss a bean bag into a trash can or whatever, it was always a calculated move. They were trying to “develop” something in us, like our motor skills or our socialization abilities or, worst of all, our self-esteem. And somehow they thought making stuff out of pine cones was the best way to achieve that. But I was noncompliant because I feared that they were trying to “develop” me into one of those placid cripples whose self esteem is rooted in their ability to make stuff out of pine cones.

And the therapists also were always trying to get you to be “self-sufficient,” which meant they were always looking for ways to help you again do all the things you were happy you had a great excuse for not doing anymore because you were crippled, like changing light bulbs. They’d rig up your home with an elaborate pulley system that lifted you out of your wheelchair and you’d fly like Peter Pan up to light bulb level so you could once again experience the satisfaction that comes from changing your own light bulbs.

But screw that. Here’s a joke:

Q: How many cripples does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: None. You have a therapist do it.

So I ran away from anything that smacked of therapy, especially arts and crafts. But I sure regret it now, especially when every time I turn around I see crap for sale with Martha Stewart’s name on it. I was at a pet store last week and I saw a display of Martha Stewart crap for pets.

If I hadn’t been so instantly turned off by pine cones and Popsicle sticks, maybe today I’d have my own line of Smart Ass Cripple crap! I should have taken their pine cones and turned the tables on them! Like the old corny saying goes: When life hands you pine cones, make a cancer vaccine out of pine cone extract.

But I’m just an unvisionary loser.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why Everybody Needs to Have a Lock of Smart Ass Cripple’s Hair

When economic times get tough, the ones hit hardest are the smart asses. When bosses get anxious and grumpy and lay people off, the first to go are the smart asses. Recent research concluded that being a smart ass to your boss increases your odds of becoming unemployed by 95 percent. (This research was funded by a grant from my favorite federal agency, the Bureau of the Obvious (BO). The BO supports research projects that tell us stuff we all already knew, such as jumping off a 30-foot cliff without a parachute is a bad idea. So then the surgeon general has to post a warning on all 30-foot cliffs urging people not to jump or at least wear a parachute.)

It’s not fair that smart asses are persecuted like this. It’s not like being a smart ass is a lifestyle we choose. We’re born this way. It’s in our blood. Any true smart ass knows this. Being a smart ass is a calling. You can’t just turn it off with a switch.

But when jobs are scarce and money is tight, everybody wants someone else to blame and smart asses are a convenient scapegoat. So I’m to the point where I have no choice but to sell my body. I don’t mean I’m going to sell off the whole thing, either in the medical or prostitutional sense. I know I wouldn’t have many takers. To paraphrase the late great smart ass Rodney Dangerfield, I’m in such bad shape, when I die I’m donating my body to science fiction.

The way for me to get the best bang for the buck for my body is to sell it off in pieces. The problem is, the parts that would command the princeliest sum on the open market are the parts I could never live without, such as my heart and my brain and “Hercules,” as I call him.

So I should start by selling disposable parts, like my toes. In my case, my toes are just decorations. But I’ve only got 10 toes so what then? So I should sell parts that are disposable and renewable! If I was a crawfish I could sell my toes because when you cut off the limb of a crawfish it grows it right back. It says so on the internet so it must be true. But even if I was a crawfish, amputation is painful so I should sell body parts that are disposable and renewable and painlessly extracted. My bodily waste meets those criteria, but I don’t think its worth much. I can’t even sell my piss to a stoner trying to pass a drug test.

So what does that leave me?

Hair!

And so I’m announcing this hot offer:

Anybody who leaves something in Smart Ass Cripple’s tip jar receives their very own lock of Smart Ass Cripple’s hair absolutely free!

No matter who you are or how you feel about Smart Ass Cripple, you need to have a lock of my hair. If you love me with all your heart and soul, then it’s obvious why you need to have a lock of my hair. You can carry a piece of me with you always. You can put my lock in a locket.

But even if you hate my goddam crippled guts, that’s all the more reason you need to have a lock of my hair. You can commit a heinous crime and leave behind the lock and it’ll throw the forensics nerds and sniffing dogs all out of whack and they’ll arrest me instead of you. Or a lock of my hair is the perfect finishing touch for your Smart Ass Cripple Voodoo doll.

And even if you’re indifferent about Smart Ass Cripple, it would be financially irresponsible for you not to have a lock of my hair. Think of what it will be worth 10 years from now to own a lock from the very first shearing! Just deposit your lock in a safe deposit vault, sit back and dream!

And think of it this way too: with a voracious demand for my hair, every time I go to Supercuts I’ll have to bring along a big bag and tell the stylist to sweep my hair into the bag so I can take it home. I’ll even post a picture of me and my hair bag on Smart Ass Cripple. How can you pass up a chance to embarrass me like that?

So act now, before I run out of hair! After that, you’ll have to settle for a nail clipping or bodily waste.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe

Sometimes I see the little criplets of the 21st Century whipping around in tiny motorized wheelchairs. These criplets are only five or six years old but they whirl and ricochet like wee maniacs. I lament because I sure as hell never had a chair like that when I was that age. My first wheelchair was basically a hand truck with a seat. I didn’t get into my first motorized chair until I was an adolescent at the state-operated cripple boarding school. And that was one of earliest, clunky model T motorized wheelchairs, as plodding as a brontosaurus.

The chairs today’s criplets drive are sleek and customized. They kick into gear and sprint. I try not to be bitter and jealous but it’s hard. Because I know if I had a powerful motorized wheelchair like that so early on, it would have drastically altered not only the arc of my life but the entire course of human history. The world would be quite a different place because with that kind of acceleration under my antsy butt, I would have soon ended up as one of two things: Either a) Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, or 2) dead.

Let us consider the second scenario first, since it’s far more likely. Sitting little me into one of today’s wild bull wheelchairs, flipping on the power switch and telling me to go for it would’ve been as dangerous and irresponsible as handing little me a chain saw, flipping on the power switch and telling me to go for it. Smart Ass Criplet transforms instantly into an adrenaline junkie, intoxicated by my sudden ability to zip from zero to maniac in two seconds! Feeling immortal and indestructible, I would’ve promptly slammed into a brick wall or played chicken with an oncoming train.

What a different world this would be if that happened. There would be no Smart Ass Cripple and you wouldn’t be reading this silliness. Think of all the more constructive things you could do with your time.

But had I somehow survived, I would most assuredly have gone on to be Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe. As a child, it was my aspiration to become Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe. My mother wanted me to be something more practical, like an accountant, but I had bigger dreams. I definitely had the drive, desire, devilish instincts and conniving nature to become Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe. All I lacked was the horsepower. And by the time I took my first ride in a motorized chair I was 13, and you know how you are at that age. Oh sure, you’d still love to be Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, but not if you have to work for it. You expect the universe to walk up and hand it to you. And anyway, that first motorized wheelchair was as fast and nimble as a tank so it wasn’t conducive to becoming Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe.

Had I achieved my career goal of Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, life in the universe would be paradise. With Smart Ass Cripple in charge, all our problems would be over. Because first off, there would be no republicans. Republicans? Outlawed, by the first decree of the Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe! That right there would solve 80 percent of our problems. And also, beer would be free! All beer abundant and free by decree! That would solve the other 20 percent.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Henry Kissinger Hates New Zelanders



The wedding was way down south in the town of Litchfield. Diana Ross (Smart Ass Cripple Alias) was excited to travel down there with Rahnee and me as one of our assistants.

But the close friends and family of Diana Ross beseeched her not to go. “They hate black folks down there,” they all said. “Why do you think they call it Lynchfield!”

So Diana Ross told us she was having serious doubts about going. So we had to reassure her that she would not be lynched.

First off, the town is called Litchfield, we said. So the worst that could happen is she might get Litched. Oh sure, hers would probably be the only face at the wedding that wasn’t white. And yes, like everywhere else in the world, there were sure to be some racists in the crowd. It’s near impossible to assemble 100 plus people anywhere without catching in the net a racist or two. But even so, she would be protected by a counterbalancing social force far more powerful than racism: wedding etiquette. Any expert on manners will tell you that a sure-fire way to ruin a bride’s once-in-a-lifetime extra special day and make her pissed off at you for the rest of your life would be to lynch one of her wedding guests.

However we did feel compelled to warn Diana Ross that she might witness a frightening ritual in which white people at a wedding were likely to engage. It’s called the chicken dance. We described in graphic detail how we drink too much and then we flap our arms and waddle around in circles to peppy accordion music. And sometimes, if things really deteriorate into drunken surrealism, we put our left hip in and our left hip out and our left hip in and we shake it all about.

But even that didn’t scare Diana Ross away. She was back in! She was excited to go to Litchfield. She was in her early 30s and a single mother of three but she had never traveled beyond Chicago.

It was a glorious day for a wedding—bright sun and blue sky and twittering birds. And yes, Diana Ross was the only person in the church who wasn’t white. But no matter—all went off without a hitch. There was not so much as a hint of a potential lynching.

After the wedding, outside the church, I saw Diana Ross laughing it up with Uncle Henry Kissinger (Smart Ass Cripple alias again). Uncle Henry Kissinger was a lanky truck driver, 30ish. He spoke with a warm, slow drawl.
Diana Ross and Henry Kissinger were really hitting it off. As I approached I heard him say, “I get along with everybody.”

“Me too!” replied Diana Ross.

“I got nothing against nobody,” Henry Kissinger said. But after a long pause, he added, “Well, except for those people from New Zealand. I don’t like them. “ Those people from New Zealand, they come to the U.S. and they drive trucks, Henry Kissinger said. And because they live in New Zealand, they don’t have homes to go here to so they live in their trucks. Sometimes two or three of them live in a truck so they can drive 24/7, nonstop! Guys like Henry Kissinger can’t keep up.

“They come here and they take all of our jobs!” Henry Kissinger grumbled.

Diana Ross nodded. “Well I think we can all agree that we don’t like them.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Evil Bastards All!

Holy crap!

Did you hear the earth-shattering news?

A team of geneticists at John Hopkin's University, after decades of research, have pinpointed a single cause for what makes people crippled, no matter what kind of cripple they are. These researchers meticulously studied the DNA of millions of cripples from all over the world and they determined with scientific certainty that the single reason people become crippled is because God is punishing them for something evil they did in their previous life.

Damn!

I mean some people have been preaching that punished by God shit for centuries but we always dismissed them as dumbass superstitions. But now there’s scientific proof that they were right all along! This is some monumental shit these John Hopkin's guys discovered! The Vegas oddsmakers have them as a cinch to win the Nobel Prize.

And now I’ll never look at cripples the same way again. Every time I see one now, I’ll wonder what kind of evil bastard they used to be. The guy I’m really wondering about is that Stephen Hawking. As thoroughly crippled up as he is, in his previous life he must have been like Hitler or something. And consequently he’s condemned to live this life as distinguished Lucasion Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, best-selling author and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

And I’m also wondering about this young woman I know who’s not very crippled up at all. She just has a little bit of a limp. Other than that she’s smart and good-looking and she talks clear as a bell and she looks pretty much normal. God didn’t punish her too bad so in her previous life she must have just had a bunch of unpaid parking tickets.

And I’ll never look at myself the same way again either. What kind of evil bastard was I? I know I wasn’t as evil as Hawking because God didn’t punish me quite as bad as he punished him. At least I can talk. But if Hawking was something like Hitler, I must’ve been something nearly as despicable. I bet in my previous life I was a superstar athlete. I was young and strong. I had a million dollars, a zillion women and a solid gold Rolls Royce, which I always parked in those handicapped parking spaces.

But the guys I’m wondering about the most are those who have the most terrifying cripple condition of all. You can’t tell by looking at them. They strut around chin up, pretending like there’s nothing wrong. But sooner or later their cripple condition manifests and they are mortified. Most guys would rather be like Stephen Hawking ten times over than to have what these guys have. Impotence.

God is punishing the hell out of those guys.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My Prayer of Self Belittlement


I’m trapped in an empty room. I can’t move because there are no batteries on my wheelchair. That man unhooked them and hauled them away and he left me here alone in this empty room in the wheelchair repair shop.

It’s so quiet in this empty room, quiet as the desert. The repairman will be back in a few minutes with spanking new batteries to replace my old sluggish batteries. And he’ll hook my new batteries up and I’ll be on my way, my zip restored. But I don’t care. I can’t wait that long. I can’t stand being powerless like this, not even for a few minutes. The room is so empty and quiet, so lit up bright with taunting fluorescence. It feels like a nightmare. I want out now!

And even when the man returns and I’m rolling again, the nightmare won’t be over. He’ll present me with a big bill, probably $500 for spanking new batteries plus another $500 for hooking them up. Get me out of here now!

Way back when I was still Catholic, this was the type of situation where I’d seek refuge in my Prayer of Self Belittlement. The Prayer of Self Belittlement was designed specifically for occasions like this. It went something like: “Dear God, I know I have absolutely no right to feel sorry for myself when there are children starving in China. Please forgive me for being such a selfish brute. I promise I will never ever complain about my life ever ever again.”

The Prayer of Self Belittlement is the only Catholic prayer I still remember because it’s the only prayer that can be improvised, more or less. The goal is to chastise yourself into passivity by comparing your wretchedly ungrateful self to someone you think is way worse off than you. Since everyone can come up with someone they think is way worse than them, even the lowliest galley slave can repress their rebellious soul by reciting the Prayer of Self Belittlement. The Prayer of Self Belittlement reminds you exactly who you are. It grounds you in shame.

But it doesn’t work on me anymore. So my brain claws at the inside of my skull. I want out of this cramped room now! I want to be out playing tennis on the sunny tennis court, like that cripple in the promotional poster tacked up on the wall. That happy, free-as-a-bird cripple rides a Quickie brand wheelchair, the poster says. Or how about that other cripple in the other poster on the other wall? I want to be where he is! He sits in his wheelchair, majestic and proud, on a plateau in the middle of a vast canyon, blue sky in the background all around.

I want to be where he is! But how did that cripple get atop that plateau, with a sheer 50-foot drop on all sides? Was he airlifted up there or airbrushed?

The poster it seems is an ad for a wheelchair butt cushion. The poster bears the logo of the butt cushion manufacturer and one simple but poignant word of text: Freedom!

Wow! Freedom! That says it all, doesn’t it? Freedom. So this butt cushion must be a magic butt cushion, like a flying carpet! Strap it to your wheelchair and it whisks you, wheelchair and all, up to the top of a rugged plateau!

Freedom!

I want that butt cushion and I want it now! The cripple on the plateau has such confident posture. His butt cushion makes him confident. And confidence is sexy. Women love confidence. If I sit on a butt cushion like that one and go to a bar, women will throw themselves at me! That butt cushion is an aphrodisiac! I must have one NOW!

The repairman returns with my spanking new batteries. My reverie snaps. The bill will come soon. And I can no longer ease the financial pain with my Prayer of Self Belittlement.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Adopt a Smart Ass Cripple

Who wants to adopt Smart Ass Cripple? I don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve totally lost my identity. Ever since way back when I was a cherubic lad with just a hint of a smart ass glimmer in my eyes, they’ve been calling me Jerry’s Kid. But now that Jerry’s gone, whose kid am I?

I always knew that as one of Jerry’s Kids, I was different from regular kids. Jerry’s Kids never grow up. We’re not allowed to. It’s like they baptized us in the Fountain of Youth, except the age-retarding potency of the water in this fountain is magnified by ten thousand. It’s the Fountain of Infantilization. Even after I developed decidedly unchildlike traits, like pubic hair and a sex drive, they still called me Jerry’s Kid.

But whose kid am I now? American Idol producer Nigel Lythgoe will be taking over as one of the telethon hosts. So I suppose some big shot in the hierarchies will attempt to deem that henceforth I’m am to be known as American Idol Producer Nygel Lythgoe’s Kid.

But that’s fucked up. You can’t just extinguish a cult of personality as entrenched as Jerry’s with the mere flick of a press release. It’s going to take a Soviet style purge, maybe even another Cultural Revolution, to do that. You may have to send everybody who ever watched the telethon to re-education camps to get them to stop looking at cripples as Jerry’s Kids.

So screw it. As far as I concerned, I’m now a free agent. And I’m selling my naming rights to the highest bidder. Whoever kicks in the most cash, I will be your kid. You don’t have to be famous. Adopt me and I’m sure we’ll figure out a way to make both of us famous.

And as an extra added bonus, when you adopt me you also automatically adopt every other cripple in the world. Because that’s how it worked with Jerry’s Kids. It didn’t matter what kind of cripple we really were. To the average Pete on the Street, unschooled on the many genres of crippledom, we were all Jerry’s Kids.

This is an incredible offer you can’t afford to pass up. But wait there’s more! Adopt me now and I’ll include this amazing set of steak knives absolutely free, plus free shipping and handling!

I’m desperate to be adopted. I’m lost. That’s what happens when the giant thumb of a smothering parent is suddenly lifted. The blinding sun makes me squint. Its sizzling rays burn my albino skin. I need shelter quick.

If you really really want to adopt me but you’re just not sure if you have what it takes, ask yourself these three simple questions: Do you have enough integrity? Do you have enough moral character? Do you have enough cash?

If you answered yes to the third question, this could be your lucky day!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Smart Ass Most Vulnerable Person

Should I be insulted? Because Obama went and did it again. He used the V word. He called us “vulnerable.”

Liberals like to use that word a lot. Vulnerable. With the jackass right wingers on a slash and burn scorched earth rampage, the liberals assure us that they, the liberals, will protect and defend the “most vulnerable people.” I assume that means cripples, though it probably means a lot of other people too like old people and infants and orphans and maybe even puppy dogs.

But when they say vulnerable, what kind of vulnerable do they mean? What image are they trying to conjure? There’s all kinds of vulnerable. There’s strong vulnerable and there’s pathetic vulnerable. There’s noble vulnerable and there’s obnoxious vulnerable. There’s oppressed vulnerable and there’s creepy vulnerable.

Maybe I shouldn’t be insulted because being seen as vulnerable has its advantages. It can land you a lot of women. Women always say they want to be with a man who’s vulnerable. But I don’t think they mean the kind of vulnerable the liberals are always talking about. When the liberals say they’re protecting the most vulnerable, they want everyone to picture them protecting a shivering baby chick just emerged from the shell. When women say they’re attracted to vulnerable, they mean not-afraid-to-go-to-the-opera-and-cry vulnerable, not shivering-baby-chick-just-emerged-from-the-shell vulnerable. What kind of woman would be attracted to shivering-baby-chick-just-emerged-from-the-shell vulnerable unless she’s a weirdo?

So I should be insulted, shouldn’t I? Because who the hell wants to be seen as a baby chick? Not only will you never get laid (in the grown man sense, not in the baby chick sense), but you’ll never be able to use fear as a line of defense. Insects are tinier and more squishable than baby chicks, but at least they can scare people the hell away from them by being ugly. But baby chicks are nothing but cute cute cute so their only defense is mercy.

Maybe I should just give up and go with the baby chick thing. I’m tired of standing up for my rights and defending myself all the time. It’s exhausting. Let the liberals do it for me. I should give up and throw myself on the mercy of mercy. Maybe instead of calling ourselves cripples we should call ourselves MVPs: Most Vulnerable People. And we should all wear t-shirts that say PLEASE DON’T HURT ME. I’M VULNERABLE.

If we do that, the liberals will make sure nothing terrible happens to us, won’t they?