Thursday, April 18, 2013


There’s this homeless guy who’s always outside my building. His presence disturbs me. Whenever I pass him he insults me.

He hangs around outside the 7-Eleven, sitting on an upside-down plastic milk crate. There’s no cushion. His butt must look like a waffle. He has a patchy beard, random tufts of white hair sprouting from his face. And when people come out of the 7-Eleven he says,”Spare change?” But he never says that to me. When I pass he just says, “Hey, how you doin'?” or “What’s up, big guy?”

Isn’t that insulting? What’s wrong with my spare change? I mean, I wouldn’t give it to him anyway. I keep my money in a bag attached to the side of my wheelchair. I can’t reach the bag so when I make a transaction the other party takes the cash out for me. So giving money to the homeless on the streets is too labor intensive and time consuming. But that’s not the point. Why doesn’t the guy perched on the milk crate not even give me the opportunity to turn him down? Does he not want to stoop so low as to ask a cripple for money? That’s not fair. When I pass a homeless person, I’m the one who’s supposed to feel a satisfying rush of condescending good fortune.

There’s another homeless guy outside the Starbucks across the street. He sells this weekly newspaper called Streetwise that homeless people around here sell to make a few bucks. At least this guy tries to get me to buy his paper. So I often oblige. But he still insults me. When he extracts the cash from my bag, he makes it a point to show me he’s taking only what he’s owed and nothing more. He does this, he told me once, because “God will never forgive me if I steal from the handicapped.”

What the fuck! It takes all the joy out of charitable giving when you can’t even feel superior!

But I’ll tell you who insulted me most of all. It was the guy at the disco. Some people believe God makes people crippled to keep them from doing something bad in life. The one time I started to believe that theory might be true was the one time I went to a disco. Because if I hadn’t been crippled I would have punched the guy at the disco in the head. But then again, if I hadn’t been crippled, he wouldn’t have insulted me so I would have had no rationale for punching him in the head.

 But anyway, I went with some other cripples to a disco. Don’t ask me why. We must’ve been delirious with cabin fever. Jim Liptak was our token vert (which is short for vertical, which is slang for people who can walk). So the guy at the disco sees us when we enter and immediately plays that insulting game called Address the Vert. He spoke only to Liptak, as if he was our translator. “Bring your friends over here,” he said. “If your friends want something to drink, tell the server.” He kept playing Address the Vert and just when I was ready to punch him in the head, he said something that acknowledged my humanity and restored my sense of equality. He said to Liptak, “Ask your friends if they want to go in the office and do some cocaine.”

We all said no thanks, but often I regret it. It would have been interesting to follow him to the office and see how long he stuck with the Address the Vert bit. “Tell your friends it’s top shelf stuff from the Caribbean.” Or maybe he would’ve gotten high with us and said something to Liptak like, “Ask your friends if they ever wondered what it's like to live on Saturn and see 60 moons in the sky.”

But at least he recognized us cripples as human beings who might want to wrench up our brains with coke, like the other people at the disco. I didn’t want to punch him in the head anymore.


  1. I was regularly insulted by a homeless guy in the years before I was crippled. Now they're all nice and hold doors for me. I'm wondering if homeless and cripple are on some kind of level together, battling the wealthy verts as a team.

    1. That's how i've always seen it. i make eye contact, and they don't ask me for money, and it's like an alliance. and i still give money when i can. i've been on both sides of panhandling though. a lot of cripples have. so i think that has to do with it as well.

  2. I was at a late-night techno party with some friends a while back and danced/chatted for a while with a man on Ecstasy who had quadriplegia. He told me about how his caregiver introduced him to raves, that he had a ton of profound moments getting to know people and have honest conversations, and how their next plan together was to ride in a specially equipped van to Burning Man. Not sure how the wheels would do in that dust but he sure had some sick moves on the dance floor!

  3. 'm in a wheelchair and a homeless guy tried to give me money once! I was shocked! He was one of the guys who begged for money outside a store... I was IN the store, shopping. I guess he thought I needed a few quarters. Another time, I gave money to a homeless woman (she came right up to me and asked if I had money, so at least she didn't insult me by assuming I had none because of the wheelchair!). Then a guy who saw me do that came right over to me and gave me money - saying "you can't afford that!"

    Address the Vert - yes, that is so irritating! That's why it's great when I go somewhere alone. They are forced to speak to me!